Fix Your Eyes on Jesus

cross_6708cHow do you run a race? Athlete or not, Hebrews 12:1-3 challenges you to run your race well—by keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus.

Run the race! Remember that you are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. Be cautious about moving too far in the direction of thinking of the witnesses as filling the stands of a stadium, cheering you on—the Bible tells us relatively little about just what the saints in heaven are doing right now. Witnesses brings out the idea of testimony, something of a courtroom scene. The lives of these saints, recorded in Scripture, bear witness to their faithful Savior. Their faith-full lives summon you to trust. Not only do the lives of those mentioned in Hebrews 11 call you to faith, but as you look at the whole section, Hebrews 10:35—11:40, the focus is on the One, the coming One, who trusted his Father, who, during his humiliation, walked by faith. “He knew no sin in his own experience, and the unity of his person—he is one person with two distinct natures—means that he was unable to sin. Nevertheless, while he lived on earth during his state of humiliation, he lived by faith, not by sight. Because Christ is the holiest man ever to have lived, he is the greatest believer ever to have lived (Heb. 12:2). . . . The life of holiness is therefore the life of faith. The way we begin the Christian life is the way we continue in the Christian life until we get to heaven, where faith becomes sight. If that was required for the sinless Lamb of God, how much more for us, who have remaining indwelling sin?” (Mark Jones, Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest, p. 23). Continue reading “Fix Your Eyes on Jesus”

Only Together with Us

sola_7079cIf you had been writing Hebrews 11 would your list have been different from that of the author? The closing verses of the chapter (32-40) help point you to the reason these accounts are mentioned.

Have faith, no matter what! God’s people lived by faith. Moses and the Israelites walked by faith as they observed the Passover. This may have seemed strange to Egyptians who observed them, and it may have seemed puzzling to the Israelites themselves. But, by faith they were entrusting themselves to their faithful God, who would one day provide the Passover Lamb. By faith the Israelites walked dry-shod through the sea, and the pursuing Egyptians, without faith, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell. Continue reading “Only Together with Us”

Rahab, Woman of Faith

PrintThose who heard the letter to the Hebrews read for the first time may have been surprised, as perhaps you are, to find the name of Rahab appearing in Hebrews 11:31.

Rahab seems an unlikely candidate for this list of those who lived by faith. Rahab (like you and me) was a sinner. Her city, Jericho, was about to be destroyed because of its idolatry and immorality. And Rahab was not just a bystander, but apparently a participant in the sin.

Yet, the spies found refuge with her. Despite her background, she is not only counted among God’s people, but is listed among the people of faith that Hebrews is enumerating. God displays his grace in the salvation of sinners. Continue reading “Rahab, Woman of Faith”

The Reward of Choosing Disgrace

ex35cOne of the challenges of parenting is to teach children that choices have consequences. But what parent would encourage a child to pick disgrace? Hebrews 11:24-26 praises the faith of Moses, who chose disgrace, but chose it for a very good reason.

Make your choice! Beware of the pleasures of sin. Moses’ parents, Jochebed and Amram, showed their faith by disobeying the order of the Pharaoh and keeping baby Moses alive. The baby in the little ark in the reeds along the Nile ended up being adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh. His was a position of great potential authority, Exodus 2:10. In the court he received a fine education, Acts 7:22. Historical records show other Semites rising to influence in Egypt. It must have been a strong temptation to stay and use power there for Israel. Moses was of age. His decision was not youthful impetuosity. Hebrews commends him for avoiding the pleasures of sin. There may well have been some specific sins involved in the court life, but the point, more likely, is that to remain in Pharaoh’s court would be to abandon the people of God. That would be the same apostasy against which the author of Hebrews warns. Egypt had the pleasures of sin–and Moses refused it, eve for a short time. Sin may appear to be a pleasure, but that is a very short term view. It is dangerous. Hebrews warns against the shortsightedness that leads to a lax Christian life, as well as to falling back into Old Testament ceremonies. What can you learn about resisting sin? Continue reading “The Reward of Choosing Disgrace”

Live as a Pilgrim People

Ayear0812ocWhat does it mean to live as a resident alien in this country? Hebrews 11:13-16 describes God’s people as aliens, yet residing in this world.

Recognize that you are an alien. Abraham lived as a resident alien. Hebrews draws your attention to him, not because he is so different from you, though in ways he was, but because of the similarities. He lived as a stranger in a foreign country. It took faith to travel to the promised land. It must have taken more to continue to live there as an alien. Abraham owned no land until he purchased the cave of Machpelah, Genesis 23. His actions, his life-style confessed that he was a stranger. Why? He looked for a city with foundations, v.10. Abraham knew that God’s promises involved more than the real estate of Canaan. He (and the patriarchs) were looking for a city built by God, v.10. It was neither Ur nor just real estate in Canaan. Rather, they sought a heavenly country, v.16. Hebrews has no call for a return to the land of Israel. The focus of God’s promises, the fulfillment of his prophecies, lie not in ownership or occupancy of particular territory in the Middle East, but in the reality which his Son has introduced. “The Patriarchs even in their day saw the unnecessary character of the earthly Canaan, for they looked for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Therefore they considered themselves strangers and pilgrims on this earth, even when they were living in the land of Canaan, the promised land.” (Geerhardus Vos, The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 67). Continue reading “Live as a Pilgrim People”