Home   Complete Index    2009-2010 Sermons   2004-2008 Sermons      2002-2003 Sermons      2000-2001 Sermons     1998-1999 Sermons 

Series    Topical     Short Articles

 

Email

 

565  Sermons Available

Fixing Our Thoughts on Jesus

Hebrews 3

Jim Davis

A great encouragement in difficult times is to understand Christ's willingness to help us, and his faithfulness to us in those times. In the previous chapters of Hebrews the writer has emphasized the superiority of Christ. His birth as God's Son makes him far superior to men and angels. It is Christ's superiority that makes his faithfulness to God and us important. It is no lamb on the altar; it is Christ--God's Son. The final verses of chapter 2 help us understand that Christ suffered when he was tempted. His suffering enables him to help those who are suffering with temptations. In chapter 3 the writer speaks of Christ faithfulness to God's house, which is the church. (1 Timothy 3:15)

Hebrews 3:1-6
Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. (NIV)

The readers of this letter know how faithful Moses was to the Hebrews in Egypt and through the wilderness. He laid his life on the line numerous times. He not only risked his life as he went before the Pharaoh, he risk his life before the Hebrew slaves when things went awry. On one occasion when the people had grown tired and weary "Moses cried out to the LORD, "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me." (Exodus 17:2-4) When Moses feared God would destroy the Hebrews for making a molten calf he fasted forty days and nights and prayed to God on their behalf. (Deuteronomy 25:19-25) On another occasion when God was about to kill the rebellious Hebrews Moses interceded. The people spoke against God and God sent fiery serpents upon them. Moses interceded by making a brass serpent and lifting it up so those who look upon the serpent would live. (Numbers 21) Moses was faithful to the Hebrews even after God told him he would enter the Promised Land for his personal anger.

The point is that Moses was faithful to them in the wilderness and so has Christ been faithful to them through death. Hebrew readers are encouraged to be faithful because of Christ's faithfulness to them. Christ's faithfulness is a dominant theme in Hebrews.

Hebrews 13:5-8
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (NIV)

The theme of Christ's faithfulness runs throughout scripture.

Revelation 3:14
"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. (NIV)

Revelation 19:11
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. (NIV)

God's mercy is a result of his faithful commitment to salvage our lives from sin. It is through God's faithfulness that he uses our temptations to discipline us into becoming better Christians. God's faithfulness is demonstrated to each of us by his willingness to be faithful to us as we learn from our temptations and failures. His faithfulness to us is seen in that he is willing to give us wisdom in difficult times. (James 1:5) His power turns our failures into victories as he enables us to gain wisdom from the failures, which in turn allows us to develop endurance for the race.

Hebrews 12:5-8
And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. (NIV)

Fixing Our Thoughts on Jesus Instills Courage

Courage is essential to faithfulness. We gain the proper courage by fixing our thoughts on Christ. The writer says:

Hebrews 3:6-11
But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.' So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" (NIV)

Courage is a prerequisite to faithfulness: "But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." When things go awry, if we are not careful, the first thing we lose is our courage. A loss of courage results in unfaithfulness. We are only a part of God's house if we hold on to our courage. Fear is the opposite of courage and it is a foe to faithfulness. It is no accident that "courage" and "fear" are connected in the writer's thoughts. The lack of either increases the other.

The Hebrew writer is quoting from Psalms 95:7-11 as he reminds us of the dangers of unbelief. The difficulty's of the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai made them faithless. The story of the Exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan wasn't a happy story. There was a long period between the exodus and the conquest of Canaan that was filled with grumbling, disobedience, and temptation to give up on the pilgrimage. They refused to see the benefits of their trials. Instead, they tried God. They refused to obey God.

The Israelites were grumbling at the sight of Pharaoh's army before they crossed the Red Sea. Their loss of courage blinded them to the bright hope of God's deliverance.

Exodus 14:11-12
They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" (NIV)

They were grumbling when they were hungry.

Exodus 16:2-3
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death." (NIV)

They were grumbling when they became thirsty.

Exodus 17:2-4
So they quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?" But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?" Then Moses cried out to the LORD, "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me." (NIV)

They turned away from God as God was giving the Ten Commandments on Sinai.

Exodus 32:1-6
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him." Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me." So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD." So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. (NIV)

After the law was given they refused to cross the Jordan River to conquer the land of Canaan.

Numbers 14:6-11
Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them." But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites. The LORD said to Moses, "How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? (NIV)

The story of the Exodus served as a warning to first century Christians that they must guard their hearts in difficult times. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to Christian's who thought their initial salvation guaranteed them that they could never fall.

1 Corinthians 10:11, 12-13
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come . . . So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (NIV)

Courage will motivate us to look for reasons to obey. Courage will motivate us to look for the way of escape, which only God can provide. Fixing our thoughts on Jesus will instill the courage we need.

Fixing Our Thoughts on Jesus Instills Confidence

Fixing our mind on Christ will instill the confidence we need to overcome. A confident belief that Christ is in control is the key to courage in difficult times. Just as the prerequisite to faithfulness is courage, confidence is the prerequisite to courage. The key to confident living is found in verse one: "Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess." It is not confidence in self and it is not confidence in others, but rather confidence in Christ. You must fix your focus on Christ because he is far superior to the powers against you.

Ephesians 1:17-23
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (NIV)

Do you see how much superior Jesus is to Moses? In his powerful position as conqueror of the forces against us he sympathizes with us in our weakness. He will never turn his back on us.

"We will never survive in the midst of adversity unless we discover something reliable and secure on which we can rely. The church can never live on temporary, fascinating diversions. How can we base our lives on ideologies, which shift with the wind?" (2:17) (James Thompson, Strategy for Survival, A Plan for Church Renewal from Hebrews, Sweet Publishing Company, 1980, Page 36.

The author reminds us that Christ is "merciful and faithful." The point is that we can place our confidence in Christ as a result of his mercy and faithfulness to us. He was faithful to the work God appointed him. He was faithful as spokesman and high priest. He completed the journey; he reached the goal victorious over our enemies. If we fix our thoughts on him it will us the confidence we need for victory.

The answer to our frustration is that the pioneer of our salvation understands the pain, agony and frustration of the long march. Christ's victory over the world did not begin with a continuous string of victories. It began with a savior who was tempted to quit in the presence of adversity. His faithfulness was measured by tests of endurance.

Our confidence comes from his faithfulness in his trials for us as he died on the cross. It was his faithfulness through each temptation he faced that enabled him to develop endurance. At the cross we begin to understand that God's power enables allows our temptations and failures to become the very things that build our endurance to live for him.

1 Peter 1:6-9
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (NIV)

Fixing Our Thoughts on Jesus Instills Hope

Fixing our minds on Christ instills hope. It is our hope that gives our courage something to hold on to. "But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." Hope is so essential that Paul says we are saved by hope. (Romans 8:24)

The key to your survival lies in your response to frustration and disappointment. Much of the imagery of our songs portrays Christians as pilgrims overlooking the promised land. It is our hope for the future that keeps us alive. Fixing our eyes on Jesus is the only thing that can instill during spiritual battles.

"Viktor Frankl observed from his years in a Nazi prison camp that only those people who believed in a future had the will to go on in extreme adversity. Despite hunger and intense pain, even the slightest ray of hope that something awaited them outside prison gave them amazing endurance." (James Thompson, Strategy for Survival, A Plan for Church Renewal from Hebrews, Sweet Publishing Company, 1980, Page 44.)

Fixing Our Thoughts on Jesus Warns Us of Dangers

We usually try to remember the victories. Victories have a tendency to blind us to our defeats. Only in fishing do we talk about the one that we lost. A golfer can have the worst game of his life and make a whole in one during that game. What do you think will be remembered? We remember the victory of the cross, but we forget the agonizing trail that led to the cross.

We tend to look to Joshua's victories when he crossed the Jordan River. We may forget that the Israelites wandered forty years in the wilderness. The psalmist from whom the writer quotes recalls the tragedies of the wilderness journey. He reminds us of those who failed to reach God's intended goal for their lives. They discovered that God was not to be toyed with.

Hebrews 3:12-19
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion." Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (NIV)

There are constant warnings throughout Hebrews that we had best not trifle with God. The writer issues stern warnings to encourage us to faithfulness: "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" (3:11) Again in Hebrews 12:15, "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." "How shall we escape if we neglect such great salvation?" (2:3) "Our God is a consuming fire." (12:29) He is the "one with whom we have to do." (4:13) The writer speaks of Esau who "found no place to repent." (12:17) "Do not refuse him who is speaking." (12:25) We are reminded that our salvation is conditioned by our response. "We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first." (3:14) It is a terrible thing to fall into the hand of God for judgment for our unbelief.

The writer asks five questions in 3:6-18. He uses questions to answer his questions.
Who were they who heard and rebelled?
Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?
And with whom was he angry for forty years?
Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert?
And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?

What does this say to us? "So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief." These words are addressed to us today. We are on our way to the Promised Land. We are on a journey filled with doubt and despair, a pilgrimage that is never easy.

Conclusion:

The words of Jesus echo in our ears.

Matthew 16:24-28
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." (NIV)

The words of Peter are also echoing in my ears.

1 Peter 4:16-19
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (NIV)

 

Home   Complete Index    2009 Sermons 2004-2008 Sermons      2002-2003 Sermons      2000-2001 Sermons     1998-1999 Sermons 

Series    Topical     Short Articles

Email