Thursday, December 30, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Three Hundred Fifty-Nine

Day Three Hundred Fifty-Nine, Hebrews 10-13

After two days of reading: that Jesus is superior, that Jesus is a permanent and perfect Priest who was able to once and for all take away our sins, and that we are recipients of a better covenant, one might be left thinking, "Great, but what does all that do for me? I mean, I can come to church on Sunday morning learn all of these powerful theological principles, but how does that translate into how I live my life on Monday morning?" Glad you asked.

The Hebrew writer continues with, "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place, by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

"Therefore..." You knew Hebrews was my favorite, but you didn't know that one of my favorite words in the book of Hebrews is "Therefore."

Therefore...since Christ is superior...since He is a permanent and perfect Priest who has taken away our sin...since we are recipients of a better covenant:

--We can have access to God

--We can draw near to Him

--We can have full assurance of our faith

--We can have our consciences cleared

--We must hold unswervingly onto our hope

--We must spur one another on toward love and good deeds

--We must continue meeting together

--We must encourage one another

If that's not enough for you, the Hebrew writer also gives you some examples of faith: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, Rahab. And after telling the stories of what these people accomplished by their faith, he continues with, "And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephtah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated--the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Therefore..."

There's that word again..."Therefore"

After giving all of these powerful examples of people and their faith, and what their faith accomplished, the Hebrew writer encourages his readers to persevere in their own faith, with what is my absolute favorite passage in all of Scripture: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

A little later on in this letter, the Hebrew writer will tell his readers to "remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith."

That's it, folks. That's the message of the Bible, as summed up by the author of Hebrews. In view of God's powerful and mysterious and wonderful way of establishing a greater covenant for us to participate in, and in view of the fact that you are not alone in this, consider what the faith and obedience of others has accomplished, and do not lose heart!!!

The Hebrew writer ends by giving a few very practical examples of what that means:

--We are to "endure hardship as sons."

--We are to "keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

--We are to maintain sexual purity. "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure."

--We are to be content, not lovers of money. "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have..."

--We are to constantly praise God. "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name."

--We are to obey our leaders. "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account."

As I've previously mentioned that I'm a lover of the humor in the Bible, I can't let go of Hebrews without pointing out that the Hebrew writer didn't consider 13 chapters a long letter! He wrote, "I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter." Short??? Compared to what, the book of Psalms?!?!?

I'll leave you with a few passages from chapter 12 of Hebrews to sum all of this up, as the Hebrew writer points out that unlike the Israelites, we did not meet God on a physical mountain on which He descended, a mountain with burning fire and darkness and storm, a mountain which no one could touch, a mountain that no one wanted to touch.

"But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel...Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."

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