When I was a kid, I loved the movie star wars. In fact, it was the first movie that I ever saw. And perhaps the only movie I have ever seen 10 times the year it was released.
I remember clearly sitting in the left hand side of the balcony at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland California. I vividly remember the images of the space craft flying into the picture - followed by the fight scene between the good guys and the bad guys. It was mesmerizing when Darth Vader first enters the scene with his breathing and deep penetrating voice.
And as the movie continued we were introduced to other magical characters like C3PO and R2D2 and the Jawa's, the storm troopers and the cool characters at the bar.
Then the music - it just brought the whole thing together.
I was hooked. I couldn't get enough of star wars.
And so I began collecting everything star wars. I had a star wars lunch box, star wars t-shirts, star-wars posters, star wars wall paper. I even collected star wars bubble gum cards.
And every night I slept in star wars pajamas between star wars bed sheets, and in order to assure a good nights rest I had to be cuddled up with my star wars stuffed animal, Chewbacca.
When my friends came over, the game we always played was star wars. Sometimes I was Darth Vader and my friend would be OBWan Kenobi and we would fight to the death with our light sabers, or in our case . . . big sticks.
But my favorite thing stars wars were the collectible figures. They were all I could think about - I was almost obsessed about them. Whenever I had enough money, I would go to the local store and purchase a new star wars figure and I would rush home, rip the packaging open and begin hours of playing with my star wars figures.
By the time I was 9, I had collected nearly every figure that had been created and I had a star wars carrying case that I could safely tuck them away into when I wasn't playing with them. I loved these toys. They were my life.
But after awhile . . . I just sort of lost interest and these things that were so important in my life just went away - stored in an attic somewhere.
Has that ever happened to you?
Have you ever been passionate about something but after time, for whatever reason, you just sort of lost interest?
The letter to the Hebrews was written to Christians in real danger of losing their faith and the author is urging his brothers and sisters in Christ to persevere. Don't lose interest.
Let's read together Hebrews chapter 3:1-6
This text says that Jesus is both an apostle and a high priest
Now it may seem strange to you that Jesus is referred to as an apostle because we typically think of the followers of Jesus being "the apostles"
But the word apostle means someone who is sent out -and in this case Jesus is sent out by God to make God known.
He is also called a high priest. The role of a high priest is to be a sort of go-between, someone who mediates between us and God. The high priest is the only one worthy of being in the presence of God and he came to God on behalf of the people.
In this text, Jesus has a dual role as both apostle and high priest. So the word image we have here is that Jesus Christ both represents God to us and us to God.
But we have another example in scripture of someone else with this dual role. Someone the Hebrew people would be very familiar with - Moses. The one who led them out of bondage and to the promised land.
Listen to what Numbers 12:6 says of Moses as God's spokesman: ‘When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions. I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses, he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord'.
So, we see that God speaks to Moses directly and he reveals himself to Moses completely and we know that He is sent by God to make God known. Therefore, he is an apostle.
But Moses also interceded as priest.
On many occasions Moses went to God on behalf of the people and saved them from complete destruction. Think of the time Moses came down from the mountain and found the people worshipping the golden calf. Moses pleaded to God for mercy and God listened.
So Moses and Jesus certainly shared this dual role. But there the similarity ends. And the author once again makes an argument that if something is true in a lesser situation it certainly is more true in a greater situation. And he points out the these differences between Moses and Jesus.
Moses was a faithful servant, but Christ, verse 6, is a faithful son.
Moses is a servant in God's house, but Jesus is son over God's house.
Moses was elevated in God's house for a little while but Jesus built the house and will one day receive all of its inheritance.
The author of Hebrews is saying - Yes, Moses was great and he deserves honour but Jesus is better. And therefore . . .
fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess' (v. 1).
Let's read together the second part of this scripture, vs. 7-11
The Psalm quoted here (Psalm 95) relates to the time of the Exodus. The people of God were liberated from slavery in Egypt so that they might finally come to the land that God had promised them. But when the people arrived at the border things went terribly wrong.
They sent spies ahead - whose job was to check out the land before they launched the final stage of their conquest. 10 of the spies return with a desperate report. The cities are huge and fortified, they said. The inhabitants are like giants - we don't stand a chance.
Just 2 of the spies dared to disagree. Joshua and Caleb urged the people not to give up. ‘Do not be afraid of the people', they urged, ‘because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them'.
But the people wouldn't listen. They wouldn't press on into the land. In fact they decided they'd be better off back in Egypt as slaves. And because they lost their nerve, in the words of verse 10 & 11, God was angry with that generation and said ‘they shall never enter my rest'.
It was a terrible tragedy. To be so close and yet fall at the final hurdle. And so for 40 years they were condemned to wander in the desert until that whole faithless generation died out.
It is easy to feel sorry for them isn't it? Yet the writer doesn't want us to be understanding, but to be warned.
Read verse 12
We sometimes talk about losing faith as if it were like losing a hat or an umbrella. But the language of this passage would have us think very differently.
He is not talking about a struggle to believe. He is not talking about drifting away. He is talking about turning away from the living God. And this can happen to us in very subtle ways.
We take a break from praying because we are just too tired at night besides God already knows what I want.
We stop reading our bibles because we just can't fit it into our busy schedule besides I already know right from wrong.
We decide to make a poor moral decision because it won't really matter this one time.
We decide not to worship with other believers on Sunday because we don't want our great beach house to go to waste or because the game is going to be really close or perhaps the lawn has just gotten out of control besides you don't really have to go to church to be a Christian.
But each time we choose to let sin's deceitfulness win out but justifying our decisions we begin the slippery slope of drifting so far from God that you actually lose God, just like the Israelites lost the promised land.
The author is saying Fix your thoughts on Jesus; see to it that none of you has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. Don't go down the slippery slope.
If the statistics are right, then a number of us here who are calling ourselves Christians today won't be doing so in ten years time. We will have bought into our justification to abandon our faith and will eventually turn away from the living God.
How can we make sure we aren't one of them?
Well, first by realizing that these warnings aren't directed at those sitting on either side of us, they are directed at us. And these warnings aren't for a future time when we notice we are getting a bit wobbly they are for today. ‘Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today...' (v. 13).
When the people of Israel first listened to the report of the spies encamped at Kadesh Barnea it was Today for them.
Years later the psalmist wrote Psalm 95 and warned a later generation of Israelites not to follow their example and it was Today for them.
And with this letter to the Hebrews a later generation still had the same message spoken for their day.
And it is still today. God still speaks this warning.
It is ‘Today' for you and I this evening because God's word is not locked into the past - it is a living word. And today you and I will either hear God's voice or ignore it. And when we leave church this evening, our hearts will either be closer to God or just that bit harder than when we arrived.
If you are a Christian the question is ‘Will we persevere?' This passage makes the decision very stark. ‘We are his house if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast' (v. 6).
‘We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence that we had at first' (v. 14).
They say it's easier to start than to finish. The Israelites made a great start - the praise and celebration after they crossed the Red Sea was marvellous to hear. But their passion ended when it got difficult and so they lost the promised land. This is the warning from the writer of Hebrews.
As Christians, we must know that praying a prayer isn't all it takes to be saved. We have to persevere. And none of us should imagine we are beyond danger.
Being leadership in a church, facilitating worship, leading a community group or being ordained doesn't guarantee that we will finish. Every day you and I are asked the same question by God: do you still believe me? Every day he wants to know if you and I are holding firm the confidence we had at first.
Which is why we are given the advice in verse 13: ‘Encourage one another daily'.
What could be more important than that? To be encouraging others to keep going and having others encourage us.
We do it just by showing up - encouraging others by our presence. It reminds us that we are in this together and we can do this together.
We do it by our example, by words of encouragement and by reminding each other of the faith. It is the activity of a good Christian friend. Is that what we are to one another?
And we do it by reminding each other of the faith we once held so dearly.
And I believe that we do this by sharing our faith with others. When we see the joy that have when they find Jesus for the first time, reminds us of the joy we once had.
A few years ago, Paden found my star wars figures and he wanted to play with them. My first response was to tell him that he was not allowed to play with them because they were sacred. I didn't want my sacred toys getting played with by an little boy who didn't understand the importance of these figures and might break them. Even though I wasn't playing with them either.
But after a few months of prodding, I brought out the star wars toys and allowed Paden to play with them. Watching the joy he found in my star wars figures reminded me of the joy I once had and although ½ of them are now broken and the carrying case had to be thrown away, I was reminded that it is better to play with them than to have them tucked away and not allow others to experience the joy. The best part is that is that I too got to experience the joy again.
Suppose in a few years you or I come across the first Bible we ever owned. What emotions will it spark? Will it feel odd to think that Christianity once mattered so much? And just a bit sad that all that enthusiasm came to nothing? Or will you have persevered? Will you still be trusting in Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess?