Jesus: Saint-Perfecter (Hebrews 10:14)
I. The Extent of Sin
When you and I think about sin, when we listen to or attempt to talk with the world about sin, we as sinners... and sinners saved by grace, will always run up against limitations in our under-standing of sin, distortions in our definitions of sin, and even an unwillingness to to accept certain truths about the true nature of our sinful condition or sinful struggles.
This is why it is extremely important that we turn to God's word to counteract our limitations and distortions and unwillingness. So if we, for example, asked the Apostle Paul about sin, this is where he would begin: You ask, what's wrong with humanity? Well... “They did [and do] not honor [God] as God or give thanks to him” (Romans 1:21). And where do those failures lead? To “exchang[ing] the truth about God for a lie”, and “worship[ing] and serv[ing] created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25 NIV). And where does that lead? It leads to “a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:28) This is the progression in Romans 1, and it's evident in every single human life.
Think about why this progression is so important. An understanding of sin that is genuinely grounded in God helps us appreciate the true extent of sin. It helps us see that sin is not simply disobeying God. Rather, sin always begins with dishonoring God. Whereas some would want to emphasize immorality, Paul starts with ingratitude. Though some are good at demonizing certain deviants, all of us have deviated from the Creator's design; and that deviation always begins on the inside, since we were created to be perpetual worshipers. That means, if and when we are not worshiping God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23), then we are worshiping something else. So the rule-breaking that we so often use to define sin, is itself the result of something broken inside of us; of inward idolatry; of a spiritual rebelliousness that constantly turns us away from that life of perpetual worship and thanksgiving and righteousness for which we were made.
Again, this helps us appreciate the true extent of human sin. Or to put in another way, this helps us appreciate just how guilty we are, just how wayward we are, just how stubborn we are, just how corrupted we are, just how vast the case against us, just how far we've gone in distorting the beautiful design of God, and just how much we owe to our Creator in terms of stolen glory. And because every single instance of this betrayal, because every moment of our rebellion and perpetual idolatry is against a holy and just God, against One whose goodness and greatness are beyond our ability to appreciate, every single charge against us is far weightier than our default estimations, and calls for a just recompense far greater than we'd every be able to satisfy. Friends, it is this view of sin that prepares us for our passage this morning.
II. The Passage: “Perfected for All Time” (10:12-14)
Turn over, if you haven't already, to Hebrews 10. As I've done in the previous two messages, my hope is to use just one verse to point us back to the mind-blowing greatness of Jesus. This morning, that verse is 10:14. But to prepare us for that verse, we need to understand something about what the writer is doing here in terms of laying out his argument. As we talked about last time, the truth that Jesus is the ultimate high priest is central to the book of Hebrews. Though this idea is first introduced in chapter 2, it's not until chapter 7 that we're provided with a biblical argument for the priesthood of Jesus, and... his relationship to the sons of Aaron; to the priests of the Mosaic covenant.
But with that foundation laid, the writer, in chapters 9 and 10, begins to explain how the priestly work of Jesus is far, far better than the priestly work of those who minister in the Temple in Jerusalem. Now, it's important to remember that the concept of priesthood, with all of its related features and functions, only exists because of sin. The need for a priestly work arises from the reality of our sin. So doing our best to fully appreciate what we talked about a few minutes ago, about the extent of our sin, think about what God offered the people in the Mosaic covenant:
First, he offered them priests; priests, mediators, advocates to intercede for unholy sinners before a holy God. But there were several, serious problems with these priests. For example, 5:3 reminded us that such a priest was “obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.” We also know these priests “were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office” (7:23).
Second, God gave these priests a priestly work. But look with me at 10:11. We read there that “every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” (10:11) You see, even though sacrifices were made for the sins of God's people, we're reminded in 9:25 the “the high priest enter[ed] the holy places every year” to offer sacrifices for (9:7) “himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.” So the law, as we read in 10:1, “can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.” Please don't miss what's being emphasized about this system by words like, “daily”, “repeatedly”, “continually”, and “every year”: as along as people continue to dis-honor and disobey God, as long as they go on worshiping the creation rather than the Creator, every sin will need to be addressed with a sacrifice that bears the penalty of that sin and provides atonement. But after those daily sacrifices for intentional sins, and that yearly sacrifice for all the unintentional sins, the very next day, that dishonoring and disobedience will continue.
Third, God provided a system of priestly sacrifices through which animals would bear the penalty of sin, rather than people. But as should already be clear the system's failings, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:4). You see, God graciously allowed for an animal death to help manage our sin problem; to provide a kind of temporary arrangement. But the death of an animal, even hundreds of thousands of animals, could never fully deal with the monumental extent of our sinful condition; these sacrifices simply could not provide a full and final resolution to our incalcuable moral debt to such a good and great God.
So the priesthood and the sacrifical system of the Law of Moses was a gracious gift in that it taught Israel about the reality and costliness of sin, about the possibility of atonement, and most importantly, about the possibility (but difficulty) of communion between unholy people like us and the holy God who made us. But as we've just seen, as the writer of Hebrews labored to point out, this system, as rigorous and as comprehensive and as bloody as it was, could never truly tackle the uttterly massive problem of our deep and persistent corruption as sinners. So keeping in mind these elements of priest, priestly work, and sacrifices, and keeping in mind the colossal extent of our sin, listen to Hebrews 10:12-14...
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,  waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Brothers and sisters, there is no “repeatedly” here. No “daily” or “continually”. There is no sinful priest. There are not multiple priests. There is not sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice for every offense already committed. There is no managing. There is no temporary arrangement.
There is only a sacrifice, offered by One (9:14) “without blemish”, a single sacrifice “offered for all time”, after which that perfect priest sat down. And that one perfect sacrifice was so powerful that, through it, (v. 14) “he has perfected for all time” the people of God. That means, even though the extent of our sin was so vast, even though it was so persistent and so poisonous, on the cross, Jesus addressed, for every single saint, every single instance of our cosmic betrayal, every moment of our rebellion and perpetual idolatry before God; every single instance past, present, and future; full and final resolution to our incalculable moral debt. As we read in 9:12, “he [the resurrected One] entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”
And so, because of this “eternal redemption”, for all eternity we will worship Jesus Christ, our mind-blowing High Priest, who has accomplished a mind-blowing, priestly work; who offered a mind-blowing sacrifice that will be celebrated forever and ever and ever. In the words of the Christmas carol, “O come let us adore Him.”
III. Practical Takeaways
Now, please drop down and scan through verses 19 to 25 of this same chapter. Beyond cross-inspired worship, you will see there some of the practical takeaways in light of this amazing truth. Think for a moment about words like “confidence” in v 19, and the encouragement in v 22, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith”. Meditate on (v. 23) “the confession of hope” that is ours. And take to heart the “let us” exhortations in both 23 and verse 24. All of this, the call for each to remember, the call to remind one another, all of it flows from the reality of what our perfect and powerful priest accomplished through his perfect and powerful sacrifice.
But when it come to practical takeaways, we also need to think about that final phrase in verse 14, “...he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” What exactly does it mean that believers have been “perfected for all time”? Well, in 9:9, the author was clear about the fact that the old system “cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper”. But now look at verse 14. In contrast, “the blood of Christ” is able to “purify our conscience from dead works”. So what is a pure or perfected conscience? It is a conscience, not plagued by pasts sins, but 'clear' through the forgiveness Christ has made possible. 10:17-18 remind us how Jesus ratified that promised, new covenant in which God declared “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” And, “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
But believer, there's more. Not only has Jesus powerfully perfected us before God forever by covering all of our sins, he is also powerfully at work in us, right now, since we (v. 14) “those who are being sanctified” (i.e., set apart). What does that mean? Look at how the author goes back to the “new covenant” prophecy in Jeremiah 31. What does it mean that we are, even now, “being sanctified”? It's the everyday outworking of this prophesied reality: (v. 16) “I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds”. To be set apart in this way is to experience daily transformation in our hearts and minds. This season, we need to celebrate the single and singular sacrifice of the One who came at Christmas. We need to celebrate the gift of eternal perfection through Christ. And... we need to celebrate the gift of change; that we “are being sanctified” by God's power through the Holy Spirit. Does it inspire awe in you that Jesus Christ can take someone like you, and transform your heart and mind, so that you become someone like him? Let's praise God for these practical takeaways, and pray that he would help us to prayerfully consider them, so that we might powerfully exhibit them. And if you have not yet trusted in Jesus as your Advocate before God, reach out to him even now. In light of your desperate condition in sin, and God's gracious offer of life, please receive this gift today.
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