Dearest brothers and sisters,
These are testing and trying times which we find ourselves in. Whilst we might find ourselves isolated from one another, with brick walls and distance between us, let us not forget what has been given to us in Jesus, and the gift he has given us in one another. We find ourselves in unprecedented times living in lockdown. This tells us something of the seriousness and severity of the days we are living in.
Yet, we do not and must not, lose hope.
What is our Hope?
Hope is one of those things peculiar to the people of God. When we grieve we do not do so as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We rejoice in hope (Romans 5:2) in all that Jesus has done for us. The Christian hope is resting entirely on the finished work of Jesus on the cross and in the tomb. Our hope is fixed on him and on his return (Titus 2:13). As the author to the Hebrews tells us we are to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1). When we lose sight of him, we lose sight of hope, and then we lose sight of everything.
In Hebrews we are reminded of just how far and wide our hope is in Jesus. He plunges into the pit we are lost in and he rescues us. He pays for each and every sin of ours from the past, present and future. He trumps and fulfils all the shadowy promises of the Old Covenant. He is better than priests, sacrifices and temples. The letter was written to Christians who were hanging on by their fingernails. It is a reminder in suffering, difficulty and in their case persecution, that Jesus is worth it all. The letter has a number of refrains but one of them towards the end is the phrase ‘Let us’. That little phrase grows more and more prevalent towards the end of the letter. One place that it appears a lot is in Chapter 10:19-25. These words first gripped my heart at 19 years old. I was in Bray at a preaching conference when Christopher Ash explained these verses. Although I don’t remember exactly what he said, my eyes were transfixed by these few verses. Even yet, I have to brush tears away when I read them.
We have a confidence to enter into the Most Holy Place. It was barred for millennia, it was forbidden for the likes of us to go in, only the High Priest could dare to peak behind the curtain and only after he had sacrificed for his own sins. But now, verse 19 tells us we have confidence to go in. We don’t peak around the curtain scared, we don’t go in shy, we don’t shuffle our feet, we don’t crawl. We are confident. We walk in like a son or daughter before the Father.
Jesus opened the way for us by his blood (v19) and he opened the curtain, that is, his body (v20) – Theses verses tell us that it is through the death of Jesus, through his blood poured out and through his body broken for us (think of communion), we are brought into the very presence of the Almighty, the Ancient of Days, the Alpha and Omega – without fear!
Since we have such a High Priest in Jesus, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith. Because of Jesus, we can go in, we can draw near. More than this, we have full assurance because our hearts have been sprinkled to cleanse us of our guilty consciences. That shamed conscience which still smarts from all our sin, which accuses us of what we know we have done, it has been healed. We have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus and our bodies have been washed that we might be clean at last.
Verse 23 tells us to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” There is our hope again. The writer tells us to hold onto him. We grasp hold of this and hold on tight to the truths that we hold dear: that whatever this cursed world throws at us, whatever each new sunrise brings, we hold fast to Jesus because we know he holds fast onto us.
Our eyes must be fixed on Jesus who is our very hope. God promised us and He is faithful. In these uncertain days when despair is the language of the nation, let us not be marked with them. Let’s shatter the rhetoric around us with a defiant word of hope. Hope is a dangerous thing in this world and ours is found in our anchor who is sure and steadfast. Hope rallies, but Christian hope does not disappoint. Hope inspires and Christian hope will not be disappointed. He is faithful, He keeps His promises. Let’s speak of the hope of Jesus, the hope of sins forgiven, the hope of resurrection, the hope that will not be put to shame (Romans 5:5).
Church Buildings are Closed. The Church is open for Business
“Let us consider how to spur one another on towards love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). It’s hard to exercise practical love in these days when we aren’t allowed to touch each other let alone be in the same room as one another. Yet, we are blessed to live in an age of phones, computers, Skype, FaceTime and Zoom. Call one another, pray down the phone, weep over not seeing each other for a while, and cry out to He who is faithful together. One day we will be together again and it will be sweeter than ever. If you know of anyone who needs prayer or support, pray for and support them in the best way you can whilst following the government’s advice. Let me or the elders know so that we might love and support as well and that we may continue to surround one another as God’s people.
Finally, we are encouraged to not give up on meeting together. We are going to keep the regular rhythm of our Midweek and Sunday Services throughout this lockdown. Make a point of going onto Facebook @trinityboardmills or the church website www.trinityboardmills.org for them at their regular times.
Try to get the word out to family members who are not online and arrange ways that they can listen in. We want (need) to do as much as we can while we are scattered to be as close to the church gathered as possible. Let’s encourage one another in these days, reminding each other of the unshakeable hope we have in Jesus. This is how this section in Hebrews finishes: we are to encourage one another all the more as we see the Day approaching. So encourage one another in prayer and devotion in these days.
The church buildings are all locked up and the people of God may be confined to their homes but the mission of God goes on. We continue to meet online whilst we are apart and we continue to carry each other confidently to the throne of grace.
I was once told that a pastor was one who smelled like his sheep because he spent so much time with them. Though I can’t be in your kitchens and living rooms, though the coffee shops are barred to us and our church buildings vacant, know that I am praying for you all, one by one, name by name. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is an obscure little line that the Apostle John uses to sign off two of his letters. I want to finish this letter off to you all with this same verse because I feel the exact same way that he did.
“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”
2 John 12
Join us if you can as we seek to continue to worship at home by logging onto our website of following on our facebook page at the times above (or catch-up at a time that suits)