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Tag Archives: Epistle to the Hebrews

Separation

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. (Matthew 27:51)

The curtain mentioned here, is the one which separated the “Holy of Holies” (where only the High Priest was allowed to venture, and that only ever once a year) from the rest of the Temple, where people came on a regular basis to offer sacrifices. Yet, when Jesus died, this veil was torn from top to bottom.–The way to God (who was dwelling in the Holy of Holies) was made open. Where once only the High Priest could go, now anyone can enter and see God.

The curtain of the Temple represented separation between man and God. It’s presence said that any who would dare to enter through it, must be perfect in the sight of God. It was not a place for the average person. Yet Jesus, through His death, has made the way open, not only to Jews, but also to everyone who believes in Him as their Lord and Savior: all Christians. As the author of Hebrews puts it, we can come before God’s throne of grace with confidence (we see that in Hebrews 4:16). Which is exactly what we should do, in prayer (and once we’ve died, it’s exactly what we hopefully will do in Spirit): come before God’s throne of grace, and ask Him for help, for strength to overcome, and for forgiveness where we have failed.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

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Acceptable Worship

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:26-29)

We should indeed be thankful that we have an unshakable kingdom. – After all, Christ gave His life up as a sacrifice, so that we could have that kingdom (along with many other things). However, the bit after ‘let’s be thankful’ may seem a little confusing. “Let us offer to God acceptable worship”. At first glance, it’s really quite straightforward: we’re to offer up acceptable worship to God. Not much to it. Yet, we must ask, what is acceptable? What is the distinguishing mark between unacceptable, and acceptable worship? Is not all worship, worship? And as such, acceptable in any and every form which it comes in?

God doesn’t want just any kind of worship. He doesn’t want pagan forms of worship, in which He is put level with all the fake “gods”. He doesn’t want false worship, which is not worship at all. No, He wants worship which He can delight in; which He finds acceptable. So, again, what is acceptable?

Well, we know for a fact that Christ offered acceptable worship when He was crucified. – Jesus’ crucifixion was an act of worship, because there has never been, nor ever will be, a time which brought more glory to God. And bringing glory to God, is pretty much what worship is. – Otherwise God would’ve never raised Him from the dead. So let’s look to Him for an example. There are a couple of specific points about Christ’s worship to focus on:

  1. His act of worship involved sacrifice. Jesus’ type of sacrifice only had to be made once, and could only be made by Him. Thus, our sacrifices are on a far less dramatic scale. An acceptable act of worship now, would involve “sacrificing” time, money, or energy.
  2. His act of worship served others. As with His sacrifice, Jesus’ act of worship at the cross only needed to be made, and could only do what it did, one time. Thus, anything we do to serve others, can at most, involve Earthly things. Unlike Christ, who served others by giving up His very Spirit. But we are still to serve others, in whatever way which God calls us to.
  3. His act of worship spread the Gospel. Granted, Jesus’ act of worship was the Gospel, but, in that, it was also the greatest spreader of it. That aside though, any acceptable act of worship, spreads that which saves, and gives glory to God: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So then, the point is this: we are commanded to offer acceptable worship. Acceptable worship, is not comfortable worship (which is unacceptable). God wants us to grow up into Christ [Ephesians 4:15], and one way which we do that, is by offering worship like Christ’s. – Sacrificial service which spreads the Gospel (along with, no doubt, many other attributes).

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Discipline

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:4-7)

God will discipline us when we do wrong. Not because he’s cruel, just the opposite, because He loves us. He doesn’t like seeing us falling back into a pattern of sin, and so will stop us, and give us a little reminder that that’s the wrong way to go. He gives us the “reminder”, by disciplining us. The discipline could be something as dramatic as actual death; such as when the Corinthians were mistreating the communion [See: 1 Corinthians 11:29-30], or it could be something else entirely, but God will make it known to us that we’re on the wrong track. – Note: Not all deaths, or sickness, is a result of sin! [See: John 9:1-3] – But to be sure, He will make it known.

God sent His son to die for us, and to rise again three days later, to free us from slavery to sin, and to become our Abba, Father. It is the height of arrogance to think that after making such a sacrifice for us, that God would simply ignore His children! No, He watches out for us, and applies due discipline to keep us on the way He wants us to go. God could force us to obey Him. Just like a father could have a robot for a son. But He doesn’t, because He wants us to make “the right choices” of our own “free will”. Now, granted, He’ll put us into circumstances where we have no choice other than the correct one, but He still wants us to choose it ourselves.

So rather than face God’s discipline, let’s use the strength which God gives us to stand firm.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Looking to Christ

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Now, notice the very first thing the author says here: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” Now, the identity of the “witnesses” he’s referring to are fairly obvious; their the people who he talked of in the previous chapter. i.e. Samson, Abram/Abraham, Jacob, and the rest. We can see this by the authors use of “therefore”: when-ever we see a “therefore”, we’re to see what it’s there for, and in this particular case, it’s to point us back to the previous chapter, where the author talks about the afore-mentioned.

But, the next part of that sentence may seem a bit confusing: “let us also lay aside every weight,” Are our memories of their stories supposed to somehow compel us to set aside “every weight” (every “weight”, meaning everything which slows us down from running towards Christ. i.e., sin)? Well, something like that, actually. Their faith should encourage our faith; should encourage us to do as Abram did, and leave behind our sin and run to Christ (or in Abram’s case, leave behind part of his family, and follow God’s directions).

You could summarize all those verses something like this: we’re to lay aside our sin because of Jesus (so that we can run to Him). We’re to run to Jesus (you run towards where-ever you’re looking). We’re to look to Jesus, and we’re to consider Jesus, and in so doing, we’ll not “grow weary or fainthearted.” The author makes it quite clear that in everything we do, we’re to be focusing on Christ. – He’s what let’s us run the metaphorical race of life.

The point being this: we should be looking towards, and “considering” Christ in everything we do, and in so doing we’ll draw, it could even be said that we’ll  run, closer to God, and the closer we grow to God, the more He’ll show Himself to us; the more we’ll have to consider of Him.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
5 Comments

Posted by on May 19, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Purification

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:11-14)

Christ purifies us, and then He sanctifies us, through His death. By ourselves, as we’ve all no doubt found out, we’re pretty hopeless… and useless… and all those other lovely adjectives used to describe those trying be good by their own volition. e.g., “bad”, etc.. A little more simply, we were “defiled persons”, as the author puts it.  But Christ is able to purify all.

The sacrifices the Israelites used to make were really quite meaningless, except to serve as a foreshadow of Christ’s sacrifice. They had no real power to take away sin, or to relieve guilt. Rather, God looked on them, and was reminded of the sacrifice which He had planned before time; the sacrifice of His son, which actually could take away sin and guilt.  Christ didn’t come before God with, as the author says, “the blood of goats and calves”, but with His own blood, to forgive the sins of the people; us.

Jesus didn’t only forgive our sins, though that in of itself would of been enough. He has also purified our consciences “from dead works to serve the living God.” All who believe in Christ as their savior are free from the slavery of sin and guilt, and are under a commission to “serve the living God.”  I believe I’m serving God, albeit in a very small way, through my blog. As are numerous others through their blog. Pastors serve God when they preach, deacons do when they serve, and so forth. But ministry doesn’t have to stay in the Church, or for that matter in the blogopsphere. In fact, it shouldn’t stay just in the Church (or blogopsphere). Rather, however it is we can serve, we should serve God in that way. Whether in the Church or not.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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Hope

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:18-20)

Now if there’s one message which Disney has tried to convey in several of its productions, I’d say it would be hope. If there was one thing I bet most of the lower castes in India want, it’s probably hope for a better reincarnation. Hope is something we all want, and need. We need hope for a better future, if the one we currently have is bleak. We need hope that one day everyone in the World will stop fighting and get along. But what Disney doesn’t realize, is that there is no such thing as hope outside of Christ. Christ is our hope. He died on a cross to become our hope. He lives now to continue giving us hope, by interceding on our behalves before God.

He, and He alone is able to give us not only a hope, because He alone had all hope taken from Him. So in every issue, let’s turn to our “anchor of the soul”; our hope. – Jesus Christ.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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Lord of the Sabbath

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:9-11)

There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. I believe that’s rather definitive: the author states quite clearly, in no uncertain terms, that there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God… But, how does this solution fit into the context of the surrounding verses?

For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:4-7)

We see here that some people apparently failed to enter God’s rest, “because of disobedience.” How hard can not doing any work one day out of the week really be? It seems like such a simple thing. Perhaps the author means they didn’t “enter” the rest because of their disobedience, in the sense that they simply didn’t stop working on the Sabbath. i.e. Perhaps the author simply means they disobeyed God’s command. Yet, context tells us that the author is speaking about the Israelites (we see this in verse 3, where the author quotes Psalm 95:11, which in its own context we see is in reference the Israelites.), a people who kept the Sabbath day holy all the time. How could it be that they didn’t “enter into” this rest?

Because the Sabbath rest the author is talking about, isn’t the Sabbath of old. Rather, we see (In Matthew 12:8) that Jesus is the “Lord of the Sabbath”. Jesus Himself is our Sabbath rest. Paul confirms this for us:

14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

16 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. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:14-17)

The Sabbath finds its fulfillment in Christ. He is the one that gives us rest now: We no longer have to stop all work on the Sabbath, or else risk God’s wrath. Rather, now we have to accept Jesus as our savior, or face Hell.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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