Archive for February, 2011

Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12 speaks about discipline and sin.  The writer is clear – we need to put off sin.  “Lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”.  We see the pattern here to deal with sin.  We need to put off sin – to put it aside and replace it with something good.  In this case it is to focus on the race of achieving God’s will for our life.  We also learn here that our sights need to be focused forward: “looking to Jesus…..the founder and perfecter of our faith……who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”.  We need to keep your eyes on Jesus.  As we put aside sin – we need to change our focus to be on Jesus.  We need to lock onto Him – to realize that He has been there and dealt with sin – and He has not only won the victory over sin by refusing its temptation – He also has died on the cross and despised the ridicule and shame and has been elevated to His place in eternity next to God.  He won the war and paid the price – now it is up to us to resist and put our energy in following Him.

We are challenged to “not grow weary or fainthearted”.  Sometimes we give up – it is too hard to resist sin.  But the writer reminds us that “you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood”.  We often think life is not fair and too tough.  Remember what Jesus went through for us.  We haven’t even come close to paying that price.  We are also reminded that “the the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives”.  If you think your walk as a Christ Follower will be without some discipline to clean up things – you are wrong.  God “disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness”.  Discipline has a purpose – whether we like it or not – and that is to make us holy.  We are going to have to endure some pain so we become more like Jesus.  God wants us to “yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it”.  There is a purpose – God is focused on getting us on track. 

So how should we respond?  We are given a list of ways here:

–       “lift your drooping hands

–       strengthen your weak knees

–       make straight paths for your feet

–       Strive for peace with everyone

–       See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God

–       no “root of bitterness” springs up

–       no one is sexually immoral

–       See that you do not refuse him who is speaking

–       let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe

We have much to be thankful for.  God loves us enough to discipline us and help us move toward the holiness He demands.  He is in the business of helping us become like Jesus.  His discipline is a blessing – although that is not how we often look at it.  But without it we would wander aimlessly in sin and fail to become what He desires.

So what lies ahead for us in eternity?  The writer here gives us a glimpse as he describes “Mount Zion and the city of the living God”:

–       “heavenly Jerusalem

–       innumerable angels in festal gathering

–       assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven

–       God the judge of all

–       spirits of the righteous made perfect

–       Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant

–       sprinkled blood that speaks a better word

Here is what we will find when we go to heaven.  God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit – the Trinity – assembled with the angels and those who have made Jesus Savior and Lord.  It will be a wonderful place.  Are you sure you will be spending eternity there?  Have you taken the step of faith in Jesus so your sin problem is overcome?  There is no other way.  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life – no one comes to the Father except through Him.  Don’t miss your chance to clean up sin, respond correctly to God and His discipline, and look forward to eternal life with Jesus!

Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11 is the faith chapter.  It begins with the explanation of what faith is: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”.  Have you considered what faith is in your life?  It is believing when you haven’t seen.  It is being willing to sit on a chair because you think it will hold your weight but aren’t sure until you really do sit down.  Faith is not just a head game.  It takes action as well.  It is taking action on what you believe to be true.  It is knowing that God is in control and does what He says He will do.  So does faith matter?  The writer tells us this about faith: “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him”.  Faith matters much.  It is the only way we are able to please God and get close to Him.  It requires that we believe in Him and that He is in charge.  He is – which makes faith a lot easier to have – but it still takes action.  Faith is belief in action.  Are you truly living out your faith?

The rest of the chapter is the faith hall of fame.  The writer lists a whole list of examples beginning each one with “by faith”.  We can learn much from these folks – their example is faith in action.  Here is the hall of fame – they deserve to be listed and recognized.  They are our heritage and set the standard for how we should live:

–       “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God

–       By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain

–       By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death

–       By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark

–       By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance

–       By faith he went to live in the land of promise

–       By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive

–       By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac

–       By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau

–       By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph

–       By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones

–       By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents

–       By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter

–       By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood

–       By faith the people crossed the Red Sea

–       By faith the walls of Jericho fell down

–       By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome

What a list of great examples of faith.  Their faith was great but they were not perfect people by any stretch of the imagination.  We had murderers, prostitutes, liars, and folks with a lot of other very poor decisions.  Faith is not always based on perfection of our character.  In fact, faith is not about us at all.  It is believing in God – not ourselves.  It is knowing Him and what He will do – not focused on what we are able to get done.  God alone is worthy of our faith.  Sure it is a great combination when our character is perfectly aligned in obedience alongside our faith.  Scripture only shows us one perfect person – Jesus Christ Himself.  The rest of us are not going to achieve that level of perfection.  But that doesn’t mean our faith can’t move mountains.  Jesus told us it could.  Are you living by faith?  Do you believe?  There is much we can do if we put our trust and faith in Him!

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 reminds us that the law has been replaced and sin dealt with by Jesus.  “It can never….make perfect those who draw near”.  Bottom line is that no one – none of us – will make it on our own by obedience to the law.  We will sin – we will fall short – and that is a big problem. It is why Jesus came and gave His life on the cross. It is why God was willing to sacrifice His only son.  Scripture goes on to tell us “every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins”.  There is no other way to deal with sin.  “Christ has offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins”.  He paid it once and for all.  His sacrifice was enough – it was adequate – and it paid the bill in full.  We need to remember that.  Our salvation is because of His single sacrifice.  “By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified”.  That is a big deal and it requires us to pay attention.

The writer goes on to remind us that “his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet”.  Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that Jesus won the war.  He defeated the enemy of God – Satan himself – and put that to bed forever.  “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more”.  It is a once and for all victory – we don’t have to wonder how things end – it is done.  Jesus has taken care of evil forever.  That doesn’t mean there is no more evil in our world – but it does mean we do not have to wonder who is in charge and total control.  

The writer goes on to remind us how we should live based on these realities about Jesus and the law and His victory over sin.  Three times he begins sentences with “let us”.  Check these out:

–       “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith

–       Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering

–       let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works

We need to have faith, hope and love – where have we heard these before except in 1 Corinthians 13.  God has given us so much to hang on to with the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.  We need to collectively – as Christ Followers – cling tightly to these things.

But as he wrote on stirring each other up – the writer continues like this: “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near”.  We need to be together – encouraging each other and driving each other to go deeper with our Lord.  If you wonder whether it is important to spend time together with others in the family of Christ – it is.  It is very important and something we are commanded to do.  Does that mean you have to be part of a church?  It doesn’t really come out and say that here – although there are other places in scripture it talks about the importance of the body of Christ.  But it certainly tells us here we need to be in fellowship with others – we need to surround ourselves with like-minded believers and encourage each other.  Are you doing that?  Who are you meeting together with regularly?  How are you encouraging them?  It is a critical thing we need to be doing!

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9 talks about the reality of sin.  Today it seems that everyone tries to downplay sin.  It really isn’t that bad is it?  After all, I am not an axe murderer or terrible sinner.  Just a few little things that may not quite be done God’s way – but He doesn’t expect perfection and total obedience.  There are plenty of folks that are worse than me – I am a pretty good person.  I treat my family and friends well most of the time. I don’t hurt others….much.  I try to follow the rules that government and society has… least when I agree with them.  Doesn’t everyone cheat a little on their taxes and steal a little time from their employer.  They won’t ever miss a few pencils or that stapler I needed at home.  Any of that sound familiar?  Sin is when we miss the mark in meeting God’s expectations.  And in case you wonder – you are guilty of sin just like me.  We all sin.  Scripture says clearly that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.  It is our reality. 

This chapter deals with the gravity of sin.  It can’t be dealt with simply – “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”.  Sin is serious business.  There is a price to pay.  Jesus “entered once for all… means of His own blood….securing an eternal redemption”.  Did you catch that?  Jesus – perfect and without sin – took our place and shed His blood to pay for your sin and mine.  He “offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God”.  Jesus paid the price.  He took our place and paid our bill which cost Him everything.  We must not cheapen the consequence of sin.  That cheapens the price Jesus paid on the Cross.  It is a big deal.  We have a sin problem and the consequence is death.  Jesus overcame that for us.  He has set us free.

The writer reminds us that sin takes several forms.  There are sins of commission – where we make an intentional choice to disobey and miss the mark of God’s requirements.  Those are the willful things we do because we are hard headed and stubborn.  Sort of the same response kids give their parents – they know what they are supposed to do but choose not to.  These sins are a choice we make.  Yes – you do it all the time.  It is the human nature.  But we learn here also about the “unintentional sins of the people”.  Can I sin without knowing it?  Maybe, but I think this is really referring to sins of omission.  Those things we fail to do that we know we are required or instructed to do.  These still come down to a choice – but sometimes our failure to choose to do what we should doesn’t seem as bad as doing what we shouldn’t.  Sin is sin – no matter what the form.  Jesus paid the price for all sin.

That in itself is a wonderful gift, but there is more.  “For Christ has entered…. into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf….He has appeared once for all….to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself…. having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”  He is coming back.  He is coming to bring us to eternal life and to escape the punishment of sin.  He has paid the price – He has bought our ticket to eternity.  We still need to live for Him and walk in obedience each day.  This is not a ticket to do whatever we want whenever we want to.  It is a promise to pay the price.  He has paid that.  Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice!

Hebrews 8

Hebrews 8 is full of covenant talk.  The writer reminds us that God created a covenant with His people.  They were to walk in obedience to His law, to obey things exactly as He instructed.  It was about the law and obedience.  There was only one problem.  A covenant is a promise to perform – an agreement to do exact things in exact ways.  It is not open to interpretation or personal change to fit your situation.  God prepared a covenant and gave it to Moses.  He instructed him to “see that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you”.  There is no room for personal opinion or interpretation.  It is to be done God’s perfect way.  The problem – man fell short – they “did not continue” in the covenant” but did things their own way in their own time.  That creates a big issue and God “showed no concern for them”. 

We tend to shy away from covenants today in our society.  No one wants to go on record as being accountable and responsible to live in any certain way.  But marriage is a covenant relationship.  It is a vow that we make to live together until death do us part.  It is a required way of living.  Our world today is experiencing the same kinds of issues that the people of Israel did when they disregarded the covenant they had with God.  Destruction, grumbling, frustration, pain, sorrow and missing out on God’s promises.  Disregarding a covenant has serious consequences – then and now – and we need to listen carefully to the new covenant that God installed after mankind failed to live up to the first one.  We are lucky – He gave us a second chance – and we need to pay attention and live accordingly.

Jesus is the new covenant.  Check out what scripture tells us: “Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises “.  God has had mercy and expressed grace through Jesus.  He realized just how woefully short we had come in fulfilling our part of the covenant deal.  So He opts to give us another chance.  “I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt”.  Have you considered how blessed we are to be offered this gift.  But with it comes some expectations from God.  We have to DO something to fulfill our end of the bargain!

God is committed to helping us fulfill the covenant.  “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”.  Remember – we are the same people that failed miserably in covenant round one.  We are being equipped to keep the covenant.  God is writing things onto our hearts and publishing them in our minds – we have no excuse.  In fact He tells us that since He is proactively preparing us to keep the covenant: “they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest”.  He is not leaving it up to us to perform this time.  God Himself has written the covenant on our hearts.  He is preparing us to succeed in being His covenant people.  And He has blessed us indeed as He tells us: “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more”.  Can you believe this gift – forgiveness of sin and forgetting our failures.  God is giving us a real second chance to get it right this time.  He is allowing us to enter into a new covenant without penalty or even any baggage.  Are you walking in your covenant relationship with Jesus?  That is what we have now – a Savior who has entered into a covenant relationship with us to bring God’s mercy and grace upon us.  We just need to walk continually as Christ Followers and accept His gift!

Hebrews 7

Hebrews 7 talks about the role of priest and specifically about the high priest.  Melchizedek was “priest of the Most High God” and served God well.  He was the father of a priestly lineage, and his ancestors fulfilled that role until a permanent high priest was sent to us – Jesus Christ.  “Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant” is called out here as “a priest forever”.  He is the last and final priest for us.  But Jesus “holds his priesthood permanently, because He continues forever”.  His position will never change nor will anyone else replace Him as the High Priest.  He is our constant intercessor and with that comes a promise we must not overlook: “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since he always lives to make intercession for them”.  Jesus fulfilled the priestly role differently than any other in that He was able to save those who come close to God through Him.  He is the way to eternal life.  The one and only way.

The writer goes on to list the qualities of Jesus the priest:

–       “holy

–       Innocent

–       Unstained

–       separated from sinners

–       exalted above the heavens

–       no need to offer sacrifices daily

This is our Savior and High Priest.  He is the real deal.  Look at the list of His qualities as the perfect priest.  Completely free from sin or the results of sin in His life.  Jesus set the standard.  He shows us the way.  He made a way for those of us who struggle with sin to overcome and be set free.  Jesus is our priest and Savior.  Do you know Him in that way?

Hebrews 6

Hebrews 6 gives us some clarity about the ministry that happened in the body of Christ.  The writer of Hebrews gives a challenge to the church to “leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity”.  We need to grow – we should not stay as immature Christ Followers who become saved and then just camp there.  He lists the foundation of those elementary doctrines:

–       “a foundation of repentance from dead works

–       Faith toward God

–       Instruction about washings

–       Laying on of hands

–       Resurrection of the dead

–       Eternal judgment

These are the things that we should know at the basis of our walk with Jesus.  Do you have a handle on them?  They are the very platform from which we can move on toward maturity.  But some didn’t and don’t have these things down and get stuck in immaturity.  In other places we learn that we often get stuck in growth because we haven’t truly learned God’s Word.  We haven’t been in deep relationship with Him.  We are just floundering around and not going anywhere.  We need to make sure we understand the basic truths of our walk with Him.

The chapter does on to tell us it is “it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt”.  Those who make the absolute choice of denying the word of God and His power are on a very slippery slope away from Him.  In fact scripture tells us we cannot bring them back again.  This is referred to in other places as blasphemy of the Holy Spirit – when we deny the very power of God and His Spirit in us and make an intentional choice to refuse the truth and power of God in our lives.  We will have made the eternally fatal decision to choose death rather than eternal life.  We must be careful not to deny God’s power or truth.  We must live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The writer encourages us to “show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end….imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises…. hold fast to the hope set before us…. sure and steadfast anchor of the soul”.  We need to be imitators of those who have gone before us as Christ Followers.  That is why we have the Bible – to show us how to live with God.  Paul says over and over that we should imitate his life.  We need to hang on to Jesus who is our only anchor.  Every other thing in life will move and give way – but Jesus alone is the same yesterday, today and forever.  We need to pursue God with earnestness and know that He is there to listen and stand behind His promises.  We need to live the Christ Follower walk with all our heart.  It is the highest calling we have.  How are you doing on your walk?

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