May 31, 2011

Wednesday after Rogation Sunday

Lectionary

Ps. 144, Jer. 14:1-9, 1 Jn. 5:5-15
Ps. 93, 99, Hosea 9:1-7, Lk. 24:44

Commentary

Yesterday's reading in Deuteronomy was a call for obedience and a promise of blessings. Today's reading in Jeremiah is a prayer for deliverance from the wages of sin. In Jeremiah, Israel has entirely deserted the Covenant of God. Every kind of evil flourished in Israel as the people turned from God and embraced the self-indulgent paganism around them. Everything God warned them to avoid, they embraced. Everything God told them to do, they rejected. But most of all, they rejected God. Many still went through the motions of serving God. They kept the services and ceremonies of the Covenant, but they would not keep God in their hearts.

So, all the blessings of the Covenant have been taken from them. Instead of the rains, God gave them drought. Instead of plenty, God gave them scarcity. Instead of God, God gave them spiritual emptiness and drought. Clearly God is willing to punish sinners. This is true of individuals and churches. But it is also true that God hears the prayers of those who repent. May God "leave us not."

May 30, 2011

Tuesday after Rogation Sunday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 80, Dt. 11:10-17, Mt. 6:24
Evening - Ps. 65, 67, 1 Kings 8:22-30, Jas. 4:8

Commentary

Egypt was dependent upon the Nile for water. Having very little rainfall, the land was watered by an annual flood. Attempts were made to create resevoirs and canals to catch and direct the water after the flood receded, but this required much physical labour. The method used required people to stand knee-deep in irrigation ditches for hours, directing the water by building mud dams with their feet. Obviously this was difficult and unsanitary work.

By contrast the Promised Land was watered by rains. There were a few natural lakes, such as Galilee, but the rains came with fairly dependable regularity, saving the residents the unhealthy work of building canals and ditches. This is the point made in our reading for this morning. Canaan "drinketh water of the rain of heaven (Dt. 11:10). It is a land cared for (watered) by God. Therefore the Hebrews entering Canaan are not to think they made the land fruitful by their own labours, or that the idols of the Canaanite tribes send the rains and give the increase.

It doesn't take much thought to see the application of this to our prayers for a fruitful season. We are recognising that it is not we who created the soil or cause the rain, and we are beseeching Him to mercifully send the sunshine and the rain so the earth may yield her fruit and we may live in plenty. But there is a warning in this passage, too. There is to be no turning aside (11:16) meaning to leave the ways of God and take up the ways of ungodliness. Nor are they to worship the gods of the Gentiles (11:16). If they do, the Lord's wrath will be kindled against them like a wildfire, and the rains will cease and the people will perish (11:17).

Applied to the Church today, the passage shows that turning away from God brings judgment upon us. The Spirit of God witholds His blessing, and spiritual drought becomes a nightmarish reality.

May 29, 2011

Monday after Rogation Sunday

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 104, Dt. 8:1-11, 17-20, Mt. 6:5-17
Evening - Ps. 34, Dt. 28:1-14, Jas. 1:1-17

Commentary

The days between now and Ascensiontide are called Rogation days because they are set aside as days of prayer. Rogation comes from a Latin word meaning to ask or pray, and we certainly have much to pray about at this time. As those in the Northern Hemisphere move toward summer, farmers are busy planting the crops and raising the animals that will feed us in the coming winter. Here, in Virginia, the spring hay crop has already been harvested, corn is nearly a foot tall, and the wheat is turning a golden brown. Vegetable gardens are thriving, promising good things to those who care for them. Naturally, agriculturally oriented societies spend much of their Rogation prayers asking God to bless their herds and crops so they will have the food they need. In more industrial societies people ask God to bless them with "honourable industry." Surely, as the Prayer Book reminds us, all can pray for sound learning, pure manners and to be saved from violence, discord, confusion, pride, arrogancy, and every evil way. Of course, it is important for those in industrial societies to remember that they, too, depend on the fruit of the earth for their sustenance. Therefore let them pray earnestly for good weather and a bountiful harvest. Floods and drought have already affected much of the world's food supply this year. Let us beseech God to deliver us from them, lest there be shortage and need.

Our reading in Deuteronomy 8 reminds us that our prosperity comes from God. Not only does He send the sunshine and the rain, He also "giveth thee power to get wealth" (Dt. 8:18). The land and soil are His creation. Our faculties of mind and thought are, also. It is He that enables us to harness the elements of nature and turn them to the benefit of humanity. The point of this passage is simple; "remember the Lord thy God" (8:18). The fruits of the earth and the inventions of industry are His gifts. Let us always value the Giver of all good things, more than we value His gifts.

"Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth; We beseech thee to pour forth thy blessing upon this land, and give us a fruitful season; that we, constantly receiving thy bounty, may give thanks unto thee in thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

~Collect for The Rogation Days

Sermon for Rogation Sunday, Fifth Sunday after Easter


Doing and Hearing
James 1:22
Rogation Sunday
May 29, 2011

James 1:22 expresses the point of the book of James; "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only."  This point is stated in other ways in other parts of the book, but the essential message is the same, and its repetition marks it as a point worth noting.  The point is simply this; faith that does not result in godliness of life is no faith at all.  Thus James writes "faith, if it hath not works, is dead," "shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works," and "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?"  (Jas. 2:17-20).

Why would James take the trouble to write this epistle and state this truth several times in several ways?  Isn't it because we forget it so easily?  Isn't it because we have a tendency to emphasise the promises of the Gospel and ignore its obligations?  Isn't it because we emphasise the Gospel's call to believe in Christ and go to Heaven, and neglect the Gospel's call to holiness and Godliness of life?  People often tell me they have been baptized and confirmed and they believe Jesus died for their sins, so they are saved regardless of the life they now live.  They use this line of reasoning to justify forsaking the Church, neglecting the Scriptures, remaining in churches that have denied the Bible, and indulging in activities and lifestyles that are blatantly unbiblical.  It is so easy to be like those in Isaiah 29:13 who honour God with their lips, but remove their hearts far from Him.  In other words, they give lip service to God, but won't give their hearts to Him.

It is not necessary to indulge in the "Big Sins" to be like those in Isaiah.  Such people may be outwardly moral and good, who do their jobs, pay their taxes, love their families, and help their communities.  The point is that their hearts belong to themselves, not God.  Therefore, their works actions, and even their faith are done for themselves, not God.  They take God on their own terms, not His.  The point James is making here is twofold.  First real faith consists of a genuine belief and trust in Jesus Christ as your Saviour.  It is to know and believe the Biblical teachings that He died for your sins, and that, in Him your sins are forgiven completely and forever, and you are going to Heaven because He has washed away your sins and dressed you in His righteousness so that now you are acceptable to God and worthy of Heaven.  Second, genuine, Biblical faith consists of accepting Christ as your Lord, your God, to whom you give your life and your soul.  It is to subjugate your own will to His in such a radical and complete way that the Bible calls it crucifying yourself to live for God.  We are naturally self-centered, but in Christ we become God-centered.  We are naturally self-indulgent, but in Christ we become self-disciplined.  We are naturally oriented toward things and money, but in Christ our treasures are in Heaven, and in God Himself.  But this does not happen overnight, and it does not happen without hard work and discomfort.  That's why most people, even those who call themselves Christians, never do it.  We are called to take up our cross, not our couch, that's why most people won't do it.  We are called to choose God's will over our will, that's why most people won't do it.  Paul, having suffered much for the cause of Christ, wrote from a Roman prison, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."  But of Demas he wrote, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world" (1 Tim. 4:7 & 10).  Demas only followed Christ as long as he was able to remain in his "comfort zone."  When he reached the end of his comfort zone, he also reached the end of his faith.  Traveling with the Apostle Paul, Demas learned all the doctrines, but his heart belonged to Demas, not God.  Many today are like Demas.  They love Jesus as long as they are in their comfort zone, but when the real test of faith comes, they find their heart really belongs to them, not Christ. They really love themselves above God.

So how can you know if you really love God?  Or, as James states it, how can you know if you really have Biblical "faith?"  Let me share some things that are not proof of faith.

Knowledge is not proof of faith.  I have already referred to Demas and his knowledge of doctrine he would have gained from Paul.  Yet, when the test came, when forced to choose between himself and God, Demas choose self.  He may have had great knowledge, but he had no faith.  Religious experiences are not proof of faith.  We read of times and places in which people have had profound religious experiences, only to deny the faith at a later date.  I am not talking about the obviously spurious experiences, such as "holy barking" where people crawl on their hands and knees and bark like dogs, saying the Holy Spirit leads them to do it.  I am talking about people who have gone to church and been emotionally moved by a sermon or a song which gave them a feeling euphoria and spirituality, but did not change their hearts.  I believe the vast majority of people in American churches this very day are such people, and their allegiance is to the experiences they get on Sunday mornings, not to Jesus Christ. Religious activities are not proof of faith.  We all know people who never miss a Sunday, never fail to give an offering, never fail in their religious activities, yet whose lives and conduct show beyond any doubt that their hearts do not belong to God.

This is the proof that you have real faith according to the Bible.  It is, first, that you trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour, as I spoke of a few minutes ago.  It is to believe He died for your sins and has given you an inheritance in Heaven forever as His free gift.  It is not only to believe this in your mind, as historical and theological fact.  It is to believe it in your heart in a way that leads you to trust in Him alone as your righteousness and acceptance before God.  Second, the proof of real Biblical faith is second that you trust in Christ as your Lord and God.  This means to have the kind of faith that moves you to love Christ above all things, even your own life.  It is to have the kind of faith that gives you a desire to live for Him and overcome sin and do righteousness that is so overwhelming it leads you to fight the good fight in your own life day and night, morning and evening for the rest of your life.  It is the presence of both of these dimensions of the faith that makes your faith real faith.  In short, real faith makes us become doers of the word, not hearers only.

"O Lord, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good. and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."
                                                                  ~ Collect for Rogation Sunday

May 27, 2011

Saturday after the Fourth Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 146, 149, Num. 24:22-25, Heb. 13:17

Evening - Ps. 148, 150, Is. 55, Eph. 6:10

Commentary

Today we complete this journey through the book of Hebrews.  The book has constantly kept our minds on Christ.  It has shown us from the start that Christ is the supreme and final revelation of God, and that we can only come to God through Him.  Having shown us that Christian Jews are to leave Judaism as surely as Christian Gentiles are to leave their former religion and come into the Church, verse 13 encourages us to not only join the Church, but also to honour the leadership and structure God has placed in it.  Being a Christian is not a life of splendid isolation, and those who believe they are under no Biblical injunction to join and attend Church have seriously misunderstood the Bible.  The Church is the Body of Christ and abides with Him and in Him now and forever, and, as long as we abide in this world we are not to forsake her services (Heb 10:25).

Furthermore, the Church is not anarchy.  It has structure and organisation, which includes men called to shepherd and teach the flock.  Every person in the Church is a servant of Christ, and, in that sense, is called to minister to the body.  Some are ordained to a unique ministry of teaching and preaching the word and leading the Church for the perfecting of the saints and the edification of the Body (Eph. 4:11-14).  Thus we are told to "obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves" (Heb 13:17).  We are to conduct ourselves in such a way that when they give an account of their ministry among us it will be a joyful report of our progress in Christ, not a sad report of our stubbornness  and murmuring.  

We are also to pray for our ministers to be faithful to us and to the Scriptures (13:18).  A minister's authority is not absolute.  He is not the Shepherd, he is an undershepherd.  The flock does not belong to him, it belongs to Christ.  So he only has authority to lead the flock according to the clear teachings of God as revealed in Scripture.  Hebrews ends with an exhortation to honour the ministers of the Church, and a greeting from Christians in Italy.

May 26, 2011

Friday after the Fourth Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 143, Num. 14:1-10, Heb 13:9-16
Evening - Ps. 130, 138, Is. 54:11, Eph. 6:1-9

Commentary

We are nearly at the end of the letter to the Hebrews.  Tomorrow’s reading will close our study of it for now.  Typical of St. Paul’s work, Hebrews closes with doctrinal references and applies them to the daily life of Christian faith. Verses 9-16 show how Christ, as the fulfillment of the Old Testament, relates to Jewish Christians.  They make it clear such Christians must leave Judaism and come into the New Israel, which is the Church.  “Strange," (13:9) means alien, and not in accord with the Gospel of Christ.  “Diverse” means shady and questionable.  The words refer to teachings that encourage people to continue in the Old Testament ceremonies, especially the dietary laws and sacrifices.  Such things have no more use, for the Christian’s heart is established by grace, not with diet and sacrifices (meats) that cannot make us holy.  Strange and diverse doctrines also refer to Gentile teachings that deny the Gospel.  Anything that is not of Christ is a strange and diverse doctrine.  This verse is especially applicable to us today, for many run after anything that appears exciting and new, readily abandoning the way Christians have believed and practiced from the beginning.  This tendency usually leads to apostasy and theological shipwreck.  Verses 10-12 refer back to Christ as the One who makes us holy by His blood, apart from anything we could ever do or offer.

13-16 are the conclusion and point of this section, and also serve to summarise the entire book.   Verse 13 states it well, “Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp.”  Using the fact that Christ was crucified outside of Jerusalem (13:12), and Moses met God outside the camp, verse 13 says Christianity must also go outside (without) of Judaism.  No more are we to keep the Jewish ceremonies.  Our sacrifices are works of kindness and thanksgiving, not animals (13:14-16).

May 25, 2011

Thursday after the Fourth Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 132, Num. 13:17-26, 30-33, Heb. 13:1-8
Evening – Ps. 145, Is. 54:1-10, Eph. 5:15

Commentary

This morning’s reading brings us into the closing paragraphs of the epistle to the Hebrews.  Having taught us about the nature and work of Christ, the Apostle now encourages us to be diligent about the everyday things of living for Him, especially in our relationship with one another in the fellowship of the Church. The theme of today’s reading is Christian love.  Because Christ loved us and gave Himself for us, we love Him, and His people, and our love shows itself in the way we live (13:1).  In love we entertain (show kindness and mercy0 to one another. We give aid to those being persecuted for the faith, and to those suffering adversity (13:2-3).  We conduct ourselves honourably in the home and keep ourselves sexually pure (13:4).  We conduct ourselves honourably towards one another’s possessions, not coveting, but being content with what we have, especially since we know we have the presence of God with us, and promises of the Gospel for our inheritance (13:5-6).  We conduct ourselves honourably toward those called by God to minister in the Church (13:7-8).  We remember that they have authority from God to preach and lead the Church, and we will treat them with due reverence as they lead us according to the Scriptures for our good and God’s glory.  The end of their conversation, meaning the goal and the result of their ministry, is to bring us into Jesus Christ (13:8).

May 24, 2011

Wednesday after the Fourth Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 128, 129, Num 12, Heb. 12:18
Evening – Ps. 135, Is. 52: 1-12, Eph. 5:1-14

Commentary

Hebrews 12:18-29 further compare and contrast the law given at Sinai with the Gospel given at the Heavenly Mt. Sion in the Heavenly Jerusalem, the City of God. The giving of the law showed the inability of man to enter into the presence of God.  Everything about the giving of the law showed the absolute holiness of God and the absolute unworthiness of man.  Even Moses trembled with fear at the presence of God (12:21).  But those coming to God through the sacrifice of Christ come unto God with confidence that, though they are sinners, God accepts them because Christ has made them acceptable through His blood.

The consequences of transgressing the law were terrible.  Even an animal accidentally touching the Mountain of God was to be killed (12:20).  Likewise, the consequences of transgressing the New Covenant of the Gospel are terrible.  And if people could not escape the consequences of breaking the Old Covenant given at Sinai, no one will escape the consequences of breaking the Covenant in Christ given in Heaven (12:25) for our God is a consuming fire (12:29).

Since, therefore, we are given, in Christ, a promise and Kingdom that cannot be “moved,” “let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”

May 23, 2011

Tuesday after the Fourth Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 124, 126, Num. 11:4-6, 10-15, 23,31-32, Heb. 12:1-17
Evening – Ps 121, 122, Is. 51:12-16

Commentary

The people of Hebrews 11 now become a great cloud of witness.  Their witness is first one of watching us who are now running our race.  The word picture given in Hebrews 12:1 is of the stadium with athletes on the track running a race.  Those who have already finished their courses now witness those on the track, cheering and encouraging them.  Second, They are those who bear witness to the absolute reliability of God.   They show that God was faithful to them; thus, we can expect Him to be faithful to us.  Third, and more importantly, they are witnesses as examples of living by faith.  In this sense, it is we who are doing the watching.  We watch them run their race by reading about them in the pages of Scripture.  By their example, we learn what it means to live by faith in our generation, as they lived by faith in theirs. Fourth, and most importantly, they are witnesses in the sense of one who tells another about Christ.  They lived in the promise of Christ.  They looked forward to that great Day when the Son of God would appear on earth and accomplish His great work of Redemption.

Still using the analogy of the athletic arena, Paul tells us to lay aside anything that will hinder us from running the course.  As the athlete lives an athlete’s life of training, diet, and dedication to the sport, the Christian lives a Christian’s life of self-discipline, prayer, worship, Bible study, and purity, trusting God just as the people in chapter 11 also trusted Him.

In verse 2 we see Christ as our example.  As the Author of our faith it is He who begins it in us.  As its finisher, He brings it to completion.  He brings us into faith and into God, by enduring the cross.  He was called to be our Saviour, and He was true to that calling unto death.  He endured the cross and the shame to gain the crown.  He ran His race.  He completed the course.  We who would be His must also be like Him.  We must not allow our faith to grow weak.  We must not give up.  The passage goes on to say our trials have the effect of chastening us.  We should no more expect a life without trials than a father without chastening.  Trials, then, are not a sign that God has deserted us, but that He loves us and is guiding us in His ways and growing us in faith.

To desert the faith over trials is to be like Esau (12:15-17), who sold his birthright for a bowl of stew.  How little he valued the calling and grace of God.  A bowl of stew was worth more to him.  As he gave his birthright away, and was unable to regain it, so the “Christian” who turns away from Christ and returns to habitual and intentional sin, will be unable to gain the Heavenly Kingdom, though he seek it with tears.

May 22, 2011

Monday after the Fourth Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 110, 114, Num. 10:29, Heb 11:32
Evening – Ps. 111, 113, Is. 51:1-11, Eph. 4:1-16

Commentary

The people of Hebrews 11 did what they did because they believed God.  Following the leadership of God, some were healed of disease, and some died horrible deaths.  It is impossible for us today to say to another, or to ourselves, that God will heal us, or give us whatever we ask for, if we only have faith.  God deals with us according to the counsel of His own will, and promises us that it will work to our good, if we love Him and are called, according to His purpose.  Our task is to trust and obey, no matter where His will takes us, no matter what it brings to us, either blessings or trials.  Verses 36-38 especially make this point.

This roll call of the faithful is intended to show two things.  First, faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (11:1).  We see God by faith, not by signs and wonders.  We walk with God by faith, not by religious experiences.  We know God is with us because we have faith, not because we “feel His presence.”  Signs and wonders, religious experiences and feelings are not proof God is working in your life, faith is.

Second, the people of Hebrews 11 lived in the era of promise; we live in the age of fulfillment (11:39-40).  Through faith they followed God according to the light given them by the Old Testament.  But that light only gave shadows of the Promise, which is Christ.  We live in the days of the Promised One.  He has come to earth and accomplished His great work of salvation.  The Old Testament saints saw this only dimly, as shadows on a wall.  Yet they lived in faith.  Yet they followed God, even at great cost.  We have seen the Light.  We see not shadows but the very form of God in Christ.  Let us therefore walk in faith accordingly.

Sermon for Fourth Sunday after Easter


Pursuing Happiness
James 1:17
Fourth Sunday after Easter
May 22, 2011

We all want good things in life.  We want comfortable homes, loving families, friends, enough money, good food, a little fun sometimes, and maybe even a vacation every now and then.  Truly these are good things, and they add quality to life. We also know about the human tendency to over reach and over want things, even good things.  The desire for recreation, for example, leads some to a quiet day at the lake, but others into drug addiction.  Our desire for adequate housing and provisions is easily perverted into a maddening lust for more money, more house, more of everything.  Thus, the quest for happiness can lead us into misery.  So how can we keep ourselves in check?  How can we know when to be content?  More importantly, how can we know what will actually contribute to our quality of life, and what will harm or destroy it?  James deals with this very issue in our Epistle for this morning.    Our cycle of worship and Scripture reading will take us into the book of James in late October, giving us a chance to look at the many themes addressed in this important book.  Our lesson for today touches on the absolute being and perfection of God, and the contrasting imperfection of humanity, coupled with an admonition that, as beings who are imperfect in knowledge and morals, we must conduct ourselves with humility and respect toward others by being swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath (Jas. 1:19). 

Our reading in James also addresses the sufficiency of Scripture as the revelation of the knowledge of God.  I want to dwell on this briefly today because many people, even people who profess to believe the Bible as the only authoritative rule of faith and practice, actually base their faith on religious experiences rather than Scripture.  When attempting to make important decisions in life, they look for signs from God, rather than principles in the Bible.  They look for religious experiences to confirm the reality of God and the truth of their faith.  These people say things like, “I know the Spirit is with us in worship because I can feel Him here.”  The problem is, the Holy Spirit is not a feeling.  These people are feeling emotions, not the Spirit.  How do you know the Spirit is with you in worship?  By faith.  When you do what the Bible teaches you to do in worship, you know God is with you because He said He is.  You don’t need a feeling or an emotion to “prove” it to yourself.  Faith is the substance and evidence that the word of God is true, as we read Friday in Hebrews 11:1.  That is the sufficiency of Scripture.

Now let’s return to that elusive subject, happiness.  Most people have bought the lie that happiness is based on circumstances.  Thus they think if they can land their dream job, marry their dream girl/guy, have their dream house, take their dream vacation, get their dream car, and get their dream bank account, they’ll be happy.  Yet happiness always seems to elude them.  As income increases some people just buy more expensive everything, entering a never ending cycle of buying euphoria followed by the usual return to normal, at which point the seek to re-enter the euphoric state by more buying, and none of it creates real happiness.  In fact, this cycle works against true happiness by making wage slaves of them.  They have to work because they need the money to buy more things, and to pay for the things they bought on credit to make them happy because they don’t like their job.  Isn’t that how it works?

So is it possible to escape this un-merry-go-round?  I’m not telling you to quit your job or move into a tent.  But I can give two hints at how to be happy.  First, be content.  Much of our unhappiness comes from refusing to be content with what God has given us or where God has placed us.  Like George Bailey, we’re always dreaming of far way places rather than enjoying where we are.  Through the magic of Clarence, Angel Second Class, George Bailey was enabled to appreciate his life and be content.  He was able to realize he actually had a wonderful life.  God is not going to send an angel to show you what the world would be like without you.  God has given you His word and His promise that all things work together for your good if you love Him (Rom. 8:28).  So trust God, and be content where He has placed you at this moment in life.  That’s the first secret of happiness.

Second, desire what God wants to give.  Yes, God wants to give many things to us, but the primary thing He wants to give is Himself.  We call His self-giving, salvation, meaning we are forgiven of sin and bound for Heaven, and this is correct as far as it goes.  But we need to see that God forgave our sins, gave us His word and Spirit and Church and sacrament, and will one day take us to Heaven so we could do what the people who wrote the Westminster Shorter Catechism called, “the chief end of man,” which is, “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”  The Bible has much to say about this; I will call to mind two well-known verses.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 Jn. 2:15-16).

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”

Love what God wants to give, and you will be happy.  Let us pray.

“O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou doest promise, that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

May 20, 2011

Saturday after the Third Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps.99, 100, Ex. 34:1-10, 29-35, Heb. 11:17-31
Evening – Ps. 23, 30, Is. 50:4-10, Eph. 3:13

Commentary

Looking at Abraham, let us be clear that God is not telling anyone to sacrifice someone as a test of faith today.  It may seem odd to see such an obvious statement in today’s commentary, but it is here for the same reason hand lotion containers have to have warnings; “Not for internal use.”  So, “Don’t try this at home.”

Now let us look at our reading for this morning, Hebrews 11:17-31.  This passage continues to show how people in the Old Testament trusted the promise of God.  Abraham is the primary example.  Promised an inheritance of land and descendants, He believed God and ordered his life according to the promise.  He trusted God even when it looked like the promise could not be kept.  Thus, Abraham knew God would somehow be true, and he would return with Isaac alive and well (Gen. 22:5).  This is the meaning of Hebrews 11:19.  The point is that Abraham trusted God and acted accordingly.

Trusting God applies as much to us as to Abraham.  Though not called to literally sacrifice children or people to God, we are called to trust God’s promise and providence when it comes to the people and things we love most in this world.  Do we love God enough to trust Him with these things?   Do we trust Him with our children, grand children, parents, and siblings? Do we trust Him with life as well as eternity?  Will we live our lives with faith in the Promise of God in Christ, as Abraham lived with faith in the promise of Genesis 21:12 and Hebrews 11:18, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called”?

May 19, 2011

Friday after the Third Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps.94, Ex. 33:7, Heb. 11:1-16
Evening – Ps. 103, Is. 49:13-23, Eph. 3:1-12

Commentary

Having taught us of the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ, warned us against apostasy, and encouraged us to trust in Christ to the very end, St. Paul now shows several examples of faith in the Old Testament.  Their example is given to encourage us to be faithful as they were, but they are also given to show that what God gave to them was truly a free gift gift  received by faith, not something they earned through good deeds or keeping Old Testament ceremonial laws.  Many of these people actually antedated the ceremonial laws, but were received by God because they trusted in Him.  In other words, they were saved by grace through faith, not of works, lest they boast of their accomplishment (see Eph. 2:2-9).  One commentator has captured the essence of the meaning of today's passage, especially verse 1.  He wrote:

“In Old Testament times…there were many men and women who had nothing but the promises of God to rest upon without any visible evidence that these promises would ever be fulfilled; yet so much did these promises mean to them that they regulated the whole course of their lives in their light.  The promises related to a state of affairs belonging to the future; but these people acted as if that state of affairs were already present, so convinced were they that God could and would fulfill what He had promised.  In other words, they were men and women of faith. Their faith consisted simply in taking God at His word and in directing their lives accordingly; things yet future so far as their experience went were thus present to faith, and things outwardly unseen were visible to the inward eye.  It is in these terms that our author now describes the faith of which he has been speaking” (F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 277).

The people named in Hebrews 4-12 are often called heroes of faith, but they would probably rather be known as people who were saved by grace.  And salvation by grace is the point of this passage.  By grace, God promised them an inheritance.  That inheritance was symbolized in things like children and land, but it was far more than these things, it was God Himself.  Thus, even though Abraham did not technically own the Promised Land, He did inherit a better country, which is the country, or city, of God (vs. 16).

By faith they believed God and directed their lives as if what God had promised was already theirs.  This is just what we are called to do as New Testament believers.  By grace God has promised full forgiveness and reconciliation with Him.  By faith we act like forgiven people.  By grace God has given Christ to be the propitiation for our sins.  By faith we trust Christ to remove all our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.  By grace God has promised to take us to a land where the troubles of earth, the temptations of sin, and the barriers between ourselves and God will be only dim memories, and we will enjoy His glory forever.  By faith we conduct and order our lives in the light of that promise.

May 18, 2011

Thursday after the Third Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 91, Ex. 32:21-24,30-34, Heb. 10:26
Evening – Ps. 97, 98, Is. 49:1-12, Eph. 2:11

Commentary

Having taught us of the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ, the book of Hebrews turns again to an exhortation to faithfully trust and obey Him fully and forever.  The exhortation begins with a dire warning, found in Hebrews 10:26-31.  Commenting on Hebrews 6:4-8 I wrote that I hope these verses cause you to fear (May 8, 2011).  I have the same hope for this passage.  I say this because these verses teach the terrible consequences of falling away from Christ. Sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth (10:26) does not refer to the constant failures and sins we commit in our daily battle to conquer sin and live for Christ.  The sin of verse 26 is willfully deserting the faith.  It is turning away from Christ and returning to the life of self-indulgence and self-direction.  It is to remove Christ from the throne of your life, and to re-enthrone yourself as king and god of yourself.  It is to live in unrepentant rebellion against God. It is, to draw back from Christ and return to perdition (10:39). What happens to a person who has professed Christ, but now has turned away from Him?  Is that person “saved?”  No.  Hebrews 10:26 says such a person now has no sacrifice for sin.  That person has rejected the only sufficient sacrifice, the only one that can cleanse the soul and make him acceptable unto God.  That person, therefore, has no way to atone for his sins.  He will stand before God in his sins, and for his sins he will be lost.  Thus verse 27 says he has only a certain, fearful expectation of judgment.  “Certain,” in this verse, means absolute.  There is no question about it. It will happen as surely as God exists.  Verses 28 & 29 prove this by the Old Testament, which records that people perished for disobeying the law that was given through Moses.  If disobeying that law was a grievous crime, surely the rejection of Christ, Immanuel, God with us, is more heinous and more worthy of wrath.  Such a person has trodden underfoot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant (the blood Christ shed on the cross) as unholy.  He counts the blood of Christ as not the blood of the Most High given for our sins, but as common and defiled and without value. Verse 30 quotes the words of Deuteronomy 32:35 and applies them to the one who has treated the Son of God so despicably.   Verse 31 concludes the warning; it is a fearful thing for such people to fall into the hands of the living God.

Now the passage moves into a word of encouragement.  It is based on the confidence of 10:39, “we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”  The heart of this passage is verse 35, “cast not away therefore your confidence.”  We could restate this verse as, hold fast to Christ in faith.  The original recipients of this epistle had faced serious opposition and persecution when they became Christians (32-34).  This opposition came from family and friends as well as the larger community. Yet they did not desert Christ.  Nor did they desert the Apostle Paul, who was often in chains and prison for his faith in Christ (Heb 10: 34).  Just as they stood firm in the faith then, they are encouraged to stand firm now, that they may receive their reward.

May 17, 2011

Wednesday after the Third Sunday ater Easter


Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 89:1-19, Ex. 32:1-7,15-20, Heb. 10:15-25
Evening – Ps. 90, Is. 48:12-21, Eph. 2:1-10

Commentary

Today’s reading can be summarized under three headings.  First, found in Hebrews 10:15-18, reiterates the theme of verse 14, the absolute redemption accomplished by the one sacrifice of Christ.  Verse 15 refers to the words of the Old Testament Scriptures as the Holy Ghost bearing witness.  The Holy Ghost inspired and directed the prophets and authors of the Old Testament, so it is perfectly natural and right to say that in them the Holy Ghost testifies to the truth of what we read in Hebrews.  Several passages from the Old Testament are quoted, bringing us to the point, stated in verse 18, that there is no more offering for sin.  The Bible is saying God will no longer remember our sin under the New Covenant.  That means He will not hold us responsible for its penalty.  How can this be?  It is only possible if God bears the cost of our sin in Himself, instead of requiring it from us. In other words, God must suffer for our sins in our places.  This was accomplished in Christ on the cross.  In Him God made the one full and sufficient sacrifice that is able to bear the cost of our sin, forever.  There is no more offering for sin because the price has been paid in full and no more offerings are needed.

Second, made in verses 19-21, is the point that we now have boldness to enter into the holiest (presence of God, vs. 19) because our sins are forgiven through the one full and sufficient sacrifice of the blood of Christ.  Compare our boldness in coming to God with the fear and temerity of the people under the Old Covenant.  They came with blood offerings lest God take their own blood.  They came not into the Holy of Holies, knowing they would die if they dared enter into the direct presence of God it symbolised.  Even the High Priest feared to enter the Holy of Holies, lest God may be displeased with Israel, and strike him dead.  But we, confident that our sins have been forgiven completely because of the sacrifice of Christ, dare to call upon God and enter His presence with confidence and boldness.  Our boldness is not irreverent or glib.  Our entrance into the presence of God is reverent and respectful.  It is not arrogance; it is faith.  It is our confidence that Christ has washed away our sins and made us acceptable unto God that allows us come to Him as His beloved children to our Father.

Third, verses 21-25 encourage us to “draw near” to God through Christ.  He is our assurance of acceptance (10:22).  We are also encouraged to hold our faith securely without wavering.  That is, we are to be faithful to the end as Christ Himself was faithful to us (23).  We are to encourage one another to remain in the faith and to let our lives show our faith through love and good works.  Finally, we are to attend the worship and fellowship opportunities of the Church (25).  Hebrews 10:25 does not get much “press” these days because our view of following Christ is often considered only in terms of our personal salvation and relationship with Christ.  But we have over emphasized the individual aspect and almost abandoned the corporate aspect of following Christ.  We often think the Church is optional, and that its only function is to bring others to Christ, which we can do on our own (so it is said).  But Christ is calling us to be a part of His new people, new family, new nation, new body, and we are members of one another as much as we are members of Him.  Thus we are not to be absent when the Church assembles. We are to be present and active in a Biblical Church.

May 16, 2011

Tuesday after the Third Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 86, Ex. 28:1-4, 29-38, Heb. 10:1-14
Evening – Ps. 84, 117, Is. 46:3-13, Eph. 1:15

Commentary

Today’s reading continues to emphasise the finality and supremacy of the life and work of Christ in accomplishing His peoples’ redemption.  The Old Testament ceremonies and sacrifices were but a shadow of Him.  Verse 1 makes the point that a shadow is not even a full image or replica.  It is but an outline, a silhouette.  Christ is much more than a shadow, or even an image; He is the very presence of the good things to come.  They have arrived in Him.  In Him we have received eternal redemption. In Him, we are in God, and God is in us.  Verses 1-8 explain the temporary nature of the Old Testament ceremonial and sacrificial laws.  The very fact that they needed to be constantly repeated shows their temporary status.  If they had been able to accomplish redemption they would not have needed to be repeated.

Christ accomplished full and eternal redemption by His one sacrifice of Himself.  Verses 9-14 are about the full salvation purchased for us by His one, full, perfect, and all sufficient sacrifice.  The conclusion of this section is that “by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (10:14).

May 15, 2011

Monday after the Third Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps.85, Ex. 25:1-11, 17-22, Heb. 9:15
Evening – Ps. 77, Is. 45:20, Eph. 1:1-14


Commentary

Hebrews 9:1-14 brought us to understand the finality and full sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice.  His offering of Himself on the cross pays in full the price of our sins and restores us to God.  The animal sacrifices and ceremonies of the Old Testament could never accomplish this, but God can and did in Christ.  Thus we are free from the dead works of the ceremonial law.  Attempts to continue or revive them are actually insults to Christ, which is why Galatians 1:6 says such people have left Christ for another gospel.  This mornings reading continues to insist that the Old Covenant, was temporary, and has been fulfilled in the work of Christ and in calling together the New Israel (Church) in the New Covenant.  The point of Hebrews 9:15-28 is that Christ did not come to continue the Old Covenant but to be the mediator of the New Covenant.

This point is made first by comparing the Old Covenant to a will, which takes effect at the death of the person making the will.  The point is that the promises of the Old Testament become the possession of God’s people at the death of the One making the will, God.  Thus, when Christ died, the promises became ours.   The Church no longer lives in anticipation of the promises, but in the reality of them.

The point is made second by showing that the people and Tabernacle of the Old Covenant were “purified” with the blood of animals, but the New Covenant and its Tabernacle, which is the true Tabernacle in Heaven, is purified with the blood of Christ Himself.  The old Tabernacle was a pattern (copy) of the true Tabernacle (9:23), and Christ entered into the true Tabernacle and holy place with His own blood to bring us into God.

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Easter


Why Not?
1 Peter 2:11-17
Third Sunday after Easter
May 15, 2011

Why would anyone not give himself to the enjoyment of the pleasures of the flesh?  Why would anyone restrain himself and even abstain from them?  That is the question before us in the Epistle for this morning, 1 Peter 2:11-17.  We all know the answer most people would give to this question.  “There is no reason,” they would say, “to deny yourself the pleasures of the flesh.  They are natural and good and you should enjoy them while you can.”  Most people would say that the one guide to their enjoyment is that they not hurt anyone else, but many, quite obviously don’t even recognise that guide, and they indulge themselves freely, regardless of the consequences to other people.  Listening to any news program on any day will confirm this fact with seemingly endless reports of crime, corruption, and violence.  The Bible demands restraint from us.  The Commandments of God are often as much about the things thou shalt not do as about the things thou shalt do.   Why is this?  What is it about our physical desires that makes the Bible, and most thinking people, believe their unbridled indulgence is not in our best interest?

Let me name one thing that is not a reason to “abstain from fleshly lusts” as St. Peter put it in today’s reading.  We do not abstain in order to earn our way to Heaven.  I know I spend a lot of your time repeating this, but I do so because it is important.  We cannot earn our way to Heaven because our good deeds cannot atone for our sins.  The only way we can ever get to Heaven is if God gives it to us as a free gift.  When I was in seminary a statement was bantered around in most of the classes.  It was meant to be funny, but it was also true.  It said,   “Heaven is a gift; grades are earned.”  There is much truth in those words.  We can earn our wages.  We can earn respect, friendship, and even love, but we can never earn Heaven.  We must receive it as a gift from God.

So why do we abstain from the wanton pursuit of pleasure if abstention won’t get us into Heaven?  One reason is that it is good for us.  I mentioned that many people in the world agree that there should be some kind of control on human behavior.  Some advocate very strict control, while others think only minimal control is necessary, but most agree that some control is needed.  We could assume that calls for stricter control come from narrow minded bigots if it were not for the obvious fact that uncontrolled pleasure seeking causes much of the sorrow and suffering people endure in this world.  Seeking their own gratification, people have a tendency to ignore or abuse the basic rights and needs of others.  Without controls, some would party all night with loud music that disturbs the sleep and peace of their neighbors.  And that is only a mild example; we have only to watch the crime reports in the news to see more serious and deadly examples.

Having some controls is good for society, it is also good for us because much of our pleasure seeking is accomplished through self-destructive behavior.  Drugs, alcohol, the party life, and thrill seeking obviously have deadly potential.  But seemingly innocent, harmless acts can have lasting consequences, as any teen-age mom can attest.  To keep us from danger, God has given us His Word, which tells us to avoid some behaviours  because they are destructive, and pursue others because they are constructive.

Peter makes the point that abstaining from certain things and devoting ourselves to others honours God.  In other words, we abhor evil and do good because we love God.  We love the One who first loved us and went to the cross to forgive our sins.  We love the One who gives life to our souls and promises Heaven as a gift from Him to us.  We love the One who is love itself, therefore we love to please Him.  We rejoice that our good works glorify God in the day of visitation or in any other day or way He wishes to use them (1 Pet. 2:12).

Christians abstain from evil and pursue good that by our well doing we may “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Pet. 2:15).  Christians in Peter’s day were being falsely accused of much evil.  Killing babies, political rebellion, and the destruction of the home and family were but a few of the many charges leveled against the Church.  These accusations were the beginning of a terrible persecution of the Church that lasted more than 250 years and unjustly took the lives of countless people, whose only crime was believing in Jesus.  Naturally the Christians wondered how they should respond to the persecution.   Peter is telling them not to become belligerent or vengeful, but to live quietly, morally, and justly in their communities.  They are to do right, and trust God in every situation.  This will prove to the world that the accusations against them were false, and silence the ignorance of foolish men.  It did, but at what a cost.  And yet, the more they persecuted the Christians, the more sympathetic people became to them.  Gradually the Roman Empire developed a respect and compassion for the Christians that caused many to actually seek them out and convert to their faith. 

This brings us to the final reason why we should always keep our actions and desires under control, it is a testimony to those who are outside of Christ.  I refer you again to 1 Peter 2:12.

“Having you conversation (way of life) honest among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

The day of visitation is the day they stand before God to be judged.  Peter is saying that on that day, even if they are condemned for sin and unbelief, people will see that Christians were right and the persecution of them was a terrible and wicked act.  They will see that they should have followed the Christians into the presence of the grace of God.  They will see that the Gospel of Christ is peace to the soul, and Christ Himself is the way the truth and the life, and no man cometh to God but through Him.  Hopefully, many of those persecuting Christians will recognise this before they face the Judgment Day.  Perhaps your life of faithfulness to God will be one of the things God uses to bring them into Christ.

“Almighty God, who showest to them that are in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness; Grant unto all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s Religion, that they may avoid those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”

May 13, 2011

Saturday after the Second Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 72, Ex 24:1-11, 16-18, Heb. 9:1-14
Evening – Ps. 33, Is. 45:5-12, 15-19, 1 Pet. 5:8

Commentary

Hebrews 9:1-5 describes the Tabernacle as God directed it to be built in the wilderness of Sinai.  The plan of the Tabernacle was given directly to Moses, and was followed strictly in the Temple built by Solomon.  The point of this passage is the temporary nature of the Tabernacle and its services.  This is shown in verses 6 & 7, which tell of the repetitive nature of the services.  The priests entered daily into the holy place, and the high priest entered annually into the Holy of Holies to conduct the services and worship of God.  So, the temporary effects of the service illustrate the temporary nature of the entire system.

Verses 9 and 10 make another important point; access to the presence of God, symbolized by the Holy of Holies, is no longer prevented by a physical barrier.  In Christ the veil, which acted as a barrier to separate the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Sanctuary, is removed and access to God is open to anyone who will come to Him.  Meat and drink offerings and washings (9:10 & 13) are now irrelevant to the real worship of God.  Under the Old Covenant, they had their place and function, but the sacrifice of Christ alone can purify the heart and bring a person into the true Holy of Holies.  Verse 14 makes an excellent point about the Old Testament sacrifices and services.  They did what God wanted them to do, and they did it effectually.  They made a person symbolically clean and allowed him to participate in the covenant community of Israel.   If such small sacrifices could accomplish their purpose, then the surpassing value of the sacrifice of the Son of God is also able to accomplish its purpose, the complete forgiveness of our sins and the complete restoration of our souls to God.  If this has been accomplished for us in Christ, we are free from the need for meat and drink offerings (dead works) to serve the Living God through faith in Christ (9:14).

Friday after the Second Sunday after Easter


Due to maintenance being done on the blog host computers, I was unable to post this morning's commentary until well after noon.  I hope this caused no problems.

Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 51, Ex. 20:1-21, Heb 8
Evening – Ps. 73, Is. 44:24-45:4, 1 Pet. 5:1-7

Commentary

Chapter 8 begins to state the sum, or, conclusion, of what has been said in previous chapters, especially chapter 7.  The sum is that the Old Testament office of priesthood ended when Christ, the Priest of the order of Melchisidec, appeared.  Equally important, the Old Covenant ended when the New Covenant began (8:13).  In future studies we will consider the nature of the relationship between the Old and New Covenants (Testaments).  For now lets us simply say that the Old Testament parts that have ended are those which foreshadowed the ministry of Christ.  They have ended, but they are not dead.  They continue in their fulfillment in Christ Jesus and in the New Israel, which is the New Testament Church.  Thus, for example, we no longer call people clean or unclean because of the food they eat, for those in Christ are clean by virtue of His atoning death, and those outside of Christ are unclean in their souls, regardless of what they eat.  Our spiritual cleanness in Christ fulfills the symbolic cleanness of foods in the Old Testament.  So the Old Covenant is waxed old and vanishes away not because it is useless, but because it is fulfilled in Christ. Both are important to us because both chronicle the history of Redemption (see the blog entry for Easter Sunday, "The Story of Redemption" for more information).

Christ fulfilled the Old Testament priesthood and now resides at the right hand of the Heavenly Majesty (8:1).  The Heavenly Majesty is God, and the meaning is that Christ has returned to the place of honour in the Divine glory of the Trinity.  His true work was and is accomplished in the Heavenly Sanctuary, of which the Temple was a symbol, or shadow (8:2-5).

Christ, the substance of which the Old Testament was the shadow, has a more excellent ministry than the Old Testament priests because He is the mediator of a better covenant (8:6).  The Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant.  Verse 8 refers to Jeremiah 31:31, but the New Covenant is promised in other verses also.  The New Covenant people will have the law of God in their hearts (8:10) and they will all know God (8:11).  Verses 6-13 tell us much about the New Covenant, all building upon the truth stated in 7:25, that Christ’s Covenant and dying gift to His people is their complete salvation and restoration to God.

May 11, 2011

Thursday after the Second Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 66, Ex. 19:1-7, 16-20, Heb 7:12
Evening – Ps. 71, Is. 44:9-20, 1 Pet. 4:12

Commentary
 
The major point being made in Hebrews 7 is that the Old Testament priesthood was a temporary institution, while the priesthood of Christ is eternal.  Just as the priests themselves were not permanent, but passed their office on to another at death, so their order of priesthood was also temporary, and would be passed on to another who will continue in it forever.  Melchisidec is eternally a priest, Aaron was temporary.

The ministry of the order of Melchisidec supersedes the Old Testament priests’ ministry.  Their ministry has ended, but the ministry of Christ continues.  Even now He “ever liveth to make intercession” (7:25).  His ministry surpasses theirs because He accomplished it with a single sacrifice, while theirs required daily sacrifices (7:27).  His ministry surpasses theirs because He is able to save to the uttermost (7:25).  His ministry accomplished our salvation, theirs symbolized it. 

May 10, 2011

Wednesday after the Second Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 63, Ex. 18:13, Heb. 7:1-11
Evening – Ps. 65, Is 44:6-8, 21-23, 1 Pet. 4:7-11

Commentary

Hebrews, chapter 6 closed with a quote from Psalm 110:4 and a reference to Genesis 14:18-20.  Our reading in Hebrews 7 explains how Christ is a Priest of the order of Melchisidec.  The identity of Melchisidec is a topic of much discussion among students of Scripture.  He is noted as the King of Salem, which means King of Peace, and the inference in the book of Hebrews is that he is an appearance of Christ in the Old Testament.  Thus, verse 2 calls Him the King of Righteousness to whom Abraham offered a tithe.  He is also noted as being without parents and without descent.  Christ is eternally God, so God the Father is not His parent in the same sense that our human fathers and mothers are ours.  He has no “beginning of days nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually” (7:3).

Melchisidec is a greater priest than the Levitical priests of the Old Testament because they paid tithes to Him through Abraham (7:5).  Note also that Melchisidec predates the Levitical priesthood (7:6) and that His office did not pass to another at His death.  Finally, His priesthood brings His people to perfection, which the Levitical priesthood could never do.

May 9, 2011

Tuesday after the Second Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 50, Ex. 18:1-12, Heb. 6:13
Evening – Ps. 61,62, Is. 43:15-21 & 44:1-3, 1 Pet. 4:1-6

Commentary

Abraham is an example of a person who inherited the promises through faith and patience (6:15).  He patiently endured in the faith, though it was not always easy for him.  He inherited the earthly Promised Land through his descendants, but he inherited the Kingdom of Heaven as the promise of God. Canaan was but a symbol of the Heavenly Promised Land.

The promises of God are immutable.  In verse 17 it says the counsel of God is immutable, but the counsel of God includes His promises.  We could interpret the verse as saying the word of God is immutable, meaning the word of God is His bond and He will not break it.  His word is confirmed by an oath.  God swears by Himself, making it evident that His word is indeed a promise.  He binds Himself to keep His promise, that those who trust in Christ in Biblical faith, will inherit the promise, and those who do not trust in Him to the end, will not.

This promise is an anchor of hope in a sea of troubles (6:19).  It gives us faith to continue on, steadfast to the end.  It keeps us anchored in Christ, and Christ Himself is “within the veil” the Holy of Holies, which is the right hand of God in Heaven.

May 8, 2011

Monday after the Second Sunday after Easter


Lectionary

Morning – Ps. 49, Ex. 17:8, Heb. 6:1-12
Evening – Ps. 47, 48, Is. 43:8-13, 1 Pet. 3:13

Commentary

Hebrews 6 continues to warn us not to neglect the salvation purchased for us by God in Christ.  The heart of this warning is terrible and frightening, for its message is that those who appear to begin to follow Christ in the life of faith, but stop following Him, will not become followers of Christ again.  “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance” (Heb. 6:4-6).

I truly hope these verses cause you to fear.  Most people don’t pay much attention to them because they immediately call up all their defensive tactics that tell them once saved always saved, and that such people were never saved in the first place.  That is true, but that is not the point, because they believed they were saved, and they made a start at living the Christian life.  But at some point and for some reason, they quit.  They either found out that they really don’t believe, or they decided they aren’t really willing to live the Christian life.  They were probably quite happy to believe Jesus died for their sins, be baptized, and do a few churchy things as long as it was convenient and easy for them, but when following Christ began to require trusting Him in difficult situations and sacrificing personal goals and desires to live for Him, they simply quit.  Such people will probably continue to convince themselves that they are Christians, but in reality, they are not.  So the “moral of the story” is found in verse 12, “be not slothful, but followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”