Hebrews 3:1-6 – Jesus Is Better

 

Loving-Gods-House

“Therefore, brothers and sisters who are partners in the heavenly calling, think about Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.  Jesus was faithful to the one who appointed him just like Moses was faithful in God’s house.  But he deserves greater glory than Moses in the same way that the builder of the house deserves more honor than the house itself.  Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant in order to affirm the things that would be spoken later.  But Jesus was faithful over God’s house as a Son. We are his house if we hold on to the confidence and the pride that our hope gives us.” (Common English Bible)

It’s hard to be patient, difficult to persevere.  If the Christian life were a piece of cake, then there would be no need for the strengthening of faith and the development of perseverance.  But faith is a muscle.  If unused, it atrophies.  Faith needs exercise, and it must be tried in adverse circumstances to grow and mature.

The reason the author of Hebrews wrote his letter to Jewish Christians is because they were losing their grip, faltering in their faith.  The hard circumstances of those Christians were leading them to entertain the notion of returning to their old ways of life, apart from Christ.

It can be tempting to think of the past as “the good old days.”  But if you think about it for any length of time, you know better.  You’re just struggling in the present, and our minds turn to filter all the crud out from the past to make it look like things were better back then.

“Better” is what the book of Hebrews is all about.  The writer consistently and persistently insists that Jesus is better than anything from the Hebrew Christians’ past.  Moses was one the most respected and impressive figures of Old Testament history.  Jews revered him.  The book of Hebrews acknowledges that respect for Moses, but points-out and reminds the people that whereas Moses was faithful within God’s house, it is Jesus who is the Master over the house.  Jesus is better than Moses.

What’s more, we as believers and followers of Jesus are the house.  Jesus Christ is Lord – not Moses, or anybody else.  Jesus cares for and protects his house.  It might be tempting to believe that a previous house we lived-in in another city or town was better.  But the reality is that we live today in God’s house.  Therefore, we must hold on and not let go of the confidence we have in Jesus and the pride and privilege we have in living where we presently live.

When life is tough, reminiscing about the past is easy.  For sure, you can find all kinds of things you miss from your previous days somewhere.  Yet, trolling your personal history, like a time-wasting galavant on the computer, doesn’t do anything for your need of faith and perseverance.  But today, Jesus has a hold of you.  Today he wants to walk with you through your trouble, and not just transport you to the past.  Now is the time to follow Jesus into all the situations that are in front of you.  You are not alone.  You can do this.

Lord Jesus, you are sovereign over my past, present, and future.  Today has its situations and problems.  Help me walk into and through them with your gracious protection so that perseverance is developed within me and my faith in you is strengthened for tomorrow.  Amen.

James 5:7-12

            In 1952, a woman named Florence Chadwick attempted to become the first female to swim the twenty-one miles from Catalina Island to the California coast.  Less than a half-mile from her destination she gave up.  It wasn’t because of fatigue, but because of the thick fog.  Florence simply could not see how close she was to her goal.  Two months later she did it, also in the fog, but had learned her lesson and persevered even though she couldn’t see the coast in front of her.
 
            Everyone who has faced adversity knows how hard it is to keep going without seeing the goal.  Yet, it is important to be patient and to persevere knowing that the Lord’s coming is near.  Like the farmer, we must expectantly wait till the harvest.  There is nothing we can do to speed up the process and go straight from planting to harvest.  It takes time.  It takes patience.  Grumbling and complaining about how long it is taking will not make it go any faster.
 
            For the Christian, there must be suffering before glory.  The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.  We live in a time when we will either sink or swim – there is no in-between.  God’s celestial shore is within sight; don’t miss it by getting discouraged by all the fog.  Hang in there, my friend.
 

 

            Patient God, you endure through all of my ignorance and impatience and just keep growing me by your grace.  Thank you for working me as a farmer works the soil.  May there be a great harvest of righteousness in my life as I allow your faithful work to be done in me.  Amen.

Hebrews 12:3-17

            “So keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners.  Then you won’t get discouraged and give up.”  The Hebrew Christians were in danger of losing their resolve and reneging on their commitment to Christ.  Their circumstances had been so adverse for so long that they just did not have any more fight in them to keep going.  They needed perseverance.
 
            The path to perseverance is through keeping our minds on Jesus.  Sometimes we might forget that Jesus did not have it easy on this earth.  He faced ridicule, insults, hardship, and was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.  If that was the path for our Lord, then it is silly to think that, as Christ’s followers, we should avoid suffering and hardship. 
 
            Giving up happens when our minds are off Jesus.  Today we would say, “Get your head in the game!”  Regular Bible reading and persistence in prayer to God are not just nice ideas if we have time for them.  If we are going to maintain a commitment to Christianity, then these become must disciplines in our lives over all other disciplines we do on a daily basis.  Feelings of giving-up ought to clue us to the reality that it is time to retreat with God. 
 

 

            Jesus, you are the Suffering Servant who has gone before us and secured deliverance from sin, death, and hell.  In the scope of eternity, it is a small thing for me to live for you and face any kind of ridicule it might bring to me.  I only ask to be in solidarity with you in all things.  Amen.

Colossians 4:2-6

            “Never give up praying,” said Paul to the church at Colossae.  Keep in mind that the Colossians had fallen into the wrongheaded thinking that Christianity could be reduced to a formula.  Do the right things.  Say the right things.  Keep away from the list of the terrible ten or the nasty nine, or whatever checklist you are using to live by your form of “Christianity.”  Ditch it.  Instead, persevere in prayer without knowing the outcome.  Pray relying on God and the mystery of Christ.  Pray with uncertainty instead of continually believing you need sure answers to everything for everyone.
 
            God is not some algebra equation to figure out.  He is not a gumball machine to put a quarter in and get exactly what you want.  He is not Santa God.  Christianity requires living in the tension of not knowing everything and yet having cogent answers for others who inquire about our faith.  It is a dynamic relationship in which we must continually and constantly interact in prayer to God as we largely improvise our lives, spontaneously applying what understanding we have for each situation we face.
 
            “Never give up praying” was Paul exhorting the church to keep up a vigilant and ongoing dialogue with the God who answers in his own good time, according to his own good will.  We are to make good use of the time God gives us, being gracious and pleasant around unbelievers, choosing our words carefully as we carry on a silent prayer conversation with God in the midst of our human conversations.  This is Christianity above rules and laws and checklists.  It is Christianity as it is meant to be lived, depending on Jesus and the Spirit.
 

 

            Mysterious God, forgive me for any attempts at reducing faith to a few spiritual rules to keep.  Help me to speak in ways which are gracious, loving, and redemptive.  May the person and work of Jesus come tumbling out of my mouth out of the overflow of my heart.  Amen.

Hebrews 10:32-39

            The Bible gives us the straight scoop on life.  Throughout Holy Scripture we get the highs and lows, the sufferings and the glories, the grace and the judgment.  The Christian life is not some nice neat upward trajectory that we enjoy until we reach heaven.  Rather, it is more like a zig-zag, herky-jerky, up and down experience of times of strength and encouragement, and seasons of weakness and despondency.
 
            In this life we will have trouble.  Since we follow a Lord who himself was ridiculed, suffered, and killed, we cannot expect a peachy existence filled with lovely unicorns and puppies that don’t poop.  It is one thing to face hardship; it is quite another thing to face it day after day, month after month, maybe even year after year without any reprieve.  What then?  Few people sign up for constant adversity.
 
            The Hebrew Christians had started their Christian lives well, coming at it with gusto and strength, and a willingness to experience solidarity with their Lord Jesus.  But, as time wore on, they became tired and defeated.  So, the author of the book of Hebrews lets them know that the two indispensable elements of the Christian life are faith and perseverance.  Without trust and endurance the Christian life cannot be sustained.  Don’t throw in the towel because there will eventually be a great reward.
 
            Sometimes when facing trouble Christians shrink back and withdraw from others, not letting fellow brothers and sisters into what is really going on.  The ministry that used to happen fades away.  But being vulnerable and allowing others to help; focusing on service to those who need it; and, letting go of the stuff we think is so important; these are all ways that keep us on a steadfast path of love and good deeds without losing our confidence in Christ.
 

 

            Ever-present God, you are Lord of both the bad days and the good.  Build in me the spiritual stamina I need to keep going so that faith in Christ might be expressed through love at all times and in every way through the power of the Spirit.  Amen.