JOY, a very small word with a huge meaning – it is so much more than just a feeling of well-being, which is part of it – it goes beyond feelings – it is more than peace because it is an active word whereas peace is a sort of passive experience. The enigma is that if it is studied or sought-after it seems to sort of keep slipping out of our grasp – yet it is to be found in the form of a person – Jesus Christ. It is in the fact and experience of having a relationship with the Person Jesus, that real joy arises – a sense and experience of wellbeing which is unable to describe exactly and when it is there spontaneously as an outflowing of our relationship with Him, we can sing and remind ourselves of its benefit. It is not the same as happiness because we can experience it even in the darkest moments, because all the time it is part of being ‘in Jesus’. But, as I said, if we try and seek it it keeps slipping out of our grasp.
Back to Hebrews 10. When I studied ‘Doctrine’ as part of the Moore College course, I was somewhat taken aback to find that there are sins described in the Old Testament, which were not taken care of by the sacrificial system, which God had introduced as a symbol of the real forgiveness, later to be available through Jesus’ death on the cross. This is described in Numbers 15:29,30 and reflects directly in the statement in Heb. 10:26 ff. They are sins of continual, willful disobedience as compared to all other sins which are committed inadvertently.
So we have now come a full circle after the warning in Heb. 2:1 of the danger of slipping back. The wonderful work of Jesus as high Priest has been clearly laid out and the word “confidence” has been repeated several times. 3;6; 4;16; 10:19, indicating the assurance we can have that that work is lasting and complete. However the letter is addressed to all the Jewish congregation of whom some appear never truly have come to faith.
It is interesting to note that some of those who were slipping back had actually been part of severe persecution vv 32-33. So friends, where the writer speaks several times of the ‘House of God’ cf 3;4ff and 10:21, there are clearly then and still today, those who are sharing in everything that we as Christians do, yet who have not truly believed. These are the ones who are in danger of turning away completely and willfully denying Christ, for whom there is no forgiveness. This is the same as the ‘unforgiveable sin’ (Matt 12:32) and ‘the antichrist’ in 1 John 2:22. Those who are guilty of this are totally unaware of it and spurn any conversation about it, so anyone who is concerned for themselves should understand it is not referring to them.
However the warning of slipping back remains equally important throughout and the only real sign of true salvation (10:36) is the perseverance in the faith. The first and most important factor to resist the possibility of slipping back is understanding and trusting in Jesus work, as high priest and sacrifice on our behalf, continually drawing near to God through Him cf,10:22. That is the true basis of our faith and the one which we must continually take our stand.
In this passage of today comes a second and equally important counter to our tendency to slip away and that is contained in the encouragement in vv 22-25 to interact with each other to ‘spur one another on to love and good deeds’ (10;24). We all need encouragement and love. We are all subject to different moods and experiences which may cause us to doubt God’s love. Ours is a wonderful path but one full of so many difficulties and God wants us to tackle this path together as a community. So that together we can say with the writer in 10:39 ” We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved”.
So what do I hear God saying to me? This is a clarion call to continue encouraging you all in this difficult time of Covid which is, in a way, wrenching us apart. Each one of you should also seize every opportunity to ‘spur one another on to love and good deeds’, whether by meeting together or whatever other means God places at your disposal.