No Permanent City

The Old and New Covenants are not just two different covenants or commitments between God and His people, they are two different relationships.

What separates them is the motivations they are based on. The first—the Old—acceptance was based on obedience to the Law of Moses. The second—the New—acceptance by God is based on God's grace given to us through Jesus.

Following Jesus means we are to move forward by faith because of our relationship with Him. Living by faith helps us see beyond life in this natural world. Because we trust in Jesus personally our hope is not tied to our life on the earth.

Just as Abraham and his descendants by faith before us, we seek the Lord and the life He promises that extends beyond our life on earth. No place or city on earth is a permanent home for us. Our permanent home is with Jesus in eternity.

Scripture

Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. Think about how their lives turned out, and imitate their faith.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. [vss 7-8]

Don’t get carried away by all kinds of unfamiliar teachings. Gaining inner strength from God’s kindness [grace] is good for us. This strength does not come from following rules about food, rules that don’t help those who follow them. Those who serve at the tent have no right to eat what is sacrificed at our altar. [vss 9-10]

The chief priest brings the blood of animals into the holy place as an offering for sin. But the bodies of those animals were burned outside the Israelite camp. That is why Jesus suffered outside the gates of Jerusalem. He suffered to make the people holy with his own blood. So we must go to him outside the camp and endure the insults he endured.

We don’t have a permanent city here on earth, but we are looking for the city that we will have in the future. [vss 11-14]

(Hebrews 13:7-14 GW) [Context– Hebrews 13]

Key phrase—

We don’t have a permanent city here on earth

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are we told about our "leaders"? Why are we to imitate their faith and example?

  • What are we told about Jesus? How is it related to what is said before and after this statement?

  • Where are we not to gain our strength from and where are we to gain it?

  • Where did Jesus suffer? Why did Jesus suffer and why is this important?

Reflection...

The Christian life is often portrayed as moral goodness and good will towards others. But this is not what the Lord Jesus called His followers to do. He called us to surrender our lives—even our selfish wills—to Him and live by faith (Matt 16:24).

Christian believers ought to live in a morally upright way and have good will towards others. Jesus said that to love God and your neighbor was good and summed up the Law and the Prophets (Matt 22:37-40).

But Jesus calls believers to a higher calling (Phil 3:8-14). He calls us to put our trust in Him rather than anything tied to this earthly life.

When we are heavenly-minded, we can still do good on earth because our hearts are filled with a heavenly confidence and hope. Our confidence and hope are in Jesus Christ alone—who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Make it personal...

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

  • Why are we to follow the example and faith of our spiritual leaders and how could this be taken the wrong way?

  • Why do you think the statement about Jesus being the same yesterday, today, and forever directly follows the exhortation to imitate the faith of leaders?

  • Do you understand how grace is related to those who live and serve God by faith?

  • Does your trust in God help you see beyond your immediate life needs on earth?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

Practical Reminders

Lessons many of us learned in preschool and kindergarten still apply—be nice, share, and show respect for each other. We live in a world that seems to have forgotten these relational basics.

Even the church—the people not the institution—needs some reminders. We need to be reminded of some basics that Jesus often taught.

We need to be reminded because the popular culture around us challenges and even mocks many of the basics Jesus taught about relationships, including marriage, and even money.

The church needs to engage the culture its embedded in with a consistent life example that reflects the nature of Jesus. We don't need to fight against the culture nor embrace it. We need to be change agents within it by the example of our lives.

Scripture

Continue to love each other. Don’t forget to show hospitality to believers you don’t know. By doing this some believers have shown hospitality to angels without being aware of it.

Remember those in prison as if you were in prison with them. Remember those who are mistreated as if you were being mistreated. [vss 1-3]

Marriage is honorable in every way, so husbands and wives should be faithful to each other. God will judge those who commit sexual sins, especially those who commit adultery.

Don’t love money. Be happy with what you have because God has said, “I will never abandon you or leave you.” (Deut 31:6, 8) So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid. What can mortals do to me?” (Psa 118:6) [vss 4-6]

(Hebrews 13:1-6 GW) [Context– Hebrews 13]

Key phrase—

Be happy with what you have because God has said, “I will never abandon you or leave you.”

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What does this first exhortation challenge believers to do? What are two other things we need to remember to do?

  • Who are we to show love and care for? How are all three of these exhortations related?

  • What is to be honored and what warning goes with this exhortation?

  • What are we to keep our lives free from? Why? How are we to do this?

Reflection...

Fear and worry are sure signs of a lack of trust—genuine trust. All things in this life are temporary, but not Jesus—He's eternal.

So, if we say we trust in Him, we should know contentment and security. If not, it shows we don't really know the One in whom we say we trust.

We need the assurance of God's grace and presence in our lives in every way, each day. We need to be gracious to those around us. We also need to be faithful in our relationships, especially in marriage.

All Christian believers are called to be faithful to the Lord and what He calls us to do. We don't rely in our own faithfulness but His faithfulness for us and at work through us.

Make it personal...

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

  • Do you think believers love one another as the Lord loves us? Do you personally love others as the Lord loves you?

  • Do you see the church and yourself being faithful in relationships to others? If not, why not? How does that need to change in your own life?

  • In what ways do you show hospitality to others or reach out to those in prison or needing recovery in some way?

  • What do you fear most? What do you worry about most? How will you learn to trust God—who will never abandon or leave you—with your fears and worries?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

Unshakeable

Growing up and living in Southern California, I was accustomed to the occurrence of earthquakes. In a strange way, it became somewhat normal if that's really possible.

But you can't anticipate or adequately prepare for an earthquake. They can be predicted to some extent but they hit without immediate warning.

This is true of how our life can get unexpectedly shaken in other ways. Economic problems, a cancer diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, or a broken relationship, any of these can shake us to our core.

When our life gets rocked without warning—and it will—it's devastating. It can either paralyze us or motivate us to seek more solid footing for our life.

Scripture

When God spoke to your ancestors, his voice shook the earth. But now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the sky.”

The words once more show clearly that God will change what he has made. These are the things that can be shaken. Then only the things that cannot be shaken will remain. [vss 26-27]

Therefore, we must be thankful that we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

Because we are thankful, we must serve God with fear and awe in a way that pleases him. After all, our God is a destructive [consuming or devouring] fire. [vss 28-29]

(Hebrews 12:26-29 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

Therefore, we must be thankful that we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What does God promise will happen again?

  • What will be shaken and changed? What will continue on and remain?

  • How are believers to respond to this shaking that will come?

  • What are believers to be thankful for and what should this motivate us to do?

Reflection...

When the Lord Jesus went back up to heaven after His resurrection, He promised to return. When He returns, things will change and the world will be shaken.

What once seemed permanent and unshakeable will be shaken. This speaks of what is tangible—what can be seen and felt—the earth and atmosphere we know as the world.

Our assurance to endure the shaking that will come is only found in the unshakeable nature of the Kingdom of God and the eternal and unchanging nature of God.

Fire isn't just destructive to what is physical, it also purifies what is precious and enduring, like with precious metals. The "consuming fire" of God burns what is tangible but purifies what is eternal in nature.

If we try to hold on to what can be shaken, we'll be holding on to a false security. But when we hold firmly to the Lord through faith, we gain a security that can never be shaken or destroyed.

Make it personal...

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

  • How is the shaking that is to come connected to the shaking of the dark mountain of Mt Sinai?

  • When has your life been shaken in unexpected ways and how did you handle it?

  • Do you have the assurance and security of trusting in God's unshakeable kingdom and nature?

  • Are you holding on to Jesus more firmly than the things you know could change and be shaken?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

The Heavenly Mountain

Interpreting the Bible can be difficult, especially when personal biases, opinions, and conflicting views are involved. For centuries, the Bible was interpreted as a book full of allegories and metaphors.

The Scriptures were viewed as figurative language for the most part. In more modern times, literalism was the predominant view. This pendular swing of extremes still prevails.

Spiritual discernment—given by God's Spirit—is needed for understanding what is meant to be figurative and what needs to be understood in a more literal sense.

Above all, it's important to remember the Bible is God's revelation given to all humanity. Because it's from God to us, the Bible needs to become personal for us. Not our own personal interpretation but as a personal message from God to us.

Scripture

Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to tens of thousands of angels joyfully gathered together and to the assembly of God’s firstborn children (whose names are written in heaven). You have come to a judge (the God of all people) and to the spirits of people who have God’s approval and have gained eternal life. [vss 22-23]

You have come to Jesus, who brings the new promise from God, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better message than Abel’s.

Be careful that you do not refuse to listen when God speaks. Your ancestors didn’t escape when they refused to listen to God, who warned them on earth. We certainly won’t escape if we turn away from God, who warns us from heaven. [vss 24-25]

(Hebrews 12:22-25 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

You have come to Jesus, who brings the new promise from God

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Where are we told that we've come to? How is this place described?

  • Who is gathered at this mountain? How many people or peoples are mentioned?

  • Who is spoken of by name and what two things are included with Him?

  • What is the strong warning given here? How is its serious nature reinforced?

Reflection...

This heavenly mountain—Mount Zion—is in stark contrast with the dark, foreboding mountain of Mount Sinai where Moses received the Law. Mount Zion represents not only heaven, the dwelling place of God, but a new relationship with God through Jesus.

This is the fifth and final warning given in the book of Hebrews. It is far more personal than the previous four warnings. Simply put—rejecting the New Covenant of grace is a rejection of Jesus, God's Son. 

The Old Covenant was a Law that required obedience, an obedience the nation of Israel couldn't and didn't keep. The New Covenant is more personal. It is relational. It provides the opportunity for a new relationship between God and humanity.

Jesus came to provide the means of reconciliation and restoration of relationship with God for all humanity. A relationship of trust—faith—based upon God's kindness and favor—grace—gained through the Lord's death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

Make it personal...

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

  • If this description of Mount Zion—the heavenly Jerusalem—is figurative, why is it spoken of as actual and present?

  • Why do you think it's necessary to have this detailed description of Mount Zion?

  • What stands out to you about this fifth and final warning?

  • Do you understand how personal and relational the New Covenant of grace is?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

A Dark Mountain

The value and purpose of fear is usually misunderstood. The absence of fear is often touted as a good thing, as a sign of bravery or courage. But those acknowledged for their bravery and courage speak of moving beyond their fear. It wasn't absent, it was overcome.

There are two broad categories of fear—a fear of respect and an anxious fear. An anxious fear produces worry and muddled thinking. A fear of respect heightens awareness, brings alertness and clarity to our thinking.

Anxious fear paralyzes a person whereas a respectful fear tends to motivate. The flight or fight response illustrates this distinction in fear.

When it comes to God, people tend to mix the two together as if it's all the same. This brings confusion and misunderstanding. When both types of fear are dismissed, it's as if God doesn't exist. Both responses are unwise.

Scripture

You have not come to something that you can feel, to a blazing fire, to darkness, to gloom, to a storm, to a trumpet’s blast, and to a voice. When your ancestors heard that voice, they begged not to hear it say another word.
They couldn’t obey [bear] the command that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”
The sight was so terrifying that even Moses said he was trembling and afraid.  [vss 18-21]
(Hebrews 12:18-21 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

You have not come to something that you can feel, to a blazing fire, to darkness...

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are the images of the scene described here? What is this leading up to?

  • Who is spoken to and what are they told? Do you understand why?

  • What is Moses' response to all of this and why?

  • How would this apply to believers then and now?

Reflection...

The fear of God is often misunderstood. It is typically viewed in one extreme or another. Either abject anxious fear or a humble respect.

This scene and several other places in the Bible describe the fear of God as an overwhelming awe. A realization of who God is which made Moses tremble, yet also drew him up the mountain to meet with God.

It is at once, a sense of how personal and powerful God truly is.

This reminder of the scene before Moses received the Law on tablets of stone reinforces how different the Old and New Covenants are (Heb 8:8-9).

It is a solemn warning of how important and necessary it is to hold firmly to the truth of the New Covenant (Heb 8:10-12) of grace through our relationship with Jesus as both Lord and Savior.

Make it personal...

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

  • Are you familiar with this story? If not, it's found in Exodus Chap 19.

  • How does this relate to all that's been written in the book of Hebrews up to this point?

  • How is it related to what's been Jesus and His atoning (redemptive) death upon the cross?

  • Have you experienced the difference between paralyzing and motivating fears, and the fear of God?

©2017—Word-Strong


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