Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Hebrews 10:1-18. Downloads & Resources Being Made Holy Dr. Jon Morrissette - 4/27/2003 In the movie "As Good As It Gets" Jack Nicholson plays an obsessive-compulsive novelist named Melvin Udall. Melvin cannot open a door without a handkerchief around the knob, eat at a restaurant without pulling out his own sterilized plastic utensils, or walk down the street without having to jump over every crack or grout line. He's a germ freak! But this is just the beginning of his problems. Melvin Udall has one of the meanest mouths in Manhattan. He constantly verbally abuses his homosexual neighbor and his thickly accented Guatemalan maid. He needlessly insults an obese waitress, a female admirer, and a Jewish couple that took his favorite table at a restaurant. At one point he throws his neighbor's dog down the trash chute. As the movie progresses, Melvin Udall's meanness and disdain for human dignity begins to catch up with him. His neighbor stands up to him. He is kicked out of his favorite restaurant. His favorite waitress's son is growing ill and she can no longer wait on him. The world as he knows it is coming to an end. Watch as he frantically bursts into his psychologist's office. (Note to reader- A video clip of the move was shown and the final quote is when Melvin Udall sarcastically asks the people in the psychologist's waiting room, "What if this is as good as it gets?") What if this is as good as it gets? Melvin Udall raises a rather depressing possibility. What if this is as good as it gets? What if all our attempts at significant life change are just chasing after the wind? What if all our efforts at self-improvement are an exercise in self-disillusionment? What if no matter how hard we try and no matter what lengths we go to, we are destined to be stuck in the same moral and spiritual rut for life? What if the greatest good is only that which we can secure for ourselves in this life? What if this is as good as it gets? I think one of our worst fears is that this is as good as it gets. This explains why we go to such great lengths to try and change ourselves. We seek out professional counselors and psychologists. We purchase self-help books and watch self-help television programs. We so badly want someone to give us a prescription for self-renewal. Against this backdrop is the reality in which we find ourselves. Our greatest challenge is self-mastery. It is achieving significant life-change. It is moving beyond the spiritual and moral rut in which we constantly find ourselves. It is somehow becoming different and not just giving lip service to life change day after day. A few weeks ago I came across a book titled Everybody Is Normal Till You Get To Know Them. I bought the book just because of the title. The title implies that no one in this room is normal. If we think someone is normal it is because we haven't gotten to know him. The more you get to know someone, the more you get in tune with his idiosyncrasies, his imperfections, and his flaws. Like Melvin Udall, we all have a dark side. We all have our own issues. Hidden prejudices, behaviors, and habits we'd like to change. Desires and motives we'd like to purify. Thoughts and feelings we want to refocus. Pasts we want to be freed from. Relationships we want to enhance. But where do we begin? Where do we turn? Is this as good as it gets for us or does God have something better in mind for us? Hebrews 10 addresses this important question from two different angles. As good as it gets with God. Hebrews 10:1-4 (NIV) begins, "The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming— not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." These verses are among the most shocking, yet relieving verses in the New Testament. First, the shocking part as far as our relationship with God is concerned is that we're not going to get much better than we already are right now. These verses destroy the notion that we can make ourselves perfect in God's sight, that we can measure up to his holy standards by exerting effort, or that we will ever reach a point where God says, "Wow! I'm satisfied you're such a good person." These verses are saying that the law cannot, nor will the law ever make perfect those who draw near to God in worship. No matter how hard we try to impress God, the guilt of our sins will continually haunt us. We will always have a sense of dissatisfaction over our progress toward holiness. But there is more. There is no sacrifice we can personally make to satisfy God. Even the most premium sacrifices commanded by God himself in the Old Testament law, the blood sacrifice of bulls and goats, are inadequate. No matter how many sacrifices we make and no matter how many times we go through the religious motions of the law, from God's perspective we're stuck. This is shocking because so many Christians think that the law is the only pathway to God. We spend our entire lives trying to beautify ourselves before God. We have our own checklist of commands we are trying to follow and obey. We have convinced ourselves, "If only I can obey all these things, I can make myself acceptable before a holy God." We think, "If I can memorize these verses, if I can give ten percent of my income, if I can make it to church every week and never miss that Bible study, if I could just break that habit, if I could just resist that temptation, if I could just say the right thing, if I could just read my entire Bible through in one year, if only I try harder, if only I muster up the courage and will, if, if, if!" Is it any wonder that so many of us are paralyzed with guilt as we seek to live for God? We cannot do half the things we want to do for God, let alone all the things God requires in his law and throughout scripture. We're only kidding ourselves if we think otherwise! So if we cannot please God, if we're basically as good as we're going to get, what hope do we have of pleasing God and measuring up to his standards for righteousness? Hebrews 10:5-10 (NIV) has the answer to our dilemma. "Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: 'Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, 'Here I am— it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God.'' First he said, 'Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them' (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, 'Here I am, I have come to do your will. 'He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." God will never be satisfied with our futile attempts to establish our own righteousness. God will never be satisfied with our sacrifices and offerings which are so often accompanied by a lack of willpower and follow through. The only thing that does please God is his own Son's perfect obedience. Jesus came to offer his body as an eternally pleasing sacrifice to God. He came to do Gods will, perfectly. Jesus came to establish a lasting righteousness by achieving an obedience that is completely impossible for us to achieve. Through our own sacrifice we are as good as we're going to get. But through Christ's sacrifice we can become perfect forever before a holy God. "...we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Christ completely satisfies God and becomes the sacrifice that God desires. Again, listen to the words of Hebrews 10:11-14 (NIV). "Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." In terms of our relationship with God, by one sacrifice we have been made perfect forever in God's sight. Jesus Christ's righteousness is as good as its going to get. Christ's sacrifice is what makes the difference before God, not our sacrifices. As good as it gets with us. Notice a second angle to this passage that begins in Hebrews 10:14 (NIV)."...by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." Up to this point our passage has been speaking about our relationship with God. But now there is mention about the present reality of things. We are made perfect in God's sight through Christ's sacrifice, but we are also being made holy. That is, God is changing us morally and spiritually. He is renewing our spiritual soul in ways that we can only begin to imagine. He is taking us where no counselor, psychologist, self-help book, or television program can ever take us. Hebrews 10:15-18 (NIV) continues, "The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 'This is the covenant I will make with them after that time', says the Lord. 'I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.' Then he adds: 'Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.' And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin." First, God is putting his laws in our hearts and writing them on our minds. Many Christians mistakenly strive for life change from the outside-in. We live by a list of rules and commands instead of from the heart. God has quite a different strategy. His strategy is to bring about change from the inside-out. He begins not with rules, but by reordering our inner lives, by reshaping our values, and by refocusing our thoughts and motivations. God changes the heart, knowing our body's tendency to sin. Our obedience will follow suit. The law was never intended to bring about heart change. The purpose of the law is stated in Hebrews 10:3. It is to remind us of our sins. It is to prick our consciences and create discontentment and cause us to seek a righteousness outside ourselves that can only be found in Christ. If like Melvin Udall you are frustrated with your progress, praise God! You are one step closer to accepting Christ's righteousness instead of trying to establish your own righteousness through the law. Notice also that God promises to no longer remember our sins and lawless acts. In Hebrews 10:18 he says, "...these have been forgiven..." Part of God's heart strategy is that as we live for God he offers us forgiveness every step of the way. He doesn't beat us over the head with our past sins, continually coercing us into obedience with guilt and shame. His forgiveness speaks to the heart. It gives us latitude to learn and grow, to succeed and fail, to learn from our past, and to move toward a better future. The pressure of having to be perfect in God's sight has been taken away by Christ's perfect sacrifice, obedience, and forgiveness. This frees us to live from the heart. As the movie "As Good As It Gets" progresses, Melvin Udall undergoes an inner transformation of sorts. He doesn't have a religious conversion, but he does gain a new perspective on life. He realizes that life change is what life is all about. Life is about moving beyond the past. It is about moving beyond our idiosyncrasies and abnormalities to make a difference in other people's lives, and to discover for ourselves that this isn't as good as it gets. God has so much more for us! In this next clip Melvin Udall makes arrangements for a medical doctor to take care of the son of a single mother who is a waitress at his favorite restaurant. Up to this point, the boy has been growing seriously ill and the mother has not been able to afford competent medical treatment. (Note to reader: A video clip is shown of the single mother who is inexpressibly grateful to a doctor Melvin's arranged to come to her apartment. Melvin has turned over a new leaf!) God has so much more for us than what we have right now. He wants to make us perfect forever in his sight through Christ's sacrifice. He has permanently forgiven us. But God also wants to make us holy. He wants to change us from the inside-out. He wants to give us hope, meaning, and purpose in life. He wants us to get out of a moral and spiritual rut and do good. Not because we have to or because that's what God's law says we should do, but because God has changed us from the inside-out. Because God has forgiven us our sin and is purifying us from all unrighteousness. For those of us who refuse Jesus Christ, this is as good it gets. For those of us who are in Christ Jesus, this is just the beginning of the good things to come.