1. The Command
2. The Foundation

My favorite stories from church history are the stories of those who have so lived for Christ that even when their trials have been the greatest, they have remained steadfast in their faith. For instance, Stephen, in the book of Acts, was killed for preaching Jesus. He held fast until the end. While being pelted with rocks, he called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" (Acts 7:59). "Then, falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" (Acts 7:60). I love that story, because it shows that even in the midst of great hatred and hostility, the love of Jesus is so strong, that can strengthen you to pray for the forgiveness of those who are murdering you.

Another example comes from the life of Polycarp. He lived in the first century and was a disciple of the apostle John. In his old age, he was placed before the Roman proconsul, who told him, "Swear by the fortune of Caesar. Take the oath and I will release you. Curse Christ!" But, Polycarp held fast to His faith and said, "Eighty-six years have I served the Lord Jesus Christ, and He never once wronged me. How can I blaspheme my King who has saved me?" The proconsul threatened, "I have wild beasts ready, and I will throw you to them if you do not change your mind." "Let them come, for my purpose in unchangeable," replied Polycarp. "If the wild beasts don't scare you, then I will burn you with fire," said the proconsul. "You will threaten me with a fire which will burn for an hour and then will go out, but you are ignorant of the fire of the future judgment of God reserved for the everlasting torment of the ungodly. But why do you delay? Bring on the beasts, or the fire, or whatever you chose; you shall not move me to deny Christ, my Lord and Savior." [1] Polycarp was soon afterwards burned at the stake.

John and Betty Stam were missionaries to China in the 1930's, during the Chinese Civil War. As the Communists rolled in, they attempted to escape, but were captured and held for ransom. John wrote the following note to the China Inland Mission

"December 6, 1934
China Inland Mission, Shanghai.

Dear Brethren,
My wife, baby and myself are to-day in the hands of the Communists, in the city of Tsingteh. Their demand is twenty thousand dollars for our release.

All our possessions and stores are in their hands, but we praise God for peace in our hearts and a meal to-night. God grant you wisdom in what you do, and us fortitude, courage and peace of heart. He is able--and a wonderful Friend in such a time.

Things happened so quickly this a.m. They were in the city just a few hours after the ever-persistent rumours really became alarming, so that we could not prepare to leave in time. We were just too late.

The Lord bless and guide you, and as for us, may God be glorified whether by life or by death.

In Him,
John C. Stam."

Soon after writing the letter, John and Betty were marched to their death. On their way, they were asked, "Where are you going?" John said, "We do not know where they are going, but we are going to heaven." They were led up a little hill outside the town. When they arrived to the clump of pine trees, John was told to kneel. The communist soldier lopped of his head with a sword. Then, the same happened to Betty. She knelt down and lost her life. John and Betty Stam held fast their faith until the end. [2]

Or, only a few years ago, the testimony of Cassie Bernall has been an encouragement to me. She was a 17 year old student at Columbine High School when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on a shooting rampage in the school, killing 12 high school students and a teacher. At one point in the shooting spree, Cassie was trapped in the library and asked a simple question by one of the killers. "Do you believe in God?" Holding fast her confession, she said "yes," and was quickly shot and killed.

These sorts of stories encourage my faith, because it shows that Jesus Christ is not only worth living for, but He is also worth dying for. But for every story that I have told of those who have held fast to the Lord Jesus Christ until their death, there are dozens more to be told. I've told you before of this book entitled, "Jesus Freaks." Both volumes of this book are filled with story after story after story of those who gave their lives for Jesus Christ, holding fast until the end.

But, it's not just martyrdoms that are encouraging to me. I'm greatly encouraged by those who face great opposition, and hold fast to Jesus, rather than to their comforts in life. I've been encouraged by Martin Luther, who stood before the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church, who had the authority to banish him from the church as a heretic. Copies of his writings were all laid out on a table before them all. He was asked two questions: (1) Are these your books? (2) Do you stand by their contents? He was granted until the next day to answer the questions.

The next day, Martin Luther held fast, saying, "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen". [3] After this, his life was filled with turmoil and hardship, as he was constantly on the run, as he was fleeing from those who wanted to kill him. But Martin Luther held fast until the end.

I'm encouraged by those who forsake the riches of this world to follow Christ. I'm encouraged by the life of William Borden. He was heir to great Borden estate. But, he came to Christ and forsook the riches of his family. After going to Seminary, he decided to become a missionary to the Muslims of China. Upon deciding that, he wrote in his Bible, "No Reserve." When his father told him that he would never be able to come and work for his company again, he wrote in his Bible, "No Retreat." Shortly before he died of spinal meningitis, training to go to China, he wrote in His Bible, "No Regrets." William Borden held fast his faith in Christ. [4]

I'm encouraged by the life of Moses. In Hebrews 11, verse 24 we are told that

Hebrews 11:24-25
by faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin ... considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.

In this way, Moses was holding fast to Christ. There are countless others that I might tell about.

I feel like the writer to the book of Hebrews, who said, "And what more shall I say, for time will fail me?" (Heb. 11:32). I could tell of Latimer and Ridley, who were burned at the stake in England; Christopher Love and his wife who encouraged him to remain faithful when facing his martyrdom; Jim Elliot and Nate Saint and their friends (Pete Fleming and Ed McCully and Roger Youderian), who gave their lives in Ecuador; John Bunyan, who held fast to the Lord in prison; Adoniram Judson and William Carey, who held fast in foreign lands. The list is endless of those who have held fast to Christ, when everything around them was pulling them away.

My message this morning is entitled, "Hold Fast." Hold fast to Jesus, like Stephen and Polycarp and the Stams and Cassie Bernall and Martin Luther and William Borden and Moses. My message title comes from our text this morning: Hebrews 10:23. If you haven't done so already, I invite you to open your Bible to Hebrews 10. This morning, we will look at only one verse, verse 23.

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

It's so short that we can easily memorize it. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope ... without wavering ... for He who promised is faithful" (Heb. 10:23).

I trust that you can see in this verse the two parts. There is the command. There is the foundation (to the command). The command is that we need to "hold fast." The foundation comes in that "He who promised is faithful." These two parts will form the basis of our outline this morning. So, let's look at ...

1. The Command

Now, this command, to hold fast, is the second of three exhortations that come to us in the middle of Hebrews 10. Each of them are set apart nicely for us with the phrase, "Let us." The first is found in verse 22, "Let us draw near." The third is found in verse 24, "Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds." This morning, we are considering the second exhortation, "Let us hold fast." In many ways, this is the exhortation to the book of Hebrews. In other words, it's the application to the book. This is what we are called to do. We are called to "hold fast" to Jesus.

Over and over and over again, the writer proves that Jesus is better than anything that the Old Testament has to offer. Whether it's the prophets or the angels or Moses Joshua or Aaron or Abraham, His priesthood is better; His covenant is better; His sacrifice is better. And, since Jesus is better, hold fast to Him. Throughout the book of Hebrews, this is the main point: hold fast to Jesus.

Now, it's said in different ways. In chapter 2, verse 4, it's said like this, "Don't drift." In chapter 3, verse 8, it's said like this, "don't harden your hearts." In chapter 6, verse 1, it's said like this, "let us press on to maturity." Chapter 12, verse 15, says, "see to it that no one comes short of the grace of God." And chapter 12, verse 25, says, "see to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking."

But, all of these exhortations have the same idea. Don't let go of Jesus. Keep your heart soft towards Him. Don't fall away. Don't come short. Don't refuse Him. Pursue Him. Keep Him front and center of your life. This is the book of Hebrews. It's the message that we have been hearing each Sunday for a year. "Hold fast to Jesus!"

In our text this morning, it says the same thing, but it says so using different words. Verse 23 says, "let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering." The question comes, "What is this confession?"

Three times in this letter, the author refers to this "confession."

Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold fast our confession without wavering.

Hebrews 3:1
Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.

Hebrews 4:14-15
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Obviously, the writer had something in mind when he talks about our "confession", since he used the term on three occasions. But, I'm not quite sure that he had a clear statement in mind, for nowhere does he define anything for us in terms of the confession. But, this doesn't mean that we are in the dark. We can pick up enough clues to understand it. According to chapter 3, verse 1, the confession is about Jesus Christ, the Apostle and High Priest. Our confession is about Jesus and who He is.

In this way, the confession is a sort of doctrinal statement about Jesus. One of the most famous confessions is the "Westminster Confession of Faith." It's huge, covering all areas of Christian life: from the Scriptures to the character of God to our salvation and the ordinances of the church. In some ways, that's what the writer is talking about here. But, I do believe that he's a bit more specific than a complete compendium of all that we believe.

The confession of Hebrews has everything to do with Jesus and who He is, and what He has done, and what He will do. See, the confession of Hebrews is more than mere facts or cold theology that we need to cling to. Rather, according to chapter 4, verse 14-15, the confession has a life to it. This confession has a power to it. It will sustain us in trials. Our confession will be our help us when we encounter the storms of life. But, what is it? We can pick up some clues from some other passages that speak about "holding fast."

Here we are told to hold fast "our confession." In other places in Hebrews, we are told to hold fast our "confidence" and (3:6) the "boast of our hope" and (3:6) our "assurance." (3:14). I don't believe that these things are any different than the call of our text this morning, to hold fast our confession. Let me show you what I mean. Turn over to chapter 3, verse 6. There, we read, ...

Hebrews 3:6
Christ was faithful as a Son over His house--whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end"

You can see it there, "if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope." Here we have the same Greek word used in 10:23, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering." I believe that this is a part of our confession; it helps to fill it out. There is a "confidence" to our confession. There is a faith to our confession.

Paul told Timothy, "I know whom I have believe and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day" (2 Tim. 1:12). We know who Jesus is. We have placed our trust in Him. We hold fast this confidence that Jesus is all that we need to stand before the Lord.

Also in chapter 3, verse 6, we see the reality of hope: "...if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end." Hope is future oriented. We can boast of our hope. What's our hope? That Jesus is all that we need! We can boast of our hope, because we are confident in Him. It's a sure thing in our mind. Jesus will bring us to the Father, with sins forgiven! The same verbiage comes in chapter 3, verse 14.

Hebrews 3:14
For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.

Again, you see the same words being used, "if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end" (3:14). Again, I trust that you will notice how close this is to our text this morning in 10:23, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering." Rather than talking about a "confession" (as 10:23 does), this verse speaks of an "assurance" (3:14). But, again, the idea is much the same. We need to "hold fast" to the assurance that Jesus, as our high priest, will bring us to the Father.

In 3:6, the talk was about our "confidence." Here, the talk is about our "assurance." It all means the same thing. So, what's the confession? It's all about Jesus: who He is, and what He has done, and what He will do for us.

The confession is that Jesus Christ is everything that Hebrews says He is. He is the Son of God. He is the one sent by God. He is the radiance of God's glory. He upholds the universe by the word of His power. It is that Jesus Christ has done everything that Hebrews says He has done. He made purification of sins, by offering a better sacrifice than all of the sacrifices of the Old Testament. He has purified the heavenly tabernacle. He sat down at the right hand of God. He has given to us a better covenant, which was promised long ago. It is that Jesus Christ will do everything that Hebrews says He will do. He is our high priest, who will sympathize with us and help us in our temptation. He is the mediator of this new covenant, who will bring us to God. His blood speaks better than the blood of Abel and all the animals ever sacrifices upon the Jewish altar.

We are called to hold fast this confession of who He is, and what He has done, and what He will do for us.

There is a living reality here in our text. We aren't clinging to some document, like the Westminster Confession of Faith. Rather, we are clinging to the living Christ with confidence (3:6) and assurance (3:14), knowing that He will carry us victoriously through the day of trial. Norm Wakefield has done a good job at defining the confession. He said it this way:

Jesus Christ is God's Son and our high priest. After he made purification for sins he sat down at the right hand of the Father, where he intercedes for us and runs all things by the word of His power. He will preserve us through suffering, trial, and temptation by giving us grace and mercy, IF we draw near to Him and hold fast our confession. [5]

Do you remember how our text reads?

Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.

Assumed in these words is the storm. In other words, there is something that is pulling you away, there is something that is pushing you to waver, but, you need to hold fast. When a hurricane is soon approaching the coast of Florida, people "batten down the hatches." They prepare by securing their windows for the storm that's coming. That's the idea here; the storm is coming.

The original readers of this letter had come out of Judaism and had come into the church, but they were in a precarious situation, because there were many of their fellow Jews who were seeking to persuade them away from their faith in Jesus The Jews were attempting to bring the readers back into Judaism, complete with its rituals and sacrifices. But, the writer here says, "Hold Fast." Don't move. Don't stray. Don't drift. Don't come short. Hold fast to Jesus.

Picture the scared child, clinging to her mother, squeezing tight each time she sees the lightening and hears the thunder. Picture the man, whose boat has capsized along the river. He's swept away by the current, but he's holding fast to a branch of a tree that hangs over the river. Picture the rock climber, holding on to the rocks as he ascends the cliff. The wind is picking up and it's a long way down, so, he hangs on tight. That's the picture here.

This verse is a call to hold fast to Jesus, particularly when the storms of life come. This verse is a call to hold fast to Jesus when you are tempted to sin, when your boss calls you to do something unethical, when your college professor tells you that there is no God, when your family calls you foolish for being so devoted to church, when the Jehovah's Witnesses seek to persuade you that Jesus isn't God, when the government comes and takes away your property because of your faith in Christ.

These were the types of things that the original hearers were facing. They were facing the battle of sin. In 2:18, the author describes Jesus as being the one who "is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted." In 4:15, the author describes Jesus as being able to "sympathize with our weaknesses" because he "has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." The way through sin is to hold fast our confession. Hold fast to Jesus - who He is, what He has done, what He will do.

They were also facing those who were attempting to pull them away from Christ. Look over at chapter 10, verse 32, ...

Hebrews 10:32-33
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated.

They were mocked. They were called names. They were ridiculed. They endured trials and tribulations. The way through these things is to hold fast our confession. Cling to Jesus - who He is, what He has done, what He will do. The government came and took away their property.

Hebrews 10:34
For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.

These are the sorts of trials that they were going through. They were paying dearly for their faith in Christ. The way through governmental confiscation of your property is to hold fast our confession. Cling to Jesus - who He is, what He has done, what He will do.

Now, I don't know exactly what sort of storms are in your life now, but "If holding fast our confession can get us through imprisonment and the seizure of our property, and death ... can it not help you in your particular circumstances today?" So, Hold fast to Jesus, to who He is, what He has done, what He will do.

"Hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering". That's The Command. Let's turn our attention to ...
2. The Foundation

This comes in the second half of the verse, "For, He who promised is faithful." In the broader context of our text, this is really one of several foundations. Look back to verse 19, ...

Hebrews 10:19
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus.

Verse 19 is a foundation for why we should draw near (verse 22). And then, verse 21, ...

Hebrews 10:21
since we have a great priest over the house of God,

Verse 21 is a foundation for why we should draw near. And now, in verse 23, we have another foundation: the faithfulness of God. Why ought we to hold fast our confession? Because God is faithful.

The Scriptures speak often of the faithfulness of God. Perhaps the most famous of all is Lamentations 3:22-23, where it says, "The LORD's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness."

But, there are many others, ... Deuteronomy 32:4 speaks of the LORD, ""The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He." Psalm 33:4 says, "The word of the LORD is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness." Psalm 91:4 promises, "He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark."

The New Testament has plenty of verses saying the same thing. 1 Corinthians 1:9: "God is faithful." 1 Thessalonians 5:24: "Faithful is He who calls you, and he also will bring it to pass." And, 2 Timothy 2:13: "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." God is faithful! There's no doubt about that.

Earlier, I spoke of Holding Fast to Christ like the grip of a scared child to her mother (or father). Here, as we think of the faithfulness of God, we see the mother holding onto the child. And the reality of the situation is that the security of the child is more closely related to how strong the mother holds the child than to how strongly the child is holding her mother. Such is also true of the faithfulness of God. Our security is more dependent upon His faithfulness than it is upon our holding fast.

The same is true of the rock climber. His security while on the face of a hill in the midst of a great wind storm isn't his great strength in holding on. Rather, his security is in his belay rope. He may slip, but his belay rope will keep him safe on the mountain.

But, what does God's faithfulness mean? Fundamentally, the faithfulness of God has to do with His integrity. When God says something, He will do it. When God makes a promise, He will fulfill His promise. If you look here at the end of verse 23, you will see the "promise" terminology being used. "For, He who promised is faithful."

And right there forms the link of why we should hold fast our confession. It is because God has promised, and because God is always faithful to His promises. Let's see this being worked out. Look over in chapter 11. This is the "hall of faith." It's where the writer to the book of Hebrews puts forth many Old Testament examples of those who held fast, even through very difficult times. I can't wait to get to that chapter; it's going to be so good for us to reflect upon what it means to live a life of faith. But, faith is connected to the faithfulness of God. Our faith isn't in nothing. No, our faith is in a faithful God, who will bring forth what He promises. Look at verse 8, ...

Hebrews 11:8
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Why did Abraham go out without knowing where he was going? Because God had promised to give Abraham the land (Gen. 12:1-3). Abraham trusted in the faithfulness of God to bring it to pass. Look at verse 9, ...

Hebrews 11:9-10
By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Why did Abraham go and live in a tent with his son and grandson? Because God had promised to give him the land (Gen. 12:1-3). Abraham trusted in the faithfulness of God to bring it to pass. We see this link explicitly made in verse 11, ...

Hebrews 11:11
By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.

Why did Sarah conceive a child at age 90? Because God had promised to give her a son (Gen. 18:10). Sarah trusted in the faithfulness of God to bring it to pass. "She considered Him faithful who had promised." Do you see how the promise of God is linked to the faithfulness of God?

There are people in this life who are filled with empty promises. When someone makes a promise, you should think of his character. Is this a promise keeper? Or, is this a promise breaker? And depending upon his character, you believe it or not. Now, when it comes to God, there is no question regarding His character. He is always faithful! So, we can trust His promises.

And, pertinent to our text this morning is the promise of the confession of who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, what Jesus will do. "Hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful" (Heb. 10:23).

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on August 22, 2010 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

[1] Jesus Freaks, pp. 136-137.

[2] The Triumph of John and Betty Stam, p. 102.

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther.

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Whiting_Borden.

[5] http://www.spiritofelijah.com/resources/unshakablefaith/confession.php.