Moses

We Become That House (Hebrews 3:1-6)

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This past Wednesday, Pete Theil, Amy Gordon, Peg Pickard and I met in the morning for prayer. We started by reading Hebrews 3:1-6, meditating on it for several minutes in silence, then offering something that really stood out to us from the text. We did this twice. And though I had been prepping for one topic, I realized I have at least 6 sermons to preach out of just this paragraph.

That’s not going to happen :) What I would like to do, though, is walk through this passage with you the way our small group did. This is going to break a lot of sermon rules because these are not necessarily related topics (though you will see at the end they tell one story). But I think it might be worth a break for the normal sermon approach to highlight a way to read and focus on the Bible that may be helpful for you in your reading of the Bible. Also, there are potentially 6 topics for you to pursue further on your own this week.  Here is the passage:

 So all of you who are holy partners in a heavenly calling, let’s turn our attention to Jesus, the Emissary of God and High Priest, who brought us the faith we profess; and compare Him to Moses, who also brought words from God to all God’s people (household). Both of them were faithful to their missions, to the One who called them. But we value Jesus more than Moses, in the same way that we value a builder more than the house he builds.  Every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Moses brought healing and redemption to his people as a faithful servant in God’s house, and he was a witness to the things that would be spoken later. But Jesus the Anointed was faithful as a Son of that house. (We become that house, if we’re able to hold on to the confident hope we have in God until the end.)

  1. All of you who are holy partners in a heavenly calling.

If we are followers of Jesus, we are holy partners in a heavenly calling. That’s amazing. Also, that’s sobering.All of those who follow Jesus are holy partners. Do I treat them that way? Do I think, pray for, speak about, and speak to my fellow believers as if we are holy partners in a heavenly calling? The implications here are huge. We are fulfilling a heavenly calling as a team,and I should want this team to be as strong as it can be.

  • I must encourage, challenge, build up, and comfort.
  • I must be patient, kind, long-suffering, gentle, and bold.
  • I must love deeply, thoroughly, and exhaustively.

What would change in our lives if we filtered our attitudes, words and actions through this filter?  How would the power of the gospel be more clearly seen in us? How much more would Jesus be glorified if his people treated his people as holy partners in a heavenly calling?

  1. Let’s turn our attention/fix our thoughts on/focus on/consider Jesus, the Emissary of Godand High Priest, who brought us the faith we profess.

 This isn’t glance at Jesus; this is be riveted with Jesus.

  • When I met Sheila, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her when she was in the room. It didn’t matter what else was going on, my eyes always went to her.
  • The first several times I went to Costa Rica, they laughed at me because I couldn’t stop talking about the mountains and taking pictures. Everywhere we went, that’s what I kept looking at.
  • I have three papers at eye level in front of my desk in the office. The first is a list Delynn gave me years ago about Humility, and it lists the fruits of pride. The second is a note I wrote myself after talking with my spiritual mentor several years ago: “Trusting God to carry me = trusting God to carry others.” The third is my certificate of ordination. The first one grounds me. The second one comforts me. The third one motivates me.

What does it look like to focus on Jesus? How do I not take my eyes off of him? How do I “pin him” on the wall in front of me? What does it look like for my attention to be constantly drawn to Jesus? When we fix our eyes on something, two things happen:we are guided, and we are comforted.

  • I learned that in weightlifting, your body follows your eyes. If you are doing a squat, don’t look down or up. You will tend to fall forward or backward. Look straight ahead. If you want to plant a straight row in a field, find a landmark on the other side of the field and never look away. We are guidedby where we fix our eyes.
  • After my accident, I kept my gaze fixed on the road because I wanted that ambulance to get there. When it finally pulled into view, I relaxed. We are comfortedwhen what we have been longing for appears. (We are given hope; encouraged; we can endure).

What do I spend the majority of my time considering? What’s fixed right in front of me on the wall of my life? What guides me and comforts me? What orders my steps throughout the day, and what helps me rest?

  1. And compare Him to Moses, who also brought words from God to all of God’s people. Both of them were faithful to their missions, to the One who called them. But we value Jesus more than Moses, in the same way that we value a builder more than the house he builds. 

 The first thing I thought was that I’m not sure I tend to value the builder more than the house. Even if you build a multi-million dollar house, you want to the builder to be good, but do you really value the builder more than the house? I’ve been in and around construction for most of my adult life, and I’ve seen a loooooot of people who give their houses much more value than they do the builder. How do I know this? Because they treat the builder like crap, but they treat their house as if it were made of gold.

I think this is because we are consumers by default in our fallen nature. Our sinful nature values that things we are given more than the people who gives it. Our sinful nature values what people can do for us more than who they are. And dare I say that our sinful nature defaults toward valuing the things of God more than God. What do we think about more:

  • The healing God can give us vs. The Healer himself?
  • The friends we want God can give us vs. The Friend of Sinners?
  • The gifts of the Spirit vs. The Giver of the Gifts?
  • The comfort of God vs. the Comforter himself?
  • The way of God vs. the One who is The Way?
  • Life more abundant vs. the One who gives that life?

 There is something important about the spiritual discipline of fixing our eyes on the builder so that we never value what has been made or given more than the One who made it and gave it to us. 

  1. Every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.

 First thing that stand out: God built everything.

Second thing that stands out: who is building the house of my life? Well, as a Christian, I know God is. After he begins a good work, he keeps on going. But what outside contractors am I hiring to help him build my house?  It’s one thing to have subcontractors that the Builder brings in and uses. I think of this as Christian friends and mentors, authors and preachers and theologians and musicians who love and honor God. But am I inviting competing builders to work on this one house? That’s a disaster waiting to happen. Isn’t the command to have no other gods kind of like saying no other builders in this context?

Another way of saying this: what or whom am I choosing for my formation? We talked a couple weeks ago about spiritual disciplines, pursuing purposeful formation in Christ. I wonder, though, for how many of us accidental formation is happening in us in ways we don’t see.

  • What builds our thoughts about politics? A particular news network or party line, or the Bible?
  • What builds our thoughts about sex and marriage? Culture or the Bible?
  • What builds our thoughts about parenting?
  • What builds our thoughts about what it means to be successful?
  • What builds our thoughts about immigrants and refugees?
  • What builds our thoughts about how to run a business, or be a good employee?
  • What builds our thoughts about money?
  • What builds our thoughts about church?
  • What builds our thoughts about how we should use our speech?
  • What builds our thoughts about what’s okay when it comes to how we treat others, especially those with whom we disagree?
  • What actually builds our thoughts about God? And Sin? And Salvation? And Forgiveness?

Bidden or unbidden, we all have builders. Who are we inviting to build?

5.Moses brought healing and redemption to his people as a faithful servant in God’s house, and he was a witness to the things that would be spoken later.  But Jesus the Anointed was faithful as a Son of that house.

He delivered the Word of God faithfully. He was faithful in all God appointed him to do (Exodus 40:16).” Is there any greater compliment in the Kingdom of God than to have it said we have been faithful in delivering the word of God and bringing healing and redemption to God’s people?

  • If the questions is,“What do you want to do with your life?”the answer must be, “Be faithful in delivering the word of God and bringing healing and redemption to God’s people.”
  • If the question is,“What is God’s plan for me?”The answer must me, “Be faithful in delivering the word of God and bringing healing and redemption to God’s people.” “No, I meant like what job I should get or who I should marry or even if I should get married or….”I understood the question. You can be faithful in delivering the word of God and bringing healing and redemption to God’s people in every circumstance.

Also, there is no room for hero worship in Christianity unless it’s Jesus. The writer of Hebrews already pointed out that, though angels are awesome, they are nothing compared to Jesus. Now he’s noting that Moses, a hero to the Jewish people, is a servant in the house of God. Jesus is the Son whom Moses serves. We can’t become infatuated with servants when we have access to the Master.

I read this and I wonder: do I have a tendency to elevate servants of God higher than I should? I can simultaneously say, “That person is a faithful servant of God,” and say, “But that house needs some cleaning.”

6. We become that house, if we’re able to hold on to the confident hope we have in God. 

What house do we become? The house of God’s people, the church. That’s what we are becoming. A house full of holy partners in a heavenly calling. What a tremendous privilege and responsibility.

If…. Is this conditional? Does this mean we might not become that house of we don’t hold on to the hope we have in God until the end? We can talk in Message Plus about whether or not we can lose our salvation. For our purposes, I just want to make this point: RighteousPerseveranceis the proof of the reality of salvation. Not ease, or comfort, or signs and wonders. Not size of ministry or greatness of reputations or good deeds. Not book deals or gold dust or radio shows or a theology degree or even a well worn Bible. Righteous Perseverance.

We can tell if we are really in the house of God because we stay in the house of God in a life of surrender, repentance, and a commitment to worshiping God with our imperfect lives while we hold fast to the hope we have in Christ; that is, his love and sacrifice will cover a multitude of my sins.

And once we “be,” we start to “become”:Think of a telescope unfolding one stage at a time until it functions at full strength. Our salvation unfolds until we experience its fullest expression at the return of Jesus and in the life to come (Romans 8:24-25; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; 1 Peter 1:6-9; Revelation 2:26-28) (preceptaustin.org)

These 6 different lines of thought give us one narrative: Fix our eyes on Jesus, the Master and Builder of our house, whose plan is to work in us until we die as he builds us and builds his church into the fullness of salvation and righteousness.

Reflecting The Glory Of The Lord

“A glass can only spill what it contains.” - mewithoutyou

That’s not bad insight into life. We often hear the phrase, “garbage in, garbage out,” but that’s true of good things as well. Jesus taught this clearly:

"The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (Luke 6:45)

You don’t have to be a Christian to recognize this. What we pour into our lives is what will eventually pour out of it in some way. It’s one reason people are increasingly talking about the power of entertainment.  There are ways to filter it – there’s a lot to be said about learning how to read, listen and watch as a Christian who listens and sees through the eyes and ears of Jesus – but in some fashion, what comes in will come out.

  • CNN’s Health section online featured an article entitled “Should Smoking Trigger an R rating?”  The author noted, “For every 500 smoking scenes a child saw in PG-13 movies, his or her likelihood of trying cigarettes increased by 49%.” [1]
  • The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reported: “Youths [12-17 years old who viewed sexual content on TV] in the 90th percentile of TV sex viewing had a predicted probability of intercourse initiation that was approximately double that of youths in the 10th percentile... Exposure to TV that included only talk about sex was associated with the same risks...”[2]

What we dwell on matters. There is a reason Paul wrote to the Philippian church to focus on things that were good, true, and lovely (Philippians 4:8).  The idea of this verse is not that we retreat from anything bad – we would have to live in a bubble – but that we actively pursue a mental and emotional diet made up of predominantly wholesome things.

We all fill our glass with something. The words and actions and attitudes that overflow will reflect the abundance of images and ideas with which we have filled ourselves.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul makes a similar claim:  We will become what we see. He uses the analogy of a mirror reflecting, but the idea is the same.  

As we see and reflect the glory of the Lord, we are transfigured by the Spirit of the Lord in ever-increasing splendor into his own image.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

In essence, we are mirrors that reflect the things at which we look. It’s another way of saying that what flows out of us will be an indicator of what’s been filling us. Before we talk about that more, I need to give a context to this sentence. Paul was talking to the early Christians about the Old Testament Law. 

2 Corinthians 3:7-18

7-11 The administration of the Law which was engraved in stone (and which led in fact to spiritual death) was so magnificent that the Israelites were unable to look unflinchingly at Moses’ face, for it was alight with heavenly splendor. Now if the old administration held such heavenly, even though transitory, splendor, can we not see what a much more glorious thing is the new administration of the Spirit of life? If administering a system which ends in condemning men was a splendid task, how infinitely more splendid is administering a system which ends in making men good! And while it is true that the former temporary glory has been completely eclipsed now, we do well to remember that is eclipsed simply because the present permanent plan is such a very much more glorious thing than the old.

12-17 With this hope in our hearts we are quite frank and open in our ministry. We are not like Moses, who veiled his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing its fading glory. But it was their minds really which were blinded, for even today when the old agreement is read to them there is still a veil over their minds—though the veil has actually been lifted by Christ. Yes, alas, even to this day there is still a veil over their hearts when the writings of Moses are read. Yet if they turned to the Lord the veil would disappear, and they would understand how their Scriptures point to Christ. For the Lord to whom they could turn is the spirit of the new agreement, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom and boldness to proclaim His message.

18 But all of us who are followers of Christ do not have veils on our faces as we see and reflect the glory of the Lord. We are transfigured by the Spirit of the Lord in ever-increasing splendor into his own image.

This passage raises some questions for me: Why is the Law glorious even as it brings death? Why didn’t Moses want them to see his fading glory? How does our being unveiled reflect the glory of the Lord? Since all of this sets the table for verse 18, let’s try to work our way through these questions.

Question #1: How is the Law glorious even though it brings death? Because it was a teacher, a guide to show us how God wants us to live (Romans 15; 1 Corinthians 10). In Galatians 3, Paul wrote,

“Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.” (from The Message’s commentary)

If someone asked, “What does God want me to do?” the Israelites had an answer – 613 answers, in fact. If you had asked a follower of Baal or Molech what their God wanted them to do, they would not have known.  They just hoped they were doing the right thing, and if something went wrong, they offered increasingly gruesome sacrifices to appease a mysterious, unknowable, and petty god.

When God gave His Law, He gave something of Himself to His people.  Now the will of God could be known. Do this, not that.  And if you keep God’s laws, all will be well. We tend to think of the Law as oppressive; the Israelites were grateful that God made himself known. [3]

You can fill up with God’s law, and if you do that well, good things will overflow….

God’s covenant with His people through the Law of Moses was a conditional covenant; that is, if they kept it, good things would follow. If they didn’t bad things would follow. In some ways obedience to the law was a case study in spiritual cause and effect. That’s an idea we can wrap our minds around because we see it all the time. If we practice, work, use self-discipline – good things happen. We can lose weight or build muscle or make money or hit a softball or graduate or expand our vocabulary or play an instrument or get really good at Wii bowling if we know the rules and try hard enough….

But through his prophets, God warned over and over again: “This is not going to go well.” And it didn’t. The Law made it official that we the people (as seen in the Israelites) are never good enough.  God can tell us exactly what He wants us to do, and on our own we will just not do it. On our own, we will inevitably fill ourselves with sin even though we know it will eventually spill out of us and onto others. This is in line with how Paul describes the Law:

“The Law’s purpose was to make obvious to everyone that we are, in ourselves, out of right relationship with God, and therefore to show us the futility of devising some religious system for getting by our own efforts what we can only get by waiting in faith for God to complete his promise. For if any kind of rule-keeping had power to create life in us, we would certainly have gotten it by this time.”  (Galatians 3 as written in commentary by The Message)

The law unfortunately answers one of life’s most important questions: Can I be good if I try hard enough?  No.  It shows you the path of life,  and if you stay on that path it will give you life, but… you will wander off of it. [4]

Question #2: Why didn't Moses want them to see his fading glory?

A glory that is so obvious to everybody – and then fades -  is a problem. To all the people watching, apparently Moses was tight with God – and then he wasn’t.  I suspect Moses was ashamed of this. Pride makes us hide the parts of our life that shame us.  Ron Ritchie writes (I think correctly):

He realized that as long as he wore the veil, the people showed him respect because they believed that he was still visiting God; otherwise, why would he keep the veil on? But when Moses had not been in the presence of God, the glory of God began to fade underneath the veil…. For Moses the veil represented a false sense of competence, power, authority, glory, and pride. He used it to cover his fear and inadequacy… he sought in his own strength to compensate for the glory that had faded from his face.”[5]

That veil couldn't hide the fact that God’s glory was leaking out through the cracks made by sin. If I understand this passage correctly, Moses couldn’t keep God’s glory, and he was ashamed.

Question #3: Why are we unveiled now?

Because a) we do reflect an ever increasing splendor as we are transformed into the image of Christ,  and b) we don’t need to be ashamed when we fail.  And perhaps – much to our surprise – even in our failure the glory of God does not fade.

Let’s look more closely at Paul’s claim.  He expands the symbolism of hiding behind the veil and writes that followers of Jesus are not meant to hide.  They are meant to be on display; in his image with a mirror, they look at the glory of God without shame, and they fully reflect the permanent, ongoing transformative presence of the glory of God in their life.

Our life with Christ is meant to be an ongoing transformation in which we increasingly behold the person and work of Christ, increasingly become changed deep in the core of who we are, and increasingly become filled in such a way that we display the glory of God by His presence and work in our lives.

We remove the veil because it’s not about us. When we have the glory of Christ in our lives, it won’t be because we were awesome. It will be because “we are transfigured by the Spirit of the Lord in ever-increasing splendor into his own image.”

It’s an ongoing process. There’s no way we can escape being sinful and flawed – and that’s okay. After all, who can deny that we still have our ups and downs? We all have times when our reflection wavers, when what spills out of us when we go over the rough roads in life is just not anything we are proud of.

So what is the glory of Christ in our lives that does not fade and should never be hidden? I believe it is the grace and forgiveness that accompanies Christ’s salvation.

The way in which Jesus intends for the world to see his glory is not through our ability to live perfectly. We don’t need to be a crystal clear glass filled with AquaFina.  We can be a bottle from the trash filled with muddy rain water and still show God’s glory, because it is through God’s strength in our weakness that His glory is seen.

Let’s revisit last week. I made the point that people will reach conclusions about Jesus by looking at the people of Jesus.  That’s daunting. Here’s where we are relieved of the pressure to be perfect.

When we offer Christ to others, we don’t need to wait until we are perfectly clear of mud and junk, and we don’t need to wait to “unveil” who we are until we can present ourselves just right. We aren’t offering us to other people. We are offering a Savior who takes us with all our impurities and makes us new.

We are meant to, with uncovered lives, without shame over the visible gauge of our ability to be good or bad on full display, let God display what real glory is like in the person and work of Jesus.

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[1] http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/10/health/smoking-trigger-rating-movie/

[2] For more info on this issue, go here: https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/7022283827.pdf

[3] For a longer look at the content, context and purpose of the Old Testament law, check out the series at TC Apologetics. Here is a link to the first post in the series: http://tcapologetics.org/old-testament-law-an-introduction/

[4] “If people in our Christian fellowships today were to announce that they had decided to keep God’s law, we would probably be skeptical and alarmed. We probably would take them aside for counseling and possibly alert other responsible people in the group to keep an eye on them. We would be sure nothing good would come of it. We know that one is not saved by keeping the law and can think of no other reason why one should try to do it. This leaves us caught in a strange inversion of the work of the Judaizing teachers who dogged the footsteps of Paul in New Testament days. As they wanted to add obedience to ritual law to faith in Christ, we want to subtract moral law from faith in Christ. How to combine faith with obedience is surely the essential task of the church as it enters the twenty-first century.” ― Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God

[5] https://www.pbc.org/system/message_files/8276/4337.html