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A Better Hope

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
December 10, 2023 6:00 pm

A Better Hope

Growing in Grace / Doug Agnew

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December 10, 2023 6:00 pm

Join us as we worship our Triune God- For more information about Grace Church, please visit www.graceharrisburg.org.

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If you have your Bibles with you, turn with me if you would to Hebrews chapter 7. We're looking at verses 11 through 19. This becomes even more evident when another priest which arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness, for the law made nothing perfect, but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced through which we draw near to God. Bow with me as we go to our Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, we lift up our sick and infirm to you today, for there are many. Pray for Betty West and Judy Cook, Von McClellan, Jim Palmer, Diane Deese, Jeremy Carriker and Jim Belkin, Rhonda Torrance. Pray for Kim Moody, Bernie and Nicole Los, Lisa Menzel.

We thank you that Dale Valland is here with us today. Lord, have mercy on all of them and help them to recover quickly. And Father, we do pray for the Gate Pregnancy Center, that Lord you would be with them, that our offering today would be an offering that would be helpful to that ministry that abortion in America might come to an end, and abortion around the world might come to an end. Heavenly Father, the passage of Scripture that we are dealing with today is here to teach us how to draw close to Christ. We have the responsibility of studying to be theologically sound, but if that stops, it just had knowledge, it becomes woefully insufficient. We want to be biblically sound, Lord, but we need to experience you personally. We need to learn how to be dependent on your Holy Spirit. We need to learn how to trust you more, guide us through your Word, keep my lips from error this morning, and may Christ be exalted. For it is in the precious and holy name of Jesus Christ that we pray. Amen.

You may be seated. A couple of weeks ago, Dan Nicholas sent me a podcast by Sinclair Ferguson. The subject was heaven, and Ferguson had heard a result of a recent poll about heaven, and they were asking, what is it about heaven that you think of first? In other words, what is it about heaven that really excites you?

And he said it was not what was said that bothered him, but what was not said. And he said nobody said anything about experiencing the presence of the Lord. I think about heaven and what other people might have said, and they could have said it this way, in heaven there'll be no more sin, no more anguish, no more pain, no more suffering, no more frustration, no more temptation, and no more death. And in heaven we will have the privilege of being with our Christian loved ones who've gone on ahead of us. In heaven there will be a glorious, wonderful, beautiful environment. The streets of gold, the gates of pearl, the river of life, all that's glorious and all that's wonderful, but it is not near what we're going to have in experiencing the presence of Jesus Christ. That we're going to be able to bow down on our knees before him, look into his eyes so filled with love. That we're going to be able to reach up and feel the nail prints in his hands, the tangible evidence of what Christ did for us. That we're going to be able to talk to him face to face, and that we're going to be able to worship him without hindrance forever and ever and ever.

I'll be honest with you, I'm looking forward to talking to Peter, James, and John, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon, my dad, and my grandmom. But they're going to have to wait. And they're going to have to wait for a long time because that first 10,000 years I just want to savor the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to build this sermon today around verse 19.

Let me read that again. For the law made nothing perfect, but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced through which we draw near to God. The greatest thing about heaven will be the privilege of drawing close to the Lord. If that's true, and that's one of the reasons that we get excited about heaven, let me ask you this.

What's wrong with us now? Why is it that we're not more concerned about drawing closer to the Lord in our present life right now? I want to share with you a story from the 11th chapter of the Gospel of Luke. And it's a story that always brings great conviction to my heart.

It's in verses 38 through 42, and this is what it has to say. As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?

Tell her to help me. Martha, Martha, the Lord answered. You were worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed, or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

Why does that story convict me? Because I realize I'm way too much like Martha and not near enough like Mary. I realize that I'm always busy. I got to get this done, got to get that done, got to get this done, and I need to be more about putting my head and my heart around the person of Christ and spending time seeking his presence, seeking his joy, seeking his glory.

I need to be doing that, but too much of the time I don't do that. I need to be doing that so that my worship might be more appreciative and so that my worship of him might be more sincere. That's what the writer of Hebrews is calling us to do right here. He says there is a better hope, and you can draw closer to the Lord, and you can do it right now.

That's what he's saying. Last week we saw that Jesus is our high priest after the order of Melchizedek, and this week we're just expanding on this doctrine of Melchizedek. Now I wanted to share with you four points today, and the first one is a new priesthood and a new law.

Look with me at verses 11 through 15. Now, perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood, for under it the people received the law. What further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there's a change in the priesthood, there's necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belong to another tribe, from which no one is ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek. Remember, he's talking to Jews here. Some of these Jews are not Christians, but they're interested in the gospel, so they're there and they're listening. Others of these are Jewish Christians, but they have been going through deep persecution. Now, all of these Jews, whether they're Christians or non-Christians, all of them have been under the Levitical priesthood.

They've all experienced that. Verse 11 says, listen, if perfection, and that word perfection is the Greek word teleos, and it means complete or finished, if perfection was attainable through the Levitical priesthood, then there would not have needed to be another priest. There would not need to be a Melchizedek priesthood. I want you to think of the limitations just a minute of the Levitical priesthood.

A lot of limitations. First of all, the high priest, one day a year on the day of atonement, would take a basin of goat's blood. He would walk back behind the veil, going from the holy place to the Holy of Holies.

And in the Holy of Holies, there was one item, and that was the Ark of the Covenant. On the top of that was the mercy seat. On the top of the mercy seat, there were two sculptured cherubim.

Their wings pointed toward each other. He would go over to the mercy seat. He would take the branch of hyssop, dip it down into the goat's blood.

He would sprinkle it on the mercy seat. And when that happened, the Shekinah glory of God, the bright shining presence of the Lord would come and hover between the wings of the cherubim. And what that would do is it would assure the high priest and assure the people of Israel that for that one year, the sins of these people of Israel had been covered over.

Notice I did not say washed away, just covered over. And there was a temporary aspect to the priest, for they could only serve for 20 years. From age 30 to age 50, the Levitical priest, that was as long as they could serve.

Their tenure was 20 years, and that was it. Now I want you to notice how he explains how the Levitical priesthood was inseparably tied to the law. So the writer of Hebrews is saying, what do you want?

You want a symbol or you want the substance? You want a picture or do you want the reality? Do you want to, or do you desire to depend on your own works to save you, or are you going to depend on the righteousness of Christ to save you? Essentially he's saying this, why would you want a picture of Jesus when you can have Jesus himself? So in these verses, the writer makes three points to establish his teaching. Point A, Jesus is not a member of the tribe of Levi.

Where is he a member? He's a member of the tribe of Judah. Look at verse 13 and 14 again. For the one of whom these things are spoken belong to another tribe, for which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe, Moses said nothing about priests. The priesthood that was established by the coming of Jesus was different and it was glorious. All right, point B.

This did not happen without advance notice. David, back in Psalm 110 verse 4, made this statement, gave this prophecy. David said, you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Now all the priests that David had ever known were Levitical priests. David dealt with Levitical priests day in, day out.

That was all he'd ever dealt with. But then, right in the middle of this Old Covenant, Old Testament context, all of a sudden he gets a message from the Holy Spirit of God that is a prophecy of one that will come in the future. And that prophecy is the prophecy of the Messiah. And he would find out that the Messiah is going to be king, the perfect king.

He is going to be a prophet, the greatest prophet. But he's also going to be the priest. The priest. Not a temporary priest who could only serve for 20 years like the Levitical priest.

His priesthood would last forever. So what I'm saying is this. Long before the first coming of Christ, a thousand years before Jesus was even born, the Levitical priesthood was seen and understood as transitional and temporary and insufficient. Like point C, the new priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood, the priesthood of Jesus necessitates a change in the law.

Now listen carefully because I know this can be confusing. As soon as we hear the law, we start thinking of the moral law, don't we? We start thinking, oh, that's the Ten Commandments. And I want you to know the Ten Commandments have not changed.

They are just as binding now as they were in the Old Covenant time. Adultery, stealing, lying, covetousness, all the others, they are just as binding in the New Testament age as they were in the Old Testament. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus dealt with this and told us how strong that law was, the moral law was. And he says we're not just responsible for our actions, we're also responsible for our thoughts. He said, you've heard it said by them of old, thou shalt not commit adultery, but I say unto you, if you even look upon a woman as to lust after her, you've committed adultery already with her in your heart. You've heard it said by them of old, thou shalt not kill, but I say unto you, if you're even angry against your brother, you are liable to judgment.

Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 5. He said, think not that I am come to destroy the law. I have not come to destroy the law, I have come to fulfill it. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth shall pass away, not one jot or tittle will pass away from the law. Jesus is emphatically saying that the moral law will not change. So what law is he talking about here that will change? He's talking about the ceremonial law. So look at verse 12 with me again. For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. John MacArthur did a great job explaining this.

I'm just going to read you what he had to say. Changed, the Greek word, means to put one thing in the place of another. Christianity in a sense comes from Judaism, but Christianity is not merely enhanced Judaism, it replaces Judaism.

For a Jewish convert, his faith is changed from Judaism to Christianity. The new priesthood after the order of Melchizedek was not added to Aaron's but replaced it. Aaron's priesthood now has no validity at all, not even as a picture of salvation or as a temporary covering of sin. It is defunct, totally abrogated. Ceremonial law, the Aaronic system of sacrifices has been set aside. You don't need to trek to the temple all the time, the Jews are told. That's done with. It is over.

It has been replaced permanently. Some who had come to Christ and many who were thinking of coming were still worshiping at the temple, still hanging on to the ritual of the old system. Setting this aside was extremely difficult for many Jews to do and the reasons for doing so were extremely hard to grasp. Some believing Jews in fact not only insisted on maintaining their own Jewish practices but on making them mandatory for everyone who wanted to become a Christian.

These people were called Judaizers and they were a plague to the early church for many years. All right, point two, a better priest and a better hope, verse 16 through 17. Who has become a priest not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. So what made an Old Testament Levitical priest, what made him a priest?

It was a ceremonial law. He had to be born into the right tribe and that was the tribe of Levi. If you were a Jewish man, you were born in the tribe of Reuben or Gad or Manasseh or Naphtali or Simeon, then you had zero chance of becoming a priest.

It could not happen. And if you tried to take the priesthood upon yourself, there were dire consequences. I think of King Saul. He was getting ready to go and fight against the Philistines and he was waiting for the priest Samuel to come and offer the sacrifices. Samuel was running late and Saul said, I don't have time to wait for this.

I'll do it myself. And he went and he offered the sacrifices. Well, about that time, Samuel the priest showed up. I want you to listen to what Samuel said to him. He said, what have you done, Saul? Now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you. Breaking the ceremonial law was not some little mistaken mishap.

Folks, there were serious consequences. Here was Saul, the king. He went and took the priesthood on himself. He offered the sacrifice and God says, I'm taking away your throne.

You are no longer king. I think of King Uzziah. King Uzziah was one of the great kings of Judah. He was a godly man. He served Judah for 52 years. Isaiah loved him with all of his heart. But he got to his older years, his latter years, and he did something that he should not have done. And it was a dangerous thing and I want you to listen to this from 2 Chronicles chapter 26.

But when Isaiah was strong, he grew proud to his own destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. But Azariah, the priest, went in after him with 80 priests of the Lord who were men of valor. And they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, it is not for you Uzziah to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priest, the sons of Aaron, who were consecrated to burn incense.

Go out of the sanctuary for you have done wrong and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God. Then Uzziah was angry. He had a censure in his hand to burn incense. And when he became angry with the priest, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priest in the house of the Lord by the altar of incense. And Azariah, the chief priest, and all the priests looked at him and behold, he was leprous in his forehead. And they rushed him out quickly and he himself hurried to go out because the Lord had struck him and King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He was from the tribe of Judah.

He tried to take the priesthood to himself and the Lord struck him with leprosy. So keeping the ceremonial law was of utmost importance. But the Levitical priests were made priest simply by the law, simply by being born in the right tribe, the tribe of Levi. They did not have to have sterling character. They did not have to accomplish great achievements. They did not have to have the training, the education, and the spiritual devotion that you would have thought.

All they had to do was be of the tribe of Levi. But Jesus' priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood, was different. It was built on the indestructible life of Christ.

The life of Christ, a perfectly righteous, perfectly sinless, perfectly sacrificial life. Jesus became our priest. And what does that mean? That means that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father. That means that he is our mediator. He is our go-between.

He is our intercessor. How glorious that is. Folks, Jesus was functioning as a priest in John chapter 7.

You might remember that story. There was a great crowd there, just filled with Levitical priests, a lot of them out there. And Jesus begins to talk to them. And this is what Jesus says, whoever believes in me, as the scripture says, out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.

And then John chapter 10 verse 10, Jesus said this, I have come that you might have life and that you might have it abundantly. Folks, when David prophesied the priesthood of the Messiah, he was saying this priesthood will not have flaws, it will not have errors, and it will not have limitations. This will be a perfect priesthood. And Jesus Christ, the Son of God, will be seated at the right hand of God the Father. And he will be interceding for us. And you and I will have the privilege of taking our problems, our sin, our everything to him as our priest. Why? Because we're good?

No. We'll be able to go to him as our priest because he died for us on the cross and his precious blood washed away our sins and put us in a right relationship with him so that we could go to him and he could be our priest. Let me read verse 16 again. Jesus who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. Jesus' priesthood is not based on the ceremonial law. He is not a priest because he was born in the right tribe, the tribe of Levi.

He wasn't. He is a priest because he lived a perfect, sinless life. And God the Father called him into the Melchizedek priesthood. What's the priesthood of Christ mean to me?

It means this. It lets me know that I belong to Jesus and Jesus belongs to me. I had the privilege of preaching my mother-in-law's funeral Thursday afternoon. And I preached funerals before where the person did not know Christ. And let me tell you, it's the hardest thing in the world to do because I can't preach them into heaven.

I didn't have to worry about that with my mother-in-law. She knew Jesus in a very wonderful and a very special way. And I knew that just as soon as she died and she breathed her last breath, she went into the presence of Christ. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. And how glorious that is. Folks, the priesthood of Christ reminds me that I belong to Christ and he belongs to me.

The song says it well. When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast. When the tempter would prevail, Christ will hold me fast. Those he saves are his delight, Christ will hold me fast. Precious in his holy sight, Christ will hold me fast. For my life he bled and died, Christ will hold me fast.

Justice has been satisfied, Christ will hold me fast. I get excited when I think about Jesus being my Savior. I think of the nail prints in his hands. I think of the precious, sinless shed blood that he gave on my behalf. I think of that and I get excited.

My eyes fill with tears. Then I think of him being my King. And the day is coming, and I know this to be a fact, that he is going to break through the clouds of heaven. And when he breaks through the clouds of heaven, he's going to call all of his people to himself. We will meet him in the clouds and we will return and Christ will destroy every shred and every vestige of evil on the face of the earth.

That makes me want to shout. But Jesus' priesthood does something different. When I think of him as my priest, it's kind of a calming joy. Satan points to my failure. He points to my sin. He points to my weakness. He points to my pride. And I can just hear him say to God, Doug deserves to go to hell. And then Jesus, my high priest, turns around to God the Father and said, I paid for it.

I paid for it. No Levitical priest could ever say anything like that. Point 3, the two covenants, look at verse 18 and 19. For on the one hand a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness. For the law obeyed nothing perfect.

But on the other hand, a better hope is introduced through which we draw near to God. So the writer of his Hebrews is telling us that these Jews, they're telling us to move away from the old covenant. Now the problem with the old covenant was not the law. A lot of people say, that's the problem.

No, that was not the problem. Romans chapter 7 verse 12 says that the law is holy and the commandment is holy and just and right. The problem is not the law. The problem is us. And what's wrong with us? Well, the problem with us is we've got a sin nature. We have a sin nature. And that everything that we do is tainted with sin.

That's a problem. I often witness to people and so many times the person that I'm sharing the gospel with will say, well Doug, I'm a pretty good person. I think at the end time what will happen is God will weigh all my good things on one side of the scale and all my bad things on the other side of the scale and the good things will outweigh the bad things and God will take me on to heaven.

No, no, no. If you had one sin in your life, it would tip the scale against you. But you don't have just one sin in your life. Everything that you do is tainted with sin. Isaiah said that our righteousness, that's the good things that we do, are like filthy rags before God.

Look, God demands perfection and none of us measure up. So what is our hope? Our hope is in Christ. That He became our substitutionary atonement. That He took our sin and gave us His righteousness.

Our hope is that Jesus is our substitute. Listen to this prophecy from Jeremiah 31, 31 through 32. Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. My covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.

Richard Phillips explains that this way. What's the difference between the old covenant and the new? The old covenant worked externally by the law and therefore was unable to empower the people to uphold their end of their relationship. Under the administration of the new covenant comes the miracle of regeneration. That's being born again. New hearts to make a new people eager to do God's will. This was never offered under the old covenant which explains its weakness, its uselessness for actually working salvation. My last point is drawing near to God.

Look at verse 19. For the law made nothing perfect, but on the other hand a better hope is introduced through which we draw near to God. When most people think of the Christian faith, we think of the past and we think of the future. We think of the past. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a perfect sinless life for 30 years, went to the cross of Calvary, shed his blood, died that we might have life, and then he rose from the dead, breaking the power of death over us. We get pretty excited about that because that's a glorious, wonderful thing telling us these are the elements of our salvation.

We also get excited about our future, don't we? Let me read you what the scripture says about what Jesus is going to do for us in our future from Revelation 21. Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men and he will dwell with them and they shall be his people. God himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There shall be no more death nor sorrow nor crying. There shall be no more pain for the former things have passed away.

And he who sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. He said to me, Right, for these words are true. I think a lot about my future. I'm looking forward to that day when I either die or the Lord takes me to be with him, whichever comes first. And I see him face to face. And I'll be able to thank him and praise him for what he did for me on the cross. How glorious and how wonderful that'll be. But you know, the writer of Hebrews is saying, Don't forget the present. Don't forget right now. Jesus, our high priest, desires for us to draw closer to him right now.

I want to get personal just a minute. Is Jesus real to you on a day by day basis? Do you talk to him in prayer? Or do you just recite prayers? Are you dependent on him?

Or are you dependent on self? Do you hunger after his presence? Or are you saying I'm satisfied with what Jesus did for me in the past? I'm looking forward to what Jesus did for me in the future or what he's going to do for me in the future, but I was present.

I'm not so sure about that. If that's where you are, that's sin. And his desire for us is to draw close to him and to draw close to him now. To hunger for his presence.

Let me ask you something. Are you hungry for the presence of Jesus? What are you doing about it? Are you studying the scripture on a day by day basis?

Are you memorizing scripture to get it in your head and then meditating on it to let it drop down into your heart? You say, Doug, why do I need to go to all that trouble? Because I don't want you just to know about God. I want you to know God. I want you to know God so that when what happens to my mother-in-law this past week happens to you, I will know for sure that you're going to be with him and you're going to be with him forever.

And what's more important than me knowing that is that you know that deep in your heart. Let's pray. Heavenly Father in Proverbs 9, 10, you said the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. My prayer is that you will increase that fear so we will be more serious about serving you and worshiping you. Use this passage of scripture in Hebrews 7 to draw us closer to you than we have ever been. It's in Jesus' precious name I pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-10 14:14:35 / 2023-12-10 14:26:51 / 12

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