Re-framing John 3:16

Communicating the truth of God's Word can come in many different forms—conversation, tracts, Bible studies, preaching, biblical storying, blogs, and more. As mentioned last week, holding up a placard or sign with a Scripture reference isn't very useful.

The important thing is choosing a way that fits the person we're talking to and the situation at hand. Only using one approach or method forces people to fit into our grid, as if one-size-fits-all.

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.


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?


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?


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

Towards A Prosperous New Year

It will soon be the beginning of a new year, and many people look for a new start, set new goals, and make some New Year's resolutions.

What are your expectations for the coming new year? Do you want to be prosperous? 

How do you define prosperity? Perhaps you're hoping for a new job, wealth, new opportunities, or something else for a better life.

What if prosperity was not so measurable, but more to do with values and quality of life?

Is that the kind of improvement you're seeking this year?

Listen and Learn

Not everything in the Bible is to be taken literally. And yet, what's written in the Bible is not just figurative or symbolic. Discernment, spiritual discernment, is needed for a true understanding.

Events in the Bible are real, but they can also be figurative. The stories recorded in the Bible aren't random events, they're selected by God for a purpose.

They are intended to teach us something by example or by way of illustration. Just as in life, where we can learn from the success or mistakes we make, we can learn from the successes, wisdom, and failures of others.

Promises, Promises

Remember the ways we tried to make our promises believable, as children? We said things like, "Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye." I never liked the idea of a needle in the eye! I've heard people say other silly things like, "I swear on a stack of Bibles," or "...on my mother's grave."

It's useless to guarantee promises. Either you keep them or you don't. My experience is that serial promise-makers don't keep their promises most of the time. For many people, promises are often just good intentions, and it's said that "the path to hell is paved with good intentions."

It seems a lot wiser to not make promises in the first place, especially ones we can't, or won't, keep.


Be careful what you say when you go to God's house. Go there to listen. Don't be like foolish people when you offer your sacrifice. They do what is wrong and don't even know it. Don't be too quick to speak.Don't be in a hurry to say anything to God. He is in heaven. You are on earth. So use only a few words when you speak.Dreams come to people when they worry a lot. When foolish people talk, they use too many words.[vss 1-3]

When you make a promise to God, don't wait too long to carry it out. He isn't pleased with foolish people. So do what you have promised. It is better to make no promise at all than to make a promise and not keep it. Don't let your mouth cause you to sin. Don't object to the temple messenger. Don't say, "My promise was a mistake." Why should God be angry with what you say? Why should he destroy what you have done? Dreaming too much and talking too much are meaningless. So have respect for God.[vss 4-7]

(Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 NIRV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 5]

Key phrase— It is better to make no promise at all than to make a promise and not keep it 

[bctt tweet="It is better to make no promise at all than to make a promise and not keep it"]

Digging Deeper...

What's the first admonition given here? What is recommended and why?

When should we limit our words? What tends to happen when too many words are spoken?

What are we told about promises and God? What advice is given and why?

When we fail to keep our word and follow through on things, what is the wise thing to do?


Sometimes I like to drive with the radio and CD player off. It might sound boring, but it's not. It helps me pray and think things through, as well as pray for others. I also find myself more attentive to what's going on around me.

Sometimes, I'll go through a day where I say little to others, and just listen. That's not always easy for me. I like to talk, and can ramble on and on without saying much of anything.

Another place I've learned to listen is when I'm on my knees before God. I don't always need to say something. We can hear a lot when we're willing to just listen.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Do you find yourself making promises to assure people of your intentions?

Do you ever regret making promises, or have a hard time keeping the ones you do make?

How do you guard yourself from making rash promises or talking too much?

When was the last time you listened more than talked?