for Signs and Wonders

The third quote the writer uses to show us how Jesus identifies with us comes from Isaiah 8:18.

“BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.” – Hebrews 2:13

Here’s the original:

Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. – Isaiah 8:18

Oh, how I love this verse. It’s so packed! Let’s just break it down and feast a while this morning.

Behold…

He begins with LOOK! What He’s about to tell us is evident. He’s not revealing hidden truth here, but something that can be seen and understood with our senses.

…I…

This I is the I AM. We can be sure of this because of this reference in Hebrews. Isaiah once again is bringing Jesus to our attention.

…and the children…

We know this is us. In Isaiah, 2 verses earlier the Lord specifically calls us “my disciples.”

…whom the Lord has given me…

These children are not begotten by Jesus, but given to Jesus, committed to His trust. The Father entrusted Jesus with His (the Father’s) flock to shepherd them. This flock is the Church for whom the shepherd laid down His life. The Father gave us to Jesus, and He paid the full purchase price for our freedom.

…are for signs and wonders…

Somehow this flock thinks it’s mission in life involves sitting in pews and being entertained.

Jesus trained us.
God empowered us.
The Holy Spirit filled us.

And yet we sit.

That’s not our call. God calls us to signs and wonders.

…from the LORD of hosts…

Not some sappy signs, like a smile or friendly nod on the sidewalk. Signs from the Lord of hosts look like something, Jesus sized signs and wonder–NO–bigger than that. Signs so big you can’t even imagine it now.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.John 14:12

It makes me so sad when I hear preachers minimize this promise.

You know…

Radio is the greater work.
Television is the greater work.
Our money will buy more influence than Jesus carried.

NO!

It’s not even possible for Jesus to lie. When He starts a verse with Truly, Truly, how dare we diminish or explain away what He said.

It’s not unclear.
It’s doesn’t use hard to understand words.

the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do

But it will never happen as long as we won’t,

1 – believe it
2 – free our selves from distractions
3 – press in for it.

Why did the Father give Jesus children?

We are for signs and wonders.

We MUST begin to walk in this light. We can’t ignore our calling any longer. God never intended the Church of Jesus Christ to sit idly by and watch the world–in judgment and condemnation–but to turn it upside-down.

But Ben…how do I start?

Begin to call those things that are not as though there were.
You can simply take this verse and begin to declare it over yourself.
I am for signs and wonders!
I am for signs and wonders!
I am made for greater works the Jesus!
When I walk into the room, the Spirit of the LORD of Hosts comes in.
When I step into my workplace, the Prince of Peace enters with me.
When I speak healing and health over folks at Kohl’s, Jehovah Rapha confirms my words (His words) with signs following.

Get His word in your mouth, and let Him use you today.

Ok – I’m excited. I wonder what today holds?

BenHeadshotAs you go…

Be light…

Ben

Missed something – catch up with us here.

A New Nature

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. – Hebrews 2:10

Jesus, the uncreated Son of God, existing through all eternity past, walked through life as a man in sinless perfection. And yet, in taking on flesh and emptying Himself for us, He subjected Himself, not only to our weakness and temptations but to a need to learn and grow.

In creation, He counseled with God. The Word God spoke in creation, John reveals as Jesus. That spoken Word of creation continues to create galaxies today. It continues to hold all things together.

But this all knowing, all powerful, everywhere present Son of God needed schooling.

Let’s start in Luke 2 today.

The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. – Luke 2:40

This is amazing to me. We are introduced to Wisdom in Proverbs 8. When you have a few minutes, you can read the whole chapter, but in particular, check out verses 22-31. I can’t get away from the fact that this passage describes Jesus, the Word of God. And of course, this makes perfect sense. Where could you find more wisdom than in the Word spoken by our infinite, all-knowing Father?

Yet here is Luke 2 we find Jesus increasing in wisdom.

Next Luke tells the story of the boy Jesus in the temple at age twelve.

After that, we have only one verse in the entire Bible telling of Jesus’ life from age twelve until He starts His ministry at thirty.

And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. – Luke 2:52

This one is really striking because, at age thirty, we hear the voice of God at Jesus’ baptism.

and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” – Matthew 3:17

The Father is well pleased with His Son before Jesus begins His ministry. Before He ever works a miracle or heals the sick. But we learn from Luke 2:52 that Jesus’ grew in favor with God.

It’s a little mind-bending. How can the one who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, grow, learn, or progress?

It goes back to the concept of Jesus emptying Himself, and living life with a man’s nature. Not a sin nature, like you and me, but an un-fallen human nature. This is the nature offered to every man and woman in the new birth. It’s why the new birth makes such a great metaphor for the New Covenant offered to every one of us.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

The new nature we receive in the New Covenant puts within our grasp the ability to walk like Jesus walked. It makes it possible for us to grow in wisdom and favor with God.

Today was a bit of a rabbit trail from Hebrews 2:10, so we’ll come back to it on Monday. In the meantime press into all that God has for you. You can grow in favor with God. His pleasure in you will increase as you give yourself to Him in worship, in devotion, and in your daily walk.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for coming by today.

Bloom and flourish where God has planted you.

Ben

If you’ve missed anything – check out the Hebrews page to get caught up.

Implications

how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? – Hebrews 2:3

Let’s go a bit deeper into this “so great salvation.

Friday, in my post “Bread” we talked about the truth of God dwelling in the believer. What implications can we draw from this concept of God on the inside?

It gets pretty interesting and will cause us to look at whether or not faith exists on any level in the life of the average pew-sitter. Remember I said that Hebrews will drive us to look at our concept of eternal security? Does a repeat-after-me prayer said at the altar of a church make you a child of God? (Please hear me, I have asked people to repeat after me bunches of times–I will never despise this practice.)

But honestly–repeat after me and “REALLY” mean it “IN YOUR HEART.” What does that even mean? How do we know if they “really” mean it?

The old Bill Bright method had you read a booklet, pray a prayer and then gave you scripture and verse assuring your salvation. They even had a follow up to their Four Spiritual Laws booklet which encouraged you to put Jesus on the throne in the center of your heart, now that you were a Christian. WHAT??!!

I’m sorry. It’s just not like that. If Jesus is not on that throne, there is no new birth.

The new birth may come via prayer. It can start at the altar of a church. It can happen as a result of reading the Four Spiritual Laws. But these do not define salvation.

This “so great salvation”, this new covenant, requires only one thing.

It’s not about the truths you agree to, though doctrine is important.

It’s not about the church you attend, though gathering with other saints is critical for your health and growth.

It’s not about how much you give to what ministry.

The only way for a man or woman to move from the kingdom of this world into the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ is for God to take up residence inside you–for your spirit to welcome the Spirit of God–for Jesus to be on that throne–in the center.

When Jesus told them you have to eat my flesh and drink My blood in John 6, when He instituted the Lord’s Supper, He demonstrated that He had to be in us.

Christianity that tries hard to be good, to pull itself up by its bootstraps, that toils to resist sin, may not have the God of all grace and comfort dwelling inside.

What would it look like for God to move in?

If you talk to some Christians, you get the impression that they used to sin and never have another thought, but now they sin and feel guilty. Charles Finney would have called this the alarmed or awakened sinner. He would not offer assurance until the breakthrough to life on the inside.

Jesus didn’t die to make us feel guilty. He bore our guilt so we would be free!

He lives inside each and every citizen of His kingdom. We are His dwelling place.

That has to look like something, doesn’t it? If it’s just words on the page, it’s worthless, and we should bag it all.

If there is no evidence in your heart of the presence of God, today is your day. Today is the day of salvation. God desires to take up residence in you, to partner with you in everything you step into. What He asks of you is surrender. Let Him know that you see your life is a mess. Confess your sin and need for a Savior. Then invite Him to take control. It’s God’s will and your only hope.

We who are in Christ need to press in until His presence in us becomes a reality. Confess it out loud. Believe it every day. Expect Him to show up in every circumstance. Don’t just let satan bludgeon you into thinking you’re on your own. God lives. Jesus lives. The Spirit of the living God, aka YHWH, dwells in you if you are a citizen of His Kingdom.

Here’s a declaration you can use today.

I am a dwelling place for God, my Creator, my Redeemer, my Husband, and my Friend. God is inside me. I am loved by the Father. I am filled with the Spirit of God. I am blessed with all spiritual blessings because I am in Christ and His Holy Spirit is in me. Nothing can separate me from His presence. I am His and He is mine. He walks with me in all of my circumstances.

cropped-BenHeadshotHey, thanks for sticking with me in this study.

Love you…

Ben

Have you missed some of these studies? You can catch up here.

Bread

how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? – Hebrews 2:3

A couple weeks back, in the post, Sitting Savior, we took a quick look at what Jesus accomplished before He sat down at the right hand of the Father.

Today, I want to press into one aspect of the New Covenant that always get’s my juices flowing. I don’t believe we talk about it enough.

We see it painted into the tableau of the Lord Supper–not the painting–the event. But Jesus talked about it frankly in John 6 and it made those who were following Him wonder if they were making a terrible mistake.

Let’s set the scene. Early in John 6, we see Jesus feeding the multitudes with fish and bread. Well, really the disciples fed them, but Jesus’ sets it up for the boys. This multitude is so impressed, they follow Him across the lake. Next, we find ourselves at the synagog in Capernaum, Jesus’ home base during most, if not all of His ministry years.

A dialog ensues in which Jesus drives His following off in droves. He begins by suggesting they only want to be near Him because He fed them. They bring up mana and how God fed their forefathers in the wilderness.

What happens next gets pretty bizarre…

He says in effect, “Yes, I know about that–that was Me.”

I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” – John 6:41

The crowd murmurs with an understated, “Wait, what?”

So He pressed in,

 “Do not grumble among yourselves…I AM the bread of life.” – John 6:43,48

A man in the congregation sees, from the corner of his eye, his wife rise up in the women’s chamber, collect her children and walk out the back. She catches his eye and gives him a look that says, “stay if you want, but I’m out of here. I’ll be waiting in the car.”

Then Jesus presses on,

if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” – John 6:51

Now the exodus begins in earnest. But rather than pull back and explain Himself, Jesus just goes all in.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” – John 6:53-58

This one might have even rocked His core crew, but they got it. They understood that they didn’t have to understand. His words held life, even when they didn’t have a clue what He was talking about.

In Matthew 13, when Jesus taught with parables, He actually told the boys it was so some would not understand. He intentionally put roadblocks in the way of people so they could not get to Him at a surface level. If they were not willing to trust Him alone, they would go away offended.

Here in John 6 He asks them in effect, “Does this offend you?”

So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” – John 6:67

Great question.

Jesus asks this question today, too. Does this gospel offend you?

Today, the world and its children question God at every turn.

Let’s jump right into the deep end.

For example, the world says, “How can God condemn a gay man for being gay? It’s genetic. He was born that way. If God didn’t want Him gay, God shouldn’t have made Him gay!

Hmmm…

So we back down. There’s something about this argument that gives us cause to be offended at God.

Jesus looks us in the eye–yes–us Christians–and says, “Does this offend you?”

Let me help you on this topic. God didn’t create me with an evil desire to be with other men. But I was born with a sin nature and completely bent toward sins of many flavors. I am by nature self-centered. Oh, how my flesh delights in pleasing myself, in promoting myself.

I came out of the womb (a good Christian womb at that) lying, cheating, stealing, swearing, fighting for my own way. I wanted to be my own Lord. That desire still wars against my spirit, and sometimes gets the upper hand.

If God didn’t want me to be a liar, why did He make me this way. If God wanted my sex life to be completely devoted to one woman and only in one context, why did He give me this sex drive? Why does God continue to allow the birth of people who are enslaved to sin? Why?

Does this offend you?

Jesus isn’t afraid of losing those who don’t hold on to Him as their only hope of life. Jesus is never looking for fringe followers. He’s looking for those who throw in their lot with Him. Only complete regime change works in this New Covenant.

Only those who are willing to take Him into their life at the expulsion of all other gods, all other priorities, all other lovers.

And so we come back to the flesh and blood.

He finally explains it all to His disciples at the last supper. He didn’t want them to gnaw on Him like a herd of zombies. He wanted to implant His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, within each of them, within each of us. He wanted us to become a dwelling place for the Spirit of God. The two become one flesh–me and God–you and God.

He’s not looking for a long-distance relationship here. He’s looking for intimacy. He doesn’t want to shout to us. He wants to be in our spirit so that His whisper bubbles up a spring of life from within us. His word flows from us because that daily life producing bread–that Word of God come from within.

The secret to this “so great salvation is God on the inside.

WOW

I again need to borrow my brother Larry’s word…Hallelujah!!

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for coming by,

Blessings

Ben

You can catch up with our Hebrews musings here.

Neglectors

The gospel of Jesus Christ is offered freely to any who come to Him.

…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; – Romans 10:9

But as a gift, though offered to all comers, it’s not received by all.

He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, – John 1:11-12

Some reject God’s offer outright. These have no expectation of eternal life in the presence of God. Some delude themselves with a “good place,” fantasy. Others simply expect an end of life and nothing more. Still, others think hell will be a huge party where all their friend will join them for enteral sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.

Again, these are not the ones being warned in…

Warning #2

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. – Hebrews 2:1-4

Today we talk about neglectors. (Dictionary.com offers this as an acceptable form of the word, I promise.)

Ok, there is some overlap with the drifters from yesterday. But at the core, it’s a different kind of sin. Unlike those who float in and out of faith, these neglectors never pull the trigger.

Like the drifters, they are in church. How do I know? The book of Hebrews is written to the church. It’s not an evangelistic letter sent to Nero to be read to the masses. It’s a letter from an apostolic leader to a group of Jews who gathered to grow in their faith in Christ together.

All the warnings in this book are to the Chruch, so we must be attentive when the writer gives us these danger signs.

How does one neglect?

I think there are levels of neglect.

In most church congregations, some never pull the trigger. They never actually surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord. It would be super easy to just fit in with a church family as a neglector today. Perhaps they have a spouse who is connected. Or they come to church with their parents. They have been in church all their lives, and it is always assumed that they are in Christ. They know the lingo. They play along with the church crowd. They know how to look the part.

They can fake worship.
They can fake prayer.
They can fake tears.
They can fake tongues.
They can even fake evangelism.

But they’re in charge of their own lives.

Their church life is an act. They know the truth. They figure when they’re older they can actually “get saved,” but they will not “waste their youth” on religion.

It could be they don’t really think they are so bad.

To a neglector, well, they’ve been good all their lives. They keep the rules. They look the part.

But like the rich young ruler, though they have kept the law, they will not surrender the lordship of their own life to the Lord Jesus.

They want to be their own lord, their own boss, their own king.

But there be great danger in these waters.

The writers says “How will we escape?”

If you’re feeling a tug from the Holy Spirit, neglect Him no more. Turn your life over to Him today.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for coming by.

Tomorrow–we’ll put a little of the “so great” into our understanding of this salvation. Come back soon.

Ben

Want to catch up? Click here.

Drifters

Hebrews teems with promises and encouragements, wonderful reminders and strong theology. But it also holds a number of stern warnings. With the promises, it delivers consequences that need to be reckoned with. When taken as a whole, the book disrupts any leanings we have toward universalism and even shines the spotlight on eternal security for our scrutiny.

Aside: Don’t hang up on me. I’m not saying I don’t believe in eternal security, but our study will uncover some weakness in our pray-a-prayer-and-forget-it gospel.

Warning #1

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. – Hebrews 2:1

First – notice the “for.” Again, this militates against chapter breaks, since clearly what follows belongs with chapter one.

But what part of chapter one are we “for”ing back to? …pay attention to what we have heard. What have we heard? Let’s read a couple more verses and see if we get some more clues.

For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. – Hebrews 2:2-4

The writer is taking us back to the first four verses of chapter one, in particular, verse two.

in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. – Hebrews 1:2

Jesus, who is superior in every way to the angels and prophets spoke to us through His words and His life. He continues to speak to us through the testimony of those who walked with Him. Further, this testimony is confirmed to us by signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

These four verses actually hold two warnings.

drift wood on rack near the shore
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

1) Don’t drift.

I love that he uses such a visual word, drift. He’s not warning against a turn-and-run rejection of the gospel. He’s not warning about scoffers and skeptics. He’s warning about the kind of Christian that warms the pew every week but does not walk by faith.

He’s talking about dusty-Bible Christians.
He’s talking about when-it’s-convienient Christians.
He’s talking about Sunday-morning-only Christians.

They are drifters. They have not left the church or the basic belief system. But their life is not marked by faith. They live life with minds set on the things of the flesh. Every problem gets the natural solution, and prayer is the furthest thing from their mind until it’s the only thing left.

Paul talks about this in Romans 8.

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. – Romans 8:5-8

Don’t skip over that. Here Paul speaks some of the most sobering words in all of the Bible.

This carnal mind, mind set on the flesh, is not indifferent toward the things of God. This drifter is actively hostile toward God himself.

Paul makes it clear in Romans 8 that this one who fills his or her mind with the natural world and its thoughts and priorities CANNOT please God.

Later in Hebrews, we will learn that only the life lived by faith and not by sight can please God.

Have you been drifting? Have you been walking by sight and relying on natural solutions for your day to day needs?

Get out of those waves that wash to and fro. Step out of that sandy-bottomed trap and get on the Rock today.

You can please God. You can hear those wonderful words – “Well done.” But it’s not going to happen by itself. You’re going to have to put your faith in Jesus.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about warning #2.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for stopping by.

Walk in the light.

Ben

Looking to catch up? You can find all of chapter 1’s posts here.

This Is How I Fight My Battles

If you are in Christ, you are in a war!

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. – 1 Peter 2:11 NASB

Traditionally we see the enemies of our soul as the world the flesh and the devil. These three powers and their armies array themselves against men and women of faith.

These, our enemies, utilize massive machines of war.

They come after us with evil intent.

Their objective–to lay waste to every Christ follower. They’ll try to take us out one by one, or in platoons.

They use disease.
They use hate.
They use crime.
They use natural disaster.

Our enemy–the chief mischief maker–comes only to steal, kill and destroy, by any means at his disposal.

So what are we to do?

How do we fight such a foe?

OK–I’m not sure you’ll believe me when I tell you.

You’ll say I’m oversimplifying it.
You’ll think I’m ignoring facts.
You’ll call me–no you wouldn’t do that–but–no, you won’t.

What if I told you, it’s all in your mind?

The whole thing–it’s in your mind.

Ben–you might say–Ben, it’s not in my mind. I’m sick. I’m emotionally wounded. I’m broken. How can you say it’s in my mind.

Hear me now. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist. I’m saying the battle–the war for your life starts in your mind. That’s where the attack comes. That’s where the firey darts land. That’s where the lies take hold.

Is your disease a lie. The symptoms don’t seem like a lie–do they?

Nope–real as can be.

So what then–pretend I’m not in pain with every step I take. Make believe I’m healthy when my body is wracked with pain.

No!

But if we are ever going to turn this war around we need to change the way we’re thinking. We need to change the way we’re talking.

Paul tells us this about our war.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

Is he just talking about spiritual things? Am I overstating the case when I try to apply this to all the evil in the world that turns against us? Can we actually deal with the triune evil of World–Flesh–devil with this supernatural weaponry?

The phrase that catches me in Paul’s description is this one about things that rise up against the knowledge of God.

You see Peter said,

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. – 2 Peter 1:4

Did you pick up on that? We become partakers of the divine nature by means of promises.

But promises are only words. What good can words do against all that rages in this world?

Jesus used words to calm the storm. David used words to defeat Goliath–ok–there was also that smooth stone. Hezekiah took the lying words of his enemy and laid them out for God to see and as good as dared God to move on his behalf.

Jesus told us

Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.Mark 11:23

We let the chaos of the world around us, shake us. We tremble before a bad diagnosis. We fear the bill collector. The boss intimidates us and we lie and cheat for him.

Jesus never walked in fear, and our verse from Hebrews will tell us why.

“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET”? – Hebrews 1:13

Jesus always fought from a place of peace, and He never lost. He brought peace to the storm from a place of peace in Himself. He cleaned the demoniac without so much as raising His voice. He even calmed Peter when he was trying to figure out how to pay his taxes.

The answer to our battles–everything from day to day stress–to debilitating disease–is this. Get into the presence of God, and get ready to put your feet up.

I love the image of a footstool. Jesus isn’t stomping on the head of demons in this picture. He’s putting His feet up as one does when the work is finished. He’s got his sandals off, His feet washed and upon His footstool because the battle is over. He won.

Do you see it? Find the promise of God for your situation and declare it over your life. Use your words to shut down the lies satan keeps playing in your head. Speak the Word, and don’t give place to the lies in your mind.

It’s your mind–take it back. Take every thought captive, and fill it with the truth.

cropped-BenHeadshotSorry if this was a bit of a ramble tonight–but well–not sorry.

See you on Monday.

Ben

You can catch up here.

Blueprint for Joy

The year was 1987. I was careening toward my 30th Birthday. We had a dear friend, Linda, who was living with us at the time, helping us as a nanny for my baby daughter Jessica.

Linda knew all the Christian rock bands and music of the era. She put together a mixtape (hee hee – remember mix tapes?) and it included one from Mylon Lefevre called “Love God Hate Sin.” (Warning: The youtube link at the bottom of the page will take you to a time and place that may seem otherworldly–the 80s. Yikes.)

But before Mylon recorded that crowd pleaser, it had become somewhat of a byword for the group of brothers and sisters in Christ I hung out with. We were a pretty tight-knit bunch of disciples growing together in the Word. We did life together for a long time.

Our cry was always Love God – Hate Sin. It’s still on my answering machine at home: Love God – Hate sin and wait for the beep. (It used to say “wait for the trumpet blast,” but the little “meep” that follows was just too anticlimactic.)

As I understand it, the text for the song comes from Psalm 97,

Hate evil, you who love the LORD, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked. – Psalm 97:10

But I find it right here in Hebrews 1:9. The author, still quoting from Psalm 45 says this:

“YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.” – Hebrews 1:9

(By the way, I’m not shouting, that’s just how the NASB quotes the Old Testament–all caps. I guess they had to shout since their writings were just not as effectual as the life of Jesus–kidding!!)

Cause and Effect

We know for certain from the case the writer is making, this verse is referring to Jesus.

That’s right, Jesus, who Isaiah calls the man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3) walked through Galilee anointed with the oil of joy, more than any other man.

JOY

Think of the joy that Jesus must have felt as He healed the sick, cleansed lepers, raised the dead, opened the eyes of the blind, physically and spiritually. What joy there was walking through a graveyard and setting the demonized man free. Unspeakable joy!

But frankly, if we learn anything from Jesus’ example it’s that joy is not about circumstances. It’s a confidence and a knowing. It comes from the peace that God brings to the chaos of the unregenerate heart and mind, as it yields to Him. It’s the confidence that God holds us in the palm of our hands as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. It’s the reality of the presence of God in our innermost being as all hell breaks loose around us.

Later in Hebrews, we will see how Jesus walked through torture and death toward joy.

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2

But check it outJoy is the effect, not the cause.

The stated cause? He loved righteousness and hated iniquity.

I want to say that it’s easy to love righteousness. Who doesn’t love righteousness? Well–on Sunday morning in church it’s pretty easy, but what about on Monday night–watching the game when the booze and vulgarity start flowing. Or on Tuesday morning around the water cooler–ok–Keurig machine, when the gossip starts swirling around the room. How easy is it to love righteousness then?

Maybe it’s late at night when no one is watching, or on that business trip, or in the college dorm, when you’re away from your support net.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. – Matthew 5:6

Does your hunger last you through the week? Or are you only hungry for righteousness on Sunday morning? (I know, I’m meddling.)

But there’s more to this cause clause, He hated iniquity.

I hear people say love the sinner, hate the sin. But I’ve seen how this movie plays out. The sinner feels like the one hated because we are way more brutal toward the sins of others than we are loving toward the sinner himself.

As far as the sins of others are concerned (ok–brace yourself–this is going to rock your theology) your job is to let them know God is not angry with them.

WHAT!!! I thought you said, “hate sin.” Now your coddling it!

NO

2 Corinthians 5 teaches us, first that we are new creatures in Christ, but then it goes on to talk about God’s attitude toward the sins of those outside the faith.

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

It’s worse than I imagined…Not only is God not holding their sin against them, but He wants us to let them know that. He assigned us as ambassadors of this same reconciliation.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:20

So how do I hate sin, Ben?

I’m glad you asked.

Hate your own sin.

Hate what sin is doing to separate you from God, from God’s will and purpose for your life, from wholeness and soul prosperity.

Hate what sin is doing in others enough to let them know they no longer have to serve that taskmaster.

When it comes to the sins of others, think of it this way.

A man or woman outside of Christ is not sinning by choice. They are slaves to sin. Consider a child held captive by human traffickers. Whatever acts those children are forced into are not because they are evil or sinful children. It’s because their taskmasters are wicked men or women. (themselves enslaved to master who is lower still) These children need rescue, not condemnation (as do the traffickers themselves.)

Without Christ, it is impossible to say no to sin.

Our old man must die and be raised in newness of life in Christ Jesus. Then sin will no longer have a hold over them. Read through Romans 6 some time and see the word pictures Paul uses to illustrate this point.

So there it is. Love God, hate sin, and walk in joy, It’s my blueprint for joy.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for coming by.

Love God, Hate Sin

Ben

And if you want to catch up on our wander through Hebrews, check here.

Here’s Mylon Lefevre’s Love God, hate sin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiSIOLmcpxA

The Son and His Kingdom

Today we get a good dose of theology from this simple quote and how the writer applies it. Actually, verse 8 and 9 are one quote from Psalm 45, but we’re going to do some picking around and about them. This is more than enough for today.

But of the Son He says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. – Hebrews 1:8 NASB

Many skeptics and many less than orthodox sects and cults deny one simple claim of Christianity, the deity of Christ. They say He never claimed deity. They’ll tell you it just the traditions of man that assign deity to Jesus. But the writer of this letter apparently didn’t get the memo.

He pulls in a quote from Psalm 45 which is talking about the eternal throne of God and specifically assigns it to Jesus the only begotten Son. The whole point of this passage is to demonstrate that Jesus is superior to angels. What good is a quote about God’s throne if He’s not talking about Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God and has His place enthroned at the right hand of God the Father.

So get it settled in your heart and mind. Jesus is God. He is divine. He is eternal. He is all that goes with being God.

He is also “forever and ever.” I love that the Psalmist felt that forever didn’t communicate how long Christ will reign. He needed another “ever” in the equation to clarify just how eternally Jesus’ will reign.

One more thing, righteousness. The kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness. In the mouth of two or three witnesses–ok five–but who’s counting.

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. – Isaiah 9:7

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:10

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:20

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33

for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. – Romans 14:17

The kingdom Jesus came preaching stretches on for all eternity and it’s standard is righteous.

If that doesn’t strike you as good news, it’s because you’re not privy to one little secret. Yes, it’s a kingdom of righteousness, but all the righteousness is His.

Paul talks about this in Philippians 3,

and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, – Philippians 3:9

It’s not our works of the law and good deeds that make us fit for God’s kingdom, it’s the blood of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. Jesus blood shed for us gives us entry into this kingdom. And our membership is enteral.

So maybe a kingdom of righteousness sounds like a bore to you.

Come back Monday, and we’ll take that notion apart.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for stopping by.

Come back again soon.

Ben

Catch up here.

Angels

What do we know about angels?

There’s a lot out there about angels. Some of it is cut from whole cloth. Some of it is awesome and helpful. We know they are major players in the story of man, and as such they show up throughout the Old and New Testaments liberally.

Three verses in this first chapter give us some insight into their mission in our lives.

So get your gleaning gloves on and let’s get out there and grab a few handfuls.

And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.” And of the angels He says, “WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS, AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.” – Hebrews 1:6-7

I said yesterday one of the old texts translated angels from the Hebrew elohim. But the Greek transliterates to angelos. Most often it’s translated angels and carries the meaning messenger.

When you think about angels, what do you think of?

Ok – I’m not even going to suggest those chubby cherubs that litter every craft shop. They may make nice decorations, but they have no relation to anything real.

But what do you picture?

I know I see angels in my mind’s eye around the throne, like psychedelic warning beacons crying out Holy Holy Holy, is the Lord of hosts.

I think of angels holding the lion’s mouth closed while Daniel sleeps the sleep of the blessed in their living room.

I think of angels sent from the throne of God to blind the army surrounding Elisha. I think of Gabriel coming to Zachariah, Joseph, and Mary to lay down the groundwork for the incarnation. He comes back a few years later to let the Magi know of Herod’s evil scheming.

I see them coming alongside the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane and encouraging Him as He faced His worst night.

But in all these cases, I see them coming to and from the throne room doing the bidding of the Lord.

Let ’s pull in one more verse today from further on down the page.

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? – Hebrews 1:14

Did you get that? We can pick up a lot about angels in this text. Their primary mission is to offer service for us.

Check this out,

Bless the LORD, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word, Obeying the voice of His word! – Psalm 103:20

These mighty servants of God minister to us in obedience to His word.

When God sends them—they go and do His will.

But wait—there’s more.

When we speak the Word of God—they go and do our (His) will.

John tells us that Jesus only did what He saw the Father do, and only said what He heard the Father say.

If we will walk like this–speaking what we hear the Father say–taking huge risks and obeying as if we really trust Him–the angels will move at our words. When our words are His words–when our will is His will–all the resources of heaven are at our disposal.

Big, no impossible things don’t seem nearly as daunting when you realize God’s mighty army of angels is backing your mission and ministry.

God tasks these wind walking fire bringing messengers with assisting us as we carry out His will.

Kind of stirs up courage doesn’t it? Risks don’t seem so much like risks when God’s backing us with His heavenly hosts.

There remains one thing for us to do. Quiet ourselves to the point we can hear Him.

cropped-BenHeadshotThanks for coming by.

Ssssshhhhhhhh… (listen today,)

Ben

If you missed any of the series, you can grab them here.