Christianity

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

A New and Living Way

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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

Only A Shadow

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When a child sees their shadow for the first time, they realize it's connected to them in some way. They react and interact with it. At first, some are afraid of their shadows while others play with it.

Surprisingly, research shows that a full understanding of our own shadows doesn't take place until preadolescence, even into early teen years. It takes time for a person to realize and understand their shadow isn't permanently attached to or part of them in a personal way.

A shadow is a silhouette pattern cast by our body blocking the sun's light or another source of light. It's not who we are but only a temporary image of our form.

In a sense, this is the difference between the Old Covenant relationship with God and the new one based on God's grace and known by faith.

Scripture

Moses’ Teachings with their yearly cycle of sacrifices are only a shadow of the good things in the future. They aren’t an exact likeness of those things. They can never make those who worship perfect. 
If these sacrifices could have made the worshipers perfect, the sacrifices would have stopped long ago. Those who worship would have been cleansed once and for all. Their consciences would have been free from sin. 
Instead, this yearly cycle of sacrifices reminded people of their sins. (The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins.)  [vss 1-4]
(Hebrews 10:1-4 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

Moses’ Teachings with their yearly cycle of sacrifices are only a shadow

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are we told about the sacrifices under the Law of Moses, the Old Covenant relationship?

  • What do you think it means that they are "only a shadow..." and not "an exact likeness"?

  • What could these sacrifices never do? Why couldn't they make people "perfect"?

  • Why did the annual sacrifices remind "people of their sins"?

Reflection...

The Old Covenant relationship with God required perfect obedience to all the laws and many, many sacrifices. Way too many Christians live as if they are still in a relationship with God under the Law and try to be "good in God's eyes."

This attempt to be good enough for God is called self-justification. It's a false attempt at righteousness.

At some point, Christian believers need to accept the full forgiveness and kindness that Jesus gives by grace. This honors God more than any effort at goodness on our part.

Christianity is not about living a morally good life. Although moral goodness is to be valued, reducing the Christian life to this robs it of life and depth.

Christian believers are not called to follow a set of rules for a good moral life. We are called to follow Jesus in a personal relationship by faith—personal trust in Jesus.

Make it personal...

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

  • Is your conscience free from the guilt of sin? If not, what are you trusting in to gain that?

  • What value is there in being reminded of past sins the Lord has forgiven? None!

  • Do you struggle with self-inflicted guilt and condemnation?

  • Have you learned to come out from under the shadow of law to walk in the light of God's grace?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

A New Relationship

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It seems there's increased criticism of Christianity and church the past decade or so. Some of it may seem justifiable based on an oft-quoted saying attributed to Gandhi, "I love your Christ, but I dislike your Christianity."

As with many cultural trends, great liberty is taken with some truth, then opinions get mixed in and are seasoned with a measure of ignorance.

The quote appears to be a distillation of Gandhi's thoughts where a veteran missionary to India acknowledges that the example of Christians may not match the life and nature of the One they claim to follow. 

But, in a sense, all of this misses the more important issue. Christianity may be a major world religion, but its originator—Jesus Christ—had something very different in mind.

Christianity is not just a religious dogma or philosophy to follow or believe. Jesus always intended for His followers to be in relationship with Him by faith.

Scripture

 If nothing had been wrong with the first promise, no one would look for another one. But God found something wrong with his people and said to them,
“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new promise to Israel and Judah. It will not be like the promise that I made to their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of Egypt. They rejected that promise, so I ignored them, says the Lord. [vss 7-9]
But this is the promise that I will make to Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my teachings inside them, and I will write those teachings on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will each person teach his neighbors or his relatives by saying, ‘Know the Lord.’ All of them from the least important to the most important will all know me because I will forgive their wickedness and I will no longer hold their sins against them.”
God made this new promise and showed that the first promise was outdated. What is outdated and aging will soon disappear. [vss 10-13]
(Hebrews 8:7-13 GW) [Context– Hebrews 8]

Key phrase—

I will be their God, and they will be my people

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What does God say is coming and why does He say this?

  • How What did God find wrong with His people (Israel)? What did they do?

  • What are two important things we are told about this new promise of God?

  • How is this new promise better than the promise of the Old Covenant Law?

Reflection...

The Christian faith is too often minimalized to a prescribed moral code and acceptable behaviors, but that's a religious regimen, not faith.

The Old Covenant or Mosaic Law, inscribed upon tablets of stone, was a relationship with God based on required obedience to specific moral, civil, health, and religious or spiritual laws. Great blessings were promised by God for those who kept this covenant promise.

But His people failed to keep this covenant. So God established a new promise and a new relationship through Jesus Christ.

Jesus established this new promise by giving Himself as the perfect sacrifice upon the cross and guaranteed it when He rose from the grave. It is a personal promise based in relationship, not in obedience or good behavior. It is a relationship of faith, confident trust.

This new promise is called the New Covenant (or Testament). It replaces the Old Covenant Law because it is better and more powerful and more personal. It is written in our heart, our inner being, rather than on tablets of stone.

Make it personal...

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

  • Do you understand the difference between the Old and New Covenants?

  • Are you aware of how different relationship by faith is in contrast to religion?

  • Can you see how much more personal this new relationship with God is?

  • Have you personally experienced the Spirit of God writing the truth of God in your heart?

©2017—Word-Strong


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