Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus . . . —Hebrews 10:19
New Year’s Day is a time in which many people think they will turn over a new leaf. They begin the year with all kinds of New Year’s resolutions: “I’m going to loses so many pounds;” I’m going to cut down on caffeine;” and so on. We often make fun of resolutions, declaring that our New Year’s resolution is that we will not make any more New Year’s resolutions.
It is too bad that we make fun of people who make resolutions, because some of them are very serious about trying to change some part of their lives. This article seeks to look at some New Year’s resolutions and what is behind those resolutions. How do we make commitments, and how serious are we about them? What kind of resolutions should we be making for 2012?
The author of Hebrews offers four resolutions that would be very good for us to adopt and make our own in the new year. Not only does he offer them to us, but he gives us three very good reasons to make these four resolutions ours.
Whereas . . .
We look first at why we should adopt the resolutions that Hebrews presents to us:
1 In Hebrews 10:19, the author tells us “we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place.” That was quite a statement for the writer of Hebrews to make. In Jewish theology the presence of God was greatly to be feared. In Jewish piety it was natural to shrink back from the presence of God—so much so that the Jewish people feared to even speak the holy Name of God.
No one would ever think of going into the Most Holy Place within the temple because that represented the very presence of God. Entrance into the Most Holy Place was barred by a very thick, ornately-decorated veil. No one would enter. No one would even dare take a quick peek inside of the Most Holy Place.
Only once a year was the high priest permitted to enter into the Most Holy Place—and then only after elaborate rites of purification and donning the proper attire. So careful were the Jews about limiting entrance into the Most Holy Place that they established all kinds of precautions and rules about how even the one priest would enter. After all, what if the priest had a heart attack or fell and broke his leg while in the Most Holy Place? How would they get him out? To resolve that problem, the priest entering into the Most Holy Place would have a rope tied around his waist so that others could pull him out without ever entering the Most Holy Place themselves.
To these cautious people the author of Hebrews declared: “We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place.” The Christian proclamation is that we can come into God’s very presence with confidence without fear. We do not need a rope tied around our waist, nor do we need the fancy rituals that once preceded entrance. We need only come. In fact, we may come with eager anticipation and with great joy.
2 The author of Hebrews tells us that the very thing that blocked our entry into the presence of God has been torn in two. Blocking entrance into the Most Holy Place was a great veil. This veil covered the place that represented the presence of God. Its purpose was to keep people out.
The good news of the gospel is that the death of Jesus Christ has torn the curtain from top to bottom. It was not some priest who accidentally tripped over the curtain and tore it. God, who so many years earlier had gone to great lengths to describe how the curtain was to be made, decorated, and cared for, tore the curtain from top to bottom.
The tearing of the veil from top to bottom symbolizes in a very dramatic way that the great barrier between God and man has been removed. Our sin, our guilt, and our shame have been removed by the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross of Calvary.
3 Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our “great high priest over the house of God” (10:12). The word “priest” means “bridge-builder.” The bold proclamation of the gospel is that Jesus has become the great bridge-builder between sinful man and the holy God. He is the Door, the Torn Curtain, and the Way into the presence of God.
Therefore . . .
Since the above things are true and we may, indeed, have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place, the author of Hebrews encourages us to adopt the following resolutions:
1 Let us draw near to God (Hebrews 10:22a). God has made the way clear for us to come into His presence through His Son, Jesus Christ. It was mind-boggling for the Jew to think that an ordinary person could ever enter into the presence of God. Yet, that is the privilege afforded us through Jesus Christ. It is given to us every Lord’s Day as we enter into the Most Holy Place—the sanctuary—to worship God.
Unfortunately it is a privilege that is often taken for granted. We come late. We come dressed casually. We fall asleep. Can you imagine the priest standing before the altar dressed in less than formal attire? He would have been horrified at the thought of yawning in god’s presence, let alone sleeping alongside the altar. It should be our joy and delight to worship the living God as He assures us of His love, mercy, and grace having been revealed to us in His Son.
2 The second resolution for 2012 is that we “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess” (Hebrews 10:23). Our hope is in the glorious truth that our God is a faithful God. He has been faithful in the past. He has provided us through the years with untold material blessings, but more, He has given us the greatest spiritual gift we could ever receive—access to Himself. The grand truth that we profess and hold to is reconciliation through God’s only-begotten Son. There is no other Name under heaven by which we may be saved.
There are many who want to challenge that truth today, claiming to have another way to heaven, or that Jesus is but one of many ways to heaven. The Bible teaches very clearly that God has provided the perfect sin offering in His Son as the means of salvation. Not a means of salvation; the means of salvation! How shall we escape if we neglect the one true means that God Himself has provided?
3 The third resolution is that “we consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). We need to be encouragers.
One thing that seems to be lacking in many people who profess to believe in Christ is that we fail to be a people who encourage one another. How seldom we say, “Thank you” to those who do so much for us. Too often we expect others to do things we would never dream of volunteering for ourselves: nursery, ushering, teaching. How often do we take the time to say, “I appreciate the ministry you are bringing to this church”?
At times we may also have a tendency gossip about certain fringe members of the church “who know better.” Hebrews calls us to show them love. How often have you offered to baby-sit for the single mother so that she can attend an afternoon Bible Study? How often have you talked to one of the teenagers in your church about the precious faith that you possess? How often have you offered to pick up the senior citizen of whom you have said, “If he can go to the coffee shop, he can be in church”?
4 Hebrews offers this sage advice to all resolution-makers for 2012: “Let us not give up meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25). There is no such thing as “Lone Ranger Christianity” where you can worship God all alone. William Barclay wrote, “There is no person who can live the Christian life and neglect the fellowship of the Church.” There is no such thing as a secret disciple of Christ.
Fellowship among believers provides strength and energy; it brings resolve and commitment. The church exists to nurture spiritual growth. To receive that spiritual growth you must be more than a member; you must be an involved member. That means doing something. To be absent from the church and its activities is against your own best interest.
God has kept His resolutions toward us. He has permitted us to enter His presence. He has granted us forgiveness through His Son. He has united us to Himself through the Holy Spirit. Out of thanksgiving to God for all He has done for us, let us resolve in 2012 to know God better by drawing ourselves to Him, remaining faithful to His truth, encouraging one another, and maintaining fellowship with the saints. Then our joy will be complete.