Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hebrews 10:1-18

One hundred years ago the message of Jesus was well-known in Western culture. The visible church and Judeo-Christian values were an integral part of Euro-American society, having unprecedented influence and prominence in secular culture and government. In many respects, it could be argued that America was a Christian nation.

But this is not so today. While the prominence of the church in our Southern culture colors our perspective so that it appears our culture is still somewhat “Christian”, Western culture is no longer Christian, in as much that society no longer openly and unquestioningly embraces Judeo-Christian morality and values, or reverently esteem the institution and value of the Christian Church, the visible manifestation of Jesus’ body. The relevance of the visible church has lost traction and the result has been the establishment and emergence of an evangelical Christian sub-culture designed to isolate and insulate itself from secular culture.

Tragically, the state of our culture is worse off than it would be if Western culture were a culture without any Christian history whatsoever. Arguably, those societies which have no memory of Jesus are much easier to penetrate and infiltrate with the message of Christ because they carry no post-Christian spiritual baggage, and thus no anti-Christian sentiments (those fueled by the failures of past Christian institutions), living only in ignorance of the Living God, than those societies (such as Europe, Canada, and to a quickly deteriorating degree, the United States) who are now post-Christian.

The significance of this is in what Flannery O’Conner describes as a “Christ-haunted” society, in that there is a fading memory of Jesus, but not enough of a memory to cause any reflection or serious consideration. Jesus is a ghost, and a friendly, effeminate, pacifist at that. Many people in Western culture remember (or at least can read about) the Judeo-Christian values of 100 years ago, but now embrace an attitude which says: “We remember that world. It birthed civil rights atrocities, World Wars I & II, blurred lines of authority and influence between church and state, male-dominance, homophobia, and sexual suppression. We’ve lived in the Jesus-dominated era of the past and have no desire to return.”

Thus, this fading memory of Jesus in Western culture, a memory that says we “been there, done that”, that has moved the communication of the gospel into uncharted territory. At no point in history has any society moved from pre-Christian to Christian to post-Christian and survived.

But what does this have to do with the book of Hebrews? In an increasingly spiritual, pluralistic, narcissistic society people have many questions about God, faith, religion and eternity. Most people are open to any kind of spiritual conversation or dialogue except that which revolves the expectations of an exclusive God with particular demands to be met through the person of Jesus Christ. This brings to the purpose of Hebrews 10:1-18.

Purpose: to crystallize for the audience the sufficiency, effectiveness and finality of Jesus’ sacrifice. Contextually, this was important because many believers who confessed Jesus were wavering in their faith because of persecution. Therefore the author is reminding them of God’s provision for the forgiveness of sins and right relationship with God through the sacrifice of Jesus, and the danger of willfully walking away from the Gospel.

I hope you see how relevant this passage is to a post-Christian, post-modern, secular society. In a culture where we value the sufficiency of man to accomplish whatever he sets his mind to, the effectiveness of all religions to secure acceptance by God, and a hostility to any final answers or solutions to anything, the message of Christ is never more needed, nor more under-minded than it is today.

Outline for Hebrews 10:1-18
  1. Christ is the Image, the Law His Shadow (10:1)
  2. The Conscience Must Be Cleansed for Acceptance by God (10:2; 10:10; 10:14; 10:18) Because Sin is the Issue Between God and Man.
  3. The Penal Substitutionary Death of Jesus is the Only Hope for Mankind (10:2-11)
  4. The Forgiveness of Sins is of First Importance in Regards to Right Relationship with God (10:10; 10:14; 10:17-18). This means that whatever is of importance or is a motive for people pursuing relationship with God, the personal acknowledgment of sin, repentance, and receiving forgiveness on the merits of Jesus’ work on the cross is preeminent.
  5. The Evidence of Forgiveness is the Pursuit of Jesus Character and the purpose of the New Covenant is God’s Means of Making Us Like His Son (Sanctification) (10:16).
  6. This Truth Has Been Revealed to Us by God (10:15…”The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this…”


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