The Blessing

Hebrews, Gospel

This morning we reach the end of our study of the book of Hebrews. We began our study over 9 months ago in September. I hope you have found the study to be enriching and faith expanding.

This morning as we look at the concluding benediction and personal comments, the author (if you recall, we are not sure who actually wrote the letter) sums everything up in one of the greatest benedictions in the Bible. And as he does so he reminds us of the truth of the gospel once again.

What We Long For

20 Now may the God of peace—

who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,

the great Shepherd of the sheep,

and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—

The thing we all long for is peace and rest. We want peace with God, peace with each other, and peace within our own selves. In this hectic and demanding world in which we live, we find that those times of peace are illusive.

Wouldn’t it be nice to feel you could relax and just enjoy life? The reality is that there are bills to pay, appointments to meet, and expectations to fulfill. We want to feel close to God but we feel like there are still a bunch of things in our life that have to be fixed before we can hope to be welcomed by the Almighty.

Ironically some pursue peace by working more. The thought is that if you work more you will finally be secure enough to retire and rest. The problem is that you never are secure enough to rest. Even if you have lots and lots of money there is a fear of losing that money! And the more stuff you have, the more you have to do to keep all that stuff up and running! Even if we take sleeping pills we can’t seem to find the rest we long for. The reason for this is because the rest we want can come only from the God who created us.

We think if we work harder we can gain peace with God as a reward for our goodness. The problem is we vastly underestimate our sinfulness and greatly over estimate our goodness. We aren’t going to find peace by trying to earn it.

Notice something. Our Lord is the God of Peace. It is not just that He dispenses peace . . . He IS Peace. When we are made complete in Him then we finally can know peace because finally we will be whole.

Remembers Hebrews chapter 4? There we are told, “only we who believe can enter his rest”. (v. 3) God is the source of peace and we can only find it by turning to Him.

How to Find Peace

Hebrews 4 tells us that we must believe to enter into God’s rest and His peace but . . . what is it that we must believe? We need to realize that peace comes only through Jesus who is our GREAT SHEPHERD. The Lord Jesus cares about us. He came to earth to give His life as a ransom or payment for us.

The reality is that we are spiritually lost. We have ignored God so much that we don’t even recognize that He is there most of the time. We talk about God but it is a God that is imaginary, a God that we have fashioned to meet our desires and expectations. In other words, we worship idols. Yes, they are more sophisticated (or maybe a better word would be “subtle”) idols than the people of the Bible but . . . they are idols just the same. They are imaginary gods.

The book of Hebrews reminds us, “it is appointed to all men to die and then to face judgment.”

There is only one-way to escape the Judgment and wrath of God: it is to turn to Jesus. This has been the great argument of Hebrews. We can’t be right with God by appealing to angels, by working hard to obey the law of God, or by following religious ritual. Christ is superior to all of those things and He is the only One who can accomplish what we need to happen in our lives.

He was tempted in every way in life that we are. He understands us and He understands our struggles. The difference between Him and us is significant though . . . He never gave in to the temptation. (Hebrews 4:14-16) And that is what makes Him our Great Shepherd. He knows the dangers. He knows how to defeat them. And He lays down His life so that we can know forgiveness and new life.

The benediction says, “and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood”. I hope these terms are a little more familiar to you after our study of Hebrews but they are not part of our normal vernacular.

Notice this is an ETERNAL covenant. It is something that will not be torn up or tossed aside. It is a promise (covenant) that will never be broken. God’s promise is this: “Whoever calls on the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32, repeated in Romans 11:13). Whoever embraces what Jesus has done will be given what God is promising:

  • Forgiveness of ALL of our sin (1 John 1:9)
  • A new life and a new beginning (John 10:10)
  • His presence living in us by the Holy Spirit (John 16:11-17)
  • Life beyond the grave that lasts forever (John 11:25-26)
  • Peace with God. (Romans 5:1)

Today we sign contracts and have them notarized to verify that we actually signed it. Back in the days when we were kids we might have pricked our fingers and sealed a promise with blood (we wouldn’t do that today for health reasons). The promise of God was sealed with blood – the blood of Jesus

Hebrews called Jesus our great High Priest who offers the perfect and lasting sacrifice for us (Himself). And He also calls Him our Great Shepherd because He walks beside us to comfort and lead us. He not only opens the gate to freedom, peace, and rest . . . He shows us how best to enjoy it.

But how do we know it is true? How do we know that these wonderful and gracious promises are real? Well, let’s go back to the line we skipped over,

“who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus”

The resurrection of Jesus is what verifies all of these incredible promises. The resurrection of Jesus is door that opens the way to peace and rest.

The Apostle Paul wrote,

17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

But Paul also writes,

Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)

The entire case of the Bible; the entire message of the gospel; is wrapped up in the Resurrection of Jesus. Paul (who became a Christian after the resurrection) points to the eyewitness testimony of the resurrection. In fact, I have found that the evidence for the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus is actually staggering. So much so, that I encourage you to examine it for yourself.

Any time I start to question or doubt anytime I wonder if it could all be real; any time the opponents to the gospel keep beating away until I question myself; I go back to this one fact: Jesus rose from the dead. That makes His testimony powerfully compelling.

Peace, Rest, Forgiveness is all possible because of the work of our Great Shepherd who ratified the covenant of grace with His blood, and verified it powerfully with His resurrection.

What Happens When We Come to Him

There is one more section of this benediction. It gives us the blessing for what comes after we find the peace we have been looking for. 

21 may he equip you with all you need

for doing his will.

May he produce in you,

through the power of Jesus Christ,

every good thing that is pleasing to him.

All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

We are told that the Lord (through the Holy Spirit will do some things. First, He is going to Equip Us. The Holy Spirit will make sure we have all the tools that we need to serve the Lord faithfully.

As you read through the Bible we see a few examples

  1. He will guide into the truth (John 16:12-15)
  2. He will give us the right words to say (Matthew 10:19-20)
  3. He gives us Spiritual Gifts and abilities that will enable us to serve and honor Him (1 Corinthians 12)
  4. He intercedes for us because we don’t know what to ask for (Romans 8:26)

We are called to take these things and use them well. Think of it like a group of soldiers. They are given the best equipment and the finest training to help them do their job well. That’s what the Holy Spirit is going to do in us.

Do you see how encouraging this is? God does not make us a part of His family and then abandon us. No, He provides for us what we need for daily life. He equips us.

Second He actually produces in us, through the power of Christ in the Holy Spirit, the kind of life that is pleasing to the Lord. In other words He is working in us and training us. He is changing our attitudes, our appetites, and our character.

In Galatians we see the contrast.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:19-23)

You and I are not experiencing these kinds of character traits in full. But this is where the Holy Spirit is taking us. If we walk in the peace and rest that the Lord provides we will begin to grow in the fruit of the Spirit and away from the characteristics of the sinful nature.

Notice that it is the Spirit who produces this in us. It is not about working harder, it is about walking more closely. The closer we walk with the Lord, the more His character is going to rub off on us. The more we spend time with Him the more we will understand Him and trust what He is doing.

I’ve been reading a Leadership book by General Colin Powell, he is the former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and also a former Secretary of State. He observes that when a soldier goes into basic training most soldiers hate their Drill Sergeant. He is always waking them up, pushing them harder, and bending their will. But, says Powell, by the end of boot camp, those soldiers would run through a wall for that Drill Sergeant because they have come to understand that he has molded them into soldiers. They have learned to follow orders and trust each other. Powell says, every soldier can tell you the name of their Drill Sergeant.

It seems to me that this is a little bit of the picture of what the Holy Spirit does in us. He pushes us, He prods us, and He allows trials to come into our lives, and He does so to train us. We are told in the book of James that the testing of our faith is the means to develop character within us.

It is not an easy process. In verse 23 we are told that Timothy had been released from jail. He was certainly in jail because he was a follower of Jesus. The Lord does not protect us from difficulty . . . He teaches us through difficulty. And even in those difficult times . . . even in this sometimes harsh “basic training” we find that He is building His peace and His life into us.

Philippians 1:6 reminds us that

God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

And even though life is sometimes hard we have this wonderful promise,

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37)

I read this wonderful little saying,

The will of God

can never lead you

where the grace of God

cannot keep you.[i]

This is where our peace is found.

Conclusions

So, we come to the end of this majestic letter or sermon. It was written to a group of believers that were facing persecution. They were tempted to revert to the life they had known as Jews. They were tempted to go back to a life of trying to manufacture peace with God. And I have to think that by the time they reached the end of this book, they were reminded that there is nothing like the gospel.

Sometimes we are almost apologetic when talking to people about faith in Christ. As if were embarrassed. When the fact is, this is best news available. The Gospel points us to the peace that we are all looking for. It leads us to the life we were meant to live.

So, here is the question: as we reach the end of this study what will you do in response to the message of the gospel? Will you turn to Jesus who has been proclaimed superior to all other options and find peace in the God of peace? Or will you continue to search desperately for that which is right in front of you?

Will you grab hold of the Great Shepherd of the Sheep who made it possible for us to have a new relationship with God through the shedding of His blood on the cross? Will you trust this one who kicked open the door of death? Will you give Him access to your life so He might change you and lead you to where you really want to go . . . you just don’t realize it yet? This is the question we have remaining after the study of Hebrews.

20 Now may the God of peace—

who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,

the great Shepherd of the sheep,

and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—

21 may he equip you with all you need

for doing his will.

May he produce in you,

through the power of Jesus Christ,

every good thing that is pleasing to him.

All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

©Copyright June 14, 2015 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche

 

[i] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of Hebrews, vol. 15, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 431.

Scripture:

Hebrews 13:20-25