Lessons from my journey with JESUS.
Please first read Hebrews 10:19-25.
Living in Khartoum children (and a few adults) pointed at us and shouted, “khawaja”, meaning white person, foreigner. I did not mind at all and I cheerfully waved back smiling. The only time I did not like it was just after doing some business in a copy shop in Bahri. As I started to reverse my car a loud BANG BANG BANG BANG was heard. It was not gun shots as I first thought. Some young boys had put empty coke cans by my wheels so as I reversed so they ‘exploded’! I could see the boys hiding away and laughing. I pointed at them and laughed back, smiling, before driving quietly away.
Followers of our Lord Jesus Christ are supposed to be visibly different from others we live amongst. The reading above is the author’s summary of his argument from Hebrews 4:14-16 up to this point. Notice the similarities in the two passages. Because of Jesus and His high priestly entry into the heaven of God’s presence we can be bold about our Christianity and our Saviour, even if persecution gets tough – which it did for the original readers of Hebrews. They were probably expelled from Rome, losing their status, their businesses, their property and their homes, see Acts 18:1-3. How would you and I react as Christians to that?
As I write this, away in South Sudan the arrival of a rebel leader and his men is being greeted with cautious optimism. By working together in a government of national unity it is hoped (and many of us pray for) a fair negotiated peace will replace the all-to-easy resort to the gun. May God grant this. It may seem a long way away from some of us as individuals, but I suggest that every Christian has a responsibility before God to play their own part. Each must show Christian living in everyday responses, sometimes proactively and other times by our reactions.
I cannot write about specific issues because I do not know what will arise. I will try to point out the principles for the Christian life in a time of building peace and promoting reconciliation to enable a young nation to grow up into adulthood.
1. Principle one, “since” in Hebrews 10:19, is to remember that of all the blood that has been shed in futile violence, it is the blood of Jesus and its application that is most important, Hebrews 10:19-20. Where there is talk of revenge, the Christian must remember the blood of Christ forgives sinners – all sinners who repent before God, from whatever tribe or territory, and whatever bad deeds done, see Hebrews 1:3; 2:9; 9:27-28; 12:2; 13:20-21.
2. Principle two, “since” in Hebrews 10:21, reminds us that our Lord Jesus is “the Great (High) Priest over the house of God”, Hebrews 10:21. From the Old Testament picture this means that with the application of the appropriate sacrifices Jesus has already made, we – together with all others who are truly sorry for our sinfulness and fallen nature – are able to join as one in praise and worship to God Most High. Every tribe, tongue and nation, see Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 5:9-14; 7:9-10.
3. The third principle is introduced, as are the next five in the NIV, by “let us …” Hebrews 10:22, “let us draw near to God”. God looks at our hearts, not the externals of life but the motivation that drives from within us. Christians speak of ‘giving hearts to Jesus’. The Lord Jesus then directs every part of our lives. If we keep anything from Him, He is not our Lord even if we think He is. We are imposters not Christians.
4. Principle four “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess”, Hebrews 10:23. Jesus is faithful to us. Are we always and in all ways as faithful to Him? To swerve is to change direction in order to avoid something. A Christian dare not avoid the difficult choices that must be made to be positively different in following Christ. Peer pressure, history, mob mobility, the expectations of others, must not decide what we do. Individually the choice is made to follow the Lord Jesus.
5. Principle five “Let us consider how”, Hebrews 10:24. We are not alone. We should be helping one another as Christians. Poverty nor persecution are excuses for neglecting to help others. See 2 Corinthians 8:1-7. Jesus wants to use us and use all that we have and are, however small. In our church when the Sunday offering bags are passed along every row week by week I think to myself, “these bags are too small. I cannot put myself in, yet I want to give all of me to my Lord”. Are you ready to do what you can?
6. Principle six “Let us not give up meeting together”, Hebrews 10:25. The word is the same as “foraken/abandoned” that Jesus used on the cross, Matthew 27:46. Since Jesus is where two or three meet to honour His name, we must be there too! See Matthew 18:20. Not every meeting of the church but some real Christian fellowship regularly. This will help us make life-changing decisions as we are challenged by them. Together is better than alone.
7. Our final principle, number seven “Let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching”, Hebrews 10:25. Our Lord Jesus is going to come back one day, and it really could be very soon! We must always remember that this world and all that is in it is temporary. Christians do not need to struggle after possessions, positions, lands and recognition on this soon passing earth. The International Space Station and some individual countries may have plans to visit the planet Mars one day in 5/6 years time. It is interesting to see them on TV practising how to drive vehicles on Mars from Mission Control. But as a believing and trusting Christian the certainty of my hope and home in heaven are of more interest to me as they come closer day by day.
Let us be different together. To God be praise and worship, in JESUS’ name. Let us keep a tight grip on heavenly things, but a light grip on this world’s toys.
Please now read Hebrews 10:32-34.
The last sentence of verse 34 gives the ‘how’ for our different reaction to some of life’s issues that we face because we are Christians. It reads (NIV) “because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions”.
When I pastored Khartoum International church I learned the activities of many of our members – ways they were serving the Lord Jesus. Some were working for the United Nations and helping in the resettlement programmes for people going back to their original homes after being forced to flee from famine or from war. They told me how a family would arrive home only to discover another family living in their home, a family who legitimately bought the property, but from someone who did not correctly own it according to law! My friends were forever trying to sort out these different issues fairly and justly.
The writer to Hebrews may have these or similar issues in mind when writing Hebrews 10:32-34. As young strong Christians his readers had been outstanding in testimony, always living to honour God, being seen to honour Jesus Christ. Many had suffered greatly while doing this. Verse 33 gives us our English phrase “to make a public spectacle of”. It means “to display in front of people in general, suggesting that someone or something is stupid or useless, is out of step with realities”. The determined Hebrew Christians lived for the honour of their Saviour, Jesus Christ. They did not live for the things of this world.
But here comes a confrontation. If your people, your family, your tribe around you, wish to react in a particular way to something – and that way is not the Christian way, doing it will not honour Jesus Christ nor bring others to think positively of Him – what should you do?
In Hebrews 10:33-34 the writer lists their experiences of:
insults – offensive words, lack of respect
persecution – being badly treated because of race, religion or political beliefs, etc.
identification with and serving the needs of suffering prisoners
This last one gives a reason for positive response to a negative situation: “because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions”, vs34. We Christians must keep our heavenly perspective at all times. The family and friends we lose, the property we lose, the opportunities which are blocked to us, the money we cannot get, all are of this earth alone. A martyred missionary to the Auca Indians in South America once earlier said: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.
All of our Saviour Jesus’ teaching in the sermon on the mount, Matthew chapters 5,6,7, comes into action here. If you do not read all of it (which you should) do please read Matthew 6:38-48. “Turn the other cheek”, “give to the one who asks you”, “love your enemies”, “pray for those who persecute you”, “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. In other words, be different.
“This manner in which (the believers in Rome) accepted the theft of their properties describes a spiritual condition by which one sees and celebrates greater realities than those immediately observable”.
Read Hebrews 11:13-16, especially vs16, for an expansion of this thought.
There were people in the Christian congregations written to here, “many of whom have been Christians a long time and have paid a great price for that commitment, but (now) some are growing weary and abandoning the faith altogether”. Hence a timely warning and encouragement to persevere, to endure, to keep on holding on, not to turn away from Christianity or Jesus. Verse 36, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised”, (italics mine).
I thought about giving this article the title, “Struggling to wait for the Lord’s coming”. I love the words in Hebrews 10:37, “He Who is coming will come”. There is no danger of God breaking His promise. Our Lord Jesus is coming back. It is then – then and not before – that all Christians will receive reward. We are not of this world any more, since we are born again, John 3:3-8.
We must all be very careful to keep both God’s word and God the Holy Spirit as the primary controllers of our lives. “All human authorities must be considered in the light of (this) divine authority. We must hear and obey the Word of God as illumined by the Spirit of God”. This means that normal family authority, ancient long-standing tribal custom, church denominational tradition, and even government edict, must not be allowed to relegate God’s word and Spirit to the last place to look for authority on any question. When this happens we find we are deciding everything humanly not Christianly.
The author to Hebrews knows “that progress in the Christian life does not just happen; it is the product of an ongoing life of choices made in the light of God’s will”.
Once more I say, let us be different together. To God be praise and worship, in Jesus’ name. Let us keep a tight grip on heavenly things, but a light grip on this world’s toys. May our daily choices direct our lives to honour Him whatever the price we have to pay. Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. Proving the realities of our invisible God is how we should all be living. Let us stir up one another in this great task, leading by example in actions not only in words, Hebrews 10:24. “Different” means “not the same as; separate, but of the same type”.
Jesus will make us different if we will let Him.
Originally written as BiMonthly Encouragement, 1st June 2016.
1. Explain why the blood shed by our Lord Jesus on the cross is more important than any other bloodshed. Please use Scripture where possible.
2. “Unswervingly”, Hebrews 10:23 (NIV). The word means ‘constantly’, ‘all of the time’, ‘holding firmly and without wavering’. What are the benefits of keeping our Christian hope central in all parts of life? Is there a cost?
3. ‘Jesus wants to use us and use all that we have and are’. Discuss how best we can practically surrender to Him. Again, use Scripture where you can.
4. Share ways of ‘keeping a heavenly perspective at all times’. Once more use your Bibles! Matthew 6:31-34 points towards what I call, ‘the Christian difference’.
5. How can Christians together help every Christian individual decide life’s values and influences in godly – not worldly – ways? Start your thinking from Hebrews 10:23-25.
 May 2016.  George Guthrie Hebrews, NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan: Grand Rapids) 1998, page 359.  Ibid page 361.  George Guthrie Hebrews, NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan: Grand Rapids) 1998, 363.  Ibid page 364.  Macmillan School Dictionary (Oxford: Macmillan) 2004.