A Closer Race with Thee

May 23, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 3 Comments
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Hebrews Chapter 12 starts of with a “wherefore,” which – similar to a “therefore” – reminds us to take into consideration what we’ve just learned.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1

The witnesses are the heroes of the faith from Chapter 11, and they are not “witnesses” in the sense of being spectators. They are witnesses in the sense that their testimonies, and what we know about them from the Bible, witness to us. Their testimonies let us know that, if they did it, we can do it, too.

If the Christian life is a race, we need training for the race – and the training is ongoing as we run at different levels, drawing nearer and nearer to God:

One, we look at those who have finished the race – and won the race – before (the cloud of witnesses, patriarchs of the faith).

Two, we consider what kind of shape we’re in to start. Are we weighted down? Weights are useful for training, but no one would run the actual race with his weights. A batter in the on-deck circle does his practice swings with a weighted donut around the barrel of the bat, but he makes sure to take it off before stepping up to the plate. In the Christian race we lay aside “every weight” – even so-called “harmless” things. Remember, the question for the mature believer who is drawing closer and closer to God is not, “What’s wrong with that?” but “What’s right with that?”

No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

II Timothy 2:4

We lay aside every weight and “sins that easily beset us.” We know we can’t draw nigh while we’re all weighted down – especially with sin.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

Hebrews 12:14

We are not going to come into the presence of God – as confident believers who know better – without some degree of holiness. We cannot have total and complete holiness, for this is impossible for flesh and blood, but we must have some holiness. God said, “Be ye holy; for I am holy,” and He wouldn’t have told us to do it if it was impossible.

Three, we look at the One Who truly did it.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Hebrews 12:2-3

We have to draw close to “consider.” Christ is our best example for running the race. He didn’t use His powers to coast through His earthly life. Like Job, he was tempted, but to a far greater extent. He exercised faith – built up in prayer – used with the Word of God as a sharp weapon. Christ is not only our example, He is our enabler. He gives us the patience (really, endurance) and the strength to run the race.

The Invitation to Come Closer

August 31, 2015 at 9:17 am | Posted in Hebrews | 25 Comments
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It is a wonderful and amazing thought that God would invite us to draw near to Him. We are to draw near to Him with diligence, with focused and rapt attention. Of course, even as we draw near to Him, we are also sent out from Him. Just as we are to draw near – to come to God – without doubt, we are to likewise go forth as His ambassadors – those sent by God – not with sluggishness, but with zeal and boldness.

Among the Old Testament types of the offices of Christ, which He fulfills in superior ways under His New Covenant, we have discussed the prophets, the angels, Moses himself, and Aaron. Aaron was the High Priest in the time of Moses, but Christ is the Great High Priest. Generally speaking, the people couldn’t go to Aaron the High Priest with their problems. They could, in a sense, draw near to God through him and the other Levitical priests, but, in another sense, the Law required that a wall of separation be maintained between the priests and the common people. As New Testament believers we can go directly to the Great High Priest.

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

Christ is also superior because He is on the throne. We are allowed and encouraged and commanded to come before the throne of grace – to come boldly – but He’s still the One on the throne. Even Aaron couldn’t sit on the throne.

The Christians to whom the Book of Hebrews was originally written went through extreme persecution, but they were encouraged to confess their faith. When we fail to confess our allegiance to Christ, we don’t change His character, but we do bring reproach to His name. Hebrews 12:15 says, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God…” The grace of God will never fail us, but we must not fail the grace of God.

As we study Jesus’s role as the Great High Priest, we probably don’t see the depth of all the meaning that the 1st Century Hebrew Christians did. They understood the Levitical system of sacrifices and atonement and what the priests did in the temple better than we do. There must have been times when these saved Hebrews were really being tempted to go back to that old system, but the Holy Ghost was telling them, no, Christ is superior to that system, for the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did.

Jesus accomplished what the Law could not do in:

1. His propitiation. He satisfied and took upon Himself the wrath of God that was due to us for our sins against Him.

2. His expiation. He carried our condemnation away from us, and extinguished it in a way that was acceptable to God.

We were saved in a sense when Christ caused us to draw near enough to Him for Him to save us, not by standing aloof and trying to garner His favor or impress Him with our works. We drew near to Him by faith. When what saves you is effective, why would you want to try something else afterward? If drawing near led to salvation, then it stands to reason that the saved person can draw even nearer – that we can draw into confidence with God, into peace with God, into rest in God.

For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.

Hebrews 4:8

Here the reference is mostly likely to Moses’s general and successor, Joseph, whose name looks like “Jesus” in the Greek, but, just as Joshua had a certain day to lead the people of God into Canaan, so Jesus is a better Joshua. He is the means to the rest that still remains for the children of God.

The “Great” that Doesn’t “Grate” – Part One

March 23, 2009 at 10:43 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Biblical Greats | 15 Comments
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As Christians, we should spend much time meditating on how great our salvation is. However, because it is so great, there will always be a great lack of understanding, and a difficulty in truly appreciating it.

We try our best to grasp as much as we can of what God has done in saving us and changing us and regenerating our hearts.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Romans 3:10-12

No one in this world can say that he has loved God his whole life. We were all born with a heart that was not capable of loving God.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

When God saves someone, He gives that person a new heart. This new, regenerated heart has the capacity to love God more and more. A well-loved old hymn says:

Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.
Every day with Jesus I love Him more and more.
Jesus saves and keeps me.
And He’s the One I’m waiting for.
Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.

Robert C. Loveless

Through God’s power, we have the ability to love Him every day more than we did the day before. But most Christians fail to exercise this ability. Part of the reason why may be that we underestimate how great God’s love for us truly is. It would be impossible to overestimate it. The fact of God’s love for sinful men may just be the greatest of all the great miracles. Someone said the greatest miracle is when God raises the dead, but I’ve got three school-age daughters – my wife does that miracle almost every morning! I think the greater miracle than God raising sinful men from the dead is God Himself dying for sinful men.

So, because He died for us we should love Him more and more each day. The question is, practically, how do we do that? How do you make yourself love someone?

Let’s think about it this way. In human terms, to get my love for a person to grow, generally, I need to be around that person – to spend time with her. However, we know that familiarity – in human relationships – can breed contempt. Familiarity isn’t always such a great “love-enhancer” in human relationships. This is because people have faults. The more you get to know someone, and the more time you spend with her, the more of her faults you start to notice.

It’s not the same with God. He is perfect. There are no faults in Him. Since He is perfect, the more you know Him, the more you will love Him.

Keep in mind though, that, in addition to being perfect, God is also great. Since He is great, when I start knowing Him more and more, I recognize His greatness more and more. This means that my love for Him does not become a careless familiarity.

With people, love means “never having to say you’re sorry.” (I know this is not technically correct, but follow the reasoning.) Among people, love can become relaxed, and, ultimately, it can lapse into presumption.

Again, it is not so with God. With Him, we recognize His greatness, and our love does not become a careless familiarity. It becomes worship. It becomes a desire and a motivation to serve Him.

We draw closer to God. We see that He is great. We see that He is perfect. We are thankful for it.

In a future post, I will try to elaborate on three principles that will help us to appreciate the greatness of God: His supremacy; His strength; and His splendor.


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