I want you to think back to the last time you did something “spiritual” or “noble” or just “nice.” Right before you set out to do your good deed, did you happen to have a little flare–up of your human nature? Like maybe throwing a few choice thoughts at the scruffy–looking guy with the backpack sauntering through the crosswalk as if he had all the time in the world… when you were running late to help with your church's Christmas dinner for the poor.
When we are at our best, we dream and make plans. But throw in a reminder of just how imperfect we are… and we retreat. If every good work that I ever did had to be preceded by “perfection” for say… three or four hours… I would have to disqualify myself just about every time.
You are no threat to the devil when you're thinking those big thoughts. You only become a threat to evil when you start acting out those big thoughts. And what better way to stop you than to convince you that you don't quite measure up to your plans. What better way to stop you than to convince you that you should wait awhile until you are a little better behaved.
If we lived back in the old covenant times we would have a conscience of sin. (Please study again Hebrews chapter 10). The homeless guy we wanted to run over because he was blocking the intersection and a huge list of our other infractions would constantly remind us, that under the old covenant we didn't measure up. The sacrifices we would make would keep us from a future hell, but not from the present hell of a guilty conscience. The sacrifices we would make not only would not protect us from a guilty conscience—they would continually remind us of how inadequate we were.
Then along comes God the Son walking the earth as man. And He does the impossible. He makes a sacrifice on the Cross, so perfect that it swallows up that conscience of sin.
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (Hebrews 10:14).
Somehow… some way… there's a place we can go where we are free from a guilty conscience. There was a sacrifice made that was so perfect, it perfects us.
But we act as if we've never outgrown the sacrifices of the old days. We are continually trying to sacrifice something to ease our guilty conscience. (And this is not limited to just Christians. Religious people all over the world are obsessed with their guilt.)
What better way to stop our progress than to hear just how badly we miss the mark? Let me make myself very clear. I am against sin. I hate sin. But nobody ever stopped sin by trying to not sin. That lasts about three months on average, and then the same old ugly returns. If you are fighting your human nature with your human nature, you will always lose.
I have heard it said that there needs to be more preaching against sin. From looking at the culture in America, that seems quite reasonable. But people who are trying to be good don't need to hear about their weakness; they need to hear about God's strength.
Back when I owned my furniture factory there would be times when several people throughout the factory needed some correction. But a strange thing always happened when I called a general meeting. The ones who were truly guilty didn't hear a word I said. It seemed that it was my most conscientious employees who thought they were the guilty ones. The conscientious employees didn't need criticism; they needed a vision for the company and their part in that vision.
If you struggle with guilt and condemnation, you don't need to be working on your weakness. You need to be concentrating on His strength. You don't need to be closing yourself off from God and beating yourself up as a sort of sacrifice for your sins. You need to be boldly opening yourself up to Him—expecting Him to write His perfection on your heart.
Throughout this chapter we are reminded, we have a sacrifice that actually fixes our guilt problem. Jesus “… by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (v. 14).” Jesus intends for us to live free from condemnation and guilt so that we can declare to each other: “Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22 NLT).”
Wow… that will leave our guilt and condemnation behind us, covered in the dust! And we're good to go until we hit verse 26. It's as if those words are in bold type. It's as if those words demand us to go back and pick up our guilt and condemnation. It's as if every preacher on every channel and in every pulpit is yelling those words:
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:26‐27)
And we are doomed. Jesus' sacrifice somehow didn't work for us. We say, “I just can't measure up. And I never will.” And every lofty ideal… every creative idea… every vision… everything He has wired into us is at risk of being put on hold indefinitely, while we try to figure out how to measure up.
This is insanity. Look around you. You and I are all He has to work with. He doesn't need your perfection; he needs your cooperation. Please stop it. At least say, “I just can't measure up… without Jesus. And I never will… without Jesus.” At least that is a true statement. Then go look up “wilfully.” The Greek word is “hekousios” which means: “Voluntarily, willingly, of one's own accord. To sin willfully as opposed to sins committed inconsiderately, and from ignorance or from weakness.”
If you are reading this article, I can assure you that you are not one of those people headed for “fiery indignation.” If you care whether or not you are one of those people, then you are not one of those people.
To help you in understanding this passage and the one in Hebrews 6:4–6, think of this simple illustration:
Picture all of humanity out in the middle of an ocean. Some of us are better swimmers than others. But eventually, we're all going to drown without some help. God is in a big boat—big enough for all of us. And He throws each of us a rope. That rope is our salvation—our eternal life. Now if I'm an especially good swimmer then I might be cocky enough to think I don't need the boat, but I will still eventually drown. In fact I will ultimately drown for whatever reason I refuse to grab the rope. So what happens if I do grab the rope and hold on to my salvation, but don't follow the correct rescue procedure? Am I in danger of drowning for acting stupid in the water? What if I'm torn between the boat and the water? What if I tie the rope around my leg—just in case—so I can play around in the water for a little longer?
As long as I am connected to that rope in some way or another, then I will eventually reach safety. But if I pull out my knife and intentionally cut the rope that is pulling me to safety, then I will drown.
God is not trying to disqualify you. Stop trying to disqualify yourself. Please stop spending your energy on trying to not be the person you don't want to be. That is like trying to learn to ride a bicycle by trying to not fall over. Nobody learns to ride a bike by trying to not fall over. Focus on where you are going.
Spend your time on trying to be the person God made you to be. It is much more rewarding.
Have a good day,