But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)
he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,
how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:11-14)
I remember a few weeks back when accusations were pounding my mind. I saw my weakness and sins so clearly. The voice said to me that there was no way that one as sinful as I could every hope to minister to others. Whether it was the struggle over sins I have had for years or new sins I saw in myself the voice seemed to be speaking truth. How could one who had so many problems be presentable to a holy God for service?
Thankfully the Lord spoke Hebrews 9 to His people. I came across this section in the midst of this trial and was so encouraged. For here the Lord makes clear that the the foundational purity for our service to God does not come through us but by the sacrifice of Christ. He was sacrificed to “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
According to the section Jesus came as the Great High Priest of the New Covenant. One of the roles of the priest was to purify people and things so that they could stand before a holy God. Yet, in the Old Covenant they only had the blood of goats and calves to do it. very temporal in its effect. Yet, Christ, when he came as High Priest, gave the blood of God himself. His blood gives security which last eternally! The sacrifice of Christ on the cross makes a purchase which lasts forever. And so think, if the blood of goats and calves made one pure before God, how strong, deep, and lasting is the purity which Christ’s blood gives!? Thus, the arthur of Hebrews declares that because of Christ our consciences are purified from dead works. And now we can serve the living God.
The Christian’s works are not dead before God. To be dead is to be useless. At one point our works were useless to God. Outside of Christ there is no acceptable sacrifice. But now dead works are cleansed away. We can be useful to the sovereign God of the universe!
We can serve Him. The purity for service comes from the blood of Christ. In Him and through him sinners can offer up acceptable services to God. How wonderful this is. The level of the believer’s sin can be so deep that there is no tracing. Very pure actions can still be tainted with wrong motives in the midst of good motives. But what makes these actions pleasing to God is not the perfection of the believer but the perfection of the sacrifice which has been given for him.
How does this affect us as believer’s in Jesus?
1. We are freed from guilt to serve our God. The Lord is not waiting for us to be perfect in our service. For our imperfect offerings come to the Father through the perfect mediation of Christ. You can step out and serve in the little or big ways not worrying if God will take notice or not. He does! Our works are alive to God through Christ. Serve boldly!
2. Our works are real. The small acts of talking to the unpopular or different person. The hospitality shown to believers and unbelievers. The street preaching of the gospel that does not bare any immediate fruit are not dead! They are alive! We are cleansed from dead works and by Christ our offerings are real. We serve the living God and He is pleased!
3. We are freed to worship. When we come to worship we do not tally up our obedience to see if we can stand before Him. We confess our sins and trust in the perfect atonement of Christ. Our service of worship is purified before the Lord because we offer our praises through the perfect worship of Christ. We do not have to have everything right in our lives and with our worship practices. Because the believer is clothed in the righteousness of Christ he can worship before a holy God. And it will be accepted!
4. We can be patient with the imperfection of others. The Lord is patient with His people. He has cleansed them by Christ and yet is working to conform them in person from one degree of glory to the next. If this is the Lord’s attitude it should be ours as well. We can still love the brethren when worship and service is not perfect. Just because we see problems in some areas does not mean that God is not pleased and things must change instantly. Our perfection is in Christ and not in a local body having every line perfectly straight. Imperfect sinners can serve the living God because of their trust in Christ.
In know that one can take these points in very unbiblical directions. In no way am I say that personal holiness does not matter in service and that one does not have to be qualified to be an elder. Nor am I suggesting that one cannot hurt others by unbiblical and foolish actions being called service. Neither would a say that a church can sin as much as they want and/or teach heresy and God does not care.
What I am trying to do, as the arthur of Hebrews is doing, is putting the gospel as the foundation of service. As Paul said in Romans 6 if the gospel has gripped one’s heart they do not want to sin. They do not want heresy preach and they want to be truly loving and helping in their deeds of service. What the gospel does is give the building where these things can grow and flourish. So let the grace of Christ train you “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 3:12)