The Gift of Endurance

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 13

And let us run with ENDURANCE the race God has set before us. – Hebrews 12:1b

I love the word ENDURANCE. The word challenges me. When I think of endurance, I think of courage and strength even in the most difficult of situations. The writer of Hebrews challenges his readers to
ENDURE God’s discipline and not to give up when He corrects you because he loves you as a Father loves His child.

For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. – Hebrews 12:10-13

ENDURE the discipline so that we might share in His holiness, which looks like this:

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. – Hebrews 12:14-15

Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking…Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is UNSHAKABLE, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire. – Hebrews 12:25a, 28-29

Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison…also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. – Hebrews 13:1-8

For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a CONTINUAL sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God. – Hebrews 13:14-16

How do we do this?
How do we live this kind of holy life?
It seems impossible to endure and meet this high mark.
Well, it is impossible…without God’s help.
God, who is unshakable.
Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
HE will equip you.
HE will produce in you every good thing that is pleasing to him.

Now may the God of peace –
Who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
The great Shepherd of the sheep,
And ratified an eternal covenant with his blood –
May he equip you with all you need for doing his will.
May he produce in you,
Through the power of Jesus Christ,
Every good thing that is pleasing to him.

All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.
– Hebrews 13:20-21

The Gift of My Faith

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 12:14-29

It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. AND SO a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead – a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them. – Hebrews 11:11-12

Oh, I’m so glad Sarah is in my cloud of witnesses! I relate to Sarah. I relate to God’s gift of faith helping me through a time when my body would not cooperate with the desires of my heart. A fertility specialist said there was nothing he could do to keep me from miscarrying every pregnancy. Today my heart overflows with thankfulness for the three beautiful girls God has given us. Sarah had faith AND SO… Sarah believed God keeps his promises AND SO…

By faith, Isaac blessed the future of his sons, Jacob and Esau. By faith, Jacob blessed the future of his grandsons (Joseph’s sons). By faith Joseph spoke confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt one day. Each of these men could not see into the future of their descendants but they knew the God who keeps His promises would be there watching over them.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race marked out for us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2a

When Pharoah was killing all the Hebrew baby boys, Moses’ parents did not cower in fear. No, they ran with endurance, hiding their son for three months. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s commands (Hebrews 11:23b).

When he grew up, Moses stripped off every weight that would slow him down and the sin that would so easily trip him up:

It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. – Hebrews 11:24-27

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. – Hebrews 12:2a

By faith, the people of Israel ran with endurance the race marked out for them – first when they crossed the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground and then when they marched around Jericho for seven days causing the walls to fall down. The race marked out for them resulted in victory and triumph over their enemies.

By faith, Rahab walked away from her people, who refused to obey God, because she had a champion who had initiated and perfected her faith in Him. This same faith can be found in the lives of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. God did great things through them and they received what God had promised. Consider this huge crowd of witnesses to our life of faith.

They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death.

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us. – Hebrews 11:33b-40

Okay, no more feeling sorry for ourselves. I don’t think any of us have a testimony quite as harsh as this crowd of witnesses. Yet, they ran the race with endurance. We also have something they did not have, the new covenant relationship with God made possible through the cross.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not given your lives in your struggle against sin. – Hebrews 12:2-4

THEREFORE, since we have this incredible crowd of witnesses surrounding us as we live this life of faith, let’s strip off every weight that slows us down (whether it can be called sin or not) and let’s get rid of the sin that so easily causes us to trip. Let’s run this race with passion, with endurance, with faith – knowing that God keeps His promises and keeping our eyes fixed on our Champion who is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne! He has initiated our faith (we did not come up with it on our own – it is a gift) and He daily perfects our faith. Thank you, God, for these examples. Thank you, Jesus, for enduring the cross for me. And thank you for this growing gift of faith.

The Gift of My Yes

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 12:12-13

Enoch was known as a person who pleased God. Wow, that is a powerful statement! A person can be known for so many different things, good and bad, but Enoch was known as a person who pleased God and that came from his faith in God.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. – Hebrews 11:6

Genesis describes Enoch as living in close fellowship with God for more than 300 years. “Then one day he disappeared, because God took him” (Genesis 5:24). Something incredible…something extraordinary happened in Enoch’s life, simply because God chose to do it. That’s the kind of God we serve – the kind of God that just does because He can.

ENOCH REMAINED IN CLOSE FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD AND GOD SPARED HIM DEATH.

I could just be done for today because that alone is more powerful than any of the caffeine in my morning coffee! But Enoch is not the only person in the crowd of witnesses we are surrounded by as we live this life of faith. There are more. Right by Enoch stands Noah, a man whose faith in God produced righteousness.

It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes from faith. – Hebrews 11:7

There had never been a flood; there had never been a boat so big. Yet Noah obeyed God, which required a great deal of faith. But Noah’s faith had grown over the years because he had remained in close fellowship with God, just like Enoch. He lived a life that was pleasing to God and so God considered Noah a righteous man – more righteous than anyone else.

NOAH HAD THE FAITH HE NEEDED WHEN THE MOMENT OF DECISION CAME.

When faced with the choice to obey God and do something never done before, Noah had a faith strong enough to say “yes”. He did not have to produce this strong faith immediately because his faith had been growing over time as he walked with God. I’m so glad Noah is in my crowd of witnesses as I run the race set before me. His example encourages me.

Also standing out in this crowd of witnesses is Abraham:

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith – for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. – Hebrews 11:8-10

ABRAHAM WAS LOOKING FORWARD, EYES FIXED ON GOD.

Where do you want me to go? Okay, I’m on it. Leave home, leave everything I know? Yes, I’ll obey you, God. What do you want me to do? I will do it. Sacrifice my son through whom I expect your promises to be fulfilled? Yes Lord, if that’s what you ask.

Abraham could have looked back from where he came but he continued to look forward to the promise. When looking for a wife for Isaac, he insisted that his servant NOT go back to the land from which they had come to find her. When walking up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham did not continually look back and remind God that He had promised Abraham would be the father of many nations. No, he pressed forward, eyes fixed on God, believing that God could do anything – including raising Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).

This is why the writer of Hebrews pointed out the crowd of witnesses. He knew we would need the reminder of Abraham’s faith when we heard these words:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by…

Enoch, Noah and Abraham,

…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith… – Hebrews 12:1-2a

Oh, how I needed this today. When I look ahead, I sometimes get overwhelmed. I remind myself of God’s promises and I remind myself of Hebrews 10:23 – “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”

Daily I have to lay all God’s promises on the altar and trust Him to provide. Daily I have to remain in close fellowship with my God, from my morning coffee to my bedtime prayers – pressing forward, eyes fixed on God, believing that God can do anything; having the faith I need when a moment of decision comes, a faith strong enough to say “yes”. That’s what we can give God this Christmas – the gift of our “yes”.

The Gift of My Best

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 12:1-11

The message of faith and endurance that can be found throughout the book of Hebrews hits a climax in the first few verses of chapter 12.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses to the life of faith…(12:1a).

Let’s stop there before going on. Remember that whenever you see a “therefore”, you need to stop and see what it is there for. Chapter 12 starts with a “therefore” that is referring back to chapter 11. The “cloud of witnesses” in verse 12:1 is referring to the list of the faithful in chapter 11. Let’s look at this chapter full of examples of faith and endurance.

Abel (11:4): Abel offered his VERY BEST to God when he prepared his sacrifice. He did not see it as a waste to gather together the best of what he had and give it to God, but He gave in faith – trusting and considering it a privilege to give his best to God.

Abel was the second son born to Adam and Eve, born after his brother Cain. Abel became a shepherd while his brother, Cain, became a farmer. When it was time for the harvest, Cain gathered together some of his crops and gave them to the Lord as a gift. Now, Cain’s labor produced crops – that’s what he did and so that’s what he had to give to God. That wasn’t the problem. The Lord rejected Cain’s gift because Cain did not offer his best to God, which is what God required.

Second, celebrate the Festival of Harvest, when you bring me the first crops of your harvest…As you harvest your crops, bring the VERY BEST of the first harvest to the house of the Lord your God. – Exodus 23:16,19a

Abel, who was a shepherd, gathered together all of his firstborn lambs from his flock. Imagine taking special care to know what sheep have given birth for the very first time and setting these lambs aside in order to recognize them as special. Abel then selected the VERY BEST of his firstborn lambs from his flock and gave his offering to the Lord, who accepted Abel’s gift because it was his VERY BEST.

Cain reacted poorly. In jealousy, he became angry and “looked dejected.” In other words, he was pouting. God saw that Cain was angry and feeling sorry for himself. He gave Cain a very stern warning, a warning that if heeded would have changed the course of Cain’s life forever. Instead, he remained self-serving and angry, bringing a curse upon himself. He had a choice, just as we do, and Cain chose to hold onto his anger.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain.
“Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”

But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.” – Genesis 4:6-12

God’s warning is also for us – sin, jealousy, anger, self-pity. Watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and become its master before it becomes yours!

Now let’s go back to Hebrews 12:1 and consider the person of Abel, who was one who made up the cloud of witnesses to the life of faith:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by…

Abel, who showed that he was a righteous man by giving his VERY BEST to God (who showed that He approved of Abel’s gifts),

…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith… – Hebrews 12:1-2a, 11:4

As Christmas day quickly approaches and we spend time selecting the perfect gifts for our family and friends, let’s consider our gift to God. Let’s give our VERY BEST to God today, letting go of it all and running this life of faith God has set before us with endurance. When we give our best to God, we are letting go of anything that could possibly distract us. Now we can focus on Jesus, who has received the VERY BEST we have to offer. He then takes our VERY BEST and perfects our faith – the faith He Himself initiated in us.

So God gives us the gift of faith and we now have the opportunity to give it back to Him – to give Him our VERY BEST. Now that’s what I call a gift exchange! Yes, that would be the perfect gift to offer God this Christmas!

Faith, the Perfect Gift

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 10:11 – 11:40

God’s plan is for those of us who are working for Him and showing our love for Him to KEEP ON LOVING others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what we hope for will come true. His plan is that we would not become spiritually dull or indifferent but that we would follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their FAITH and ENDURANCE (6:10-12).

That was a paragraph from yesterday’s morning coffee that prepared our hearts for Hebrews 11 today. The writer of Hebrews is calling us to hold on to our faith and endure through the difficult times, just as those who came before us have done. They set an incredible example for us of what it means to have faith in any circumstance and to endure through the circumstances of life – holding on tight to the God who loves us and never leaves us!

HOLD ON TO YOUR FAITH AND LET GO OF YOUR SIN

Before we move to Hebrews 11 and its examples, let’s consider the powerful words of the writer of Hebrews in chapter 10. This passage emphasizes the importance of living a holy life as part of our covenant relationship with God – that continuing in sin is the same as trampling on the Son of God who shed His blood for the sake of this new covenant.

By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him…

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works…

Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. – Hebrews 10:20-29

LIVE OUT YOUR FAITH AND LET HIM MAKE YOU HOLY

Wow. Those have to be some of the strongest words written in any New Testament letter. It puts a new perspective on our decision of whether or not to live life for ourselves or to live life for God. How can we live out that kind of faith? We do not have to reach perfection by human strength; we do not have to produce an earthly attempt at holiness. If we try to do that, we have missed out on the role of our perfect High Priest.

But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool for his feet. For by that one offering HE FOREVER MADE PERFECT those who are BEING MADE HOLY. – Hebrews 10:12-14

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. – Hebrews 10:35-36

TRUST IN THE LORD AND HOLD TIGHTLY TO HOPE

How do we do this? How do we continue trusting in the Lord, holding tightly to the hope we have. It requires faith. Just like holiness, faith is not something we can muster up on our own, it is a gift God gives us when we ask Him for it. He will give us the faith we need to persevere, to endure patiently, to step into His presence with sincere hearts fully trusting Him. And when faith is a gift from God, it is PERFECT FAITH!

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. – Hebrews 11:1-2

By faith, we believe God created the entire universe simply by commanding their existence.

By faith, Abel…by faith, Enoch…by faith, Noah…by faith, Abraham…by faith, Sarah…
The list goes on and on. Chapter 11 of Hebrews is one of my favorite chapters and I encourage you to take time today to simply soak in the strong examples of faith provided for us. Then consider what story can be told of you. By faith, Sherry… By faith, ______ …

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. – Hebrews 11:6

Jesus, the Perfect Sacrifice

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 8:1 – 10:10

But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is FAR superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a FAR better covenant with God, based on better promises. – Hebrew 8:6

Wow! That’s exciting! I know this isn’t new information. We have probably all read through Hebrews before, but this verse has the potential to breathe new life into our day. As the angels said, this is good news that brings great joy! Jesus negotiated a new agreement or a new covenant with God on our behalf.

A FAR BETTER COVENANT WITH FAR BETTER PROMISES

God keeps His promises so “better promises” does not say He did not keep His original promises. The problem was that the old covenant written on stones was broken by God’s people, not by Him. Now there is a new covenant written not on stones but in our minds and on our hearts – declaring that we are God’s people, that He is our God (8:7-10). This new covenant was made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ, our High Priest.

So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood – not the blood of goats and calves – he entered the Most Holy Place ONCE FOR ALL TIME and secured our redemption forever.

Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a PERFECT sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant. – Hebrews 9:11-15

For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. – Hebrews 9:22b

This new covenant just keeps getting better. The old covenant involved the shedding of animals’ blood and had to be repeated on certain days and at certain ceremonies. Even then, the cleansing from those sacrifices was not perfect, not permanent and not capable of taking away feelings of guilt (10:1-2). Jesus’ blood was SO sufficient that He only had to die ONCE.

JESUS’ BLOOD WAS SO PURE AND HIS SACRIFICE SO PERFECT THAT IT TOOK CARE OF THE NEED FOR BLOOD TO BE SHED ONCE AND FOR ALL!

If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.

And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. – Hebrews 9:26-28

One more point comes out of these chapters of Hebrews – a point that speaks loudly to me this morning and is consistent with Paul’s teachings.

For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, ONCE FOR ALL TIME. – Hebrews 10:10

So, if God’s plan is for us to be holy, which is possible because of the blood of Jesus, what happens if we choose to continue in sin rather than walk in holiness? What happens if we continue to give in to the urgings of the sinful nature instead of giving in to the urgings of the Spirit God has given us?

The writer of Hebrews talks about those who have repented of their sins, experienced all of the wonderful things a relationship with God has to offer, including the Holy Spirit, but then reject the Son of God. The writer says, “by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame” (Hebrews 6:6). How heartbreaking!

JESUS DIED FOR OUR SINS – WHY WOULD WE REJECT THIS SALVATION BY CONTINUING IN SIN?

God’s plan is for those of us who are working for Him and showing our love for Him to KEEP on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what we hope for will come true. His plan is that we would not become spiritually dull or indifferent but that we would follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their FAITH and ENDURANCE (6:10-12).

Oh God, we hold tight to the hope that lies before us – the hope given through this new covenant made possible by the death of Your Son, the perfect sacrifice. Lord, we desire to let go of our own plans and all this world offers and cling to You and You only. Thank you for this hope that we have in You. It is a trustworthy anchor for our souls, giving us faith and endurance to keep on loving – to keep on serving (6:18-19). Amen.

Jesus, the Perfect Priest

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 7

As we consider the baby in a manger, let us also consider the man Jesus became. As we remember the role he played as our Savior, let us take note of the role he plays today as our High Priest.

JESUS IS OUR HIGH PRIEST

I must admit I don’t think of that description or role very often. I think of him as my Savior and my Lord, my Creator and my Provider. Yet, how wonderful this morning to just stop and soak in how Jesus has become the source of eternal salvation for all those who believe and obey him – that He goes to His Father on my behalf. Yes, Jesus is my High Priest!

What is a high priest?

Every high priest is a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God. He presents their gifts to God and offers sacrifices for their sins. And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses. That is why he must offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as theirs. – Hebrews 5:1-3

How does a person become a high priest?

And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be CALLED BY GOD for this work, just as Aaron was. This is why Christ did not honor himself by assuming he could become High Priest. No, HE WAS CHOSEN BY GOD, who said to him,

“You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.” – Hebrews 5:4-5

Why is Jesus the perfect high priest for us?

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. – Hebrews 5:7-8

JESUS IS OUR SOURCE OF ETERNAL SALVATION

Through His birth, He came to understand our weaknesses for He faced the same testing we do, yet He did not sin (4:15). Through His blood, we are offered the elimination of our sins. Through His resurrection, we have hope that we can overcome the death we deserve and spend eternity in Heaven.

In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. And God designated him to be a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 5:9-10

JESUS GIVES US HOPE AS HE LEADS US THROUGH THE CURTAIN INTO GOD’S INNER SANCTUARY

In the ancient Temple, there was a curtain that hung between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place – the inner sanctuary that only the high priest could enter once a year to atone for the sins of the entire nation. No one else could step inside or even glimpse into this inner sanctuary. Because of Jesus, who is always in God’s presence, we can follow Him and enter into God’s presence.

Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our ETERNAL HIGH PRIEST in the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 6:18b-20

JESUS IS ABLE TO SAVE THOSE WHO COME TO GOD THROUGH HIM, INTERCEDING ON OUR BEHALF

There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office. But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.

He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins. The law appointed high priests who were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made THE PERFECT HIGH PRIEST forever. – Hebrews 7:23-28

Jesus, my Lord and my Savior, thank you for being my High Priest. Thank you for becoming the sacrifice for my sins and then stepping before me to present me to Your Father. Lord, thank you for dying for me and for interceding for me. To you be all praise and glory forever, Amen!

Steadily Moving Forward

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 5 & 6

When we choose not to grow, we do not just remain stagnant. We begin slowly drifting away. Our relationship with God needs to be current – not just “current” as in happening at the present time, but “current” as in a body of water steadily MOVING FORWARD in a definite direction. God has a plan for us to be used for His purposes and we need to allow Him to refine us and make us into exactly who He created us to be. Listen to the writer’s frustration with the complacency of the believers.

There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. – Hebrews 5:11-14

Father, we stop right here and ask for you to reveal to us ANY way in which we may be guilty of these same accusations. Have we become spiritually dull? Have we stopped listening to what you are saying? Are we comfortably stuck on “milk” when you are ready to MOVE US FORWARD into a deeper knowledge of you? Lord, help us to grow and become mature in our understanding. Train us to recognize the difference between right and wrong. May the study of your word be alive and active, sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. Expose our innermost thoughts and desires and refine us into a tool to be used by you (4:12).

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will MOVE FORWARD to further understanding. – Hebrews 6:1-3

There is no reason to turn away from God or lose hope in His promises. We can trust that what God promises is true and what He promises He will do. God promises He will condemn those who turn away from Him and reject the Son of God. But He also promises eternity to those who hold on to their faith and show endurance in all situations. You can be certain that what you hope for will come true when you fully put your trust in God!

For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened – those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come – and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.

When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.

Dear friends, even though we are talking this way, we really don’t believe it applies to you. We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, AS YOU STILL DO. Our great desire is that you will KEEP ON loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. THEN you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance. – Hebrews 6:4-12

Hebrews gives us the example of the life of Abraham. God promised Abraham, “I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number” (6:14). Abraham believed in God’s faithfulness and patiently waited for God to do as He had promised. Just like Abraham, we can be perfectly sure that God will not change His mind because it is impossible for God to lie (6:17-18).

Since we are in the midst of our Christmas celebrations, let me use Mary as another example. The angel told Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God even though she was a virgin and she believed. The angel told her that nothing was impossible for God and she believed. The angel told her that Elizabeth was pregnant and she rushed over to her house in faith that what the angel said was true. Mary believed that the Lord would do what He said He would do! We can have this same confidence.

Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 6:18b-20

Jesus is our High Priest. That sounds like a great place to pick up tomorrow morning!

Slowly Drifting Away

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 3 & 4

A few days ago, we talked about Peter’s second letter to the Church. Peter used that letter to warn the church of how important it was to grow in their relationship with God. He talked about the dangers of walking away from our relationship with God and back into sin instead of taking steps of growth. The writer of Hebrews, who is unknown, gives the same warning. He speaks not only of willfully walking away but also of slowly DRIFTING AWAY.

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may DRIFT AWAY from it. For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? And God confirmed this message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose. – Hebrews 2:1-4

Why would the writer take such effort to get the attention of his listeners regarding DRIFTING AWAY from their faith? He was writing to the Jewish believers, the Israelites who had a history of being fickle in their faith. The Old Testament is full of the history of a nation who wavered in their obedience and loyalty to God. They would sing His praises in one generation and then worship idols and false gods in another generation. They would be content with God’s provisions and then they would grumble against God’s plan.

There were false teachers stirring up trouble in the early Church and the Jewish believers were in danger of doing exactly what their ancestors had done – turning their eyes away from the truth and letting new ideas confuse their theology. They were in danger of DRIFTING AWAY from the truth. False teachers were creating this idea that believers needed to pray to angels in order to access God. They were teaching that Jesus was an angel – the highest ranking angel. The writer of Hebrews dispels this crazy idea by revealing who Jesus is.

This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names. For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.” God also said, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son.” – Hebrews 1:4-5

And here is where the writer of Hebrews helps us understand exactly how Jesus’ death on a cross changed everything. He explains the plan of salvation and how the sacrifice of God’s Son, not an angel but fully human while being fully God, enables us to be His children.

Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone. God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.

So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters. – Hebrews 2:9b-11

So now that you understand WHO you are (brothers and sisters who belong to God and for whom God is preparing an eternal home – 3:1) – understand that God calls you to be faithful. Just as Jesus was faithful and Moses was faithful, we need to remain faithful and grow instead of being deceived by sin and hardened against God. We need to stand firm in our faith instead of DRIFTING AWAY.

Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we KEEP our courage and REMAIN confident in our hope in Christ.

That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness…”

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, TURNING YOU AWAY from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. – Hebrews 3:5-8,12-14

This Christmas, let’s make it a point to draw closer to the God who loved us enough to send His Son. Let’s seek Him in the midst of all the Christmas parties and chaos. Let’s intentionally find ways to grow in our relationship with God instead of letting the distractions of life cause us to slowly drift away.

Precious Father, thank you so much for the privilege of being called a “child of God”. Thank you for having a plan to save us out of our sin into your perfect plan for our lives. Our hearts desire to draw near to you and stay in a wonderful relationship with you. Please forgive us for our moments of drifting away or placing our focus on the philosophies of this world instead of your eternal truth. Help us to grow in our faith today. Today, when we hear your voice, we choose not to harden our hearts as Israel did – we choose to draw closer to you instead of drifting away.

Jesus, Our Creator & Savior

Today’s Reading: Hebrews 1 & 2

“…through the Son he created the universe” – Hebrews 1:2b. The writer of Hebrews preaches an incredible sermon in the first four chapters. I love the flow of these four very powerful points he makes.

1. Jesus participated in the creation of the world therefore, He is our Creator.

He also says to the Son,
“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands.”
– Hebrews 1:10

But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise that the house itself. For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God. – Hebrews 3:3-4

2. Jesus, who created flesh and blood, became flesh and blood so that He could die for our sins and set us free from death. So not only is He our Creator, He is our Savior!

Because God’s children are human beings – made of flesh and blood – the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. – Hebrews 2:14-15

Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. – Hebrews 2:16-17

What perfect timing for these verses! How often do we hear the question at Christmas of why Jesus had to be born? Why was it necessary for Christ to grow in his mother’s womb and be human, just as we are. The writer of Hebrews helps us understand.

3. Because He was human, experiencing suffering and temptations like we do, He is able to understand our weaknesses. How perfect, then, that He would be our High Priest!

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. – Hebrews 2:18

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will RECEIVE HIS MERCY, and we will FIND GRACE TO HELP us when we need it most. – Hebrews 4:14-16

4. Just as He shared in our sufferings, He generously gives us the opportunity to share in everything that belongs to Him – to enter into His rest.

But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. – Hebrews 3:6

For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. – Hebrews 3:14

For only we who believe can enter his rest…

So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:

“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.” – Hebrew 4:3a,6-7

God’s rest is not something we can earn by our own efforts but is a result of our faith in God and our trust in Him – that we believe He created us, became flesh for us, died for us and rose to life for us.

For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from THEIR labors, just as God did after creating the world. – Hebrews 4:10a

God, we praise you for sending your Son to radiate your own glory and to be an expression of your character (1:3)! Jesus, we thank you for your willingness to become a man for your guilty creation. We do not deserve what you have done for us but, by your grace (2:9), you died for us anyhow. Christ Jesus, you have displayed your love for us and your understanding. You have set an example that we do not have to sin – that we can face temptations and suffering yet win the battle through the same strength of God you used to remain without sin.

God, we thank you for your word we have the privilege of studying this morning. Your words are alive and powerful – sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from you, God. Everything is naked and exposed before your eyes. You, oh God, hold us accountable (4:12-13).

Precious God, we lay it all out before you this morning knowing that you understand our weaknesses and have extended your mercy and grace to help us when we need it the most. Thank you for this kind of love – for this kind of grace! We give today to you – our creator and our savior! Today, we choose to hear your voice and rest in you! Amen.