JESUS, MY EXAMPLE

Hebrews 12:1 – Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

The writer of Hebrews pulls all of his thoughts together in this verse. The fact is, many have gone before us, which walked through challenges, temptations, and impossible circumstances. If they overcame, we can overcome too, because the one they were looking for has come. Sin is a nuisance for the believer, but it can be conquered in the power of Christ’s life giving Spirit. Jesus Christ overcame sin and the devil. He overcame living in His flesh. When He was tempted by the devil, as recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4, He overcame by the Word of God. The devil tempted Him in the three major areas of a human’s life. He overcame in His spirit, His soul, and His body.

Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, set an example for us in how He resisted the evil one and served the purpose of His heavenly Father. Jesus was able to overcome through the power of the Holy Spirit which has been poured out for all flesh. God the Father, through faith in Christ’s finished work, has given us the promise of the “Gift of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 24:49). It will take the “power of the Holy Spirit” to overcome the flesh and the devil (Acts 1:8).

In the Book of Hebrews the cloud of witnesses were all Old Testament saints who by faith, looked for Messiah’s Day. As we look back, the cloud of witnesses has greatly increased. It includes the saints of the first century and many others down through the centuries to our present time that are with the Lord and will come with Him when He returns to judge all unrighteousness.

Clear instructions have been given to each one of us throughout the Scriptures that we too are to overcome by faith. The writer of Hebrews speaks to each of our lives, as referenced in our devotional scripture, “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.” What are the encumbrances you face? What is the sin that dogs your feet? As we approach the end of another year, prepare your heart before the Lord to let go of encumbrances and sin. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and reveal where He would be pleased to help you find freedom through Christ and His overcoming life.

The enemy of our soul has as his objective “entanglements.” It is entanglements which hinder our race. Each of us needs endurance to finish the course and stand before the Lord Jesus Christ confident we have finished well. Only as we “fix” our eyes on Jesus can we stay untangled and filled with endurance. Today, if you hear His voice through the writer of Hebrews, commit your life to the race. Begin now to remove the “entanglements.” Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart for any areas of sin. Repent and let the blood of Jesus cleanse you. Be filled afresh with His Holy Spirit, asking for endurance in the race.

Father, search me and see if there are any hindrances to the race I am called to run. Let all encumbrances and any sin, whether or not I am aware of them, be repented of and cleansed. Help me, daily, to fix my eyes on Jesus. I pray that the year ahead will be the best yet in my pursuit of Your will and purposes.

YOU HAVE NEED OF ENDURANCE

Hebrews 10:35-37 – Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

Confidence comes from trusting in the Lord no matter what our circumstances look like. These Hebrew Christians needed to be encouraged in God’s absolutes because of the severe persecution they were enduring. It is difficult to keep your eye on the prize when you are being beat up on every side. Every believer goes through difficulties in their spiritual journey. Some have more challenges than others. Some believers have become discouraged and quit trying; others have been pulled into a fringe type group not teaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.

As believers, we have been given promises by God. We all need endurance to keep going until we receive the promise. This is the life of faith. In the case of these Hebrew believers, the promise the writer is addressing is the return of Christ. “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:12-13).

The Scriptures declare that the righteous live by faith. “Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). Hebrews says, “If he shrinks back, My soul will have no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:38b). The Lord’s pleasure is in righteousness. The author of Hebrews writes, “We are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39).

God’s desire for each believer is “persevering faith.” It is from this base of exhortation we read of the honor roll of faith in Hebrews 11. What a list of “by faith” people we find.

By faith, Able offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain
By faith, Enoch was taken, so that he would not see death
By faith, Noah . . . prepared an ark for the salvation of his household
By faith, Abraham when he was called, obeyed
By faith, even Sarah herself received the ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised
Many more are listed who lived by faith
Hebrews 11:39, “All these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” Beloved, in Christ we are being made perfect by faith.

Father, I call on You to help me be preserved in faith. I thank You for all those who have gone before me that lived a life of faith. I pray that I might grow in my ability to abide in Your love and press toward the prize that is in Christ Jesus my Lord.

CHRIST OR JUDGMENT

Hebrews 10:26 – If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

The writer of Hebrews gives this severe warning based upon what he had previously written concerning the “one-time offering of the sacrifice of Christ.” Remember, these Jewish believers considered returning back to their Judaism because of the severity of the persecution they were experiencing. The writer of Hebrews established the truth of the “one-time sacrifice of Christ” as the finished work of God. There remains no more sacrifice, only a fearful looking ahead to judgment.

The threefold purpose of the will of God can be seen in a summary of the New Testament:

Christ’s sacrifice and the power of His resurrection
The coming of the Holy Spirit to bring forth God’s new creation in the earth through believers in Christ’s eternal work. The result being Christ revealed in each believer as a witness to the world of the truth of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God
The return of Christ when He judges both the “quick and the dead.” In other words, the living and those who had died.
There is no more sacrifice to be offered, only what Christ has already done. The only thing remaining is Judgment Day.

Hebrews 10:26-31 are difficult scriptures for some to understand, especially if they are not read in the context of the writer’s letter. “If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26a). The emphasis is on “willfully.” The Apostle John in his first letter says, “continues to practice sin” (1 John 3:9). Receiving the knowledge of the truth does not mean born again. It implies that one has heard the truth and understands its implication: Christ is the end of sacrifices. “There no longer remains a sacrifice for sins (no more sacrifices will be offered), but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26b–27). The issue, is going back to the Law as a means of salvation. In the Law, there were continual sacrifices offered for sins. Christ became the end of the Law for dealing with sin. This is why the writer says that there is no more sacrifice. The one and only acceptable sacrifice is Christ’s death.

For these Jewish believers, going back under the Law would be trampling underfoot the Son of God. It would be regarding the blood of the sacrifice as unclean and would be an insult to the Spirit of grace. If the sacrifice of Christ is rejected then the only expectation is judgment. The Lord will judge His people. The writer uses the Law as his example. “Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Hebrews 10:28). He then says, “How much more severe punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and regarded unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified and has insulted the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29)?

The writer is making this point: don’t go back, because only judgment will lie ahead. He then reminds these Jewish believers of the entrance into the kingdom of God beginning in verses 32-34. “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward” (Hebrews 10:35). Tomorrow we will devote ourselves to this great exhortation.

Father, I thank You for the blood sacrificed in Christ’s death. I plant my confidence firmly in His blood. My sins have been cleansed, and I am sanctified through Your covenant in Christ.

HOLD FAST YOUR CONFESSION IN CHRIST

Hebrews 3:1 – Holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.

The book of Hebrews has been called the “Royal Book.” It addresses the royalty of Christ. He is the One every true believer confesses as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is our High Priest. “He ever lives to make intercession for us,” We can draw near with confidence to the throne because our redeemer has passed into the heavens. He is able to understand the weakness we have because of sin. He was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.

The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who had been experiencing severe persecution. The intended readers were thinking of abandoning their faith and of lapsing back to Judaism. The author exhorts them to hold fast to their confession of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Hebrews 10 is a powerful portion of Scripture that establishes what Christ has fully done for each believer. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:23-24).

In the past, these believers followed the Law of Moses which instructed God’s Covenant people to bring continual sacrifices for sin. The author wants these Jewish believers to understand the Law was only a shadow of the good things to come. Further, the sacrifices they once offered year by year could not make them perfect. If the Law could have produced perfection, the worshipers would no longer be conscious of sin. Instead the law was a constant reminder of their need to receive God’s forgiveness. In Hebrews 10, he writes of the impossibility of the blood of animals to take away sin. Those sacrifices atoned or covered up sin so God could have mercy upon His people. The Father looked ahead to the better sacrifice which He would offer on behalf of lost humanity. Only one sacrifice was needed now, the sacrifice of Christ. The one sacrifice of Christ is sufficient.

A new and living way has been established. Through the blood of Christ, we have confidence to enter into the holy place. “A new and living way was inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Hebrews 10:20). Because we have a great high priest over the house of God we can draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith because our hearts have been washed in His blood. Our confidence is in these facts. The writer says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). From this position, we are to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.

The writer encourages these Jewish believers in what God accomplished through the faithfulness in Christ when he exhorts, “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). Tomorrow, we will consider why it is important to encourage one another as the Day of Judgment draws near.

Father, I thank You for Your ultimate sacrifice on my behalf, Your own Son. Thank You that my conscience has been cleansed through the blood of Christ so I can have confidence to enter into Your presence. I commit myself to hold fast to my confession, drawing near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.

PERFECTING THE LOVE OF GOD

1 John 4:12 – No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

The subject of the love of God is enormous. John reminds us that no one has seen God at any time. Jesus was the manifestation of God in human form. “He who has seen Me, has seen the Father” (John 14:9). John goes on to say that “God abides in us.” If we have repented of sin and received God’s love in the person of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, God is abiding in us. If that is true, then His love is being perfected in us as well. In Christ, we are in a state of growth and development that has its manifestation in God’s love. He gave us the Holy Spirit for the purpose of developing in us the same love of Christ revealed in Jesus’ earthly life and ministry.

John writes, “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” How can we reconcile the divisions and sometimes meanness seen in the body of Christ? First, we need to understand that John is giving us the ideal. The goal of maturing is the “love of God” manifested in a believer’s life. God’s love is being perfected in us. Second, it is understood that believers are in a state of development, “working out their own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). There are some who deal with the brokenness of their lives for many years. The important factor is an effort to press into God’s love and allow His love to be expressed through the stages of growth.

Many wrestle with their own security in the “love of God” because they have difficulty receiving His love for themselves, let alone abiding in His love, and then releasing it to others. This is why it is so important to take time in the initial process of coming into the Christian faith. It is tempting to hurry people through the process like cattle, rather than leading them like sheep. We make joining the organization the greater importance, when healing of their past wounds and receiving God’s love for specific areas in their life should be our objective. As the believer learns to die to “the old” self and embrace “the new” in “the Holy Spirit,” they can learn to abide in God’s love and His sustaining power.

Father, I ask You for help in perfecting Your love in my life. I ask for the same love to fill me that worked in Jesus throughout His earthly ministry. Show me anything which blocks Your love from growing in me. Help me to repent and forsake any obstacles that are in the way.

THE LOVE OF GOD HAS BEEN POURED OUT WITHIN OUR HEARTS

Romans 5:4 – The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Imagine, the God of all creation has poured out His love in the heart of every believer. The Lord does this through the Holy Spirit when He is given to the believer. We have been devoting ourselves to the subject of faith and hope. We now will consider love and how it is the foundation to faith and hope.

“In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). A major issue which Paul had to address was the question concerning the need to be circumcised in order to legitimately be a Christian. Paul is clear on the subject. Only faith working by love matters.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians and listed many things that confirmed his calling and apostolic ministry. Within the list he cites, “. . . in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love” (2 Corinthians 6:6-7). Every believer has been called to freedom in Christ. This freedom empowers us to serve others. The heart of the gospel of the kingdom is in “serving others.” This involves reaching out to another who is hurting, broken, and trying to find their way to God. We are to use our freedom for their benefit. We are to never take advantage of a brother or sister to benefit ourselves. Paul says, “Through love serve one another.”

The love of God is difficult to grasp. It is foreign to the various types of human love. The love of God requires one to give up their life for the sake of another. It is impossible to operate in God’s love without the Holy Spirit’s participation. He has to impart the Love of God and then we must receive His love. Finally, we choose to administer His love to another.

In John 21:15-19, the Lord sought to help Peter come to know the love of God by asking him, “Do you love me more than these?” Jesus did this three times. Each time, as Peter answered in the affirmative, Jesus directed him to take care of His lambs. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas were called by the Holy Spirit to go to the Gentiles, proclaiming the love of God. They experienced beatings and stoning in their ministry. In spite of the despicable way they were treated, they pressed forward in faith and hope motivated by the love of God revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I ask You to fill me day by day with Your love, drawing me ever deeper into intimacy with You. I pray to know more and more of the love of God found in Christ Jesus, my Lord. I ask You to help me to grow up into a fuller manifestation of Christ’s love for others, and to come closer to loving as You love.