“Confident Endurance” – Hebrews 10:19-39

November 14, 2021

“Confident Endurance” – Hebrews 10:19-39

Passage: Hebrews 10:19-39
Service Type:

Well, this morning we are returning to our study in the book of Hebrews. We will be in Hebrews chapter 10 versus nineteen through thirty nine.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,

“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”

39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Hebrews 10:19-39, ESV

This is the word of the Lord.

A couple of years ago, a once famous pastor, someone who had published popular books, pastored a large congregation and and by all accounts, had an incredibly successful ministry, announced one day on social media that he was excommunicating himself from the church and from Christianity. Now to be excommunicated, if you're unfamiliar with that term, is the most severe form of church discipline that can be enacted in the church. When someone no longer cares to live like a Christian no longer believes the essence of what it means to be a Christian. Leaders in the church are sometimes forced to excommunicate someone, which means that their profession of faith is rendered null and void, and they're removed from membership in the church.

So in announcing, this former pastor, that he himself was excommunicating himself from the church, he was announcing that he no longer believed the gospel, that he no longer wanted to live as a Christian, and he was therefore removing himself from the body of Christ. Now this was apparently the final step, although we still hold out hope for his repentance in a downward trajectory that was some years in the making. He had resigned from pastoral ministry some years earlier and ever since then had renounced much of what he had taught and published in his ministry. The edifice of his previous gospel of convictions slowly crumbled and then to cap it all off, he and his wife announced they were ending their marriage.

Now, as you can imagine, this announcement that he no longer considered himself to be a Christian was both jarring and heartbreaking for those who knew him, but also for anyone who may have at one time simply benefited from his written ministry. Understandably, to have any influential Christian leader make shipwreck of their faith is going to leave a trail of debris in the wake. Unfortunately, this specific example isn't the first time, nor will it likely be the last time that something tragic like that happens in Jesus's church. I'm sure many of us, myself included, can cite examples in our own stories where a once influential Christian leader or teacher, someone who ministered to you even if only through their publications, made the decision that they were done with biblical and Orthodox Christianity.

When those stories hit too close to home friends, they're understandably heartbreaking, upsetting, shocking, scandalous, and they may even elicit some self-reflection of our own. For example, we may ask ourselves that if someone like that, someone who seemed on the surface of things to have it all together could abandon the faith, well, then what hope do I have to persevere and the Christian life? Do they know something I don't? Maybe we even question how those stories reflect on God? Does God actually abandon his people? Well, I don't want to leave you in suspense on that last one, so no God doesn't abandon those who truly belong to him.

The question of perseverance and endurance, how do we stay the course in the Christian life when we see people we love and admire head towards the exit door is what our author addresses in our passage this morning. He wants us to be aware of the sobering reality that apostasy, that is turning your back on your faith, sometimes happens in Jesus's church. As he issues this sobering warning about apostasy, he also wants to equip us as believers to live the Christian life with the necessary equipment to endure and persevere into the end.

So our big idea this morning is this we have need of endurance. As we walk through this passage, we're going to take it in three chunks, basically following the three paragraphs as you see it divided up in the English Standard Version. First, we'll look at a charge to endure and versus nineteen through twenty- five second, a warning to endure and verses twenty-six through thirty one. Then finally, the way to endure in verses thirty-two through thirty-nine.

1. A Charge to Endure
2. A Warning to Endure
3. The Way to Endure.

A Charge to Endure

So first, a charge to endure. So if you scan the first seven verses of your passage or so, you may notice a couple of commands. Actually, I count three different commands, each of which begin with the phrase “Let us”. As we'll see in a moment, our author calls us to be earnest people as it pertains to our faith.

He calls us as Christians for the sake of our perseverance, to be serious about truth, serious about spiritual disciplines, to take our faith seriously and to take the local church seriously as well. Before he does that, he starts in a really familiar place, if you've been plodding along in Hebrews with us. He rehearses for us, in summary form, everything that Christ Jesus has already done on our behalf.

Now I think it would be easy at this point, especially because we've already heard such a long and beautiful exposition of Christ's person and work throughout the previous several chapters in Hebrews, to treat these first two or three verses or so as throwaway verses. Now maybe you're thinking to yourself at this point, goodnes, author of Hebrews whoever you are, just get to your main point. You've already told us this stuff about what Christ has done and who he is. Yet, far from being simply filler to transition us to the real meat of the passage, these verses, these first few verses are really important in the larger context of perseverance.

Understand that when theologians talk about perseverance or endurance in the Christian life, they've traditionally distinguished between the grounds of our perseverance and the means of our perseverance. In other words, the first thing we have to know about perseverance and enduring in the Christian life is that it's first and foremost grounded and rooted in the work of God. He's the one who secures us. He's the one who holds us fast. Our perseverance and endurance doesn't depend on whether our affections for the Lord and the gospel ever ebb and flow, which they do indeed. Rather, perseverance depends on the Lord. This is why our author begins in the way he does within this larger context of perseverance before telling us what to do. He has to remind us, first and foremost, what Jesus Christ has already done.

The first thing he tells us is that when Christ died for our sins, well, he went where you and I could not. Having done that, he has invited us as his people to follow on his coattails. You may recall that when we talked earlier, the last few sermons we've given in Hebrews, we noted that in the tabernacle, the earthly place of worship in the Old Testament, there was a big curtain, a big veil that closed off the most holy place on Earth from everything and everyone else. Remember that center room in the tabernacle and then later in the temple was considered to be the holiest place on Earth. It was where God's glory dwelt most powerfully on Earth, and therefore only the High Priest once a year was able to go past that curtain. He was the only one who was allowed to do it, and he was only able to do it once a year.

In the New Testament, friends, in the gospel of Matthew, Mark and Luke, we learned that when Christ died, what happened to that curtain? Well, we learned that the curtain of the temple was torn in two. What's being communicated there is that access to God through Christ's life, death and resurrection is no longer limited and shadowy, like it was in the Old Testament. Rather, through, as our author puts it, the curtain of Christ's flesh, all who attach themselves to Christ by faith alone now have access into the heavenly places the place where Christ himself ascended after the resurrection, the place that the most holy place in the Tabernacle ultimately pointed to, and the place where our Lord Jesus Christ now reigns in glory.

That's the second point our author makes in this opening few verses. Christ is the great high priest over the house of God. Christ opened the way of access for all of his people, and now he sits in heaven, where he reigns over his church and he preserves his people. Now, these opening three verses that we read are only a summary of everything that we've heard thus far about Christ's priestly work. Yet what they do is really important because they remind us of the privileges that we have as God's children, and ultimately they communicate what anchors us in the Christian life from start to finish is not us, it's not ourselves. It's not our work. It's Jesus Christ, the one who lived for us, the one who died for us, and the one who now reigns in the heavenly places for us.

Now, in view of these grounds, our author gives three specific exhortations to tell us that there are certain means that we, as Christians, are called to lay hold of in our own lives for the sake of our perseverance. So what are some of the things he says? Well, this gets us to the commands in the first part of our passage, we're first in verse twenty-one. He calls his church to draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with purer water.

So what does it mean to draw near? Well, think about some of the really ordinary things that we're called to do in the Christian life as a people who have been washed and cleansed by the Holy Spirit and made new creatures. Well, we're called to pray to God when we're burdened. We're called to engage with God as in the study of his word. We do that both in private and we do that corporately as a church. Perhaps the chief expression of drawing near is when we come into the worship assembly and we hear and respond to the gospel and partake of the sacraments as well.

In fact, one commentator notes that his first command to draw near encourages God's people, you and me, to a life of worship that includes private worship, worship at home, worship with our families, but at most certainly also includes corporate worship, worship with each other. That's why at Harvest, we call what we're doing right now the pinnacle of our week.

Second, we're then urged to hold fast without wavering to the confession of our hope. Now, ultimately, this is an encouragement to know what you believe and why you believe it. In other words, can you articulate what the church has always confessed about Jesus in the gospel? Do you hold those truths to yourself? Can you defend those truths in the context of a world that often challenges truth? In short, this is an exhortation to take truth seriously and to constantly shore up the foundations of that truth for yourself by going again and again to the study of God's word, even being prepared in the process to make an argument for what we believe and why we believe it.

Then third, our author instructs us to consider how to quote, “Stir up one another to love and good works and encourage one another regularly”. All of which suggests that we cannot neglect the local church.

Now, when we tie these first three commands together, I think there's a strong sense in which this third command, this command to stir up one another also kind of draws all of the other commands together. When you think about it, you can't really draw near to God in corporate worship unless you're in the local church. You're going to have a really hard time holding fast to the truth if you're trying to live out your faith alone on an island. All of us then need the local church for the sake of our perseverance.

Over the years, the various U.S. military branches U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marines have used a variety of marketing slogans to try to up their recruitment. Some of you can probably think of some off the top of your head. I think of the one that's been in play for the Marine Corps since 1977, “The Few, the Proud, the Marines”, something like that. One of the worst slogans that has ever come and gone was one that the U.S. Army rolled out in 2001. So leading up to this, the army did some research and found that many young people saw the army as a dehumanizing place where you would lose any sense of individuality. So to combat that perception, in 2001, the army rolled out its “Army of One” slogan.

They wanted recruits to know that the individual is valued in the army. So that slogan played into that. It was an attempt to placate this perception that many young people at the time had about the army. By 2006, again, just five years later, that slogan was replaced by Army Strong. The “Army of One” marketing campaign was viewed pretty widely as a pretty big failure in the army recruiting process.

Now it was viewed as a failure, but I don't think it takes much thought to understand why it was viewed as a failure. When you sign up for the army, you're also signing up to join a group of people where you have their back, they have your back, and you're working together with other people to accomplish a mission. There's a sense in which an army of one is even a contradiction in terms.

So too, there's also a strong sense in which a Christian of one is a contradiction in terms too. Friends, understand that the good news of the gospel is that when Christ saves us, he saves us from a variety of things. He saves us from sin and death. He saves us from the power of our sin. He saves us from the devil. He also saves us into a people. His church is in the context of the local church, not where we lose our individuality, but where we receive the accountability that we all need to live lives that honor God.

It's in the context of the local church where we put our gifts to use and serve each other. It’s where we receive things like word and sacrament, means that God has promised to use for our spiritual nourishment. The author of Hebrews, is going to come around to this later in Hebrews 13 and tell us to submit to our spiritual leaders, something that we cannot do apart from the local church.

So let me ask you this, are you committed to the local church? When I ask that, I don't mean, are you committed to the idea of the local church in the abstract? I mean, are you committed right now or are you in the process of being committed to the local church? You see, our passage encourages us to be committed to something very specific, flesh and blood people with real faces who have likewise been purchased by the blood of Christ. It urges us to commit to a specific people to regularly encourage those people and even to actively think about how to love other people in the church for their own spiritual good.

There are a lot of reasons why it might seem reasonable to walk away from the church or neglect the church. The local church, after all, is a cauldron of sinners where we're constantly the sinned and the sinned against or the sinners and the sin against, and the local church forces us to deal with things that we'd otherwise like to avoid. There's a reason why John Calvin said, “They who depart from the church give themselves up to Satan.”

Now, I understand that might sound strong to some of you, but Calvin is just reflecting what the Bible has to say about the tragedy when someone makes a shipwreck of their faith and either is excommunicated from the church or more often than not, excommunicates themselves from the church. That language that I just quoted from Calvin is actually the same language that the apostle Paul uses in 1 Timothy 1:20, to describe two specific people who made shipwreck of their faith and were excommunicated from the church. Being apart from the church trying to do spiritual life apart from the local church, friends, is not a good place to be. So rather than retreating from the church, the Bible would have it, and our passage specifically right here would have us lean into the local church to meet together in person regularly and encourage each other all the more in view of the eternity that awaits us.

So this is the charge to persevere. First and foremost, rest in everything that Christ has done know that the security we have in the Christian life is anchored to the one who is exalted and reigns in the heavenly places. Christ has already done everything for our salvation. Then he calls us to something, he calls us to make use of things that he's left us with for our spiritual nourishment. Things like the local church to stay the course in the Christian life.

A Warning to Endure

Now that he's issued this charge, well, then he turns to consider what happens if somebody doesn't persevere in Christ. What happens if somebody walks away from Christ and walks away from the church for good? Well this leads to our second point, a warning to endure.

When we turn to verse twenty-six, we are coming to the fourth of five worrying passages in Hebrews. If you recall, we've encountered a number of these warning passages elsewhere in Hebrews. It's a pretty typical characteristic of Hebrews to include these various warning passages, and these warning passages are intended at their heart to show us the importance of pursuing Christ throughout the entirety of our lives by holding out the consequences for giving up on our faith. In short, should we decide at some point in our lives to go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of truth? Well, our author tells us that judgment is what's going to result.

Now, the first question we have to ask about this passage is who are those who are sinning deliberately after receiving a knowledge of the truth? Who are those people? Well, let's start with saying who those people are not. Understand that our author here isn't talking about the believer who struggles with sin. This isn't about the Christian who struggles with some sin, though continues to grieve it, to repent from it, seek accountability for it, and so on and so forth. We all struggle with sin, this passage isn't speaking about that kind of person.

So let me encourage you from the outset that if there are particular sins besetting sins that you're struggling with right now, repent from them, seek accountability for them, keep pursuing Jesus in them. Also know and be encouraged that this passage isn't picturing or portraying you in your sin. Rather, the person in view here is what we would call an apostate. An apostate, according to our author, is a person who continually sins deliberately after being trained in the truth. This refers to a person who may have at one point or another professed faith in Christ, but who are now brazenly living life apart from Christ, apart from the church, and aren't in any way pricked by a sense of guilt.

Later in the passage, this person is described as someone who, “Who has trampled underfoot the Son of God and has profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified and has outraged the spirit of grace.” I’m quoting from verse 29 and the imagery here is quite vivid when you think about it. To trample underfoot is a statement of disdain and contempt, putting Christ underneath your foot. This is somebody the author of Hebrews, has labored so extensively and eloquently to exalt. Now Hebrews, you're now treating him as somebody lower than dirt, as if he's lower than dirt. Then to profane the blood of the covenant that plays off Old Testament sacrificial language, where Christ's blood is treated as common and unfit for sacrifice and to outrage the spirit of grace. Well, that's to treat with contempt the one who has graciously worked in their midst in the church.

Our author, then, has in mind someone who was very much a part of the church. A member of the covenant community. Then at some point these people decide, for whatever reason, to reject Christ completely and happily entertain sin. Now, before we go any further, I want to drop two important theological anchors on this topic of perseverance, just so we don't get the wrong idea of what our author’s communicating. The first thing we need to know about this wider theological conversation on perseverance and endurance is that this passage isn't teaching us that a believer, a true believer, could ever finally fall away. Now it is true that true believers could go through seasons of doubt or being given to sin here or there. Yet as Thomas Watson, Puritan, once wrote, “Though grace may indeed be shaken with fears and doubts, it cannot be plucked up by the roots.”

Jesus gets at this too in John 10:27-28, where he tells us,

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
John 10:27-28, ESV

Now it is true that there may be people we walk with in the church who at one time or another seemed to be walking well, but then eventually make the decision to turn away from grace. If that continues indefinitely, well, that doesn't mean that person has lost their salvation theologically speaking. Rather, it means that they were never truly believers in the first place.

This is John's evaluation of individuals who departed from Christ and from the church in his own day. In 1 John 2:19, he writes

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
1 John 2:19, ESV

All that being said, these warning passages in Hebrews, including this one in Hebrews chapter ten, are a means to jolt us to our senses, especially when we're entertaining sin. They aren't teaching that a true believer could ever lose their salvation. That's the first theological anchor to keep in mind.

The second one I want to drop is this, there may be people in our lives, even right now who we can think of, who appear to have fallen away, who appear to be in this apostate kind of state. Yet that doesn't follow that they've done so conclusively. You see, we may know people who at present don't want anything to do with Christ and the church. People who are dabbling in sin and their present trajectory looks ominous, but we still hold out hope that they would one day return to Christ. We still pray for those people and even plead with them to come to their senses and as many opportunities as we have from our perspective, though, until death takes them, we can hold out hope for their repentance. If that doesn't happen well, it's then that our author has some hard things to say.

So what happens then, according to our passage, for the one who walks down this road and who never turns back? Well, our author tells us that eternal judgment follows, in verse thirty, “the Lord will judge his people.” Now, recall that our author throughout Hebrews has been in conversation with the Old Testament. Specifically, he's been in conversation with the Old Testament ceremonies and sacrifices and he's constantly been comparing and contrasting that system to what Christ has done to show that Christ Jesus is better than anything has come before. To show he's superior to any of that stuff.

Now in our passage, he draws another contrast to show that while the excellencies of Jesus Christ far surpass anything of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, and the judgments do as well. Notice in verse twenty-eight that our author tells us what happened. He reminds us what happened in that sacrificial system when someone willfully broke the law of Moses, if there were two or three witnesses and you were found guilty of breaking the law of Moses and the Old Testament, what happened? You died, death, capital punishment. For the one who rejects Christ, the one that the entire Old Testament law and sacrificial system pointed to, the consequences are worse. It's an eternal death.

In the mid 1800s, there was a Russian by the name of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who published a book in English that we know as “Notes from a Dead House”. It was a book that recounted Dostoyevsky, his four year imprisonment in a Siberian labor camp, that is a gulag. Now, throughout Dostoyevsky, his book, he's constantly giving us windows into the state of mind of his fellow prisoners. At one point, he narrates for us just how difficult prisoners had it when they initially were sentenced to their prison term and had to begin their prison sentence.

Now, typically, Dostoyevsky tells us that when a prisoner was already in prison for a bit, they tended to accept their sentences. Very few times that they ever try to escape from prison or anything like that. Yet before a prisoner came to trial, before a prisoner came to prison while they were still on trial, some would go to irrational lengths to postpone their prison sentences because they couldn't take what was about to happen to them.

Dostoevsky tells us a story where someone was apparently sentenced at trial to serve a minimum period of time in a labor camp, three years or so. After the trial and before they were shipped off to this Siberian labor camp, they would somehow commit another crime so that they'd have to be retried again. They buy themselves a few days, maybe a few weeks. Even the trial would have to start again and they'd be sentenced again. Now, this was a completely irrational move because ultimately the prisoners were handed either double or triple their prison sentence in the process, but for them, as long as they could delay judgment for a day, for two days, for a week and buy some time to some of these prisoners, thinking irrationally, it just didn't matter.

Well, friends understand that to step away from Christ, to reject the gospel, to uproot yourself from the people of God, the best you can hope for is to delay judgment. Any decision we make to embrace our sin and live our lives apart from Christ may be a temporary distraction and may allow us to do what our sinful hearts really crave. But in the end, judgment will come, and any decision we make apart from coming back to Christ and embracing the gospel once again is as irrational as the prisoners and Dostoevsky's day.

Now, maybe you know someone right now, or maybe this would even describe yourself where you have one foot in the door and one foot out. Nobody really knows that except for you, and the way out is looking more appealing by the day. Now, to be sure, we all have spiritually dry seasons in our life, but one of the functions of this passage, as we've said before, is to jolt us awake and recognize that there are very real spiritual and tragic consequences for walking away from Christ. So if that's the path that you right now are thinking about entertaining, to whatever degree you might be entertaining it, let this warning passage push you back on course, back into the hands of the one who was already judged for the sin of his people in the person of Jesus Christ. Hear this warning passage as a means of grace for your perseverance, because that's what it's intended to do.

Now that our author has spoken these hard but necessary words for us to cling to. He ends for us with more of a note of encouragement as he reminds us of the equipment that we need as we live out the Christian life and persevere to the end. He tells us that the equipment we need is actually quite simple. It's an abiding faith in the promises of God.

The Way of Endurance

So this leads to our third point, the way of endurance. Beginning in verse thirty-two, we see that our author calls his readers to recount the former days. We see that in your text, but what he has in mind here aren't the former days of the Old Covenant, not the former days of Moses, days he's already commented so extensively about. Rather, he calls his audience to reflect upon their own personal history when they face a lot of pressure to throw in the towel on Jesus and on the church. They're looking at the text. We hear that sometimes these Christians in their past were publicly exposed to reproach and affliction. Another verb here indicates that whatever they went through, and we're not entirely sure it probably involves some kind of public shaming or mockery. Then in addition to suffering themselves, our author tells us that they also stood by their brothers and sisters who also suffered. They were partners with those who were so treated. Perhaps this is one of the ways they encouraged each other. As the author of Hebrews would have us do back in verse twenty-five.

Nevertheless, we then learn in our passage that these Christians also had to endure. Yet one more thing they had to endure the plundering of their property, either through imperial edict or mob rule or both. Now again, we don't really know, this is actually an interesting historical window into the audience, the original readers of Hebrews. We ultimately don't know the specific persecution in view, but we do know that throughout the latter half of the first century, especially in Rome, Christians often had to face these sorts of things. They were frequent targets of slander. The Roman historian Tacitus, who wasn't a Christian at all, set around this time that Christians were a people who were engaged in quote, “a deadly and dangerous superstition”. They were also arrested often for just being Christians. The same historian Tacitus also reports that Christians in his own day were arrested on trumped up charges, one of the charges being, “hatred of the human race”. Christians sometimes did have their property plundered.

A few centuries later, a historian looks back on the latter half of the first century when Emperor Démission reigned and tells us that Christians, certain Christians, were exiled just for being a Christian. Then when they were exiled, their property was confiscated by imperial edict in the process. So Christians endured a lot. These Christians endured a lot.

Whatever the specific situation viewing these Christians, how did they endure? They endured, but how did they endure? Well, look, they joyfully accepted the plundering of their property. They took it in stride. They joyfully accepted the sufferings that were thrown their way. So why in the world would a Christian do that? Why in the world would they just take something like that? Well, according to our author, they endured this way because they knew that they had a better possession and an abiding one.

They endured the loss that they suffered because they were confident that there was so much more to be gained in Christ. In short, they endured in the past because they had a real and abiding faith in the promises of God. If you're looking at your passage, you'll notice that then in verses thirty-seven and thirty-eight our author cites another Old Testament text, something he often does in Hebrews, as we've seen a number of times. This time he cites from Habakkuk 2:4. Habakkuk is one of the minor prophets in the Old Testament, and he's picking up on something that Habakkuk wrote.

It's fitting that our author would quote from Habakkuk at this juncture because the prophet Habakkuk, in his own day some six hundred years earlier from when the author of Hebrews is writing, knew all too well issues of suffering and injustice. He's also writing to the people of God about issues of suffering and injustice and how to deal with some of those things. So from Habakkuk, our author takes what he had to say some 600 years earlier and applies it to the situation of his readers in the first century. What does he have to say?

Well, first he tells them that the coming one will come and will not delay. In short, he tells them to be encouraged because despite the sufferings and injustice that they're dealing with in the present, Christ Jesus really is coming again. Injustice and suffering will not be ignored. It will not have the final word because Christ is coming again to make all things new. While we wait for the God of justice to bring all things to right, which he will do when Christ comes again, how does he call his readers to wait in the present? How does he call us to wait in the present?

Well, that's the next thing he tells us where in verse thirty-eight, we learn, “my righteous one shall live by faith”. Friends, when we face evil in this world that places the church in the crosshairs and when the church abroad suffers for their faith, like the original readers of Hebrews suffered for their faith, there's a lot that we wish that we had to navigate that context. Perhaps you wish you had rhetorical persuasion as we speak into an irrational world, or legal muscle to fight back against laws and statutes that target the church, or even security to protect ourselves just in case violence spills over into the church, as it often does for the persecuted church around the world.

While there are merits to walking through this sinful world with that kind of wisdom, according to our author, at the end of the day, the equipment that we need above everything else is pretty simple. It's steadfast and abiding faith in the promises of God. It was by faith that these same Christians endured the struggle that they had to face in the past, and it's by the same faith that they and we will endure in the present. To cite the Puritan John Owen, “Sincere faith will carry people through all difficulties, hazards and troubles to the certain enjoyment of eternal blessedness.”

So ask yourself, is the object of your faith Jesus Christ? Understand that we can look like Christians and talk like Christians all we want.That's not going to get you through the kind of trials that our author wants to prepare us for only a faith that's supplied by Christ and abides in. Christ is going to carry us through whatever we're called to walk through in the future. So do you have that kind of steadfast and abiding faith in the promises of God at the end of the day? Friends, this is the way to persevere. This is the way to endure, it's faith.


So as we conclude our sermon and prepare to come to the table and taste and see that the Lord is good, let me leave us with this. Friends rest in the certainty of God's power to preserve his church and his people rest in the certainty of God's power to preserve his church and his people.

We pilgrim through a world where there are many things that seem volatile, whether it's the experience of a Christian leader who once seemed like such a bulwark in the faith suddenly fail and in a way that no one would have predicted, to close personal friends slowly drifting from the faith they want shared in common with you, to even something more severe outbursts of persecution that often arise throughout the world against the church. It's hard to find one thing under heaven that we can rest upon with certainty.

Yet the gospel reminds us that because we have a God who is unchangeable. When he says to his church, as he does in Philippians 1:6 that, ” he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus.” Well, we can rest and we can rest in certainty that what he has promised to do. The God who is unchangeable in his being, his essence, and his promises is faithful to accomplish.

So maybe you're worried about the church abroad right now, worried how the church in a place like Afghanistan could ever endure amidst the current persecution they're facing. Or you're worried about the church at home and worried about what the church in America could be facing in the future and what that would mean for you and me, what that would even mean for Harvest Community Church? Or maybe you're worried about your own perseverance or the perseverance of people you love who you see drifting right now, maybe even towards the exit door? Well, probably about those things, be wise in the way that you walk in the world and the way you counsel people in those things, but also rest above everything else in the fact that God, who is unchangeable, will by no means abandon his church, nor will he abandon his people.

Pray with me. Gracious, Heavenly Father, Lord, you have given us some hard words to consider, but words that we need to hear. Words about what it means to persevere in the Christian life. Things that you call us to lay hold of for our own perseverance and endurance of the Christian life. Lord, we confess that in many ways we've neglected these very good things that you've given us as a grace for us to endure. Father, we pray that for any among us who might be drifting right now, Lord, that you would pull them back, pull them back to embrace things like the local church and the means of grace that you dispense in the local church. Pull them back to experience the grace of the fellowship of the saints. Lord, would you remind us as we face a volatile world and are faced with things that seem so uncertain in this world that you are the God who infallibly holds your church and holds your people fast? We ask all this in Christ’s name. Amen.