Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for 13 March 2022, 2nd in Lent

by Jackie Berry 13 March 2022

Call to worship: Psalm 138
I will give you thanks with all my heart; I will sing your praise before the heavenly beings.
I will bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your constant love and truth.
You have exalted your name and your promise above everything else.
On the day I called, you answered me; you increased strength within me. 

Opening prayer
Dear Lord and Father, we welcome You amongst us today and celebrate the gift of life that you have lavished upon each of us. We ask that You would open our ears so that we may hear your voice. Open our minds so that we may receive Your eternal wisdom. Open our spirits so that we may know Your leading and guidance. And open our hearts so that we may receive Your wonderful love. We ask all this in the glorious name of Jesus. Amen.

SONG - The splendour of the king (How great is our God)

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Prayers of adoration, confession and thanksgiving
Father, we praise you because you are perfect and complete. There is nothing lacking in your nature. You are steadfast and do not change like the shifting winds. You are eternal beyond the bounds of time which is unfathomable to our human understanding. We praise you for all that you are. The things we understand and the things we have no comprehension of. God you are worthy of our praise and we worship you with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. 

Father, we praise you sending your Son into this world so that we could know you intimately. Jesus, we are amazed that you came to this world humbly as a child in a manger. We praise you for your perfect life that you lived in this world. You showed us what love really looks like as you laid down your life for each one of us. We praise you. We worship you lord for your precious blood which cleanses our sins. You triumphed over this life and ultimately against the power of death. We know you did all of this because of your love for each one of us here today. We are in awe of you Lord, so we give you our praise and adoration. 

Gracious and loving God, open our hearts so that we are able to admit to you the fullness of our lives – that which is beautiful and good, and that which is hurtful and hateful. We confess that we do not follow Jesus in all that we do. We love with condition. We judge and condemn. We cast the first stone, and keep the logs in our own eyes. We do not turn to You as the source of our healing. Forgive us, we pray. Forgive our sin, and empower us to be imitators of Christ in love and service. 

Thank you that your mercy is from everlasting to everlasting, and because of the surpassing grace found in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Alleluia! Amen

Introduction: Promises
The bible is full of promises that God has given to us. Scholars that have actually counted say there are over 3000 promises. And God has kept every single one of them. Everyone has a favourite, or a promise that has meant something special to them, or kept them going in difficult times. 

The greatest promise of God is found in Jesus. He is the fulfilment of all God's promises. As we journey through the period of Lent, it provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the character and nature of Jesus and all that he did for each one of us. Lent allows us to focus on Jesus and thank him for his sacrifice for us all. Our next song reminds us of the promise that Jesus is the light of the world. He is our hope and will never fail us. What a promise!

SONG - Light of the world

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We are thinking this morning about some of the promises found in the Bible. This morning I want to think about Jesus as the fulfillment of all God’s promises. Jesus is the fulfillment of His Father’s promises to the world. He is the fulfillment of God’s promises to you and to me.

So our Reading today from Hebrews is the perfect summary of all God’s promises which we see fulfilled in and through Jesus. 

Reading: Hebrews 1:1-4 (NIV)
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. 

After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

In just four short verses we get a summary of God’s master plan. It’s just seventy-two words in the Greek text that comprise of a single sentence and each word is heavy with meaning. It’s been described as a theological Mount Everest, and from it we are able to view God’s grand sweep of salvation, from creation to the consummation, and at the center of it all is Jesus – God’s promise to the world. 

 Hebrews explains in more detail than any other book in the New Testament just who Jesus is, what He accomplished and why He should be worshiped with reverence and awe. 

I always find it helpful to understand a little of the context that a passage was written in. During the time this letter was written, persecution was a real problem for the church. This letter was most likely written to the Jewish Christians who were ready to give up their faith and return to the Jewish faith because of persecution. The temple was still standing when this book was written, and all the priestly ceremonies were still being carried out on a daily basis. These believers were second generation Christians who had never met Jesus in the flesh and had never seen His miracles. And, because they were being persecuted, they were slipping back into Judaism. Many of them were no doubt thinking, “The temple is so beautiful — it’s nothing like the places we worship in — huddled in homes or caves for fear of being found out. If I go back to Judaism – I won’t face persecution anymore.” How easy it would have been for these Jewish believers to escape persecution by giving up their faith in Jesus.

The book of Hebrews was written to teach these Jewish Christians that the Christian faith is better in every way than the Jewish faith. The letter is meant to be a word of exhortation, a message of encouragement. It is meant to encourage the faith of the persecuted Christians. It is a book filled with practical spiritual help with each word pointing towards the promise and hope of Jesus. Something that it’s always good to be reminded of, as we all need to cling to the hope and promises of Jesus as we try and share them with the world around us.

Notice how the word of encouragement starts. There is no word of greeting. There is no identification of the author. There is no identification of the audience. There is nothing like we have with Paul's letters which often state with “To all in Rome ... Grace and peace to you”, “To the church of God in Corinth ... Grace and peace to you”. We have none of this with the letter called Hebrews. Rather, it straight away starts with Jesus Christ.

Why does the word of exhortation to persecuted Christians start with Jesus? The author wants to convince them that Jesus is better than anything and everything which came before. Better than the angels. Better than Moses and Joshua. Better than the tabernacle and temple. Better than the prophets. All of these were good gifts from God. But Jesus is better. Jesus is perfect. Jesus is eternal. Jesus is once-for-all. I’ll say that again because that’s important to grasp. Jesus is better. Jesus is perfect. Jesus is eternal. Jesus is once-for-all. Why these words? Because they are the recurring theme in this book. They are the promises God makes and fulfills in Jesus. 

The word "better" or "superior" is used thirteen times in this book as the writer shows the superiority of Jesus Christ and His salvation over the Hebrew system of religion. Christ is "better" or "superior" to the angels. He brought in "a better hope". He is the Mediator of a "superior" covenant, which is "founded on better promises".

Another word that is repeated in this book is "perfect"; in the original Greek it is used fourteen times. It refers to a perfect standing before God. This perfection could never be accomplished by the Levitical priesthood, or by the Law, nor could the blood of animal sacrifices achieve it. Only Jesus is perfect.

"Eternal" is a third word that is important to the message of Hebrews. Christ is the "source of eternal salvation". Through His blood, He "obtained eternal redemption". He shares with believers "the promised eternal inheritance". His throne lasts forever and ever, for all eternity.

A fourth word is actually a phrase: the phrase "once for all." The priests of the tabernacle and temple had to offer sacrifices again and again. But Jesus offered a sacrifice once for all when He offered Himself. His sacrifice was once for all time and once for all people. It never needs to be repeated. It never needs to be done again. It is final. It is finished. It is complete. It is full.

When you combine these four important words, you discover that Jesus Christ and the Christian life He gives us are better because His blessings are eternal and they give us a perfect standing before God. The religious system under the Law was imperfect because it could not accomplish a once-for-all redemption that was needed. Only in Jesus are these promises that God has been talking about through the centuries and his prophets, are fulfilled. 

The Book of Hebrews exalts the person and the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. When you realise all that you have in and through Him, you should have no desire for anyone else or anything else! Jesus is better, Jesus is perfect, Jesus is eternal. Jesus is once-for-all! Isn’t that what we want the world to hear today??!! So keep those words in mind as we continue.

Now, in the NIV translation the passage we read is titled “God’s Final Word: His Son!” I know it wouldn’t have had this heading in the original text but what a title! God has always communicated with His people, but here we see a culmination, … a climax, …. a conclusion to all He has spoken before. Jesus, His Son, …His only Son, is the moment the world has been holding its breath and waiting for.  

"In the past," says Hebrews, "God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways." Notice the repetition. Prophets, plural. Many times. Various ways. Think of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, the ceremonies and symbols of the Law, the sacrifices and furnishings of the tabernacle and temple.

God gave his people progressive revelation about how He was going to reconcile them unto Himself. Through Noah, God revealed the quarter of the world that the Messiah would come to. Through Micah we learned the name of the town this Messiah would come from. From Daniel we learn the time of His birth. From Malachi we learn who the herald would be that announced Him. We saw this in John the Baptist. From Jonah we see a model of death and resurrection in three days.

Verse 2 says, "But in these last days God has spoken by His Son.". Now God will no longer speak to us through the prophets, He will speak through the Messiah, His Son. Jesus is God's complete Word. Jesus is God's full Word. Jesus is God's better, perfect, and eternal Word. Jesus is God's Word "once - for - all." It never needs to be repeated. It never needs anything else added to it. It is full and complete. All that we need to know and see and learn to live as God's children in this broken-down world, we find and hear in the Son. He is the fulfillment of all the promises that God has made to His world. 

God has always spoken to his people because he is a relational God. He is a God of communication. He isn’t distant and cold. He longs to talk to his people, his children. He still speaks today, but he doesn’t need to add anything more to what he did through sending Jesus! 

So from here the writer of the letter goes on to address some of the reasons that the readers of the letters need to remember to hold fast to their faith. He starts to address more of the reasons that make Jesus better, perfect, eternal and once for all and the culmination of the Father’s promises.

In verses 2 and 3 we see five of those reasons. First, the Son is the heir of all things. Humanity is the image of God, and so therefore humanity should be God’s heir. But because of Adam’s sin, we have been disinherited. In Christ, however, we become heirs once again, rulers of the universe God created for His children. Christ has inherited the rule over the universe from the Father, and in union with Him, we also participate in that rule.

Second, the Son made the universe in the beginning. John puts it this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” What does this tell us? It tells us that Jesus is God. He is the Creator. He was there at the beginning of the world. He is almighty.

Third, the Son is the radiance of God’s glory. Glory is the visible manifestation of God’s own essence. Glory is what shines forth from God. Here the idea is that the Son is the shining that which comes from the Father. God cannot help but be glorious, and we see His glory when we look at the Son.

Fourth, the Son is the exact representation of God’s being. Human beings are the created images of God. We share some similarities but we are not exact copies or we would be perfect. But the Son is an exact, uncreated image of God the Father. Being fully God, the Son is an absolutely authentic representation of God’s being. In Jesus we see God the Father because the Son perfectly represents Him.

The word used here for “representation” is the same word used for “imprint” when we describe how an image is printed on a coin. Every coin is an exact copy of the original. When we look at Jesus we see the exact imprint of God’s very being. The mysterious, unknowable, intangible God became tangible, knowable, and visible in the person of Jesus. 

In this world where darkness and violence and hatred are far too prevalent, we can turn our eyes to Jesus. When we feel hopeless, we look to Jesus for our hope. Though things are not as they should be, the author of Hebrews reminds us that we can see Jesus, and in seeing Jesus, we see God.

In the person of Jesus, we see what is important to God. We see who God chooses to spend time with. We come to understand what is close to God’s heart. In Jesus we see that God chose to be visible, tangible, and knowable in Jesus and out of love for the world.

Fifth, the Son sustains all things by His powerful Word. Jesus sustains all things. By His Word, Jesus keeps the universe running, the planets and galaxies moving, the law of gravity and physics constant so season faithfully follows season, so trees don't become cows and float off into space, so each morning we are greeted by sunshine and not by the light of the moon.

Think of this description of the Jesus: heir of all things, maker of the universe, radiance of God's glory, exact representation of His being, sustainer of all things. Think of this and think again of the four words: better, perfect, eternal, once-for-all. Truly, He is superior to anyone and anything else. Why would we worship anything or anyone else?!

The next thing the author of Hebrews talks about is to remind the early Christians that part of God’s promise to us all was that Christ the Son "provided purification for sins." Yes, Christ is the Word of God. Yes, Christ is fully the image of God. But we need more than revelation. We need more than an image. What we need is atonement. We need forgiveness. That is the only way to God. 

Now, remember, the audience is Hebrew Christians. Jews. People more than acquainted with the tabernacle and temple and their sin offerings and guilt offerings. If you could go back in time and ask any of these early Christians, "What is needed for purification for sins?", they would tell you blood needs to be shed. A bull, a heifer, a goat, a lamb. Whatever it is, bloodshed is necessary. 

So we are told Christ the Son "provided purification for sins." We are reminded that Christ shed His own blood. That He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. That He makes atonement for us who are sinners. Now, think about this in terms of what we have already been told. The Son who took on flesh provided purification. He who is God's last Word in these last days. He who is the radiance of God and the exact representation of His being. What an incredible thought! God provides Himself as purification for sin. It is the blood of the eternal Son of God that provides purification. Something better, ... far better, far superior, to the blood of bulls, heifers, goats, and lambs.

Think of what this said to the Hebrew Christians! In the face of persecution, some renounced their faith in the Lord. Some stopped assembling together on the Lord's Day. Some deliberately kept sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth. They are being told up front that there is forgiveness, atonement through and because of Christ. No sin is too big for Christ to forgive. No temptation is beyond His ability to handle. So come to Jesus, believe in Jesus. Find in Him all you need for the purification from the filth and dirt and pollution of sins. No matter how big or how many your sins.

Then finally we are told that Jesus receives the majesty of God. Verse 4 tells us, “After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.  So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.”

After Jesus provided purification, after the cross and the grave, after the shedding of His blood came the Ascension. Jesus went up into heaven and is seated at God's right hand. Hebrews is talking about Jesus' throne, Jesus' rule, Jesus' name of Lord. 

The writer of Hebrews points out that Jesus is not an angel or other created being. Rather, Jesus is identical to God. This was an especially important distinction to make in the very early church. Jewish thought commonly held that angels would rule the world one day. Here, it is made clear that The Promised One is given descriptions which cannot match any angel. He is superior and above all things.

The Son who took on flesh, the Son who is the Word, the Son who is the radiance of God, the Son who provides purification, …. is now also the exalted Son. He is King. He is Lord. He is Ruler. He is the Exalted One. He is at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 

He holds all power, all rule, all authority. He, the King who died for you, is over all. And he, the King who is God's image, loves you. 

So the writer says, keep heart as you face opposition. Jesus is God’s last word. He is the promised Messiah. He is God’s clear communication to the world He loves so dearly. Jesus is the completion of God’s plan to reach out to His people and speak His love directly into their lives. …. directly into your life!! 

So as you can see, God’s promise to the world is His Son. And as we know, God always keeps His promises. So in Jesus, as we live out our day to day lives, remember Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises that God made. He is God’s promise to you not just to the world in general, but for you personally. So as you spend time during this season of Lent thinking upon Jesus and all he did for you, hold on to your faith, trust in God’s word and remember that Jesus is better, … Jesus is perfect, …. Jesus is eternal, … and what He does is once-for-all! Amen.
SONG - And can it be

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Prayers of Intercession
Lord, we thank you that Your word tells us that You “uphold all those who fall and lift up all who are bowed down.” And so, as we bow down before you in prayer, we lift up those that need Your touch, Your hope, Your healing, Your strength and Your love now. 

Lord, we bring before You our prayers for your world. God of peace and justice, we pray for the people of Ukraine today. We pray for peace and the laying down of weapons. We pray for all those who fear for tomorrow, that your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them. We pray for those with power over war or peace, for wisdom, discernment and compassion to guide their decisions. Above all, we pray for all your precious children, at risk and in fear, that you would hold and protect them. We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Pour out Your peace on those who are frightened, fearful and anxious. May Your peace reign and put an end to terror and violence.

We pray now for our own country. We lift before you our government and ask that You pour out Your wisdom on the leaders of the different political parties. We pray that your presence would be felt when decisions are being made and that your voice will be heard above all other voices. We ask for your guidance and wisdom to prevail. 

We pray for those dear to us who need your touch. For those in this fellowship and in our families and friendship groups that need your touch right now. We ask for your healing, your comfort, your presence and your peace to be at work among those that we name before you in the quiet now. 

And finally we pray for ourselves. We ask that you would take all that we have heard and learnt this morning. May your message for each one of us be remembered and lived out, throughout the coming days and weeks. Help us to hold fast to our faith in You.  To seek after you with renewed passion, to persevere through the struggles of life and to bear patiently with each other in love. 

We pray that every person here would grasp afresh the depth of your love for them and the extent of your mercy. Help us to live as people who delight in your ways and your teachings, who mediate on them and see them pure joy. Equip us afresh to be people who willingly serve others, help those in need and seek to honour you be all our actions.  

We bring all of our prayers in and through the name of Jesus Christ our Lord knowing that you hear us and know all the desires and needs of our hearts. Amen

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be your Name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation,  but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

SONG - Blessed assurance Jesus is mine (this is my story)

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A blessing to finish with from Romans 15:5-6 
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ