Hebrews – the book that shows Jesus’ salvation and the Christian life is better than any other religious system (Hebrews 1:4, 7:19, 8:6) because His blessings are eternal (Hebrews 1:8, 5:9, 9:12, 9:15, 13:8), and faith in Jesus gives us a perfect standing before God (Hebrews 10:4).
Written to encourage the believers to encourage each other in Christ’s strong encouragement.
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13 (ESV)
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. Hebrews 6:17-18 (ESV)
But God doesn’t promise us a smooth life. In addition to the encouragement, we see five warnings – reminding us that Christians are still part of the fallen race of man.
It’s easy to drift away from God. The enticements of the world are many, and it’s in our natures to take the easier path. Walking with God isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. If we don’t stay focused on God’s Word, listen ONLY to sound Bible-based doctrine, and communicate with God in prayer, we’re going to drift off course.
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? Hebrews 2:1-3 (ESV)
Once we begin to drift from the word, it’s easy to harden our hearts. The writer quotes Psalm 95 three times in chapters 3:7-4:13 to remind us that the reason Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years was their hard hearts. God’s blessings can’t come to those who have hardened their hearts.
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”… Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’ ” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day,Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Hebrews 3:12-15, 4:1-7 (ESV)
When we first become Christians, we need the “milk” that babies eat. God expects us to grow and mature in the Word, but many believers stay at that “baby” stage. We need to constantly sharpen our minds on the Word of God, striving to leave the milk behind and dig into the real meat that God has given us. It’s important to read the Bible every day. Each time you read the Bible, the Holy Spirit highlights different passages. This causes you to mature in Christ. How do you keep track of the passages God highlights? Do you highlight them in your Bible? Keep a notebook? Make flash cards and memorize the Scriptures that stand out? All of these things will help you to grow and mature in Christ.
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. Hebrews 5:11-6:2 (ESV)
Once we’ve heard God’s Word, we are expected to obey. God knows that we are not perfect, and that we all mess up on a daily basis. However, God expects us to strive to turn from sin. If we deliberately keep doing a particular sin after we’ve found out that it’s abhorrent to God, we despise God’s Word. We have the promise of forgiveness for our sins, but we couldn’t, as an example, expect to get “forgiveness in advance” for robbing a bank! Which sins are you deliberately continuing to do?
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV)
We’re also warned against refusing to hear the word. Once we’ve drifted away, our hearts become hardened. We may believe that the Bible isn’t for this generation, or that some things were cultural, or mistranslated, or inapplicable for some reason. That’s when we move on to defiance.
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. Hebrews 12:14-17 (ESV)
Are you paying attention to the Word? Are you trying to live a godly life, asking God for help? Or are you cutting out “inapplicable” parts and defying God?
Who do you trust? Is your hope built on Jesus’ blood and righteousness, or do you trust in yourself?
The writer of Hebrews was looking forward to the world to come (Hebrews 2:5). Our world is falling apart – we have wars, conflicts, political intrigue, sexual sins, and a host of other sins topping our nightly news – but we look forward to God’s kingdom, which cannot be shaken.
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29 (ESV)
When we get to the famous “faith chapter”, Hebrews 11, we see those highlighted all looked past their circumstances and trusted God for our rewards.
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.
By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
Hebrews 11:4-13 (ESV)
We should follow the example of these great men and women of faith. Live every day for Christ, knowing that we will receive our promised rewards in heaven, not on this earth.
Hebrews is a deep and meaningful book. I encourage you to study it in depth sometime during 2013.
I leave you with these encouraging words which remind us that we have a heritage of faith to look up to, and to live up to.
Surrounded by so great a loud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize,
But as those who’ve gone before us,
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives.
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful.
May the fire of our devotion light their way.
May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe,
and the lives we live inspire them to obey.
Find Us Faithful, Steve Green