By Rev. Heidi L. Barham | November 14, 2021
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Read Hebrews 10:19 – 25 (NIV)
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. O what a foretaste of glory divine…” These are the opening lines to one of my favorite hymns that was written by a woman named Fanny Crosby. Perhaps you have heard of her.
Fanny Crosby was born back in 1820 and has been credited with writing thousands of hymns, some which have been set to music and some which have not. She also wrote multiple volumes of poetry and was afforded the opportunity to meet many notable dignitaries like Presidents, Van Buren and Tyler, as well as senators, governors and generals.
She was not only a prolific writer, she was also a teacher of English grammar, rhetoric, and American history. She and her husband taught at the same institution. And Fanny Crosby did all of that, in spite of the fact that she was blind… and had been blind since she was just six weeks old.
Her story serves as a reminder to us that we should not allow the challenges and obstacles we may encounter in life to become hindrances to fulfilling the purpose God has for our lives. Fanny Crosby is a woman whose life bears witness of the BLESSED ASSURANCE that comes when we accept Jesus as our Savior and continue to draw ever closer to Him.
Now as we look at our New Testament lesson for today, the writer of Hebrews draws our attention to the confidence, indeed the BLESSED ASSURANCE that we can have, because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us at Calvary which pulled back the curtain that once separated us from God.
As I started thinking about that curtain, a few things came to mind.
Several years ago, I preached a sermon based on this same text entitled, “What’s Behind the Curtain.” And in that sermon, I talked about the curtain that separates first class passengers from the other passengers on a plane. And I also talked about the curtain on the game show, Let’s Make a Deal, that keeps contestants from seeing whether they have selected the Deal of the Day or if they have chosen a Zonk instead.
But as I reflected on that earlier sermon, it also brought to mind one of my favorite childhood movies, “The Wizard of Oz.” I was reminded of the scene when Toto pulls back the curtain and reveals Professor Marvel, the man who has been pretending to be the great and powerful Oz… and once he realizes that Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Man can actually see him, Marvel utters that famous line, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” But too late… the gig is up as they say… The “professor” has been exposed for the charlatan that he is.
Then as I began to think more about these curtains as they relate to the curtain we read about in our text for this morning, there were some things that stood out for me.
The first thing of note that the text highlights is that Christ’s sacrifice for us, His body and blood, pulls back the curtain and makes it possible for ALL of us to come into the presence of God.
Back in the time of the Old Testament, there was a curtain in the Temple that sealed off the view of the Most Holy Place. In those days, only the high priest was permitted to enter that holy space… and that was allowed only one time a year, on the Day of Atonement, which was the day when the high priest would offer a sacrifice for the nation’s sins.
Today we have the BLESSED ASSURANCE that Jesus became the perfect sacrifice that has been offered once and for all as the atonement for all of our sins. When Jesus gave His life for us at Calvary, the curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom... forever opening the way for us to come before the Lord, at all times, not just once a year… and forever opening the way for us to spend eternity in the kingdom of God… giving us all equal access.
Now as I thought more about that curtain, I was struck by the stark contrast to some of the other curtains I mentioned earlier. For example, the curtain on a plane is an indicator of sorts, representing the separation between what some might consider “the haves and the have nots.”
There has been only one time that I was able to sit in first class on an airplane and that was because there was a relatively inexpensive option to upgrade for one leg of my trip back from General Assembly a few years ago. But when I think about that section of the plane being referred to as “first class” … there is something that does not sit so well in my spirit.
Because in order for there to be a “first” of something, the implication is that there is something else that is “second” or perhaps even “last” … otherwise, what is the point in identifying something as first?
Now, rarely, if ever, do we hear of something being called “last class” except perhaps at a school… but we most certainly have all heard of someone or something being referred to as “second class” … and let me say, that is not generally a designation that comes with a high degree of honor or distinction.
But thankfully the Lord makes it plain that He does not consider any of us to be second-class. And let me just add that He does not want us to treat others as second-class either.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4) … going on to say that we should have “the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
Now, having the same mindset as Christ means being willing to put the needs of others ahead of our own and it also means we should not consider others as “less than,” as second class…
We are all precious in God’s sight and we have the BLESSED ASSURANCE that comes with knowing His love went to that cross at Calvary for each and every one of us.
And then I thought back to that curtain on Let’s Make a Deal…
the curtain that is designed to hide the truth of what type of prize awaits the contestant, whether it is the Deal of the Day or a Zonk. If you’re familiar with the show, you know that the host will often try to entice the contestant to trade the unknown gift that is behind the curtain for a different unknown prize or for a certain cash amount. The contestant then has to weigh the odds as to whether or not what the host is offering could actually be better than what’s behind the curtain.
But isn’t it good to know that we never have to guess about what Jesus offers to us?
As we read in 1 Peter 1:3-4
The ultimate prize that awaits us is something far greater than the Deal of the Day, and it comes with no possibility that we will get zonked.
The hope that we have in Jesus gives us the BLESSED ASSURANCE that we have an inheritance that will NEVER perish or fade. It is the promise of a treasure in heaven that can never be destroyed by moth or rust and where no thief can ever break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-21). Far greater than the Deal of the Day, it is the Deal of a Lifetime… actually, it is the Deal of Eternity.
And then I got to thinking about the curtain in the Wizard of Oz… the curtain that Professor Marvel hid behind as he sought to deceive Dorothy and her companions into believing he was some great and powerful wizard who had the ability to grant the Scarecrow’s wish for knowledge, the Tin Man’s wish for a heart, the Lion’s wish for courage and Dorothy’s wish to go back home to Kansas.
Sadly, there are many people in this world who use the power of deception to try to trick others into believing all kinds of things. It is why we must remain vigilant and be on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Peter said it like this in 2 Peter 2 (1-3):
And Paul had this to say to his protégé, Timothy, in 2 Timothy 4 (3-4):
Despite the false teachers, false profits, and false doctrine that abounds, we have the BLESSED ASSURANCE that there is absolutely no trickery or deception when it comes to the Lord…
He will do just what He has said He will do. In fact, Paul put it this way in his letter to the Corinthians, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
And that goes along with verse 23 of our text for the morning which reads, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” All of which means we have the BLESSED ASSURANCE that, no matter what, God’s promises are true.
And because we have that assurance, our text encourages us to encourage one another… to love one another… to do good deeds for one another… and most of all to continue worshipping with one another, building one another up, supporting one another… until that day when Jesus returns… a day which feels like it is closer now than ever.
And although, there are people and things in this world that have the potential to lead to division among us, we are reminded that God calls us to live together in unity and peace.
The Psalmist David said it like this, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalms 133:1). And in Ephesians 4:3, we read, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
What it all boils down to is this, we can live in unity and peace with one another, in spite of our differences, because Jesus’ death on that cross at Calvary gives us the BLESSED ASSURANCE that we are all equally loved by God and have equal access to the gift of eternal life.
When we surrender our lives to Jesus, we have the BLESSED ASSURANCE that there is an inheritance that awaits us that is a treasure that can never be destroyed.
And along with that, we have the BLESSED ASSURANCE that God is faithful and that His promises are true… which means when the day comes, we will see Jesus who has promised to come back for us so that we can spend eternity with Him.
But until that day comes, there is an open invitation that has been extended to us to not only live together in peace and unity, but to join together as brothers and sisters in Christ as we come to the Table of the Lord…