The Things that Cannot Be Shaken

Japan-Earthquake_2155758bI spent some time in Hebrews 12-13 this morning.  So much good stuff in there, but what particularly grabbed me was Hebrews 12:18-28.   In the Old Testament, God spoke to Israel at Mt. Sinai and everything shook, they were terrified. That same God is speaking to us today, there is not two different Gods – and Old Testament God with an anger problem, and a kinder, gentler,  80’s feathered-back-hair “Jesus God” in the New Testament.  There is one God, in three persons, who is forever the same.   One day, God will shake the heavens and the earth,  and return to make all things new, to restore forever what sin has broken, to judge,  and to usher those who are his into our new “city of the living God.” (12:22)

The parallel is that in our lives, we can experience times when everything around us seems shaken.  I have a few close friends who are going thru such times now, and I’m certain I will be there someday as well.  No one is immune to such times – when everything we have known as stable for many years is upside down.  In these times, it is important to remember the message of this passage – there are things that cannot be shaken.  The shaking of our worlds can actually cause us to see more clearly those things.  In speaking of this passage, author Michael Horton in “The Gospel Driven Life” writes “Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, the Scriptures remind us, and only the kingdom that God is building will remain.”  Hebrews 12:27b says that they are shaken “in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain”  – there is a purpose to the times in our lives when everything is upside down – so that we may see more clearly that it is only God’s kingdom that will remain.  Sometimes, it takes everything falling down around us in order for us to see what is truly permanent.

So, what do we do in response to this?  Heb 12:25 says “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking.”  God is still speaking today, right now.  God is speaking to you in these times, make a decision to turn from controlling your life, and turn over your life to live for God’s kingdom which cannot be shaken.  Our lives are meant to be lived in worship of God.  That doesn’t mean walking around singing worship music 24/7, that means turning from sin and toward God’s way in purity and truth and faith, in a healthy respect of who God is.

Hebrews 12:28-29 sums it up well –

“Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

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Going Outside the Camp

This morning I was in Exodus 29 – God specifying how his priests were to be consecrated/set apart/purified.  It’s amazing the theme of blood cleansing from sin – to see that throughout the Old and New Testaments – but that’s not really what jumped out.

God specifies that sin offerings are to be made outside the camp – Ex. 29:14

…you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering.
(Exodus 29:14 ESV)

Fast forward to Jesus.  Where is he crucified? Outside the city. Hebrews 13 gives us this description:

For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
(Hebrews 13:11-12 ESV)

The continual Old Testament animal sacrifices were a foreshadowing of the one-time perfect divine sacrifice of Jesus for our sins – he bore all of the sin and shame outside the camp.

So what does this mean for us?  Again, Hebrews helps:

Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
(Hebrews 13:13 ESV)

We are called to be like Jesus, not as a sacrifice for sin, for there can only be one of those – but to leave the comfort and security of “the city” and bring him glory – to be radically committed to Jesus and his Kingdom – which is much different than our man-made kingdoms.  We get so trapped in our Americanized Christianity and the comforts of this world – yet, is that what we are really called to do?  Do we (I) turn this scripture around and make it more “Stay here where it’s comfortable and warm, let others go outside the camp where it’s cold uncertain and dangerous, they are the ones ‘called’ by God to do great things, I’m just a regular dude with a job, house, mortgage and trying to be cozy.”  Ouch. This passage always hurts, and I think that’s the point. But don’t let it just hurt – do something.  Go.  Outside.

I always think of a John Piper sermon I heard years ago when I read these passages, it was very impactful and I recommend it.  You can read it or listen here.

Here is a snippet that will whet your whistle:

So the point of Hebrews 13:14 is confirmed again and again: Christ did not die to make the cities of this age – or the suburbs – a paradise. He died so that we would be willing to stop trying to make our lives paradise on earth – both in the city and in the suburbs, and instead go with Jesus outside the camp of comfort and familiarity and security to where the needs are…

Endurance | Pt. 2

So the Holy Spirit continues to deliver the message of endurance —  Hebrews 12:1-2:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…

Yesterday, we saw that endurance is a gift and we need to be asking God as the giver of gifts to give us endurance, and in doing so he enables us to fulfill his commands – like we see today to “run with endurance.”   Note how we are to do this “Laying aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely.”  This is a vital clarification, we cannot run very fast and endure very long if we are carrying around weight (guilt?) and sin (idols of the heart?).   We must put them down, but put them down by the power of what Jesus did on the cross.  Speaking of Jesus, this passage indicates that Jesus is our model. No one has ever had to endure more than Jesus did on the cross – bearing the sin of the world and a brutal sacrificial death for us, to the glory of God.  And in that…the Bible says that was JOY for Him to endure for us.   That is a man on an unshakable mission.  He is our model.

Why do we have to endure?  Look at Hebrews 12:7 – “It is for discipline that you have to endure.”  God disciplines us…trains us up in the way that we should go, bringing us to maturity.

Then the author of Hebrews launches in to a series of commands…I love it when the Bible does this…Heb 12:12-16

  • [therefore…in light of all this…]
  • Lift your drooping hands
  • strengthen your weak knees
  • make straight paths for your feet
  • strive for peace with everyone, and holiness [BBW=sanctification]
  • See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God [be diligent in pointing to salvation in Christ]
  • no root of bitterness springs up [isn’t Christmas a good time to apologize and reconcile relationships?!]
  • sexual immorality [sex before marriage/outside of marriage/outside of God’s design] = NO

Therefore [again with the therefore…] v28…

let us be grateful in receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship [service] with reverence and awe.

 

Melchizedek

Yes, you heard me.  I did a quick Google search for him and this image popped up that seemed to capture some of his “mystique.”

I’m in Genesis 14 and suddenly Melchizedek appears to Abram and blesses him and then POOF! he is gone —

17After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the(A) King’s Valley). 18And(B) Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was(C) priest of(D) God Most High.) 19And he blessed him and said,

   (E) “Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
   (F) Possessor[a] of heaven and earth;
20and blessed be God Most High,
   who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”

Nothing else is said about Melchizedek in the Old Testament, (except Ps. 110:4 I believe…)that’s going to be important in a minute.  Now…remember…we are in Genesis yet – the law hasn’t been given yet, no Leviticus, no real “high priests.” So Mr. Melchizedek is a true ‘priest of the God Most High’ as the text says.

Fast forward to Hebrews, where Melchizedek is mentioned all over the place, Christ is being compared to him and it is said that “and being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God, a high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 5:9-10) He is also mentioned in Heb 6:20 in the same way.

Jump over to Hebrews 7 where we get more details of this. Here are some nuggets that chapter draws out about Melchizedek:

  • priest of the God Most High
  • He blessed Abraham
  • He is, by name, King of Righteousness
  • King of Peace
  • He is without father or mother
  • Having neither a beginning or an end (remember the OT says nothing more about him, so his priesthood didn’t officially end…)
  • resembles the Son of God
  • he continues as a priest forever

Heb 7:11 says “Now if perfection had been attainable thru the Levitical priesthood, what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek?”  In other words, when the Jewish nation is issued the Law – they cannot be saved and declared righteous by observing it, as one would have to observe it perfectly and no one can do that.  Thus another priest in the heavenly, divine order must come and issue a new covenant.  

Again, with Melchizedek, with the Levitical priests and the Law – they are pointing to Jesus.  Heb 8:5 –

They serve as a copy and a shadow of the heavenly things.

And 8:6 –

Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent that the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

Christ has made the Law obsolete (Heb 8:13). He has come with a better covenant for us, because like our mysterious friend Melchizedek he is not from man, he is from God and he is not in the priesthood of the Law, he is is the priesthood of God.  He will then ‘put the law into our minds and write them on their hearts.” (Heb 8:10)

He is then “able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God thru him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb 7:25)

15 Ways to Make Your Worship ROCK

If you are a worship leader and haven’t spent much time prayerfully pouring over the Word, seeing what it has to say about what is “acceptable worship” – please do. If you aren’t a worship “leader” … still please do.  🙂  We all need to be reminded of what God says about worship.  Our culture does a phenominal job of mutating worship music into self serving nonsense.  Oops. Sorry, did I just say that out loud.  Dang.

…and may I encourage you to start in Hebrews 13.

To get a sense of Hebrews 13 back up a bit to 12:28-29 where it reminds us to –

“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.”

The writer of Hebrews had just finished reminding us about Exodus 19…Moses at Mt. Sinai…the awe inspiring power of God. So much so that no one could even touch the mountain without dying…yikes.  That’s the background before he starts talking about what is “acceptable” worship…with that in mind have reverence and awe.

Then he moves on to Chapter 13, and in my ESV study note it says “some say that this ‘acceptable worship’ is depicted in conduct described in Hebrews 13.”  I think I would agree.  I’m not going to copy and paste all of Chap 13 here because that would make this post too long and you would stop reading.  So read Hebrews 13 here, then let’s pull it apart below.  mmmmkay?

In keeping with my assumption that this describes acceptable worship, this is what Hebrews 13 says:

  1. Let brotherly love continue
  2. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers
  3. Remember those who are in prison
  4. Let marriage be held in honor among all, let not the marriage bed be defiled (as in the pre-marital and the extra-marital stuff is a no-no, kids)
  5. Keep your life free from the love of money
  6. Be content with what you have
  7. Remember: I will never leave you or forsake you (IOW: find your total satisfaction in God thru Christ, don’t make me go Piper on you)
  8. Remember your leaders
  9. Remember Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever
  10. Do not be lead away by diverse and strange teachings (that would mean that you have to know the truth of the Gospel inside and out first)
  11. As Jesus suffered outside the camp – let us go outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured (go out of our comfort zones, big time – even if you get flack or even persecuted for it.)
  12. Thru Christ, continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God (Note the word ‘sacrifice’ of praise. It may actually cost you something…)
  13. Do not negelect to do good and to share what you have (‘do’, ‘share’…hmmm, those are VERBS aren’t they)
  14. Obey your leaders and submit to them — do this with JOY
  15. Pray

Dang. I was hoping that he was going to tell me exactly how to structure my worship sets so that they rock.  Or perhaps what type of music I should do more of…traditional, contemporary…opera.  “15 Top Tips to Make Your Worship ROCK”.  umm…NOT

The point I walked away with here, again (see Rom 12:1-2) is that worship is our whole LIFE.  If we are not doing these things all week long, how is it that we can walk into church lift our hands and praise God in corporate musical worship?  I don’t think you can.  Tozer doesn’t either:

If you will not worship Him seven days a week, you will not worship him one day a week.

When we gave our lives over to God thru Christ, we promised to live for him with our whole selves.  Our LIVES.  Our everyday, going to work, hanging with friends, family, driving, eating whole entire SELVES.  He wants that.  You need to give him all of that.  That is worship.  Then…we can sing and play with JOY exuding from us in praise to our Savior.

Lettuce

Not the vegetable, but the command…”Let us…” I know, that was cheesy, but you are reading…and possibly hungry.

In Hebrews 10:19-25 we are given some very specific ‘let us’ commands:

 19(A) Therefore, brothers,[a] since we have confidence to enter(B) the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by(C) the new and living way that he opened for us through(D) the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21and since we have(E) a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts(F) sprinkled clean(G) from an evil conscience and our bodies(H) washed with pure water. 23(I) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for(J) he who promised is faithful. 24And(K) let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25(L) not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and(M) all the more as you see(N) the Day drawing near.

The first ‘let us’ isn’t specified as a “let us”, so I’ll emphasize…let us NOT blow right past the “Therefore” that starts this passage out.   Hebrews just finished explaining over and over again that Christ’s perfect sacrifice was once for all (10:10-14) unlike the former Old Testament covenant and high priests that had to offer sacrifices year after year, Christs sacrifice that paid for all of our sin does not have to be repeated year after year.  It is final, finished, as Sovergeign Grace says “Completely Done“.  This fact paves the way for 3 important exhortations:

  • Let us draw near – our confidence in drawing near is not in ourselves, it’s in the finished perfect work of Jesus on the cross.  Therefore our confidence is rock solid, it’s not based on us, our works, how we are feeling that day…we are clean and pure before God thru Jesus.
  • Let us hold fast – again, we are exhorted to be diligent, faithful, committed.
  • Let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works – the Lord has been beating this into my brain.  When we gather either informally with friends, or formally in the body of believers at church…are we considering how to stir one another on to love and good works? Or are we just drinking java and hanging out?   I need to grow in this area, hence the conviction.  I need to EXHORT well.  Is that what you think about when you are at church or with fellow Christians?

 It’s no small “coincidence” that I’m reading  David Peterson’s “Engaging with God” in the very chapter on Hebrews right this moment, for the Holy Spirit to keep driving that conviction deeper.

He maintains “the giving and receiving of exhortation is undoubtedly a key factor in the Christian assembly.” So, the first thing…on the more ‘obvious’ side is that you have to GO to church.  You can’t exhort others and be challenged, stirred up if you aren’t there.  So, let us keep challenging each other to stay committed to our local church body.   While we are there, and also one-on-one…let us also ask the questions that actually might stimulate someone to keep moving (straining) forward in their spiritual walk. Again, Peterson helped me here this morning

“The purpose of this ministry is to avoid being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Heb 3:13). To put more positively, Christians need to expose themselves to the warnings and encouragements that will help them perservere in the faith and grow to maturity.”

The Altrogge’s had a great post on their blog that I will leave you with. 7 Tough Questions to Ask Your Friends.  Check it out.

When we gather at church…are we asking these kinds of questions?

When we meet one on one…are we asking these kinds of questions? 

It’s hard to ask those questions, isn’t it?   A little awkward…it’s much easier to talk about Tiger Woods, or ask if all your Christmas shopping is done.

Hebrews commands us to stir one another to love and good works…and there is a sense of urgency to it…as v25 says “all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” One day Jesus will return, and we may grieve at all the small things of life that we let get in the way of following the Word here.  Lettuce not let that happen!

How Not to Drift Away

I’m up to the book of Hebrews in my 2009 Bible reading.  They are really pouring it on how…I had to read Chapters 1-6 this morning, and for once I had the good sense to make sure I got up early enough to get thru it.  I’ve also noticed that as I get into the “meatier” books it takes longer.

GREAT stuff in Hebrews.  I’m being smacked upside the head by the Holy Spirit left and right.  It’s great.  🙂 (It also was convicting, dividing and discerning me and making me feel naked…see Heb 4:12-13…)

This is a tough letter.  Whoever wrote this one, is not messing around with words, they want their people to remember who they are and be steadfast…hold fast…stay true…as Cross Movement says “Hold it Down.”

Hebrews 2: says simply:

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

Judging by the release of the 2009 Barna Group Review we seem to have a problem in knowing why we believe what we do, and staying there.

In reviewing the themes, they relate to each other…specifically we don’t know what we believe and we aren’t mature because we don’t know the WORD. (Again, see Heb 5:11-14…those who should be teachers by now, are still needing to be taught!)

I cannot encourage you strongly enough to read the Word – ALL of it. The whole Bible. Start 2010 off with a real resolution – to get spiritually healthy, to buck the trends…and to do that read the Word.

I use a Chronological Bible Reading Plan like this one here. I did it in 2009, and I intend to do it in 2010 as well. I’m trying to get as many as possible from my church to do so…because as the study indicates…we need work knowing the Word!

So, how to not drift away? As Hebrews 2:1 says – “pay closer attention to what we’ve heard.”

…And where might we have heard this?

…and this isn’t a suggestion either…we are commanded to be mature.

Heb 6:1

Therefore(A) let us leave(B) the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity