Sermon – November 8, 2015

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Epistle

Hebrews 9:24–28

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Don’t you admire people who seem to be full of confidence? I’m not talking about braggarts, people who are prideful or full of themselves. I mean those people who don’t get frazzled or defensive when criticized or who don’t become easily fearful when faced with a new challenge or problem that they need to confront. That kind of coolness in the face of adversity is considered an important characteristic of leadership.

It seems that a lot of people wish they had more confidence, at least by the quantities of books on the topic. A search on Amazon.com indicated that they sell over 23,000 books on the topic of building confidence in oneself. But that’s nothing! A web search came up with over 143 million Internet sites that deal with the topic of overcoming doubt and increasing confidence. There are several blogs with titles such as “Nine Steps to Increase Your Confidence,” “Ten Characteristics of Confident People,” or “Seven Ways to Be More Confident in Yourself.” Wouldn’t it be nice to have more confidence?

        Do you know what it’s like to live confidently, and do you wish you could? Don’t we often make commitments to ourselves that we won’t get angry at the insults of others, or that we’ll keep our cool when our ideas are challenged or dismissed? Don’t we wish that we could have confidence about our jobs even in an economy where many businesses are having to downsize? Don’t we wish we could have confidence in our financial situation, yet are constantly hearing that the market is about to collapse and we could lose all our retirement savings? We wish we could be strong, stand up with our heads high, yet when things don’t go our way, or when what we think or say is rejected, we can find our confidence shaken, and we still may react with anger or self-doubt. Even our politicians and government leaders have focus groups of normal, everyday people to get a read on what people think, what policies to embrace, what actions to take. They too look for something to give them confidence about the decisions they make.

        The problem is that there are many things that work to tear away at our confidence. To many times things have gone wrong. Too many times you expect something and think it is a sure deal, but it falls through and doesn’t come about. Maybe you’ve been hurt too many times by those who build themselves up by tearing you down. Maybe you feel you simply don’t have the opportunity to be heard in our busy world. Maybe you’ve found that the “venom of perfectionism” can make it impossible for you to live up to your self-imposed standards. Maybe you’ve suffered a big loss—like of job or a loved one—that can shake your confidence.

        Finally, we’re all plagued by our inability to live up to God’s Law no matter how hard we try. Perhaps you struggle against a bad temper. Or perhaps you are prone to get angry with your wife or children. Perhaps you have difficulty controlling you tongue and keep spreading gossip about other people. We want to be like the Israelites who “answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.'” (Exodus 24:3). And then they turned around and did just the opposite. They grumbled and complained. They lost faith in the Lord. We are like that too. Our sin convicts us. We find we cannot control our temper. We cannot seem to stop from getting angry. Our tongue keeps on saying things we know we shouldn’t. All this shatters any self-confidence built on ourselves.

        Yet our text talks about those who are confident, those who are eagerly waiting for Christ. Christ is coming, and he is coming soon. How can we persevere in the faith until the day of his coming? How can we live confidently until the day of the Lord? Can we be confident of our salvation? Many things could happen to rob us of our faith between now and the day of his return. My own sinful nature and lusts could take over my life and cause me to fall from faith. The cares and worries of this world can choke our faith like the seed that was planted among the thorns and thistles which choked out the faith of those who had heard. Or the pleasures of life, the lusts of the flesh, the desires of the heart can scorch our faith like the seed sown among the stones that was scorched by the sun and died. Can we persevere unto the end? Is there any source of confidence?

        Yes, there is a source of confidence in the face of any self-doubt or challenge in life. That source of ultimate confidence is rooted in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is rooted in who he is. And it is rooted in what he has done. Therefore,

We Can Confidently Live Our Lives

in Eager Expectation in Christ.

        Once and for all, Christ has dealt with the root cause of our lack of confidence. The writer to the Hebrews compares a sacrifice carried out by a human with the perfect sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ (vv 24–26). The priests in the Old Testament entered the temple to make sacrifice for the sins of the people. The priests in the Old Testament offered the blood of animals, lambs and bulls to atone for the sins of the people. The priests of the Old Testament had to offer sacrifices for the people every morning and every evening. Once a year the High Priest entered into the holy of holies to offer the sacrifice on the day of Yom Kippur. Every year, year after year.

        But Christ entered not a temple made by humans, like the Old Testament priests, but into heaven itself, where he appears before God on our behalf. In the Old Testament only the high priest could enter into the holy of holies, but now Jesus is our High Priest who has entered the holy of holies of heaven and sits at the right hand of God.

        Jesus offered only one sacrifice for all time. Jesus is God himself, so only one sacrifice, rather than repeated sacrifices, was needed. Jesus didn’t offer lambs and bulls, but himself. The blood of his sacrifice was his own precious blood, the blood of God. Therefore, the forgiveness, life, and salvation Jesus accomplished were accomplished for all people (v 28), for all time. He didn’t have to do it over and over. He doesn’t die over and over. He is not sacrificed over again each time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. In the Lord’s Supper we are joined to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross; its benefits and gifts become ours, but Jesus is not being sacrificed again.

        The text says he was offered up to “bear the sins of many” means “of all.” He died for all! No sin is too grievous, no sin is too serious or heinous, that it hasn’t been covered by the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus “put away” sin by sacrificing himself (v 26). That sin is “put away” means it has been dealt with; it’s no longer a factor as God looks at us. From God’s perspective, your sin is forgotten. It is gone, cast into the deepest place of the sea. Separated from you as far as the East is from the West. God now sees you as holy and righteous. Your sin has been wiped away from his eyes. He sees you as spotless, without blemish, perfect, as his holy one.

        That is the source of real confidence, knowing that all those things, both big and small, that tear away at us, have been put away; cast into the depths of the sea. That is real confidence knowing that God sees you as his holy bride, without spot or wrinkle, in whom he is well pleased.

        What confidence we can experience, knowing Christ has dealt with it all! In Christ, God has promised to give us all things, so we need not doubt in ourselves. It’s not about us; it’s about Jesus. No you cannot overcome sin. You cannot have confidence in yourself, in your abilities, in your efforts to overcome barriers. You cannot have confidence in your ability to persevere in the faith until the return of Our Lord. But you don’t need to have confidence in yourself. Jesus Christ has already done it all. He has accomplished all that needs to be done for your salvation. It is finished. Your sins are forgiven. The Laws of God have been fulfilled. Your salvation has been won. Trust this promise of God. Trust His word. Cling to him in every trial and doubt. Do not let go of him and his promises. He is faithful to you and cannot let you go.

        That’s how the widow in today’s Gospel could give her last pennies. She had confidence in the Lord. That’s how the widow at Zarephath could trust the instructions of Elijah in the Old Testament. That’s why our Introit for this morning could exclaim: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” That is why we can eagerly wait for the Lord, living confidently, knowing Jesus has done it all.

        What’s your source of self-confidence? There certainly are psychological explanations for why some people seem to lack confidence and others have more confidence, and no doubt there’s truth to some of those factors. But the message of our Epistle from Hebrews is that we can all live in confidence. We can confidently live our lives in eager expectation, because in Christ we can be confident of God’s love and forgiveness. We can expect it because it is done. Amen.

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