We have such a High Priest

Meditations on Hebrews chapter 8

Life is a school.

Everything in our experience is meant to teach us and help us grow to maturity. And it’s all wrapped up in getting to know God.

Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the centurion’s servant was healed that very moment (Matthew 8:13).   But what prompted Jesus to say that?

It was what the centurion said…

Just before that the centurion said this: “”Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he  comes…”

The centurion had insight and faith.

He had an understanding of Jesus and His role, His authority, and what He would do. And this insight inspired his faith.  He  drew from his own experience in this world, and propelled by need, his hunger brought enlightenment from God. And his resulting faith caused Jesus to compliment him and even marvel at what He had just heard.

This world is our school room. Actually it’s a reform school. Everything we experience here is meant to teach us and point us to God.

Feel a need at times for a priest?.

Someone to talk to who understands–and more, who can help? We have such a high priest, the highest of the high priests: Jesus.  The most effective priest who has ever lived ,and who is still alive and active today.

You want to know God?  Get to know Jesus.  When He walked this earth, He was the perfect model of God the Father. He was and is the Person who shows us what God is like, with every word, every gesture, every act and expression.

This world is not perfect.

But his present world, this earth and our experiences here are not perfect. They are marred by sin and corruption, as are we.  We need God’s help in understanding it all (Hebrews 11:3). But the centurion understood plenty, and his understanding resulted in a faith that impressed Jesus–and believe me, Jesus is not easily impressed.

One day, this world and we will reflect God more accurately.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea…” (Revelation 21:1, NASB)

“Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13, NASB).

“There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; and they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.” (Revelation 22:3-4)

Meanwhile, we are to look to Jesus.

“But we do see Him who was made for a little whle lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)

He is with us and in us.

He’s in us so that, as Frank Viola and Lenoard Sweet point out in The Jesus Manifesto, He may live out His life through us. There in a few words is the key to a victorious life:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in  me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who lived me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20, NASB)

“I can do all things through  Him who strengthens me.” (Philippiians 4:13, NASB)

“…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:29, NASB).

It’s a partnership really, for He is our friend.

In the end God will make everything right.

For now, we struggle. But let us not lose hope (Hebrews–the whole epistle!)

 

Jesus our High Priest–He’s all we need.

Continuing meditative study of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Chapter 7.

The writer has pointed out, so far in this epistle,how Jesus is superior:

  • to angels
  • to Moses
  • and now to Abraham
  • and incidentally, as high priest, to Levitical priests too as well.

That final bulleted point just above has significant ramifications. More on that in a fews moments.

A rescue and a mysterious Priest-king.

There’s an  incident in the Old Testament about Abraham.  Kings in the area went to war, and when  their soldiers came to Sodom (same as in “Sodom and Gomorrah”), they looted goods and food, but they also took Lot, Abraham’s  nephew, captive, along with women and people and his possessions.  But one of the captives escaped and came and told Abraham.

So Abraham took the trained men from his household (a total of 318) went in pursuit, caught up with the marauders, defeated them and rescued Lot and all the captives.

Now back in his home territory, Abraham met with the King of Sodom (who had fled from his enemies during the battle) to settle matters.  And at this time, a mysterious person who was the king of Salem and also a legitimate priest of God acted as host and provided wine and bread to Abraham and blessed him. Abraham wound up giving this king a tenth, a tithe of the goods he recovered in  his raid. (Genesis 14)

The mysterious priest-king of Salem was named Melchizedek. The writer points out that since he blessed Abraham and since Abraham paid tithes to him, this man was superior to Abraham.  But wait!  Jesus was called a priest according to the order of Melchizedek at the end of chapter 6 (see also Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 2:17 and 5:6). This makes Jesus greater than Abraham by virtue of his priestly order.

That’s not all, though. Jesus brought a change to the priesthood.

The writer continues to make another important point.

  • First, There was a problem with the Levitical priesthood.  They kept dying off. Enter Jesus, Who does not have that problem. He is a priest with the power of an “indestructible life” (verse16) He  is now the ultimate high priest.  This means a change in the priesthood, a big one, and a change in God’s laws concerning it.
  • Second, there was a problem with the law too.  It was there to show mankind their need of salvation, to make sin obvious, and it fulfilled its task beautifully. But it was weak and unprofitable in that it could not save or perfect God’s people.
  • And, third, with the change in the law came a New Covenant and a better hope, the very basis of our blessed security in Jesus Christ.

This is the message to the readers of this epistle

The writer is telling his readers: All you need is Jesus. You don’t need to revert to rituals and sacrifices of animals.  Hang on to Jesus.

There’s a message for us today too.

Jesus is not only God (chapter 1:9), He is also our King and High Priest Who will live forever. Forever able to save entirely, completely, so that we become mature in every way (the Greek word is panteles: pan = all; teles = complete, finished, matured, perfect) those who draw near to God through Him. (7:25)…

“For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the  heavens.” (verse 27)

All powerful Jesus Christ is the guarantee of our salvation, its ultimate completeness, answered prayer and our future blessed happiness.

We should  never worry.

 

Will You Endure?

Meditative study of the Epistle to the Hebrews continues with Chapter 6, part 1.

For you are having an ongoing need for endurance so that, having done God’s will, you might receive the promise. (Hebrews 10:36, literal rendering)

The inspired writer has in the previous chapter reprimanded his readers for their lack of spiritual discernment (last half of chapter 5). He wants to move on to advanced teaching but is frustrated and reluctant. They should have had sufficient practice by now, practice in exercising faith, in hearing God’s voice, and in recognizing and understanding the truth.

He doesn’t want to give up on continuing with advanced teaching in order to cover what they have already been taught: concepts like faith in God, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment, what he calls “the beginning word of the Christ,” that is the message of salvation and initial instruction in the faith (6:1-2). He decides to go ahead if God is willing for him to do so (6:3)–always an excellent attitude in ministry.

Why should he go ahead to advanced truth?

Then the writer explains his decision in the next 3 verses. He writes that it is impossible anyway for him to renew to repentance (via his teaching) those who have backed off from trusting Jesus Christ for their salvation.

After all, they have had all the advantages of hearing the truth and experiencing the Christian community of their time: they have been enlightened once and for all, they’ve experienced the ministry of the Holy Spirit Himself and even the powers of the age to come–no doubt including miracles and healings. Yet, his readers have reverted to trusting in the religious system of Judaism to save them.

What more can the writer do for them to convince them to repent? (6:4-6)

Notice, the inspired text does not say that it is impossible for God to bring them to repentance. “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14 NASB; Luke 1:37). No.  But the writer senses the futility of delaying the teaching to re-instruct those who have forsaken the faith or have decided to.

Now a few points:

1.  We today have a lot of advantages.  

A lot of us are not suffering from severe persecution–although there are certainly countries where Christian believers are being persecuted, imprisoned or killed for their faith, even as I write these words.  So let us not yield to the temptation to judge those Jewish people who went back to trusting in ritual rather than God and His message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote in Romans 11:20 “you stand by your faith.”

And when I read my Bible, including the New Testament, I find no absolute and clearly stated guarantee of salvation for those who do not continue to believe in Jesus Christ. In the words of our Lord, it is “the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Mark 13:13).

What about eternal security for the beliver?

There has been a lot of theological debate, reasoning, and discussion on the topic of the eternal security of the believer through the years. And it is an important topic.  My position is this: There is all kinds of assurance for anyone who believes and continues to believe, but really none for the person who abandons the faith.  If you know someone who has stopped believing in Jesus for salvation, understand that what will ultimately happen to the person is between him and God. It’s their business. In this life we are not privy to such information.  But the picture is often not a reassuring one.

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

Meanwhile, if you love God, He has called you and you are a believer–you can fully trust God for your salvation that it has been and will be accomplished in all its aspects, period (Romans 8:26-38).

2.  In civilized countries and democracies persecution is not severe.

But most of us are not Jews who have turned away or are being tempted to turn from trusting Jesus Christ for our salvation.   Yet most of you have noticed, I’m sure, that we are living in a time where a definite anti-Christian and anti-Christianity sentiment has become prevalent or at least widely accepted. Nevertheless, persecution is not severe in the US and other democracies and countries where the rights of citizens are respected–certainly as it is is some places. But it could become so.

If and when persecution comes, will you waiver?

“Therefore put on the whole armor of God so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13, see also verses 10-18).  I prefer–and I’m sure you do to, that that day not come, when for example, the freedom of worship in the USA and other free countries weakens and invites oppression.  No one can say for sure, if or when it may come, but we do seem to be moving in that direcction.

3.  Meanwhile, do we already waiver?

We can all easily agree that the Christian life is one of faith: “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).. But have we backed off from trusting God fully, daily? Do we waiver as we face enemy giants in our own promised land, as did the Israelites faced with entering Canaan (Numbers 13:33).

The writer to the Hebrews complained that his readers should have be teachers, not needing basic Christian instruction.  But more to the point for us today, have we developed a strong faith? There are the big issues, like salvation: we must remain steadfast in our faith. But there are also the daily details, the temptations to worry, to become discouraged with our spiritual progress, or to trust in things, situations and circumstances rather than God, rather. The circumstances vary, the constant need for faith doesn’t.

Faith grows strong with practice, practice in trusting God. But ultimately it is through training provided by God and a outcome of His grace.

__________________

For my next post…
I plan to review a couple of books by Pastor and author Hal Lindsey on that very topic: Combat Faith and Faith for Earth’s Final Hour.

Are your spiritual senses well-tuned?

Meditative study of the Epistle to the Hebrews continues with Chapter 5, part 2.

The need for good spiritual judgment
This passage (verses 11 through 14) is about spiritual discernment.  And if you believe, as I do that we are living in the end times—even though those end times seem  to extend for several decades at least, probably longer—I think you’ll agree there there is a definite need for discernment today. Actually that need has always existed in this world since the garden of Eden.

It’s trickier these days
We Christians are faced with many temptations to day. One of them is the pressure to agree that popular practices are okay even though they are clearly characterized in the Bible as wrong and consequently to fail to stand up for what we feel is right AND what we are convinced is just plain wrong.

So what is the writer saying in the latter part of this chapter?
He’s saying that his readers are not mature enough to handle mature teaching. And it is interesting how he defines the problem.

The writer has mentioned in this chapter that Jesus has been named a priest in the priestly order named Melchizedek. Then he calls a halt to his discussion in order to reprimand his readers for their lack of maturity, particularly in the area of judging between good and evil. He wants to communicate deeper truths of the Christian faith, and he decides to go ahead anyway, adding in the next chapter: “if God permits” (6:3).

What exactly is he saying about his readers? In essence it is this:

“I have a lot to say on this subject, but you have become sluggish in your hearing. What I want to teach you is hard to put into accurate words [5:11]. By now you should have become teachers, but you need to be taught again the basics of the faith, the initial doctrines, milk not meat [5:12].

“You’re like babies that can handle only milk; you lack experience with advanced truth, ‘the word of righteousness’ [5:13]. But the meaty teaching I am talking about is for mature believers.  Believers who have had the experience and practice that develops spiritual discernment and judgment, the kind that sees what is good and also what is evil [5:14]. “

The readers were immature
The writer points out in no uncertain terms that his readers are immature.  It seems rather frustrating to this divinely inspired teacher.  He mentions that given the time that has passed, his readers should have had the experience and practice that develops spiritual judgment.  The “senses” he talks about are spiritual senses that have been trained.

Such spiritual senses are not dependent on human reason and logic—or a simplistic set of rules, dos and don’ts, a list of what’s okay to do and what’s not okay to do.   Such perceptions go beyond superficial, legalistic thinking.

For us, first it’s the Bible
The word of righteousness mentioned in verse 13, practically speaking, is in our Bibles. As we read and listen (“Today if you hear His voice” [Hebrews 3:7, 15; 4:7; Psalm 95:7]), we are taught by the Holy Spirit… 

1 John 2:27: “As for you, the anoint which you have received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing 3eaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.”

How can we develop mature discernment?
This training carries over into our daily life. We  face constant decisions daily: what to do, what to say, even what to think. Time spent with God in His word, listening and learning, expecting by faith His enlightenment, forms within us the foundation for being sensitive to God’s Holy Spirit in making those decisions. It can become a treasure-house of wisdom that fine-tunes our spiritual intuition and develops practiced skill in receiving God’s wisdom daily.

May we spend time with the Lord, expecting Him to open our eyes to see wonderful things in His Word (Psalms 119:18).

Our Incredible Potential in Christ

Continuing Series of Meditations in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Chapter 5

Many times theological ideas don’t seem to be a lot of practical use to us in our daily lives, but the following can  be.

Most of us know the Christian doctrine concerning Jesus Christ.  He was God but born as a man, and hence He has two natures: divine and human.  Two natures but one person.

That is profoundly significant for you and me, and not just for our salvation, as super-important as that most certainly is.

In Hebrews Chapter 5, Jesus is described as our high priest. After pointing out that a high priests is able to be gentle when dealing with his fellow human beings because he suffers the same weaknesses as we all do.

The writer turns the spotlight on Jesus as our high Priest and points out some surprising things–especially to those of  us who are accustomed to thinking about Jesus as God the Son, that is His deity: During His days in the flesh, that is living on this earth as a human being, fully human as well as fully God, He:

  • offered prayers and supplications to His father,
  • with strong crying and tears,
  • was heard because of his reverence, and
  • He was perfected and learned obedience through suffering.
    (verses 7-9)
Wait! Wasn’t Jesus perfect? Yes, He was, but even as the perfect human being, He still had to mature. Isn’t He the Son of God, and didn’t He enjoy the closest possible relationship with God the Father during His time walking this earth?  Yes. But He was heard not because of His divine position but because of His reverence. And He had to learn obedience.
It’s important to realize that while Jesus never stopped being God, He lived His human life on this earth as a human being and lived the way He did by faith.
He was tempted, and the temptation was a real temptation (Matthew 4:1; Hebrews 4:15).
He grew tired like you and I do (John 4:6). He was hungry at times. He slept, not because He was just going through the motions, but because He needed to sleep.
Again He lived as a man here on earth and as an example for us to follow, to live as He did, depending on His Father by faith:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of HImself…” (John 5:19).
Now, perhaps, a rather  surprising statement:
Everything Jesus did here on earth, you and I can do too–I’f talking potential here–with one exception: we cannot die for the sins all mankind.
That accomplishment  by Jesus necessitated His divine nature.  He died a human death on the cross for you and me. A perfect and sinless man, innocent and killed unjustly.  But because He was at the same time God, never stopped being God, His sacrificial death has infinite reach and power.  It reaches into the past, the present and the future, then and now.
And we read in 1 Peter 2:21:
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…”
Now this verse focuses on suffering.  But even so, it implies a lot.  We can follow in Jesus steps because it is possible for us to do so.
A high challenge
Certainly, that is a high challenge for us, to walk like Him, in His steps.  But that challenge is real. It is possible.
John 14:12.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these will he do because I go to the Father.”
A word of warning: I am not saying that you and I can go out and do whatever we want and expect God to honor our wishes.  It has to be in Jesus name, and that includes a requirement: it has to be God’s will for you to do it.  And it takes faith, of course.
But the point remains.
We can do much more that we commonly think we can do in this life. We have absolutely incredible potential in Christ.
May it be our goal and intent to do what we do for God. And may we follow in HIs steps.

“It remains to be seen what God will do with a man who gives himself up wholly to Him.”
–Dwight L. Moody

 

The Warrior’s Secret

Hebrews 4 is a key chapter for Christian Living.  In it we are again faced with the challenge of the believer’s rest.

Therefore, let us fear, set-[-being left a promise of entering into His rest–any one amog you should seem to have come short. (Heb. 4:1, literal rendering)

This epistle was written to New Testament believers, Christians, though it draws heavily on Old Testament stories.  It is entirely possible then for a present-day Christian to live a life that is not characterized by rest, not to mention peace.

So then, first, what is this rest?

In verses three through ten the writer paints a picture of God doing His works, the work of Creation.  After which He rested.  And it is this sort of rest that awaits believers.  Does  that mean inactivity? No.  It is more a matter of attitude.

A lack of real trust in Him

What is the problem? A lack of obedience.  Not a disobedience that consists of not doing what you fear God might want you to do.  But in not doing what God has clearly told us to do: Believe.

For indeed we have had the good news preached to us even as also those: but they did not profit, the word of the hearing not having been mixed with faith by those who heard. (Heb. 4:2. literal rendering)

The Israelites failed to enter the promised land initially through lack of faith. Specifically, they did not trust God to get the job done through them.  Their attitude was not faith but fear.

What was the good news? It was the gospel, of course, then and now.  “The Lord with fight for you while you keep silent” (Exodus 1:14)

It is always, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-!3, NASB)  It is God working within  us that makes the difference. “‘Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6, NASB).

When we worry and fret and act like it all depends on us, we dishonor God.  It never depends on us; it always depends on God. When we fear that we are not good enough, we dishonor all that Jesus Christ accomplished for us in His death and resurrection.

What is helpful is reading with faith in God to illumine out Bibles. So that we are fed by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4), and that is the Word God speaks to you as you trust Him to do so.

For the Word of God is living and energetic and sharper that every two-edged sword and penetrates as far as dividing of soul and spirit, of both joint and marrow, and able to judge/discern the thoughts/feeling and purposes/designs of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, literal rendering).

When we trust in God to enlighten us from our meditations in Scripture, He does so at the right time and lays bare out motives and attitudes. This is necessary constantly so that we do not regress into trying to earn our salvation or to live the Christina life in our own strength. Which we do so very often.

Meanwhile, we have the throne of Grace.  We can go directly to God in prayer and into His written word for help…

Therefore, let us draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, in order that we may receive mercy and find grace for timely help. (Heb. 4:16, literal rendering)

Do you want a victorious Christian life here and now?  Then stop trying so hard. Simply trust.  Believe that God is working in you right now to get the job done.  We have a battle to fight; but God’s warriors, when wise, know the secret daily that it all depends on God, not on them.

God doesn’t want us to do great things, He wants to do great things in and through us. In spite of our sin and constant failings. Is that not a  powerful reason to praise HIm?

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, NASB)

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

 

Faith is the Key: Hearing, Believing, and Obeying

Continuing Series of Meditations on the Epistle to the Hebrews (chapter 3)

The writer of this epistle has been explaining that Jesus deserves the Hebrew believers’ loyalty, as He deserves ours.  God spoke through many messengers and in many ways, but the best way was through Jesus.  Jesus was not only superior as a messenger of God, He is superior to angels, whom the Hebrews revered.  And now in chapter 3, we find that Jesus is in fact also superior to Moses, also highly revered by the Hebrews.

But where the writer takes his discussion next is most interesting.  He focuses on an incident that happened in the Old Testament period, the incident at Meribah.  It is mentioned 7 times in Scripture, twice here in Hebrews.

Don’t do as the Hebrews did–

That’s basically what the writer is saying here.  The Hebrews were thirsty in the desert, and they tested God, saying, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” (Exodus17:7, NASB). God told Moses to take the elders of Israel with him and strike a rock to produce water.  Moses was  no doubt angry with the people of Israel so he wound up striking the rock twice, directly disobeying God’s instructions.  On a second similar occasion (Numbers 20:8-13), God told Moses to speak to a rock.  But this time, Moses again struck the rock  twice, again disobeying God’s instructions:

Don’t do as Moses did–

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons fo Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12, NASB)

As a result of unbelief and disobedience, Moses did not get to lead the people into the promised land of Israel. The people themselves wound up wandering in the desert for 40 years, and a lot of them died in that wilderness.  Then those left, under Joshua’s leadership, had to fight their way in.

The message in this chapter to its readers and what God is saying to you and me is, don’t do as the people of Israel did nor as Moses did.  Don’t draw back from following the Lord. Don’t let your desires and comforts come between you and God. Realize who and what Jesus is and remain loyal to Him.

As pointed out before, the Hebrews this epistle was written to were suffering persecution. You and I may too in coming days.  There is always the temptation to put personal comfort, safety, and convenience ahead of our loyalty to Jesus Christ in this life.

“Today, if His voice you hear, do not harden your hearts as in the provocation.” (Hebrews 3:!5, Literal rendering)

Faith is the key to progress.

The time for faith is always now. It is our life, a life of trusting God because we have decided and continually decide to live that way.

Faith is the means of progress in our spiritual life, our walk with God, at every point and every day.  Faith is the pathway to rest…

And to whom did He swear, they shall not enter His rest, if not to those who disobeyed. And we see that they were not able to enter [the promised land] because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:18-19, Literal rendering).

And are there not many temptations today that seek to get us to draw back from following Jesus, from a life of fellowship with Him that listens, believes and obeys?

Follow in His Steps

Continuing Series of Meditations on the Epistle to the Hebrews (chapter 2)

Much of the Epistle to the Hebrews is about Jesus Christ, all that He is and what that means for us.  That’s the primary subject.  But it is also about us, His believers and followers.  Basically, the message is that He is a model for us to follow.

1 Peter 2:21: “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” (NASB)

So let’s look first at some important information in the chapter about Jesus.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.
–Hebrews 2:10 (NASB)

God the Father is the source of all things good and ultimately they exist for Him.  This verse is saying that it was appropriate that Jesus was brought to maturity, made perfect through sufferings. This is an integral part of “bringing many sons to glory,” that is our salvation accomplished all the way through its three phases: justification, sanctification, and glorification.

God does the bringing.
Notice that is it God that does this. We don’t bring ourselves: He brings us. Salvation is not something we earn or accomplish. It’s what God accomplishes for us through Jesus Christ.

God the Father was also active in Jesus’ life as He lived it here on earth, through the Holy SPirit. God brought Jesus to maturity.  The Holy Spirit led Jesus “into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He has fasted forty days and forty nights, He became hungry. And the tempter came and said…” (Matthew 4:1-3, NASB)

Jesus was both God and man at the same time.  Deity and humanity. And He still is. He still has a body, though a much glorified, powerful and indestructible one now, and He is still fully human.  He is the perfect bridge between God the Father and You and me.  He makes the Father accessible to us, and He is one with us, as much so and more so than a husband is one with his wife.

This is of course a great mystery, and I tread lightly.  One grand and adorable Person who has two natures, one fully God, one fully human.

Jesus lived as fully human on earth, while being also God.

It is vital to realize that while Jesus walked the earth as both God and man, that He did not depend on his Deity as his primary source of strength, healing and miracles or even wisdom.

He certainly could have made use of His privileges at any point as the Son of God: “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father and He will at once put at My disposal more than twleve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53, the occasion of Jesus arrest in the Garden of Gesthemane)

On the other hand, when the scribes objected to Jesus saying to the paralytic, “Take courage, son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus added:

Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”… (Matthew 9:2-6)

Jesus was and is certainly the Son of God, but here He calls Himself the “Son of Man.” While being God, at the same time He exercised authority  as the Son of Man, an important distinction.

Now while I would never take it upon myself to forgive the sins of others in God’s place (as in the example in the above paragraph), I firmly believe that much of what Jesus did here on earth, we can do too. At the very least we have the potential for doing it.

I can do all thing through Him [Christ] Who strengthens me.” (Phillippians 4:1, NASB)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works I do, she will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:!2, NASB)

Now we believers in Jesus Christ have this potential only because we are one with Him. We are His bride, His siblings, forever joined to HIm. And it is a very real potential.

“Whoever speaks, is to do so as one speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11, NASB)

Now back to the verse above (Hebrews 2:10) and particularly the words “the author of their salvation .” The word “author” in the above verse also carries the meanings of: captain, prince, leader, or chief.  It’s used in the Septuagint for the chief of a tribe.  He’s our Leader and God the Father’s agent.

Jesus lived and dramatized the perfect example of how we should live.  We are live as He did and to continually to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NASB).

He is our Savior and Lord, and also our elder Brother and Husband.  We are one with Him for eternity.  It’s time we started acting like it.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1, NASB)

 

The Necessity of Good Spiritual Nutrition

Continuing Series of Meditations on the Epistle to the Hebrews (chapter 2)

“Because of this, it is necessary that we be paying serious attention and hold onto the things we have heard, lest perhaps we drift away.”
–Hebrews 2:1  (my literal translation)

The Hebrews were in danger.
The Hebrew readers of this epistle were undergoing persecution.  Some of them were in danger of returning to their Jewish faith and abandoning Christianity.  So the focus here is on hanging in there, persevering, and not giving up.

Our situation today is different.
That is, different in that in the US and civilized countries with benevolent governments, persecution is either a lot milder or rare.

So what meaning do these verses hold for us?  They point to the need for good spiritual nutrition through daily fellowship with God our Father, through Jesus, and via the Holy Spirit of God–and, I think, with the help often of the “guardian” angel or angels assigned to each of us (see the end of chapter 1).

“But if we are walking in the light, as He is in the light, we are having fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus His Son is cleansing us from all sin.”
–1 John 1;7 (my literal translation)

They had word of mouth and Scriptures.
The Hebrews readers had heard the Gospel that they could recall for encouragement and motivation.  They also had the Old Testament to refer to, many of them likely the Septuagint Greek version available at the time.  And they had this  epistle itself.

We have Scriptures too–and a wealth of devotional literature.
I’m sure you recall that when Jesus was tempted by Satan, He responded with Scripture quotations. One of them in particular is pertinent here:

“It has been written, Not upon bread alone does man live, but upon every word coming forth from the mouth of God.”
–Matthew 4:4 (Modern Young’s Literal Translation , Greater
Truth Publishers, Lafayette, IN, 2005)

Put that verse next to this one:

“The faith is out of hearing, and the hearing through the spoken word of Christ.”
–Romans 10:17 (my literal translation)

And this one:

“But–his delight [is] in the law of Jehovah, and he does meditate in His law by day and by night.”
–Psalm 1:2 (Modern Young’s Literal Translation)

These three verses relate directly to Scripture and more. They concern God communicating with us, communing with us, feeding us with life-sustaining spiritual food through His spoken or written word.

Meet God in your Bible.
The great and profound theologian Karl Barth emphasized meeting God in Scripture.  What matters most to you? Memorizing a bunch of Bible verses (actually not a bad idea at all)? Your favorite translation, your favorite verses?  Have you heard from God at times in the form of enlightening insights, especially when reading your Bible and thinking about what you were reading? Were not those moments special?

The Moments of Insight.
The moment when we commune with God in His Word, when our ongoing necessity of good spiritual nutrition is met, when in fact we do hear from God, that still small voice, is vital for maintaining spiritual health.  The type of health that enables us to keep out focus where it needs to be, devoted to Jesus Christ, Who is Himself the Word of God.

This is the way.
This is the way to a  muscular faith.  This is the way to spiritual growth and growth in holiness, even during trials, especially during trials.

What are you going through right now?
Tough times? Financial struggle? Burn out? Get into your Bible with faith that God will meet you, and He will.  Fulfill your ongoing, daily need of good spiritual nutrition.  And see what God will do in and through and for you…

“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.”
–Psalm 1:3 (NASB)

Our glorious future in Christ

Hebrews, Chapter 2

We have something God’s Holy Angels will never have.

We are a part of Jesus Christ. We are all sons of God in a unique way, we have all been redeemed by God’s generosity.  We know evil in our experience, and we’re all destined to overcome it completely.

God fulfills His promises.

There’s a highly important little word until at the beginning of this verse: “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).  Notice, it’s not if we will mature and grow up into a maturity that is measured by “the fullness of Christ” –but until.  It’s just a matter of time.  It will happen.

In fact, “He chose us in Him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:4).  Blameless before God is pretty-good, isn’t it? And what God intends He accomplishes.

We have such a glorious future.

It should humble us into grateful and loving service, humble us into gaining victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil.  And we are able to do all that by faith, not by willpower.  Faith is the foundation of progress.  Works do not produce our salvation, ever. We cannot be good enough to earn it, ever. Our whole modus operandi, mode of living and path of progress as believers is faith, trust in God whose power not only saves us but also enables us to do anything good, even take that next breath, always.  You can trace everything good right back to Him every time.

But I digress. Let’s look at an intriguing passage in Hebrews, chapter 2.

5  For He (God) did not subject the inhabited earth which is coming, concerning which we speak, to angels, 6  but a certain one has testified somewhere saying:

“What is man that you remember him?
Or the son of man that you have regard for him?
7 You have made him for a little while less than angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
8  You subjected all things under his feet.
[Psalm 8:4-6]

For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subjected to his rule.  But now we do not see all things subjected to him, 9 but the One who was made for a little while less that angels –we see Jesus because of the suffering of the death crowned with glory and honor…  [literal translation]

Jesus is greater than angels but notice too what these verses say about us!
Now I know the main point of this chapter continues the subject of chapter 1, that is that Jesus is superior to angels.  And in fact many commentators more able than I have made this point.  But my focus here is on us believers.

Psalm 8, quoted above, says some important things about humanity, human beings.  And because Jesus was fully human, the Hebrews author makes a point: since we have been made a little less that angels for a while, so was Jesus.

Jesus has been crowned but so have we.
Both Jesus and believers have been crowned with glory and honor, but in this present age we do not see humanity ruling over creation quite yet–we haven’t come into the full expression of that glory and honor quite yet.

The focus changes from humanity to Jesus Himself.
That little word “but” at the beginning of verse 9 above is very important.  The inspired writer turns from the general glory and honor given to humanity next to the specific glory and honor Jesus gainedliving on this earth as fully human.  We do see Jesus, Who as a matter of fact is still fully human (as well as still fully divine), crowned by with glory and honor. He is our glorious Brother, our Forerunner, our Leader (Hebrews 12:2) and Pioneer of our salvation.

In other words, the author quoted Psalm 8, making a point about mankind, but then focuses on one special man, Jesus.

We are joined to Jesus.
Everything we have and will have as Christians depends on Jesus Christ and His perfect and sinless sacrifice  on our behalf.  It depends on our being joined to Him by faith in Him, joined so closely permanently to Him that “joined” is described elsewhere as actually being in Him.

We are wed to Him.
And because we are indeed in Him, we have everything. All He has is ours, just as surely as everything a husband has belongs too to his wife.  And we are the bride of Christ.

We will rule the world, the future world God has promised.
That glorious future we will have includes our reigning with Christ during His coming thousand-year reign on the earth (for example see Revelation 20:5).

It seems distant.
Again, we do have a glorious future, each and every one of us.  But it can seem a long ways off, hard to believe.  I know it seems far off, so improbable–I know I feel that way at times.

In Colossains 1:27, we read: “..Christ in you the hope of glory…” And we certainly do not now all the full implications of those seven words.

And we will all get there.
My fellow believers, we will some day be fully mature in Christ.  Not because we deserve it but because God loves us with an undying and unfathomable love. And because what He promises He delivers.