Thabiti Anyabwile, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman Island
Greetings from Grand Cayman. Thabiti Anyabwile, loosely translated, actually means Kevin O’brien.
Remember tonight those who can’t freely meet to hear the Word of God
The theme for the conference is “Living the God Centered Life”. Question: what else should our life center on if not God? God is supreme in all things but easy for the world to encroach, easy for our eyes to wander to lesser things. Even ministry can compete, as can family, vacations, can intrude upon the place God alone should hold. We need to learn to resist that which clamors for our attention.
Meditate over three talks in the book of Hebrews. Would like to consider Chapter 1 tonight, then Chapter 7 & 8 following nights.
Hebrews 1:1-2:4, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God's angels worship him.” Of the angels he says,“He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.” But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” And, You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? 2:1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 1:1-2:4 ESV)
Three points on which to hang our thoughts tonight:
I. God speaks. II. The Son is God. III. There is no salvation without the Son.
I. God Speaks
Hebrews 1:1,2, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (ESV)
God is the first speaking being in all creation. When God first spoke there was nothing and it became something. Considering the awesomeness of his word and that we speak, how profound it is that we do this thing called talking. We are but a dim reflection of God with this capacity to speak to us and him. How important is every word God speaks. Thinks this is why the book James tells us about the importance of our words. Words are important. Perhaps this is why Jesus says we will be judged by every idle word.
Heb. 1: 2, “…but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (ESV)
Something here of what we call progressive revelation. Progressively revealing more of himself in various ways. In the past, sometimes speaking through prophets, dreams, but in these last days God speaks to us through his Son, the final and climatic word, the last word on who He is and what is required of us. If we would hear God speak we must hear Jesus.
John 1:1 and 1:14 tell us of the incarnate word of God, the last days, final climatic revelation of who God is. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (ESV)
With Jesus we are not left to wonder. Recognizing where and in whom God speaks is the foundation and beginning of living a God centered life.
Not everyone understands this. A comment left on his blog not long ago demonstrates listening to God in all the wrong places. This person said he studied every world religion, and now doesn’t believe the Bible, because it is man’s words made up by his own free will. Person went on to say he can’t imagine any father who would forsake his own son. Thinks pagan religions have some merit. Has now started his own belief in a very spiritual, more loving God. Oddly, he doesn’t see a problem using his own free will to create a belief.
Whenever someone rejects the Bible they always end up worshipping a God of their own making.
Thabiti wonders aloud if there is anyone here tonight who has similar leanings. Perhaps you would prefer a softer, gentler, tailored God. How would you explain the creation of the universe? How man was created, given ability to speak in sometimes hurtful ways? Where does sin come from? Where does guilt come from? Why would you call anything wrong?
Christians are often mocked, maligned for believing an ancient book. What if we are right, if in fact in this book God is speaking, and in his son in these last days? Do you really want to think that you have a better idea? Thabiti notes that every time he tries to make something up it fails.
God speaks in the Bible, and speaks clearly and reliably through the Son.
II. The Son is God
Heb 1:2-3, “…but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… (ESV)
These two verses are simply amazing, they are so full.
Used to work at a non-profit in N.C. training disabled people to work in society. Was trying to help a man named Dexter, born mentally retarded. Dexter was so enthusiastic, his favorite word was Wow. But he was hard to employ, couldn’t keep a job and doesn’t interview well. After getting and losing many jobs, went with him on one last interview. He bombed. Went walking with Dexter trying to figure out what to do next. Dexter is constantly saying Wow at everything. After a while points to the ground and says “wow, did you see that?” Consumed in his thoughts, Thabiti says yes. Then noticed that all of a sudden Dexter got real quiet, looking puzzled. Thabiti turned around asked what was the matter. Dexter said, “If you saw that, why did you step in it?”
Notice what the word says about his Son, four things. Consider the person of the Son.
1) The Son is appointed heir of all things. The son has inherited all that is, and all that is, Christ declares, “Mine”, as Kuyper puts it.
2) In addition, he is the one who creates all things.
3) Look at Jesus, he is the radiance of God’s glory. Remember Moses beseeching God to see his glory. Remember Isaiah seeing God in heaven, the temple filled with glory. In the Old Testament, the highest blessedness is to look upon the face of God, the worst curse to have God turn his face away. Jesus is the reflection the Shekinah Glory. Remember when God departed, the glory departed, Ichabod?
4) He is the exact representation. Wonders if his blog commenter’s religion is the exact representation of God’s being? How do you exactly represent the essence of God? God did it by sending his Son. The God Man reveals his glory, the exact representation. In Philippians 2:6, “…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…” (ESV)
Col 1:15-19, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…” (ESV)
Jesus is the only container that can hold the fullness of the godhead.
Have you every met anyone who created all things, radiated God’s glory, was the heir of all things, and was the exact representation of God? This is the person we would watch if we would live a God centered life.
Look what he goes on to say, three things that you can take away from this.
1) Jesus sustains all things by his powerful word. The universe hangs not by a thread, but by a word. Remember when your world is falling apart you are not hanging by a thread, you are held together by God’s powerful word.
2) Look what has done for us. He provided purification for sins. The reason men make their own God is because they don’t believe in the depth of their sin. When they invent gods they don’t have a problem with our sin. Sin is our problem. Sin blocks us from seeing the righteousness, the goodness of God. This is good news: God himself has purified us, his Son, the word, has come with a message, our sin is cleansed.
Not long ago was reading The Kite Runner. In it, the main character’s friend is abused, and he never deals with the abuse and never confronts the abuser, and as a result his conscience is troubled. One day he gets a phone call from the other side of the world: there’s a way to be clean again.
Jesus has come to us with a word—there is a way to be clean again. There is a fountain filled with blood, we sing. The sinless son of God has lived his perfect sinless life to satisfy the claims of God. Through faith we are united with God. When the father looks upon those who are in Christ he see their sins cleansed. Gods grace in Christ has freed us from our sins. There is a way to be clean again.
Tonight if you have never turned from your sin, to say “I believe you are the son of God, say I trust you I renounce you as my own”, if you have never done that, do it tonight. His wrath is infinite, flee from it and turn to him. Every promise is yes and amen in Christ. Call upon the name of the Lord. Talk to the person you came with tonight to help you find that life which is eternal. Talk to someone here. The son has come.
3) When he was finished and nothing else needed to be done, so he sat down. Do we know what riches we possess in him? How can you be declared righteous in him? By trusting in him, in what he has done, so that all that he is covers all who we are.
III. There is no salvation without Jesus.
Hebrews 1:4 and following, the author does this thing with name above angels. What is the meaning of this?
In Acts 7:53, Stephen describes his accusers as those who received law put into effect by angels. Even today some believe there are greater messengers, Islam, Jehovah’s Witness, Adventists. The argument in Hebrews is the angels cannot hold a candle to Jesus. The son is the Son, exalted to a higher position. The Son must be worshipped and served by the angels. How you considered how striking it is that God should command someone be worshipped?
Hebrews 1:8-9, The son will remain, sits at the father’s right hand. The son will be exalted.
This is why the writer of Hebrews gives one application: Chapter 2:1, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (ESV)
Failing to give careful attention to the son and all he provides risks losing all.
The Gospel needs to be preached daily. We don’t just begin with the gospel, we never move beyond the cross and the tomb…it is the center. Everything God has done is through Christ, so they will remain in this message and not depart.
Consider the great question in 2:3, if every transgression is punished, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? That phrase, such a great salvation, don’t know why but when he thinks of it he hears Johnny Carson. Remember he would say, “That was so great” and then he would ask, “How great was it?”
How great is this salvation?
- It’s so great it takes ruined sinners and turns them into children of God.
- It’s so great that all our sins past and future are nailed to the cross.
- It’s so great it’s unending.
- It’s so great it takes spiritual orphans and reconciles them, adopts them into God’s household.
- It’s so great, while we were yet sinners, we were reconciled.
- It’s so great it simultaneously justifies and sanctifies.
- It’s so great it allows us to behold the face of God, Psalm 17:15.
- It’s so great we are just pilgrims in this world headed to a world where there is no more death, where he will wipe away every tear.
How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?
Hebrews 12:25 gives a final warning—if they did not escape, how will we?
First part, see to it you do not refuse him who speaks. There is one tonight who speaks, who is faithful when we are faithless.
We remain centered in his love when we focus on Jesus.
Four things to take home tonight:
1) Dig, dig, dig into his word.
2) Study with others. What should we speak with others? His word, the encouragement that comes from the gospel.
3) Attend the public preaching of his word. What a privilege to meet in the middle of the week to hear God’s word proclaimed.
4) Take the word to others. Hebrews calls us to go outside the camp where others are, knowing him and making him known, that others might know the joy of his great salvation.
Live a life centered on his word in Jesus Christ.