04 October 2006

Individual Perseverance is a Community Project Part Four

How shall we make it to the end?

14For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end." (Hebrews 3:14 ESV).

I believe that these truths bring us to a very precarious position. The point I've been making is that for every professing Christian, there is a need to in a community that will exhort the believer to stay faithful to Christ because he or she might not make it to the end. He or she might not persevere until Christ returns. He or she might stop believing in Christ. He or she might not be saved. Which should raise the question, “Is this the Christian life? If it’s nothing but an upward fight with no assurance, how shall we make it to the end? And can someone who is a believer truly fall away?

No, there is assurance. There is titanium-reinforced, diamond-hard foundation to a Christian's confidence and the writer of Hebrews wants you to have it. He says in 6.11, “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end." It is not a fool’s quest or a mythological treasure. But the assurance isn’t in anything you’ve done. Your assurance must rest safely in the person and work of Jesus Christ: " 19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 26For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:19-31 ESV).

So all of our confidence must be based entirely on the trustworthy character of God who has promised to justify the sinner based upon the person and work of Jesus Christ. On that you can trust. Then what about all of this “if” stuff? 14For we share in Christ, if we hold our original confidence firm to the end." (Hebrews 3:12-14 ESV). And we are [God’s] house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. " (Hebrews 3:6 ESV). So what do you do when you read those texts? We've already established that you don't throw out assurance.

There's a couple of reasons why these texts are important and precious to the believer. First, what happens to the believer when he reads those texts that doesn’t happen in the heart of an unbeliever? The unbeliever, who may claim to be following Christ, brushes the warning aside and says, “I’m okay. That doesn’t apply to me.” But the believer goes to the cross and pleads, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. I deserve to be cast away, but you’ve promised to save those who hold fast their confidence in you and I trust you to save me. Your work on the cross has atoned for my sins, your righteousness has given and will give me standing in the judgment. I trust in You, Jesus. That’s what I think the writer means in 10.14 "14For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." Those who keep on fighting their sin, continue clinging to Christ, trusting everyday in his righteousness alone.

God has ordained not only who shall be saved, but also how he or she shall be saved. One method is through the warnings of Scripture. Then there is the flip-side of warning, which be exhorting. That is the goal of the Christian community—to exhort the fellow believer to make it to the end. And what we shall find when we are all in heaven is that those who made it to the end had been regenerated. And the way the regenerated heart keeps loving Jesus is by the church's constant reminder of how glorious He is.

So, I hope that makes sense as to why Bethlehem has a certain type of shepherd group in mind. This shepherd group exists to help you to keep on believing and trusting in Jesus Christ so that you’ll make it to the end and be saved. And this community aspect is what is lacking in our culture and especially in American spirituality. This is a community of believers that points you to the Living God manifest in Jesus Christ. It is a group that points you to His word, and exhorts you to hold fast to Him. And we don’t just want you to coast to the end, but to be so enamored by Jesus that you go to a glorious Hebrews 13 ending: "8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." (Hebrews 13:8-16 ESV).


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