“For we do not have an enduring city here; instead, we seek the one to come. Therefore, through him let us continually offer upt o God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
What is the end of the things we are doing? Are they for some end in this world, or do they extend beyond that? When we worship, are we doing it for something in this world, or something more? The object of our aim has a great impact on the nature of what we do. As we get near to the end of the letter, let’s talk about our worship and how we should do it if our goal is a world beyond this one.
“We have an altar from which those who worship at the tabernacle do not have a right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the most holy place by the high priest as a sin offering are burned outside the camp. Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the gate, so that he might sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing his disgrace.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
The first sermon series I ever preached was through the letter of Hebrews. I don’t honestly remember why now. It was probably because I was fresh out of seminary and feeling ready to take on the world with my preaching. I still have all those manuscripts on a hard drive somewhere. I don’t particularly want to go back and read them as they were probably all pretty bad. My congregation was gracious to remember I was fresh out of seminary and had never pastored a church before and endured them patiently. I do remember that I labeled all my sections and made sure my big idea was in bold. They would have gotten at least Bs on manuscript form alone were I still in class. I think I wound up doing the series in something like eight weeks, which after this journey of nearly eight months, I can’t even imagine. Were I to preach through Hebrews again, it would be a much longer and very different series. In those eight weeks, do you know what I didn’t cover? Chapter 13. I didn’t touch it at all. We got to chapter 12, and then went on to the next series. These four verses are a big part of why. I’m still not totally sure what to do with them. This morning is going to be a bit of an exercise in figuring it out, and you get to join me in that.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because he has become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
In the ancient world, it was broadly understood that you weren’t going to have an audience with the gods. Ever. They were bigger, higher, and more powerful than you. No one thought about them as particularly righteous, but they were gods and you were not. No, getting into the presence of the gods took the right kind of sacrifices offered by the approved representatives following the right set of instructions at the right time. This one person went into the gods’ presence on your behalf. You never got such a privilege yourself. There was forever a distance between you and them…and you and Him. We were never saved by that, God was never happy with that, so Jesus fixed it. Here, the author of Hebrews tells us how, but in terms that would have made more sense to his audience than they do us. Let’s talk about it.
“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Better to approach in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they ignorantly do wrong. Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
How do you approach worship? Is it something you pretty much just do each week? Or, do you put more into it than that? In a book rife with cynicism about the world as it is, Solomon offers some reflections about the attitude with which we should approach the throne of God that should make us think twice about going to worship anything less than fully prepared for what we might experience there. It is a good reminder of not so much what we are doing as it is before whom we are doing it. Let’s talk for a few minutes this morning about getting worship right.
“Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Throughout the Scriptures, one of the most basic calls on the life of every follower of Jesus is to worship the Lord. We are called, invited, and even commanded to do it. And, each and every week, hundreds of millions of believers gather in church services all over the world to do just that. But if we are not careful, we can begin to develop some thinking about worship because of this repeating pattern of gathering weekly that doesn’t quite align with the fullness of the understanding of worship commended to us in the Scriptures. One of the things I’ve been reading about lately is worship. This morning, let me share some thoughts about it.