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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                                                           Sermon # 1208

April 19, 2015                                                                                                Hebrews 10:19-25

Dr. Ed Pettus 

“Holding Fast”

 

1.Hang in there!

 

I am not a fan of cat posters or, these days, cat pictures in emails or Facebook, but I’m sure you’ve seen that cat pic with the cat hanging off a limb or a rope with the caption to “hang in there”.  The biblical expression for “hanging in there” is to hold fast.  If you need a cat poster to help you hang in there, more power to ya, but perhaps what we need is a word from God to help us hold fast to what we have believed.  In the world today, as it has been for many generations, we need words of encouragement and hope.  We need words that inspire our faith and courage when the world is killing Christians in some places and dismissing them as intolerant in others.  We need the powerful living word of God in our hearts and minds so that we might be ready to defend the calling we have received in Christ Jesus.  We need to know why it is important to hang in there. 

It has always been this way for Christians, with the exception perhaps, of about 200 years in this country.  It has always been this way for Jews, with the exception of a few hundred years dispersed throughout history.  It has been this way for God’s people, to be treated like Jesus was treated.  Jesus always had opposition, even as an infant.  Jesus had people out to destroy him.  And it was Jesus who told his followers that they would be treated the same way precisely because we are followers of Jesus.  Why is this so?  Paul helps us understand in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  Our message is instantly discredited by those who are perishing, by those who do not believe, by those who refuse to submit to the message of Christ.  But to us, it is the most amazing life giving message ever given and ever lived in the person of Jesus Christ. 

The Bible encourages us to hold fast to this message and to hold fast in many ways. 

 

2.The Marriage Metaphor - Genesis 2:24 & Mark 10:7

 

One of the expressions to hold fast comes from marriage.  Genesis 2:24 and later by Jesus in Matthew and Mark, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  The reason I bring this for consideration is to look at marriage as a metaphor for faith.  This does not mean you have to be married for this to apply, only that the Bible presents marriage as a model for fidelity and commitment for holding on to another.  The connection is in covenant.  For instance, in our understanding of marriage in the EPC, marriage likened to the church and Jesus.  In the “Sanctity of Marriage” position paper we read, “because the marriage covenant is to reflect the strength of God's covenant love for His people (Hosea 3:1)”  “…the Apostle Paul demonstrates that this “profound mystery” is analogous to the spiritual relationship between Christ and His church. “I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31- 33).” 

            My point is to say that healthy biblical marriages reflect the way we hold fast to Jesus Christ and the way God holds fast to us.  Christ loves the church, his bride, and we love Jesus, the bridegroom.  To hold fast here means to be faithful, to yield oneself to another, to be vulnerable and giving.  We hold fast in fidelity to our relationship with Jesus.

 

3.Hold on to God - Deuteronomy 10:20

 

Deuteronomy 10:19-21  19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.

            To hold fast to God means to be obedient, to trust, to serve, to honor with our words and commitment.  It means keeping the commandments of worshipping God alone, loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. 

 

4.Hold to God’s Word - Proverbs 4:4

 

Proverbs 4:4 “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.

Proverbs 4:13  “Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is you life.”

 

Philippians 2:14-16  14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

 

Second to holding on to God is holding fast to his words.  In those words is life itself.  When we look at these three selections they hold together the word and life.  Hold fast my words and live, she is your life, and holding fast to the word of life.  When people contemplate the meaning of life this is where we turn to show them the meaning, for it is in God’s word!  When people reach some level of fame or fortune they still feel empty and unfulfilled.  Is this all there is to life?  And we know that the answer is no.  Life is not in riches or fame or reaching the top of any profession or the top of anything, but real life, life that matters for now and eternity is in God and his Word. 

 

5.DO NOT hold fast to deceit - Jeremiah 8:4-6

 

People do try to hold on to riches and fame and success, but the Bible shows us that those things do not give life.  This is the truth and to hold on to that falsehood is a deceit. 

Jeremiah 8:4-6  “You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord: When men fall, do they not rise again?    If one turns away, does he not return? Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding?  They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return.  I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’  Everyone turns to his own course, like a horse plunging headlong into battle.

Sometimes we hold fast to deceit without knowing it.  I think this verse speaks to either being deceitful or holding on to the things that are deceiving us.  If anyone does not turn to God, they cannot help but hold on to things that deceive and those things help us to deceive ourselves. 

 

Let’s get back to the positive side of holding fast!

6.Hold Fast to what is good - Romans 12:9

 

Romans 12:9-10  Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

 

What is good?  What constitutes good?  It is like the question asked of Jesus, “What is truth?”  Good is known by knowing God’s word and God’s way and God’s Son who is the Truth.  Of course, in the world today people will distort the truth.  They will twist God’s words to meet what they themselves believe to be good.  Paul exhorts us to hold fast to what is good and the way we know good is to follow God’s word.  At the beginning of this chapter in Romans Paul tells us how to do this, a verse I quote often,

 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:1-2

Transforming our minds in God’s word enables us to discern the will of God which is good!

 

7.Hold fast to the gospel - 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

 

1 Corinthians 15:1-8  Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

 

Holding fast to the word is pinpointed to the gospel that Paul had preached to the church.  As the Bible points to Jesus Christ in both Testaments, so now we focus on that gospel as we share the news with others.  Paul reminds the church to hold fast to the gospel, to the good news about Jesus Christ.  The more the world seeks to pull us away from the gospel they more we will need to hold fast to it.

 

8.Take hold of true life - 1 Timothy 6:12, 19  (Add 19 to your outline)

 

1 Timothy 6:11-19  11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before  Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

 

As I have already shown in the passages above from Proverbs and Philippians, real life is in God’s word and that word here shows us that life is also in eternal life with God.  The life we live here on this earth should reflect righteousness, godliness, faith, love as well as good works of generosity. 

 

9.Hold fast to the confession of our hope - Hebrews 10:23

 

Hebrews 10:23   Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 

 

Perhaps this verse could summarize all the above, that we confess to hold fast to God and his word and his good and his faith and his gospel and his life.  We hold fast without wavering in the face of opposition, just as Jesus held fast through his suffering and death.  We hold fast because God is faithful to us even when we might falter in our own faith.

 

10.Holding fast in a world of darkness.

 

This almost sounds like one of those voice over guys for movie trailers.  “In a world of darkness and sin, holding fast becomes a way of life for Christians!”   Every generation of believers has had reason to hold fast, and ours is no different.  Hold fast because the world is rising up to oppose Christians in Africa and the Middle East and China and, to a lesser extent, the USA.  The forces of evil have infiltrated so many aspects of this world that walking the path of discipleship becomes more and more challenging every day. 

 

11.Hold on to Jesus because he is holding on to you.

 

The good news in all of this is that we do not have to depend solely on our ability to hold fast.  By the grace of God, Jesus is also holding on to us, enabling us to hold fast, and praying for us.  God calls us to hold on to him, to hold fast to his word, to hold on to what is good, to do all that we have seen in scripture because God loves us and wants for us the life only he can give.  So hold on to Jesus because he is holding on to you.  Amen.