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MAKING THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE(1)

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					                               CHRIST IS ENOUGH!
                                 Hebrews 10:1-14

                             Isagani V. Deslate
               UCCP- Ellinwood Malate Church, October 28, 2007

I rejoice with you and congratulate you for your successful centennial celebration
last week. You are a living testament to God’s sustaining grace. 100 years is 100
years. Hindi matatawaran nino man ang 100 taon.

Today there is yet another reason to celebrate. 490 years ago an Augustinian
monk by the name of Martin Luther posted his 95 statements on the gate of
Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.

Luther questioned the Roman Church’s concept of meritorious works, penance,
the sale of indulgences, and the need for other mediators aside from Christ. That
ignited the spark of Protestant Reformation.

But what is the significance of being a Protestant in an ecumenical age and in a
pluralistic society? Is it still necessary to keep our Protestant distinctions? Or in
the name of ecumenism and pluralism should we discard them?

I am reminded of a story about a Buddhist, a Muslim, and a Protestant Christian
who were aboard a small plane. At 10,000 feet the plane developed engine
trouble and the pilot said, “Gentlemen, we have a serious problem. Our plane is
about to crash. We only have one parachute available so you have to call upon
your gods. Goodbye and may your God save you.” Off the pilot jumped with the
only available parachute.

Thereafter the Buddhist jumped and started shouting, “Buddha! Buddha!” Few
feet before he reached the ground, the Christian and the Muslim saw the
Buddhist levitate.

The Muslim, encouraged by what he saw, jumped next shouting, “Allah! Allah!”
He, too, landed safely on the ground.

The last to jump was the Protestant Christian. While falling he was shouting,
“Jesus! Jesus!” Seeing that he was already nearing the ground and he was not
yet saved, he started shouting, “Allah! Buddha! Allah! Buddha! Allah! Buddha!”

In a this age of ecumenism and pluralism some Christians think you have to learn
to compromise your faith and sacrifice your convictions. After all, they say, all
denominations and religions are basically the same – and that there are no
essential differences. They all lead you to God. So they think.

By all means we should learn to cooperate and work with those who do not
belong to our group or denomination.

Is it not recorded in the Gospel of Mark, 9:49-50,
    “Master,” John said, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we
    tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”(emphasis supplied)
    Jesus said, “Do not stop him for whoever is not against you is for you.”

We are to be ecumenical, and know what we have in common with those of other
Christian denominations and even those of other faiths. But we must also know
where we stand.

A man was asked by an inquirer, “Sir, what church do you belong to?” And he
said, “I belong to such-and-such a church.” “And what does your church believe
in?” “My church believes what I believe in?” was his reply. “And what do you
believe in?” I believe what my church believes in.” “And what do you and your
church believe in?” “We believe the same thing.”

We must know what makes us different – what makes us Protestant Christians in
the first place and not a Roman Catholic, or Buddhist, or a Muslim.

For us to know what makes us different, we need to go back to where we started.
One of the battle cries of Martin Luther and the 16th century Reformers was Solus
Christus – a Latin term which means “Christ alone!”

The Protestant Reformers believe, based on their understanding of God’s Word,
that salvation is through Christ alone and Christ is the only adequate mediator
between God and human beings. Why is that so?

As we look at Hebrews 10:1-14, for instance, we find at least two reasons for
believing that way.

For us to better appreciate the Scripture text for today we need to consider some
background information about the book of Hebrews. In the first century a number
of Jews who became Christians were considering of renouncing Christianity and
going back to Judaism. The writer of Hebrews wrote the letter to warn the Jewish
Christians about giving up their Christian faith, for salvation is through Christ
alone.



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We find at least two reasons why we can say
that salvation is through Christ alone.

I. OUR EFFORTS TO PAY FOR OUR SINS ARE INADEQUATE

Hebrews 10:1-4 reads,
  The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming- not the realities
  themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated
  endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it
  could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshippers would
  have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their
  sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is
  impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (NIV)

On Yom Kippur, the Old Testament Day of Atonement, more than 100,000
animals were likely slaughtered in the Temple. The blood of sacrificed animal
was collected by priests and sprinkled on the base of the altar. The carcass of
the sheep, bull or goat would be cleaned and burned on the altar.

The blood of so many animals sacrificed would run in streams through specially
built gutters flowing outside the city of Jerusalem into a brook called Kidron, and
turn it into crimson. Imagine the sounds, sights, and smells of that day.The
Temple became a slaughterhouse.

But they were not enough!

All those were not enough to permanently fix our problem with sin and restore us
to a relationship with our God. Why? The Jews have to do it again the next year,
and the next, and the next. Repetition denotes insufficiency.

Someone wrote, “Although today we don't literally sacrifice animals we are
equally caught up in our own sacrificial practices, and they are just as repetitive-
just as desperate.”

We work hard to become good, or acceptable, or successful, by sacrificially
serving the church, by giving generously to worthy causes, or by trying to live
morally upright lives. No matter how much effort we exert, they seem to leave us
with the nagging feeling that all our efforts may not be enough! Why? Because
we sin again and again. We violate intentionally and unintentionally God’s laws or
moral standard again and again.

Come to think of it, almost all, if not all religions, are built on a system of human
effort to rid oneself of sin and evil to attain perfection in order to please God.


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Interestingly, according to our Scripture passage, one of the purposes of the OT
law is not to make us perfect but to point out our imperfections, our need.
Through the law we become guilty for our sins.

For instance, what makes crossing the street outside of the pedestrian lane or
overpass an offense? The anti-jaywalking law. Without the law it would not be an
offense. But even though Filipinos are aware of the law they jaywalk just the
same.

And what makes copying videos and music for profit Illegal? The anti-piracy law.
But even though Filipinos are aware of the law they still pirate CDs, MP3 music
and DVDs.

The law does not enable us to obey it. It merely shows us what is unlawful and
points out our transgression.

Having a clear conscience does not mean the absence of sin or guilt.

C.S. Lewis wrote,
   “No man knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good. A silly
   idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. That is
   an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is…”
   [Today in the Word, November, 1998, p. 24]

I drive and I want to be known as someone who obeys traffic rules and
regulations (that is if other people are looking). So, I drive as carefully as
possible. Recently, however, even though I tried very hard to drive according to
rules, I was apprehended twice within the span of only two weeks. The first time
was for swerving. The second time was for beating the red light. What is
embarrassing is that the apprehension happened in exactly the same spot
and was done by the same traffic enforcer. Buti na lang di ako namukaan ng
traffic enforcer. Kundi ay nasabi sa akin, “Ikaw na naman!”

Some years ago a Pilipino composition became popular. Although a secular pop
song it is theologically correct. It says, Gusto kong bumait pero di ko magawa.

All our sacrificial practices and effort to earn God’s favor are inadequate and
desperate.

The purpose of God’s law is not only to point out our imperfection, our need. It is
also to point us to the perfect sacrifice, the solution.



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II. CHRIST’S SACRIFICE IS THE PERFECT PAYMENT FOR OUR SIN

We read in Hebrews 10:12-14:
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and
again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when
this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right
hand of God…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who
are being made holy.

Christ’s sacrifice, his offering of himself, is superior over other sacrifices. Why
so? Because Christ’s sacrifice is once-and-for-all.

As a proof that Christ’s one-time sacrifice of himself on the Cross is enough, the
writer of Hebrews said, Christ “sat down at the right hand of God” in contrast to
the OT priests who day by day stand in front of the altar.

In a similar vein, the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Roman Christians wrote,
   For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again;
   death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once
   for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God (Romans 6:9-10).

This is one of the areas where we differ with all the other religions of the world.
The other religions say “Do!” to earn favor with God. Protestant Christianity says,
“Done!” God did for us in Christ what we cannot do for ourselves – God
completely paid the penalty for our sin through the death of Jesus Christ.

And we cannot do anything more to add to it – Baptism, church membership and
involvement, good deeds of any kind, even sacrificial service.

Several theologians were gathered in England to discuss the uniqueness of
Christianity. One proposed that it is the incarnation of Jesus. But others objected
that gods of the Greeks and the Romans also reportedly became humans.
Another said it is the resurrection. Others again objected that we have similar
accounts in other religions. Other answers were proposed and debated upon.

In the midst of the heated discussion C.S. Lewis reportedly came in late and
asked, “What is the commotion all about?” After he was informed that the topic of
the discussion was the uniqueness of Christianity, Lewis reportedly said, “That’s
easy. It’s grace.”

Grace it is. Our redemption and forgiveness is not our own doing. It is entirely
God’s doing.


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This is also one of the areas where we differ with the Roman Catholic Church.
The Roman Church holds that the Mass- the Holy Communion - is a repetition of
Christ’s sacrifice and its celebration actually takes away sin.

Listen to the teaching of Roman Catholic Church:
   “…in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner
   on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner... this
   sacrifice is truly propitiatory." (Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, c. 2, quoted in
   Catechism of the Catholic Church).

Further in session 22, canon 3 of the Council of Trent the Roman Church curses
all who deny that the Mass is a real sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and that it truly
affects the forgiveness of sins.

The 16th century Protestant Reformers, appealing to the Scriptures as their sole
authority, protested against this doctrine. Why? What was our Lord’s cry on the
cross? “It is finished!” Literally, the Greek means, “The debt has been paid.”
Whose debt? Yours and mine. The sins that we should pay for, have been
adequately and permanently paid for by Christ’s death on the cross.

“It is finished.” There is therefore no need for Christ to be sacrificed again and no
need for us to desperately pay for our sins.

Jesus Christ is all we need for our forgiveness and redemption. The Lord Jesus
Christ adequately and sufficiently paid the penalty for our sin with His own life.
We need not add anything more to what Christ did. We need no other mediator.
All we need is Christ. No one else. Nothing more. Nothing less.


CONCLUSION

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything
in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and
admire the great works of art.

When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very
courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was
notified & grieved deeply for his only son.

About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door.
A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said,
"Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life.


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He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet
struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your
love for art."

The young man held out a package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great
artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."

The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young
man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his
son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled
up with tears.

He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for his son’s portrait. "Oh, no
sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift."

The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his
home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them
any of the other great works he had collected.

The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his
paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great
paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.

On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel.
"We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this
picture?" There was silence.

Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous
paintings. Skip this one"

But the auctioneer persisted. "Will somebody bid for this painting. Who will start
the bidding? $100, $200?"

Another voice said angrily. "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see
the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts, the Picassos. Get on with the real bids!"

But still the auctioneer continued. "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"

Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime
gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting." Being a poor
man, it was all he could afford.




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"We have $10, who will bid $20?" "Give it to him for $10. Let's see the masters."
"$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?"

The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They
wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.

The auctioneer pounded the gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!"

A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!"

The auctioneer laid down his gavel. "I'm sorry, the auction is over." "What about
the paintings of the masters?" "I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this
auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal
that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned.
Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the
paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"

God gave His Son 2,000 years ago to die on the cross. Much like the auctioneer,
His message today is: "The Son, the Son, who'll take the Son?"

Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything.

Solus Christus! Christ alone! Because Christ is enough!




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Lingjuan Ma Lingjuan Ma MS
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