BSF Acts: Week 13, Day 4: Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12

Summary:

Have you every watched a herding dog work?  Part of the time it is out in front, leading the way, then it loops to the back, side to side, nipping at the heels as necessary to keep everyone on course, then back out in front again.  Hebrews 12, to me, is the personification of a herding dog.  The first verses are the dog, out in front – this way, here we go, keep going, doing great.  The last verses are back behind – don’t get off path, stay the course, are you insane, do you know what happened to the Israelites who just touched the mountain, nip, nip.  And I particularly love the very center of the chapter – verse 14-15 – Be holy and don’t let anyone miss the grace of God. (that is what it is all about, right?).

 

Questions:
9. a. what you must reject (verse 1a): shame, guilt, inadequacy, pride, self-reliance, self-confidence, distraction, wavering, (baggage and sin)
b. with perseverance – my own race (the one marked out for me)
c. on Jesus

10. a. It is provided in love and for training, not punishment.  It is provided by a loving Father for my growth and development.  I am allowed to receive the rewards eternally from the pain of the short-term training.
b.

1. Pray: One way to exercise your arms and knees is to bend them together, like we do when we pray

2. Work: Another is to get out and do good works for the kingdom.  Help, the poor, the widows and orphans, the disabled, those in need – for the purpose of serving God, not man.

3. Stay on the course: When the running gets hard it is easy to want to go rest under that nice oak tree, just for a little bit.  God stays to stay on the course, not off in the weeds.  We can become so distracted by “easy self-help guides” that we forget that we are given challenges to teach us to rely on God not ourselves. (duh!)

4. Play well with others:  There is no extra prize for getting through life first, but there are eternal rewards for running in a pack with others helping them even as they help you.

5. Be holy.

c. (Personal) My family, coworkers, those in mission work that I help support, other BSF leaders and HQ, my co-leader in BSF, my pastors and elders of my church, my family and the 16 kids in my class.

11. The analogy I think of is that of electricity.  Under the old covenant, the work was not complete.  The power was there, turned on and all could feel and knew of its presence, but any misstep was deadly – not out of threat or punishment, but out of reality.  Under the new, the work is complete, the electricity lights the landing field, sending a beacon of welcome to all believers to come home.
12. Following the analogy – do not mistake: the pretty lights are lit by the same power – and now that they are on and fully lit we have no excuse or justification for not following the beacon.  Choosing to not follow God is far more deathly than accidentally coming too close to him in the old testament.  In the old, they lost their earthly life, in the new someone loses their eternal life.

13. a. Hero worship – I think we are living in a generation and a time of information and communication that hero worship (except for the fanatical) is gone.  No man is good and thus no man is great.  In the past, blemishes were hidden and people were idolized.  Today it is all but assumed that those who have risen to power are flawed and deceitful. 

b.By being unshakable in my faith and devotion.  By not wavering from the path.  By keeping my focus on Jesus.

Conclusions:

1. I loved part 5 of question 10b – be holy.  It made me think.  Most of us have some sensibility of what we would do or bring into church.  We wouldn’t stand up in a church and start cussing.  We wouldn’t go to church and take money from the offering plate to line our own pockets.  We wouldn’t bring pornography or drugs or other vices into church.  But church is not a place, it is a body – my body as a believer.  Why would I do or bring any of those things into this church any more than I would into the four walled structure.  It gave me some new thoughts about being holy.

2.  Question 13a – Wow, that sounded cynical – Please don’t mistake this for a lack of admiration and respect for those who live a humble life of service to God and the church.  That is not what I mean.  But I think there was an era, maybe our parents generation, maybe grandparents, where people admired “great men”.  The history books seem to be filled with them.  But my sense is that the people of today are not better or worse than those of history, but the information we have about them is more honest.  The history books are filled with men of honor and duty to principle and values.  The people in equivalent positions today are accused of adultery, child molestation, transmitting nude pictures, etc., etc.  The higher we try to climb on our own self worth, the harder we fall under the light of scrutiny and information.  But those who lead as servants, who serve in prayerful obedience to God, those are the ones to be modeled. 

The people I look up to the most?  Those who spend the most time down on their knees!

BSF Acts: Week 13, Day 2: Hebrews 11:1–16

Hebrews 11:1–16

Summary:

What does it mean to have faith?  It is more than recognizing who Jesus is, even the demons did that.  It is to abide in a relationship for all eternity with God and the heavenly host.

Questions:

3. a. Our belief in the accomplished work of Christ is both the foundation or underlying reality of our eternal relationship with Christ and also the demonstration or proof of His eternal relationship with us.

Said another way – faith is neither cause or effect, it is a mutual relationship and covenant – like friendship, love, peace and joy, shared and enjoyed together in a the family of believers with God.

b. Many people think of faith as action you take when there is uncertainty – blind faith, leap of faith.  Others think of faith as a system or structure: Christian faith, Jewish faith, Islamic faith. Finally, some think of it as confidence or trust in another: I have faith in you.

4. Abel was commended as a righteous man.

Enoch was commended as one who pleased God.

Noah by his faith condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Abraham made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country.

Sarah gave birth because Abraham considered God faithful

5. Each home land has culture, norms, traditions, laws and practices.  Do I live as a citizen of the Unites States and adapt to its culture and norms?  Do I live as a citizen of earth and abide in those practices?  Or do I compare my eternal life (starting now) with other heavenly citizens (such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham) and abide in heavenly principles?

Conclusion:

I probably spent way too much time on Hebrews 11:1, but I found it fascinating.  When you look at the greek words that make up the verse there is even more of a richness than is evident in english. 

For example, the first part (being sure of), the word used in greek is hypostasis, a word still used today, to mean the substantial quality or nature of something that makes it what it is, the substructure, foundation, substance or real being.  The word is a feminine noun – the DNA of being a christian – the core building block.

Then in the second part (certain of what), the word used in greek is elegchos, a masculine noun meaning proof, that by which a  thing is proved or tested.  It is what demonstrates it to be true. Evidence.

Finally, the thing that we are certain of but do not see is the word pragma, meaning “that which has been done, a deed, an accomplished fact.”

My take away from this was that faith is both the basis of what makes us christian and the proof that we are christian.  But contrary to common usage, it is not a one way street (I have faith in God), but instead it is two way, a relationship, male and female.  God also puts His faith and trust in me to be part of His family.

BSF Acts: Week 12, Day 5: Hebrews 10:19–39

Hebrews 10:19–39

Summary:

The author reminds us that this is not simply a cognitive discourse or mental exercise, it is real and as such calls for action.  We are exhorted to live a life in keeping with the gift that we have received.  And we are also to understand that the free will we are given to accept or reject this gift of sacrifice and to sign up to be covered by it is ours to make – but their are consequences for rejecting the gift.

Questions:

13. Let us:

  • draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith: Pray with confidence and trust – not being timid and trying to hide my sin – God has forgiven it even before I’ve committed it.
  • hold unswervingly to the hope we profess – Am I living my life with an eternity focus or a short term focus?  Am living in the line or the dot at the beginning of the line?  How straight is my line pointing to God or does it swerve?
  • consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds – Do I encourage someone every day to come closer to the love of God?
  • not give up meeting together – Am I in communion with God and my community or do I spend too much time privately with the Lord?

14. The sin is rejecting God – we are given free will to receive or reject (without it eternal life wouldn’t be a gift, it would be a forced state).  If someone refuses to come into the house, they weather the storm on their own.

15. They get all that they deserve – eternity spent in regret

Conclusion:

The book of Hebrews does a good job of bridging the misunderstandings that many have between the old and new testaments, particularly in the understanding of God.  Many think of the God of the old testament as one of vengeance and war, death and fury and the God of the new testament as a God of forgiveness and love.  But God is God.  He hasn’t changed.  This was His plan from the day man decided to disobey Him.  And lest anyone be confused, read vs 31: It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

God loves the world, but those who choose to stand on their own, bear the weight of their sins – a price they cannot pay.  Eternity is a very long time to spend in regret.

BSF Acts: Week 12, Day 3: Hebrews 8:1–9:10

Hebrews 8:1–9:10

Summary:

Jesus is the High Priest of the new covenant.  The old covenant was made by man with God beginning with a promise of obedience.  The new covenant is between God and God for the benefit of mankind.  It is perfect and complete.  Jesus serves in the tabernacle in heaven directly in the presence of the Almighty (which He is), not empty handed but with the ultimate blood sacrifice and offering, that of His own life on the cross paying the price for all eternity.

Questions:

6. Jesus is our high priest in heaven in the heavenly tabernacle in the presence of God.  He talks with God daily about us and has made the ultimate offering and sacrifice for us to be cleansed of the stain of sin.
7. From verses 6–13 we read that the new covenant is superior to the old covenant. See Exodus 24:7–8.

a. An agreement or promise made between 2 parties

b. Old: Man promised obedience to God’s law, God promised forgiveness of sins through blood.  The people did not remain faithful.  New: God provided forgiveness of sins through the blood of His son, God promised all men will know Him and His law

c. (Personal) I do nothing to receive forgiveness, I only do works out of rejoicing.  I live under the new God/God

8. There were regulations for worship and structure.  There were also restrictions to entry and only timing as well as the preparation that needed to go into place in advance.  The sacrifices were not sufficient, only ceremonial.

Conclusion:

This whole deal of “deal-making” is a very human condition.  How often do people in trouble make promises to God, playing “let’s make a deal”?  If you will get me out of this mess then I will…  The problem with that is the same problem that existed under the old covenant.  Everything belongs to God anyway.  It would be like me saying to you – I want to make a deal with you, I’ll buy your car with the money you have in the bank – give me your checkbook and I’ll write you a check for it right now. 

The old covenant helped people see that they needed forgiveness and that the path to forgiveness was through sacrifice.  But they lacked anything sufficient to deal with.  Not only that, but the one thing they had, obedience, they failed at even as the law was being delivered.  God stepped in, through Christ, and paid the price that was sufficient – once and for all.

BSF Acts: Week 12, Day 2: Hebrews 7 and Genesis 14:18–20

Hebrews 7 and Genesis 14:18–20

Summary:

Jesus is an eternal high priest in heaven in the order of Melchizedek.  This is presented as a contrast to the Levitical priestly lineage of Aaron.  Jesus is a return to the original, not a new release of the inferior and inadequate copy.

Questions:

3. a. 1. priest of God Most High

2.king of righteousness

3.king of peace

4.Without father or mother,

5.without genealogy,

6.without beginning of days or end of life

7. he remains a priest forever

Difference: Melchizedek was like the Son of God – Jesus was the Son of God

b. Melchizedek was superior to Abraham because he blessed Abraham (greater blesses the lesser) and Abraham gave offering to him (honor).

4. On the day the law was to be presented to the Isrealites they were consumed by idolatry including Aaron.  The Levites clung to Moses and with sword executed the punishment on their brothers.  This set them aside and placed them as administrators of the law of Moses.

5. a. v20: You are a priest forever. v24 because Jesus lives forever He has a permanent priesthood, v 25 He always lives, v28 The son has been made perfect forever.

b. The knowledge that one such as me, a man in every way, sits at God’s right hand providing a path for God’s love to flow to me.  God sees the pureness of His son, not the filth of my sins.

Conclusion:

I cannot imagine the job of being an old testament priest.  Every day killing animals, a business of blood and burnt flesh, butchering and sin.  Feeling and seeing and asking God for forgiveness of the sins of your kin, your brothers.  Only to wake up the next morning and do it all over again.  Day after day, year after year.  It had to be a bloody, dirty, weary job.  But Jesus wasn’t a new version of this same old drudgery.  God gave us a peak at the plan he had for Jesus in Melchizedek back in Genesis.  Melchizedek wasn’t a butcher, he was a blesser.  Melchizedek wasn’t the sword who killed, he was the king who praised and was worthy of a tithe of father Abraham.  Jesus does not offer new sacrifices day after day after day, covered in blood.  He sits victorious, whiter than snow, permanently bridging through love and grace our pathway to God for all eternity.

BSF Acts: Week 11, Day 5: Hebrews 6:4–20

Hebrews 6:4–20

Summary:

The author speaks now to the mature believer.  Fruit is expected of the mature believer.  The time we spend as a believer on this earth will be judged.  Our salvation and eternal life are not at risk or in question, those are secured by the sacrifice our eternal high priest made for us.  His offer of bread and wine is everlasting for eternal communion with him.

Questions:

13. a.  to be  enlightened, to taste the heavenly gift, to share in the Holy Spirit, to taste the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, to be brought back to repentance

b. Apostasy: renunciation of faith

c. (Challenge)  2Cor 5:17, Anyone in Christ is a new creation the old is gone;  1 John 2:19 If they were in Christ they could not have gone out from Christ. John 10:28 no one will snatch them from Christ’s hand

14. Mature faith leads to the production of fruit (the salvation and aid of others).  However, it is not the result or even the work to produce the result that is greatest importance, it is the spirit in which the work is done.  That done purely to benefit the kingdom is recognized and rewarded.  That done out of or for treasure is not.  I am encouraged because it is a noble pursuit, I am concerned because of the risk of being self serving and prideful.

15. a. Eternal life in and as a part of His house.  God is the eternal God.

b. My eternal life is not in question or at risk, how I begin my eternal life while still on this earth is put in part in my hands and I will be held accountable for my actions.

Conclusions:

The ends justify the means does not fly in God’s house.  God expects results from His chosen people.  He expects teaching, he expects sharing the word.  How can we who are saved, grasping the condemnation of those who are not, idly stand by.  If someone is about to step onto a tack, would you not warn them? Why would God expect less of us when it comes to eternal life.  This isn’t easy.  When all around us Christianity is watered down to non-committal traditions without meaning.

What these verses remind us is that God has made his promise, He stands by His word and we will spend eternity in His house.  But we are given the gift of time on this earth and we need to choose what we do with that time.  Even more importantly to God is not what we accomplish or even what we do, but the attitude with which we do it.  That done is a pure spirit for the glory of God is pleasing, that done for personal pride and gain is not.

BSF Acts: Week 11, Day 4: Hebrews 5:11–6:3

Hebrews 5:11–6:3

Summary:

Believers are encouraged to move forward (mature) in their faith, progressing from the basic tenants of faith to depth of knowledge and understanding.

Questions:

9. a. Resistance to let go of old ways and old understanding (paradigms).  The first 4 chapters of Hebrews have addressed these issues of carry forward from old teachings, but there is a time to let go and grasp the new reality.

b. (Personal) Many of my areas of spiritual immaturity stem from misunderstandings of what the scriptures really say.  So much of the bible that we learn, even from regular church attendance, only skim the waves.  BSF provides an avenue of maturing through studying verse by verse word by word.

10. To not distinguishing right from wrong

11. The word of God, but more specifically meditating on the word: being filled with it in mind and spirit through prayer and study and communion with others.

12. a. (Challenge)

Repentance from acts that lead to death: Rom 6:23 – The wages of sin is death

Faith in God: John 3:16 – Whoever believes in him shall not perish

Instruction about baptisms: Mar 16:16 – Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved

The laying on of hands: Luke 4:40 – people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them

The resurrection of the dead: John 11:25 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” , 1 Cor 15:52 – For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

Eternal judgment: Rev 20:15 – If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire

b. (Personal) I believe I am ready – I would like to spend time studying Revelation, but I feel I am prepared to teach others.

Conclusions:

I wonder how many school teachers have Hebrews 5:11 on their classroom wall?  “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.”

But, joking aside, it is an important reminder that we are to progress not only in our knowledge but in our spirit and our faith.  One of the things I love about the children’s program in BSF is the memory verse time.  By the end of the year the children have 30 precious verses hidden in their heart.  I am amazed at how many times I rely on these memory verses as I face the thoughts and challenges of life and faith.

BSF Acts: Week 11, Day 3: Hebrews 5:1–10

Hebrews 5:1–10

Summary:

Being a priest is not just a job, it is a calling by God.  Jesus was called by God to be our eternal high priest and the source of our eternal salvation

Questions:

6. (1) Selected among men and appointed to represent them, (2) Able to deal gently with others, (3) must be called by God (not self appointed)

I think there would be amazing benefits if christian leaders held to these same standards, particularly the third.  A lot of issues come from those who take on a leadership role for reasons other than being called to it by God.

7. v5, Son of God; v5, appointed by the Father; v6, named by God as a priest forever; v7, while Jesus did not sin, He did pray particularly regarding death; v7, reverent submission; v8, suffered; v9, perfect; v9, source of eternal salvation; v10, designated by God as high priest forever

8. a. eternal salvation

b. While disobedient in many ways, many of my ongoing temptations are health related.  I don’t eat as I should, exercise as I should, etc.  The obvious result of my disobedience (of following the calling of my stomach rather than being obedient) is that I am shortening my days on the earth.  The blessing to others of greater obedience would be more days that I could be encouraging, loving and caring for them.

Conclusions:

Gen 14:18-20: Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

In the next several weeks of the study we will see Melchizedek’s name a few more times.  Prior to Hebrews he is referenced only in this Genesis passage and then again in Psalm 110 in a Messianic prophecy (Psalm 110 is only 7 verses long).  Here are a few interesting notes to keep in mind:

  1. He was the only priest of God who was also a king noted in the bible
  2. As the king of Salem he was literally the “king of peace”
  3. His name is comprised of two word meaning “king of righteousness”
  4. He predates the Levitical line by at least 5 generations
  5. He gave Abram bread and wine and blessed him (there will be discussion to follow about how the greater provides a blessing to the lesser)

BSF Acts: Week 11, Day 2: Hebrews 4:14–16

 

Hebrews 4:14–16.

Summary:

The previous verses emphasize how the word of God is alive and active and sharper than a double edge sword.  It convicts us of our sin, cutting down to the bone of our being.  But the good news is in these verses.  Not only do we have (like family, like a husband and wife) a high priest in heaven, but we have one who understands and sympathizes.  So much so, that when we show up at the alter empty handed he already provided the sacrifice necessary to cleanse us of our sin.

Questions:

3. a. a great high priest

b. joined together with – According to Strong’s: those joined to any one by the bonds of natural blood or marriage or friendship or duty or law etc, of attendance or companionship

4. a. The temptation to not stay fully man.  Jesus was fully man and fully God.  At any point he could have pulled out his God card, but he didn’t – he suffered as a man

b. (Personal) Chocolate – OK, it ranks up there, but probably not my biggest temptation.  As I think about it, mine is the opposite of Jesus.  Jesus was tempted to rely on his divine nature, I am tempted to rely on my human nature and pride.  All too often I act like a bossy child and fight God saying “me do it”, rather than thanking Him for His love and what He gives me.  I think of my possessions as mine, my knowledge and wits as mine and my time as mine – when really it is all God’s to begin with.

c. It helps in 2 ways: (1) the one making atonement on my behalf understands and sympathizes – he isn’t ever going to give up on me (2) yet, while totally a man and not relying on his divinity, Jesus resisted all temptation – there is hope to do better, it is not an impossible struggle

5. a. The sacrificial offering for forgiveness of sin was made in the courtyard of the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God while with the Israelites. The grace is that we approach this need for washing away of our sins empty handed, yet, our high priest provides himself as the perfect offering

b. I think it is very important for each of us, every day, to recognize that we are in need of forgiveness and yet we have absolutely nothing to offer to earn that need.  It is only by grace that we are saved through faith.

Conclusion:

I love the way the author of Hebrews is so clearly answering the questions that the early Jewish converts must have had.  How does Jesus fit in with God and angels and man?  What was He doing on earth?  Why did he need to be here?  What about the law and Moses?  And in today’s lesson, what about the high priest and sacrifices?  While it answered their questions it give assurance and comfort to us.  We are not cut by the word of God so that we may feel pain and bleed, but so that we recognize the grace with which the Son of God took on all the pain and bleeding ever required to atone for our sins.

BSF Acts: Week 11, Day 1

The Notes:

What is the greatest sin?  What is the chief sin someone can commit? Not that sin is ever “great”, but if we were to think about sin on a scale, like we do breaking human law, we think of some as misdemeanors and some as felonies.  Like the difference between saying a curse word in anger or murdering someone. 

So it opened my eyes in the notes when it said, “refusal to believe God is the chief sin.”  At first I thought, really?  Doubting the bible compared to abusing a child – no comparison, right?  But then I realized the second only happens after the first.  God is evident in all of creation.  At least where we live there is no one who has not had some exposure to God.  Granted, it may have been a very inaccurate representation by someone who may have been CINO (Christian in name only).  But, even then, I doubt there is anyone who thinks the bible condones any of the horrific crimes that are committed.  So, to commit any other crime, frankly any other sin, is to first refuse to believe God.

God’s word is alive, it is active.  When you read the scriptures and God’s absolute intolerance for disobedience and sin, it cuts, sharply, to the bone.  When you understand that there is absolutely nothing hidden from God, no action, to intention, no thought – the only way you fall into sin is to not believe God. 

Maybe He wasn’t really serious about that stuff?  Maybe He doesn’t care if I sin a little – everybody does, right?  Maybe He won’t notice.  Maybe He expects me to faultier.  What a bunch of _____.  (It probably wouldn’t be good in this rant to fill in that word, eh?)

This was a difficult couple of chapters for me.  But, I so appreciate the message that flows throughout these challenging verses.  God’ promise of rest.  God’s welcoming invitation to fellowship with Him.  God’s gift to come down, suffer, to die.  What am I, just a man.  What is a man? And here is where it gets interesting.  By becoming a brother to Jesus through His grace of coming down to be lower than the angels with us, we become part of His family and, as such, holy. 

What better day is there than today to stop disbelieving and start being holy?  (struggling with that last line?  I understand, but I don’t see any other way to read Hebrews 2:11)