new relationship

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.

Something Special

How does something become valuable? What makes one thing worth more than another? Some things have value and worth only for a short time, while other things seem more special and their value and worth endures.

Perhaps things like precious metals and stones come to mind. Tangible things like assets and property are also seen as valuable items. The more special or rare they are, the more their worth increase.

Value and worth can also be attributed to intangible and intrinsic things like beauty or talent. But such things fade with time or their value changes with variations in culture and trends.

Internal qualities, such as character, integrity, spirituality, and wisdom, are more timeless in their value and worth, as is faith. Genuine, godly faith has eternal value and worth. It's also rarer than you might suspect, which makes it special.

Scripture

Faith caused the people to go through the Red Sea as if it were dry land. The Egyptians also tried this, but they drowned. Faith caused the walls of Jericho to fall after the Israelites marched around them for seven days. Faith led the prostitute Rahab to welcome the spies as friends. She was not killed with those who refused to obey God. [vss 29-31]

What more should I say? I don’t have enough time to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, did what God approved, and received what God had promised. They shut the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, and escaped death. They found strength when they were weak. They were powerful in battle and defeated other armies. [vss 32-34]

Women received their loved ones back from the dead. Other believers were brutally tortured but refused to be released so that they might gain eternal life. Some were made fun of and whipped, and some were chained and put in prison. Some were stoned to death, sawed in half, and killed with swords. Some wore the skins of sheep and goats. Some were poor, abused, and mistreated. The world didn’t deserve these good people. Some wandered around in deserts and mountains and lived in caves and holes in the ground. [vss 35-38]

All these people were known for their faith, but none of them received what God had promised. God planned to give us something very special so that we would gain eternal life with them. [vss 39-40]

(Hebrews 11:29-40 GW) [Context– Hebrews 11]

Key phrase—

God planned to give us something very special

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Who are mentioned as people of faith? How are they commended for their faith?

  • What are the many things spoken of that were done in faith?

  • What stands out to you regarding what they endured and the nature of their faith?

  • How can these people be known for their faith yet never receive what was promised?

Reflection...

This record of faith, people who trusted in the living God of Israel, reveals the nature of true faith. It is far more than a belief system or ideology these people held in common. This kind of faith is personal and based in a relationship of trust with God. It's a faith of substance and depth intrinsic to their lives.

Today, thousands of people live by this same faith in God but are persecuted because of their faith. They endure oppression and even die for their faith. What motivates them? Why do they remain so faithful?

As it says in another version of this text, "the world was not worthy of them" (Heb 11:38 NIV). Yes, we need to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith, but we need to emulate their faith. We need to have this same faith. But how?

What was the "something very special" God planned for all who have this genuine, enduring faith? Not just the hope of eternal life but the very presence of God living in us through the Holy Spirit.

The presence of God's Spirit living in them is the distinct difference between the Old and New Covenant. When we have a personal trust relationship with God through His Son Jesus, He promises to be present in us—in our innermost being. That is special!

Make it personal...

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

  • Why didn't the world "deserve these good people"? What made them "good"?

  • How is the faith of the people in this Scripture text different than a set of beliefs or ideology?
  • What is the "something very special" that God gives true followers of His Son Jesus?

  • Is your life of faith governed by the Old Covenant Law or have you received this "something special" in a New Covenant relationship with God?

©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