Tagged: Hebrews

The Inner Vision

“…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. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” ~ Hebrews 12:2-3

When your heart is dry, and life seems to hold little promise of joy, and your passion is burning low, what is happening and what can you do?

The causes of your spiritual and emotional malaise may be complex, but the effect is the same… your inner world becomes a mess. The entire vision of your soul is filled with the immediate demands of the latest wave of distress. You see no way forward. You can’t see beyond this moment. Darkness settles in.

Jesus faced the very worst circumstances and people. He was criticized and betrayed. He was attacked and falsely accused. He was insulted and threatened.

Yet, even in the moments before His death, He had a way of looking past the hurt and pain. The writer of Hebrews says it this way: “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” He preoccupied Himself with the joy that lay just ahead… a joy so great that it flooded his present existence with meaning. He kept on. Not out of duty or discipline, but from a controlling vision of reality — the truth about His life and identity and His relationship to the Father — that became a vast reservoir of hope in His soul.

What you “see” in your heart controls your inner thoughts and emotions. When the “eyes” of your heart are distracted from Jesus, you will “grow weary or fainthearted” within your soul (Heb. 12:3). That’s why the writer calls us to look to Jesus… to “consider Him.” The options are clear: look at everything but Jesus, and grow weary in soul, or look to Him only and gain a new vision.

He wants you to stop and turn to Him with your weary and overloaded  life. He invites you to come now… with your very real and imperfect self (Matthew 11:28-29; Psalm 27:8). He is not a set of religious beliefs and practices; He is a Person. And knowing Him personally is the only way that any life gets real and dense with meaning (John 17:3).

Where can you see Him? Pick up a New Testament and read the historical accounts of those who walked with Him (found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Rediscover the language of His heart by reading His Words. Watch how He moved among people then… He has not changed. Hear His words and place yourself into the stories. Lose yourself at His feet. Allow Him to invade every moment of this day. Discover the reality of His presence with you and in you. Abandon yourself to His authority and mission. Yield to the gentle pressure of His Spirit. Then you’ll see.

Seeing Him changes everything.

The Coasting Christian

Drifting-boat“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” ~ Hebrews 2:1

You and I need to beware of “coasting” as a Christian… like a ship without an anchor, a Christian can “drift away” from a life lived by faith. Why?

  1. Coasting is effortless. Coasting happens to you (“drift” = passive voice) – not because of anything you have done, but because of your inactivity.
  2. Coasting is inevitable. The inactivity that makes coasting effortless also makes it inevitable. It will happen if you consistently do nothing to exercise faith and engage Jesus in your daily life and decisions. Secular and irreligious forces in the world are constantly demanding your attention and response. If you are not yielding to the influence of the Holy Spirit, you will tend to do life according to the popular consensus and worldview of your culture.
  3. Coasting is a threat to every believer. The author includes himself in the warning “lest WE drift away.” No one is immune to coasting.
  4. Coasting is rarely done alone. The writer addresses the recipients collectively (2PPL), suggesting they were prone to coasting as a group. Not only will a casual Christian negatively influence other Christians, other casual Christians will also negatively influence him. Together, they will lull themselves into thinking all is well in their relationship with God.
  5. Coasting is always away from Jesus. We don’t “drift” into greater intimacy and obedience with God – we drift away from Him.

What can we do to combat this natural tendency? Growing as a mature follower of Jesus requires intentionality: a continuous steering and a conscious submission of the heart towards the indwelling Master! Will you pause and turn to Him right now and do that? At age 22, Robert Robinson was battling coasting in his own life when he penned these words in 1757…

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
~ Robert Robinson (1735 – 1790)

Day 15: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

15“…but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”Hebrews 9:26

In the process of getting a divorce after five painful years of separation, Chip and Cindy Altemos had begun seeing other people. Then without warning, Chip’s health began to deteriorate rapidly. After Chip was hospitalized with kidney failure, Cindy made the decision to donate a kidney to her soon-to-be ex-husband. “There was no way I could walk around with two kidneys and he had none,” she said. “It was the right thing to do.” The transplant took place on February 21, 2007.

Recuperating in the hospital, a surprising thing began to happen. Chip said, “We slowly fell back in love again.” The couple reunited as a result of Cindy’s act.

Such sacrificial love carries with it the power to transform the recipient. Have you ever been loved like that? Whether you realize it or not, the baby born in Bethlehem grew up to love you deeply! The writer of Hebrews writes about the overwhelming, personal nature of Christ’s love for you.

For me, He went where I could not go.

“For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”Hebrews 9:24

In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle contained an inner sanctuary where God’s presence was believed to dwell. On the annual Day of Atonement, a high priest was allowed to enter that space and represent the people of God (9:7). He carried with him the blood of an animal sacrifice—killed to atone for the sins of the nation. No one else could enter there. Not me. Not you. No one was worthy.

When Jesus entered heaven following His death on the cross, He was worthy. Going before the very face of God as sacrifice and priest, Jesus entered God’s space “for us”—literally on our behalf. He is our access into God’s presence. He did it for me!

For me, He gave what I could not give.

“…not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another…”  – Hebrews 9:25

Intimate contact with God came at great cost.  Before a God who is holy, I am helplessly immersed in sins that will keep me from ever knowing His love. When no other human being could rescue me, Jesus “would offer Himself” as the atoning sacrifice for my sins. Only one without guilt could die for the guilty (2 Cor 5:21). He suffered (9:26), bore my sins as his own (9:28), and then put them away (9:26). He did it for me!

For me, He offers what I cannot imagine.

“He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”Hebrews 9:26

When I think that sin bars me from access to God’s presence, it leaves me with a sense of hopelessness. Even if I repent and “make it right,” sin recurs in my life. In the Old Testament, the high priest made atonement for the sins of Israel every year—a constant reminder that the way to God was opened ever-so-briefly through an imperfect, sacrificial system. No one could imagine an access to God that was always available.

Jesus opened up the way to God “once” for all time (9:26-28). Stressing the finality of Jesus’ sacrifice and decisive handling of my sins, the writer of Hebrews wants me to know that the doorway to God’s presence is permanently and always open to me. I will never be good enough to enter God’s space on my own merits, but I will always be welcome there. It really is hard to imagine, but He did it for me!

For me, He is coming.

“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”Hebrews 9:27-28

According to the writer of Hebrews, Jesus will leave the Holy Place of Heaven again and will come for His people, to complete the salvation begun during His first coming. The purpose of salvation goes beyond forgiveness. Salvation is about God coming after a people for Himself. He is not coming again because my sins have been inadequately done away with. He is coming for me!

How do I respond to a Savior who does so much for me? When Jesus returns, the Bible says He is coming for a people who are eagerly waiting for Him (9:28). Does your life reflect a core longing in your heart to be where He is?

Has your life been changed by the Christmas Revolution?

Source for the story: Associated Press, “Kidney Saves Marriage,” FoxNews.com, 6 May 2007, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,270337,00.html.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Day 10: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

ants connecting with antennas to create work netGod, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.Hebrews 1:1-3

In the movie Antz (1998), the entire story occurs in and around an ant hill in New York City’s Central Park. Quite oblivious to the larger world around them, a mosquito and a ladybug have a conversation:

Mosquito: What if, like, we’re just these tiny things… and we’re just, like, part of this whole other huge universe… that’s, like, so big we don’t even know it exists?

Ladybug: Man, that is so deep.

I’m like that mosquito and ladybug. So are you. If God is ALL-INFINITE in size, in power, and in knowledge (and I believe He is), how could I hope to know Him? If He spoke to me, how could I understand anything He said to me?

The core message of Hebrews 1:1-3 is this: God has spoken to us through His Son. The passage strikes me in several ways:

  • God takes the initiative to speak to me. When dealing with tiny creatures like you and me, God must make the first move to communicate — and He has! In his classic work, Knowing God, J. I. Packer writes, “All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me.”
  • God speaks clearly to me. The writer asserts that Jesus is the “express image” of God… an exact copy of His essence or being. By coming as a baby in Bethlehem, God chose to communicate with us in a form and a language we could understand.
  • God does everything necessary to be intimate with me. The writer says that Jesus “purged our sins.” For the first readers who were Christians, He had cleansed their lives to such a degree, that the result was as if they had never sinned. Although God originally intended that we would live with Him and for Him (dependent on Him for direction and life), each of us was also infected by a hereditary predisposition of the heart to live for ourselves.  Through His death on the cross, Jesus is able to wipe away every offense and obstacle to intimacy for those who yield their lives to Him. He also invites us on a journey of transformed desires and dreams flowing from a new heart.

He knows who I am. My name. My past. My heart. And He still wants me to know Him. It is equally true that He wants you to know Him through His Son, the One born in Bethlehem.

It’s a very clear message underlying the Christmas Revolution.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Pure Provocation

Galatians 5:25-26 “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Hebrews 10:24 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”

Advice to a young man starting his first job: “You’re likely to be nervous at first, but don’t let it upset you. I, too, was frustrated, bewildered and subdued. It works like this, so don’t worry: The first year you’re on the staff, you will ask yourself what am I doing here? After a while you will have another question: What are the rest of ’em doing here?”

Paul warns us in his letter to the Galatians of one of the dangers of spiritual development over time: conceit. After encouraging us to walk in the Spirit (under His control, guidance and prompting), Paul directs us to avoid sliding into an empty pursuit of attention and respect from others. It makes us easily irritated and jealous of others in the family of God when we do not receive the praise when something good happens.

A Spirit-focused walk will provoke our spiritual family members to love and service. Rather than creating ill-feeling in others, we will cause those around us to desire another level — a higher place — a purer devotion — in their walk with God.

The writer of Hebrews suggests that we have to think about how to do this. Irritating others requires little effort or forethought. Challenging others to love more… requires deep reflection and openness to the Spirit of God.

Do you consistently rub people the wrong way — or the right way?