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Guest Blogger Chris Thayer — The “The Waiting Is The Hardest Part” Sermon Rewind

Julie and I took off on Christmas Day for several days away, and so Chris Thayer, our Zoar Campus Pastor, preached “live” at Moss and via hologram to Zoar.

I gave Chris some unusually specific direction for this message — he knew he was concluding the series Wait For It, and he knew his message needed to connect Jesus’ first coming at Christmas with his second coming at the end of all days.

And as I read Hebrews 9:28 earlier this fall, I knew that had to be the verse on which the message hung:

28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

So that was the direction I gave Chris … and he ran with it, surpassing what I either expected or could have concocted on my own.  I love seeing his growth as theologian, proclaimer, and wordsmith.

I received a text from a mutual friend on Sunday afternoon that said simply:  “Chris’ sermon was fantastic.  Be proud.”

I am.  And grateful for him and other teammates who join me in inviting all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

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I have here a MASSIVE rubber band. When you move beyond the fear and panic that it brings (anybody who has ever had a bungie cord snap on them when they were tying down something in the back of their vehicle knows EXACTLY what I’m talking about) – it actually becomes really useful.

 

I purchased this rubber band about a year ago today. I had a goal for 2018 of being able to do 25 uninterrupted and unassisted pullups. I’ve always been terrible at pullups, and I don’t know why. It’s bothered me so I figured that this year I’d do something about it. Now as anybody who has ever had a physical goal like this will be able to tell you, if you want to get better at something you have to do more of that thing. So, if I want to get better at running, I need to run more. If I want to get better at pushups I have to do more pushups. And if I want to get better at pullups, I need to do more pullups. But this posed a problem for me. I couldn’t do any pullups. So, doing more pullups doesn’t really work. Well, I asked a friend of mine and did a little bit of research and found out that this rubber band will help me. So, I installed a pullup bar in my garage. I learned that if I anchor this rubber band to that pullup bar and then strap the other end around my foot, that the tension created in that rubber band will help lift me up. It makes me a bit lighter so I can actually do pullups. But the only way this rubber band does me any good is if I anchor it above me. If I put it to the right, left, or under me, it doesn’t help at all. It needs to be anchored above me. In something greater than myself.

 

Well, all of this talk of rubber bands and anchors has a point, I promise…but before I can share what that is I have to fill you in on a little bit of background. Like I said earlier, we’re going to be in the New Testament book of Hebrews. Well Hebrews was a letter written to people who were ethnically Hebrew. They were Jewish and followers of Jesus. They were the people we have been talking about in this sermon series who were waiting for the coming of the Messiah. Of the anointed one, the King. And after what Jesus did – they believed that He was the King. He was the Messiah. He was the one they were waiting for. And the author of Hebrews writes this letter to this church made up of Hebrew Christians because he wanted to encourage and challenge them. You see, they were in danger of abandoning their faith in Jesus. They were in danger of giving into sin – and sin is just a fancy word that means disobedience to God. And they were in danger of abandoning their faith because they were undergoing some sort of persecution. Their lives were under threat because of their faith in Jesus. So, they were in danger of giving up on their faith in Jesus because they knew then what we know today: the easiest way to avoid persecution is to give in to the demands of their persecutors. It’s always easier to swim with the current rather than against it.

 

So, the author of Hebrews writes this letter to encourage and challenge this group of people who are tempted to give up their faith in Jesus. They were so focused on getting relief from their current predicament, that they were losing sight of their anchor – the very thing that’s lifting them up [reference rubber-band]. They had started to place their hope, not in their Savior, but in their comfort. And what’s true for them 2,000 years ago is true for us: When you focus on the immediate, you lose sight of the ultimate.

 

While most of us in this room have never had to undergo persecution like this, we face the same danger they did. When we place hope in our current comfort, when we place our anchor in anything other than Jesus, we are in danger of giving in to sin. We’re in danger of walking away from our faith. And that rarely happens dramatically. It happens one small step at a time.

 

Kids – I remember what it was like to be in middle school. I remember what it was like to desperately want to be liked. To desperately want friends. To fit in with the popular kids. And I also remember what that group of popular kids was like. I remember what they looked like, I remember what they wore, and I remember how they treated other kids. And I knew that if I wanted to fit in with them, I needed to pick on other kids with them. It was either that or be picked on by them. If my desire to make friends becomes my focus, if I start to hope in that above all else, I lose sight of the ultimate. I’m in danger of falling into sin. I’m in danger of slowly abandoning my faith in Jesus. Because that’s not how he calls us to live. He doesn’t call me or you to hurt others, but to love and encourage them.

 

Or perhaps you’re a little bit older and the object of your hope as moved to that boy or that girl you long to be in a relationship with. And you know they’re going to be at that party coming up this weekend. And you also know that at that party is going to be the very things that you know are not in line with how God has called you to live. But you’ve started to place so much hope in that relationship that you’re willing to compromise your faith to get it.

 

Or parents – I have two kids. I have an 8-year-old boy and a 5-and-a-half-year-old girl. And I love them so much. I want them to have all of the things that I never had. I want them to have an easy life. I want them to experience things that I never got to experience. And I also know that because of this desire – because of this focus – that every month when I look at my budget and see how much goes out for generosity, how much we give every month – that I’m tempted to ask myself: “what if I didn’t give as much as I do? What if instead of using that money to be generous, I use that money to fatten their college savings account, or use it to give them more experiences?” And I know that if I start to make that move, if I focus more on what I want for my kids than what Jesus calls me to do (be generous with my resources), that slowly my life will begin to revolve around my kids instead of my king. I will take steps toward falling into sin and abandoning my faith. And I know you love your kids desperately too. You want to give them all that you didn’t have. You want to set them up for success. But If you or place all of our hope in what we can give our kids, we lose sight of our anchor. If we focus on their immediate comfort we’ll miss our opportunity to introduce them to their ultimate savior.

 

When we encounter these realities in our lives; when we come up against our propensity to focus on the immediate so much that we lose sight of the ultimate, what do we do?

 

Well, if I were to answer that question, at least before spending time studying Hebrews 9, I would immediately go to tactics. Here’s a list of five things for you to do to avoid these mistakes. But that’s not at all what the author of Hebrews does. He eventually does get around to some tactics, but before he ever addresses tactics, he first focuses on a person. And he does it in a sort of odd way that 2,000 years later in 21st century America makes almost no sense to us.

 

He starts by reminding them of their history. Now remember, this is a group of Jewish Christians. They were steeped in the Old Testament of the Library we call the Bible. What makes up the vast majority of it [Hold up Old testament portion]. So he spends chapters 7, 8, and 9 by talking about these really odd things to our ears.

 

He says:

 

Do you remember the Temple? (This was sort of like their church building but way more important). Do you remember how inside the Temple there was a room within a room within the entire structure? And do you remember that in that inner room was the presence of God? Because God longed to be with His people He longed for His presence to be with our presence. But do you remember that there was a barrier between our presence and His presence? Do you remember that not only did a literal curtain separate Him from us, but that this curtain was symbolic of our sin? And because of our sin, because of our brokenness, only one person one time a year could enter into the presence of God? And this person, the Hight Priest (he would have been the most important religious person in their community), could only enter this inner room, the Holy of Holies, once a year on the day of atonement (some of you may have heard of this before, it’s also called Yom Kippur) after he had made a bunch of sacrifices for Himself and for the people. That he could only do this when he confessed all of our sins? And do you remember that this was an act of grace, because it cleansed us?

 

But do you also remember that this cleansing was only temporary? And we know it was temporary because the High Priest had to do it year after year after year after year? And he had to do it year after year after year because there was a problem And that problem was with us. Sure, it cleaned us on the outside, but it’s like white washing a tomb. It looks good but inside is still dead. It’s like painting a rotten fence. Sure, it looks great for a few days but pretty soon the rot starts to seep out and show on the outside again. This is because there’s a problem at our core. The problem isn’t with the system. The problem is with us. The problems at our core. Do you remember what sin did to us? Do you remember how it broke us? Do you remember how it brought war? Do you remember how it broke apart families, destroyed our friendships, and brought death and destruction?

 

And then he writes in Hebrews 9:26b-9:28a:

 

But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many;

 

 

The author of Hebrews says:

 

Sin has been defeated. Everything that came before, the high priest, the day of atonement, the sacrifices – All of it was a shadow of what was to come. It all pointed to God’s plan all along and that was to send Jesus. And Jesus died on a cross as our perfect sacrifice for sing. He defeated the power that sin held over us, death, and He did so by raising from the grave on the third day. Sin. Has. Been. Defeated.

 

And this is good news church.

 

For all of those who are in Christ, for all those who confess Jesus as their Lord, they are no longer bound by sin. We have been set free! Can I be honest with y’all for a second – I can’t stand it when people who are followers of Jesus, who have that victory that we just talked about say that they can’t help but sin. When they say “I’m just a sinner.” Because it takes the work that Jesus accomplished on the cross and reduces it to the sum of their own experience. It gives ‘defeated sin’ more power than our ‘resurrected Savior.’ …NO. Sin has been broken. We are no longer slaves to it, we’ve been set free. It’s not always easy. It doesn’t mean we won’t fall down sometimes, it doesn’t mean that we won’t feel it from others, but it does mean exactly what it says. Jesus took away our sins. We have been set free to live a life of obedience out of joy, not out of guilt and fear. We don’t live a life of obedience because of what He might do to us but because of what he has done for us.

 

And this is great news. But in the same way that we still feel the effects of sin – the Hebrew audience felt it too. And deeply. They were being persecuted as a community. And in the midst of this they were tempted to leave the faith.

 

So, the author doesn’t stop at Jesus’s victory on the cross. He reminds them of one more reality:

 

 

Hebrews 9:28

28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

 

The author of Hebrews moves from the work Jesus did, to the work that He’s going to do. Jesus will return. He will bring salvation. One day all of this pain you feel will be turned right. I don’t know if you knew this or not, but followers of Jesus not only are rooted in the history of His death, burial, and resurrection – but we’re also united in our hope of His return. That one-day Jesus will return. Another word for this is heaven. And this is NOT at all what most popular representations of heaven are like. It’s not some disembodied existence where we become angels. We don’t sit around on clouds. We don’t play harps all day bored out of our minds! Nope. Heaven is nothing like that at all. Scripture teaches us that Heaven is Jesus returning here. Implementing His will in our world just as it is in His. We’ll receive resurrected bodies. Bodies that are no longer subject to decay and brokenness. Jesus will restore God’s good creation to the way He always intended it to be. Where we’re fully united with Him, in community with one another. And there’s no more pain, no more heartache, no more tears. No more cancer. No more miscarriages, no more death. No more Alzheimer’s. No more anger. No more brokenness. None of it. That barrier that was broken down by Jesus between our presence and the presence of God will be fully realized where we will be fully in the presence of God. Quite the opposite of boring – heaven will be glorious.

 

I love how one author puts it:

 

“If heaven sounds rather dull to us it shows how little we know of Him.”

 

THIS is what the author of Hebrews focuses the attention of the beleaguered church on. This is what we need to hear today every time we’re tempted to focus so much on the immediate that we lose sight of the ultimate:

 

Jesus came and conquered sin. He’s coming back to claim you.

 

Before we talk about tactics, before we look at methods – we have to be rooted in that truth. We have to be anchored in that reality. That’s the only way we can ever do a pullup. That’s the only way we can grow our faith is if our hope is in Him and Him along.

 

Jesus came and conquered sin. He’s coming back to claim you.

 

So kids & students. Far from saying I don’t want you to have friends – I want your hope to be found not in them, but in Jesus. And when you place your hope and trust in Him above all else, I sincerely hope that you’re the most popular person in school. Because your classmates need to hear that hope you have. They will trust what you have to share with them far more than they ever will from me and your parents. They need to hear:

 

Jesus came and conquered sin. He’s coming back to claim you.

Parents: Your children need to see your life revolve around your king more than your kids. They need to see from you that it’s more important for them to be faithful than famous. They need to see that their hope is found in the eternal Jesus more than the temporary pleasures of this world. You’re the one who can teach them that. Above everything else they need to hear:

 

Jesus came and conquered sin. He’s coming back to claim you.

 

Where is it for you? Where do you need to place your hope in the eternal more than the temporary? Where do you need to trust the ultimate rather than focusing on the immediate?

 

Jesus came and conquered sin. He’s coming back to claim you.

 

And maybe you would say to me today: that’s great, but I don’t have faith in Jesus. Or my faith has faded in Jesus? Well, I actually want you to do the same thing. I want you to follow what Hebrews teaches us: focus on Jesus. Look at what He did. Don’t just take my word for it. Read the Gospels. Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John. See the reality that Jesus came and conquered sin. He’s coming back to claim you. You see I think the author of Hebrews recognized something about faith. And that’s that it’s not something that we can conjure up on our own. Instead we gain faith in the object of our hope. And I’ll bet that if you focus on Jesus, no matter where you are on your journey – that you’ll notice that over the coming days, weeks, and months that you’ll start to find that you trust Him and that He’s worth giving your life to because:

 

Jesus came and conquered sin. He’s coming back to claim you.

 

Let’s Pray.

 

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