good efforts

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

Set Apart for God

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Religion, by definition, is a set of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or group of gods. The Latin root of this word carries the idea of constraint and practice, even to restrain or tie back.

Many religions are noted by their adherence to traditions, rituals, and rules along with other implied expectations. A religious person practices these things with the hopes of becoming more spiritual and acceptable by whoever or whatever is worshiped.

Sacred is a common term related to religion. It describes a sense of holiness or devotion. Something that is sacred is devoted or set apart for service or worship. It can also refer to people who are set apart for service or worship.

In Christianity, this is expressed as being holy or sanctified. When applied to a person, the process of becoming holy is called sanctification. All of this religious stuff sounds pretty exhausting and intimidating, doesn't it?

Here's some good news. Jesus has set His followers free from all this effort, once for all! Not so we can do as they please but to free us to live a life that pleases Him.

Scripture

We have been set apart as holy because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do by sacrificing his body once and for all.

Every day each priest performed his religious duty. He offered the same type of sacrifice again and again. Yet, these sacrifices could never take away sins. [vss 10-11]

However, this chief priest made one sacrifice for sins, and this sacrifice lasts forever. Then he received the highest position in heaven. Since that time, he has been waiting for his enemies to be made his footstool. 

With one sacrifice he accomplished the work of setting them apart for God forever. [vss 12-14]

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

Key phrase—

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

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What made it possible for believers to be "set apart as holy"?

  • What did the priests under the Law do over and over yet not able to accomplish?

  • How is what Jesus did as a chief priest contrasted with the other priests?

  • What do you see is the major emphasis of these few verses? [hint– it's repeated three times]

Reflection...

Why keep repeating the same thing over and over if it isn't effective and has little lasting value? This is the nature of religion.

No religion, no effort at goodness, no philosophy or system of discipline can make a person better or more righteous than what Jesus did once for all.

Why try to improve on perfection? Our own efforts at goodness are futile. Why not choose what is perfect and guaranteed for eternity?

Christian believers—followers of Jesus—are set apart as holy by the work of Jesus on the cross and through the power of His resurrection living in us. It's the Holy Spirit's transforming work in our hearts and minds that makes us holy.

True righteousness and sanctification are not the result of good behavior and good intentions but is based on a genuine, personal relationship of trust.

Exchanging our effort for Jesus' perfect work is wise. What will you choose today?

Make it personal...

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

  • How would you describe the idea of being holy or set apart (IYOW)?

  • Why do you think we all seem to default to some type of religious effort?

  • Have you experienced the conflict between effort and trust in your own life?

  • How are you currently learning to trust Jesus and His perfect work in your daily life?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

I Have Come

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lightstock.com

An age-old question for people is, "What does God want from me?" People have offered sacrifices and kept various rituals throughout human history in attempts to please God, or various gods. Some of these efforts are extreme and others are more philosophical in nature.

Religion—including Christianity—is mostly comprised of efforts to please God or lead a life that pleases God. This might range from trying to appease God's wrath to seeing God as a benign and distant ruler of heaven.

Jesus answered this question once and for all, yet many of us misunderstand it. Christian believers who are well-versed in what the Bible says, understand that Jesus died to abolish the power and penalty of sin once for all.

But many Christians continue to try and live in some form of obedience to God through prescribed efforts at goodness. The obedience God is looking for isn't accomplished through external acts of goodness, it goes deeper than that.

Scripture

For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said, “‘You did not want sacrifices and offerings, but you prepared a body for me. You did not approve of burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin.’

Then I said, ‘I have come! (It is written about me in the scroll of the book.) I have come to do what you want, my God.’ ” [vss 5-7]

In this passage Christ first said, “You did not want sacrifices, offerings, burnt offerings, and sacrifices for sin. You did not approve of them.” (These are the sacrifices that Moses’ Teachings require people to offer.)

Then Christ says, “I have come to do what you want.” He did away with sacrifices in order to establish the obedience that God wants. [vss 8-9]

(Hebrews 10:5-9 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

I have come to do what you want, my God

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Why do you think we're told what is said in the Psalms [Ps 40:6-8] was from Christ?

  • What are we told in this text is the purpose for Christ's coming?

  • Where is this illustrated by Jesus in the gospels? [hint– look towards the end]

  • Why did the sacrifices need to be set aside to "establish... obedience..." that God wants?

Reflection...

What type of obedience is God looking for? The answer is shown by His Son Jesus, the Messiah (Christ), the savior of the world. Jesus came to do the Father's will not His own. As it says, "I have come to do what you want, my God."

This is made clear by the Lord's struggle in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-46), where Jesus asks three times if "this cup" of suffering could be set aside. Each time, Jesus submitted His will to the Father.

This is our illustration, our example for the obedience God wants. Not external acts of goodness but the surrender of our lives to Him.

Jesus' once-and-for-all sacrifice on the cross brings a freedom from the impossible burden of perfect obedience required under the Law. God is not requiring acts of obedience we can do for Him but calling us into a relationship of trust (faith).

This relationship of trust is an ongoing internal and spiritual work enabled by God's Spirit dwelling in us as believers. This is what Jesus meant about denying yourself and taking up your cross in order to follow Him (Matt 16:24).

Make it personal...

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

  • Do you have the same heart attitude of Jesus as His in the garden of Gethsemane?

  • Are you willing to lay down your own wants and desires to do what God desires of you?

  • Are you willing to trust in Jesus' once-and-for-all sacrifice to be sufficient for your sin?

  • How are you learning to trust the Lord and surrender your will to Him?

©2017—Word-Strong


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