THE BORN SUPREMACY — Episode 3
by Pastor Mike Fortune
September 24, 2011
Wrong Worship (starting @ 00:23)
- Absence makes the heart wander (Hebrews 2:1; 1 Timothy 6:21)
- Leads to salvation squander (Hebrews 2:2-3; Acts 7:53)
- Jesus makes the heart grow fonder (Hebrews 2:9; Romans 2:4)
“I surrender some / I stand amazed at my hairdo / I exalt me.” There were lots of funny lines in that parody collage of hymns and praise songs, but the most thought provoking to me was the one based on the song “Mighty to Save.” Instead of quoting Zephaniah 3:17 (which is the Scripture it is based) or the chorus of the original song which says, “Savior / He can move the mountains / My God is Mighty to save...” the comedienne sang, “Savior / I don’t need a Savior / I’m busy living my life / Christmas / Go to church on Christmas / And maybe Easter too / So my faith is renewed...” David Ryser in a brilliant one page article entitled "Lover or Prostitute?" recalls a quote from Sam Pascoe that goes something like this: "Christianity started in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it came to America and became a business.” But isn't the church supposed to be a body according to 1 Corinthians 12:27? If a body becomes a business, isn't that a prostitute?
What if the church is full of prostitutes? Not the kind Jesus forgave and told to sin no more. But the spiritual kind. The kind who knows that Jesus is supreme because Scriptures, angels, and our hospitality points to Jesus—but ignore that. The kind who knows that Jesus is supreme because Jesus creates, sustains, and saves—but forget that. Did you know that your relationship and fellowship with Jesus can become a philosophy and mind game? Did you you know that when we drift away to worship the culture of the church instead of the Head of it, that we have prostituted ourselves?
But that’s impossible you say. We’re here aren’t we? You’re preaching to the choir. And I hope I am. But what if I’m not? What if some of you are here today because your parents forced you? What if some of you are here today because your spouse needed the ride? What if some of you are here today just because you like the people or the food or the music or the thought provoking things you learn in Bible study but not the author of it? That’s possible you know. What if the church is full of prostitutes? What if the people who still gather in it come to receive the blessings of God but not God Himself? We say we are fully devoted followers of God but only 2.6 percent of U.S. households tithe 10 percent or more of income” (according to David H. Smith in Religious Giving p.5). Fifty-four percent of Americans give nothing to religious organizations and further analysis shows that 82% of those who do give less than 2 percent to Christian organizations. What does your checkbook say about you? Some say we say we love Jesus, but we only 17% of Americans will be in any Christian church on any weekend (according to the reputable research of Dave Olson at the americanchurch.org). Others attend church every week but only because they love the blessings God gives not the God who gives them. If God ever stops blessing them, with things they want or supposedly deserve, they would as Job’s wife recommends, curse God and die.
It can happen today. And it already was happening in 65 AD just 30 years after Jesus walked this earth when the book of Hebrews was probably written. But there is an antidote to spiritual prostitution and we’ll see that clearly in the warning passage we’re reading today. One thing I love about the book of Hebrews is that it alternates between theological discussion and practical application. The first two weeks were full of lofty theology. This week it’s all about practical application. So buckle up for episode three of the born supremacy based on Hebrews 2:1-9.
God’s word says, “1 So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. 2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. 3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? 4 And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose. 5 And furthermore, it is not angels who will control the future world we are talking about. 6 For in one place the Scriptures say, "What are mere mortals that you should think about them, or a son of man that you should care for him? 7 Yet you made them only a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. 8 You gave them authority over all things." Now when it says "all things," it means nothing is left out. But we have not yet seen all things put under their authority. 9 What we do see is Jesus, who was given a position "a little lower than the angels"; and because he suffered death for us, he is now "crowned with glory and honor." Yes, by God's grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.”
It’s been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. And that is true. Which we’ll talk more about in point number three. But there’s a reason you never see point number one on Hallmark cards. Because nobody wants to hear that absence also makes the heart wander. But it can. Christianity without Christ can become a philosophy or culture or routine or even worse—a business transaction. Long ago, God spoke many times in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). But if we stop listening to the Son, we can drift away from Him. It happened to Judas. And it can happen to us. Why? Because drifting isn’t a conscious thing. It takes no effort at all. That’s why I love lazy rivers. Turtle Cove up in the Michigan has a great lazy river. We took the kids there at the end of the summer. And they kept getting out and going down the water slide and playing in the pool and eating snacks. But me? I got one of those giant double barrel tubes to sit in and just floated around and around that lazy river. I love lazy rivers. I heard there’s a really long lazy river at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas I’d love to try some day.
Drifting isn’t a conscious thing. Rarely do we rebelliously choose to get lost. Though that too happens just like the Prodigal Son. Usually, drifting is a slow process where you slowly become less interested in the Son. Jesus isn’t how you start your day. Or who you choose to live for. Jesus isn’t who you talk about because when you pray, if you pray, you talk twice as much as you listen advising the almighty instead of waiting and listening for what the almighty is saying through the quiet of His word. Another way you drift is you stop having family worship time. You hope the Christian school you’re paying big bucks for takes care of that. Another way you know you’re drifting is you stop gathering to give God praise. You can praise Him every day that’s true. But God set apart the 7th to spend with us. So why don’t we want to spend it with Him and with others who want to spend it with Him?
Drifting is a slow process and if we’re talking about fishing for walleye that’s okay. A few months ago, I drove the kids to Drummond Island to go fishing with their Grumpy. Lydia was the only one of us who caught anything. So Uncle Frank and Grumpy decided to take the kids fishing for Walleye that evening. And apparently, you need different bait and different colored night crawlers to catch Walleye than the whitefish we were trying to catch during the day. So they grabbed their gear, sped out to a great spot, and instead of casting their anchor overboard, they plopped their poles in the water with the different bait and drifted with the current hoping to catch some Walleye. But it didn’t work. Their lines got all caught up in the motor and even though they were drifting like everyone else, they caught nothing. My father-in-law is an experienced fisherman. And he assured me that drifting for Walleye works. But it didn’t work that day. And drifting from Jesus never works either.
So wake up and ask yourself this morning. Why am I here? Am I here because I love God like crazy? Would I worship Him even if I never got or stopped getting any of his stuff? Or am I prostituting myself? Am I a fully devoted sold out follower of Jesus? Does my checkbook reflect that? Or am I among the 2.6%? Do I pray and when I pray, do I build in time to listen to God through His word? Do I read my kids stories about Jesus? And pray with them as well? Do they think we have family worship? Drifting requires no effort. But not choosing Jesus is the same decision as rejecting Jesus. 1 Timothy 6:21 says, “Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness.”
But there’s another warning in this passage about not listening. It not only leads to drifting, it can lead to forfeiting your salvation. Hebrews 2:2-3 says, “For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?” The author, probably Paul, is arguing from least to greatest now. He’s saying since God spoke many times in many ways and held the people who at first listened to the Son accountable for what they knew about the Son, what makes you think He’s going to hold us less accountable now that we have heard directly from the Son? The implied answer is He’s not!
Apparently, God delivers his messages through angels. We heard Marion tell us about one angel story last week that happened to her husband Gene before he died. And we heard about another Jorge Muñoz known as the Angel of Queens in New York. But long before them, Scripture says God spoke to us through His son and through angels. Most commentators say verse 2 is a reference to when God gave the children of Israel the Ten Commandments @ Sinai. They say so because Stephen says so in Acts 7:53. Accusing the men of Israel for drifting away, Stephen says, “You deliberately disobeyed God's law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.” And Galatians 3:19 says something similar. Why?
Because I don’t remember any children’s story or felt board lesson about God coming down to Sinai with angels do you? What I’ve been taught is that the pre-incarnate Christ came down since Paul uses Hebrew Scriptures with YHWH as law giver in them for Jesus. But the cool new thing I learned this week from God’s word is that were indeed angels @ Sinai. Because the author of Hebrews is quoting the then popular Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint of Deuteronomy 33:2 which says after the LORD came from Sinai, he came with ten thousands of saints with a fiery law for them and “on his right hand were his angels with him” or literally “thousands of holy ones” with him. A similar Old Testament verse in Psalm 68:17 says, “17 Surrounded by unnumbered thousands of chariots, the Lord came from Mount Sinai into his sanctuary.”
So that’s why Paul can rightly say the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm. And if every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished, what makes us think the same laws won’t go unpunished now that they’ve been lived by and shared by the actual Son of God who Hebrews 1 just proved is greater than the angels? They’ve never been called Son like Jesus according to Hebrews 1:5. Instead, they worship the Son according to Hebrews 1:6. Angels come and go doing God’s bidding (Hebrews 1:14), but only Jesus reigns at God’s right hand. And apostles like Stephen told the people this. And God confirmed this by giving sgins and wonders and various miracles and spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit.
And still we think we can just drift along? Going through the motions. Pretending to tithe our time and talents and treasure as if our half-hearted piddly contributions please God? Was God pleased with Cain’s produce when He asked for a sacrifice? No! So why do we think God will be pleased with the things we think we should give Him in stead of the things God asks for? Not even the President’s daughter can get away with wearing flip flops in the White House. Remember that ruckus a few years ago? Why do we sing “I surrender some”? Could it be because we’ve stopped listening to the Son? Could it be because we rationalize His word away? Could it be because we’ve prostituted ourselves preferring the blessings of rather than obeying God?
If so, the danger we’re facing, whether we realize it or not, is our hearts are wandering away from God. God will always love you like crazy. Whether you ever love Him back or not. But if you stop listening to the Son and obeying His Word, one day you will not want God. One day you will settle for His stuff instead. And since you’re saved by knowing God not His stuff, you’ll be lost. Absence makes the heart wander (Hebrews 2:1; 1 Timothy 6:21) and leads to salvation squander (Hebrews 2:2-3; Acts 7:53). But the antidote and greatest news is Jesus makes the heart grow fonder (Hebrews 2:9; Romans 2:4). It’s never too late because we serve a living God. He can rekindle or resurrect in us a relationship with Jesus because the same power that pulled Christ from the tomb is available to us. Philippians 2:13 promises, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” We can’t obey better on our own. Jesus gives us the desire and power to do so by His grace.
He loves us into becoming fully devoted followers of His. Romans 2:4 says it this way, “Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can't you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” He knows we’re selfish with our time and money. But that didn’t stop Jesus from loving Zaccheus. And once Zaccheus knew He was loved like crazy, he was more than willing to live like crazy and give above and beyond what what required by the law. 1 Timothy 1:8 says, “We know that the law is good when used correctly.” The problem is ever since God came down with the angels to give it, we’ve responded to it in the same way. By trying to use it win God’s approval or secure our salvation instead of allowing it to drive us to our knees to plead for His grace since we cannot perfectly keep it. They mistakenly thought that they were able of themselves to give such obedience and that their hope of salvation lay in their efforts at keeping these laws.
And still today, many of us feel the same way because there are Scriptures that talk about law and disobedience like the one we’re reading today. But it is a misunderstanding of Scripture to conclude from this verse or any other that we can obey our way to salvation. Because if we could do that, Jesus would not have had to die! Instead, He came to this earth and lived a perfectly sinless life for us. And when we accept by faith His grace and sacrifice, Epehsians 2:9 says too have been resurrected with Him and though we live on earth, by faith we are already dwelling in heaven. Isn’t that awesome?
Absence does make the heart wander. And it can lead to salvation squander. But Jesus makes the heart grow fonder! More about Jesus is the antidote to drifting. More about His love and grace. More about His sinlessness and law keeping. More about His provision. More about how He loves us even when we aren’t fully devoted to Him. Long story short: Jesus always loves into living like crazy. That’s the way it works. We know this is true because of verse 9 so take a look at that before we close. “What we do see is Jesus, who was given a position "a little lower than the angels"; and because he suffered death for us, he is now "crowned with glory and honor." Yes, by God's grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.”
Interestingly, some of the very oldest manuscripts have an alternate ending to this verse. They say Jesus tasted death “apart from God” instead of “by the grace of God.” Why? Because when Jesus in Matthew 27:46 cries “My God My God why have you forsaken Me?” quoting Psalm 22:1, they say Jesus was paying the price of the second death Revelation 20:6 talks about. And He was. The consequences of the fires of hell at the resurrection of the wicked are eternal and the separation and pain our sins brought to Jesus were overwhelming. But the most interesting thing about the passage Jesus quotes on the cross is the verses that come next in Psalm 22 which everyone back then would have been familiar though we are less familiar with. Listen to verses 3 through 5, “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them. They cried out to you and were saved. They trusted in you and were never disgraced.”
That’s the part of Psalm 22 Jesus couldn’t finish but knew everyone knew. That’s what kept him on the cross. He knew his death wouldn’t end in disgrace, but in the crowning and honor and glory our salvation would bring. He suffered death for us so we might live. Psalm 22:30-31 concludes by saying, “Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord. His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born. They will hear about everything he has done.” And we are living proof of this verse. Drifting can occur. Even to those in church. But more of Jesus and His grace can make the heart grow fonder once more.