Vs. 2, “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” We open our chapter with Jesus revealing His glory to inner three (Peter, James & John) on the mount of Transfiguration (vs. 1-13). Question: What is the Transfiguration? It comes from the Greek language that gives us our modern day word: Metamorphosis. All three Synoptic Gospels record this event. The Transfiguration is a special glimpse into the glory of the Lord as Jesus reveals His true identity. The presence of Moses (law) & Elijah (prophets) come to bear witness of Jesus’ identity and mission. Once again, Jesus admonishes them not to reveal what they have seen (vs. 9); at least until He has done His work on the cross. Jesus reminds them the prophecy of Malachi (Malachi 4:5-6) concerning Elijah coming first is fulfilled through John the Baptist (Luke 1:17). When they come down the mountain they encounter a failed exorcism (vs. 14-23). Jesus uses this as an opportunity to give us a fresh understanding of what true faith looks like (vs. 20-21). Sadly, we are reminded that Jesus’ death will come about because of betrayal of the worst kind; betrayal of their own in Judas Iscariot (vs. 22-23). The Temple tax incident (vs. 24-27) teaches us that though Jesus being the Son of God (vs. 25) does not have to pay it, He does so to prevent the stumbling of others.
Regarding application…Father’s Approval. Vs. 5, “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” These words from the Father were identical to His affirmation when Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:17). The caveat is, “Listen to him!” As children, we sought so hard to find the approval of our parents. Sometimes they were disappointed, other time we were disappointed. But deep down inside, we want to hear the praises and approval of our parents. Jesus was obedient; even obedient to death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). For my leisure reading, I am reading Peter Criss’ biography (the drummer of the rockband Kiss). He shares a story when they finally performed in MSG (Madison Square Garden) and he had his parents and family attend. As they performed he saw the tears and proud looks of his parents and it brought this 30 plus year old successful man to tears as he played the drums that night. No matter how old we are, we want to make our loved ones proud of us. Just as the Father approves His son Jesus, He also does for us. Question: Why? Because we listened to His son and put our faith in Him. Jesus’ blood brings the approval of our Father in Heaven. Thank you Father for loving us so much!
Vs. 1, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” Impeccable timing for a timeless truth as we end the year 2012. God the Father has lavished great love this past year. It is love that spurred the Father to sacrifice the Son (vs. 4-8). It was love that gave us the Holy Spirit as a deposit of His promise. John addresses the deliberate choice to continue to sin (vs. 9-10). We are also soberly reminded of the gravity of murder (vs. 12-15). Instead of hatred and killing others, we should love and lay down our lives for others (vs. 11-24). The move we love the more God gives us His peace (vs. 18-24).
Regarding application…Walk the Walk. Vs. 18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” As 2013 rounds the corner, what a wonderful reminder of living in a way that shows His love. Many of us may have New Year resolutions or commitments we are making. Right now we are talking big. However, it’s time to live big. It’s time to backup our words with action and truth. I’m convicted as I may a commitment to get in better cardio shape this 2013, I also need to ensure that I am making commitments to love more. More love, more power, more of Christ in my life. Let us walk by faith and in love this coming year!
Vs. 1, “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” James now begins to show us practical ways to show our faith and works. The Jewish society was an honor and shame society. There was a problem with the church giving favoritism and honor to those who were rich, while neglecting the poor (vs. 1-12). When we show favoritism, we are not having the mind of God (vs. 4). Notice how they were not to ignore the rich, it’s just that they were to not give more honor to them. While many of us know this truth about rich and poor, it is a true paradigm shift to how this world operates. James reminds his audience about the law since they were well versed in it (vs. 8-13). Much of their perspective was based on living righteous by obeying the laws of God. However, they were doing so without love and therefore breaking God’s royal law (vs. 8). And lastly, we come to one of the central points of the book of James: Faith and deeds (vs. 14-26). While faith is believing what is true, there is far more to it. True faith is one that is demonstrated in both belief and action. Now, one of the big issues in James is the seeming contradiction that James presents verses what the Apostle Paul states (Romans 3:8). If you have real faith, you were produce good deeds. Indeed, we are saved by faith and a true believer won’t do works out of obligation, rather out of heart.
Regarding application…Living Faith. Vs. 22, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” I once heard this analogy about a fruit tree. A fruit tree grows and has one purpose; to grow fruit so others can enjoy. Technically, if a fruit tree had free will, it might choose to grow rotten fruit or no fruit at all. But, a fruit tree’s purpose is to bear fruit. When we put our faith in the Lord, we become a new tree, rooted on the foundation of Christ. We were created to bear fruit. However, there are those who think that just being a fruit tree is enough. But, the very essence of a fruit tree is to bear fruit. Likewise, the very essence of a Christian it to bear the fruit of good deeds. Let us have a living faith today!
Vs. 8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” What an eloquently worded reminder of Jesus! In our concluding chapter today, the author of Hebrews gives us some very practical applications on life (vs. 1-18). Notice how we are reminded first of all to ensure we are loving each other (vs. 1). Through loving, we are then able to have good standing relationships with others (vs. 2-3, 16), our marriages (vs. 4), and our leaders (vs. 7, 17-19). In other words have good relationships, with our community, with our family, and with our church. In a consumer society, we are reminded not to allow the love of money to corrupt our lives (vs. 5). And most importantly, let us not forget to offer up sacrifices of praise to our Lord (vs. 15). How wonderful music and declaring the goodness of God is for us, but more importantly honors the Lord. And lastly, the writer of Hebrews ends with a benediction, a prayer for God’s blessings (vs. 20-26).
Regarding application…Being Content. Vs. 5, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Question: Are you anxious? Are you stressed out? Are you worried? The exhortation to being content is more than just about money. Jesus will never leave you. We have a most blessed assurance. There were times in my early spiritual walk with the Lord that I was worried about my assurance of salvation. What if I did something that would separate me from the love of Christ? But there are a plethora of verses in the bible that gives us this promise that He will never leave us. This idea of never being forsaken is taken from God’s promise to the Israelites in the desert (Deuteronomy 31:6). In the busyness of the Christmas season, let us together remember to find contentment in the Lord!
Vs. 3, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Here we are presented a picture of believers running a race or a marathon to reach the objective end (vs. 1-4) with Jesus setting the example. We were the reason and the joy that He endured for us (vs. 2). The audience of this letter were growing weary of their trials, so the next section of the passage reminds all of us of God’s love and discipline (vs. 5-12). The last section of our passage exhorts the believers not to forget just who our God is. He is powerful and should receive our reverence and respect, yet He is gracious (vs. 14-29). The new covenant is covered by the grace of God through the blood of Jesus our mediator (vs. 24).
Regarding application…Bitter Root. Vs. 15, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Interestingly, the ministry at my church is called Roots Ministry. Our roots are to go down to the foundation of Christ (Colossians 2:7). Yet, we are given a reminder that our roots can become bitter and fall short of the grace of God. Question: What does this look like? Someone who lives without making Jesus a part of their life. A person who gives up their belief in the Lord and no longer lives a life transformed by Christ. Be careful brothers and sisters that your root does not grow bitter due to the troubles of this life. I’ve seen this reality in my own heart and the testimonies of others when our hearts are not reminded of His grace. Let us prayerfully consider how we can thankful to our God today (vs. 28).
Vs. 10, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” This chapter is one of the most well known passages in Scripture; dubbed Hall of Faith. Question: What is faith? Trusting and believing in the Lord, though we do not always see or understand (vs. 1-3). Question: What does faith look like? The author of Hebrews goes through example after example of those who walked faithfully for God (vs. 4-40). We would be wise to follow the examples of those who paved the path for us. Notice that not everyone who was listed was delivered from their particular circumstance. Don’t forget, that the readers of this letter were in their own trials of faith. This was timely encouragement for them to recall others who were able to trust in the Lord.
Regarding application…Believe. Vs. 6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” My wife and I took a three day vacation last winter to Las Vegas. We love the good food and cheap entertainment. We were just sightseeing through all the casinos and saw Chris Angel’s show called Believe. It was interesting because it was spelled like this: Believe. How coincidental that the word “lie” is imbedded in our English word believe. I did some quick etymology and didn’t see any connection either. But the application is that no matter your circumstance, our faith and belief must show in our actions. Notice how the believer is to earnestly seek the Lord!
Vs. 10, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Brothers & sisters, we have a problem: sin. But God took that problem and gave the most incredible sacrifice for us in His son Jesus. The old covenant sacrificial system was but a shadow of the sacrifice to come (vs. 1-10). Jesus’ sacrifice was final and did not need to be continually done (vs. 11-18). We are also reminded that only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place (vs. 19), but now Jesus gives all of us that amazing access (vs. 19-25). We are then presented quite a stern warning about deliberate sinning (vs. 26-31). Even in the old sacrificial system, there were no sacrifices that could be used to cover willful and deliberate sins. And lastly, the author of Hebrews ends this portion of his text with a upbeat note (vs. 32-39), encouraging those who have so faithfully lived in faith.
Regarding application…Draw Near. Vs. 22, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” It seems like an obvious exhortation to draw near to God. But for many, this realization that access to God at anytime and anywhere was still very foreign. In fact, I would contend to say that while Christians know this privilege, we don’t act upon it. We don’t just have to turn to God while we are at physically at church. Jesus gives us the assurance and boldness to approach the throne of God with humility and confidence. As we do so, let us continue to find ways to encourage each other to keep drawing nearer to God (vs. 24-25).
Vs. 11, “But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation.” Having been fresh off the book of Leviticus, this is a familiar description of the earthy tabernacle (vs. 1-10). While the earthly tabernacle was ordained by God, it is inferior because of its location (earthly). Other things to note is that it was only accessible by the high priest (holy of holies) and that ultimately it was a temporary residence (vs. 8). But as we are reminded, there is more superior and heavenly sanctuary (vs. 11-28). Question: Why? Remember the author’s intention is to exhort a people who were still holding onto the past. In the OT, the high priest also sacrificed for his own sins. However, Jesus our high priest was the sacrifice not for his sons, but ours! We can’t help but see God’s eternal plan working itself out before His creation!
Regarding application…Only The Blood. Vs. 22, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Someone had to pay a price for our sins. It was the greater sacrifice through Jesus that covered over our transgressions. We were bought at a very high price. When something is valuable, we have a tendency to take care of it. By God’s grace, we were considered valuable enough for Him to sacrifice His one and only son. This is a wonderful reminder this week as Christmas draws nearer each day. Think about something you can do today that shows the value of God’s love and act upon it!
Vs. 1, “Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.” Like any good presentation, we see the author of Hebrews give us a summary of the main point and central focus of the letter. Jesus is the high priest that continues to serve in our lives today! Jesus is not in some man-made tabernacle, but Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is ministering in the heavenly tabernacle not the copy of it that was on earth (vs. 3-6). It served a temporal purpose, but Jesus serves eternally. The old covenant was fulfilled and made perfect (due to man’s sinfulness) through the new covenant (vs. 7-13). Moses was the old covenant mediator, but Jesus is the perfect mediator. The fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jeremiah 31:31-34) came to pass.
Regarding application…Is the Old Covenant Bad? Vs. 13, “By calling this covenant new, he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” Question: Who gave us the Old Covenant? God had His purpose for His promises given to His people at that time. Both the old and new covenants were given for the good of God’s people. Both covenants offered blessings. Jesus did not come to abolish God’s law (Matthew 5:17), but He came to fulfill God’s ultimate promise to love His people and be a blessing to His nations. God has written His law in our hearts and our minds, we are without excuse! Let us therefore make every effort to honor Him in all that we do! Question: What can you honor him with today?
Vs. 25, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” The author of Hebrew now expounds upon the order of Melchizedek (Genesis 14 & Psalm 110:4). The significance of this lies in the fact that Jesus, like Melchizedek was a priest, though not one by birth. Additionally, the priesthood and kingship were separate, but like Melchizedek, Jesus was both priest and king. There are certainly different interpretations of who Melchizedek was. Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”, melek in Hebrew is king and zedek is righteousness while Salem means peace. There was no ambiguity on who which Jesus was being compared to. This reminds me of the amazing significance the Old Testament plays in our understanding of the Lord. Ulitmately, Jesus is superior to the order of Melchizedek and the Levitical priesthood.
Regarding application…Met Needs. Vs. 26, “Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” Question: What can you do for me? We live in a “what have you done for me lately” society. Our relationships are often based on what contribution can this person give to me. Divorce rates are too high, friendships are lost and we live workplaces and even churches when we feel our needs are not being met. But are reminded today that Jesus truly meets our needs. Think about the things in our lives that are needs, not wants. Thank the Lord as we begin our week with the many needs He meets!