THE BORN SUPREMACY — Episode 1
by Pastor Mike Fortune
September 3, 2011
5-Year-Old's Hurricane Reports
- Jesus creates (Hebrews 1:1-2; Colossians 1:15-17)
- Jesus sustains (Hebrews 1:3; Isaiah 30:21)
- Jesus saves (Hebrews 1:4; Hebrews 7:25; Revelation 1:4-5)
Five year old Jane was paying attention this week wasn’t she? She braved the winds and the rain falling from Hurricane Irene even in Doylestown, PA to record those adorable and simultaneously informative weather reports. They reminded me that Jesus sustains us throughout the storms of our lives. Because He created us and wants the people He SO loves like crazy to “take care” and not be “blown away.”
I think that’s one reason God inspired the book of Hebrews to be written about 65AD. Because He knew that in 70AD the Romans would arrive to destroy Jerusalem and the temple and everyone’s faith based on a building would be destroyed with it. So God inspired someone, probably the apostle Paul, to write or perhaps transcribe a letter Hebrews 13:22 calls a “work of exhortation” to prepare, strengthen, and encourage its readers throughout life’s pending storms. We think Paul wrote it because there simply weren’t very many known church leaders in the first century capable of creating the theological insights and systematic arguments inside.
And it’s a good thing he did. Because in the first century AD, there were plenty of storms raging. Even before the temple was destroyed, Hebrews 10:32,34 says Jewish believers suffered insults and persecution but stood side by side with those imprisoned for their faith. But as time went by, Hebrews 2:1-2 says they grew weary and drifted away and began to neglect their faith. Hebrews 3:13-16 says sin's deceitfulness began to harden their hearts and Hebrews 5:11-14 says they failed to grow spiritually. Hebrews 10:25 says they gradually quit gathering for church and some may have even publicly renounced Jesus (cf. Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31; 12:15-17). Does anyone else recognize the similarities between those Hebrew Christians back then and those today?
So while this New Testament book is really old, I think you’ll find it’s advice as timely as the first century Christians did. You may recall during our Wonder Women of the Bible summer series that Toledo First Church voted on what book of the Bible they wanted me to sermonize from next and after Revelation, which we’re reading about on Wednesday nights if you want more info about that join us, Hebrews was right up there in requests so I’ve entitled our back-to-school sermon series based on the New Testament book of Hebrews The Born Supremacy. You’ll see why as we read through its content. But in the first few verses we’re introduced to at least three reasons why Jesus is supreme. And we’re going to take a closer look at those today.
Let’s begin with Hebrews 1:1-4. “1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 3 The Son radiates God's own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. 4 This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names.”
The book of Hebrews begins in the beginning bringing to mind the opening lines of the book of Genesis. In the beginning God is and God speaks. “Long ago God spoke in many ways and now in the last days He is still speaking through His Son.” For centuries philosophers have argued about the existence of God. Blaise Pascal, a famous French philosopher, put it this way: “Either God is or he is not. But to which view shall we be inclined? Reason cannot decide this question. Infinite chaos separates us. At the far end of this infinite distance a coin is being spun which will come down heads or tails. How will you wager? Reason cannot make you choose either, reason cannot prove either wrong” (cited in Signs of the Times p. 11, “The Gamble” September 2011, by Graeme Bradford).
And he’s right about reason. Hebrews 11:6 says the person who comes to God must believe that He exists. That’s why faith is required to believe in God. But it also takes faith not to believe in God. We can neither prove nor disprove these opening assertions about God. But those who do see His footprints everywhere. For example, we find the name God sixty-seven times in this book. Twelve times we hear Lord instead. God we learn is the founder of all (3:4). He appoints Moses to service (3:2-5), his brother Aaron to high-priestly office (5:4), and Jesus as High Priest of a new order (5:5). God, we’re told, made all things by His word (11:3). He gives promises to humanity, adding an oath to make our future absolutely certain (6:17-18). God brings blessings and curses (6:7-8), provides grace (4:16), and remembers acts of loving service (6:10). He gives peace (13:20), warns (13:25), and delivers from death (5:7; 11:19). And as God draws near to humanity, entering into covenant with His people (8:8), the apostle calls us a “household” (3:6) or family lovingly disciplined by the divine Parent (12:3-11). But God is a “consuming fire” to those who despise His grace (12:29).
But as Hebrews 1:1 reveals, God’s major activity is speaking. We find God speaking (14 times) or saying (22 times) things a total of 36 times throughout the book. God spoke to Adam and Eve in the garden. To cain the first murderer. To Noah a preacher of righteousness. To Abram in pagan Ur of the Chaldees. To Jacob fleeing from his angry brother. To Moses and Malachi. Samson and Samuel. David and Deborah. Another wonder woman we didn’t even talk about! Jeremiah and Jehu. Who has even heard of that guy? Ezekiel and Esther.
Think too of the many ways God speaks. In Eden face to face. From Sinai with thunder, lightning, and trumpets. At night to the young Samuel in bed. To Jeremiah through a feeling of fire in his bones. To Isaiah as he enters the temple to worship. To Daniel far from home in an enemy’s land. Through both fire from heaven on Mount Carmel to a still small voice afterward when Elijah was running from Jezebel scared for his life. Through dreams and visions and Scripture and nature and even a talking donkey according Numbers 22:28!
So for believers, the question is not if there is a God. We know there is because we see His footprints everywhere! For believers, the question is not even if God has spoken in various ways. We know He has and still does. The question is: What is He saying now in the last days that began in the first century through His Son? The book of Hebrews will answer this question as we continue, but one of the first things we learn in response to it is point number one: Jesus creates. The rest of verse 2 says, “God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.” This verse in Hebrews 1, another in John 1, and another in Colossians 1 all say the same thing. It was the pre-incarnate Jesus who created everything. Listen to these words in Colossians 1:15-17. Colossians 1:15-17. “15 He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. 17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.”
When you flip open your Bible, as HMS Richards used to say, you should see Jesus in Genesis because the New Testament says that was Jesus in the Old Testament who was in the beginning doing God stuff. From beginning to end, this book is about Jesus. Jesus told the Pharisees who didn’t believe the same thing He told the two disciples walking broken hearted back to Emmaus, “These are they that testify about Me!” The Scriptures begin with God and His creativity and end with God and His grace. Revelation 22:21 says, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.”
Rightly understood, Jesus has always been the source of creativity. And long ago, His followers embraced creativity. Churches were epicenters of cultural and artistic creativity. Think about all the famous art in the middle centuries. Who commissioned and paid for its creation? The church! Who pioneered new technologies to get God’s word and subsequently all words into print? The Gutenberg Bible! Who made the most recent award winning Doritos commercial for the Super Bowl? A pastor named Erwin McManus and a team of Christians in California. Google that or send me an email and I’ll forward you the link. When someone in the church criticized this pastor for not including an overt reference to God or Jesus in the 30 second Doritos commercial, he reminded them it was about Doritos! Duh! But He also reminded them that Christians are creative because Jesus creates! That’s why I love hosting Eat-n-Greet-n-Art after church sometimes. Where we get to ooh and aah over the art of people inside and outside of our faith community. Because rightly understood, all creativity comes from Christ! David was right when he said in Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it!”
And there have always been pockets of people creating ways for God to break into the world He created to reach the world He SO loves like crazy. I’d like to think naming an entire sermon series after a trilogy of popular action movies is another way for us to break into our culture and tell the story of Jesus in compelling ways. Why? Because we were created by God to be in relationship with God. Augustine said it this way: “We are restless until we find our rest in Him” (cited in The Abundant Bible Amplifier by William G. Johnsson p. 37). If we don’t, as five year old Jane said, we might be blown away in the pending storms of this life. But this need not be. Because He’s got the whole world in His hands.
Which leads us to point number two: Jesus sustains. Hebrews 1:3 declares, “3 The Son radiates God's own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.” If you’ve seen Me, Jesus told Philip in the upper room before He was crucified, You have seen the Father. Yes the Old Testament world was full of child sacrifice and violence and blood shed. And in many ways, our world today is also full of child sacrifice and violence and blood shed. A child is sacrificed every time parents use them as pawns in their divorce. A child is sacrificed every time they are abandoned or abused. One in four girls and one in seven boys will be victims of sexual abuse before the age of eighteen (cited in Hurt People Hurt People by Sandra Wilson p.51).
But the good news of the Gospel is that Jesus was willing to incarnate Himself into this broken and violent world and take responsibility, really the blame, for things that we created. God didn’t create divorce. He created marriage. Jesus performed His first miracle at a wedding blessing the ordinance He created in Eden. God isn’t the author of violence. Isaiah 9:6 says He is the Prince of Peace. Surprisingly, God is for blood shed. But not the kind on CSI. Hebrews 1:3 says, using very familiar Old Testament sanctuary language of purging, that Jesus “When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”
Jesus was supreme before He was born. Heaven knew this all along. We on earth are still figuring it out. He created the world. And everything good in it. And because God is good and love and because we are His followers, we have created some good things in art and culture and technology. But because even His followers aren’t perfect (Hebrews 10:14 says we are the process of “being made holy”), we have also created a bunch of stuff that is not perfect or holy or even remotely good. In fact, it is straight out evil. You don’t even have to be Christian to agree that families falling apart is bad. That hurting children in any way is evil. That shedding blood is bad. These are universal truths in all religions and societies around the world.
But whether everyone in those world religions or in no religions at all realize it yet or not, every breath we breathe is gift from God. Revelation 7:1 says God’s four angels are standing at the four corners of the earth holding back the winds of strife. Epic earthquakes and floods and hurricanes and famines would be and according to Jesus in Matthew 24:8 will increase in severity and frequency like a woman’s birth pangs in labor before Jesus comes again.
So the question is not why do bad things happen to good people. Ravi Zacharias says the real question is: Why don’t more bad things happen to all of us? And the answer is because in the meantime, God is sustaining this earth. 1 Timothy 2:4 says, “God desires that all people will be saved.” But God, because He loves us, has told us that He will not sustain this earth forever because He wants to make a new heavens and a new earth. Which doesn’t mean making a different planet. It means making this planet new again. The way it was in Eden. The miraculous amazingly good news is even if we’re running scared from the evils of the world and its pending storms, like Elijah in 1 Kings 19:12, we can still hear God’s still small voice. Speaking to us through His Son. Who is in full control sitting on His rightful throne in heaven. Radiating what the Father is truly like. Isaiah 30:21 promises, “21 Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, "This is the way you should go," whether to the right or to the left.”
As crazy as it sounds to some, God is love. He and those He loves creates good things. As crazy as it sounds, God sustains. He is not author of evil. But because He is love, He’s willing to take responsibility for it. And finally, point number there: He saves. Zephaniah 3:17 says God is mighty to save. Hebrews 1:4 says “the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names” basically because Jesus creates, sustains, and saves.
One of my favorite verses in Hebrews, one I encourage you to make your memory verse as we study this book this fall, is Hebrews 7:25. Which says, “Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” Wouldn’t that look nice on your fridge at home? As your facebook status once a week? Wouldn’t it be nice if you memorized that with your kids and grandkids? Stick it on little Post-It notes by the place mats on the table?
Revelation 1:4-5 says it this way: “Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; 5 and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us.”
If the tired Christians in the first century who caught a glimpse of the supremacy of Jesus were renewed, revived, and invigorated after reading this letter about who Jesus is, what He accomplished on the cross, and how He is interceding as our heavenly high priest, you can be too! May God bless you this week as you pray, read, and share how Jesus re-creates, sustains, and saves you in the midst of life’s pending storms.