Sermon Blog

Letter To CLGrews (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Letter To CLGrews   (Hebrews 12:1-2)

So, let us drop every extra weight like all wise runners do when they get ready to run. The Olympians in Greece ran practically naked in an attempt to get rid of anything that would slow them down. Today, Olympic athletes wear the lightest shoes; swimmers wear the slickest body suits; bikers get the most aerodynamic helmets and bikes. They cut down to the smallest percentage of body fat. Every little thing matters.

“With Your Shield, Or On It” Hebrews 10: 26-39

 “With Your Shield, Or On It”    Hebrews 10: 26-39

Greek women presented shields to their sons going to battle and said, "Either bring this back, or be brought back upon it." Sometimes they would give them their fathers' shields and say, "Your father always preserved this shield; preserve it, or perish." Either one was a proof that a soldier had faithfully persevered until the end. You may die, but you will never run.So when the writer of Hebrews says, “Don’t abandon your confidence,” he is saying, “Don’t abandon your faith. It is your shield.” This is not the only time we see this language in the New Testament. “Above all, take the shield of faith.” (Ephesians 6:16)

Hebrews 10:1-25 “Out Of The Shadows"

Hebrews 10:1-25   “Out Of The Shadows"

Have ever seen someone who has a compulsive obsession with being clean? They soap, and they scrub, and it is never good enough. They are clean, but they don’t realize how clean they are. There is a spiritual version of this: we soap and scrub (we do devotions, we pray, we tithe, we volunteer at church, we do missions, we only absorb Christian entertainment, we give to every noble cause) to make ourselves clean because we just sense we are never not dirty. And while all those things I listed are fine, they will never make us clean.

A Great Salvation (Hebrews 2:1-9)

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[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fNWTZZwgbs[/embed] Last week, we talked about the purpose of Hebrews as revealed in Hebrews 1: to elevate Jesus as superior to anything else.

"The Son, who is the radianceof God’s glory and the exact expression/image of His nature, sustains all that exists through the power of His word. He was seated at the right hand of God once He Himself had made the offering that purified us from all our sins."

This leads us into this week’s passage.

"That is why we ought to pay even closer attention to the voice that has been speaking so that we will never drift away from it. For if the words of instruction and inspiration brought by heaven’s messengers were valid, and if we live in a universe where sin and disobedience receive their just rewards, then how will we escape destruction if we ignore (neglect) this great salvation?"[1]

Notice this was written to believers. The salvation in this particular passage isn’t about that initial act of surrender. It’s about neglecting the salvation we have been given. Initially we thought it was great, but now it’s kind of, “meh.” It’s cool that we are saved and all, but we don’t remember that we were saved from destruction, or that we ‘are beings saved’ (1 Corinthians 1:18) in an ongoing process of sanctification."[2]

"We heard this great salvation first from our Lord Jesus, then from those who passed on His teaching. God also testifies to this truth by signs and wonders and miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit lighting on those He chooses."

The writer started this section by saying we dare not ignore this great salvation that is given to us. Now he offers a little bit of an aside, almost a footnote, about how his readers knew this message of salvation was true: 1) Jesus taught it, 2) the disciples and apostles have passed it on, and 3) God confirmed it with miracles acting as signs that point toward God as the author of the message.

Notice the role of everything miraculous mentioned in this section: It was given or done as God willed to testify to the truth of salvation. Some have called these “inaugural miracles” or “inaugural gifts.” God made sure the reality of the supernatural world was clear, and it all pointed toward God, the author of this great salvation (John 2:23). Think of the story of the lame man (Matthew 9; Mark 2) to whom Jesus said, “I can forgive your sins.” His audience didn’t believe he could do that, so Jesus said, “So that you might believe…” and healed the man’s lameness.

In other words, there was a visible validation from God so that claims of invisible power and realities were confirmed.Last week we talked about how it was easy it was for the audience of Hebrews to become distracted by angels and focus on their glory of the messenger rather than the glory of the One who made them and sent them. Same with miracle-working. Miracles are always meant to be signs pointing toward the one who makes miracles possible; any time the person doing the miracle or the event itself overshadows the glory of God, it’s a problem. So…

  • Don’t neglect your great salvation.

  • That message of salvation is legit – it came from trustworthy sources, and God has affirmed it through miraculous signs.

Now, back to angels for a little bit, because we didn’t get enough in Chapter 1.

"Now clearly God didn’t set up the heavenly messengers to bring the final word or to rule over the world that is coming. In one place the Scriptures say:[3]“What is man that you are mindful of him,[4]or the son of man, that you care for him?,  You made him for a little while lower than the angels, you crowned him with glory and honor,  putting everything in subjection under his feet.” When God placed everything under the son of man, He didn’t leave out anything. Maybe we don’t see all that happening yet;  but what we do see is Jesus, born a little lower than the heavenly messengers, who is now crowned with glory and honor because He willingly suffered and died. And He did that so that through God’s grace, He might taste death on behalf of everyone."[5]

 This gives us answer to the question at the beginning of this section: “How will we escape destruction if we ignore this great salvation?”  The answer? “[Jesus] willingly suffered and died. And He did that so that through God’s grace, He might taste death on behalf of everyone.”

That is our great salvation.  And yet, we tend to drift.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy2PfoSu08I[/embed]

“That is why we ought to pay even closer attention to the voice that has been speaking [about this great salvation] so that we will never drift away from it.”

This imagery was used in literature to describe a lot of things:a ship whose anchor does not hold, an arrow slipping from the quiver, snow melting and sliding, a ring slipping off a finger, water leaking from a poorly constructed vessel.

Drifting happens easily. It’s not a verb that requires much work to accomplish. When we tube the Boardman, I drift. I just sit there and get floated from one place to another, banging into banks and dodging branches along the way. I don't have to do anything to drift. This is how we neglect our salvation: we drift in the currents of the world.

  • How do I get lost on a trip? Just drive with no worries about direction.

  • How do let my garden become a lawn? Do nothing.

  • How do I get out of shape? Do nothing.

  • How do I become more ignorant vs. more knowledgeable? Do nothing.

  • How hard would Braden have to work to get his college scholarship revoked? He wouldn’t. He could just do nothing.

It’s easy to drift – but it’s dangerous. If all the boats on the water drifted, they would run into each other or eventually crash into land. God forbid a storm arises. A drifting boat is in deep, deep trouble. I once heard a phrase: “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” And that’s usually not where you want to be.

“Pay even closer attention” (give heed) is bringing a ship to land (these verses were heavy on nautical images). How do we do this? I’m sure there are a number of approaches you can take, but I am going to focus this morning on observing godly disciplines." You can find spiritual disciplines discussed in a variety of ways; [7]I have chosen this helpful breakdown from Nathan Hale.[6]

I don’t offer these as a legalistic requirement. I offer these as a way of showing how Christians throughout the centuries have ordered their lives so that they do not neglect their great salvation.

  • Prayer – communicating with God ( 6:9)

  • Meditation – focusing on God and his will ( 4:8)

  • Fasting – a reminder of the source of all nourishment (Luke 5:35)

  • Study – careful attention the reality that God reveals to us, especially through Holy Scripture (Luke 2:46)

  • Simplicity – seeking God’s Kingdom first ( 6:33)

  • Submission – placing God’s will above one’s own (Luke 22:42)

  • Solitude – withdrawing from the world to spend time with God ( 14:23)

  • Service – supportive action toward others (Mark 10:45)

  • Confession – acknowledging one’s sin with and to others in the community of faith(James 5:16)

  • Guidance – giving and receiving direction from others along the journey with Jesus (Acts 15:8)

  • Celebration – taking joy is what God has done (1 Cor 5:8)

  • Worship – giving God glory through attitudes and actions, and words (1 Cor. 14:26)

But at the end of the day, these are not our salvation. They are tools God has given us to help us be focused so that we don’t neglect the amazing grace that has been given us.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9UdI0CXbm0[/embed]

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[1]“The salvation mentioned here is the whole system of Christianity, with all the privileges it confers; properly called a salvation, because, by bringing such an abundance of heavenly light into the world, it saves or delivers [us] from the kingdom of darkness, ignorance, error, superstition, and idolatry; and provides all the requisite means to free [us] from the power, guilt, and contamination of sin.” (Adam Clarke)

[2]This language of ignoring or neglecting is also found in the parable in Matthew 22 when people disregarded their invitation to a marriage supper. They did not give it the weight it deserved and failed to take advantage of the opportunity offered to them.

[3]Interesting note from Adam Clarke’s commentary: “It was common thus to express the testimony of any of the inspired writers… thus saith a certain scripture….Thus even the heathens were accustomed to quote high authorities; so Plato… ‘as a certain person saith’, meaning Heraclitus…It is such a mode of quotation as we sometimes use when we speak of a very eminent person who is well known… The mode of quotation therefore implies, not ignorance, but reverence.”

[4]“That God should remember in the way of mercy these wretched beings, is great condescension; that he should visit them, manifest himself to them, yea, even dwell among them, and at last assume their nature, and give up his life to ransom them from the bitter pains of eternal death, is mercy and love indescribable and eternal.”– Adam Clarke

[5]It was a custom in ancient times to take off criminals by making them drink a cup of poison. Socrates was adjudged to drink a cup of the juice of hemlock, by order of the Athenian magistrate… The reference in the text seems to point out the whole human race as being accused, tried, found guilty, and condemned, each having his own poisoned cup to drink; and Jesus, the wonderful Jesus, takes the cup out of the hand of each, and cheerfully and with alacrity drinks off the dregs! Thus having drunk every man's poisoned cup, he tasted that death which they must have endured, had not their cup been drunk by another. Is not this the cup to which he refers,  Matthew 26:39; : O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me? But without his drinking it, the salvation of the world would have been impossible; and therefore he cheerfully drank it in the place of every human soul, and thus made atonement for the sin of the whole world: and this he did, by the grace, mercy, or infinite goodness of God. Jesus Christ, incarnated, crucified, dying, rising, ascending to heaven, and becoming our Mediator at God's right hand, is the full proof of God's infinite love to the human race.” (Adam Clark)

[6]This list is from “The 12 Spiritual Disciplines: Essential Tools for Spiritual Growth.”

http://nathanrhale.com/the-12-spiritual-disciplines-an-overview/

[7]“What Are Spiritual Disciplines?” https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-are-spiritual-disciplines

“The Great High Priest” (Hebrews 4:11-5:3)

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You can listen to the audio here You can watch the Facebook Live stream here. 

11 So let us move forward to enter this rest, so that none of us fall into the kind of faithless disobedience that prevented them from entering. 12 The word of God, you see, is alive and moving; sharper than a double-edged sword; piercing the divide between soul and spirit, joints and marrow; able to judge the thoughts and will of the heart. 13 No creature can hide from God: God sees all. Everyone and everything is laid bare, opened for His inspection; and He’s the One we will have to explain ourselves to.

For the last two weeks, we’ve been talking about entering into God’s rest, and what that looks like. That’s followed by a couple verses about the Word of God being like a sword in our lives. It seems like an odd transition. But…..it’s not.

In the previous section on rest, the writer of Hebrews notes several times that rest is tied to obedience. No obedience, no rest. Look what happened to the Israelites who had to wander…look at Moses being able to see but not enter the Promised Land. Embracing obedience and entering into rest are intertwined.

We talked about several kinds of rest in the Bible: the rest that we find in salvation, the rest we find in this life following Christ, and eternal rest in the life to come. While the Bible talks about all three, I noted that I think this passage is specifically about the rest we can experience in this life while following Jesus.

So, our obedience to Jesus is tied to the kind of rest we are offered in Jesus in this life: rest from guilt, shame, hiddenness, self-justification…..

This is where the sword of the Word of God comes into play. What does it do? It exposes everything that is keeping you from rest. If you want to rest, you have to let the Word of God do its work in you. It will lay you bare. Keep in mind this was a world where short sword fighting had been made famous by the Romans. People knew what a sword could do. This is not a gentle image.

Adam Clarke has some great commentary on this. The verb means to have your neck bent back so as to expose the face to full view. This was done with criminals so they could be better recognized. Pliny, a historian, wrote about how pleasing it was to see " the supine faces and reverted necks of the informers” (I think traitors) as they looked up at the judge.

The term was also used to describe the action of wrestlers who bent the head and neck of an opponent, taking them down, or even dragging opponents by the neck. One writer (Diogenes) criticized a victor in the Games who kept looking at a woman in the audience: "See how this mighty champion is drawn by the neck by a common girl."

This is the image the biblical writer uses to describe what the Word of God will do to us. It will expose us. It will take us down; it will drag us around. This is good news and bad news.

The good news? The Word of God reveals our disobedience so that we can surrender in repentance, receive God’s forgiveness, and rest in Him.

The bad news? We are going to need to give an account of ourselves to God, and if we are the ones giving an account, it is not going to go well.

We need someone who can defend us.

14 Since we have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God who has passed through the heavens from death into new life with God, let us hold tightly to our faith. 15 For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws. He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious, without failing God. 16 So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help when we need it most.

1) The Jewish high priest would pass through the veil of the temple and go into the holy of holies, carrying the blood of temporary sacrifices; Jesus went through the heavens with his own blood as the permanent sacrifice, not into the symbolic holy place but into the holiest of places.

2) Jesus is not a cold, aloof high priest; he has sympathy for us. Literally, according to Strong’s Concordance, he is “touched with feelings of compassion.” Why? He knows what it is like to be us. Until I had kids, I was pretty judgmental of other people’s parenting. How hard can it be, right? Now I know what it’s like. Until I was a coach, I didn’t have sympathy for coaches. Now I know what it’s like. I remember reading one of my dad’s books when I was a kid. It was called Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin. From Wikipedia:

Black Like Me, first published in 1961, is a nonfiction book by white journalist John Howard Griffin recounting his journey in the Deep South of the United States, at a time when African-Americans lived under racial segregation. Griffin…  his skin temporarily darkened to pass as a black man. He traveled for six weeks throughout the racially segregated states of LouisianaMississippiAlabamaArkansas, and Georgiato explore life from the other side of the color line.

It was a powerful story that stamped my young mind pretty firmly with the injustice of racism. Why did it have power? Because Griffin understood in ways he had not before what it meant to be black and live in the south in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

This isn’t a perfect analogy to what Jesus did, because Jesus didn’t simply present as if he was one of us. Jesus became fully human without compromising the fullness of his deity.  He knows what it is like to walk this world.

3) But he emerged victorious and pure from this life, the only person in the history of the world to do so. He withstood every trial and temptation. And into His perfect life Jesus accepted the weight and the penalty of all of our sins, so that His death once and for all paid our debt.

4) So let us step boldly to the throne of grace,[1]because we have a compassionate and great High Priest who is full of mercy and grace. This is good news, especially after that daunting verse about the word of God exposing everything to God’s inspection.  A throne of judgment should cause us to fear, because God’s justice will be served. A throne of grace should cause us to rejoice, because justice has already been served in Jesus.

Remember what I said earlier about the role of the high priest, even the ones chosen by human beings? The job of every high priest is reconciliation: approaching God on behalf of others and offering Him gifts and sacrifices to repair the damage caused by our sins against God and each other. The high priest should have compassion for (reasonably bear with) those who are ignorant of the faith and those who wander (wayward; misguided; easily deceived)[2]because he also has wrestled withhuman weakness, and so the priest must offer sacrifices both for his sins and for those of the people.

If you read the next few verses, you will see Aaron and Melchizadek referenced (they also come up later). They were deeply admired priests to the Jewish people. The writer of Hebrews says, just like he did with angels and Moses and the Sabbath, “Those are all amazing, but they are nothing compared to Jesus. For starters, Jesus didn’t have to make a sacrifice for his own sins.” This passage in its entirety is meant to assure us of the true and everlasting greatness of the High Priest who took upon himself the death we deserved and who intercedes for us so that we can have peace with and rest in God.

With this background in place, I want to talk about the implications for us and others. The Bible says that we are all priests and kings now (Revelation 1:6).[3]So, we better take our role of priest seriously, and it should be modeled after Jesus’ high priestly role.

  • Do we approach God on behalf of others in prayer, even the most sinful people?Who are you angry with right now? Disappointed? Hurt by? Bitter? Do you approach God on their behalf in prayer, longing for their salvation, sanctification and glorification, and longing for the restoration of their relationship with God and you?
  • Do we sacrifice to repair the damage caused by our sins and the sins of others?Genuine repentance is a sacrifice. So is genuine forgiveness. Do we go out of the way to make things right?
  • Do we reasonably bear with Christians who sin in ignorance or from error?The Bible seems to make a distinction between two types of sinners in the church: those who sin boldly and defiantly, and those who sin in ignorance or from error.The first is an attitude of rebellious predetermination that deserves really firm discipline within the church (1 Corinthians 5); the second is from weakness of some sort, and demands a different response. From Vincent’s Word Studies: “moderate or tender in judgment toward another's errors…a state of feeling toward the ignorant and erring which is neither too severe nor too tolerant. The high priest must not be betrayed into irritation at sin and ignorance, neither must he be weakly indulgent.”
  • Do we empathize with or have sympathy for those who are weak because we recognize our weakness? In this verse, the priest’s ‘weaknesses’ is literally, “has infirmity lying around him.” It’s the same word used later in Hebrews when we are told we are encompassed by a great cloud of witnesses.[4]We are encompassed by a great cloud of our weakness.[5]

As for empathizing, Adam Clarke notes:

“The word signifies, not merely to have compassion, but to act with moderation, and to bear with each in proportion to his ignorance, weakness, and untoward circumstances, all taken into consideration with the offenses he has committed: in a word, to pity, feel for, and excuse, as far as possible; and, when the provocation is at the highest, to moderate one's passion towards the culprit, and be ready to pardon; and when punishment must be administered, to do it in the gentlest manner.”

 I will close with a comment from a sermon by Spurgeon, whom I have found myself quoting a lot in this series:

Think much of the Son of God, the Lord of heaven and earth, who for our salvation loved and lived and served and suffered. He that made man was made man. As a suppliant, with cries and tears He pleaded with God, even He before whom the hosts of heaven bow adoringly. He has still that tenderness to which He was trained by His suffering; He bids you now come to Him.

 You that love Him approach Him now, and read the love which is engraved on His heart. You who have not hitherto known Him, come boldly to Him and trust Him who has come so near to you. The Man is very near akin to us. Behold how He loves us! He bends to us with eternal salvation in His hands. Believe in Him and live. God grant it! Amen.

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[1]“Confident access to God is a priestly privilege reserved for those who have been purified from sin’s pollution by Jesus’ sacrifice (7:1910:1922), and so can offer sacrifices of thanksgiving pleasing to God (12:2813:1516). On the priestly privilege of Christian believers see Rom. 5:12Eph. 2:13–221 Pet. 2:4–10.” (Reformation Study Bible)

[2]on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way] Highhanded sinners, willing sinners, those who, in the Hebrew phrase, sin “with upraised hand” (Numbers 15:30Deuteronomy 17:12), cannot always be treated with compassionate tenderness (Hebrews 10:26); but the ignorant and the erring (1 Timothy 1:13)—those who sin “inadvertently,” “involuntarily” (Leviticus 4:2Leviticus 4:13, &c.)—and even those who under sudden stress of passion and temptation sin willfully—need pity (Leviticus 5:1Leviticus 19:20-22), and Christ’s prayer on the cross was for those “who know not what they do.”  (Cambridge Bible For Schools And Colleges)

[3]“Every believer is a priest, having access in the name of Christ, the great High Priest, to the presence of God (Heb. 4:14-16). Believers, then, have the priestly work of daily offering themselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1-2) and of offering the sacrifices of deeds of mercy and adoring worship to God (Hen. 13:15-16). The priesthood of all believers means not only that all are now active participants in joyful public worship (1 Cor. 14:26) but also that they have the priestly calling to “do good and to share with others” (Heb. 13:16). As prophets, Christians call neighbors to repent, but as priests they do so with sympathy and loving service  to address their needs. This is why Jesus calls us to live such lives of goodness and service that outsiders will glorify God (Matt. 5;16).” http://timmybrister.com/2012/11/tim-keller-on-every-believer-as-prophet-priest-and-king/

[4]See Vincent’s Word Studies at https://biblehub.com/commentaries/hebrews/5-2.htm

[5]“The priest must be one with men. He must have gone through men's experiences and his sympathy must be with them. At this point the writer to the Hebrews stops to point out--he will later show that this is one of the ways in which Jesus Christ is superior to any earthly priest--that the earthly priest is so one with men that he is under the necessity of offering sacrifice for his own sin before he offers it for the sins of others. The priest must be bound up with men in the bundle of life. In connection with this he used a wonderful word--metriopathein (Greek #3356). We have translated it "to feel gently"; but it is really untranslatable.

The Greeks defined a virtue as the mean between two extremes. On either hand there was an extreme into which a man might fall; in between there was the right way. So the Greeks defined metriopatheia (the corresponding noun) as the mean between extravagant grief and utter indifference. It was feeling about men in the right way. W. M. Macgregor defined it as "the mid-course between explosions of anger and lazy indulgence." Plutarch spoke of that patience which was the child of metriopatheia. He spoke of it as that sympathetic feeling which enabled a man to raise up and to save, to spare and to hear. Another Greek blames a man for having no metriopatheia and for therefore refusing to be reconciled with someone who had differed from him. It is a wonderful word. It means the ability to bear with people without getting irritated; it means the ability not to lose one's temper with people when they are foolish and will not learn and do the same thing over and over again. It describes the attitude to others which does not issue in anger at their fault and which does not condone it, but which to the end of the day spends itself in a gentle yet powerful sympathy which by its very patience directs a man back to the right way. No man can ever deal with his fellow-men unless he has this strong and patient, God-given metriopatheia.” (William Barclay)

 

The Sabbath, The Lord's Day, And Rest

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After some really good discussion and questions in Message Plus and side conversations last week, I decided it might be worth our time to spend a little more time on this topic of rest and honoring the Sabbath. Let’s begin with the passages in the Old Testament that talk about the command to the Israelites to honor the Sabbath. "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11) 

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. ‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you….The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. (Exodus 31: 12-16) 

“The seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a day of sacred assembly. You shall do no work on it, wherever you live (in all your dwellings)…” (Leviticus 23:3)."Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day." (“Deuteronomy 5:12-15) 

The Old Testament commanded that the Israelites keep this day holy (“set aside”) by doing one think in particular: Resting.The word “Sabbath” is related to the Hebrew word for “rest,” and the primary duty for observant Jews was to stop working on the Sabbath: Rest by not creating or building or harvesting, but instead enjoying the fruit of their labor and God’s work on their behalf.

Since this is tied in with remembering how God freed them from slavery, they also understood this to mean they must take time to remember how God had freed them from bondage.[1]Leviticus adds that it is a time of sacred assembly.

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There are some interesting things about the Sabbath command.

It is the only commandment given as a covenant sign.We see elsewhere in the Old Testament that covenants have signs, so that the sign of the Noahic covenant is the rainbow (Gen. 9:8–17) and the sign of the Abrahamic covenant is circumcision (Gen. 17).[2]The observance of Sabbath was a constant re-honoring of the covenant between God and Israel.

It is the only commandment that is referred to as a type pointing toward the True Form (the True Sabbath).Many of the early church fathers compared Sabbath to the other covenant sign, circumcision: both were physical ways of enacting a covenant with God; both were now enacted spiritually in Christ.

"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." (Colossians 2:16-18 )

There still remains a place of rest, a true Sabbath, for the people of God because those who enter into salvation’s rest lay down their labors in the same way that God entered into a Sabbath rest from His.” (Hebrews 4:9-10)

Whatever circumcision did now, it did not bring or confirm salvation. There was a circumcision of the heart that did that.  Whatever Sabbath observance did now, it did not bring or confirm salvation. There was a Sabbath of the heart that did that.

However, I don’t know if it’s an entirely fair comparison. The other covenant signs were not part of the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments are the 10 foundational commands on which all the other Old Testament laws are basically commentary  - “This is how it looks in practice in this community”.  We don’t argue that the other 9 no longer apply to God’s people.

I am not sure the Bible frees me to think of the Sabbath as ONLY a type. Sabbath is not less than a type, but its placement in Scripture sure seems to argue that it’s more than that. There is something timelessly important about its observance by God’s people.

So, let’s talk about how the early church, which was initially filled with people moving from Judaism to Christianity, handled this.

 * * * * * * * * * *

First, let’s look at how Jesus handled the Sabbath.He pointed out that so many of the Pharisee’s laws were missing the point of Sabbath. Sabbath is for us.It had become a burden to keep, and it should not have been a burden. It should have been a blessing. So he didn’t re-command it… but he also didn’t un-command it. He clarified what keeping it does and doesn’t look like: specifically, what kind of freedom do we have in rest. It should not be governed rigidly by narrow definitions of what is work and what is not. Sabbath rest should not be yet another legalistic burden on Christians.

“The God who made the Sabbath is not a cranky schoolmaster, always forbidding, coercing obedience, and watching sniveling subjects slinking about in cowardly compliance. The Sabbath commandment comes from a kind, wise teacher who does not like to see us suffer. Let me make it easier for you, God says….Forgetting the Sabbath is like forgetting to unwrap the most beautiful gift under the tree... “Excerpt from Sabbath by Wayne Muller

Many Jewish converts observed Saturday as Sabbath and Sunday as the Lord’s Day (which Gentiles treated as the Sabbath).Sabbath was such an important part of life to Jewish converts that it was unthinkable not to keep it. The mostly Jewish early church believed Jesus had come to redeem Judaism and the Jews, not to set up another religion. They assumed they would continue to meet in the Temple. So when they converted to following Jesus, they continued to observe the Sabbath in the Temple even as they focused on Jesus.

  • The first Christians were all together with one accord in the Temple at the time they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). 
  • In Acts 2:46,“And they, continuingdaily with one accord in the Temple, and breaking bread from house to house, ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”
  • Acts 5:12 “The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade.”
  • Acts 18: 4 “Every Sabbath [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

But… they also began to talk a LOT about the importance of setting apart the day after the Sabbath, the Lord’s Day, the day on which Jesus rose from the tomb (Mark 16:2; cf. Matt. 28:1; Luke 24:1). The argument was that Jesus was dead (“resting”) on the rest day of the Sabbath, so that kind of observance was still good. But on Sunday Jesus rose, and that’s a day of celebration, so Sunday was the Risen Lord’s Day.[3]Many Jewish converts to Christianity observed both days because they saw the Lord’s Day as separate from Sabbath rather than a fulfillment of it.

A major split between Christian Jews and non-Christian Jews took place before the Bible was even done being written. John 9:29 describes how "the Jews had agreed that if anyone confessed Jesus as the Christ or messiah they were to be excluded from the synagogue."In the Eighteen Benedictions that Jews recited daily and in every synagogue service, Christians were singled out as heretics and given a curse:

“For the renegades let there be no hope, and may the arrogant kingdom soon be rooted out in our days, and the [Nazoreans] and the minim [which at least includes Jewish Christians] perish as in a moment and be blotted out from the book of life and with the righteous may they not be inscribed. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant.”

Since no Christians were going to go say that about themselves, their Sabbath synagogue attendance stopped.

* * * * * * * * * *

Since, as the writer of Hebrews points out, True Rest and the True Sabbath are found in Christ, it sure seems on the one hand that Sabbath Rest points toward the spiritual rest in Christ and the salvation he offers us.

On the other hand, the seriousness with which the Old Testament treats the observance of Sabbath rest and the assumed continuance of it by the early converts sure seems to at least strongly suggest there is a timeless to the Sabbath command that ought to carry significant weight in our lives.

As I’ve been reading a LOT of Christian perspectives this past two weeks about whether or not Christians HAVE to observe a Day of Rest, and if it should be Saturday or Sunday, and what we should and shouldn’t do, I’ve found people whom I respect have a lot of different and at times conflicting opinions about all of this. I’m not going to resolve that tension for you. That’s your homework.

I want to finish by talking a little bit about some principles for observing and experiencing rest in Jesus.

Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”—Matthew 11:28-30

Come to Jesus and take His yoke. “Take my yoke” was a common saying of rabbis. It meant, “If you are going to be a disciple, you must obey my teachings and follow my example.” If you want rest – deep, spiritual rest of the heart and soul - don’t pursue rest. Pursue Jesus.

Learn about Jesus.  Rest is connected to trust.My cat sleeps on me without a care in the world because she trusts me. If you trust the driver, you can rest on a trip. I can bare my soul to my wife because I trust her. Rest is connected with trust. If you can’t seem to rest in Christ, learn more about a Savior you can trust.

And you will find rest for your souls.  Is there a formula for how we can practically experience this rest (and I’m talking about soul rest that permeates every aspect of our life)? I don’t think there is a formula, but some ideas are probably better than others. I am going to offer a couple ideas built from a list taken from some of Tim Keller’s writing on the Sabbath.

  1. Consciously Enjoy[4]God and His good gifts. Appreciate what you have achieved through God’s help. Remember the freedom salvation brings (past, present and future tense); celebrate the freedom Jesus offers from all kinds of slavery: slavery to achieve, slavery to impress, slavery to earn, slavery to addictions of all kinds… I think this can look really different depending who you are. I’m not interested in being legalistic. I am interested if you are enjoying God and His good gifts.
  2. Do something that frees you from the slavery of being amazing. (Controlling, building, creating, accomplishing, making a mark on the world, being noticed).The world turns even when you take time off! (I know, right?) Israelites had to let their fields lie fallow every seventh year. (Leviticus 25:1–7). This stopped them from over farming.  They could enjoy whatever grew on its own.  You need time to make sure you don’t “overfarm” your life or your schedule; just let stuff come up that is the good fruit of your life, and enjoy it.
  3. Plan some contemplative rest (prayer, singing, reading the Scripture, listening to God.) I like to do this until I fall asleep on my bed, honestly. It’s really refreshing. Seriously. Listen, if you are going to ”lie down in green pastures,” you are going to go to sleep. Don’t think of it as failure. Think of it as success. Unless it’s during this sermon.
  4. Do something that refreshes you.Be careful that recreation really refreshes. Enjoy that which you find beautiful, and thank God for it. Also, don’t feel the need to imitate each other’s Sabbath rhythms if what someone else does is not refreshing to you. [5]
  5. Make the True Sabbath a part of your daily lifestyle
  • Creating moments in the day to rest and pray
  • Consciously giving up fear/anxiety/worry
  • Interrupting conflict with love
  • Surrendering the Last Word in your arguments J

 

I am going to finish with a quote from Spurgeon, who wrote and preached a lot about the Sabbath. It feels like a great summary of a whole bunch of ideas.

“I am no preacher of the old legal Sabbath… I am a preacher of the Gospel, and rejoice that Believers are not “under the Law, but under Grace…” therefore I keep this day [Sunday, for Spurgeon]…  not as a slavish bondage, not as a day on which I am chained and hampered with restraints against my will, but… as a day in which I may take holy pleasure in serving God, and in adoring before His Throne… the Lord’s Day of the Christian… is a joy, a day of rest, of peace and of thanksgiving….

This day is Care’s balm and cure, the couch of time, the haven of Divine calms. Come, my Soul, throw yourself upon this couch —rest and take your ease—for you have come unto Jesus, to a finished Sacrifice, to a completed Righteousness, and your soul may be satisfied in the Lord, and your spirit may rejoice in the Lord your God. This is to keep Sabbath…!

In vain do you keep the day, unless, your hearts keep it too. Oh, may your hearts know how to find in Christ a perfect rest…! May God give you Divine Grace to know your sin, and enable you to fly to the Savior, and find in Him all your soul needs! May He enable you to rest in Christ today, and then you shall keep Sabbaths on earth till you keep the eternal Sabbath before the Throne… Trust Him, and so shall you be saved, and your spirit shall be at ease.

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[1]“Anyone who cannot obey God's command to observe the Sabbath is a slave, even a self-imposed one. Your own heart, or our materialistic culture, or an exploitative organization, or all of the above, will be abusing you… Sabbath is therefore a declaration of our freedom. It means you are not a slave—not to your culture's expectations, your family's hopes, your medical school's demands, not even to your own insecurities. It is important that you learn to speak this truth to yourself with a note of triumph...” - Tim Keller

[2]Circumcision was not unique to the Israelites, but the type of circumcision may have been. The Egyptians, for example, appear to have used circumcision as an act of initiation or rite of passage for boys entering ‘manhood.’ Circumcision was an act of initiation; the style of circumcision showed what you had been initiated into. This may seem odd to us, but it made sense to everyone in the Ancient Near East. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/55911658.pdf

[3]Acts 20:7 - "And upon the first dav of the week when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, and continued his speech until midnight. "

[4]https://tifwe.org/the-sabbath-and-your-work/

[5]http://qideas.org/articles/wisdom-and-sabbath-rest/

“There Remains A Place Of Rest” (Hebrew 3:7 - 4:1-11)  

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Many of the Jewish readers of this letter were afraid that there was no rest for them. The Promised Land was long gone, so they seemed to have missed that. They left captivity but were now in subjugation to Rome. The writer of Hebrews is about to assure them that they have not missed the opportunity to enter into a Promised Land and find a place of rest.

Listen now, to the voice of the Holy Spirit through what the psalmist wrote:Today, if you listen to His voice, 8 Don’t harden your hearts the way they did in the bitter uprising at Meribah9 Where your ancestors tested Me though they had seen My marvelous power. 10 For the 40 years they traveled on to the land that I had promised them, That generation broke My heart.Grieving and angry, I said, “Their hearts are unfaithful; they don’t know what I want from them.”11 That is why I swore in anger they would never enter salvation’s rest.

Brothers and sisters, pay close attention so you won’t develop an evil and unbelieving heart that causes you to abandon the living God. 13 Encourage each other every day—for as long as we still have the “today” God gives us to listen to his voice — so none of you let the deceitfulness of sin harden your hearts. 14 For we have become partners with the Anointed One—if we can just hold on to our confidence until the end.

15 Look at the lines from the psalm again: “Today, if you listen to His voice, Don’t harden your hearts the way they did  in the bitter uprising at Meribah.”16 Now who, exactly, was God talking to then? Who heard and rebelled? Wasn’t it all of those whom Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And who made God angry for an entire generation? Wasn’t it those who sinned against Him, those whose bodies are still buried in the wilderness, the site of that uprising?

18 It was those disobedient ones who God swore would never enter into salvation’s rest. 19 And we can see that they couldn’t enter because they did not believe. [4] That’s why, as long as that promise of entering God’s rest remains open to us, we should beware (be alarmed; fear; have caution and care) that none of us seem to fall short ourselves.[1]

Those people in the wilderness heard God’s good news, just as we have heard it, but the message they heard didn’t do them any good since what they heard wasn’t combined with faith.  We who believe are entering into salvation’s rest… For didn’t God say that on the seventh day of creation He rested from all His works?]And doesn’t God say in the psalm that [the Israelites] would never enter into salvation’s rest? (which means His rest must be ongoing – AW)

So if God prepared a place of rest, and those who were given the good news didn’t enter because they chose disobedience over faith,then it remains open for us to enter. Once again, God has fixed a day for us to respond; and that day is “today…”

There still remains a place of rest, a true Sabbath[2], for the people of God 10 because those who enter into salvation’s rest lay down their labors in the same way that God entered into a Sabbath rest from His. 11 So let us move forward to enter this rest, so that none of us fall into the kind of faithless disobedience that prevented them from entering.

* * * * * *

Key points:

  • We are on a journey in which there is a danger of become hard and bitter.
  • There is a place of rest, a true Sabbath, where we can lay down our burdens.
  • That place is open for the people of God.
  • Those who harden their hearts (disobedience) will not enter that rest.
  • Hold fast to faith and obedience so that you don’t fall short before the end.

Today, I want to talk about rest.

WHAT IS THIS PROMISED REST?

Option A: This is about salvation.Unbelief separates us from the presence of God and the rest He offers in this life and the next.  The rest that they rejected was the rest that comes from the freedom from guilt, shame, hiddenness and the eternal penalty of sin.This is the rest of justification and the peace of conscience.

This includes resting from using obedience to the Law to save ourselves. We can’t do it. It’s exhausting to try to be good enough to earn God’s salvation. Salvation is a gift from God to us. The eternal penalty of our sins is covered. Be at peace; through Jesus, you are now at peace with God.

Option B: This is about the rest of entering into the fullness of the Christian life after salvation. Canaan, or the Promised Land, is for us the spiritual promised land of the Spirit-filled life. Blessings were there for the Israelites– it was “flowing with milk and honey” which is a colorful way of saying the land was awesome.[3]These physical realities in the Old Testament foreshadow spiritual realities for us.

This is the refining “rest” of sanctification, during which a work is being done in us while we live in the land of plenty.[4]

When we give our lives to Jesus, we become one of His people, and he opens the gate to the Promised Land of “life more abundant”[5]already on this side of Heaven. This is freedom from:

  • Working to earn God’s love
  • Hiding ourselves from others
  • Being overcome by fear/worry
  • Needing control of our life and the lives of others
  • Showing unrighteous judgment (as opposed to righteous)[6]
  • Harboring unforgiveness/nursing unrepentance
  • Being controlled by jealousy, bitterness, envy, anger, lust

The “milk and honey” now looks like this:

  • Righteousness (walking in the right way)
  • Love (total commitment to seeking the best for others no matter how they may respond)
  • Peace (specifically, between God and us through Jesus)
  • Patience (enduring or continuing through God’s grace)
  • Kindness (inclining ourselves toward others with grace and mercy)
  • Gentleness (sensitivity and kindness given by the stronger to the weaker)
  • Self-control (physical and emotional self-mastery empowered by God)
  • Purity (guiltless or innocent behavior; uprightness)

In this land, we now have true freedom to begin to thrive as image bearers, children of God, and brothers and sisters of Jesus.

Now, this isn’t a promise of ease. This is a promise of living in a land primed for spiritual flourishing.God’s people had to wade through giants to enjoy the land, and while God empowered them, they had to fight. It was a fertile land of plenty, but they would have to protect their goats from predators and chase them down to milk them, and they would have to find wild honey and harvest figs. I think, once again, that their physical reality is instructive for our spiritual reality.

We will not be missing anything we need in the Kingdom of God.  If we feel like this is happening, it’s not because the provision is lacking. The Bible is full of commands to seek God, and these verses seem to point toward the seeking that first leads to salvation, and then takes us deeper into the blessings of Jesus and His Kingdom. [7]

Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia end with all those in True Narnia (think ‘heaven’) starting an everlasting adventure of “onward and upward” deeper into Narnia. I like that image, and I think moving onward and upward into the kingdom NOW is meant to give us a glimpse into what’s in store for us in the life to come.[8]

Option C: We rest forever in the life to come.This is the rest of glorification. One day, we will never be weary; we will never know pain and sorrow; we will see Jesus in all of His glory; we will live the life we were made to live in all its perfection and beauty.

If we were to create a timeline for what it means for us to be saved and find rest in Jesus, it would look something like this:

  • past tense salvation(“For you were justified,” 1 Corinthians 6:11) in which we are offered rest from the eternal penalty of sinand in thejustificationgiven to us by Jesus
  • present tense salvation( “those of us who are being saved,” 1 Corinthians 1:18) in which we are offered rest from the controlling power of sinand rest in the plentiful land of the Kingdom
  • future tense salvation( “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,” (1 John 3:2) in which we move into our eternal rest from the presence of sin and in the glorificationthat is promised God’s people.

THE RHYTHM OF REST THAT REMINDS OF GOD’S REST: SABBATH[9]

We talked a couple weeks ago about spiritual disciplines that we can do to order/structure/focus our lives. Sabbath rest is a great one. First, God commands it. Second, the Sabbath is for us[10]– that is, for our good.  It does more than give us much needed physical rest; it orients our life and points us toward the true rest that God offers His people.

  • We rest to remember the world does not revolve around what we have to offer. Our identity is in Christ.
  • We rest to remember God’s faithfulness in providing for us in HIS strength, not ours. Our security is in Christ.
  • We rest physically to remind us that we can rest spiritually.Our restoration is in Christ.
  • We rest for a glimpse of the True Sabbath. Our hope is in Christ.

* * * * * * * * * *

The happiness of heaven is the constant keeping of the Sabbath. Heaven is called a Sabbath, to make those who have Sabbaths long for heaven, and those who long for heaven love Sabbaths.—Philip Henry

Sabbath ceasing means to cease not only from work itself, but also from the need to accomplish and be productive, from the worry and tension that accompany our modern criterion of efficiency, from our efforts to be in control of our lives as if we were God, from our possessiveness and our enculturation, and, finally, from the humdrum and meaninglessness that result when life is pursued without the Lord at the center of it all. —Marva J. Dawn

“We meet dozens of people, have so many conversations. We do not feel how much energy we spend on each activity, because we imagine we will always have more energy at our disposal. This one little conversation. This one little extra phone call, this one quick meeting, what can it cost?…..But it does cost…..it drains yet another drop of our life. Then, at the end of days, weeks, months, years, we collapse, we burn out, and cannot see where it happened. It happened in a thousand unconscious events, tasks and responsibilities that seemed easy and harmless on the surface, but that each one after the other used a small portion of our precious life. And so, we are given a commandment, which is actually a gift: ‘Remember the Sabbath’”. —Wayne Muller

Money gained on Sabbath-day is a loss, I dare to say. No blessing can come with that which comes to us, on the devil’s back, by our willful disobedience of God’s law. The loss of health by neglect of rest, and the loss of soul by neglect of hearing the gospel, soon turn all seeming profit into real loss. —Charles Spurgeon

In place of our exhaustion and spiritual fatigue, He will give us rest. All He asks is that we come to Him . . . that we spend a while thinking about Him, meditating on him, talking to Him, listening in silence, occupying ourselves with Him totally and thoroughly lost in the hiding place of His presence.—Chuck Swindoll

At least one day in every seven, pull off the road and park the car in the garage. Close the door to the toolshed and turn off the computer. Stay home, not because you are sick but because you are well. Talk someone you love into being well with you. Take a nap, a walk, and hour for lunch. Test the premise that you are worth more than you can produce – that even if you spent one whole day of being good for nothing you would still be precious in God’s sight. And when you get anxious because you are convinced that this is not so – remember that your own conviction is not required. This is a commandment. Your worth has already been established, even when you are not working. The purpose of the commandment is to woo you to the same truth. —Barbara Brown Taylor

But on the seventh day God stops not only to bless but to “hallow” or set apart the sabbath. The holiness of God is revealed not just in what he does but how he rests. —Andy Crouch

“After creating the world, God looked around and saw that “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). God did not just cease from his labor; he stopped and enjoyed what he had made. What does this mean for us? We need to stop to enjoy God, to enjoy his creation, to enjoy the fruits of our labor. The whole point of Sabbath is joy in what God has done.”– Tim Keller

Spiritual practices don't justify us. They don't save us. Rather, they refine our Christianity; they make the inheritance Christ gives us on the Cross more fully our own... Practicing the spiritual disciplines does not make us Christians. Instead, the practicing teaches us what it means to live as Christians.” ― Lauren F. Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath

Recommended Songs:

David Crowder, “Come As You Are”

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2zhf2mqEMI[/embed]

Susan Ashton and Michael English, “All I Long For”

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOve9bWQ9Uk[/embed]

Kari Jobe, “Be Still My Soul”

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mq59iE3MhXM[/embed]

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[1]“An allusion to the races in the Grecian games.  Will it avail any of us how near we get to heaven, if the door be shut before we arrive?” – Adam Clarke

[2]“In speaking of the Sabbath, as typifying a state of blessedness in the other world, the apostle follows the opinions of the Jews of his own and after times. The phrase “the sabbath above, and the sabbath below” is common among the Jewish writers; and they think that where the pluralnumber is used, as in  Leviticus 19:30; : Ye shall keep my Sabbaths.” (Adam Clarke)

[3]Fun facts: the milk was probably mostly from goats, and the honey from both wild bees and figs/dates.

[4]I’m partial to this one as the primary sense of this particular passage, but all three of these ways of understanding ‘rest’ are found in the Bible.

[5]John 10:10

[6]“Bible Verses About Righteous Judgment” from the Forerunner Commentary. “https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Topical.show/RTD/cgg/ID/1560/Righteous-Judgment.htm

[7]“'You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). The Lord is good to those who seek him (Lamentations 3:25). Those who seek him are blessed (Psalm 119:2-3). The one who seeks, finds (Matthew 7:8).

[8]That might not be a bad (albeit incomplete) way to think about eternity: that which we are committed to exploring now will be what we get to explore for eternity. If you want to explore what sin has to offer – if that is where your heart is – you get to keep diving into the pain, the shame, the frustration, the anger, the jealousy, the emptiness for eternity. If you want what evil can give you now, one day you will get evil in its fullness. But if your heart is to explore the righteousness of God in Jesus, and you want to experience all that righteousness can give you now, that’s what you get to move deeper into for eternity as well.

[9]Read “Wisdom and Sabbath Rest,” by Tim Keller. http://qideas.org/articles/wisdom-and-sabbath-rest/

[10]Mark 2:27

We Become That House (Hebrews 3:1-6)

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This past Wednesday, Pete Theil, Amy Gordon, Peg Pickard and I met in the morning for prayer. We started by reading Hebrews 3:1-6, meditating on it for several minutes in silence, then offering something that really stood out to us from the text. We did this twice. And though I had been prepping for one topic, I realized I have at least 6 sermons to preach out of just this paragraph.

That’s not going to happen :) What I would like to do, though, is walk through this passage with you the way our small group did. This is going to break a lot of sermon rules because these are not necessarily related topics (though you will see at the end they tell one story). But I think it might be worth a break for the normal sermon approach to highlight a way to read and focus on the Bible that may be helpful for you in your reading of the Bible. Also, there are potentially 6 topics for you to pursue further on your own this week.  Here is the passage:

 So all of you who are holy partners in a heavenly calling, let’s turn our attention to Jesus, the Emissary of God and High Priest, who brought us the faith we profess; and compare Him to Moses, who also brought words from God to all God’s people (household). Both of them were faithful to their missions, to the One who called them. But we value Jesus more than Moses, in the same way that we value a builder more than the house he builds.  Every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Moses brought healing and redemption to his people as a faithful servant in God’s house, and he was a witness to the things that would be spoken later. But Jesus the Anointed was faithful as a Son of that house. (We become that house, if we’re able to hold on to the confident hope we have in God until the end.)

  1. All of you who are holy partners in a heavenly calling.

If we are followers of Jesus, we are holy partners in a heavenly calling. That’s amazing. Also, that’s sobering.All of those who follow Jesus are holy partners. Do I treat them that way? Do I think, pray for, speak about, and speak to my fellow believers as if we are holy partners in a heavenly calling? The implications here are huge. We are fulfilling a heavenly calling as a team,and I should want this team to be as strong as it can be.

  • I must encourage, challenge, build up, and comfort.
  • I must be patient, kind, long-suffering, gentle, and bold.
  • I must love deeply, thoroughly, and exhaustively.

What would change in our lives if we filtered our attitudes, words and actions through this filter?  How would the power of the gospel be more clearly seen in us? How much more would Jesus be glorified if his people treated his people as holy partners in a heavenly calling?

  1. Let’s turn our attention/fix our thoughts on/focus on/consider Jesus, the Emissary of Godand High Priest, who brought us the faith we profess.

 This isn’t glance at Jesus; this is be riveted with Jesus.

  • When I met Sheila, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her when she was in the room. It didn’t matter what else was going on, my eyes always went to her.
  • The first several times I went to Costa Rica, they laughed at me because I couldn’t stop talking about the mountains and taking pictures. Everywhere we went, that’s what I kept looking at.
  • I have three papers at eye level in front of my desk in the office. The first is a list Delynn gave me years ago about Humility, and it lists the fruits of pride. The second is a note I wrote myself after talking with my spiritual mentor several years ago: “Trusting God to carry me = trusting God to carry others.” The third is my certificate of ordination. The first one grounds me. The second one comforts me. The third one motivates me.

What does it look like to focus on Jesus? How do I not take my eyes off of him? How do I “pin him” on the wall in front of me? What does it look like for my attention to be constantly drawn to Jesus? When we fix our eyes on something, two things happen:we are guided, and we are comforted.

  • I learned that in weightlifting, your body follows your eyes. If you are doing a squat, don’t look down or up. You will tend to fall forward or backward. Look straight ahead. If you want to plant a straight row in a field, find a landmark on the other side of the field and never look away. We are guidedby where we fix our eyes.
  • After my accident, I kept my gaze fixed on the road because I wanted that ambulance to get there. When it finally pulled into view, I relaxed. We are comfortedwhen what we have been longing for appears. (We are given hope; encouraged; we can endure).

What do I spend the majority of my time considering? What’s fixed right in front of me on the wall of my life? What guides me and comforts me? What orders my steps throughout the day, and what helps me rest?

  1. And compare Him to Moses, who also brought words from God to all of God’s people. Both of them were faithful to their missions, to the One who called them. But we value Jesus more than Moses, in the same way that we value a builder more than the house he builds. 

 The first thing I thought was that I’m not sure I tend to value the builder more than the house. Even if you build a multi-million dollar house, you want to the builder to be good, but do you really value the builder more than the house? I’ve been in and around construction for most of my adult life, and I’ve seen a loooooot of people who give their houses much more value than they do the builder. How do I know this? Because they treat the builder like crap, but they treat their house as if it were made of gold.

I think this is because we are consumers by default in our fallen nature. Our sinful nature values that things we are given more than the people who gives it. Our sinful nature values what people can do for us more than who they are. And dare I say that our sinful nature defaults toward valuing the things of God more than God. What do we think about more:

  • The healing God can give us vs. The Healer himself?
  • The friends we want God can give us vs. The Friend of Sinners?
  • The gifts of the Spirit vs. The Giver of the Gifts?
  • The comfort of God vs. the Comforter himself?
  • The way of God vs. the One who is The Way?
  • Life more abundant vs. the One who gives that life?

 There is something important about the spiritual discipline of fixing our eyes on the builder so that we never value what has been made or given more than the One who made it and gave it to us. 

  1. Every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.

 First thing that stand out: God built everything.

Second thing that stands out: who is building the house of my life? Well, as a Christian, I know God is. After he begins a good work, he keeps on going. But what outside contractors am I hiring to help him build my house?  It’s one thing to have subcontractors that the Builder brings in and uses. I think of this as Christian friends and mentors, authors and preachers and theologians and musicians who love and honor God. But am I inviting competing builders to work on this one house? That’s a disaster waiting to happen. Isn’t the command to have no other gods kind of like saying no other builders in this context?

Another way of saying this: what or whom am I choosing for my formation? We talked a couple weeks ago about spiritual disciplines, pursuing purposeful formation in Christ. I wonder, though, for how many of us accidental formation is happening in us in ways we don’t see.

  • What builds our thoughts about politics? A particular news network or party line, or the Bible?
  • What builds our thoughts about sex and marriage? Culture or the Bible?
  • What builds our thoughts about parenting?
  • What builds our thoughts about what it means to be successful?
  • What builds our thoughts about immigrants and refugees?
  • What builds our thoughts about how to run a business, or be a good employee?
  • What builds our thoughts about money?
  • What builds our thoughts about church?
  • What builds our thoughts about how we should use our speech?
  • What builds our thoughts about what’s okay when it comes to how we treat others, especially those with whom we disagree?
  • What actually builds our thoughts about God? And Sin? And Salvation? And Forgiveness?

Bidden or unbidden, we all have builders. Who are we inviting to build?

5.Moses brought healing and redemption to his people as a faithful servant in God’s house, and he was a witness to the things that would be spoken later.  But Jesus the Anointed was faithful as a Son of that house.

He delivered the Word of God faithfully. He was faithful in all God appointed him to do (Exodus 40:16).” Is there any greater compliment in the Kingdom of God than to have it said we have been faithful in delivering the word of God and bringing healing and redemption to God’s people?

  • If the questions is,“What do you want to do with your life?”the answer must be, “Be faithful in delivering the word of God and bringing healing and redemption to God’s people.”
  • If the question is,“What is God’s plan for me?”The answer must me, “Be faithful in delivering the word of God and bringing healing and redemption to God’s people.” “No, I meant like what job I should get or who I should marry or even if I should get married or….”I understood the question. You can be faithful in delivering the word of God and bringing healing and redemption to God’s people in every circumstance.

Also, there is no room for hero worship in Christianity unless it’s Jesus. The writer of Hebrews already pointed out that, though angels are awesome, they are nothing compared to Jesus. Now he’s noting that Moses, a hero to the Jewish people, is a servant in the house of God. Jesus is the Son whom Moses serves. We can’t become infatuated with servants when we have access to the Master.

I read this and I wonder: do I have a tendency to elevate servants of God higher than I should? I can simultaneously say, “That person is a faithful servant of God,” and say, “But that house needs some cleaning.”

6. We become that house, if we’re able to hold on to the confident hope we have in God. 

What house do we become? The house of God’s people, the church. That’s what we are becoming. A house full of holy partners in a heavenly calling. What a tremendous privilege and responsibility.

If…. Is this conditional? Does this mean we might not become that house of we don’t hold on to the hope we have in God until the end? We can talk in Message Plus about whether or not we can lose our salvation. For our purposes, I just want to make this point: RighteousPerseveranceis the proof of the reality of salvation. Not ease, or comfort, or signs and wonders. Not size of ministry or greatness of reputations or good deeds. Not book deals or gold dust or radio shows or a theology degree or even a well worn Bible. Righteous Perseverance.

We can tell if we are really in the house of God because we stay in the house of God in a life of surrender, repentance, and a commitment to worshiping God with our imperfect lives while we hold fast to the hope we have in Christ; that is, his love and sacrifice will cover a multitude of my sins.

And once we “be,” we start to “become”:Think of a telescope unfolding one stage at a time until it functions at full strength. Our salvation unfolds until we experience its fullest expression at the return of Jesus and in the life to come (Romans 8:24-25; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; 1 Peter 1:6-9; Revelation 2:26-28) (preceptaustin.org)

These 6 different lines of thought give us one narrative: Fix our eyes on Jesus, the Master and Builder of our house, whose plan is to work in us until we die as he builds us and builds his church into the fullness of salvation and righteousness.

Hebrews 2: 10-18  “Perfected Through Suffering”

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10 It only makes sense that God, by whom and for whom everything exists, would choose to bring many of us to His side by using suffering to perfect Jesus, the founder of our faith, the pioneer of our salvation. 11 As I will show you, it’s important that the One who brings us to God and those who are brought to God become one, since we are all from one Father. This is why Jesus was not ashamed to call us His family… 14 Since we, the children, are all creatures of flesh and blood, Jesus took on flesh and blood, so that by dying He could destroy the one who held power over death[i]—the devil— 15 and destroy the fear of death that has always held people captive.

16 So notice—His concern here is not for the welfare of the heavenly messengers, but for the children of Abraham. 17 He had to become as human as His sisters and brothers so that when the time came, He could become a merciful and faithful high priest of God, called to reconcile a sinful people. 18 Since He has also been tested by suffering, He can help us when we are tested.

 

I want to address two things this morning. 1) What did suffering accomplish in the life of Jesus? 2) What are implications about what suffering can accomplish in the life of a Christian?

Perfect through sufferings - This simply means that He had to die to make atonement for sin, and that was going to require suffering. It’s another way of saying his mission was completed or consummated. We see other places in Scripture that this same word was translated as “finished” or “accomplished.”

  •  ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.’(Luke 13:32 ESV)
  • Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.(John 4:34 ESV)

Jesus’ death was the consummation of his life and purpose here on earth, and that death could not happen without suffering. It didn’t perfect Jesus’ nature; it perfected or completed God’s plan for Jesus to bring salvation and redemption.

And – this is amazing - we are the beneficiaries.

“And one great aim of God in salvation is that he have a great, unified family of children with Jesus Christ being both essentially different from, and yet deeply united to, his other human brothers and sisters, both really different and really like. But if all the brothers and sisters in the family have experienced suffering, except one, then the unity is jeopardized. And so, for the sake of a common spirit of unity and sympathy and camaraderie, even in suffering, Christ takes on human nature and he leads many sons to glory and into his brotherhood through suffering and death.” (John Piper)

SWAT or military personnel clearing houses use a term called the fatal funnel. It’s when you go through a narrow, confined area with no cover and you are exposed to the worst the enemy can throw at you. The first one through the door is at the most risk. We should all be the point in the spiritual fatal funnel of our lives, but Jesus moved us behind him, took the point, and took upon himself the death that we deserved.

This suffering is one reason Jesus is such a great High Priest, a concept that came up in this chapter but will come up later (and we will address it more then). Because God become one of us in the person of Jesus, we know that God understands what we are going through.

“Disease, sickness of body, poverty, need, friendlessness, hopelessness, desertion—he knows all these. You cannot cast human suffering into any shape that is new to Christ. "In all their afflictions he was afflicted." If you feel a thorn in your foot, remember that it once pierced his head. If you have a trouble or a difficulty, you may see there the mark of his hands, for he has climbed that way before. The whole path of sorrow has his blood-bedabbled footsteps all along, for the Man of Sorrows has been there, and he can now have sympathy with you. "Yes," I hear one say, "but my sorrows are the result of sin." So were his; though not his own, yet the result of sin they were. "Yes," you say, "but I am slandered, and I cannot bear it…" Drink thy little cup; see what a cup he drained. “ (Spurgeon)

If God allowed and in fact used suffering as a means for perfecting the ministry and purpose of Jesus on earth, we ought to consider that God will use suffering as a means of perfecting our ministry and purpose.

  • Remember the parable of the wise man who built his rock on the house vs. the sand? Something to note: they both went through the storm. It’s just that the one stood. The question wasn't ifthey were going to go through the storm; the question was
  • Even though God promised Jeremiah a fantastic ministry, he suffered, and ended up going into exile with the other Jews.Jeremiah claimed that God had tricked or seduced him into following God (Jeremiah 20:7-9).
  • Paul has a thorn in the flesh that God leaves with him (more on that later)

God seems to be content to let life be hard sometimes. So let’s talk about different kinds of suffering, and then how suffering can be used by God to perfect us. First, let’s clarify what we mean by suffering (“undergoing pain, distress, or hardship”).

  • Suffering for the sake of our faith.
  • Suffering because life is hard.
  • Suffering because Satan attacks us.
  • Suffering because we pursue sin.
  • Suffering because others sin against us.
  • Suffering as God prunes us.

I want us to at least wrestle with the idea that if suffering was necessary to consummate or perfect Jesus’ mission, suffering may be necessary to consummate or perfect our mission. So, what is our mission?

To glorify God. To exalt Jesus by our life and our words.

So how does our suffering play in to this?

1. It unifies us with Jesus.

“ For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God… the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:14-18)

I believe this passage is talking specifically about suffering for the sake of Christ. This could be literal persecution, but it can also be the hard work of surrendering our thoughts, loves, and desires.

“Conflict, not progress, is the word that defines man’s path from darkness into light. No holiness is won by any other means than this, that wickedness should be slain day by day, and hour by hour. In long lingering agony often, with the blood of the heart pouring out at every quivering vein, you are to cut right through the life and being of that sinful self; to do what the Word does, pierce to the dividing asunder of the thoughts and intents of the heart, and get rid by crucifying and slaying - a long process, a painful process - of your own sinful self. And not until you can stand up and say, ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,’ have you accomplished that to which you are consecrated and vowed by your sonship - ’being conformed unto the likeness of His death,’ and ‘knowing the fellowship of His sufferings.’ (Maclaren’s Exposition)

2. It refines us.

  • "Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing.” (James 1:2-4) 
  • "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him...and when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 13:15; 23:10)
  • "The firing pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, so the Lord trieth the hearts" (17:3)
  • " I will turn My hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross and take away thy tin" (1:22, 25).
  • " He shall purify and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness" (3:3).
  • "Thou O God, hast proved us; thou hast tried us as silver is tried" ( 66:10
  • "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17).

I don’t think suffering in the life of the Christian is punative; that is, I don’t think God uses pain and suffering to punish His children in the New Covenant.[1] Jesus took that for us, his spiritual brothers and sisters, on the cross. Yet suffering has a role. Oswald Chambers once wrote: "Sorrow burns up a great amount of shallowness." A wise man once said, "I got theology in seminary, but I learned reality through trials. I got facts in Sunday School, but I learned faith through trusting God in difficult circumstances. I got truth from studying, but I got to know the Savior through suffering."[2]

3. It gives us the opportunity to display the sufficiency of grace.

“In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12)

I read the following in an article by a Christian lady with polio:[3]

“Our culture disdains weakness, but our frailty is a sign of God's workmanship in us. It gets us closer to what we were created to be—completely dependent on God. Several years ago I realized that instead of despising the fact that polio had left me with a body that was weakened and compromised, susceptible to pain and fatigue, I could choose to rejoice in it. My weakness made me more like a fragile, easily broken window than a solid brick wall. But just as sunlight pours through a window but is blocked by a wall, I discovered that other people could see God's strength and beauty in me because of the window-like nature of my weakness!”

4. It unites us with others who suffer.

“The only way in which Christ could bring us to share in His glory was to submit to suffering and death. In no other way could He act as the Mediator of the Divine life to us who are His brethren. Similarly, if we would become the mediators of help and blessing to others, we also must be prepared to suffer…” (F.B. Meyer)

I suspect God uses our greatest trials and suffering to prepare us to minister more effectively to others who have gone through what we have gone through. Former addicts are best with addicts; former inmates are best with prisoners; people who have endured sickness are best with those who are enduring sickness. Be ready: God may well take your point of greatest suffering and use it for His greatest triumph in your life. And it won’t be for your sake, though you will benefit – it will be so you can comfort others.

2 Corinthians 1:4 (ASV) “He comforts us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort by which we ourselves are comforted of God.

 

Some Recommended Songs

“The Perfect Wisdom of Our God” (Getty)

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSnzYnOe6kI[/embed]

“If You Want Me To” (Ginny Owens)

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaXxwFpavj4[/embed]

“Be Still My Soul” (Kari Jobe)

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mq59iE3MhXM[/embed]

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[1]I think the closest we get is “you reap what you sow,” but that’s not God actively sending us suffering as punishment. That’s just us experiencing cause and effect in this life as sin impacts the world.

[2]https://probe.org/the-value-of-suffering/?print=print

[3]https://probe.org/the-value-of-suffering/?print=print

[i]Him that had the power of death – “This is spoken in conformity to an opinion prevalent among the Jews, that there was a certain fallen angel who was called המות מלאך malak hammaveth, the angel of death; i.e. one who had the power of separating the soul from the body, when God decreed that the person should die. There were two of these, according to some of the Jewish writers: one was the angel of death to the Gentiles; the other, to the Jews. Thus Tob haarets, fol. 31: "There are two angels which preside over death: one is over those who die out of the land of Israel, and his name is Sammael; the other is he who presides over those who die in the land of Israel, and this is Gabriel." Sammael is a common name for the devil among the Jews; and there is a tradition among them, delivered by the author of Pesikta rabbetha in Yalcut Simeoni, par. 2, f. 56, that the angel of death should be destroyed by the Messiah! "Satan said to the holy blessed God: Lord of the world, show me the Messiah. The Lord answered: Come and see him. And when he had seen him he was terrified, and his countenance fell, and he said: Most certainly this is the Messiah who shall cast me and all the nations into hell, as it is written  Isaiah 25:8, The Lord shall swallow up death for ever." This is a very remarkable saying, and the apostle shows that it is true, for the Messiah came to destroy him who had the power of death.” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary)

 

“Not Ashamed To Call Us Family” (Hebrews 2: 10-18)

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Listen to audio here Watch the Facebook Live Stream here

 

It only makes sense that God, by whom and for whom everything exists, would choose to bring many of us to His side by using suffering to perfect Jesus, the founder of our faith, the pioneer of our salvation. As I will show you, it’s important that the One who brings us to God (the Sanctifier) and those who are brought to God (the sanctified) become one (or become of one nature – ‘partakers of flesh and blood’), since we are all from one Father.

 This is why Jesus was not ashamed to call us His family (brothers and sisters), saying, in the words of the psalmist, “I will speak Your Name to My brothers and sisters when I praise You in the midst of the community.”And in the words of Isaiah, “I will put my trust in the Eternal One.” And again, “Look, here I am with the children God has given Me.”

Since we, the children, are all creatures of flesh and blood, Jesus took on flesh and blood, so that by dying He could destroy the one who held power over death—the devil—  and destroy the fear of death that has always held people captive.

So notice—His concern here is not for the welfare of the heavenly messengers, but for the children of Abraham. He had to become as human as His sisters and brothers so that when the time came, He could become a merciful and faithful high priest of God, called to reconcile a sinful people. Since He has also been tested by suffering, He can help us when we are tested. I’m going to use this passage for two weeks, because there is a lot to unpack her. First, the claim that suffering perfected Jesus, and the implications for us. Second, the claim that Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sister. This week, we are starting with the family issue.

Jesus was not ashamed to call us family. I’m going to come back to this later to look at how powerful this is, but first I want to look at the three quotes that follow, because they seem kind of odd. The bottom line: they are all tapping into Old Testament scriptures that simultaneously claim that Jesus is the Messiah, and that we are now family spiritually.

 “I will speak Your Name to My brothers and sisters when I praise You in the midst of the community.”

The author is citing Psalm 22:22. David was essentially telling God that once he delivers him, David will sing God's praises. The writer of Hebrews attributes that to Jesus. Now, in the middle of the congregation, Jesus sings God's praises and points to him as the deliverer of his brethren. That “deliverance from suffering” that David wanted? Jesus actually gave it to us.

The writer added that because we are flesh and blood, Jesus took on flesh and blood. He had to become as human as his sisters and brothers to be the High Priest we need. [1]

Notice that in this quote Jesus simply declares God’s ‘name’: that is, he displays God’s nature and character, and he speaks that to his brothers and sisters.One commentator I read used the imagery of the temple to describe what is happening here:

  • The outer court is the equivalent to the miracles God does. It’s part of the temple, but it’s only introductory. There are much deeper things to come. They might declare God’s presence,but not God’s
  • The holy place is the moral attributes of God’s righteousness and purity. This is the space where the name of God – the character and nature of God – begins to be understood .
  • Behind the veil in the inner sanctuary of the Holy of Holies is the Mercy Seat, the ultimate expression of which is Jesus, whose incarnation and sacrifice perfectly and completely show the love and mercy of God. (Maclaren’s Expositions)

“I will put my trust in the Eternal One.” This trust is best defined as “obedience as a result of God’s persuasion.”[2]This is a verse about attitude. Jesus is both the object of our faith because He is God, and he is the perfect examplefor our faith; that is, what it looks like for us to live out our faith. This is why Jesus is“…the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29)

This ‘firstborn’ language carries with it the idea of preeminence and importance, “the highest of those born” (Psalm 89:27), but it also suggest he is the one to whom the rest of us look to know what to do and who to be.

“Look, here I am with the children God has given Me.” If you are a child of God, God gave that privilege to you. We don’t force our way or earn our way into his family. God adopts us because of His love and grace.

Though the writer of Hebrews does not finish the verse from Isaiah, I suspect his audience finished in their heads – “for signs and wonders in Israel.” What does that mean? Well, is it not a wonder that God chooses us, dead in our sins, to be His children? And is it not a wonder that his glory is displayed through the work He does in us? As one person told me last week, “I am God’s trophy.” They weren’t bragging about how awesome they were; they were just acknowledging that God’s great salvation had done a miraculous and glorious work in their life.

“He is not ashamed to call us His family.” We will read this idea later in Hebrews also: “They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:16)

There are other places where Jesus talks about his followers as family:

  • “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:49-50)
  • (After the resurrection) “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:17)

I think it’s worth the time to let the profoundness of this claim sink in with the help of some great theological giants on whose shoulders we stand:

“Considering him in the holiness of his Deity, and them in the filthiness of sin, he might have been ashamed of such a brotherhood; but by his effectual word he adopted them into a state of childship and heirship to God with himself; and in the flesh to give them that glory, that they might be one with God, as he and the Father are one (Matthew Poole’s Commentary) 

“He has so become partaker of our nature that now we are one family, and he is not ashamed to call us brothers. Am I addressing any who are ashamed of Christ, or who are ashamed of God's poor people, and who would not like to be known to be members of a poor church? Ah! how you ought to despise yourselves for having any such pride in your hearts, for Christ is not ashamed to call his people brethren! Oh, what wondrous condescension!”   (Charles Spurgeon)

They are poor, they are despised, they are persecuted; what is worse, they are imperfect and faulty, often sorrowful, cast down, condemning themselves, groaning at the mercy-seat; yet “he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” There is such a unity between the believer, be he in what sorrow he may, and the Christ, be he in what glory he may, that he is never ashamed to own the close relationship between them.”  (Charles Spurgeon)

There are a lot of things it could mean that Jesus was not ashamed (from Strong’s Concordance, 1870. Epaischunomai).However, perhaps the best way to understand this has to do with the language of condescension,of God coming down to our level and becoming one of us. When we talk with little kids, one of the best ways is to kneel – to come down to their level. That is what God did for His children.

Jesus “made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of  a servant, and was found in the likeness of humankind, and humbled himself…” (Philippians 2:7)

  • Chapter One of Hebrews was all about how superior God is to us, the angels and everything else, so it seems like he would want nothing to do with us.
  • The Greeks and the Romans could not imagine that gods would want this, except to ravage and use us. And yet, Jesus wants to be with us as brothers and sisters. He stoops to save us and make sure we are adopted into His family.
  • Jesus was that bridge between God’s transcendence and his immanence. There is no concern that we will somehow soil God by His contact with the unclean. He is beyond us in every way, and yet, he is here. It is not below his dignity to save us.

Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters, to call us family, to come down to our level and claim his relationship to us. I tried to find songs about Jesus not being ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters, and every song I found was about how we are not to be ashamed of Jesus. That’s true, but the foundation for that unashamedness on our part is because we have a remarkable God. And one of the things that makes God so remarkable is that God is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.

When Sheila and I were dating, I loved to fake banging my nose on doors that I walked through. It got so bad that when we went to the mall she would go through the entrance about 10-15 behind me, like “Who is that guy? What a moron.” And once we moved past that awkward moment, we were good again. Until the next door.

That’s obviously trivial. I thought it was hilarious. And Vincent is making me proud by starting to carry on that tradition. But what about more serious things?

What have I done that make is so people don’t want to be near me? They don’t want to condescend to be with me because the dirt of my life threatens to make them dirty too.

What have you done? What have others done to you?

We put people into categories, don’t we? Those of whom we are ashamed. Those we think will make us dirty if we are too close. Those we don’t want to publicly claim as either family or spiritual family. Dare I say there are people in our life of whom we think, “I just can’t go down to their level?”

Is it not amazing beyond belief that our savior and brother, Jesus, was not ashamed to come down to our level and call us – us, even us– his brothers and sisters.

I was thinking of the parable of the Two Brothers this week (or the Parable of The Faithful Father). When the Prodigal son left home, he humiliated his father and his family. When he lived a life of what to the Jewish community would have been unthinkable uncleanness and sin, he humiliated them. And yet when he stumbled home, smelling of pigs and sin, his father ran to him. His father broke all kinds of standard protocol for looking honorable and humbled himself as he ran to his son.

Not ashamed to condescend to love His son. How is that possible?

I know we can struggle a lot with feeling of inadequacy, with feelings of not living up to God’s expectations. We feel weak, inadequate, and stupid. Our life feels like one big mess. If you are a follower of Christ, know this: Jesus was not ashamed to condescend, to come down to your level and claim you as one of His own.

I remember a coach once telling me of one of my boys – and I am paraphrasing - “He is being an idiot.“ And I knew that, but he was MY idiot. I was not and am not ashamed to claim all of them, even in the midst of their imperfections. I love them. What price would I not pay for their good – and I’m a deeply flawed father, not the perfect Savior of the world.

Does that mean Jesus overlooks sin? No. Does that mean He is never angry, or the Holy Spirit is never grieved? No. God has shown that He has no problem holding his children accountable. He will prune what needs to be pruned, because He loves us.

Jesus was not ashamed to come down and claim his brothers and sisters He has saved, even in the midst of their imperfections.

Tony Campolo used to tell a story about something he witnessed at an airport. A mother and baby got off an airplane, and it must have been quite a ride. The baby was covered with vomit. The father didn’t hesitate. He ran up and smothered his child with hugs.

Jesus is not ashamed to save and claim his family.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6akq4DvTuog[/embed]

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[1]Augustine once wrote: "God makes of sons of men sons of God, because God hath made of the Son of God the Son of man."

[2]From Strongs’s Concordance, https://biblehub.com/greek/3982.htm