acceptance

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.

Legitimate or Illegitimate?

Children need boundaries. We all do. Without clear boundaries of what's okay or not okay, we run amuck and trample on the feelings and rights of others.

Clear boundaries and consistency are essential elements for raising healthy and confident children who will mature into healthy and confident adults.

We've seen this with our own children and hundreds of others my wife and I cared for over the years. Now we see this with our grandchildren and children of our extended family in the Philippines.

Sadly, a lack of healthy consistent discipline has rippled through our nation, beginning with the "me generation" of the seventies to a couple million people incarcerated and well over four million others on probation or parole, producing heartache and despair.

No boundaries and the abandonment of discipline brings conflict and disruption in families and society at large. We all need discipline and boundaries. Without them, we will self-destruct personally and so will our nation if things don't change.

Scripture

You struggle against sin, but your struggles haven’t killed you. You have forgotten the encouraging words that God speaks to you as his children:

“My child, pay attention when the Lord disciplines you. Don’t give up when he corrects you. The Lord disciplines everyone he loves. He severely disciplines everyone he accepts as his child.” [vss 4-6] [reference– Proverbs 3:11-12]

Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers.

If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family. On earth we have fathers who disciplined us, and we respect them. Shouldn’t we place ourselves under the authority of God, the father of spirits, so that we will live? [vss 7-9]

(Hebrews 12:4-9 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What is said about our struggle with sin? How does this relate to you in a personal way?

  • What are the encouraging words spoken about here? How is this strong exhortation encouraging?

  • How is the idea of God's discipline explained? Does this make sense to you?

  • How is the discipline God gives His children different than what our natural parents do?

Reflection...

No one likes correction, not immediately. Neither do we like to undergo discipline or accept punishment, even when it's deserved. We can be quick to claim, "It's unfair!" But much of the time we need to be disciplined for our own good.

This is one of the more difficult things for believers and nonbelievers to understand. "Why would a loving God discipline, correct, or punish anyone?"

The short answer is—so we don't become spoiled brats! Also, God wants to develop a nature in us like His. He wants us to fit in with His family, that is, He wants us to be His legitimate children, not to be illegitimate, self-willed rebels.

An important element of God's redemptive work is restoring us so we may enjoy a face to face relationship with God. But this requires an internal work in us. A transforming work in our hearts and lives. God uses external situations in our life to shape and transform our inner nature.

Make it personal...

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

  • How did this exhortation speak to the believers who heard this first and how does it fit for us?

  • What kind of discipline did you receive as a child and how has it shaped your life?

  • Do you think your own upbringing might get in the way of understanding God's discipline?

  • How can you better understand and accept God's discipline in your life?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

A Personal Issue

Faith is not a concept or an abstract belief nor is it a spiritual dynamic. It's a personal issue—a personal trust.

Most every religion holds to a set of beliefs that define it as a religious faith. But even then, holding to a set of religious beliefs requires a personal trust.

The Christian faith is based on a personal trust in a personal living God. This reaches back before the appearance of Jesus Christ—God's only Son—when God became human and lived on the earth (John 1:1, 14).

The essence of faith as a personal trust in God goes back to the first humans on earth and is seen in their descendants up to and beyond the time of Christ. Faith is and always will be a personal issue. 

Scripture

 Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see. God accepted our ancestors because of their faith.

Faith convinces us that God created the world through his word. This means what can be seen was made by something that could not be seen. [vss 1-3]

Faith led Abel to offer God a better sacrifice than Cain’s sacrifice. Through his faith Abel received God’s approval, since God accepted his sacrifices. Through his faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

Faith enabled Enoch to be taken instead of dying. No one could find him, because God had taken him. Scripture states that before Enoch was taken, God was pleased with him.

No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him. [vss 4-6]

(Hebrews 11:1-6 GW) [Context– Hebrews 11]

Key phrase—

Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • How is faith explained or defined at the beginning of this Scripture text?

  • How is faith connected to creation and the way the world came into existence? [Gen 1:1-3]

  • Who are two people God was pleased with because of their faith and why?

  • What is needed to please God? What two things are required to please God in this way?

Reflection...

Faith is a two-way relationship. True faith enables a person to see what others can't see who don't have faith.

This is not blind faith. It is a relationship of mutual trust. We trust God and He trusts us with His acceptance and approval.

Do you want to please God? Trust Him! Trust Him with all your heart and with all your life each day of your life.

Pleasing God isn't about living a good or nearly perfect life. That only leads to self-righteousness and eventual failure and disappointment.

God is honored and pleased by our trust in Him above all else and our confidence that He will reward our trust in Him.

Make it personal...

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

  • Do you struggle with efforts to be good or good enough to be accepted by God?

  • Have you learned the difference between trust and belief?

  • Why do you trust God or do you trust Him? Do you believe He honors your trust in Him?

  • How are you currently learning to trust God in a deeper way?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

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