Trust is difficult for so many people. They are so many instances of betrayal all around us. Look at the recent news about Ashley Madison. Clearly, this type of violation brings about a lack of trust in everyone and everything. There are very few oaths greater than the marriage vows, so when a man or woman violates that agreement, trust undoubtedly becomes more difficult.
Hebrews 6 talks about trust, but it talks about our trust in God, and it demonstrates how different that type of relationship is.
Heb 6:18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
Heb 6:19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
Heb 6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
God cannot lie, and because He is our hope, we can have unmeasured confidence. People very well might let us down from time to time. That is natural with imperfect people. However, when you think about God giving us this promise that He will not break, that is truly something amazing.
This promise is not insignificant either. It promises a hope of life after death. It promises an eternity in the presence of our perfect Lord and Savior. It promises eternal joy and peace. This is not something to disregard. It is much more important than any other promise that you or I could make here on earth.
Clearly, as Christians, we ought to follow through on our promises. It is wrong not to. However, even with the best of intentions, sometimes we are not able to do what we said, and there are plenty of times where our intentions are not perfect. However, think about God and His promises. They will not fail, and they sound pretty amazing.
Just like physical maturity, spiritual maturity is something that happens over time. In Hebrews 5, we hear about the difference between milk and meat.
Heb 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
Heb 5:13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
Heb 5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
I think there are a few important things to pull out from here. First, there is nothing wrong with needing milk. Those people might be unskillful in the Word, but it is not mean they are not of the Word. That is an important differentiation. Young Christians are still Christians, and that puts them in the family. They certainly need to learn more about the ways of God, but it is not as if they need to meet some type of maturity threshold before being allowed to be Christians.
For this audience however, the author is saying that they should be further developed by now. Again, it is not that the fundamentals are wrong, but development is natural. Just like people mature physically, they should also mature spiritually. As they live with the God longer, they should understand more about God and have a better handle on good or evil. It is not that we become perfect right away, but we start to move in the right direction.
I wonder where I am or where you are on this continuum. The vital part is that we are on continuum. Again, even if we are young Christians, we are still Christians. However, just like developing physical maturity brings about certain benefits and privileges of adulthood, there is more joy to be gained through a closer relationship with God.
I understand that there is some discussion about the true meaning of the Word of God in Hebrews 4:12. Let’s take a look at it.
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Heb 4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
There are two main interpretations. On one hand, the Word of God could mean the Scripture. After all, that is how we refer to it all the time. The Word of God could also mean Jesus Christ Himself following the tradition laid out in John 1.
Personally, I had always thought about this verse meaning the first. After all, it seems that the Bible meets all of criteria in verse 12, and in our popular vocabulary, the Word of God normally means the Bible. However, given that verse 13 applies a personal pronoun to presumably the Word of God, it seems to me that perhaps the second is the better interpretation.
All of these criteria could certainly apply to Jesus, and I think that they might actually fit better. Jesus was a discerner of the thoughts of people when He was on earth. As a result, it makes sense that He would still be able to do that. He would still be able to understand what we are going through because He Himself had experienced it.
My commentaries are divided on this issue, and I’m sure that there are people who can make a compelling case for either side. However, the implications for you and me are that whether it is Jesus Christ Himself or our Scripture, we are talking here about the truth of God. In either case, we are not hidden from the sight of God, and God is able to see our inmost thoughts. Therefore, we need to be vigilant that even in our thought lives, we’re doing whatever we can to focus on Him and glorify Him there as well.
As Christians, it is important that we encourage each other. In Hebrews 3, the author is discussing the wanderings of the Israelites and how their hearts had become so hard. The author obviously wants the church to avoid that same problem.
Heb 3:12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
Heb 3:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
We encourage each other every day so that we do not fall into sin. I think it is a lot easier for someone to kind of fall off the path of righteousness and into sin if they are alone. If you have people beside you who are supporting you and encouraging you, you are much less likely to fall into problems.
Therefore, there’s responsibility for all of us in this picture of the church. We have to obviously want to keep ourselves on track, but we’re somewhat responsible for our brothers and sisters as well. They make their own decisions, but we’re supposed to be involved in their lives. We’re supposed to be caring and supportive. For some people, that does not come naturally. However, this doesn’t seem to be an optional responsibility. Rather, as a family, we support each other.
That is one challenge that we see rise from the text. Today, maybe we can find someone to encourage in their walk with Christ. Maybe we can remind someone about all the hope that we have as children of God. Maybe we can remind someone about the power of Jesus. I don’t know exactly what situation will come up in anyone’s life specifically, but I do know that this is something that we can and should do.
In Hebrews 2, the author strikes at the heart of one of the things that I think most of us have thought about at one time or another. Why does God care so much about people who only seem to cause Him trouble?
Heb 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
Heb 2:15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Heb 2:16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
Heb 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
This is a pretty amazing passage. Jesus became like us simply because He wanted to save us from the problems that we had created. Because He loved us, He wanted to make that reconciliation. These passages and so many powerful words to describe the process, but He was destroying the power of death and delivering those who were trapped in bondage.
I think about this, and God loves us in spite of all the problems we cause. We are conditioned to think as humans obviously. We are set in our perspectives, and it is easy to love those who love us and either fight with or simply ignore those who do not. We figure those people are not worth our time. However, God turns that entire perspective around. Every single one of us has offended him without a doubt, and He still loves us. He does not get mad; He does not ignore us. Rather, He is ready to forgive us as soon as we ask because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
It is important to remember this attribute of God. We cannot forget what He has done for us.
The beginning of Hebrews 1 sets out the difference between Jesus Christ and the rest of creation. The first difference is that Jesus was not created.
Heb 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Heb 1:2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
Heb 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
Heb 1:4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
Jesus Christ was the brightness of God. He was not simply a bearer of the brightness of God, but He was the brightness itself. He was the exact image of the person of God. He was and is God Himself. He was not a part of the created order.
This is hard for a lot of people to try to wrap their minds around. Naturally, we have two persons of the Trinity here with the third person being the Holy Spirit. How do we understand our God is one God but three persons?
I find that analogy is often the most effective way to understand the idea of the Trinity even though analogy is admittedly an imperfect reflection of reality. At least it helps a little bit for our finite minds.
It makes me think about Dorothy Sayers. Her argument is essentially that human creativity and can help us represent the Trinity. When an author is writing a book, there is an idea and the mind of the author. The book exists in the mind of the author. However, that both then becomes a different form written on paper. It is identical to the idea, but it is a distinct entity. Finally, when another person reads that same book, it is still the same book and idea, but it is the form in which it is communicated to the other person.
This type of illustration has helped me think through the issue of the Trinity, but always remember that every analogy is imperfect. It is much more important to understand that the Trinity is a reality than to develop a perfect analogy for it because that analogy is not going to be found.
The book of Philemon provides an interesting perspective on what is truly important. Onesimus had run away from his master Philemon, but he had met Paul and became a Christian. Paul was now sending him back to Philemon with this letter. Philemon was probably rather upset by this, but in this letter, it is clear that Paul is trying to show him what really should matter to him.
Phm 1:15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;
Phm 1:16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?
Philemon could have potentially been upset in this situation, so Paul seems to be trying to stop that concern right from the beginning. He understood that Onesimus had run away, but now that he had become a Christian, there was a transformed relationship.
As Christians, we are part of a family. Family members do hurt each other every now and then, but there is also forgiveness there. Even though perhaps Onesimus had hurt Philemon in some way when he ran away, that really was not important now. Later in the letter, Paul offered to personally offset any cost that had arisen out of the situation, and he was more concerned that Philemon would be willing to recognize the transformation of Onesimus.
I think about this in our lives. Think about someone who hurt you in the past. Perhaps later in life that person became a follower of Jesus Christ. The fact of the matter is that someday you are going to be standing side-by-side with that person in heaven praising our Lord. If you are both followers of Jesus Christ, then that is a reality. If you can’t live with them here on earth, then there is something wrong.
Paul did not want Philemon to throw out Onesimus he wanted him to think about the significance of his conversion to Christ. He was now a brother, and that type of situation has eternal consequences.
Paul ends Titus 3 by emphasizing the most important part of the Christian worldview.
Tit 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Tit 3:6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
Tit 3:7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Tit 3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
God has provided salvation for us. We’re justified by Him, not by our own works. As a result of that grace, we have been made heirs can have hope of eternal life in heaven with our Lord and Savior. That is vitally important.
Verse eight is interesting as well. Those who have believed in God ought to do good works. This illustrates a relationship I think between faith and works. If we have faith, then the works should follow. They are the consequence of following God. They do not give salvation, but if we are following the will of God, then we are going to do good things.
Think about Jesus Christ. He was perfectly following the will of God, and he did a wide variety is good works. As this verse says, they were profitable. He was helping out society simply by being in line with the will of God the Father. That applies to us as well in this case. I believe that Christians are good for the world. If we are endeavoring to live by the Christian worldview, the world is going to be better for having Christians in it. As you look at the number of schools, hospitals and charities founded by Christians over the years, it is obvious that many people have been motivated by the desire to follow God to do great things for humanity.
As a result, let’s remember this passage from Titus. Faith needs to come first, and salvation comes by that alone. However, as we then endeavor to follow Jesus Christ, works that are good for the world are going to follow. John Lennon might have imagined a world without religion, but I don’t think he would have liked what he would’ve found if there had never been a group of people passionately trying to follow the will of God who motivates good work.
As Christians, we have hope. That is something powerful about the Christian worldview. It fully acknowledges everything that is wrong with the world; we’re not in some kind of false bubble. However, we know that there is something better to come in the future.
In Titus 2, Paul is speaking to Titus about characteristics that ought to be present in believers, and he finishes off in this list with the most important in my opinion.
Tit 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Tit 2:12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Tit 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
We live in this world. We should live in a way that God wants us to. However, we are doing that while constantly looking for the hope of the return of Jesus Christ. We live on earth, but we keep our eyes on heaven.
I think that we all have heard sermons asking about whether or not we would be proud to be doing what we are doing if Jesus Christ was to return today. I think it is a question worth considering, but even if Jesus did not return today, it still seems like the same question would apply. After all, God knows everything we are doing anyway.
Therefore, as we live on earth, we are trying to follow the way of Jesus Christ. Because the Word was made flesh, we do have an example of the perfect Christian life that we can follow. However, while we are living that life, we also keep our focus on the ultimate hope that we do have. The world is not all there is, and one our time here is done, the true adventure really begins. It has really struck me lately how amazing and exciting that really is.
Paul was writing to Titus in chapter 1 mostly about the qualifications of elders in the churches that Titus was supposed to appoint. However, after he lists out a variety of qualifications, we come to this verse.
Tit 1:15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.
First of all, it is wise to remember that no one is pure without the intervention of God. It seems clear that all have sinned, and we are all unbelieving to begin with. Therefore, we fit into the latter category without a doubt. We are defiled, so we cannot experience purity.
However, what about those of us who are Christians? Does this mean that we have absolute liberty to do whatever we want because everything becomes pure when we do it? I don’t think so. After all, it seems contradictory to say that I am able to sin yet it is pure.
Rather, it seems to me that we need to take a look at what happens to the people who are the pure. If we are pure, then first of all that has been imparted to us through Jesus Christ. Any righteousness we have comes from Him alone. Therefore, in order to call ourselves the pure, we need to be acting in accordance with the will of God.
If that is the case, then we’re not going to sin because we cannot be pure follow God and sin simultaneously. I am not saying that followers of Christ do not sin, but I am saying that when we do sin, we have deviated from following God. Clearly we can have forgiveness, but for that moment we have stumbled off the path.
To wrap all of this up, it seems to me that when we are following God, everything is pure. After all, following God cannot be anything but pure. However, if we were separated from God, then how can the experience this type of purity?