The Superiority of Christ

January 10, 2020 Preacher: Robert Dorsett Series: Guest Speakers

Topic: Foundations Scripture: Hebrews 3:1–19

Good morning Church. It is a real privilege to be standing here and bringing you the message today. I would like to thank pastor Gareth and the Elders for having the confidence in me to do so. I must apologize if I suddenly ask you stand up and do a few stretches and squats. You see I’m used to presenting at workshops and conferences so when I see people sitting still for a while and on occasion falling asleep on me, I get them to move. It’s a habit because it’s my job. It’s what I do.

Over the years, I have said to myself on more than one occasion “I would never do that!” I’m sure many of you here today can relate. I’ve said it countless times but there are 4 specific occasions I would like to share with you. As a young boy I said, “I would never get married!” I would see married couples around me, family and friends, arguing and fighting with each other. I thought to myself who would want to do that. I rather live by myself and enjoy my own company. I also said I would never work in a hospital. During my teenage years, whilst playing football I fell and dislocated my elbow. I was at school at the time and the teacher rushed me to the hospital. Whilst lying in the emergency department I remember smelling that sterile environment I thought to myself “I’ll never work in a hospital”. It’s not for me. In my later teenage years I recall after a church service the priest at the time said to me “Robert, I think you should consider becoming a priest. You will be in the pulpit preaching one day”. You see growing up I was a real shy and introverted person. Talking in front of more than 2 people would send my anxiety levels sky rocketing so my obvious reply to that, “I will never do that. That’s not for me”. And lastly when my wife, daughter and myself were stranded for a week in Dubai because of the Ash clouds. Don’t know if you recall but back in 2010 the airspace in the northern hemisphere was closed because of a volcanic explosion in Iceland. We were traveling back to the SA from UK and we spent a week in Dubai. I recall saying to myself “Who would ever want to live in such a hot and dry country” I would never do that.

So here I am, Standing in New Life Church, In Abu Dhabi, a married man, a family man, earning my keep by working in a hospital, and bringing you the word of God from the pulpit.

This morning we will be examining God’s word from the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 3:1-19.

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God's house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.' As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest.'" Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
(Heb 3:1-19)

Heavenly Father we want to give you thanks and praise for this blessed day you have given us. We thank you for giving us your word the bible which is a lamp unto our feet and light for our path. Lord we pray your Holy Spirit enlightens us this morning and gives us the wisdom and knowledge we need to interpret this passage. And we pray that we may use it to transform our lives so that we may become better servants for your kingdom, for you glory.

On the 1 June 2002 news broke that Wessels Johannes “Hansie” Cronje was killed in a plane crash. His scheduled flight home from Johannesburg to George was grounded and he hitched a ride on a turboprop aircraft with 2 other pilots. Unfortunately, near George airport the pilots lost visibility and the plane crashed into the Outeniqua mountains killing all 3 of them instantly. Hansie was 32 years old. It was only 2 years prior to this that Hansie was banned from any involvement in cricket following the King Commision Inquiry. It was revealed he was involved with a betting syndicate that led to match fixing. It was devastating news to the South African public. You see Hansie was highly successful captain of the Protea Cricket team. An all-rounder who could bat, bowl and field in literally any position. He seemed to have everything in life- a wife, fame, fortune and here he was- caught cheating. I recalled in an article that was written he said the following "In a moment of stupidity and weakness I allowed Satan and the world to dictate terms to me," He confessed, "The moment I took my eyes off Jesus my whole world turned dark." I wonder how many of us here can relate. I know I can. There was a long period in my life where I took my eyes of Jesus. I was lost. My compass seemed broken and I took my hands off the wheel so to speak. So, I want to explore the book of Hebrews today as it was a significant book that reminded me of the Sovereignty of our Lord Jesus Christ and the warning what happens when we take our eyes of Jesus.

If you are taking notes today my sermon is divided into 3 parts. The first part is the where the writer is comparing Jesus to Moses and he encourages us to Consider Jesus higher than Moses (vs1-6). The second part is a challenge to the readers to remain faithful to Jesus and he provides a Warning against Rebellion (vs 7-17). He cites the words from Psalm 95, which describes the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness and warns them not to rebel against the living God. Thirdly, he presents the readers with the Consequences of the Rebellion (vs18-19). He warns them that they will never enter God’s rest if they rebel against God. In order to understand the passage before us we need to put it into context. As Todd Friel would put it, “Text without context is pretext”. In other words it is meaningless.

The book of Hebrews was probably written between AD 67-69 (Prior to the destruction of the temple) and we do not know who the author is. However, we know that the author had a relationship with the disciples who themselves were followers of Jesus. So the teaching is grounded in teachings of Jesus. Paul, Barnabas, Apollos or Luke are suggested authors but in all honesty the scholars don’t know. Ultimately, we know that the Holy Spirit was the author of this book. The writer appears to be addressing the Hebrew community as He references the history of the Hebrew nation and their religion (which includes the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices). He makes many OT references and does not mention the Gentiles or their pagan practices. So one can conclude he is addressing the Hebrews- those who were converts to Christ’s message and those unbelievers who may have heard the message of salvation but not made the commitment of faith in Christ.

One thing we know, for certain, is that the church, at that time, was facing immense trials and tribulations. The Jewish Christians were persecuted and even imprisoned for their belief in Jesus Christ. I’m sure many of them thought about returning to their Jewish faith. Jesus’s teachings didn’t line up with the teachings from the Jewish rabbis. They probably asked questions like “Was Jesus really the Messiah?” Did following Him mean they had to give up their old, familiar forms of worship? Would it be wrong to go back to their old beliefs and traditions? And Did it make sense to follow Jesus when it would lead to harsh persecution? So this explains the purpose of this letter as the writer deals with these doubts by demonstrating to the readers that Christ was Superior to the Jewish Law and he urges them to hold onto their new found faith.

He makes several comparisons throughout the book where in Chapter 1 and 2 he compares Jesus to the prophets and the angels. In Chapter 3 and 4 he compares Jesus with Moses and the Promised Land. In chapter 5-7 Jesus is compared to Priests and Melchezidek and finally he compares Jesus with the sacrifices and the covenant. The writer explains that Jesus is the ultimate power and authority throughout the universe. That He is the full revelation of God to us- in other words, Jesus is God. He is the one who can forgive our sins. The letter also comes with a warning as the writer warns the readers about the consequences of rejecting the salvation offered by God. He reminds them of the blessings promised by God to the faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

Let us explore the text in more detail together. The writer begins Chapter 3 with, “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters who share in the heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession”. In this particular passage he is addressing the believers of the Jewish community- he refers to them as holy brothers and sisters- set apart for God and identified as citizens of heaven rather than citizens of the earth. Notice how the author begins the chapter with the word therefore which means “for that reason”. So we need to look back in the previous 2 Chapters to find out why we should consider Jesus. I like the NIV version because it commands us to “fix your thoughts on Jesus”. This is a common theme throughout this book and I want you to remember this “FIX YOUR THOUGHTS ON JESUS”.

In Chapter 1 the author clearly states that Jesus is the Son of God and is the exact representation and essence of God. In other words, Jesus is God. In Chapter 2 the writer uses 4 specific terms to describe Jesus- King, pioneer, brother and high priest. Jesus was the first to initiate, to lead or prepare the way of salvation. Jesus is our forerunner. Here the author is showing us how Supreme Jesus is but he also shows Jesus as human.

Now look how He ends Chapter 2 with vs 18 “For because He himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” The word tempted indicates Christ’s humanity in that he was also subject to temptation. Jesus is capable of understanding and sympathizing with us. We serve a God who is personal, who wants to have a relationship with us. We can confirm this because if we look forward to Chapter 4:15 it says “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Notice the author-using the word High priest again and he uses it several times in this book. The writer is urging the reader to FIX YOUR THOUGHTS ON JESUS, to observe the superiority of Jesus but also look at the humanity of Jesus.

Now continuing in Chapter 3 he tells us that Jesus is greater than Moses as he compares the positions held by each of them.

  • So my first point Consider Jesus Higher than Moses.

That’s quite a statement to make. To the average Jewish person Moses is right up there with Abraham and Elijah. The name Moses appears almost 800 times and in over 30 books of the bible. He is the author of the first 5 books of the bible. Moses the same man who was a man of great faith and courage as he followed God. A man who was self-giving, humble and willing to take wise council from God and others. The same man who in Numbers 12:6-8 The Lord says “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses, he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord.” He spoke to God face to face.

The same man who had been given the commandments and the rituals of the law by God. The same man who had been sent by God to deliver the Israelites from Egypt and led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The same man who was responsible for the overseeing the tabernacle for the Jewish Nation. The same man who the Jewish nation hold in high regard and supreme priority. Here the writer is saying Jesus has been found worthy of greater honour than Moses.

In verse 2 the author states “who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God's house.” In context the term house refers to people of God rather than a building or a dwelling. Both Moses and Christ accomplished their mission to care for God’s people but Moses was only a part of God’s household of faith. He was a servant of the house whereas Christ was the creator of this household. The writer also refers to Christ as God’s son over God’s house, a position Moses could never achieve. Look in vs 5-6 “Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son.” The author continues in his letter by saying “And we are His house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” So prior to the warning, he is stating that the person who abides in Christ is the one who shows genuine membership in the household of God. The person who perseveres in faithfulness to Christ. Not the person who wishes to return to the old rituals of the Levitical system whereby salvation is dependent on their own works, not in Jesus Christ alone. Our hope should rest in Christ alone, whose work has accomplished our Salvation.

Now friends, lets just pause there for a minute and consider the implications for us. The author speaks of hope and I would like you to consider Who is your hope in? or What is your hope in? We also live in a wilderness type of environment, in uncertain times where no one knows what disasters are waiting around the corner. Is your hope in your job, your money, your possessions, your assets or even your spouse or children. Here is also a message for the youth. Is your hope in your friends, your teachers, a well known celebrity or even your parents. Children Guess what- your parents are not perfect. They are also human, also fallible. Now children don’t get me wrong, you still need to obey your parents. What I’m saying is don’t put your eternal hope in them. Or is your hope in a celebrity. You know growing up I used to idolize Hansie. I loved playing cricket and when I watched him on TV or in the cricket stadiums I used to go wild. You know people thought I looked like him (OK picture me 30Kg’s lighter and with more hair on my head) then maybe you may see the resemblance. But when I found out he was caught cheating I was devastated. You see he was only a man. Just like Moses was only a man. So brothers and sisters the point I’m trying to make is that our hope should be in Jesus Christ alone. Not in anyone else or anything. You will be so disappointed if you put your hope in any other idols. The author is commanding us to Fix our thoughts on Jesus and place our hope and trust in Him. Think of the person you love the most in this life. Is it not true that that person occupies much of your thoughts? The same should be true when it comes to Jesus. We heard recently how Mary and the shepherds were pondering over the good news of the gospel. The writer of Hebrews is telling us to do the same. Fix your eyes on Jesus! Consider Jesus! Think of his rank; his dignity; his holiness; his sufferings; his death; his resurrection, ascension, intercession. Think of the character and work of the Son of God. Jesus is far superior than any other worldly substitute! Think of the promises he has made to his children, so that you may learn to bear trials; that you may be kept from apostasy, so that you may live a holy life worshiping the CREATOR, and not waste your life worshipping created things! Jesus is superior and worthy of all our praise and adoration.

  • My second point, The Warning Against Rebellion,

the author cites the words from Psalm 95. David composed Psalm 95 for the festival of Tabernacles or Booths whereby the Israelites remembered God’s provisions for them in the wilderness. In the first part of the Psalm, the people are called to worship the Lord but in the second part they are warned of the dangers of rebelling against God. The Jews were in danger of missing the promised rest- entering the Promised Land.

The author of Hebrews repeats verses 7-11. Notice how he uses the word today. He repeats this 3 times for emphasis and uses it to indicate the present moment. In other words the readers should listen to God’s voice as a sense of urgency. Not to wait on it. To act on it while it is still fresh in their minds. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.” So, despite God’s miraculous works and His provisions for them in the wilderness, the Israelites failed to commit themselves in faith to Him. They had the presence of the living God in their midst. They had a leader who spoke to God face to face yet they still chose to worship idols. They doubted his Supremacy and put their faith in idols.

Look in verse 12 “Take care brothers, lest there be any of you, an evil unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” The author is providing a warning just like the psalmist but here he is addressing the unbelieving Jewish brethren, those in the presence of the “holy brothers and sisters”. He warned them not to repeatedly reject the gospel of Christ, which would harden their hearts. You see the Hebrews deceived themselves into thinking that by rejecting Jesus, they were being faithful to the old system. They used all types of sins and lies into this false way of reasoning. The fact that they were willing to hang onto their old ways meant they were rejecting the living God. Moving in the opposite direction to God. They were choosing the path of unbelief. Thomas Watson said once “A Hard heart is a dwelling place for Satan. As God has 2 places He dwells in-heaven and a humble heart, so the devil has 2 places he dwells in- hell and a hard heart.” Church we really need to sit up and take notice of this. We all know of people who are like this (family, friends, colleagues), those who constantly sin, who reject the gospel of Christ and whose hearts have been hardened. Sin can be so deceiving because you think that you may be getting away with but all you doing is hardening your heart. The writer here is urging them to be saved and believe before it is too late. So, we too need to urge the unbelievers to do the same thing for tomorrow is not promised to everyone.

This principle can be easily applied to believers as well. Even if you call yourself a Christian and have been playing with/entertaining sin. Be careful! A hard heart is that where the conscience is seared and where truth makes no impression. The idea here is, that a refusal to listen to the voice of God is connected with a hardening of the heart. Christian, protect your heart, protect your thoughts. Make sure that when you come to church your heart is teachable and ready and willing to listen to the truth of God’s word with interest! Be willing and ready to let other believers exhort and encourage you in your walk with the Lord. Don’t allow your heart to get bored listening to truth.  

So the authors response here is stir up and exhort the readers to encourage one another, individually and corporately, especially when they were tempted to return to the old ineffective Levitical system. Look in verse 13 “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”. Again he is using the word “today” as a sense of urgency and here I believe he is addressing everyone- unbelievers and those believers who were being tempted to turn away from the gospel. You see he is encouraging people to meet together daily. This has implications for us at NLC. We need each other. We need to be in the habit of meeting regularly and encouraging one another. This is our duty, and as the passage says we need to be doing it “daily”, not just once a week on a Friday.  That is why Home groups are so important. So we can build meaningful relationships with each other, so we can tenderly and confidentially exhort and admonish each other not to be deceived by sin.  Are the reasons you not coming to a Homegroup better than these reasons the bible is giving us?

Church meetings, home groups, bible classes, youth ministry, mens and womens ministry is so important. Next week we have a members meeting. It is so vital because we need to make real difficult decisions and we need you, the congregation to be involved. Jesus calls us to take up our cross and to persevere for the good of others (and for ourselves) to the glory of God. In other words, whatever struggles we face in our church, the Lord Jesus is at work—right here. I shouldn’t run. We shouldn’t run. We should stay and help each other in the race (Hebrews 12:1–2). Church membership is crucial because we are saved into the body of Christ. We are not saved to live our lives alone, without the input and encouragement of a local church. We need each other, like a fish needs water!

I want to illustrate by describing the huge redwood trees in California. They are amazing. They are the largest living things on earth and the tallest trees on earth. Some of them are 300 feet high and more than 2500 years old. You would think that trees that large would have a deep root system, reaching down deep into the earth but that is not the case. Redwoods actually have a very shallow root system- only about 4-6 feet deep and no taproot. However, the roots of these trees are intertwined they are tied in with each other, interlocked. Thus, when the storms come and the winds blow the redwood still stands. With an interlocking root system they support and sustain each other. They need one another to survive and so do we. Because of this God has given us his Church the body of Christ on this earth. When we come to faith in Jesus the bible teaches us that we are baptised into Christ. And all those who are baptised into Christ are also baptised into a family the body of Christ the church. God does not intend for us to exist as long ranger Christians but in fellowship together with other believers. We need one another as it doesn’t go well when we alone.

Getting back to the passage the writer continues his rebellion theme by using 4 specific key words, rebelled, sinned, disobedient and unbelief. Then this leads to my Third point,

which is the Consequences of the Rebellion.

In verse 11 “As I swore in my wrath they shall not enter my rest” and again in verse 18 and 19 “And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”  Now when the writer refers to rest I wonder what comes to your mind. I’m pretty sure that during our day to day conversations with one another we get wrapped up in the busyness of our lives. We seem to be always doing something, going somewhere and whether it be in our professional lives or personal lives, we are busy with something. It never seems to ease up. It’s almost like we wear it as a badge of honour or seems to show how important we are. If we are not busy doing something then maybe something is wrong with us. We seem to define ourselves on how busy we are. We are restless people.  I wonder if you can identify with is. So what does a restful day look like to you. Is it lying on the beach, reading a good book, watching a movie or your favourite TV show or just hanging out with a few friends. When we refer to rest here, we not just talking about chilling and taking some time out. The rest here is really referring to the rest that truly restores the body and the soul. The rest that only God can provide.

Now remember the writer of Hebrews is addressing the reader through Psalm 95 and because of their rebellion an entire generation of Israelites was prevented from entering the Promised land. Entering God’s rest was their inheritance. They were being delivered from a life of slavery, torment and torture. Earthly physical rest. But there is another type of rest that we can speak of which is spiritual rest. At salvation, every believer enters this true rest. Rest from the knowledge that righteousness is not achieved by our own efforts but only achieved through faith in Jesus Christ alone. This rest includes His peace as we can rely on His strength and not our own strength. We are secure in the knowledge of our salvation and the assurance of our future heavenly home. Jesus spoke on more than one occasion in the gospels regarding rest. Matthew 11;28-29 “Come to me, all who labour and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” This is the rest that only Jesus can provide.

So how do we rest in Jesus? For me the simple answer is spending time with him- by drawing closer to him. True friendship is rare on earth. It means identifying with someone in thought, heart and spirit. This is the relationship we need to have with Jesus Christ. We need to fix our thoughts on Him. We receive his blessings and know His word but we really know Jesus. I like the way Oswald Chambers puts it when he says “You no more need a day off from spiritual concentration on matters in your life than your heart needs a day off from beating. As you cannot take a day off morally and remain moral, neither can you take a day off spiritually and remain spiritual. God wants you to be entirely His, and it requires paying close attention to keep yourself fit. It also takes a tremendous amount of time. Yet some of us expect to rise above all our problems, going from one mountain top experience to another, with only a few minutes effort.”

I would like to close with this story that occurred during world war two. The Allied planes were coming back to England after flying over enemy territory only to find that an English fog had moved across the airfields and they had no way of landing. Many lost there way and died in the process. This deeply disturbed the British Prime Minister Winston churchill who instructed his Scientists to fix the problem. They protested and told him that they had already experimented and run many trials but it was impossible to remove fog. Churchill, hating the loss of life - insisted that the fog problem be solved. He wouldn’t take no for an answer so he simply issued a three sentence instruction that basically said - Fix it!!!.

After many many trials in July 1943 in the midst of a terrible fog the machine for dispersing fog was switched on - after about seven minutes the fog was dispersed over the airport - turn it off and the fog returned - turn it on and it dispersed. The machine used all the power of a small power station - but it worked!!! It was calculated shortly after the war that tens of thousands of Allied Airmans lives were saved by this device.

You see an airplane needs it’s airfield - But FOG will conceal it.

A Christian needs Jesus but the fog of confusing secular signals given out by this sinful world will conceal Jesus and many people are losing their way and are lost because they lose sight of the author and perfecter of their faith. Salvation hasn’t changed - the landing strip is still there. But the fog is also a factor which will never go away. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, and we need help doing it!

In summary

  • Consider Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Fix your eyes on Jesus
  • Do not harden your hearts.
  • Take Care, and exhort one another and be willing to be exhorted.

And may Jesus receive all the glory from New Life Church!


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