So today we’re going to launch our new series on the Book of Hebrews. Are you ready? Please turn with me in your Bibles to Hebrews chapter one. A quick reminder that we do have have a Hebrews Resource folder available on Google. If you don’t have the link yet, make sure you chat with someone about that.
Get the link. It will greatly enhance the Hebrews experience for you as we go along. Now, I’d like to welcome Keith and Cassandra Thornton to Orlando this morning. They are on their way. I would have them stand, but they are on their way. And I love Keith and Cassandra.
They recently moved here from Miami. They’ve been hired by the Church to lead our UCF campus Ministry. And a few weeks ago, my wife, Amy and I traveled to South Florida for Keith and Cassandra’s wedding. And when they come later on, make sure you give them a good hug. And I want you to ask them this question.
Who cried the most that day, Keith or Cassandra?
I’ll tell you what, just to give it away a bit, I’m with Keith on that one. I cried the most on my wedding day. In fact, when Amy walked down the aisle, I almost fainted.
And then I sobbed like a baby when she actually sang her wedding vows to me.
Time flies when you’re having fun. That’s a picture of Amy and I. We started dating almost 20 years ago. Now, it’s hard to believe with that picture, we look exactly the same. Thank you.
But I do want to tell you this. You could tell this is from one of our dates. And we’re sitting at the table, we’re dining together. And I remember when we were dating, I paid very close attention to everything Amy did. Everything that Amy said.
If the table was here, it was just like that’s how I was. I was captivated by her every move, her every word. I listened carefully to everything that Amy said. And now, 20 years later, it’s the same way. Right, Amy?
It’s the same thing. But let’s be real, though. Sometimes Amy can be talking to me now, and I drift away in my mind. I know this is difficult to believe she’ll be talking to me about anything. Probably something very important.
I’ve learned the trick of following along, giving verbal cues, or I’m nodding my head. I know how to do this like I’m paying attention, but I can be completely someplace else. And my kids are going, you do this to me, too, dad. But that’s all fine with Amy until she finishes talking. And then she’s staring at me.
Then there’s this silence, and she expects me to respond to what she’s been saying. So this is a critical moment, because at this moment, I have two choices. One, I can pretend and say yes, yes.
But then it’s like, what did I just agree to here? Or, of course, I can humble myself apologize and confess to her. I just wasn’t listening again.
Let’s face it, most of us are lousy listeners. We get distracted. We have better things to do. We have our own ideas, our own agenda. While someone is talking to us, we’re already preparing our answer.
Or when something or someone is too familiar, it’s very easy just to tune them out.
Genuine listening takes a posture of humility. Genuine listening means we must set aside our own agenda. Pay attention. That’s the appeal that’s made over and over again in Hebrews. Pay attention.
That’s the title of today’s lesson as we begin our study of Hebrews. Someone is speaking to you. But are you listening? Are you even paying attention? Hebrews chapter 1 verses 1-4. Verse one. Long ago, at many times, in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.
But in these last days he has spoken to us by his son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. And he upholds the universe by the word of his power. And after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to Angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. And this is only the beginning of the extraordinary resume of Jesus.
The author then will spend the remainder of chapter one firing off seven Old Testament scriptures to prove that Jesus is superior to Angels. And we won’t cover all that today. But I do appeal to you. Take a deeper dive this weekend to Jesus and the Angels. We’ve provided those notes and reflection questions in the Hebrews resource folder.
Now let’s skip ahead to chapter two, verse one, chapter two, verse one. In light of the uncomfortable credentials of Jesus, therefore, here it is. We must pay closer attention to what we have heard lest we drift away from it. Since the message declared by Angels proved to be reliable in every transgression of disobedience received a just retribution. How shall we escape if we neglect such a great Salvation?
It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Look again in verse one. We must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift from it.
Pay attention. This is the first of six warnings in Hebrews. Get ready. Many passages in this book will get right in your face. But why?
And who are we supposed to pay attention to? Who exactly is speaking to you and me? Now, before we answer those questions, I do want to dive into the backstory of Hebrews authorship when we take a look at who wrote this. What? We don’t know.
It’s the Holy Spirit. We do know that it’s written in very eloquent Greek. And if you look for those of us who have paper Bibles, nothing against who don’t have one today. But it’s much easier to do this. You can see Hebrews, and then the letter before is Philemon.
And if you look at just the first few verses and compare both of these books, the beginning is very, very different and Philemon we find out right away who wrote this. Paul describes himself, and then he tells us who he’s writing this to. It’s very different. If you contrast that to Hebrews, Hebrews just jumps right in it.
We just read it a few moments ago. It just launches in. That’s because the literary style here of Hebrews is that it’s a written sermon. It’s meant to be listened to more than simply read. The author is a preacher and a teacher.
And depending on your speed of reading, you can read this sermon in about 30 or 40 minutes. You can go right through Hebrews. It’s about a 40 minutes sermon. But here’s the fact about the author. He or she absolutely loves Jesus.
The author thinks Jesus is amazing, magnificent, and without question, unparalleled. And that gives us the simple theme of Hebrews. Jesus is better. Quoting Hebrews, with Jesus, we have better things, a better hope, a better Covenant, better promises, a better sacrifice, better and lasting possessions, a better country in heaven, a better resurrection and sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Jesus is better.
Now get ready. Hebrews is not light reading. Hebrews is not an appetizer. It’s a heavy, full course meal.
Now, the author of Hebrews, the author is an Old Testament gunslinger. It reminds me of one of Eddie’s favorite movies, tombstone. We’re dating ourselves here, but a good old Western movie. The author of Hebrews is like Doc Holiday. When it comes to the Old Testament, he says, I’m your Huckleberry.
All right. The author is just firing off Old Testament Scriptures non stop. And chapter one, as I mentioned, he fires off a seven point resume of Jesus from the Old Testament. And what’s happening here is the author assumes his audience knows the Old Testament like the back of their hand. So that’s very different for most of us as the current audience.
As we read Hebrews today, we’re not always so familiar with the old Covenant. So I’m telling you, get ready to dive into the Old Testament. You’ll love it. You study this, you will see the connection. Now, perhaps more like most of us today, the original audience of Hebrews.
These are people who are not new converts. From the context, we can see the audience. They’ve been around the Church five years, ten years, 20 plus years. They hear the author describe how phenomenal Jesus is, and they’re probably thinking, wow, I felt that way about Jesus long ago, but now not so much. It’s kind of become a grind.
I don’t know if you’re feeling that even making your way to be here today, it can become a grind. Christianity, man, it feels more like an obligation than a delight.
Christians tend to slowly drift. Somewhere on the inside we’re desiring something quote “better”.
That’s where we go. The author, he’s heard that his audience is not doing so well, and he’s concerned. They’ve stalled. They had this initial powerful experience with Jesus. But now they’re not growing or perhaps even going backwards. They’ve lost their passion.
Or maybe they’re just extremely disappointed because friends, they started with, family they’ve started within the faith, have left the Church. And maybe I should leave, too. They’re wavering in their faith. They’re drifting back to their old ways.
Perhaps even they’re making moral compromises. Is this you today? Have you been drifting?
This is how the message of Hebrews transcends time.
We’re tempted in a variety of ways, right? We could be thinking, Well, I’m stuck. I’m frustrated. Things have not gone as I have planned. I’m not content.
I’m restless. Let me think about this. We get to a point, point at the where we drift and we start thinking, well, let me just figure out how I can pursue a better life for me. Maybe I need a better doctrine, or I need a better Church, or I need a better truth. Happiness means I’m living my truth, right?
I need a better career, no matter the cost. Then I’ll be happy. Maybe I need a better spouse. Maybe I need a better soulmate than the one I started with long ago. Maybe that’s what God wants for me.
Maybe I need to live a gay lifestyle. Maybe I need to change my gender. Maybe that could be better. It’s only natural. Certainly my creator, who designed me would want something better for me, right?
We’re tempted in a variety of ways to pursue better. It’s easy for all of us to look at something else, to look at someone else or some other way of life and begin to think, for me, that looks better. So in this way, Hebrews transcends the author. Hebrews transcends the audience in any generation. Hebrews speaks to us today.
We need Hebrews as much today as they did 2000 years ago.
It’s because so many things, so many ideas and people compete for our affection. We begin to drift. Then Hebrews reminds us, Jesus is better. Always better. So now you know the backstory.
Let’s return to the question I posed. Who is speaking to you and me? Let’s go back to chapter one of Hebrews to find the answer to this question. Verse one. And we read this just a few moments ago, but we’re going to hit the highlights here.
Who is speaking to you and me? Well, verse one, it tells us long ago. Chapter one, verse one, God spoke to humans in many different ways. Prophets such as Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, imperfect men and women. God even used Angels to bring us the Old Testament law, nonhumans, if you will.
And it’s not that the Old Covenant and the way God spoke in the past or long ago. It’s not that that old way is bad or it’s wrong. It’s simply incomplete. It’s like a play without the final act.
Jesus is speaking to you.
Verse two tells us this, but now, in the last days, we have someone better speaking for God. The Almighty God now speaks to us by way of his Son. That’s who’s speaking to you and me. It’s the Son of God. It’s Jesus.
We must pay attention. Jesus has become the final word from God. Jesus is the best word from God we’ll ever get. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of what God says and who God is. Jesus is God in the flesh.
So are we listening to Jesus?
Here’s his resume in verses two, three and four. First of all, he’s the Son of God.
And then the author tells us that God has appointed Jesus the heir of all things. This means Jesus is King of the universe. This is a reference to Psalm two. In other words, royalty is speaking to you. Are you listening?
Then it says, through Jesus, God created the world. And then later, Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power. That’s a reference to Genesis, chapter one and Proverbs eight. The creator of the Earth is speaking to you. Your creator is speaking to you.
The one who commands the universe to spin is talking to you. Will you pay attention to Jesus? Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God. That’s a beautiful description for us.
These are just shades of if you remember when Moses would go and speak to God and the radiance of Moses, when he came down, just the reflection of God, he had to wear a veil because his face was so bright, right? Well, that’s Jesus. Jesus is the warmth and the power of God hitting us in the face. Will we listen to him?
And then after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Here the Old Testament gunslinger references Leviticus four, Leviticus 16, Psalm 110, and Daniel seven. His point is that Jesus is now the ultimate high priest. Jesus is the perfect mediator between broken, sinful people like us and the Holy God.
So pulling all this together, the ultimate King, the ultimate Prophet, the ultimate priest, is speaking to you. Are you listening? Our entire future rides on this. Will you and I humble ourselves and submit to Jesus?
Last but not least, I love this one. Jesus is the exact imprint or the exact representation of God’s nature. The Greek word here for imprint is charakter.
There you go. And this is a powerful image. It’s a very important metaphor. Charakter. This is from ancient coin making. They would use the character to make sure that every coin was exactly the same and that it was legitimate.
It was also used, as you see in the picture here on the screen, for Signet rings, for Kings and Queens. You would take the imprint that was on the ring and then you could put it in wax, right? And then you would use that to seal an official document. And that imprint would then become the symbol that represented the King or Queen.
Point here, the author is making that Jesus is the character of God’s very being.
Jesus is the character of God’s truest essence.
And this is important because when we say the word God today, that can mean almost anything, right, in our culture. We can conjure up so many ideas of God philosophies of who God is, beliefs. Our culture makes the mistake of making God anything we want him to be. The title God can be conveniently, very vague and moldable to our own best interests. God can be the life force, the Allah, the universe, Mother Earth, the God inside of ourselves.
The list goes on and on.
But the Christian faith tells us this, that God is Jesus shaped.
If you want to know who God is, you look to Jesus, his mission, his purpose, his teaching, his way of living as a human being. You look to Jesus and you will find the true essence of God. Jesus is the final word.
So are you listening? Will you pay attention? That’s the message early on in Hebrews. Pay attention. There’s someone talking to you.
And here is who he is. It’s Jesus, and he’s better.
Will you pay attention? If not, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great Salvation? That’s the warning of Hebrews. So here’s where you and I go from here. We must lean on one another as we study, or will study in Hebrews three. Encourage one another daily. See to it that none of you has an unbelieving sinful heart. So I do have some reflection questions for you to consider. Take a picture.
Take a screenshot. These are also available in your resources in the Google folder that I’ve provided in your conversations today immediately following this time together, reflect on these questions. Talk about them in your fellowship. Discuss them in your small groups.
To what other places? To what other voices do you drift to hear better things Besides Jesus? Are you drifting? What characteristics of Jesus stood out to you from this passage? How did that encourage you?
Then also, the title God, as we just mentioned, conjures up many ideas and beliefs. But why is Jesus vital and clarifying once and for all who God really is and what God expects from us?
So those are some great questions for you. And then I have some living water challenges. These are just bare bones practicals tips, challenges to really hopefully take on this week practical items. First of all, since the style of Hebrews is a written sermon, I’d encourage you to sit down just all at one time this week in one sitting. Read all of Hebrews.
Just listen. Don’t read just four verses or a chapter. Read it like you’re hearing a sermon. And if you have a roommate spouse, you can read it to each other. Go back and forth.
Much more power that way. And it’s a good way to start to get the whole picture before we start breaking things down individually. All right. Also in Hebrews, like I said, we have an Old Testament gunslinger. We need to keep up with that.
All right. I’d encourage you always stop and examine the Old Testament references when you see them and they’re all over the place. So find out what those are. See what they mean. Flip back to your Old Testament and see what those scriptures meant in the original context.
And then you can start getting really inspired to see how the Holy Spirit has redefined them in this new context of Jesus, in this fulfillment of Jesus. So look at those Old Testament references. It will deepen your Bible story and help you understand the redemptive story from Genesis to Revelation. And then, as I mentioned earlier, we jumped over the superior to Angels section today. Go to your resources folder.
There’s a specific study there on this topic. Check it out. So to summarize our introduction to Hebrews this morning, Jesus is better. Jesus is speaking to you and me. We must pay attention.
As I stated at the beginning of the month, when we kick things off on January 2, I’ll tie this into that. We must pay attention to Jesus. And when we pay attention to Jesus, just imagine the celebrations we can have in December of all the changes that Jesus will make in us. Our best days as Christians are right in front of us because of Jesus. Next week, we’re going to dive into the remainder of chapter two of Hebrews, and we’re going to examine how Jesus and the Avengers are two very different types of heroes.
You won’t want to miss that.
So it’s fitting now that we remember Jesus together with the bread and the cup which symbolizes his body and his blood given to us on the cross. And before we pray, I want to examine the end of Hebrews one verse three. Says, after making purification for sins, Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. And as I stated earlier, this passage highlights Jesus as the ultimate high priest. Jesus is this mediator between broken people like this and like us and the Holy, Almighty God.
Now, there’s a portion of this sentence in verse three that probably means very little to us, but would have absolutely blown away the original Jewish audience. It’s the part that States, Jesus sat down or he sat down. It’s shocking because when priests did their work in the Holy place, they never sat down.
That’s because there were no chairs. Okay, there were no chairs for the priest in the Tabernacle. That’s not how it was designed. So for thousands of years the priest never sat down in the temple. That’s because the work of making sacrifices for sin was never complete.
Now comes Jesus, the ultimate high priest. Jesus entered into the Holy place, sacrificed himself once and for all for our sins on the cross. Then he said it is finished. And he sat down at the right hand of God. Jesus is the only priest who sat down.
That’s because Jesus is better. Let’s pray. Let’s meditate on Jesus as we share Communion together this morning.