Imagine that Jesus walked into your place of employment and simply said, “Follow Me.” What would you do? Would you follow Jesus physically? Would you leave your job? Would you leave your family? Would you leave your city instantly after only hearing two words from Jesus?
This is the scene that we studied this past Sunday, and is seemed as though that’s exactly what happened to Andrew, Simon, James, and John. But when you put the puzzle pieces together from the other Gospel accounts, there was much more going on here that what we could see on the surface.
Mark 1:16-20 was only one of the times that Jesus said, “Follow Me” to these men. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last time. Time after time, these men stutter-stepped and struggled in physically following Jesus—returning to their earthly identity again and again instead of walking fully in their kingdom calling.
Is that something that you struggle with—setting aside your earthly identity in order to walk fully in your kingdom calling? You may not be following Jesus physically on the dusty trails of Galilee, but the experience is just as real and the stakes are just as high.
Jesus is calling you. Jesus really does love you. Jesus really does want to be with you. And before you mutter all those reasons why your life doesn’t matter, Jesus is fully aware—and yet He still loves you and wants to be with you forever!
Starting right now, you could simply say, “Jesus, I’m tired of the stutter-step. I’m tired of the struggle. Please forgive me. Please help me. Please save me. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit. I want to follow You. I want to be with You forever! Thank you for hearing my prayer and receiving me into your family. In Jesus name, Amen.”
At His baptism, Jesus’ call to ministry came with the heavens parting, the Spirit descending on Him like a dove, and God’s voice from heaven declaring His favor.
And immediately after that glorious moment…the Sprit sends Jesus into the wilderness. Life is like that—even for the Son of God. There’s an initial romance in the call to ministry followed by a time of severe testing.
While in the wilderness for 40 days, Jesus was tempted by Satan. The Gospel of Luke records three specific temptations (Luke 4:1-13), but there were most likely many more. This would have been a severe time of testing and suffering for Jesus—but it would prepare Him for the rest of His ministry.
Although Jesus emerged from this time of testing and temptation unstained by sin, He was changed by the human experience. Jesus was made perfect though suffering (Hebrews 2:10) and is our compassionate High Priest (Hebrews 4:14).
At His most vulnerable and physically weakest, Jesus felt what we feel. He could sympathize with our times of testing. He could understand the temptations we face. His time of testing produced an empathy and compassion for the people He was to serve in His earthly ministry.
And God also leads us through seasons where our faith is tested. These trials refine and purify us so that God’s heart and character is ever more gloriously reflected in our lives.
As You with Satan did contend
And did the vict'ry win,
O give us strength in You to fight,
In You to conquer sin.
John the Baptist had a very unique call on his life. In order to fulfill that call, he needed to live the very unique life of a Nazirite. From the time he was born, he was to abstain from the fruit of the vine, to never cut his hair, and to never come near a dead body. Sound extreme? It was. The vow of the Nazirite was to express one's special desire to draw close to God and to separate one's self from the comforts and pleasures of this world.
This was done in obedience to God. John’s life was in preparation to be the preparation for Jesus. And if he was going to be effective in that preparation—in preparing the way and preaching repentance—he would need to be pure. So more than any man had ever done before, John pursued purity and God in the desert, living on wild honey and locusts.
Then one day, God told him it was time—the Messiah was here! John’s message was clear—are you ready? Is your heart ready? The King is coming!
That message if for you today as well: Is your heart ready for the King who will come again? Are you holding on to sin? Repent and let it go. Prepare your heart to receive what Jesus has to give!
On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
announces that the Lord is nigh.
Awake and harken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings!
Then cleansed be every life from sin:
make straight the way for God within,
and let us all our hearts prepare
for Christ to come and enter there.
Mark and Peter had failed, yet God called them and used their failure to form their future. He didn’t cause their failure or co-sign their failure, but He certainly used their failure for His glory—and our benefit!
He who has been forgiven much, loves much. Mark and Peter were increasingly aware of the forgiveness of Jesus—and so they increasingly learned to love Jesus with their lives. They learned to let their love for Jesus overrule and override their fear of man. And they grew in the grace of Jesus! Failure? Yes. Sinner? Yes. Called by Jesus? YES! AND equipped by Him along the way.
Jesus is calling all failures and sinners, foolish and forgotten, into His service to tell the world the good news of His kingdom. He became one of us, served us and loved us. He promised to never leave us or forsake us—no matter what the world has to throw at us.
Do you want to tell the world about Jesus? Do you want to be in the service of THE good news? God is calling you!
We hail you as our Savior, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward.
Without your grace we waste away
like flowers that wither and decay.
Stretch forth your hand, our health restore,
and make us rise to fall no more.
O let your face upon us shine
and fill the world with love divine.
Earthly kings expect to be waited on hand and foot. Overlords take all that they can for themselves. But Jesus is different. This King of kings didn’t come to be served, but to serve. This Lord of lords didn’t come to take, but to give.
Service and sacrifice—that is what we see of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus gives His life in service (chapters 1-10) and in sacrifice (chapters 11-16). Why? Because the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.
God has a radical adventure before you—full of heartache and pain; difficulty and wonder; glory and fellowship—with Him as you desire to be His servant. So as we study the Gospel of Mark, we pray that He would transform us with His word and by the Spirit so that we may see every second of our lives as a ministry opportunity. But most importantly—that we would see opportunities to fellowship with Him in service and sacrifice.
We thought You'd come with a crown of gold
A string of pearls and a cashmere robe
We thought You'd clinch an iron fist
And rain like fire on the politics.
But without a sword, no armored guard
But common born in mother's arms
The government now rests upon
The shoulders of this Baby Son.
–“Baby Son” by John Mark McMillan
In the book of Acts, John (also called Mark) joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. As time went on, things got difficult and Mark left Barnabas and Paul for home. For their second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to bring Mark, but Paul objected. Mark went with Barnabas, but Paul and Barnabas never served together again.
It probably took a while for Mark to get over his failure. He needed more than encouragement—he needed to be strengthened by the grace of Jesus—and God had just the man in mind.
Peter was familiar with failure—specifically the failure of running away in the face of fear. He was reminded of it every time the rooster crowed. Peter needed to know how to receive the grace of Jesus, how to live out the grace of Jesus, and how to be strengthened by the grace of Jesus.
The grace of Jesus changed Peter. So much so that Peter was able to share it with Mark, who was struggling with his own failure. He told Mark all about the grace of Jesus and showed Mark what it looks like to live in light of this amazing grace.
It’s a blessing to have to know people like Barnabas and Peter—fellow believers who encourage and teach you not only what it means to be strengthened by God’s amazing grace, but how to deny yourself, pick up your cross, and serve Jesus because of that grace.
Thankfully, through the ministry of Barnabas and Peter, Mark learned this. He learned how the grace of Jesus not only sustains us, but also gives us the ability to serve others—even and especially when we don’t feel like it. It prompted him to pick up his pen and, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, write a book about the amazing grace of Jesus—a book we call the Gospel according to Mark.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The Bible says it this way: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
There’s another verse in the Bible that talks about love. Jesus said it’s the distinctive feature of those who follow Him—“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). It’s not by having impressive Bible knowledge, or big budgets, or bigger building. It’s love. People will know we follow Jesus by our love. When people start to realize that we are truly following Jesus, they are drawn to a real relationship with Jesus as well.
Love is the key to God’s vision for His church. Simply loving the Lord with all that we have and all that we are. And loving our neighbor as ourselves. If our neighbor is a follower of Jesus, then we love them by helping them to follow Jesus. If our neighbor doesn’t follow Jesus, then we love them by introducing them to Jesus.
That’s it—simplicity of heart in love for the Lord and love for each other.
Let us love our God supremely,
Let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners,
Till our God makes all things new.
Rules and regulations lack any value and strength in restraining sensual indulgence. In order to overcome those temptations, we need a strong heart—a heart strengthened by grace, a heart established by grace.
But what does this look like? What does it mean to strengthen someone by grace? What does it look like to have a heart established by grace? It’s often found in emphasizing what God has done for us—not in what we should be doing for God. When we focus on what we don’t have or can’t do, sin easily entangles us. But when we focus on all we have, especially all the riches we have in Jesus that can never be taken away, the unmerited favor of God teaches us to say no to sin. What Jesus offers us far outweighs and outlasts the fleeting pleasures of sin. And since His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23), we will never reach the end of the riches of His grace.
Hebrews 13:9 has been used by the Lord to form much of our ministry here in Central Minnesota. When the fellowship was first planted in St. Cloud, a good friend of the ministry called it “the great grace experiment.” After 17 years of unpacking and unfolding the depth of the riches of that verse, the experiment continues—and it’s a joy and a blessing to continue this great grace experiment together with you!
How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
God is a consuming fire. He longs for us to offer ourselves completely as a living sacrifice.
Consumed by Him. Refined by Him. Trained by Him. Discipled by Him.
This happens as we trust and obey Him and believe that He is able to work all things for the good of those who love Him—for the good of those who are called according to His purpose.
Therefore…we boldly approach His throne of grace.
Therefore…we receive His invitation.
Therefore…we run the race marked out for us.
Therefore…we do not refuse Him who speaks.
Not to the terrors of the Lord, the tempest, fire, and smoke:
Not to the thunder of that word which God on Sinai spoke:
But we are come to Zion's hill, the city of our God;
Where milder words declare His will, and spread His love abroad.
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
The problem we have in understanding this passage is our difficulty in dissociating discipline from punishment. God’s discipline is never punitive—it’s never intended as punishment. It’s corrective and instructive—like the role of a coach.
God is not our persecutor. He is our personal trainer, the coach for our souls. That’s why the consistent context of an athletic endeavor helps us understand God’s heart toward us. God does not persecute or punish us. He is our loving Heavenly Father who personally trains—that is, disciples and disciplines—His children.
If you maintain this perspective, you will be able to persevere through pain and endure discipline without despising it or becoming discouraged by it. You will come to see discipline as personal training, painful though it may be. Anything that He allows to come your way is filtered through His love and will be used for a redemptive purpose. It will bring about a “peaceful harvest of right living” (Hebrews 12:11). He will walk with you through all of it, whispering with quiet intensity words of truth, encouragement, and exhortation—He will never leave you.
I bless thee, Lord for sorrows sent
To break my dream of human power;
For now, my shallow cisterns spent,
I find thy founts, and thirst no more.
The Lord has set a race before you. Maybe you feel as though it might not be worth it—outward circumstances and inward fears are tempting you to slow down, draw back, or even quit what God has called you to do. He knew this—which is why He calls us to run with endurance.
Endurance is a great word. It means “the power to continue in an unpleasant or difficult situation without giving way.” One foot in front of the other, again, and again, and again. And that adds up to one mile…and then one more…and then one more. As mile adds to mile, you outlast the pain because what is at the end is worth it.
Part of our training for this race is to focus our mind on something other than the unpleasant and difficult situations we find ourselves in. That’s why the second verse in Hebrews comes after the first—“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” Nothing averts your eyes from Jesus. Not the pain, not the exhaustion, not the outward pressures, not the inward fears.
Fix your eyes on Jesus. Just Jesus.
For not only is He the Author of your faith, He is the Finisher of your faith. He is not only the initiator of your faith, He is the source—the continual giver—of the gift of faith. The very thing that we need to live (Hebrews 10:38: “The just shall live by faith…”). In looking to Jesus, we not only see the hope that will help us to endure the difficult parts of our race, but we see the example of how to endure all difficulties:
“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
Jesus endured for the joy that was set before Him. He persevered because of His great love for you. When we consider Jesus, when we are compelled by His love, when we lay aside the weight of sin and distractions that are slowing our progress, we too can run our race with endurance. We’re almost to the finish line, dear friends.
Run the straight race through God's good grace,
lift up thine eyes, and seek his face;
life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.
Abel, Enoch, and Noah. Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. And even a harlot named Rahab.
By faith, the writer of Hebrews tells us that each one of these witnesses offered, obeyed, built, received, blessed…and in doing so, gave us an example of what it looks like to live by faith.
In fact, we find that phrase—“by faith”—18 times in this chapter. They demonstrated the determination that faith provides in looking past what seems impossible to the God who makes all things possible. They showed us that living by faith means trusting in God’s word—and His word alone. They modeled what it looks like to move forward in faith, even if the fulfillment of His word would not be seen in their lifetime.
In the very next chapter, the writer of Hebrews will remind us of this great cloud of witnesses, these men and women who lived by faith, as he encourages us to run the race that is set before us. So run the race that’s set before you—by faith, with your eyes on Jesus.
In a couple of chapters, the writer of Hebrews will encourage us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). It’s a concept that we can consider sooner in light of the warning we read in Hebrews 10:26-31.
The race we are running with Christ is far more important than anything else that we could possibly compare it to. What is ahead of us is the most glorious, wonderful, amazing, and eternal. What is behind us is the most horrendous, awful, torturous, and also eternal. So be encouraged and exhorted to keep running the race with Christ—no matter what! If not for the glory of what’s ahead, then for the terror and holy fear of what is behind.
Here’s the hard truth in the warning of Hebrews 10—you can’t quit the race and return to ritual based religion. The Old Covenant sacrificial system is over. There are no more sacrifices for sin now that the lamb of God has come. There is nothing left to return to. So it’s not just quitting—it’s not just turning around and returning to the selfishness of sin or the sleepiness of a ritual based religion. It’s much worse—it’s trampling the Son of God underfoot and counting the blood of the covenant a common thing (Hebrews 10:29).
If at some point you feel like quitting and slow down or even stop and start to turn around, there is Someone there saying, “Over my dead body!” Why? Because of His great love for you! So in order to turn your back on Heaven and walk the other way, you have to trample the Son of God underfoot as He tries to do all that He can do to stop you.
Brothers and sister, we are almost home! Keep running the race! If nothing else, you have Jesus and we have each other—we will run this race together, pressing on for the prize.
O happy band of pilgrims,
If onward you will tread
With Jesus as your fellow
To Jesus as your Head!
O happy band of pilgrims,
Look upward to the skies,
Where such a light affliction
Shall win you such a prize!
“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.”
The blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin. The best that the sacrifices in the Old Covenant could ever do is cover sin. And yet, those sacrifices were a constant reminder of the existence of sin (Hebrews 10:3)! Remember—the purpose of the Old Covenant was to point us to the fulfillment of the reality in the New Covenant. Only The Lamb of God would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Millions of sacrifices in and under the Old Covenant could never cleanse the conscience—only cover sin until Christ came.
So why would we retreat back to religion when a relationship with God has been made possible through Jesus? Why would we settle for rules and rituals that can only remind us that our sin still remains? Now that Christ has come and offered one sacrifice once for all time, the ceremony of the rules and rituals of religion have lost significance.
God never wanted just ceremony without significance. God never wants just your obedience or your compliance. God always wanted you—just you! He wants a relationship with you. That was what all the significant ceremonies and meaningful models were to lead you to—a relationship with Him! And once you are in a relationship with Him, all the significant ceremonies and all the meaningful models need to go. He doesn’t want you to cling to the things that remind you of Him—He wants you to cling to Him.
In Him and through Him, your sins are removed, not just covered: “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17) And because of that, you have “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus…” So be bold, brothers and sisters, to enter into an intimate relationship with God—not by anything you have done or could do but simply by the blood of Jesus.
Nearer, still nearer, while life shall last,
Till safe in glory my anchor is cast;
Through endless ages, ever to be
Nearer, my Savior, still nearer to thee.
For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
In Hebrews, we see how the Old Covenant is obsolete. It was a meaningful model, but it was not the real deal. Jesus is the real deal! He is everything the meaningful model was pointing to. He is the all-sufficient substitutionary sacrifice once for all. That is why the New Covenant tabernacle is superior to the Old.
What’s more—the New Covenant tabernacle is in the will of God for you. Hebrews 9:16-17 says “Where a will exists, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will is valid only when people die, since it is never in effect while the one who made it is living.” God gave the meaningful model while still living. But God died to give you the real deal—because the real deal was in His will for you!
The only way He could give it to you was to give His life for you—to save you from your sin. Jesus died to give you the real deal—an all sufficient substitutionary sacrifice once for all time. A sacrifice that completely cleanses the conscience. A sacrifice that provides eternal security with full access to God the Father.
And because of what He accomplished, and because it is finished, and because in Him you have forgiveness from your sin, you can now boldly and eternally enter into the Holy of Holies—full and complete access to God and full and complete fellowship with God…forever!
Not all the blood of beasts
on Jewish altars slain,
could give the guilty conscience peace,
or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,
takes all our sins away,
a sacrifice of nobler name
and richer blood than they.
The apex of all that we have studied this far is found in Hebrews 8:1—“We have such a High Priest…” This High Priest is none other than Jesus. He is a reality to be realized; a Savior to be received; the Heavenly High Priest.
Gracious and compassionate, He serves sinners better than the angels, better than Moses, Joshua, or Aaron; and better than the collective ministry of over 300 High Priests over the span of hundreds of years. He did not come to condemn but came to save by substituting Himself. And once He had offered Himself as the single sacrifice for sins forever, He sat down at the right hand of God. There He remains—seated and serving as our Advocate forever by the power of an indestructible life!
Where Jesus sits is significant—“the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1). The Jewish Supreme Court at the time when Hebrews was written was the Sanhedrin—70 elders who would hear accusations and make acquittals. Among the 70 was a primary judge who sat and heard the arguments. Seated to his right would be someone who would write down all the acquittals—judgements rendered not guilty.
It paints the picture of a courtroom scene where we find the accuser (Satan) making his argument, recounting every sinful action and word and thought we have ever committed. Under the Old Covenant, a High Priest could only cover our sin. But in the New Covenant, the High Priest takes away our sin. If you have such a High Priest, God the Father looks to His right, where our High Priest sits with the scars of His sacrifice still on his hands and renders His judgement—not guilty! And then Jesus has the joy of writing your name in His book of life—you are acquitted!
Once this security is settled in your heart and mind, you will cease from trying to serve God just to earn His favor. You will cease from seeking God just for what you can get. You will simply stand in awe of the Lord, beholding His glory, and worship Him. And as we behold the Glory of God in the face of Christ, God promises that the Holy Spirit will transform us and lead us on from strength to strength.
Jesus, my great High Priest,
offered his blood and died;
my guilty conscience seeks
no sacrifice beside.
His powerful blood did once atone,
and now it pleads before the throne.
The heart of the book of Hebrews is the necessity and superiority of the New Covenant. Everything in this first century letter to Hebrew believers points to Jesus as the “author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He is supreme.
We’ll continue to see this in Hebrews 10—but what’s there is just too good to wait to share! “And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God…” (Hebrews 10:11-12)
Jesus laid down His life, and it was DONE! By offering one sacrifice of Himself, He has (as High Priest) perfected forever those who are being sanctified. And then, He sat down. Now that might seem like a minor, insignificant detail—but it communicates so much! In sitting down, Jesus was proclaiming that His work was finished. He also sits down because the scars on His body—the evidence of His sacrifice—end all arguments. When you stand before God and the accuser points at you and screams, the scars of Jesus end all of the arguments. He is the redeemer—He paid the price to buy you back from the power of sin and death.
And now He sits and serves as High Priest forever. Jesus—The King of Peace, The King of Righteousness, has an everlasting kingdom. The High Priest of the Most High God saves completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.
Have you come to God through Jesus? Is He your High Priest? All other priests and all other sacrifices are insufficient to save you. Only Jesus can because only Jesus is King and Priest. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. The Bible says that if you do this, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life today!
Great advocate, almighty friend--
On Him our humble hopes depend:
Our cause can never, never fail,
For Jesus pleads and must prevail.
Who is Melchizedek—this man we first meet in Genesis 14. He had no father or mother, he had no genealogy, and his days had no beginning and his life had no end.
By now, we hope you have listened to the study from this Sunday in which we set out on our king’s quest to search this matter out. And by now, based on the clues in Hebrews 7 and the cues in other Scriptures, we hope it’s plain to see that Melchizedek is an Old Testament appearance of Jesus!
What is the message hidden within this man Melchizedek? In our study, we see the eternal ministry of Jesus as our High Priest. The Scriptures describe Jesus as a “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” by the power of an indestructible life. Therefore, He alone is able to save us to the uttermost because He alone ever lives to intercede for us…according to the order of Melchizedek.
The order of Melchizedek was not the same as the order of Aaron under the Old Covenant. For under the Old Covenant, the High Priests would come from the lineage of Aaron. In Aaron’s order, over 300 High Priests offered millions of sacrifices under the Old Covenant that could never cleanse men and women of their sins.
Looking ahead just a little, we read of the contrasts between these two priesthoods in Hebrews 10:11-14--
“…every priest [under the Old Covenant] stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”
One High Priest under the New Covenant offered one all sufficient sacrifice. And then He sat down because His work was finished. And now He serves as High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Is Jesus your High Priest? Have you trusted Him and His sufficient single sacrifice to take away your sins forever (and not just cover them up until another sacrifice)? Simply confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. The Bible says that if you do this, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life today!
“…we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”
Strong consolation paints the picture of someone coming alongside you to comfort you by forcibly, powerfully, and valiantly giving you truth.
Have you ever had someone do that for you (especially in the midst of a difficult time in your life)? Maybe you’re starting to lose it, starting to relax your grip on God’s word—and a friend comes to you and starts shouting truth in your life. You receive their strong comfort and come to your senses. You renew your grip and continue to hold fast to God’s Word.
Believers in Jesus hold fast. We hold fast to hope. We hold fast to God’s Word. We hold fast to God.
Why? Because it is impossible for God to lie. He has given up thousands upon thousands of great and precious promises to hold fast to. These promises shout truth into our lives and give us strong consolation. Immoveable, unchanging, and immutable promises of God which gives us a sure and steadfast, immutable, immovable, and unchangeable hope in Jesus.
And so we, who have fled for refuge, lay hold of the hope that is set before us and hold fast to hope.
How? We cling to God and we cling to God’s Word. Every chance you get, let the Holy Spirit through the Word of God shout truth forcibly, powerfully, and valiantly into your heart and soul.
Blessed hope that keeps the soul
Safe from harm tho’ billows roll!
‘Tis fastened firm within the vail,
No storms against it can prevail,
Blessed hope that keeps the soul.
There is no neutral in your walk with the Lord. If you are not fighting to move forward by faith, you are sliding backwards. If you are not maturing, you are regressing. The length of time that you have known the Lord is not a guarantee of spiritual maturity. This is what the writer of Hebrews communicates when he writes:
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe” (Hebrews 5:12-13).
Even more intriguing and convicting is that Scripture seems to say that you can grow—and then regress in your spiritual maturity in Christ. These verses seem to say that some believers mature in Christ and then for a variety of reasons not only slow down, but slide back in their spiritual maturity.
That is why we need to fight to move forward in our faith. We need to fight to add to our faith “virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:5-7). The elementary principles outlined in Hebrews 6:1-2 isn’t an exhaustive checklist for the Christian—it is a foundation on which to build and grow.
So how do we fight to move forward? Practice—a lot of practice. There is grave danger in merely listening to the Word and not doing what it says to do. When we do what God tells us to do and obey with a willing heart full of faith, we grow and mature and move forward.
Help me, my Lord, to grow more like Thee,
Thy wondrous love to know, Thy face to see.
Lord, fill my soul with light, dispel the gloom of night,
And make me through Thy might more like Thee.
Jesus is our High Priest. Did you know that? If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a High Priest—an eternal and heavenly High Priest.
That’s a bold and true claim to make. To a Hebrew, that claim would need to be backed up with specific proofs and critical identifying characteristics. And so, beginning in chapter 5, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews does just that—he breaks down and offers proofs for Jesus being not just a high priest—but THE High Priest.
In order to be a high priest, Jesus needs to be fully man—and He is (see Philippians 2:6-11). In being both God and man, Jesus is able to mediate between God and mankind (see 1 Timothy 2:5).
In order to be a high priest, Jesus needs to be called and appointed by God—and He was (see Hebrews 5:5-6). God the Father called and appointed His only begotten Son as a priest forever.
In order to be a high priest, Jesus needs to have compassion on those He ministered to—and He does (see Hebrews 4:15). Jesus was tempted the way we were are tempted and suffered the way we suffer…and yet He was untainted by sin. He is able to sympathize with our weakness and have compassion on us.
In order to be a high priest, Jesus needed to offer a sacrifice to God on our behalf—and He did (see Hebrews 5:9). But unlike the priests who came before Him, His sacrifice was sufficient—once and for all time (see Hebrews 9:12).
Yes, Jesus is the eternal heavenly High Priest.
But is He your High Priest? Or are you attempting to gain God’s favor on your own? The truth is you need a High Priest—we all do. You can ask Jesus to be your High Priest today—simply confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. The Bible says that if you do this, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life.
“Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest, whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me”
As the leader of the New Covenant, Jesus not only brings us to the rest promised in the covenant—He Himself is the promised rest. He is the promised place where we cease from striving and where we find rest for our souls.
Jesus spoke of this rest—the rest only He can give. In Matthew 11:28-29, He made an invitation to be received, a command to be obeyed, and a promise to be believed:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Jesus can lead you all the way in to God’s promised rest. It’s closer than you think—this promised land, the promised rest, the place where we cease from striving is not Heaven. It is a place and a Person to be enjoyed now. It is only found in Jesus.
Where are you today? Are you still in Egypt—captive to sin? Is your soul still striving to earn God’s favor? Jesus can set you free—ask Him today! Or are you in the wilderness—liberated from sin, but wandering around, looking for the promise land in your own strength? Is your heart unsettled with anxiety, discouraged and defeated, painfully aware of just how far you need to go as you wander? Jesus can lead you—ask Him today!
“Will you come, will you come, with your poor broken heart,
Burdened and sin oppressed?
Lay it down at the feet of your Savior and Lord,
Jesus will give you rest.”
In light of all we have learned about Jesus in the first two chapters of Hebrews, the writer encourages us to consider Jesus. Observe Him. Understand Him. The original word used in this verse means to consider attentively, or to fix one's eyes or mind upon.
Just consider what Jesus did and who Jesus is. He lived a full life on earth—successfully AND sinlessly. Even after diving into death itself, He made it through alive!
But he wasn’t unaffected by the human experience—He was tempted in every way that we are today. He was familiar with suffering and sorrow. He knows what it’s like to be born to broke teenage parents in the midst of controversy. He knows what it’s like to grow up in a neighborhood of which people would say, ”Nothing good can come from there.”
He knows what it’s like to be singled out, misunderstood, and falsely accused. He knows what it’s like to be broke, hungry, and homeless. He knows what it’s like to be betrayed and deserted—to have all of His friends turn their backs on Him in His greatest time of need.
Consider Jesus—who sympathizes with your weaknesses so He can say to you, ”I am familiar with what you are going though.”
“Consider Him,” and as you run the race,
Keep ever upward looking in His face;
And thus transformed, illumined thou shalt be,
And Christ’s own image shall be seen in thee.”
In the second chapter of the book of Hebrews, the writer compares and contrasts the Old and New Covenants—the ministry of angels and the ministry of Jesus. As awesome as the Old Covenant was, the writer of Hebrews asks, “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…”—how will we escape sin and death if we disregard the New Covenant?
The Old Covenant (which came by angels) could only cover sin with an endless stream of sacrifices. The New Covenant (which came by Jesus) completely cleanses sin with one sacrifice.
This salvation and this Savior give us reason to wonder with hope. Hope that Jesus not only rescues us and redeems us from sin and the destructive effects of sin, but also that He is going to restore us for what we were made for.
Only Jesus can do this because only He has done what no angel could. He alone is our worthy substitute. He is the Author of salvation. He is the One who sanctifies us. He is the Conqueror of Satan. And He is the One who sympathizes with our weakness.
Do you have this hope? Are you filled with wonder as you look to Jesus? Is He the captain of your salvation? The Bible states that today is the day of salvation—right now! You can have this hope, now and for all eternity. Simply confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. The Bible says that if you do this, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life.
In English, this word means “of a more excellent or effective quality; preferable; superior.” In Hebrew, better means “more useful, more advantageous, more excellent.”
Better is a word we’ll encounter regularly in our study of Hebrews. And that’s exactly how Jesus is described when compared to…well, everything else! He is preferable. He is superior. He is more excellent.
In the first three verses of the first chapter of Hebrews, we read seven reasons why Jesus is more excellent. In the rest of the book of Hebrews, we’ll read of the many ways Jesus is better than the angels, the law, Moses, the Old Covenant, and anything or anyone else in all of creation.
Jesus is better. He was sent to save you. And He did this by laying down His life for yours—by paying the price for your sin…all of it! He did that so you could enjoy fellowship with Him and glorify Him forever, not as a servant, but as a son or a daughter. Oh, beloved of God—do not ignore or neglect so great a salvation!
This great salvation is available to you right now! Simply confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. The Bible says that if you do this, you will be saved (Romans 10:9). Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as the Lord of your life.
From Pastor Dom...
When I first gave my life to Jesus, there were friends in my life who helped me to grow in my understanding of God, through His word, and for those friends