The Secret to Not Growing Weary

Hebrews 12

Friday, September 30, 2022

One of the most powerful sections of this chapter are the opening 3 verses: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.”

The imagery of verse 1 closely resembles that of ancient stadium competitions. Imagine the crowd seated all around you, and you are competing in a race on the stadium floor. You are in the midst of a great multitude of people cheering you on as you strive to win the competition.

While the author of Hebrews likely did not have this exact thought in mind when he wrote that “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,” since the word “witnesses” does not refer to spectators but rather individuals who can testify to living by faith, there is something to be said for realizing that we are not living the Christian life merely by ourselves. What the author intends for us to get from these opening verses is that we stand in continuity with the long line of ancient believers despite not ever receiving the promise of “being made perfect” (cf. 11:39-40).

If ancient believers stood firm in their faith despite enduring much affliction and opposition as the author recounted in chapter 11, then that ought to be encouraging to us that we too should stand firm in our faith. To bring his point to a climax, the author then targets the ultimate example—Jesus.

With many historical believers from whom we can draw inspiration and encouragement from, there is none more significant than the example of our Savior. We are told explicitly to “think of him” with regard to his immense suffering at the hands of sinful people and the ultimate shame of crucifixion and to realize that he willingly endured both for the sake of the “joy set out for him.”

What joy was that? What joy could be present in having to experience such awful torment and pain? Jesus’ joy was to do the will of his Father, even if that was to suffer humiliation and an excruciating death upon the cross. Perhaps it is because there is no greater example of perseverance through hardship and an unwavering resolve to live by faith than Jesus the Christ.

This seems to be the reason why the author tells the readers that they are to keep their “eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” If we understand that Jesus endured all the horrific torture and shame because he trusted in God, then we too can draw strength from him as the greatest witness (i.e., testimony) to standing strong in our faith amidst trials and adversity. Because if we focus our attention on him as the pinnacle of a life lived by faith, then we will “not grow weary in our souls and give up.”

-Jerry Wierwille

Application Questions

  1. When was the last time you felt yourself grow weary? What were you focused on at the time? What would the writer of Hebrews 12:1-3 suggest you remember and stay focused on instead? How might that help?
  2. What helped Jesus endure? How can that help us as well?

Something Better

Hebrews 11

Thursday, September 29, 2022

The opening verse of this chapter sets forth the premise of what is to follow: “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen” (v. 1). The author will go through no less than 10 explicit individuals, and mentioning a list of several more, who exhibited faith in their life. And then the chapter concludes by saying “All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us” (vv. 39-40).

The chapter’s conclusion draws together the litany of exemplary witnesses by tying it to the faith that they share with the audience. And while the exemplars of old had not received the promise, it was by no fault of their own, but it was determined beforehand by God that in his grace, he planned for “something better” to be available to the readers that was not available in the past to all those faithful witnesses that were mentioned. And that “something better” was “to be made perfect” (v. 40).

Now, to modern readers the idea of being made perfect might not be the same as the biblical idea of being made perfect. In Hebrews, the idea of “perfection” entails the definitive forgiveness and putting away of sin, purification and consecration to God, and glorification (i.e., resurrection). And so, to be “made perfect” refers ultimately to eschatological salvation that is bestowed on the worshiper through the high priestly ministry of Christ (cf. 10:14).

But let’s think for a moment, why does the author need to go to such a great length throughout the chapter to simply demonstrate that believers prior to the new covenant did not receive what was promised? Why make the emphasis so extravagant?

One reason for the author’s inclusion of such a long description of exemplars of the faith is to celebrate those who stood with faith looking forward to the promise, but yet not receiving it in their lifetime. The testimony of all these witnesses is that “Faith holds onto the promise, even when the evidence of harsh reality impugns its integrity, because the one who promised is himself faithful” (William Lane, Hebrews [WBC], 395).

I think we have all probably dealt with times when we are holding on to faith, but it doesn’t seem like anything is happening or changing, and we didn’t actually get to see the outcome of our faith. This is what it was like for the believers in the old covenant who looked forward to the coming Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s promise. But we don’t have to look forward since Messiah has already come and has begun to fulfill what God promised.

Therefore, while we have not been “made perfect” yet to the fullest extent of what God has planned for those who trust in him, in Christ we have the definitive sacrifice for sin, the cleansing of our conscience, and a taste of the powers of the age to come. Let us continue to hold fast to our faith in hope of what God has promised that is yet to come: resurrection and final victory over the power of death, so that those who stood by faith before us can also be made perfect with us in God’s coming kingdom.

-Jerry Wierwille

Questions

  1. What encouragement do you gain from reading of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11?
  2. Which heroes of the faith are you most looking forward to being with when we together receive God’s promise and reward at the resurrection and coming Kingdom? Why?

When No Sacrifice is Left

Hebrews 10

September 28, 2022

Chapter 10 contains one of the five major warning passages in Hebrews, which makes up the second half of the chapter. It is this section that we will focus on as it functions in a very unique way in this context.

Leading up to verse 26 where the warning begins, the author has now fully explained the perfect sacrifice and the forgiveness that is now possible which was not available under the old covenant. And so, as the author concludes, “where there is forgiveness of these sins, another sacrificial offering for sin is no longer required” (v. 18). This is valid so long as certain conditions are met as the author will go on to describe.

The warning passage begins: “For if we deliberately continue sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire that is about to consume the adversaries” (vv. 26-27).

For those who choose to continue willfully committing sin after coming to know the truth about Christ’s sacrifice, it says “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” What does it mean that there is “no longer” a sacrifice for sins? The author has just gone to great lengths to show the perfect sacrifice of Christ, and such an offering as Christ’s is the only one that is able to “perfect forever those who are sanctified” (v. 14).

If Christ’s sacrifice is the only sacrifice that is sufficient to take away sins forever, and since the author made it clear that the old covenant sacrifices could never “take away sins” (v. 11), then if a person disregards the cleansing and sanctification that is brought about through Christ by willfully continuing to sin, then they have no other recourse to fall back on for forgiveness. Christ’s sacrifice is the only offering that can remove the defilement of sin. Therefore, repudiating Christ and disregarding the knowledge of the truth leaves a person with nowhere else to turn. And that is why the author says that such a person only has to look forward to a “terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire.”

It is God’s will that we turn away from sin and embrace Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf so that we may be forgiven and cleansed from sin and have “our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (v. 22). The means by which we can have this purification in our hearts and minds has already been provided by God through Christ.

And this is why the author warns the reader that they must not fall away and turn aside from the knowledge of the sacrifice of Christ. At the end of the chapter, in one of the final exhortations, the author asserts, “So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised” (vv. 35-36).

In Christ, there is forgiveness from sin now and forevermore. But outside of Christ, we have no hope and no provision for sin. If we will endure in the faith, holding onto the perfect sacrifice of Christ, then we will have done the will of God and will receive the reward of what he promised—everlasting life.

-Jerry Wierwille

Questions

What 4 things are we told to do in Hebrews 10:22-25 (“Let us…” -in NIV – do what 4 things?). Which of these 4 do you think you do most regularly already (though, still with some room for improvement)? Which one would you like to concentrate on doing better this month? How?

Who has spurred you on to love and good deeds? How did they do it?

Who has been an encouragement to you? How did they do it?

Why is Jesus Better?

Hebrews 9

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Previously, in chapter 8, the author disclosed that Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry and is the mediator of a better covenant that is enacted on better promises (8:6). While the author has simply made this assertion, it now remains for him to explicate how Jesus’s ministry is “superior.” And it is in chapter 9 that the author takes up this very task.

In the 1st part of the chapter, the author recounts the old covenant ministry under the Mosaic Law. There was a tabernacle and sacred items and a place where atonement was made by priests. Yet, it says that “this is a symbol for the present time…until the time of restoration” (vv. 9-10).

All the institutions of the old covenant were limited because they “cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience” (v. 9). They mandated various sacrifices and rituals which by their nature were unable to bring the worshiper the true cleansing that was the intended goal of atonement and salvation.

But, in verse 11, the author now turns to present the superior ministry of the Messiah in the new covenant. Throughout the rest of the chapter, the author goes into great detail about how Jesus as our high priest in the new covenant has accomplished everything that the former covenant and regulations could never achieve. Everything from the cleansing of the tabernacle to the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice was done by Jesus, not in the earthly tabernacle, which was a copy of the heavenly reality, but in the heavenly tabernacle by offering himself as the “better sacrifice.”

Jesus’ sacrifice was “better” in at least two regards. First, the author says that Jesus did not offer a sacrifice many times as the high priest in the former covenant had to because he entered the tabernacle every year. Jesus entered the sanctuary in the presence of God only once. Second, Jesus did not offer the “blood of another” by bringing an animal sacrifice like the high priest of the previous covenant but rather offered his own blood as the sacrifice for sin.

As verses 13-14 say, “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?” What the author is comparing is that if under the old covenant the animal sacrifice was sufficient to sanctify the worshiper for the purification of the flesh, then the blood of Jesus must be able to do more than that.

And this is exactly his point: Jesus’s sacrifice is able to do what the old covenant sacrifices never could, and that is to cleanse our conscience from “dead works,” which are the sinful deeds that lead to death and require forgiveness and healing. The old covenant had no power to cleanse the worshiper’s heart from their sinful deeds.

But praise be to God that through Jesus and his sacrifice our minds and hearts can be washed clean of our sin and that we may with a pure conscience “serve the living God.”

-Jerry Wierwille

Application Questions

  1. Compare the conscience of a sinner under the old covenant to your conscience under the blood of Jesus. What makes the difference?
  2. How will you use your pure conscience to serve the living God today?

The Best Covenant

Hebrews 8

Monday, September 26, 2022

In verse 6 of Hebrews chapter 8, it states that Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry and therefore is the mediator of a “better covenant” with “better promises.” What then follows in verses 8-12 is the longest consecutive Old Testament quotation in the New Testament. The quotation comes from a section in chapter 31 from the Prophet Jeremiah.

Now, when the author of Hebrews says that Jesus is the mediator of a “better covenant,” it doesn’t mean that the covenant is just a little bit better. It is indeed better, but how much better? Is there a way that we could quantify the degree of “betterness” that characterizes the new covenant? I don’t think so.

The new covenant is greater and better than the old covenant to such a degree that a comparison is nearly impossible. Perhaps we might say that the distance between the two covenants is like the difference between the height of the earth’s atmosphere and then the height of the universe. As glorious as the old covenant was, it was still imperfect. But, the new covenant brings the perfection that the old covenant pointed toward and prefigured in a typological way.

And with Jesus mediating a new covenant, this indicates that the old covenant is obsolete and no longer needed since the new covenant has totally eclipsed its purpose and function. Everything that the old covenant stood for and provided—the ways that it conveyed God’s law to his people, revealed the knowledge of him, and made provision for atonement for sin—has been fulfilled and superseded in the new covenant by Christ himself.

The new covenant promises which surpass anything that the old covenant offered was prophesied by Jeremiah when he wrote, “I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And each person will not teach his fellow citizen, and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, and the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.”

Therefore, it might help to think about the new covenant as being the “best covenant” because there will not be another covenant. There will be no “new covenant 2.0” or the “new revised covenant.” Nothing that can improve the new covenant any further. God’s law is in the hearts and minds of his people, he instructs them in his ways, all God’s people know him, and he has forgiven their sin completely, never to remember it.

The light of the new covenant is so far greater than the light of the old covenant that the old covenant simply pales in comparison. The well-known colloquial idiom, “It doesn’t even hold a candle to it” seems apt to apply here where if we imagine the new covenant having the glory and radiance of the sun, then what source of light can compete with it. The old covenant is like the moon, when reflecting the sun, the moon provides just enough light to walk around at night and see most objects near you. But it is still dark, and the potential to stumble or trip is very real. However, the light of the new covenant is like noon day where everything is illumined, and we now walk with full vision of what is before us.

The new covenant is better in every way, and we are able to receive and experience all of these better promises it has to offer. Let us count ourselves blessed to have a Savior who mediates this superior covenant that we can enjoy.

-Jerry Wierwille

Application Questions

  1. What are the differences between the old covenant and the new? (You can find several differences in this chapter alone, but
  2. Why do you think the all-knowing God didn’t just start out with the best/new covenant?

Pay Attention!

Revelation 2

When John begins to explain the revelation that he has received, he writes 7 letters to churches in Asia minor (modern day Turkey). As we read 4 of the 7 letters, we can notice that each letter contains the same important exhortation: “Anyone who has an ear had better listen to what the Spirit says to the congregations!” (vv. 7, 11, 17, 29). This is John’s way of saying “Pay attention!” While each one of his letters is not lengthy or full of details, they are nonetheless very specific about what they address.

In 3 of the 4 letters, John brings a harsh criticism against the congregation to whom he is writing. These criticisms are prefaced with a phrase such as “But I have this against you” (vv. 4, 14, 20). Only Smyrna is spared this criticism. It seems that there is something about the church in Smyrna that didn’t deserve the type of correction that the other churches received.

The message that John gives to the church in Smyrna is one of encouragement to endure through the persecution and suffering they were experiencing. One of the reasons that they were suffering was because other people were speaking evil of them. And apparently, it was going to get worse, so much so that some of them were going to be thrown in prison. But they were promised that if they would endure and be “faithful to death,” that they would receive the “crown of life” (v. 10).

What we can apply to our own lives from John’s encouragement to the church in Smyrna is the importance of remaining faithful to the Lord. While we may never face persecution and death in the way that they did, we each have been or will be at some point in our lives the object of another person’s evil words concerning our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though the ways in which we will suffer for our faith will differ, the reward that we all will receive is the same—the crown of life!

No trial is too small and no task too trivial to consider it worthy to endure for the sake of our Lord. We must always desire to honor him through every day and season of life no matter what may come, knowing that it is before him that we will stand one day judged for everything we have said and done.

-Jerry Wierwille

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Amos 3-4 and Revelation 2

Blessed is the One who Reads…

Revelation 1

When it comes to the book of Revelation, the reader must recognize that the literary form of apocalypse is vastly different than the NT Letters, Gospels, or Acts. It is challenging to read but also rewarding. It sparks the readers imagination with vivid images and poetic expressions that are full of symbolism and meaning.

Just reading the opening part of the book brings an awareness of how powerful and deep this writing is. But the richness of the text can be difficult to understand. Revelation is a book that rewards those who faithfully and humbly seek to grasp its meaning. And as we learn and grow in the Scriptures, different aspects of the text will become more easily perceived and understood. But it requires patience and persistence. We mustn’t give up if we find the text to be complicated or even confusing. Apocalypse is not meant to be readily apprehended upon the first reading. But as the reader continues to meditate upon the words and expand their scope of biblical understanding, deeper levels of comprehension will gradually surface.

In the opening chapter, John describes the beginning of his vision that he received from the Lord. There are some things in life that upon experiencing them are so overwhelming that we are helpless to do anything. This is the way John depicts his response upon seeing the Lord in the vision. The Lord is painted in highly figurative language that is awe inspiring and truly incredible.

“And his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow, and his eyes were like a flame of fire, 15and his feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16And he had in his right hand seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp two-edged broadsword, and his face was like the sun shining in its full strength” (vv. 14-16).

John’s response was to fall down “as one dead” (v. 17). What a tremendous picture of the power and majesty of the Lord. When beholding the king of all kings, John is stunned by the visual appearance of Jesus. Can you imagine if you were standing before a figure that is described with the features that we read about? Who would not tremble at the feet of this Living One who was dead but is now alive forever?

I will leave you with the words that John expressed early on before delving into his vision, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of the prophecy, and those who hear and keep the things that are written in it, for the time is near” (v. 3). Amen.

-Jerry Wierwille

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Amos 1-2 and Revelation 1

Contend for the Faith

Jude 1

While some NT letters can be encouraging and uplifting, other letters contain harsh criticism or reproof by the writer. Even though it was Jude’s original intention to write about the joint salvation that he and all God’s people share, he felt he needed to turn his attention and exhort his readers “to contend for the faith that was delivered to the holy ones once for all” (v. 3).

We can all probably think of a time in our life when we needed to be told what to do or why we should be doing something. That is essentially what Jude is doing here. He offers examples from people in the past whose ungodliness or rebellion were deserving of punishment, and then he also warns of present people among his readers who “nurture only themselves without fear” that are also deserving of God’s judgment. He reassures them that there is nothing unusual happening among them, and that even the Lord Jesus Christ predicted through the apostles that “in the end time there will be scoffers walking according to their own ungodly desires” (v. 18).

False teachers abound in the world, and just as there were people in the past who opposed God and followed their own ungodly desires, there will always continue to be such people who work against the purposes of God. Given this fact, Jude exhorts his readers to “build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the holy spirit,” and as they do this, they are to keep themselves in the love of God (vv. 20-21).

This is the way that Jude encourages us to “contend for the faith.” We must continue to build ourselves up and become strong in the faith and to pray in the holy spirit so that we are not shaken by people who create divisions or who utter arrogant words and flattering speech for their own advantage. By being confident in our faith we will be strong in the Lord without doubting, ready to “save others by snatching them from the fire” (v. 23).

The world is a dark place and evil seems to be rampant, and it will continue to be that way until the day that we stand in the presence of our God, blameless and with great joy. Until then, we must fight the good fight and be on guard for those who want to “turn the grace of our God” (v. 4) into unrighteousness and immoral behavior.

-Jerry Wierwille

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Joel 1-3 and Jude 1

In a Manner Worthy of God

3 John 1

In his final letter, John again expresses the joy he has knowing that young believers (“my children”) are “walking in the truth.” It is an important truth that godly parents want to see their children also pursuing the things of God. When we are young, we may think of all the accomplishments we could do in school, in sports, or in other extracurricular activities, but none of that can measure up to how proud a parent is when we do what pleases the Lord. We may not think that such things are all that meaningful when we are young compared to achieving awards, getting good grades, or winning a championship, but children who obey the Lord bring greater joy to their parents than all their other successes combined.

Another main point that John raises in his letter is the importance of hospitality, especially when it involves fellow believers. He instructs Gaius to continue to do what is “faithful” for the brothers and sisters, “even when they are strangers.” We don’t need to know who someone is in great detail before we offer them food, shelter, or aid. Christian believers should be apt to show hospitality to all people, but especially to those from the household of faith, even if they are strangers.

To be generous and hospitable toward someone whom you do not know and who is not able to repay you is a sincere demonstration of love. My father used to always say that I should leave someone better than when I found them, and I believe that is what John is expressing when he tells Gaius that he will “do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.” That means giving them the best treatment and going to the furthest extent possible to assist them and prepare them for whatever comes next for them.

Whether it is giving someone a ride somewhere, dropping off a home-cooked meal, or helping with homework or other assignments and projects, no matter what it is, if we do it wholeheartedly as if we were serving the Lord Christ, then we can be confident that we will be sending our fellow brother or sister on their way “in a manner worthy of God.”

-Jerry Wierwille

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Hosea 12-14 and 3 John 1

Walking in the Truth

2 John 1

John writes about those who have “come to know the truth” and that he is rejoicing to see some young family members “walking in the truth” (vv. 1, 4).  This “truth” is not some list of doctrines or deep theology but a simple commandment: “that we love one another” (v. 5). Sometimes we can overcomplicate the “truth.” Now don’t misunderstand John; the truth in Scripture is very deep and has many levels. It is not merely comprised of this one commandment. We might say that whatever Scripture reveals on any subject can be constituted as “truth.”

As John wrote about in his previous letter (cf. 1 John 5), biblically speaking love is not predominantly this passionate emotion of desire as some might think of it. Rather, the love that John is talking about is intricately bound together with obedience. And therefore, this is why he says, “And this is love: that we walk according to his commandments” (v. 6).

Why is this so important to John that he is reiterating it again here in his 2nd letter? The reason is likely part of his subsequent warning about the “many deceivers” who are in the world (v. 7). There are many forces at work in the world vying for our attention and our devotion. John raises the danger about these “deceivers” and how they can lead someone astray from the truth, for he declares that “everyone who goes too far and does not remain in the teaching about Christ does not have God (v. 9).

We need to be aware and watch ourselves concerning those who do not “bring the teaching about Christ.” John is very stern about not entertaining deceivers in our homes. The adversary works in subtle ways and sometimes these deceptive influences can come from unlikely places and people who may not even be consciously or intentionally opposing God and the teaching about Christ, but nonetheless are stealthily subverting the message of the good news with criticism, skepticism, or mockery.

Let us be careful to recognize these evil works and not lose our focus on living according to God’s commandments.

-Jerry Wierwille

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Hosea 9-11 and 2 John

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