Mobile Phones. They’re always getting SMALLER and FANCIER. And more complicated. It’s pretty hard to buy a mobile these days that ONLY makes and answers PHONE CALLS. There’s ones with RADIOS, and music players. Cameras. And personal organisers. There’s even phones that let you use the internet.
Which makes the very first mobile phone I ever saw/ seem like a DINOSAUR. It was back in the early 90’s. It was BIG and BLACK. And about the size of a HODSEBRICK. And probably WEIGHED about the SAME. The person was wearing it on their belt. But it looked like it was doing major damage to their posture. Damage only regular chiropractic appointments could fix.
I’m not even sure how many mobile phone towers there were around that you could receive calls from. The reception must have been lousy.
You just can’t compare THAT OLD PHONE/ with the phones you can buy THESE DAYS. No one would even CONSIDER going back to old technology like THAT. When you could have a NEW PHONE.
Because the old technology is useless and obsolete. It’s passing. And it doesn’t even WORK. And THE NEW IS SO MUCH BETTER.
Which is the EXACT argument the preacher of Hebrews is using. But instead of new and old PHONES. It’s the New and Old covenants. Of Judaism. And Christianity.
A letter or a sermon?
Let’s jump back a couple of steps. And fill in some of the pieces.
Today we’re looking at the start of the letter to THE HEBREWS. Which is of course another term for Jews.
And the interesting thing about Hebrews is that it’s not so much A LETTER, like so much of the rest of the New Testament. But A TRANSCRIPT OF A SERMON. You’ll notice there’s none of the usual address stuff at the front. None of the to-and-from details you get in the other letters. And there are clues all the way through that this is a text originally meant to be spoken. And heard.
Which gives Hebrews, in one way, great immediacy. If you close your eyes, it’s just like being there and listening.
I understand, in the Reformed Church, this sort of thing happens quite a bit. That in a vacant church, a minister will send a sermon along. And one of the elders will READ IT OUT.
It’s the same thing here.
But it’s got the title Hebrews/ because this is a sermon first and foremost AIMED AT CHRISTIANS WHO STARTED OUT AS JEWS. Even more particularly, to Jewish Christians who are tempted to give up. Who want to give up being Christian. And go back to being Jewish. Go back to what they were before. Who are being tempted to power up the old mobile phone. The old big black HOUSEBRICK. Because somehow they’re starting to think that the good old days were better.
The danger is, they’re planning on ditching THEIR FREEDOM. And going back to their old rituals.
The danger is, they’re planning on ditching THE MESSAGE OF GOD’S FORGIVENESS through the death of Jesus… and go back to the Old Testament laws that were given to Moses through an angel.
The biggest danger of all is, they’re planning on ditching JESUS HIMSELF. And going back to their priests and holy men. Who they think can do a better job at bringing them before God.
If you want a single sentence summary of the message of Hebrews, it’s this. JESUS IS BETTER. SO DON’T TURN
BACK. It’s a message that gets repeated in slightly different ways all the way through the book. In terms that are very Jewish.
But time after time, the theme is the same. Jesus is better… than what came before. So don’t go backwards.
I don’t know what GOING BACKWARDS is going to look like for you in your life. Most of us aren’t Jewish. But if you’ve come anywhere with Jesus, if you’ve even taken even A SMALL STEP towards being Christian, this is a word that’s very much for you as well. Because it says, whatever you do, once you’ve started, don’t go back.
A Better Word from God (vl-2)
And the first two verses of chapter 1 wrap it up. They’re all about how much BETTER things are/ than the old ways and the old days. Especially in the way GOD HAS SHOWN HIMSELF.
Now even today, I’ve got to tell you, people are saying all sorts of stuff about THE WAY GOD SHOWS HIMSELF. About the way God speaks to us. Maybe a vision. Maybe a prophecy. Maybe a vision of Mary and the baby Jesus on a fence at Bondi Beach.
So these words at the start of Hebrews 1 are words we need to hear. Have a look.
In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets, at many times and in various ways.
Just open your Old Testament and you’ll see some. God spoke through the prophets IN DREAMS. One time, God spoke by making A HAND APPEAR AND WRITE ON A WALL. Other times he’d grab a prophet and say “Tell the people this”. With Moses on the Mountain, God gave him Israel’s law WRITTEN ON SLABS OF STONE. Apparently hand-delivered by an angel. Which might have seemed pretty cool. In the past, God spoke to our ancestors in lots of different ways.
“But in these last days, ” verse 2… “he’s spoken to us by his son. ”
Now here’s the point. You and I think that having a dream, or that having some words come in your head from God – you and I think that having an angel turn up in your lounge-room would be just terrific, don’t we?
And yet that’s all the OLD DA YS STUFF. That’s all the sort of stuff God did BEFORE he revealed himself ONCE AND FOR ALL… in HIS SON. In the past God spoke in various ways.
“But in these last days,” verse 2… “he’s spoken to us by his son.”
And keep reading. The son, Jesus, he’s the one who INHERITS all things. This is the son THROUGH WHOM GOD MADE THE UNIVERSE. And then he sent him to earth. In humanity like us. But also the exact representation of God.
People say I’m a lot like my Dad. Who’s ALSO a Presbyterian minister. There’s TWO Rev Balzers around the place. People I haven’t seen for years will OFTEN say how much I sound like Dad, or even LOOK like him. Which is a little annoying, since Dad is 63, and nearly BALD.
Well, Jesus is like that. Not BALD, but the spitting image of his Father. You want to know what God’s like? Then just look at Jesus. Verse 3:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being;
Which means that if God’s the sun, then Jesus is like the light shining off from the sun. In the original wording he’s like the coin stamped out of the die.
To top it off, verse 3 says, “After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” This incredibly great one, the greatest human of all time; he died on the cross as a sacrifice. To bring forgiveness of sins. Then went into heaven to rule beside his father. He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven.
He’s not only the CLIMAX and GOAL of the Universe, but its KING, and SA VIOUR.
And yet these Jewish guys are saying, “Ah, no. Tired of Jesus. Let’s go back to the old ways. Let’s go back to the rules and laws of the Old Testament. Because you know what? They were given to Moses… BY AN ANGEL”
Angels Brought Me Here?
Some people are fascinated by angels. Like, they’ve got cute little angel dolls in their house and cute little angel pictures.
Well, problem is, these Jewish Christians have got it in their mind that Angels aren’t just cute. They’re IMPRESSIVE. In fact, somehow more impressive than Jesus.
Which, if you think of some of the biblical descriptions of angels, maybe you can understand. I mean, Jesus had no wings.
And most of the time, he didn’t glow with a dazzling light. And look at him. Jesus was born in a cowshed. And died covered in dirt and blood on a cross.
Angels sort of just swoop in and do stuff or say stuff and look powerful and white and impressive and they never get their hands dirty.
Which is the most impressive?
Until you remember when that baby was being born in the cowshed, there were THOUSANDS OF ANGELS SINGING ABOUT IT.
Because THEY KNEW. They knew who was boss.
Verse 4 says after he died and rose, it was very clear:
So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has
inherited is superior to theirs.
Way better. And just about the whole of the rest of Hebrews chapter 1 keeps saying that. Picking out bits of the Old Testament to prove it. I mean, God never called an angel HIS
SON, did he? And verse 6, like I just said, when God’s firstborn comes into the world, THE ANGELS WORSHIP HIM.
And to which of the angels did God ever say, SIT HERE BESIDE ME as my second-in-charge. Verse 13…
To which of the angels did God ever say, “Sit at my right hand untill
make your enemies afootstoolfor your feet”?
And here’s something you may not have thought about. Do you know what angels are? Verse 14. Angels are serving spirits. Sent to serve US. Not GREATER than us at all. And certainly not
greater than Jesus. “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Yes, they are.
But what’s the point? I mean, why all this stuff about angels?
Don’t Mess With Jesus
The point is – and it’s spelled out in verse 1 and 2 of chapter 2 the point is, these Jewish Christians are tempted to turn back.
They’re tempted to turn back not so much to angels. But to THE MESSAGE angels gave to Moses. The Jewish laws and rules and regulations.
And to turn their backs on Jesus.
Have a look. And I’ve got to say this is a warning. Like the high voltage sign on a power transformer. It’s a warning to them/ to stop fooling around. And start paying attention. Chapter 2, verse 1 and 2. Maybe it’s a warning to you as well.
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?
Which is saying/ if you reckon the word that came from angels was scary, don’t try messing with Jesus. Because he’s come with the message of how to escape from God’s punishment. Verse 3.
Have you ever noticed the safety card they put in the pocket in front of your seat on aeroplanes? If your plane goes down in the water, there are these inflatable chutes you slide down. Into the inflatable raft. It’s all there on the card. How to be saved. If your plane ditches in the water.
Most people don’t pay any attention to it at all. Perhaps they reckon they KNOW IT ALL. That they’re such experienced flyers, they don’t need advice.
But I wonder whether you’ve ever noticed this. Down the bottom of the card, it says this. It shows you the inflatable raft. It shows you the inflatable slide you slip down. And it says, if you’re a woman, make sure you take off your high heel shoes. Which may puncture the lifeboat.
It’s a warning you need to TAKE NOTICE OF!
I mean, imagine for a minute. Your plane’s just crash-landed into the water off Sydney Heads. And you’ve survived. Fantastic. The plane’s filling up with water fast. But your brave cabin attendant has pressed the button and the inflatable chute has dropped off into the water with the life raft. Fantastic. And you’re sliding down it thinking how incredible it is to be alive. And then you land in the life raft full force with your high heels.
And it goes pssssssssst. And you drown.
Because salvation was there. The warning was there. And you’ve just taken it for granted. You didn’t pay attention. And now it’s gone.
Hebrews says, Jesus has come. A much greater salvation than anYthing that came before. These Jewish Christians, if you keep
reading in Hebrews, they’re turning back to their old laws and their old priests and all that Old Testament stuff that was supposed to PREP ARE them for Jesus. They’re throwing out the egg, and eating the eggshell.
Which means they’re sunk. Because they’re not paying attention to Jesus.
I wonder what you’re doing?
I wonder if you’ve taken a few steps towards being a Christian, and now you’re tempted to turn back?
I wonder if all kinds of other things are somehow getting in the way? And you’re taking your eyes off Jesus?
I see it happen. All kinds of ways. I see it when you take out a mortgage that’s slightly too big. Because you need everYthing now. And then you’re too busy chasing overtime or working the second job to get together with your Christian friends at church. Or too tired.
Or you’ve had to move so far away from your church family to buy your dream home that your church family is just a distant memory. And before you know it, so is Jesus. We’re going to see Hebrews 10 warns exactly about that happening.
I see it when a Christian teenager hooks up with a non-Christian boyfriend. Or girlfriend. Who has totally different ideas about how you honour Jesus with your body. And they’ll take it too far. And it comes to a point where the pull both ways is too strong. So you let go of Jesus. And you’re gone.
I see it when hard times come. Some kind of suffering. And you say, how can God put me through that? As if you’ve been thinking that following Jesus is somehow a guarantee of everything going well for you. (Like it did for him?) Read Hebrews carefully, and that’s a big issue. Because they’re finding there’s a cost involved in being Christian in the Roman empire. And they’re under threat.
I even see it with Christians who start looking for more from God than just Jesus. Who start looking for the new prophecy and the new word and the fresh revelation and fresh touch of God.
Not realizing that every new thing like that is just a way of going backwards. Losing sight of the fact all those things are second rate when God has spoken to us by his son.
And I can see it when people who’ve been around churches for DECADES / start thinking that salvation comes through THE CHURCH rather than through Jesus.
Or it comes through CORRECT THEOLOGY. Or declaring the RIGHT CONFESSIONS, or singing the right HYMNS. Or it comes through IMITATING Jesus, or SERVING THE DENOMINA TION, rather than through TRUSTING Jesus.
But salvation comes through NONE OF THAT STUFF. It’s only found in Jesus. There’s no BETTER way.
No OTHER way.
No EASIER way.
No SMARTER way.
No more GLORIOUS way.
There’s no other way to God than through Jesus – the FINAL word from God.
Can I ask you today, pay attention. Chapter 2 verse 1. Pay more careful attention to what you’ve heard. So that you’re not another one – who drifts back to what you would have been before. Who begins to see other things as more important than sticking with Jesus. Don’t turn back!