Hebrews 3 – If You Hear His Voice…

Read Hebrews 3

The main theme of the book of Hebrews is the supremacy of Christ over all who have come before and, as such, all who will come after as well.  Moses was, our at least could be known as a type of Old Testament messiah.  He was called by God and used by him to save the people of Israel from the hands of the Egyptians.  After leading them through the Red Sea, Moses brought them to Mount Sinai where they received the “Law of Moses,” which became the standard for rules and laws and the identity of the people of Israel from that point on.

Yet, here the author makes a distinction: Jesus is greater than Moses.  Everything that Moses represents was merely a shadow, an echo of what was to come in Jesus Christ.  What Moses did, he did imperfectly; Jesus represents a fulfillment of that position, as well as the Law that was given at that time.

Here, then, the author gives a warning.  Moses came, and the people followed him for a while.  When it came time to “enter God’s rest,” which the author uses to refer to as the Promised Land, the people rebelled, fearful of the inhabitants of the land.  Their rebellion is attributed to a lack of faith and as such they were punished and a whole generation had to die (including Moses) before they entered into the promised land.

What the author doesn’t say here is that Christians should be fearful of God punishing us with death if we rebel, or don’t follow Him.  But there is a warning that is given.  We have to be careful to listen to God’s voice and to follow closely what He says.  Just as the people of God had hardened their hearts back then, so too can we do that now and the results can be just as devastating.  Perhaps we won’t experience the physical loss of life, but rather the spiritual ramifications of people living and dying without knowing the Lord and of the people of God living our a spiritually dead religion that means nothing and leads nowhere.



Acts 17 – Observing Religion

Read Acts 17

Paul’s travels take him to a number of different places and contexts where he preaches the Gospel.  When he comes to Athens, a place of great idol worship, religious practices, and philosophy, Paul observes elements from this context and speaks to them in a manner that is appropriate to that setting.

This is an important part of preaching the Gospel: knowing the context in which you are speaking.  In today’s cultural context there is far too much mindless talking points that do not take into consideration the people or the stories that are in the background of our lives.  Paul notices a great deal about the lives of the Greeks before ever addressing them.

As he looks around Athens, Paul takes some time to observe and notice things that help him to know the people better.  He sees their “very religious” lifestyle, how they worship, and what impact that has on their lives.  When he addresses them, he takes elements of that culture and “redeems” them as he shares the truth of Jesus Christ.  In doing so, Paul is speaking their language and giving them something to relate to.  Too often Christians share the message of Jesus using “Christian-ese,” lingo that we would use to talk to each other but not necessarily language that the general public would understand.  We can take some pointers from Paul on this.

I wonder, in light of this, what Paul would refer to if he were to come to the United States today.  What about if he were to walk into one of our churches?  Would he observe the body of Christ living out the message of the Gospel, being a light to a dark world?  Or would he say, like he did in Athens, “I can see you are very religious…”?



John 5 – Father and Son

Read John 5

The major theme of John’s Gospel is to reveal Jesus as not only our Savior but also as the Divine Son of God who is also one with God the Father.  Much of John’s writings, themes, and theology form the basis for would later be known as Trinitarian Theology.  The Athanasian Creed lays this out well:

We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing… nor dividing the divine being.

For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.

But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.

 John begins to lay this foundation through Jesus’ conversation with the religious leaders.  Jesus doesn’t mince words at all, talking about Himself as being equal with the Father, and especially doing the “Father’s work.”  In fact, Jesus points out that He can do nothing apart from the Father.

There are some difficult sayings here too, but ones that we must take seriously.  Jesus says that those who do not honor the Son do not honor the Father.  In an age where many people seem to think its ok to say “we all serve the same God,” Jesus’ words add a caveat to that.  Several major world religions find their roots in the Old Testament, but only through honoring Jesus as Lord do we find the true way back to the Father.  Watch for more of this theme later in John.

One other thing to consider: Jesus does only what He sees the Father doing.  As the body of Christ, the Church would fall into this same function.  I wonder if we are focused on looking for where the Father is working so as to know what we should be doing?



Day 304: Luke 19-20; Questions… Questions…

We talked a while back about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and about His ministry in Jerusalem throughout the last days of His life on earth.  So today, I would like to focus on the questions that Jesus fields from the religious leaders.  While today I am referring to a very particular section of of Luke 20 in which the religious leaders are challenging the authority of Jesus, I think that most of the questions from the religious leaders towards Jesus would fit into this category save those from Nicodemus in the book of John.

So Jesus has entered the city of Jerusalem in a rather humbly triumphant manner and has gone into the Temple and cleansed it, driving out all of the people that were in there buying and selling, cheating many for the sake of religion.  The religious leaders did not like this so they devised a way to trap Jesus by “asking” Him a question.  Their motive?  To try and trap Jesus publicly so that they could “de-frock” Him and thus remove Him from prominence.  There is an even deeper goal here I think, and its one that we often share with these religious leaders.  This goal is also one that is shared by those that are not believers, in order to trick Christians into saying specific things.  What is this goal?  They want to be right… or at the very least for Jesus to be wrong.  They want to catch Jesus to prove that the way they believe is correct.

You may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t do that at all.”  But I think that if we are honest with ourselves, we do this with God all the time.  Whether we read our Bibles or just go to worship on Sunday mornings, we want to know that what we are doing is good (or at the very least okay).  If we read in the Bible or hear the pastor say that we should not hate our brother because it is just like murdering our brother, do we not often say, “well its not exactly like murder” or “I don’t really hate them, I just strongly dislike them.”  We justify our actions as a way of making ourselves feel okay about the way we are living.  We don’t want to feel guilty and we certainly don’t want to change, so we justify ourselves in our own minds.

We often do this with pastors as well.  In come classes that I have taken at seminary, I have witnessed some of my peers try to justify their own beliefs in front of pastors and professors by twisting their words or tweaking their statements so that they will be okay with what is being said.  In the same way, I have seen people go to their pastor and even had people come to be that try to justify their sinful actions by talking about how the context of a particular passage clearly means that what they did in the present is not what the Bible meant.  What they want to hear is that their sinful actions, their way of believing is good enough… what they want is cheap discipleship… cheap faith.

I think the greater world does this a lot too, posing questions like the ones Jesus is asked to the Church in an effort to somehow get a religious pass for immoral or unjust action.  To be honest, I think that the Church has long been silent about a lot of things, refusing to answer and thus affirming the direction that culture is going.  Sure we speak up every now and then on hot-button issues, but do we really care about the deep day-to-day living of those around us?  Do we really want to stand idly by while our friends and neighbors plunge deeper into darkness?  We need to have an answer for these questions… we need to have an answer for the culture.

What is Jesus’ answer here?  Well, He turns the question on its head and throws it back at the religious leaders.  He is well aware of their intent and traps them in their trap.  However, earlier and later in His ministry, even in our reading today, Jesus references time and again the words of Scripture in His answers.  Jesus doesn’t need to come up with a new and creative answer for the time because He has the Word of God inside of Him.  It is close to His heart and deep in His mind and at any time He can pull it out at any time.  Not just His favorite verses that have little meaning, but all of Scripture at all times.  Are we familiar with the Word of God in this way?  Do we have answers for the questions that the world poses to us?  Do we have answers to the simple questions?  Can we back them up with Scripture?  Are these words truly our life, as Moses says to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy, or are they just idle words that pass in and out of our ears.  We need to recover the Word of God in our hearts and on our minds that we may answer the questions for ourselves and for others!