“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24
In my previous post, I talked about what we Christians are to pursue or run after. That made me think about how in a number of places, the Bible describes the Christian life as a race. In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul gives some advice on how to run that race. First he mentions the need for discipline:
“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.” 1 Corinthians 9:25
We can all testify to this. It takes self-control to follow God’s rules when sin is our default position.
Paul goes on to say that as Christians we have a goal, better than any worldly prize. We do not run aimlessly, but with purpose.
“They (athletes) do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
Even with an eternal reward in mind we can get tired, lose focus, or feel like giving up. Here are some words of wisdom from the author of Hebrews:
“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith …”Hebrews 12:1-2
On our own, we can never win the prize, but
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it on my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
Run with discipline.
Run with a goal.
Run with perseverance..
Run toward Jesus.
“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:3-8
Often we know what God asks of us, we just don’t want to do it. It may be difficult. It may cost us something. We may have to give up something we like, even if it isn’t good for us. It may hurt our ego to admit God’s plans are better than ours.
When I feel this way, I need to look at Jesus, who in Hebrews is called “the author and perfecter” of our faith. Jesus was willing to obey God, even when it meant giving up for a time the splendor of His godhead. He was willing to obey even when it cost Him his human life. He was willing to obey even when it meant dying the humiliating death of a criminal. The author of the book of Hebrews tells us:
“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Hebrews 12:4
No matter what obedience to God costs us, it cost Jesus more. He obeyed out of love for us. Surely we can obey out of love for God and others. In the end, obedience to God is for our own good.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
One of our other authors, Michele, asked me to post the last several Hebrews interactive studies for her. I hope you’ve been reading through Hebrews with her as much as I have!
In Chapter 11 we are told about faith.
“Faith is what our mind has that our emotions cannot change.”
I may be paraphrasing this quote from C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” but I feel this is one of the best definitions I have ever heard. As humans, our emotions can cause us to cycle back and forth on the way we feel, but our faith is something that our brain should never question.
Through our faith we come to understand the grace given to us. But we cannot come to faith without scripture. All of this works together to provide us with the food we need to mature in our faith.
Wow, we’re getting to the good part. There are so many beautiful verses in this section of Hebrews. How about …
“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.” Hebrews 10:1
I love that phrase … “the law has but a shadow of the good things to come.” Think about that. The best things of this life are only a shadow of the joy we will feel when we meet Christ face to face.
And how about this one:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
It’s telling us, don’t waste time! Enjoy the fellowship of other Christians! Encourage them! Spread the good news, so that others do not miss out on eternity with Jesus.
“Therefore do not throw away your confidence which has a great reward.” Hebrews 10:35
All of Hebrews up to this point has been telling us that we can rest assured of our salvation because Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of the law. We are reconciled with the father through His blood. He was the perfect and final sacrifice, and we no longer need to live up to God’s standards on our own.
This is a truly inspiring chapter– what do you think? What stands out for you?
For thousands of years, the priests of the temples sacrificed animals to atone for our sins. I cannot imagine how many animals were killed, but because they were not the perfect sacrifice, it never provided the perfect atonement necessary for us. We received the perfect sacrifice from Jesus Christ on the cross. The prior sacrifices were a constant reminder of our sinful nature and that we would never receive the complete atonement we craved. It took our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, to provide the necessary perfect sacrifice. The moment He did the first covenant was abolished, and the new covenant, the atonement of our sins through the blood of Christ, was installed.
What a wonderful gist He gave us.
God Loves You And So Do I
Okay so this time I am doing 2 chapters because they seem to need it.
In chapter 8 we are told Jesus was the perfect sacrifice and how because of his crucifixion we no longer have to sacrifice for our sins as per the old covenant. In Exodus (25:40) God tells us that there will be a new covenant coming. When Jesus came and was crucified, that is the new covenant. A perfect sacrifice for an imperfect world.
Chapter 9 goes into the rules of the old covenant in more detail. Now if you have ever read Leviticus (it took me 2 months) the rules and penalties for sin were pretty hard to keep track of.
I can tell you one thing for certain, if I had to sacrifice an animal every time I sinned – there would be no animals left on the planet.
Now God was gracious enough to give us a new covenant, but we didn’t follow the old one. I guess it is a good thing that with the new one we do nothing to receive His salvation.
Well these are my thoughts on these 2 chapters, what do you think? Leave a comment, let me know.
God Loves You And So Do I
“On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:18
Sometimes the church and the people in it disappoint us, because they’re not perfect. People can be rude, self-righteous or lack compassion. The church itself can become bureaucratic, rigid or even teach poorly. Be real! Sometimes we even disappoint ourselves when we lose our temper, gossip or exhibit other behavior that is clearly not Christlike.
This verse in Hebrews stands out to me because it clearly says we cannot expect perfection from humans or human systems. We cannot save ourselves by our actions, and we cannot save ourselves through church membership.
Thankfully we have a better hope–Jesus Christ. He is that anchor for the soul that we discussed in Chapter 6. He is how we are able to draw near and be reconciled to God. No wonder a rallying cry of the Reformation was Christ alone!
This chapter explains that Melchizedek was such a great priest, that even Abraham gave him a tenth of his plunder. The Bible does not give his genealogy, which is a little unusual, but we can come to the conclusion that he is someone who it regarded in very high esteem. But no matter how great he was he did die, whereas Jesus is the Great High Priest eternally. It goes further to explain that only Jesus can intercede for us with God because He has a pure soul. This just restates the knowledge that only through the Son, Jesus Christ, can we have a relationship with the Father, God.
See you soon for Chapter 8
God Loves You And So Do I
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that entered into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19-20
One of the reasons I love Hebrews is because it is full of some of the most beautiful and inspiring language in the Bible. The author of the book is unknown, but whoever he was, his talents as a writer are unsurpassed. The verse above contains one of the phrases that sticks in my mind and uplifts my spirits — “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.”
Going back to the image of the church as a ship, our hope in Christ is the ship’s anchor. That hope keeps the body of Christ steady and holds it in place. Without that hope, we would all be cut adrift and foundering, prey to the waves and storms.
What about you? What stands out in Chapter 6? Tell us your thoughts.