Humility is the greatest Christian virtue.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Sunday, December 01, 2013
In this passage, the writer calls for a response to the better covenant in Christ. He wants them to obey and cling to Jesus Christ for salvation.
The last paragraph we studied, verses 18 through 25, again compared the old covenant to the new. This time the writer used a metaphor of mountains. Sinai represented the old covenant. Zion represented the new covenant, which is superior to the old.
The last sentence of that paragraph refers to “the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”. By that he means the shed blood of Christ is superior to the blood of Abel, for the blood of Christ brings atonement for sin. Abel’s blood spoke of his obedience, but Christ’s blood spoke of his obedience to obtain our salvation.
So, in verse 25, when the writer says do not refuse him who is speaking, he refers to Jesus Christ, who speaks of salvation through his death on the cross. The writer says see that you do not refuse him. The message of the gospel was preached to them, so they needed to receive it and not reject it. Hearing the gospel is not enough, you must believe in Christ and receive him as lord and savior. John 1:11-12 discusses this. First, John said, “He came to his own and his own people did not receive him.” Jesus came to his people, the Jews, and declared himself to be the Messiah, the Son of God, and the one who could save them from their sins. Although some believed him, the majority did not receive him. They were willing for him to be a good teacher and a healer, but not the Son of God.
But some people did receive him as God’s son and believed on his name. (John 1:12) To those, he gave the right to become children of God. They received eternal life and adoption into God’s family. When Jesus revealed his divinity by changing water into wine, he manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him. They believed he was the Son of God. John 3:16 says that the one who believes in the Son of God receives eternal life. But John 3:18 points out that those who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God are condemned.
There are some who claim you can receive Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord, and still be saved. The problem is, you must receive Jesus for who he is, the Son of God who not only saves, but rules over all. If you do not receive him both as savior and lord (master), you do not receive him and are not saved to eternal life.
After giving the warning not to refuse Christ, the writer tells us why. He uses an argument from the lesser to the greater. He points out that those who refused to obey the one who warned them on earth. That person was Moses, who received instructions from God and taught them to Israel. Some, however, disobey or refused him. There were several instances, but certainly the rejection of the command to go into Canaan as met with judgment in the form of defeat, death and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. They did not escape.
So, the writer says, if they did not escape when Moses, the man from earth warned them, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven. That person is Christ. He is in heaven, raised from the dead, and seated at the right hand of the Father. He made this same point in Hebrews 10:29, when he wrote: “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God...”
In verse 26, he writes “at that time, his voice shook the earth”. I think he is again referring to God’s word of the covenant law, given to Moses, on Mount Sinai. Exodus 19: 18 says the whole mountain trembled greatly. He shook the earth.
In contrast, verse 26 says he now says he will not only shake the earth but the heavens. He will do this “yet once more”. There will come a time when God shakes the earth and the heavens. This is a reference to Haggai 2:6. This type of statements in the Bible indicate a big, important event and action of God. the writer explains that in verse 27. He said this means there will be a removal of things that are shaken. He says those are the things “that have been made”.
This refers to the present created order that we see, the heavens and the earth. “Heavens” in this case means the sky and space. God will remove the present created order at the end. Peter described it this way:
“the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire,
being kept until the day of judgment
and destruction of the ungodly.” 2 Peter 3:7.
Peter is saying Jesus will return to judge the ungodly and condemn them, then to destroy the present order. He goes on in verse 10 to say the heavens (sky) will pass away and the heavenly bodies (space) will be burned up and dissolved. John saw a vision of this and said “for the first heaven and the first earth has passed away and the sea was no more”. (Revelation 21:1)
The writer of Hebrews tells us one reason for the destruction of these things is so that the things that cannot be shaken (or dissolved) will be the only things that remain. What remains after the destruction of the earth, sky and space is the kingdom that cannot be shaken. I call this the new earth. In Revelation 21:1, John wrote “Then I saw a hew heaven and a new earth...and I say the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven and from God.” It is the place prepared for us which is now in heaven, but will become our residence in the new earth after resurrection. Peter write: “But according to his promise we are waiting for the new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. So, the unshakeable kingdom is the new heavens and new earth. Revelation 22 describes it in very Eden like terms. The tree of life is there on either side of the river of the water of life, God is there and we will worship him.
This, by the way, is the only Utopia there will ever be, the only perfect place to dwell. I am a child of the 60s and 70s in the United States. We say the world as corrupt and soul killing. We thought people could come together and create love, harmony and peace. Much of the music of that era was about this. The summer of love in San Francisco was about this. And, although many older people do not know it, Woodstock was about this.
Woodstock was a huge outdoor concert lasting several days in upstate New York on Mr. Yasgur’s farm. The idea was to show that people could come together, listen to music, promote peace, love and harmony, and create this Utopia. Crosby, Stills and Nash sang about it, in a song called “Woodstock” that was written by Joni Mitchell, a folk singer.
The song is full of religious imagery. The song talks about being caught in the devil’s bargain. But the tag line is “we have got to get ourselves back to the garden”. It means back to the Garden of Eden, as described in Genesis 2. But they made the same mistake made by Adam and Even: they tried to create Utopia with human effort and ideas, not by the lordship of God. And so it failed to bring peace to our nation. That is the problem with all Utopian programs. Human nature always corrupts it. The only perfect place that will ever exist is the kingdom of God that exists after resurrection and judgment, the New Earth, the unshakeable kingdom, the New Jerusalem. Then we will truly get back to the Garden. But there we will worship God, Father and Son, and live under his rule. That is what it means by saying the throne of God will be there.
What We Do In The Mean Time
First, we are grateful for receiving this kingdom. Ungrateful Christian should be an oxymoron, a phrase that contradicts itself. Ungrateful Christians profane God’s name. If you are not grateful that God saw you as dead in your sins, deserving death and hell, unable to discern spiritual things, futile in your thinking, a child of wrath, an enemy of God, a rebel, yet sent his Son to suffer and die to atone for your sins and give you fellowship with the Father for all eternity, there is something very wrong with you. If you do not understand the magnitude of grace, you likely do not understand the magnitude of your sin to God.
The story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet while he attended dinner at a Pharisee’s house demonstrates this. Luke 7 has the story. The woman, who was a sinner, came into the room and anointed Jesus’ feet with an alabaster flask of ointment. Then she wept, dripping tears onto his feet, and dried his feet with her hair while kissing his feet. (Luke 7:36-38) This is an act of humility, worship and thanksgiving. She was so grateful Jesus had forgiven her sins that she expressed her thanks with extravagance. The Pharisee did not do any of these things, and in fact was rude, not even offering Jesus water to wash his feet, which was customary. Jesus made the point that one who realizes he or she has been forgiven much will love much. Those who think they are forgiven little, will love little. And this implies no one is forgiven little that is forgiven at all.
Second, we are to offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12:28). In the Old Testament, God spelled out the manner of worship he acceptable. Anything else resulted in tragedy. In the New Testament, there are not as many rules spelled out concerning worship. But they are there. Any worship must be reverent and full of awe, that is recognizing that God is almighty. He is not your co-pilot, Santa Clause, the big guy, the man upstairs or any such trivial description. He is the creator of all things, the sustainer of life, the giver of salvation, the giver of all blessings, the one who holds the power to raise us from the dead. Any description of him that is less is unacceptable worship.
The New Testament tells us to meet together, to preach the gospel, to sing, to read scripture, observe the ordinances and to pray. What is unacceptable worship? Programs that include things from other religions, that allow you to attend and perform ritual without believing, anything that downplays God’s majesty, anything that makes man equal to God, that denies the truth and reliability of God’s word and so on.
Why must worship be acceptable? Because our God is a consuming fire. He judges and destroys the wicked. This statement is based on Deuteronomy 4:24. Moses warned the Israelites not to make an image in the form of anything, because God is a consuming fire and a jealous God. by jealous, he means God does not tolerate your having an allegiance to anything greater than your allegiance to him. Modern day devotion to career and wealth that exceeds devotion to Christ is no more acceptable than devotion to wooden idols or the worship of gods from pagan countries in the Old Testament times.
Be grateful and worship with reverence and awe. This is pleasing to God.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
THE TWO MOUNTAINS: SINAI AND ZION
After urging his readers to endure in the faith, the writer of Hebrews tells them why. That is why he starts verse 18 with the word “for”. He tells them in very poetic terms that, as great as the covenant at Sinai was, the new covenant is so much better. This is a beautiful passage.
What You Did NOT Come to
The Hebrew Christians did not come to the Old Covenant. The writer describes the experience of God giving the covenant as it is recorded in Exodus. It was an awesome and fearful experience.
The thing that can be touched was Mount Sinai. It was physical and earthly. Exodus 19 tells us that the people of Israel gathered at the Lord’s command at the base of the mountain. Moses went up on Mount Sinai to talk to God and receive the covenant. Thunder, lightning and a thick cloud came on the mountain. Hebrews says there was fire, darkness, gloom and tempest (or storm). (18) Then there was the sound of a trumpet. (19) Exodus 19:16 says there was a very loud trumpet blast. Then, the trumpet blew louder and louder. (19:19) When God spoke, there was loud thunder. The people were so afraid they did not want to be there. They asked Moses to do it for them. (Exodus 20:18-19) It was a scary event. Even Moses said he trembled with fear. God demonstrated that he was not approachable except by his designated priest. He demonstrated that he was the sovereign, the powerful party in the covenant. He wanted them to fear him and not sin. (Exodus 20:20)
And, this is the God into whose hands you fall if you live under the law rather than grace. When you stand before God alone, as opposed to in Christ, you bear his wrath expressed in his terrible power. That is why Hebrews 10:31 told us “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God”.
But, Hebrews has already gone to great lengths to tell us the Old Covenant has become obsolete and is replaced with the New Covenant. Therefore he says you who have professed faith in Christ, even though you are Jewish, have not come to the Old Covenant, but the New Covenant instead.
What You Came To
The first description of the New Covenant is “Mount Zion”. Verse 22 says they came to Mount Zion. That is in contrast to Mount Sinai. t is a heavenly place rather than an earthly place.
What is Mount Zion? The Bible teaches us that Jerusalem, and the mountain on which part of it was built, is a type for a new Jerusalem or Zion that is the holy city of God prepared for the church. And by church I mean the believers of all time. This is why, in verse 22, he uses three phrases to describe this eternal place: Mount Zion, the city of the Living God, and the heavenly Jerusalem.
We have seen that the writer of Hebrews applied Psalm 2:7 to Jesus. In that Psalm, God the Father said to God the Son “You are my son; today I have begotten you”. The verse right before it, though, Psalm 2:6, says “I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” Although the first king set on that hill was David, the last king, Jesus, will reign forever in Zion, the symbol of the permanent abode of God’s people with God dwelling and reigning in their midst.
Psalm 110 is the basis for much of the sermon that is the book of Hebrews. Psalm110:2 says “The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter.” Again, he will reign as the Davidic king for eternity amongst his people. Jeremiah spoke of a heavenly city also.
Jesus spoke of preparing a place for us. John 14:3. Paul picked up the theme in Galatians 4:26 says “But the Jerusalem above is free and she is our mother”. Philippians 3:20 says “our citizenship is in heaven”.
And there are other folks there in heaven we come to. First, he says there are innumerable angels in festal gathering. Heaven is full of angels. God is not alone up there. Remember how Elisha was surrounded by a great Army of Syrians and said “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16) The Lord opened his servants eyes to see the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire. Jude 14 says the Lord will come with ten thousands of angels (holy ones). John’s visions of heaven in Revelation include angels. In Revelation 5:11, John saw angels numbering myriads and thousands of thousands. This verse is a reflection of Daniel 7:10.
What are these angels doing in heaven? The English Standard Version says they are in festal gathering. They are celebrating, having a festival. I believe they are worshipping God with great joy. The New International Version calls it a joyful assembly. Notice the stark contrast between the fear of Sinai and the joy of Zion (heaven).
So, believers come to heaven, the New Jerusalem, complete with many angels joyfully worshipping God. What else do they, and we, come to? They come to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven. The firstborn is Jesus. He is the firstborn as the Son of God, the first of all who will be saved and resurrected to new life. Romans 8:29 says “For those whom he foreknew (believers), he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers”.
So, the assembly of the firstborn, is the gathering in heaven of all believers who have died and gone to heaven. You do not die and go to sleep until the resurrection. You die and go to heaven and join the assembly, the church, of Jesus in heaven. You are enrolled in heaven because you name is written in the book of life. This is the book opened at the judgment as shown to John and recorded in Revelation 20. John said “if anyone’s name was not found written the the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15)
By the way, when were our names written in this book of life? Revelation 13:8 says it was “before the foundation of the world”. There is a song that talks about a new name written down in glory. But the Bible says all the names were written down before the world was made.
God the father will be there. He is called the “judge of all”. Everyone who ever lived will stand before God and be judged. Those who are not saved are condemned because the have sinned and earned the wage of death. (Romans 3:23; 6:23) Notice that we come to God. At Sinai, Israel could not come to God. They were not to even touch the mountain. Only Moses, representing the people, could come near. When the tabernacle was constructed, a veil kept the people from the presence of God. Only the high priest could go in. It was the same with the temple. But, when Jesus died for us, the veil of the temple was torn. This showed that Jesus led the way into the presence of the Father. Not since man’s fall in the Garden had man been allowed to approach God. But in Christ, we have access to the Almighty God. What a privilege!
The “spirits of the righteous made perfect” is another reference to believers who have died physically, but had their spirits resurrected to heaven, awaiting the resurrection of their bodies. They are righteous, for they are credited with the righteousness of Christ in return for their belief in him. Romans 5:21-22 says “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” They are also “made perfect”. They no longer sin. They have been made new, at least in spirit.
This picture of heaven saves the best for last. Last is the hero of our story, Jesus Christ. He is the mediator of our covenant. His blood shed for us is the blood that established our covenant.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Monday, November 18, 2013
I'm sorry, but I lost the comment requesting information on this. You must be referring to the book "Evangelicalism Divided" by Murray in which he discusses Billy Graham in terms of ecumenism. I'm not sure about the video, but it may be this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2uc0xHfOC0
Let me know if I can help you further.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Verse 12 tells us that, having considered that suffering is often enduring discipline, we should strengthen ourselves and keep walking with the Lord. Here in Texas we might say “Cowboy up and get back to it”. These are exhortations. He has taught doctrine. Now he teaches how to live out that doctrine.
The language in verses 12 and 13 are poetic. He says to lift your drooping hands, strengthen your weak knees and make straight paths for your feet. All of these are ways of saying do not give in to fear, be strong and stand firm. There might also be an allusion here to Isaiah 35:3-4. That says:
Strengthen the weak hands
and make firm the feeble knees
say to those who have anxious thoughts
be strong, fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance
with the power of the recompense of God
He will come and save you.
In these verses, the writer gives us some specifics to work for. First he tells us to strive for peace with everyone. It is amazing how much space in the New Testament is devoted to telling Christians to get along with each other. Jesus started it off by praying for the disciples. In John 17:10-11, he prayed that the disciples would be one as he and the Father were one. Paul rebuked the Corinthian church, telling them to have no divisions but to be united in the same mind and same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10). Sadly, they did not accomplish this. Clement wrote them years later and again urged them to be united. He said they had envy, strife and sedition. (1 Clement III) Ephesians 4:3 tells us to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. So, we need to make peace in the church, peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are also to strive for holiness. We do not assume that we make a public profession of Christ and are done. No, we continually work to be holy. We pray and ask for strength, for guidance and conviction from the Holy Spirit. Then we act on that. When we see part of our life that does not conform to the word of God, we change it.
I know the pursuit of holiness is hard in our time. The level of behavior that is perfectly acceptable is horrible. Do not strive to be good as defined by your culture, but by the Bible. A book that drives this point home is Holiness by J. C. Ryle. Another good book is The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges.
You should realize that it has always been God’s intention to create a people for himself that are holy. Holy means set apart to God and reflecting his character. In Leviticus 11:44, God instructed the Israelites “consecrate your selves therefore and be holy for I am holy”. Peter reflected this in 1 Peter 1:15, where he says “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all our conduct, sine it is written you shall be holy for I am holy. Believers who reflect God’s holy character honor God. Those who claim to believe but are not holy defame his name.
Verse 15 tells us to see to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God. We are to watch out for those in our fellowship to make sure their confession is genuine. One way we do that is by constantly preaching the gospel. We do not water it down. We do not tell people they can be saved apart from it.
We are also to see to it that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, because many are defiled by it. This bitterness is not just an unhappy person. It has to do with apostasy, or turning away from God.
This is an allusion to Deuteronomy 29:18. (Remember, this is a book written to Jewish Christians using Old Testament references.) In that verse, Moses said Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit...” In this context, the bitter root is the desire to forsake God for idols. If such a person stays in the fellowship, he defiles it. The Jewish member of the congregation reading this letter would recognize the reference, and recognize it applied to them if they were thinking of abandoning Christ for Judaism. In the same way, people today who are bitter spread their bitterness and defile the fellowship.
Verse 16 tells us that no one is to be sexually immoral in the fellowship. Remember 1 Corinthians 5, where Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for tolerating a man who “has his father’s wife”. A person who has fallen into immorality has to be rebuked so that he or she will repent and be restored. If they do not repent, they must be removed from the fellowship.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Jesus, of course, is the ultimate example of faithfulness and endurance. He endured humiliation. The scribes and elders spat in his face, struck him and slapped him. They mocked him. (Matthew 26:67) Peter denied knowing him. (Matthew 26:70) He was bound like a criminal. (Matthew 27:2) He was rejected for release in favor of Barabbas, a robber. (Matthew 27:15-23; John 18:40) He was tortured by the Romans, being stripped, mocked, spit upon, beaten. (Matthew 27:27-31) He was crucified. (Matthew 27:36) The wrath of God was laid upon him for our sin. (Isaiah 53:6)He endured it all. Verse 2 of Hebrews 12 says he endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him”. What was the joy set before him? The joy was his exaltation to the Father’s right hand. In John 17:5, Jesus prayed “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that had with you before the world existed.” Jesus had glory in heaven. But he gave that up, clothing himself in human form, and was obedient to death on the cross, according to Philippians 2:8. But, then, God highly exalted him, or restored his glory by resurrecting him to his right hand. (Philippians 2:9-10) In a sense, Jesus endured by faith. He believed the Father would raise him from the dead and exalt him to his right hand. He endured horrible suffering because he kept his eye on the prize, salvation for those who believe and exaltation to the right hand of the Father. His suffering was greater than any other, for he not only bore the terrific physical abuse, he suffered the wrath of God for the sin of the world. He did not even care about the shame of it because he was focused on the joy to be accomplished. Crucifixion was not only painful, but shameful. Jesus was stripped. Now Jew would allow himself to be seen without his robe. He suffered in front of a jeering crowd, not exerting his power and glory, but suffering and dying in front of his fellow Jews, seemingly helpless and alone. He endured the hostility of sinners. They jeered at him and spat upon him. Imagine, being the son of God and being mocked by unbelieving Jews and Romans. Yet, he willingly did this. If he suffered so much for us, surely we can endure some suffering or opposition without giving up. (5) Endure Discipline 12:4-12 The writer takes a turn here with regard to suffering. He casts it in regard to God’s discipline. Discipline is to rid us of sin. Verse 4 points out that they had not resisted sin to the point of shedding blood. So, the writer says, unlike Jesus, you have not resisted sin to the point of shedding your blood. Remember the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26. He clearly understood how bad his suffering would be. He was sorrowful and troubled. (26:37) He said “my soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” (26:38) He asked the disciples to watch with him, to be with him and support him. He prayed that the Father would give him another way to do the task, yet surrendered to the Father’s will. Luke records that Jesus was in such great agony and he prayed so earnestly that his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44) An angel even came to strengthen him because he was in so much agony. I have never prayed so hard I broke out in a sweat, much less sweat like great drops of blood. And neither had the Hebrews that read this letter. I have never struggled to resist sin to the point of shedding blood, and neither had the Hebrews. This is a tie in to his earlier admonition to throw off every weight, including sin that clings to us, so that we can run the race set before us. (12:1) Sin detracts us from our race. It also diverts our focus away from Jesus. We see here that the writer equates at least some of our suffering with discipline. God sometimes sends suffering to discipline us. In verses 5 and 6, he quotes a proverb, specifically Proverbs 3:11-12. This proverb teaches us that the Lord disciplines his children. Every one of the ones he receives, he disciplines. And we are not to regard it lightly nor be weary. You’ll never build a TV ministry selling this truth, but it is truth. Why does God do it? Because his goal is to make you like Christ. James 1:2-4 tells us that trials produce steadfastness, which will make us perfect and complete, lacking nothing. Have you suffered disappointment in not getting something you really wanted? God disciplined you to see that Christ, and not earthly things, should fulfill you. Has someone hurt your feelings? God disciplined you to show that Christlikeness includes suffering the disdain or mistreatment from others and still glorifying God. These are just two examples. Of course, sometimes God really brings tough discipline to us to strengthen our faith or to make us give up a sin that is hurting our spiritual life. Sometimes God takes things away from us so that we will take our focus away from those things and focus on Him. We should never take his discipline lightly, but should always try to grow in our sanctification through our suffering. The writer makes the point in verses 7 and 8 that discipline means God is treating us as his children. He compares this to earthly fathers who discipline their children for their benefit. My father did not think his parents loved him because they never disciplined him. He ran wild and they did not care. The fruit of discipline, set out in verse 11, is the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hopefully, by the time we are old, we are at peace with God’s will and we exhibit righteousness in our behavior and thinking. If not, God has more work to do. Verse 12 tells us that, having considered that suffering is often enduring discipline, we should strengthen ourselves and keep walking with the Lord. Here in Texas we might say “Cowboy up and get back to it”.