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Jul 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 5, 2020

Podcasthttps://www.buzzsprout.com/124384/episodes/4447034-hebrews-8-7-14

In the summer of 1992, a close friend asked me for a favor. After twenty-five years, Jack and his wife wanted to renew their marriage vows. I asked my daughter Jennifer to go with me–she was a teenager at the time and friends with Jack’s daughter. It was a Sunday afternoon and we were on our way up the coast to the home where the brief ceremony would be celebrated. Suddenly it occurred to me that I didn’t have anything prepared to say, not even the vows for them to recite. I asked Jenn to reach in the glove box, grab a pen, and look for something to write on. She found an old envelope, and as I began dictating she began writing. there were a few edits, words crossed out and replaced, but it was readable and I was rescued from embarrassment. Today I cannot remember a word of what was written on that envelope. But that’s okay, it was for them and no one else.
During reception that followed, Jack came over to our table and asked if I would give him the vows. He said they were perfect and he wanted to hang onto them. I promised that as soon as we got home I would type them out and email them to me. He said he wanted the vows exactly as they were. I explained the reason they were not presentable and he said, “I don’t care. I want them exactly as they are.” So I handed him that wrinkled envelope with Jenn’s scribbling on it. Jack was really pleased with it and said he was going to frame it as it was and hang it in his home as a reminder.

A renewal of vows mirrors one of most important themes in scripture
– God’s covenant
• there is a major division in the Christian Bible
◦ one part is the Old Testament (covenant) and the other part is the New
◦ our Bibles are one story told in two parts and both of them having to do with covenans
Walther Eichrodt, in his Theology of the Old Testament says that covenant
◦ “gave definitive expression to the binding of the people to God”
◦ and established from the start, expressed their particular “knowledge of him”
Eichrodt, “. . . the basis of the relationship with God can be regarded as embodied in a covenant from Mosaic times [on].”
William Dyrness wrote, “In the [Old Testament] the covenant rests on God’s promises and lies at the heart of the biblical notion of history. . . . It is the core of the Hebrew understanding of their relationship with God.”
– early on, God chose to use covenants in order to connect with people
• covenants were meant to help them feel secure in him and his promise

Our first idea of a covenant is that it is like a contract or treaty

An agreement is made between two parties, for the mutual benefit of both
– an agreement was reached, conditions were stipulated, and then the covenant was sealed
• making a covenant sometimes included a ritual – sometimes a shared meal
– a biblical covenant was more than a contract, because it forms a bond between the two parties
I will bring you into the bond of the covenant (Eze. 20:37)
• the bond of marriage, for example, was formed by a covenant
. . . the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant (Mal. 2:14)
◦ the seal (or sign) of a covenant was like a marriage license or wedding ring
• so the first remarkable thing about the big biblical covenants,
◦ it was God who formed this bond with human persons
Eichrodt, the covenant “was always regarded as a bilateral relationship; for even though the burden is most unequally distributed between the two contracting parties, this makes no difference to the fact that the relationship is still essentially two-sided.”
◦ God always does the heavy lifting

Three early covenants

Noah, after the flood
– God’s stipulation was simple, it was a reiteration of the original design
Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:27 & 9:1)
• for God’s part, the earth would never again be totally destroyed by a flood
• the seal or sign of the covenant? the rainbow (Gen. 9:12)

Abraham, in answer to his question, What will you give me for assurance?
– God’s stipulation was, Walk before me and be perfect (Gen. 17:1-2)
• God’s part: he would bless Abraham and his descendants
◦ and through them bless all the families of the earth
• sign of this covenant: circumcision (Gen. 17:10)

Moses, God’s proposed covenant with Israel when they came out of Egypt
. . . if you will indeed keep obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples (Ex. 19:5)
– God’s stipulation was that they would be his people and obey all the words of this law (Ex. 34:28)
• God’s part: he would be their God (in caring for them and blessing them)
• the sign of this covenant: the Sabbath (Ex. 31:12-17)
◦ God’s covenant resembles a marriage covenant
◦ it carries the promise of ultimate intimacy between God and Israel
I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God (Ex. 6:7)
(many times Israel will be reminded of this covenant goal)

On the day God’s covenant was confirmed,
– Moses offered a sacrifice and sprinkled its blood on the people, saying,
Behold the blood of the covenant (Ex. 24:8)

The course of Israel’s history was determined by their loyalty to the covenant
– it explains why the northern kingdom was conquered and carried into exile
The king of Assyria carried the Israelites away to Assyria . . . because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God but transgressed his covenant, even all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded (2 Ki. 18:11-12; also 17:15, 35-39)
• this was exactly what Moses predicted would happen (De. 29:24-25)
◦ and it was exactly what Jeremiah witnessed (Jer. 22:8-9)

There was a weakness inherent in that first covenant with Israel
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
For he finds fault with them when he says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of
Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.”
Hebrews 8:7-9

The weakness was not in the covenants formulation, its terms, or conditions
– not even in the covenant concept
• Ezekiel 16 illustrates how beautiful Israel’s marriage to God could be
When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered [you] and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine (Eze. 16:8)
• the weakness was that one of parties couldn’t fulfill their half
For he finds fault with them
– Israel was well aware, the covenant was good for them,
• but only if they kept their end

About the time that nation of Judah was conquered,
– God made this announcement through Jeremiah
the days are coming – this time reference begins in Jeremiah 30:1
◦ and continues all through chapters 30 and 31
(it is the promise of a future restoration)
◦ it highlights the promise in which all blessings are grounded
And you shall be my people,
and I will be your God
(Jer. 30:22)
• the writer continues his quote:
I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah
◦ the two kingdoms would be unified again
– how will this covenant be “new”?
• first, it will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
◦ it would not be a repeat of a failed attempt at forging a bond
• second, two Greek words can be translated “new”
neos something that appears on the scene for the first time
kainos new in time, but also in substance–different
(the new will still be a covenant, but with a significant difference)

A new covenant was necessary, because the first did not produc what God wanted
– early in the Book of Jeremiah, we see God reminiscing
• I know I have a tendency here to be overly sentimental in my interpretation
◦ but it’s as if God were looking at wedding photos from Mount Sinai
I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown (Jer. 2:2)
• what happened to that first covenant?
For they did not continue in my covenant
– compare verse 9 with Jeremiah 31:32, you will see that it reads differently
• that is because the writer is quoting the Greek translation, not the Hebrew
(the Hebrew text says, my covenant they broke though I was their husband)
◦ we have seen that this was the relationship as God viewed it
◦ a broken covenant, breaks the marriage (Jer. 11:10; Eze. 16:59)
• here, the point of the Greek translation,
◦ is that God treats Israel the way they treated him
◦ in Jeremiah and Isaiah, God divorced Israel (Jer. 3:8; Is. 50:1)

The conditions and benefits of the new covenant
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’;
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”
Hebrews 8:10-12

The major differences between the first and new covenants:
the first covenant was placed in a box; i.e., the Ark of the Covenant
the new covenant will be placed in their minds
the first covenant was engraved in stone
the new covenant will be written on their hearts
– Israel needed not only a new covenant, but a new heart and spirit
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you (Eze. 36:26)
• finally, God would achieve his goal,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people

The benefits:
– the first, everyone will know the Lord
• the prophet Hosea had the frustrating job of trying to talk Israel into returning to Yahweh
Let us know, let us press on to know the LORD;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth”
(Hos. 6:3)
• but with the new covenant, this kind of message will be unnecessary
– second, God will be merciful toward their guilt and sins
• God’s covenant had always been backed by his mercy and faithfulness
(Hebrew: hesed and emeth)
• but there will be new dimensions to his mercy

The presence of a new covenant does something to the first
In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8:13

When the new, young covenant arrives
– the first covenant will begin to show its age
Luke Timothy Johnson says that “obsolete” is too strong a translation
• in Hebrews 1:11, the same word is translated “worn out”
You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end (Heb. 1:10-12)
– like old, worn out clothes, the time will come to get rid of the first covenant
• either destroying it, or changing it to something else, like a cleaning rag

Conclusion: Now will move from the promise in Jeremiah

To a quiet room in Jerusalem
– in the light that flickers from oil lamps,
• Jesus looks into the face of each disciple
– Paul makes a point of saying that this was the same night he was betrayed
• not only betrayed, but also deserted, arrested, interrogated, and beaten

Jesus has broken the bread and told the disciples it is his body
– now he fills a cup with wine and tells them,
This cup is the new covenant in my blood (1 Cor. 11:25)
• at that moment, the new covenant of Jeremiah’s prophecy arrived
• and that covenant is the one that wraps us in Jesus today

The new covenant does mean we are no longer able to sin,
because we no longer have a free will to make our own choices
It means, that if we say yes to Jesus
and drink from the cup he offers us,
the life of his Spirit enters us
and we are energized by him to stay on course
There is still room for us to make right and wrong choices,
but there is a new energy to choose and to do right,
because what we need is planted in us.

In the new covenant with Jesus,
we sing the song of lovers,
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine (Song 6:3)
Continuing in this covenant,
we discover new levels of intimacy with God

Jun 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 28, 2020

Podcast

Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. Hebrews 8:1-2

Intro: When my older sister, my brother and I were small children,

We would sometimes “play church”
– it was an easy game, because the basics were simple:
• prayer, song, scripture, and sermon
• for us, it was much like the real thing–only more fun
– in every formal Sunday morning Christian gathering,
• a certain percentage of what we do is playing church
◦ we act out a drama with physical elements and props,
◦ those things symbolize our spiritual engagement with God
• this is the nature of rituals; it’s how they work
◦ but the “play”part can also be misleading
◦ we can assume the play we enact is all there is

The writer of Hebrews is going to argue a crucial difference
– the difference between copy and original, between shadow and substance

The Book of Hebrews has been building up to this point
Now the point in what we are saying is this:

He began this book with an opening statement regarding Jesus
– that God has spoken through him, that he is the exact representation of God, and that after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:1-3; notice the similar expression here in ch. 8 regarding Jesus being seated at the right hand . . . of the Majesty in heaven)
• in chapter 5, he started to present his case for Jesus as our high priest
◦ at the end of chapter 7, he wrote that it is fitting for us to have such a high priest as he described (who shares our weaknesses and temptations but not our sin, who is holy, innocent, unstained, and so on)
◦ now he says, we have such a high priest
Luke T. Johnson, “Jesus has all the qualities identified in 7:26-27, and ‘we have’ Jesus!”
– “we have” are powerful words when we put them together
• thousands of ads and commercials every day remind us of what we don’t have
◦ the market for products is driven by fear and discontent
• but in Jesus, all that we do have is infinite
◦ Jesus fits our most serious and significant needs perfectly

So, we are told, this sums up what we have learned so far
– now to the point – verse 2, Jesus, our high priest is a minister
• that is, someone who performs a service for others
holy places refer to God’s sanctuary (sanctuary as sanctified or holy place)
◦ the tent, in this context, is God’s sacred dwelling in the wilderness
• strangely, the writer refers to it as the “true” tent,
◦ why does he say this? What does it mean?
– true translates the Greek alethines – genuine, authentic, the real deal
• it’s used this way several times in John’s gospel
◦ Jesus is the true light (Jn. 1:9), the true bread (6:32), true vine (15:1)
◦ light, bread, a vine, a tent are assigned the role of analogies
• the true tent is one that God pitched, not the one Moses made
◦ God’s true dwelling transcends the material realm of our earth
◦ this is a mystery that requires (much) more explanation

What ministries does a high priest perform?
For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. Hebrews 8:3-4

The high priest was appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices
– so Jesus also must have something to offer
• but it seems like the writer doesn’t complete his thought
◦ we expect him to tell us what Jesus offers
• he doesn’t
◦ he lets that point slip for now, perhaps because:
1. he already told us in 7:27, Jesus offered up himself
2. he intends to elaborate more on Jesus’ offering later on
3. it is not the point he is eager to make here
if he were on earth – this phrase gives us the perspective we need
• the ministry that Jesus performs now is not here on earth
◦ if he were here now, he would not be a priest at all
◦ those gifts and sacrifices were already being handled by earthly priests
(in an earthly sanctuary)
according to the law — again, this is a difference between Levitical priests and Jesus
◦ it is the difference between the weakness of law and the vitality of life (Heb. 7:16)

Here is a clue to what the writer meant by the “true” tent
They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” Hebrews 8:5

The ministries of the priests a copy and shadow of the heavenly things

Mostly, our writer works with the basics of the Old Testament archetypes. In other words, he does not seem to be concerned that the sacred tent later became a temple, or that the duties of the priest evolved over time–as when King David added music and song to the regular liturgy. The focus of Hebrews is on the original plans for the sacred tent and the services of the priests as God delivered them to Moses (especially in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers).

– Moses’ specific instructions were,
. . . let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and all of its furniture, so you shall make it (Ex. 25:8-9)
• in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, “pattern” is paradeigma
◦ this is the root of our English word, paradigm
◦ it is pattern or model (in psychology, a mental model or “construct”)
• there is a phrase in Exodus 39-40 that repeats so many times you can’t miss it:
as the LORD had commanded Moses (at least eighteen times!)
◦ the reason for this attention to precise detail,
◦ is because the sacred tent was to parallel or reflect a heavenly reality
• what Moses was given was not a vision of God’s true dwelling,
◦ but a pattern or blue print from which Moses was to make a “copy”

The writer reminds us that Moses received the design on the mountain
– that was itself a place of divine encounter
• God’s presence there was manifested by his glory in the cloud
• at end of Exodus, when the sacred tent had been set up,
◦ the cloud left the summit of Mount Sinai
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34-35)
– the tent became God’s earthly dwelling place
• in it, there was a real merging of the reality with the model
◦ the model did not become the heavenly reality
◦ it still belonged to our material world, but was made holy
• God’s glory was truly present in the most holy place of the tent
• but the model was still only a symbol of the true, the heavenly real
◦ it was no more an accurate of the heavenly original,
◦ than a shadow accurately resembles the object that casts it

Again the writer makes an unexpected jump
But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. Hebrews 8:6-7

What we expect to hear is something like,
Christ has obtained a ministry that is better than the Levitical priests
– or perhaps he could begin to describe the heavenly sanctuary
• but he doesn’t push the contrast of true sanctuary and its copy
◦ though later he will have something to say about the spaces where Jesus conducts his heavenly ministry
• instead, the writer walks us into his next big idea
◦ he sets Jesus’ more excellent ministry side by side with two covenants
◦ Jesus mediates a covenant that is better than a previous covenant
• this does not come as a complete surprise
◦ we have already been told that Jesus is the guarantor of a better covenant (Heb. 7:22)
◦ but we have yet to learn what he means by this

Here again is one of our writer’s favorite words, better
– Jesus mediates a better covenant
• most of us have heard Paul’s famous statement,
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5)
• a mediator is someone who works out some sort of agreement between two parties
◦ to settle a dispute, sign a contract, or perhaps reconcile enemies
◦ I had always enjoyed the way the Good News Bible describes reconciliation
All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends. Our message is that God was making all mankind his friends through Christ. . . . We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends! (2 Cor. 5:18-20)
– Jesus is the mediator who reconciles us to God
• and in doing so, he creates a bond between us and God through a new covenant

Verse 7 provides a transition from the present thought to the next
– so we won’t linger over it today, but start with it next week

Conclusion: Most people could enjoy a counterfeit painting as much as real

In fact, the average person could mistake a forgery for the authentic piece
– but if we have seen both a real car and a plastic model,
• we would never mistake the one for the other
• nor could we ever mistake a shadow for the substance
◦ hopefully we know the difference between
◦ playing church and a real encounter with God

Many of you know about a book my friend, Michel Herbert wrote, entitled Caught Up to Paradise. In it he describes what he calls his “near-life experience” (others would refer to it a near-death experience). While unconscious, Michael remembers being escorted to heaven. However, he eventually had to return to earth when he regained consciousness. Something I enjoyed reading in his book is how insubstantial our four dimensional universe seemed to him after visiting heaven, which is much the same way C. S. Lewis described heaven in The Great Divorce. There was so much more depth to his experience of heaven than in the limits of our material experience of reality–more colors, more sounds, more life, and more joy in the experience of all these things.
I suppose that to fully appreciate the density of the dimension of reality in which God dwells, and to comprehend the comparative evanescence of our material world, we would need to have an experience like Michael’s.

Our universe isn’t bad or wrong–it is, in fact, “very good” (Gen. 1:31)
– in scripture, the earth and the world are not always the same thing
• the earth is God’s creation
◦ the world is the artificial product of humankind, our fabricated societies
◦ the world is imperfect and incomplete
• God has not left himself without witness, even in our world (Acts 14:16-17)
◦ there are signs and symbols that point to a transcendent dimension
◦ and that dimension completes the universe
– the symbols of the drama we replay in worship,
• are also doorways into the presence of God
• we have not yet seen the fullness of what Hebrews has to say about this
◦ but for now it is enough to know that we are nearer to God in Jesus, than we have ever imagined

Jesus is our mediator,
knowing both the world of our experience
and the reality of God
That means that we can look for signs in our world
that point to a greater reality than what is visible.
Perhaps it will be a leaf, a stone, a single star in the morning.
Or maybe a well, an abandoned house,
a road that runs straight ahead until it disappears in the distance.
But we can look for those signs and symbols
that were designed to point us to God;
prayer, scripture, worship, spiritual community,
Baptism, the Lord’s Supper,
silence and stillness.
This sacred moment.

Jun 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 21, 2020

Podcast

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:23-25

We all know someone–or we have been that someone–who powers through relationships, dating person after person looking for a perfect match. Not long after moving to Dana Point, I met a young man who fit that exact profile. I could not help but think of him when a few years later, reading St.
Augustine’s Confessions I came across this line, “I searched about for something to love, in love with loving . . . .”
I heard a psychiatrist once say, “Being in love is a powerful drug.” That sounds right to me, because I’m sure some people are addicted to the neurochemicals our brains produce that are associated with being in love.
I think many people do not know the difference between being in love and infatuation. Infatuation can be no more than enchantment with the idea of a person. Frequently, , people are infatuated with a fantasy they’ve created about someone for whom they have sincere admiration. They think they love someone they do not even know as a real person. But if they discover the real person and their fantasy is shattered, there is no problem. They can eventually move on to someone else on whom they can project their fantasy.

– years ago, I interviewed a Christian musician
• she had searched for truth in a number of different religions
• I asked her, “How do you know Christianity isn’t just one more religion on your quest for truth, and that someday you won’t move on to something else?”
◦ she answered, “Because when I found what I was looking for, I stopped looking.”

The writer of Hebrews has introduced us to Melchizedek
– his primary concern is to show us Jesus’ credentials
• in every way, Jesus outshines every other servant of God
• whether leader, prophet, priest, or judge
◦ in fact, Jesus is even better than the angels
– the writer tells us,
• “You may be infatuated with your priest, pastor, or preacher,
◦ but the person you want to fall in love with is Jesus!”
◦ when you’ve found Jesus, you can stop looking for anyone else

The writer continues contrasting Jesus to the Levitical priests

He wants us to know why Jesus is able to do for us,
– what they could not do–and were never meant to do
• there are two contrasts in verses 23-24:
1. first, the many priests who served in temple versus the one priest
2. second, the temporary service of the many, and permanence of the one
• the Greek word translated permanently is found in ancient legal documents
William Barclay translates it “non-transferable”
Timothy Johnson says it means “no going beyond”
◦ there is no priest or priesthood beyond Jesus,
◦ because, as the prophecy in Psalm 110 says, he continues forever

Parish priests and church pastors eventually move on, retire, or die
– their loss can be hard for people to take
(especially for those who love their leaders)
• but it’s not necessarily a bad thing for the church

Look at the situation this way: A pastor has a vision for ministry. That vision becomes the church’s mission, and a generation of church members become devoted to it. When that pastor is gone, usually the question comes up, “Who will take over and carry on the vision for the church?” I have come to believe that is the wrong question. With time culture changes, and as culture changes so do the needs and interests of people within the culture. Those changes require a new vision of ministry.
Besides, the leader who had the vision is the only person who knows it inside and out. When that person is gone, the essence of the vision is lost. The residue of that vision is preserved in values, methods, protocols and policies. So a church can continue doing same things it did when the former visionary was present, but no one remembers why they do those things. Furthermore, questions regarding how to handle new or difficult situations arise for which no one has right answer. The visionary would instinctively know the right answer, but that person is gone.
There is no single vision that covers every need for all time. One season’s of a church’s life may be directed by a vision for cross-cultural missions, another season by evangelism, another for intense (“in depth”) Bible study, and yet another for prayer. We need the multiple visions of Christian leadership, because Christians need to expand their horizon and churches, like their members, need greater depth through spiritual growth.

• what the writer sees clearly–and we need to see clearly:
◦ Jesus Christ is always everything
◦ there never needs to be a “changing of the guard”
◦ the vision Jesus has for his church encompasses everything

Consequently – or, in other words, “here the conclusion we can draw”
able to save – “save” has to do with the whole person, now and for eternity
uttermost – can refer to measurement; totally, completely
◦ but can also refer to time – for all time, forever, to the end of time
◦ I don’t think we miss the point if we take it both ways
• who benefits from the ministry of Jesus?
those who draw near to God through him
Timothy Johnson, “God’s gift to humans comes through Jesus, and likewise their access to God passes through him.”
draw near – in Hebrews, this is the heart of the Christian experience
– the Latin word for priest is pontifex – “bridge-builder”
• Jesus makes certain that God’s door is always open to us
◦ so at any time we can draw near
◦ and Jesus is always keeping the door open
• specifically, he maintains our access to God by intercession
◦ to intercede is to meet up with someone to make a request or petition
◦ and to do this on behalf of someone else
• Paul, in Romans 8 says,
. . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Ro. 8:26)
Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Ro. 8:34)
• the Spirit intercedes in our own hearts; Jesus intercedes at the right hand of God
◦ so whether it is a matter of God being for us,
◦ or of us not being able to find our way in prayer,
“. . . the believer may know that he [or she] is not left in helpless isolation. There is an [intercessor] for him [and her] which reaches up to the very top.” (TDNT)

Jesus meets our need for a priest, perfectly
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Hebrews 7:26

I am going to mention something we’re all aware of,
– but I will not overemphasize it
• the Roman Catholic Church is still settling cases in court,
◦ paying millions of dollars in compensation for misconduct of priests
◦ in the Scriptures there are multiple examples of immoral and self-serving priests
• if you were to know all that could be known of any person
◦ you would be disappointed
◦ that is nothing more than our shared human weakness
– although he was also human, Jesus does not disappoint
• it is fitting that we should have a priest like him
Timothy Johnson, fitting does not mean he “is ‘what we have deserved,’ but rather ‘what we truly needed’ . . . .”
holy – Jesus is, by nature, what God is
(he can handle all the operations that requires holiness)
innocent – this may sound crass, no one will ever dig up any dirt on him
unstained – nothing of our wickedness rubbed off on him
separated from sinners – not by “social distance,”
Jesus did not stay clear of sinners! (e.g., Lk. 15:1-2)
but he did not participate in their sinfulness
he did not share that human trait
exalted above the heavens – a status that was his by nature, but also that he earned (Heb. 1:1-3; Php. 2:5-11)
his exaltation is for our benefit
he is where he can do us the most good

What can we say about a person like this?
He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever Hebrews 7:27-28

The writer has more contrasts to point out
– first, Jesus does not have to offer sacrifices daily
• he offered a once for all sacrifice
◦ here is a twist the writer will explore further
◦ Jesus is both the priest who makes offering and the sacrifice offered
– second, he doesn’t have to make any sacrifice for his own sin

The next contrast: high priests were men appointed in their weakness
– and their appointment was by the law
– the Son does not have those weaknesses,
• but has been made perfect forever
◦ and he was not appointed by the law, but by the word of the oath (cf. v. 20)
which came later than the law
◦ God’s oath to Abraham came prior to law, indicating it is foundational
◦ God’s oath to the Messiah, came after, indicating a change in the law (v. 12)
– look again, the Son has been made perfect forever
• he does all that is necessary for relationship with God and our wholeness,
• and he does it perfectly

Conclusion: I began this talk with a couple of remarks re: love

Gerald May said, “Falling in love often feels choiceless; it seems to break through our defenses . . . Being in love, however is something we say yes to. It is a willing yielding into love’s presence.”
– being in love generates a wonderful, pleasurable energy
• but again, everything depends on being in love with right person
St. Augustine expressed regret for the years he spent loving the wrong things, “Too late did I love Thee, O Fairness, so ancient, and yet so new! Too late did I love Thee! For behold, Thou wert within, and I without, and there did I seek Thee; I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty Thou madest. Thou wert with me, but I was not with Thee.”
– had he fallen in love with God sooner, he could have spared himself
• a lot of nonsense and heartache

God tells us, “I’ve removed every obstacle between us from My side.
Now you remove every obstacle from your side.”
Most of the obstacles I have to overcome
are in my head;
either from the poor instruction I received about God
or from the dark thoughts I invented about myself.
But even that, God helps us with by his Spirit
who sanctifies us (Titus 3:4-5)

The next time you’re outside, look up
and notice how there is nothing between you and the sky.
Then see if you can feel that same closeness to God.
Nothing between you and his presence.
You have the perfect priest, minister,
counselor, pastor, and spiritual director.
Jesus is all this and infinitely more.
Say yes to falling in love with him.

Jun 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Celebrate the Lord’s Supper

Reflexion will be observing the Lord’s Supper on our Facebook page this Thursday evening, June 18. Have bread and wine prepared and join us at 7:00 pm. (Search: Reflexion, a spiritual community.)

In these strange days, Communion is one important way to anchor our souls in Jesus. Though we observe this sacred ritual as a community, at the same time our experience is personal, as each of us encounter Jesus as if alone with him.

If Thursday evening does not work for you, we will leave the post up for several days to give you opportunity to share this experience with us.

Until Thursday, grace and peace.

Jun 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 14, 2020

Podcast

Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? Hebrews 7:11

Intro: Are you familiar with the name Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

He was a twentieth century martyr – imprisoned for opposing Hitler
– he gave a great deal of thought to what it means to be a Christian
• also, to what a true church, not compromised by the world would look like
• one conclusion he drew was that a Christian meditates on the Scriptures
◦ that got him asking questions like:
◦ “Why do I meditate?” “How do I meditate?”
Bonhoeffer,What do I expect from meditation? In any case, we want to rise from meditation different from what we were when we sat down to it. We want to meet Christ in his Word. We go to the text curious to hear what he wants to let us know and to give us through his Word.”
– yes, it is possible to have this kind of vivid encounter with God
• the writer of Hebrews explains how this has been made possible
• and, once again, he invites us to draw near to God

In building his case for Christian faith and endurance,
– our writer’s argument will stress two key words
another, which occurs three times (vv. 11, 13, & 15)
better–occurs two times (vv. 19 & 22)
◦ two Greek words can be translated another
allos means “another of the same kind” (comparing apples to apples)
heteros means, “another of a different kind” (apples to oranges)
◦ the word used in this passage is heteros
Jesus is another kind of priest belonging to another kind of tribe

The writer points out the inadequacy of the Levitical priesthood

Dissecting one verse (Ps. 110:4), the writer examines closely each part of it
– you know what I mean when I refer to a “religious order”
• there are many monastic orders within the Roman Catholic Church
◦ for instance, the Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Carmelites, etc.
◦ in Israel, there was one religious order; namely, the tribe of Levi
• last week we were taken back in time to when Abraham met Melchizedek
◦ we learned that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham
◦ which means Melchizedek’s priestly order was greater than Israel’s
– in Psalm 110 God announced that the Messiah
is a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek
• so now the writer asks, why would that be necessary?
◦ why is another priest from a different order than Levi be needed?
• the answer: perfection wasn’t attainable through the Levitical priesthood
◦ we must take a closer look at this

The writer tells us that under the Levitical priesthood,
the people received law
– Moses entrusted the law to the Levites (De. 31:9, 24-26)
• the Levites instructed Israel in the law (Le. 10:10-11; De. 17:11; 33:10)
• and the Levites judged people according to the law (De. 17:10)
◦ it was in the law, that tribe of Levi was set aside for God (Nu. 3:5-9)
◦ so there is a strong connection between the tribe of Levi and the law
– there was something the Levitical priests could not do for people
• and the same was true for the law–something that it could not do
• but still, I think it’s important that we have a correct understanding of what this means

The beginning and end of the writer’s argument is marked by a word
– the perfection that was not attainable through the Levitical priesthood
– and then the law that “made nothing perfect
• this might look to us like both the priesthood and the law were failures
◦ but that is not what the writer is saying
The law and priests were established for one purpose:
– to maintain God’s covenant relationship with Israel
• this was like a marriage covenant
◦ Mt. Sinai was the altar, and the law’s commandments were Israel’s vows

From early on, God stated his intention for choosing Israel. He told Moses, I will take you as my people, and I will be your God (Ex. 6:7). This will be reiterated many times in the Old Testament, and especially in the prophets. For now, we want to notice this especially in the prophecy of Jeremiah regarding the new covenant, and that God says that as a result of its formation, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33).

• in time, the law and priests could not hold the covenant together
◦ that doesn’t mean they failed,
◦ because they were designed to hold the covenant together

The purpose of the law was not to make people righteous
– nor was it meant to empower them to be righteous,
• but it was to show them what righteousness is
• the priests were there to secure forgiveness when people sinned
◦ no one could keep all of God’s commandments
◦ so there had to be a means of forgiveness and atonement
Howard Marshall, “The author must have assumed that the old system did do something, since it was of divine ordination and God cannot have created an empty institution.”
– the weakness of the law and priest was revealed,
• only when asked to do something they were not designed to do
◦ they did not perfect the people, because they were not meant to do that
◦ the crux of the issue is revealed in Hebrews chapter 8
For if the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them [when he presents to them a new covenant] (vv. 7-8)
◦ the law and priests were effective in fulfilling their purpose
• when God presented the law to Israel, they promised to keep it
All that the LORD has spoken we will do (Ex. 19:8)
◦ many years later, Moses informed the people of Israel,
. . . the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the LORD said to me, “I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments (De. 5:28-29)
◦ if they could have lived up to their words, they would have never broken God’s covenant

What did the Levitical priests and law not do for the people?
1. Did not transform them – change their hearts
2. Did not empower them to be righteous
3. Did give them unrestricted access to God

With a change in priestly order, writer sees change in law
For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests
Hebrews 7:12-14

The law established the priesthood, and it belonged to the tribe of Levi
– so a change in the priesthood involved something not covered by the law
William Barclay, “Under Jewish law a man could not under any circumstances become a priest unless he could produce an unbroken and certified pedigree going back to Aaron.”
– this actually became an issue for the Jewish migration home from exile
• it had to do with one particular clan that had served in Solomon’s temple
. . . they could not prove their fathers’ houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel . . . .
These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean
(Ezra 2:59 and 62)
• here’s the problem (v. 13) – Jesus did not belong to the tribe of Levi
◦ he had no right or authority to serve as a priest in Israel’s sanctuary
For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests

The writer argues that this is not a disqualification, but a revelation
This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him,
“You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek.”
Hebrews 7:15-17

What is “even more evident”?
– that neither is the Messiah of the order of Levi!
• Jesus did not meet the law’s requirement to be a priest
◦ he did not belong to order the order of Levi
• however, Jesus surpassed both the law and the priestly order
◦ because, as we have seen, the order of Melchizedek is superior to the Levitical order
– the order of Melchizedek was not established by the law
legal requirement is more literally legal commandment
◦ Jesus did not need to be qualified through the law
◦ his qualification was based on something that predated the law
• nor did Jesus need to be qualified by his DNA
◦ in the the term bodily descent, “bodily” could better be translated “fleshly”
◦ it refers to that which is “merely human”
Luke T. Johnson, says fleshly “. . . means it lacks the power to communicate God’s own life. Only life can generate life”
• compare this with statement to what Jesus’ told Nicodemus,
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (Jn. 3:6)
• the contrast between Jesus qualification for priesthood and the Levites,
◦ is a contrast between law and life,
◦ and between a legal command and power

God has provided us something beyond the law
For 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 7:18-19

Again, “the former commandment” was weak and useless,
– not because the law was flawed,
• but because it was given to people, who were flawed
◦ this was Paul’s horrific struggle in Romans chapter 7
So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good (Ro. 7:12)
• the problem is that the power that the law does exert, works against us
For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Ro. 3:20)
– now, in Jesus, we have a better hope
• and through it, and not the law or Israel’s priesthood, we draw near to God
• this is Hebrews’ most characteristic description of the Christian experience
◦ we are allowed to approach God, up close
◦ we have access to his presence that not even the high priest enjoyed
– it’s a better hope, because it depends on who Jesus is and what he has done
• and not on our ability to, on our own, keep all the commandments

Conclusion: We cannot leave this passage without the following verses
And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:
“The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
You are a priest forever.”

This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant Hebrews 7:20-22

Notice that the for the first time, the writer quotes the full verse
– until now he has left of the opening line:
The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind

• not even the Levites had this going for them
• they were made priests legally
◦ Jesus was made a priest personally — God swore an oath to him
This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant
– you see, we had to include these verses
• they are nothing less than the total assurance we need
God has sworn an oath
He will not change his mind
And Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant
• the guarantor of our relationship with God

Now what?
Let’s draw near to God!
How do we live this?
By practice
We train ourselves to focus awareness on God himself
By doing this, we draw near to him in this present moment
We meet with Jesus like this every day,
so that we constantly renew this better hope,
and enjoy the rich intimacy of this better covenant

Jun 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

When will we meet again?

As of today, there is no definite date for resuming our Sunday morning meetings when we will be together again physically. Although there are a number of logistical challenges to overcome before we get to that place, our primary concern is for everyone’s safety, especially those who for health reasons are most at risk.

I doubt that you need to be reminded that it is necessary to discern the difference between faith and presumption. When the devil tempted Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the temple, Jesus could have said, “Yeah, I’ll do that; I believe in a God of miracles! And when the angels catch Me, you’ll see that I am the Son of God.” But he didn’t. What the Lord said was, “It is written,
‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Now, if the angels would have caught anyone, it would have been Jesus, but he chose instead not to test God. So that is the path we are taking as well.

If you need to speak to someone person to person, please private message us on our Facebook page or leave a comment on our blog site with your phone number, and we will get back to you.

Grace and peace

Jun 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 7, 2020

Podcast

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother, or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever Hebrews 7:1-3

Intro: If I were to write a paper on current societal pressures

I would title it, “Inadvertent Torture”
– no one intended to torture US citizens, it just happened
• first, we spend most of our days stuck in these boxes (our homes)
• then, two television and social media are dominated by two issues:
◦ a controversial pandemic and the eruption of racial tension
◦ our nation is sharply divided on both of these issues
(one step to the left, and your blasted and insulted by the far right, one step to the right and you are blasted and insulted by extreme left)
– as a result, there’s a surplus of anger surging through human interactions
• now, this isn’t torture for everyone
◦ some people enjoy stirring up conflict and chaos
• however, most of us dislike hostile confrontations
◦ (especially when that aggressive agitator wears a smile)

Strange things happen in troubled times
– a significant number of odd occurrences are reported in the wake of wars
• for instance, a lot of ghost stories circulated around the Civil War
• and not all the tales were macabre; some were miraculous
– I mention this, because it relates to our study this morning
• obviously, we need background information to understand the passage
• we’re told, an encounter took place when Abraham was
returning from the slaughter of the kings
◦ those were troubled times of conflict for Abraham
◦ and in that context, a strange thing happened

Melchizedek made a “surprise guest” appearance in scripture

The backstory: Abraham’s nephew, Lot, had taken up residence in the city of Sodom (yes, that Sodom). An army marched against Sodom and the other kingdoms in the Valley of Siddim, and defeated them. Lot and his family were taken captive and dragged away, destined to become slaves. When news reached Abraham of Lot’s fate, he marshaled his rather impressive household and chased after the invaders. When he came to their camp, he launched a nighttime attack, in which he rescued Lot and liberated all the others who had also been taken captive. As he journeyed home, a stranger suddenly showed up with provisions for Abraham. (Ge. 14:1-21)

• as Abraham journeyed home, this obscure figure just–shows up
◦ there’s no mention of Melchizedek prior to this event or after
• he was a priest, but of what religion? We have no idea
◦ the Genesis storyteller gives only the slightest bit of information about him
– what the writer of Hebrews finds important is:
• Melchizedek was a priest (the first priest to appear in scripture)
• Melchizedek blessed Abraham
• Abraham gave Melchizedek ten percent of everything (the spoils)
• the meaning of the name, Melchizedek
• the meaning of the place where he was king (Salem)
• the fact that Melchizedek is not in a genealogy

Before we look closer at these points, let’s look at what writer leaves out
first, Melchizedek brought out bread and wine for Abraham
• given what the writer sees in Melchizedek this seems like an oversight
◦ given the centrality of the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper,
◦ and the body and blood of Jesus (especially here in Hebrews),
◦ and the way the writer makes use of typology, we would expect him to make something of this
◦ however, the writer is very selective in what he chooses to address here
second, the actual words of Mel’s blessing
Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!
(Ge. 14:19-20)
• this has always struck me as super important
◦ Abraham did not know God well yet
(God later revealed himself to Abraham as El Shaddai, God Almighty (Ge. 17:1) and then as Provider (Ge. 22:14)
◦ Most High God was a new revelation for Abraham
◦ the God that called him on his journey was the highest of all gods
• this is where “Most High God” enters the biblical repertory of titles
◦ Abraham immediately embraced this new truth
◦ in the next moment he swore an oath, using this title
I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth!

Later in scripture, Melchizedek made another guest appearance

The only other time he is mentioned in the Old Testament
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek”
(Ps. 110:4 and quoted in Heb. 5:6)
– this mention of Melchizedek is just as bizarre as the Genesis story
• it comes at an end of a short psalm
◦ the New Testament recognized that this psalm spoke of the Messiah
◦ Jesus himself quoted it in reference to the Messiah
• the psalm records God’s sworn oath to the Messiah
◦ he would be a priest who belonged to the order of Melchizedek

What does our writer see in these scant details?

He notices that Melchizedek was both a king and a priest
– in Israel, those were two separate offices; two different tribes
• Uzzah was a good king until tried to offer incense in the temple
◦ he was confronted by priests who told him he had no authority to do that
◦ instantly his body became leprous, and he ran from the temple (2 Chr. 26:16-21)
• but much later, a prophecy of Zechariah has this to say about the Messiah:
. . . the man whose name is the Branch . . . shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both (Zec. 6:12-13)
◦ Melchizedek seems to prefigure a dual role that the Messiah will fill

Next, the writer notes that Melchizedek means king of righteousness
– and also that he is king of Salem, or king of peace (shalom )
• it was not enough that he was king of either righteousness or peace, but of both
Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other
(Ps. 85:10)
• righteous refers to right relationships
– what is the relationship between righteousness and peace?
• righteousness produces peace
And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever (Isa. 32:17)
Therefore, since we have been [made righteous] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Ro. 5:1)
◦ and later on in Hebrews,
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:11)

Next the writer notes that Melchizedek appears without a father, mother, or genealogy
– this is unusual for Genesis – every important person has a genealogy
• in fact, the whole book is divided into sections by its genealogies
• Melchizedek also had no birth or death, no beginning of days nor end of life
◦ he continues a priest forever
◦ this inference is made from the quote from Ps 110
– some Bible teachers assume Melchizedek was not a historic figure, but a “christophany”
(an appearance of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament)
• however, as Kenneth Shenk observes,
“The author, however, nowhere makes such and equation or hints at such a belief. The closest he comes is when he says that Melchizedek is ‘likened’ to the Son of God.”
◦ the writer is only saying that as far as story in Genesis is concerned, there’s no birth record for Melchizedek, his genealogy is not given and nothing is said regarding his parents
◦ in the story, he appears out of nowhere, then returns to oblivion
Jerome Neyrey, “This quality [of immortality], which properly belongs only to the Immortal One, extends also to Jesus. When Melchizedek was declared to be ‘without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life,’ he only ‘resembles the Son of God’ (7:3); the converse is not true.”
Luke Johnson, “But the one who truly ‘lives forever’ is Jesus, and he is the one whom Hebrews really has in mind when it says that ‘he is attested as being alive.’”

The writer sees Mel as a very important figure
See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him Hebrews 7:4-10

How great was Melchizedek? His interaction with Abraham shows us
– we’ll take the blessing first
• this was one of the services priest performs for people (Nu. 6:22-27)
◦ that Melchizedek gave this blessing reveals his superiority
• v. 7 looks like an overstatement (the inferior is blessed by the superior)
◦ but in the context of worship in Israel’s religion, it was true
◦ the greater person blessed the lesser
(greater is one of Hebrews’ key words, usually translated better)
– Abraham paid “tithes” to Melchizedek
(tithe is ten-percent of a family’s increase in income, whether crops, livestock, etc.)
• the writer sees tithing through the lens of the Mosaic law
the descendants of Levi . . . have a commandment in the law to take tithe
◦ to support all the services they performed in the sanctuary
• Melchizedek was not a descendant of Levi
◦ technically, could not receive the tithe that went to the Levites
◦ however, Abraham gave tithe to Melchizedek
• for the writer, this indicates the greatness of Melchizedek’s priestly order
◦ he was recognized as greater than Abraham
◦ and by extension, greater than Abraham’s descendants

A brief observation: the basis for paying tithe to priests and Levites:
– it came as a commandment in the law
• but Abraham wasn’t bound by the law (which came 400 years later)
• his tithe was spontaneous – it was gift, it was gratitude
– I believe this is what God wants from us
• not a mechanical monthly financial commitment
◦ certainly not a mercenary act, in which we give expecting to receive more back from God
• but the free offering of ourselves to God
◦ a giving inspired by love and expressed in joy
◦ a genuine act of devotion, in spirit and in truth
as Paul said, do not give reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7)

Conclusion: As I said, strange things happen in troubled times

Some wonderful things happen too
– Abraham had not yet arrived back at home
• he and not even the opportunity to rest
• but suddenly Melchizedek was standing there with bread and wine
– I don’t think that by ranting on social media
• we are going to resolve any of today’s volatile issues
◦ we’re not likely to argue anyone over to our political views
◦ we certainly are not going to find rest for our souls

What we need most is not to release tension by venting
but to find relief from conflict
And I think we can do that
by looking for the strange and wonderful thing
that emerge in these troubled times
We can look for Jesus, our great high priest
to come to us in the unprecedented madness,
bringing with him bread and wine,
a blessing,
and a revelation
It is in his love that we will discover righteousness
and in his smile that we find peace

May 31 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 31, 2020

Podcast

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by who to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. Hebrews 6:13-15

Intro: This week I was reading in the Book of Romans

In chapter 12, Paul listed ways to live in community with each other
– I was doing fine until I reached verse 12:
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer
• I am not by nature a joyful person – I lived many years under a cloud
◦ I hate to admit this, but for me hope doesn’t come easily either
◦ there have been a couple of hopes in this life that I’ve had to give up
• waking up to these issues and admitting them,
◦ reminds me that I can change
◦ and that is what God wants for me

The writer of Hebrews shifts his tone and begins a new thought
– but he builds on what has just said in verse 12
• follow the example of those who inherit the promises
• he’s already mentioned one promise – of rest (Heb. 4:1)
– what he explains is that WE LIVE ON A PROMISE
• his goal is to lead us to hope
• so, if like me, you tend to resist hope or your hope could use a boost,
◦ pay attention to what he has to tell us

How God is regarding His promises (13-15)

God made a promise to Abraham in their first encounter
– a promise to bless him – later he added more promises and specific details
• but time had elapsed between the first, second, and third promises
◦ and all that time, Abraham had not seen the promise fulfilled
• a fourth promise came, and then finally Isaac was born
(the first sign of fulfillment of the promise)
◦ but at that very moment, the promise was jeopardized
(when God told Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice)
◦ it was after this drama that God told Abraham,
By myself I have sworn, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you (Ge. 22:16-17)
– during all this, Abraham patiently waited
• the Greek word for patient means to endure through difficulty,
long-suffering
• that is how Abraham owned the promise – by hanging on to it

What is the significance of swearing an oath?
For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all disputes an oath is final for conformation Hebrews 6:16

To answer that question, we’ll return to an earlier episode in Abraham’s life
– in Gen. 15, Abraham was feeling the pressure of waiting patiently
O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess [the land]? (Ge. 15:8)
• God gave him some instructions for a special ritual, and
On that day the LORD made a covenant with [Abraham] (Ge. 15:18)
• a covenant was a guarantee – a partial installment
◦ but it was more; it was a binding relationship
◦ the covenant gave Abraham something to hang onto
• the covenant answered Abraham’s question, how he could know for sure
– when we were in chapter 4, I said the writer was keen on God’s oaths
• in that instance, his oath had a negative impact (Heb. 4:3)
• here the effect is positive

The writer says two things about oaths:
1. people swear by something greater than themselves – Something:
• more reliable and stable
• that will hold them accountable, “May God do so to me and more also . . .”
• that in the Scriptures is frequently supernatural
◦ parties in a covenant evoke a divine witness by whom they swear
◦ Ge. 31:49-53, Laban and Jacob (because they didn’t trust each other!)
• but since God had nothing greater to swear by, he swore by himself
2. an oath is final confirmation
• this gets to the heart of the oath – it resolves “disputes”

God’s oath to Abraham was for our sake
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us Hebrews 6:17-18

The writer switches from talking about Abraham to talking about us and from talking about others who inherited the promises (v. 12) to us being heirs of the promise
– he tells us what God desired to accomplish with the oath
• any mention of God’s desires, feelings, or passions,
◦ embarrassed some early Christian theologians
◦ influenced by Greek philosophy, they believed God was beyond all that
• but I love this personal way the Bible talks about God
◦ first, all they had to use was real human language
◦ second, they saw God as relatable, so their use of anthropomorphism and anthropopathism created a meaningful connection with God
– what God desires is to show you and I is,
the unchangeable character of his purpose
• God has never deviated from his plan, or given up on it
◦ he has always been determined to bring us to himself
◦ to live among us – and for us to live around him
• so to show us his determination, he guaranteed it with an oath

Now we have two unchangeable things:
– his promise and his oath
• God’s intention for us has not moved
• it’s not going anywhere – we need to know this!
Luke T. Johnson, “God does not need the oath, but humans do, especially in the face of circumstances that present evidence contrary to the promise.”
– notice how the author describes us and our situation
who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us
• he paints a picture of imminent danger
• it is natural for us to look for security
◦ both the body and the mind need a sense of safety
Stephen Porges, Professor and Director of the Trauma Research Center at U. of Indiana, “If our nervous system detects safety, then it’s no longer defensive. When it’s no longer defensive, then the circuits of the autonomic nervous system support health, growth, and restoration. . . . the most important thing to our nervous system is that we are safe.”
◦ what the writer says about refuge is a familiar expression in the Psalms
◦ for instance:
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble
(Ps. 46:1)

The hope has been set before us – the writer’s has been laying it out
– it’s up to us to make it our own – to hold fast to it
• listen, even the slightest glimmer of hope can save a life
• a slender ray of hope can change a life
◦ and we have a sold hope
◦ something you can get a hold of and hang on to

At this point, we can take a step back to look at this hope
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place 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

You’ve got to love this nautical analogy, anchor of the soul
– it’s the soul that experiences all the inner turmoil
• so God secures our souls with an anchor that is sure and steadfast
• it is hope that anchors us
– hope is a belief and an attitude we have regarding the future
• if the hope is already a reality, just waiting to happen,
◦ then it can open us to this present moment
◦ then it is possible to rejoice in hope and be patient in tribulation
• research shows that people with hope live healthier, longer lives
◦ hope is a critical source of energy – it keeps us going

Our hope enters into the inner place (the holiest place in the sanctuary)
– a closed-off room with restricted access
• but the writer isn’t talking about a physical place
◦ we’ll see that what he has in mind is where God actually is
◦ this is where our hope goes
◦ meeting God on his turf – maybe not even a “place,” but the actual experience of him (who is omnipresent)
• Jesus is already there

A few years ago I went scuba diving with some friends. The first night we anchored off of Catalina, dove there in the morning and then moved over to San Clemente island and dove there. When we arrived at our location, one of the experienced divers dove down to make sure the anchor was secured to a large enough rock to hold us in place. I imagine Jesus doing this, entering God’s space and securing the line that stretches back to us.

When I dive from a ship, I like being able to follow the anchor chain down to the sea floor or to the depth I want to explore. But it is even more helpful to me if I’m able to ascend the anchor line. First, it tells me that I’m at the right location and, secondly, it is an aid to help me make certain I am not ascending too fast. Again, I think of following the line that Jesus has anchored in God, so that by following it, we come to the place where our forerunner has already entered.

At this point, the writer is ready to return to Melchizedek
– and that provides his transition into the next chapter

Conclusion: Alright, take a slow, deep breath

I want you to hear this passage again
– but hear it as a more personal message from the lips of Jesus:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way (Jn. 14:1-4)

This is our rock-solid hope,
without it, there would be no Christian hope—
no Christianity
This is where Jesus has anchored our souls;
in an eternity with him

May 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 24, 2020

Podcast

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. Hebrews 6:1-3

Intro: We left off last week with the writer complaining (or scolding)

He had much more to say about Jesus in his role of a priest,
– but it would be too difficult to explain it all to them
• they had become lazy listeners
◦ as a result, they were not ready to go further or deeper
• but the truth is, the writer must have believed they were ready,
◦ because after this chapter he continues with his previous subject
◦ the one that he said would be “hard to explain”
– experienced public speakers can see what the writer is doing
• he wants to make sure he has their attention
◦ so he shocks them
◦ and he does this with what William Barclay described as
“one of the most terrible passages in scripture.”
• it is certainly one of the scariest passages in Hebrews
(two other equally scary passages in chapters 10 and 12)
◦ but these same chapters contain some of loveliest statements in the Book of Hebrews

We could cover this section in a couple of weeks, taking it in two or three bites,
– but that would leave us with too much tension in between each talk
• after reading to verse 8, we need to hear the next four verses
– the writer has three things he wants to say
First, preschool is over, it’s time to move on
Second, if they give up on Jesus, there’s no “Plan B”
Third, he reassures them, they haven’t gone over the edge

Preschool is over

“Therefore let us . . .” the writer has shifted from you (5:11-12) to us
– he is with them and will join them in this journey
• he refers to the doctrine (or teaching) about Christ as elementary
◦ the Greek word he uses is arche: the first or the beginning
• what do we learn in elementary school?
◦ the basics: the alphabet, addition and subtraction, grammar
◦ a foundation is laid so further education can be built upon it
(same in athletics – you practice the basics until they are automatic)
– a biblical theme is the call to move on with God
– Abraham, of course (Gen. 12:1), but later, the whole nation of Israel
The LORD our God said to us . . .“You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey . . .” (De. 1:6-7)
• God did not liberate Israel so they could take up permanent residence at Mount Sinai
◦ for the writer, being stuck in one place is not an option
◦ progress is an essential and inherent characteristic of faith
• it possible these Christians did not know anything beyond the basics
◦ you cannot get anywhere if every day you have to start again at the same place

This was the curse placed on the Greek mythical character, Sisyphus. Two times he escaped death by tricking the gods. Therefore his punishment was that he would have to perform the same task every day forever. From morning to night, Sisyphus would roll a huge boulder up a mountain, but just as he neared the top, the boulder would roll all the way back down to the bottom. This curse is like the “vanity” (emptiness, futility) that the Teacher of Ecclesiastes witnessed regarding a life that is lived strictly under the sun. Like the wind, it swirls around and around without getting anywhere (Ecc. 1:4-8).

But look at what the writer is telling them to leave!
– his list is remarkable, in that it’s the bedrock of our Christian roots
repentance from dead works
faith toward God
instructions about baptisms
the laying on of hands
the resurrection of the dead
eternal judgment
• what he calls “elementary” are stock-in-trade of many preachers
◦ like those whose every message is on “justification by faith”
◦ or evangelists who never fail to mention eternal judgment
– there are four things we need to understand about this list:
1. the writer is not telling them to walk away from basics
◦ these are foundational, but you only need one foundation
◦ the purpose of a foundation is so something can be build on it
(he’s certainly not telling them to leave faith toward God behind!
He still has much to say about faith in this letter/sermon)
2. the most likely reasons for getting stuck here:
◦ being short-sighted regarding the goal
(Some believers have been taught that “getting saved” is God’s goal for their lives; that is, having your sins forgiven and your ticket to heaven. In those churches, believers are generally called to repentance every week. Also, they need to hear same message repeated every Sunday, because this theme gets worn out and loses its motivational force to keep them going.)
◦ or spending a lifetime dissecting, examining, analyzing the basics
◦ or especially arguing and debating with other Christians over the basics (Paul’s advice was to avoid such arguments)
3. there is more to the scripture than words on a page
◦ many Christians quote verses without knowing what they mean
◦ there’s a depth to the Scriptures that we reach through maturity and that takes us into maturity–and there is also a depth to mature faith
4. And this we will do if God permits
◦ that is, we can only move on if God sees that we’re ready for it
◦ then he will lead us on by his Spirit

If they give up on Jesus, there’s no Plan B
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned Hebrews 6:4-8

If we summarize the first long sentence here, what it tells us is,
– if believers fall away from God, it’s impossible to restore them to repentance
• this is why Barclay referred to this passage as “terrible”
• some Bible teachers argue that such people were never really Christians
◦ let’s consider that idea – these hypothetical deserters:
1. were enlightened – their minds had been opened to the truth of God
2. had tasted the heavenly gift – taste: to have a real experience of something
◦ according to the writer’s world view, reality was two-fold
◦ there was what F. Schaeffer called an “upper story” and a “lower story”
◦ these people have had an upper story experience
3. had shared in the Holy Spirit
◦ they were in partnership with the Spirit
◦ and through the Spirit, partnership with the Christian community
4. had tasted the goodness of the word of God
◦ for the writer, Christian faith is lived-experience
◦ they had taken David’s challenge
Oh taste and see that the LORD is good! (Ps. 34:8)
◦ God had spoken a personal word to him through scripture
5. had tasted the powers of the age to come
◦ the New Testament reminds us that in Christ we experience something of the future joys of heaven now
– it is difficult for me to imagine how a person could enjoy all this,
• and then turn away from God
• this is something that gets to me every time I read the following
And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice [!] and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods (1 Ki. 11:9-10)

“Fallen away” can be misleading – this desertion is not accidental
– as if tripping over a rock or taking a wrong turn
• in rejecting Jesus, they are crucifying the Son of God
◦ and exposing him to open shame
◦ the shame of the cross, which he despised (Heb. 12:2)
impossible to restore them again to repentance
• if people turn from Jesus, he has nothing more for them
◦ they can’t start over, as if for first time, with something else

In his teaching, Jesus presented people with two destinies
– the analogies of wise and foolish builders, and sheep and goats
• here the writer presents the analogy of the soil in two fields
◦ the overgrowth of thorns and thistles appears in the Old Testament
◦ they symbolize a curse, from Genesis 3 and through the prophets
• with this the writer ends his argument with a grim conclusion

Now you see why we can’t stop here
Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, and you still do. And we desire each on of your to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises Hebrews 9-12

The writer admits his words have been severe, Though we speak in this way
– this relieves the tension that’s been building up in the passage
• “beloved” – how he feels about them (Greek: agapetos)
◦ he has written to them as a true friend
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy
(Pr. 27:6)
we feel sure of better things–in other words, “You’re in!”
– the reason for this assurance is because, God is not unjust
• he does not overlook the fact that this field has produced useful crop
your work and the love (agape) you have shown for his name
◦ their love for God was revealed in their service to others
– his concern for them, is that they persevere in this journey
• what he hopes to see in them:
the same earnestness – eagerness, enthusiasm, diligence
the full assurance of hope – we’ll see more hope later in this chapter
◦ they will not be sluggish – lazy, lethargic, apathetic
they will be imitators of those . . . who inherit the promises
(in chapter 11 we’ll find an extensive list of such people)
• they would need not only faith,
◦ but patience – endurance; a major theme in the Book of Hebrews

Conclusion: There is a really important lesson here

Not only the obvious lesson about growing toward maturity
– but one that’s just important
• it has to do with how the Bible gets inside us
• if you find passage disturbs you, it’s because it was meant to do that
◦ that is so much more than information entering our brains,
◦ it is truth entering our viscera–our hearts and lungs and bones

Too many people today are giving Christianity a bad name
It is easy to discover what they are against–
they are more than happy to scream it into your face
It is much more difficult to see
that they are for Jesus;
for his compassionate concern for others,
for his patience, mercy and forgiveness,
for his gentle touch of healing

God wants children
through whom he can love the world
So he sends Jesus to us,
to win us over by his love,
to walk with us through everything
Then Jesus sends us
to carry on his work

Let’s grow up, for heaven’s sake!
Haven’t we been Christians long enough
to swim in the deep end of God’s pool?

May 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 17, 2020

Podcast

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing Hebrews 5:11

Intro: I’m going to begin with a personal reflection

You won’t see the connection at first, but it will make sense later
– Friday I was reading in the Book of Acts
• Paul was under house arrest in Rome
◦ but he was given freedom to entertain visitors
◦ when people came, Paul’s spent his time
trying to convince them about Jesus, and so he,
welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance (Acts 28:23 and 31)
– if you were going to have a conversation with Paul,
• you were going to hear about Jesus
◦ he never forgot their first encounter or what Jesus did for him
◦ for those who listened, his enthusiasm was contagious
• his drive to have a closer relationship with never diminished
I count everything loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his suffering . . . (Php. 3:8-10)

When I read the verses in Acts, they took me back to the Jesus Movement
– it really was about Jesus – hippie believers were “Jesus freaks”
• there were Jesus festivals, Jesus marches, Jesus concerts,
◦ a Jesus people newspaper
◦ Jesus even made the front cover of Time Magazine
• we talked about Jesus all the time
◦ everyone had a story about Jesus
◦ where they were when he found them, and how he saved them
– sadly, all that energy for Jesus gradually faded
• the movement went through a process of institutionalization:
◦ characterized by Paul Hiebert as a “stratification of hierarchy”
◦ and a “hardening of the categories” — “Religion, Inc.”
• for many years, even before the Jesus Movement,
◦ Calvary Chapel’s mission statement was printed on its weekly early
One paragraph in particular read, “We are not a denominational church, nor are we opposed to denominations as such, only their over-emphasis of the doctrinal differences that have lead to the division of the Body of Christ.”
◦ within two years of my dad’s death, Calvary Chapel was divided into two denominations
(those who broke away from the “mothership” argued “doctrinal differences”)
– I don’t mean to generalize all Calvary Chapel churches or all of its pastors
• I’m thinking of those who claim to be carrying on my dad’s work,
• but have only adopted a method without understanding his vision

What changed?
There was a subtle shift from the person of Jesus to the word of God
– you may ask, “What’s wrong with that? Doesn’t the Bible refer to Jesus as “the Word”?
• that is true, and as we do not separate the Word from Jesus, nothing is wrong
◦ but when study of the Bible becomes an end in itself
◦ or the heart of our salvation, then we have become Pharisees
You, Jesus told them, do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (Jn. 5:38-40)
• going to the Bible for Jesus is a first stage
◦ the next stage is going through the Bible to Jesus
◦ God did not give us the Bible just so we could know the Bible
– it took me awhile to wake up to what had happened
• we were emphasizing the importance of knowing the Bible
◦ but not stressing enough the importance of godly character
• we were producing students of scripture who could quote lots of it
◦ and did so to justify their anger, malice, rudeness belligerence, and
other attitudes and behavior that were not at all Christ-like
◦ while some of our ministers, who showed little integrity, were competing for influence and recognition

The writer of Hebrews had witnessed a similar decline

His readers were second and third generation Christians
– they were becoming weary – their faith was giving out
• and they were in danger of falling away
– so the writer scolds them with a stern warning (Heb. 5:11 – 6:12)
• vv. 11-14, first, they were behind in their education
• 6:1-3, second, it was time to move beyond an introductory level faith
• 6:4-8, third, he warned of the severe danger in falling away
• 6:9-12, fourth, he encouraged them that forging ahead was doable

Last week we saw that Jesus is our high priest

That he fulfilled the necessary qualifications and obligations
– but now the writer of Hebrews is stuck
• first, he tells them he has much to say about Jesus being
designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek
◦ this is surprising, because scripture has so little to say about Melchizedek
◦ he says it is hard to explain – the backstory of Melchizedek is not well known
• but that was not the only reason it was hard to explain
– the heart of the problem was they had become dull of hearing
• dull in 6:12 is “sluggish”–i.e., lethargic, even to the point of resistance
• have you ever started reading a book or article,
◦ and found it so technical or complex that you gave up?
◦ something like that was happening here with the readers

Evidence they were unprepared (or unwilling) to move on

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil Hebrews 5:12-14

Where they ought to be: by this time you ought to be teachers
– if we hear someone’s been playing guitar for thirty years,
• we expect that person to be able to play really well
• these believers should have known enough to be able to help others;
to . . . exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13)
◦ as Paul told the believers in Rome,
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers [and sisters], that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another (Ro. 15:14)

Where they were: you need someone to teach you
basic principles – the literal Greek is, fundamentals of the beginning
• such fundamentals would have included learning the ABC’s
of the oracles of God – “oracle” is the word of God delivered or spoken
Ken Shenk, “Hebrews has no explicitly stated theology of the Scriptures. . . . What Hebrews does have is a pervasive sense of God speaking and, thus, of God’s word, his [logos].”
Timothy Johnson, “. . . in Hebrews Scripture is always a matter of God’s speech . . . .”
– God makes this clear through his prophets
For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them: “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you” (Jer. 7:22-23)
• it is always about God speaking to us in the here and now
• whether it is through his written word or direct communication

The writer gives them an analogy that paints a clear picture
– we don’t feed infants solid food
• we introduce it in stages
◦ liquid, then soft, mushy food
◦ and later, chewable food when they they have teeth
• Paul used the same analogy
But I, brothers [and sisters], could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready for it (1 Cor. 3:1-2)
unskilled suggests a lack of experience
word of righteousness is an unusual way to refer to scripture
In the Scriptures, righteous is a relational term. It refers to the right way to respond to God and treat other people. Here in the United States, we have become a little confused about this. Instead of having to do with how we treat others, we have made it about ourselves, how we should be treated by God and others. Too often we hear believers say, “Well, what about my rights?” When the writer uses the term word of righteousness, he is referring to a specific function of the Scriptures; namely, its value in the formation of our sense of right and wrong when it comes to serving him and caring for others.
• God’s concern is not with how much scripture we memorize
◦ it’s about his word transforming us – changing us

How does the writer characterize a mature believer?
– someone who has undergone lots of intense training
• “power” does not refer to might or force, but capability
(specifically, “the mind’s ability to perceive”–our internal and external senses)
◦ it is possible to develop senses for discerning right and wrong
◦ it is not always right to be right (sometimes it’s right to be silent)
• immature judgment is black and white; what we teach children
◦ black and white judgment would have stoned the woman Jesus forgave (Jn. 8:1-11)
◦ mature indicates a more complex judgment that includes disciplined intuition
– let’s take a moment with the following words
Trained: we acquire new skills by exercising them, like tying our shoes,
teaching our bodies to balance on a bicycle or skateboard, or
learning to float and swim in water. The brain requires enough
experience with these activities to wire them into our brain so they
become as familiar to us as walking.
Constant: not haphazard, but self-disciplined constancy.
Practice: go over something repeatedly until we own it, like practicing
musical scales or the basics required for athletic performance.

Conclusion: Can you see what the writer is doing?

He is telling us there’s a prerequisite to fulfill before taking the next course
– he confronts us without condemning us (cf. the role of discipline in Heb. 12:7-11)
• what worries him can happen to:
◦ any Christian, church, or Bible college
◦ any pastor, movement, or denomination
• it can happen to me or to you
◦ the temptation comes to every believer
◦ to slack off – or get fixated on other things

This is the reason we were told earlier to “Consider Jesus”
Consider him, and keep on considering and contemplating him
The only way to develop a close friendship,
is by spending time together
Talk to Jesus–around the house,
while driving your car,
when you find yourself thinking anxious thougts

We cannot allow ourselves to lose our “first love”
It’s okay if the romance wears off,
but we dare not lose our passion
Romance is sitting on the beach staring at the waves
Passion is riding them