Don't Turn Back!

History is full of examples and stories of people exhibiting great endurance and perseverance. American history is no different. Colonial settlers faced great odds, uncertainty, and opposition, as they carved out a life in a new land and birthed a new nation.

As the nation expanded westward, it faced new challenges in unsettled territories. The same is true when modern aviation was born which paved the way for manned space flights.

Countless and untold heroic stories of perseverance took place in battles for freedom from the Revolutionary War to present conflicts in the Middle East.

Perseverance is way under-valued. It's usually not exciting or glamorous but is a vital element in the pursuit of freedom. And so it with the Christian faith. Spiritual endurance and perseverance are key to a genuine life of faith.

Scripture

Remember the past, when you first learned the truth. You endured a lot of hardship and pain. At times you were publicly insulted and mistreated. At times you associated with people who were treated this way.

You suffered with prisoners. You were cheerful even though your possessions were stolen, since you know that you have a better and more permanent possession. [vss 32-34]

So don’t lose your confidence. It will bring you a great reward. You need endurance so that after you have done what God wants you to do, you can receive what he has promised.

“Yet, the one who is coming will come soon. He will not delay. The person who has God’s approval will live by faith. But if he turns back, I will not be pleased with him.”

We don’t belong with those who turn back and are destroyed. Instead, we belong with those who have faith and are saved. [vss 35-39]

(Hebrews 10:32-39 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

So don’t lose your confidence—it will bring you a great reward

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are these believers encouraged to remember? What specific things are pointed out?

  • What are they exhorted not to lose and what do they need to have to receive what God promised?

  • Why are these exhortations necessary? How are they connected to the consistent and primary theme of the book of Hebrews?

  • What is the last encouraging statement? How was this encouraging to those believers then and for us now?

Reflection...

This strong exhortation encouraged believers to not go back to an empty and dead form of religion. It is as true today for us as it was for them.

Are you discouraged in your faith? Are things in life not going the way you expected and hoped? Don't turn back! Keep pressing on in faith. Endure. Persevere.

God is faithful and we need to be faithful to Him. He will not abandon us even though it may seem like that from our limited view of life. He won't abandon us even when we fail Him or stumble in our faith. If you want God's acceptance and approval, then continue in your faith. 

The Lord is faithful and He promised to return for those who trust in Him. Even though it may seem like an overdue promise, it's not. God is far more patient and longsuffering than we are. We just need to trust Him and persevere.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Have you wondered at times why you should keep doing what is right and just and good?

  • Can you see how very personal God's promises are? Do you understand how personal faith is?

  • What is discouraging you right now? Are you willing to entrust this to the Lord?

  • In what ways has God shown His faithfulness to you? Allow those things to encourage you to endure in your faith!

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

A Terrifying Thing

Politicians and lawyers, as well as the media, know how to take a few words someone says, and misconstrue them in order to trap and attack a person with their own words.

The usual retort or defense by the trapped person is that their words were taken out of context. Context is important! This is always true when it comes to understanding words spoken and written.

This issue of context also applies to reading and studying the Bible. But context includes more than just the words and sentences. The time frame and culture of spoken or written words are an important frame of reference for understanding them.

Most of the lack of understanding or misunderstanding of the Bible is due to an ignorance of the full context of history, culture, the Scriptures as a whole, and the nature of God.

Scripture

If we go on sinning after we have learned the truth, no sacrifice can take away our sins. All that is left is a terrifying wait for judgment and a raging fire that will consume God’s enemies.

If two or three witnesses accused someone of rejecting Moses’ Teachings, that person was shown no mercy as he was executed. [vss 26-27]

What do you think a person who shows no respect for the Son of God deserves? That person looks at the blood of the promise (the blood that made him holy) as no different from other people’s blood, and he insults the Spirit that God gave us out of his kindness [grace]. He deserves a much worse punishment. [vss 28-29]

We know the God who said, “I alone have the right to take revenge. I will pay back.” God also said, “The Lord will judge his people.”

Falling into the hands of the living God is a terrifying thing. [vss 30-31]

(Hebrews 10:26-31 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

Falling into the hands of the living God is a terrifying thing

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What is the strong warning given? What is not available "if we go on sinning?"

  • How is rejection of the Mosaic Law compared to rejection of the New Covenant of grace?

  • What are we told insults the Spirit of God? What result can we expect if we insult God's Spirit?

  • How is all of this reasoning tied into the last strong expression of this warning?

Reflection...

I've seen this portion of text (the 4th of 5 warnings in Hebrews) used to discourage and scare people, which brings both condemnation and confusion. It is a strong warning and exhortation to be sure but is intended to encourage believers to persevere not despair.

This should be clear from the context of this whole chapter (10) and the following chapter (11), as well as the purpose of the whole book of Hebrews.

Once the Mosaic Law was completed and replaced (Matt 5:17; Heb 8:6-13), its provision of forgiveness and atonement was null and void. Trying to go back to the Law meant rejecting the perfect atonement of Jesus brought through His death and resurrection. This would be a rejection of God's grace and the promise of God's Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26) living in us as believers.

Be careful how you handle the truth of God! Falling into the hands of the living God is a terrifying thing. Be wary of sitting in God's place and pronouncing judgment on anyone! Rather than a false confidence in religious righteousness, accept and trust God's grace.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Since none of us lead a perfect, moral life, how is this warning an encouragement?

  • Do you understand how and why the rejection of New Covenant grace to rely on the Law is a personal and grievous insult to God?

  • Can you see all of this from the context of these early converts from Judaism to Christianity?

  • Are you living in the freedom of God's gracious forgiveness through Jesus or struggling to be righteous through your own efforts?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Encourage One Another

Criticism of the church is probably at an all-time high today. It's increased over the last couple decades and a fair amount of it is warranted.

Much of it comes down to answering the question— Does the church exist for the people or should people be there for the church?

Some of the answer to this question comes down to the consumeristic attitude of American culture. But the church—across denominations and groups—can hold a pretty myopic and monolithic view of its place and purpose.

We live in the 21st century. It may be a futile effort to try to capture the simplicity and closeness of the early church, as seen in the early book of Acts, but we can learn some relevant values intrinsic to the early church.

Scripture

We must continue to hold firmly to our declaration of faith. The one who made the promise is faithful.

We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things.

We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.

(Hebrews 10:23-25 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What do we need to continue to do? What should our motivation be to do so?

  • What are two things we need to encourage each other to do? How do you think this should be done and what should it include?

  • What are we to not stop doing and in what ways do you think this should be done?

  • What seems to be the reason behind the urgency for this exhortation? Is this still relevant?

Reflection...

At times, it may seem that genuine encouragement is a lost gift among believers. Encouragement is not flattery nor is it the same as a like on social media. True encouragement is personal and specific to the person we encourage.

The church is not an institution or the building where the church meets. It's a living organism called the Body of Christ and has many members—people who are followers of Jesus. Each person has a useful and necessary place and purpose within the Body (Eph 4:16).

Each of us is called to encourage one another. This includes accountability and exhortation along with gentle words of correction and comfort. Again, it's much deeper than shallow praise or congratulations.

True encouragement reminds those of us who are believers of our need to continue following Jesus together. It's one of the ways we prepare for the Lord's return.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How is the first exhortation connected to those that follow and the ones in earlier verses?

  • How do you see these exhortations as relevant for believers and churches now?

  • In what way do they all relate to our current (American) cultural environment?

  • Are any of these exhortations difficult for you? Is one more difficult than the others?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

A New and Living Way

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lightstock.com

Life is full of symbolism but most of it is taken for granted. A clock or watch tracks time, yet time is an abstract concept marked in life by the rising and setting of the sun. Nowadays we use emoticons in place of words.

The Bible also contains much symbolic and figurative wording. This requires some thought and reflection to understand what they represent and mean. Understanding them brings insight of the truth they represent.

The book of Hebrews is a guide for understanding the Old Testament (covenant) in light of the new relationship with God believers experience through trusting in the Lord Jesus.

Just as the curtain in front of the Most Holy Place in the temple tore apart from top to bottom when Jesus exhaled His last breath on the cross, a new and living way opened up for all who trust in the Lord (Matt 27:50-51).

Scripture

Brothers and sisters, because of the blood of Jesus we can now confidently go into the holy place. Jesus has opened a new and living way for us to go through the curtain. (The curtain is his own body.) [vss 19-20]
We have a superior priest in charge of God’s house. We have been sprinkled ⌊with his blood⌋ to free us from a guilty conscience, and our bodies have been washed with clean water. So we must continue to come ⌊to him⌋ with a sincere heart and strong faith. [vss 21-22]
(Hebrews 10:19-22 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

Jesus has opened a new and living way for us to go through

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are Christian believers now free to do and in what way?

  • Why are believers able to enter this holy place of God's presence? 

  • What are the symbolic things Jesus does for believers that make this possible?

  • What is the final exhortation given here? In what way are we to come to the Lord?

Reflection...

The Christian faith is not a set of religious dogmas or mere beliefs. It is an ongoing personal relationship with God the Father through trust in His Son Jesus.

This relationship is made available by what Jesus did on the cross (atonement) for all humanity, all those who would trust in Him personally.

The way into God's presence is open but is only accessible with a sincere heart and strong faith—an honest, open and trusting heart (Heb 10:22). His poured out blood cleanses our conscience and the pure water of God's truth washes and renews our mind.

Jesus opened the way to God and He leads us through that way as both our Savior and High Priest who continually intercedes for us (prays on our behalf). It is a new and living way of life.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you understand the symbolism of the curtain and holy place of the temple?

  • Can you picture in your mindthe torn curtain and the way opened to God?

  • How does all of this encourage you personally? Have you experienced the freedom of God's forgiveness and acceptance?

  • Are you making time each day to enter into God's presence? Do you have this confidence deep in your heart?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Confident to Enter

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lightstock.com

Since the beginning, we humans invest a lot in our outward appearance. The first man and woman covered their shame of nakedness with fig leaves. Today, we Americans spend a lot of time and money on stylish clothing, even for work clothes.

A lot of sayings speak to this tendency—beauty is only skin deep, don't judge a book by its cover, or a house is not a home. Yet we spend a lot of time and money on skin products and houses! The point is that what's on the inside matters more than the outside.

This even truer when it comes to God and our spiritual life. God always looks at the heart—the inner person—not what is presented to others. This has always been true.

Many people are convinced they need to clean up their lives before God will accept them. But they are wrong. God works from the inside out. Just the opposite of us. He opens the way into His presence to those who let Him clean their lives up, beginning in their heart.

Scripture

With one sacrifice he accomplished the work of setting them apart for God forever.

The Holy Spirit tells us the same thing: “This is the promise that I will make to them after those days, says the Lord: ‘I will put my teachings in their hearts and write them in their minds.’ ” Then he adds, “I will no longer hold their sins and their disobedience against them.” (Jer 31:31-34) [vss 14-17]

When sins are forgiven, there is no longer any need to sacrifice for sins. Brothers and sisters, because of the blood of Jesus we can now confidently go into the holy place. [vss 18-19]

(Hebrews 10:14-19 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

Because of the blood of Jesus we can now confidently go into the holy place

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What has been done forever? How was this done?

  • How does the Holy Spirit confirm this work of God?

  • For how long will "their sins and their disobedience" be forgiven?

  • What are we able to do because of the blood of Jesus? Why?

Reflection...

God intends for His truth to live and remain in our hearts, as well as our minds. This is true when a person accepts God's perfect forgiveness through the perfect reconciliation made by the Lord offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice (atonement).

Being "set apart...forever" is God's work. It's not based on any effort from us but on the gracious gift of God. The blood of Jesus—through His death on the cross—cancels the debt and power of sin for those who accept it.

The presence of God, through the Holy Spirit who is given to dwell in us when we experience new birth, continues this work of setting us apart for God and His purposes (Titus 3:4-7).

This is why a genuine believer has the confidence to enter the presence of God (the Holy Place). Just as the blood of atonement under the Old Covenant brought forgiveness for a year, the blood of Jesus brings forgiveness forever—once for all (Heb 9:14).

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How is this prophetic promise of forgiveness connected to Christ's once and for all sacrifice?

  • If we are forgiven fully of our sin, what does this tell us about how to handle guilt and shame?

  • Do you have this confidence to go into the very presence of God?

  • How would you explain this blessing of entering God's presence in your own words (IYOW)?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews