Hebrews – Jesus is Eternal

Milky way over the desert of Bardenas, Spain

We’re trying to teach our two-year-old granddaughter to recognize colors so we identify the colors around her – trees are green, Nana’s car is red, her toy truck is blue. We go over and over the colors because repetition helps her learn. It’s no different with adults. The writer of Hebrews uses that same teaching technique to drive home the point that Jesus is greater than everyone and everything the Jewish people revere.

Here he goes back to the very beginning of creation when God “laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands” (Hebrews 1:10). For thousands of years, men have gazed in awe at the specks of light piercing the night sky so far away. We have looked up at the peaks of mountains and observed as far as humanly possible the depths of the oceans with wonder. His creation is marvelous and beautiful.

But, said the author, “they will perish . . . [God] will roll them up like a robe; like a garment, they will be changed”(v. 11-12). He said that creation is like an old overcoat that will one day be discarded for a new one. But the Lord will “remain the same and your years will never end” (v. 11, 12). The eternal Creator who spoke this heaven and earth into existence is will be present in the new creation. While everything around Him will change, He will remain the same.  Why? Because there is no need for Him to change – He is perfect. Creation was marred by the sin of man (Rom. 8:20-21) and so it cannot remain in the perfect and eternal Kingdom of God. It is the same for you and me, imperfect people cannot dwell with the King, but God made a way through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son to make us fit for His Kingdom.

Once again, the author returns to the subject of angels vs. the King of Kings. He said, “To which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’? Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (vv. 13-14). Jesus is the Sovereign King, the angels are His servants. He sits upon the throne, they bow before it. When all of creation has been rolled away, Jesus remains. And reigns.

Skinned Knees and Old Sins

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When I was a kid I hated to skin up my knees and elbows. Of course, there was the pain of the injury, but what was even worse to me was the bandage. Mom would plaster one of those plastic adhesive strips with a gauze square to my body part and it would sit there all day, gluing itself securely to my wound. Actually, the bandage itself was not the problem cause we had those cool ones with cartoon characters printed on them. What I dreaded was when the bandage had to be replaced at the end of the day. My mom didn’t believe in coddling me so it came off with one swift jerk. Oh, the pain! Oh, the wailing! It’s a wonder those wounds ever healed because they were constantly being reopened and irritated.

Some of us treat our past like my mom treated my poor knees. We constantly rip off the bandage and reopen the wound. We agonize over our failures and sins over and over again. We pick at the wounds of yesterday and make them bleed and hurt, and we experience the pain as if it was new and fresh. I know. I’ve relived my past a thousand times. Every foolish decision. Every moral failure. Every sin. And the wounds bleed and never heal.

Dear friend, if you have been to the cross and claimed Jesus as your Savior, everything that haunts you from your past – every sin and failure – has been covered over by Christ’s blood. They have been forgiven and they are gone. The Bible says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). The east is eternally separated from the west, the two directions will never meet. God has eternally separated the sins and failures of your past from you. He will never make you face them again.

But you’ve got to let them heal. You’ve got to stop reopening those old wounds. You are “a new creation in Christ; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corin 5:17). Let the old sinful you go, Beloved, and embrace the new you in Christ.

Okay, I’m Saved. Now What?

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Yesterday I wrote about God’s grace, about how salvation is a work that God alone accomplishes on our behalf. It is truly an amazing thing. But what comes next? Now that we are a “new creation in Christ” (2 Cor 5:17) do we just wait around for heaven? No. Now a new work begins. It’s called sanctification and it’s not just behavior modification though your behavior will change. It involves a transformation on the inside that works its way to the outside.
Like salvation, sanctification is God’s work. But it is not His work alone. It is also our work. It is a combined, life-long partnership between us and the Holy Spirit. Paul explained it well saying, “It is God who works in you” (Philippians 2:13) as we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (v. 12). After His opus of salvation, God works in us through His Word and His Holy Spirit. We read the Word which “teaches, rebukes, corrects and trains us in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). The Spirit roots those truths in our hearts. He convicts us of sin, encourages us to persevere, and empowers us to obey and to walk in righteousness. That’s a lot! What’s left for us to do? Our part is studying His Word, praying, coming together with the Body (the church), and especially, responding in obedience to His commands and His promptings.
“Working out” what God is “working in” us is a daily discipline. And it’s hard work. There are no shortcuts to sanctification. It will require everything of you. Part of sanctification is pruning – removing from us those things that hinder our progress – habits, addictions, wrong thoughts, immorality, prejudices, pride, rebellion, selfishness, anger, laziness, lack of self-control. Oh, He has so much work to do in me. But then He begins the building work – filling us with “the fruit of the Spirit:” love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). That’s where we see the transformation on the inside working its way to the outside.
What’s the goal? That you and I might be “conformed to the likeness of the Son of God” (Rom. 8:29). That the world might see Jesus when they look at you. Beloved, will you join God in the good work of sanctification?

Leave Your Past in Your Past

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I caught myself the other day thinking, “If I could only go back and change my past…”  I’m sure we’ve all said the same.  “I would have gone to college.” “I would have chosen a different career.”  “I would have (or wouldn’t have) gotten married.”  It doesn’t always have to be choices as big as those.  “I wish I didn’t say that.” “I shouldn’t have eaten that.” “Why did I waste money on that?”   Who hasn’t lamented something in their past?  For some, the choices were huge and life-altering.  For others, the choices were not quite as monumental but we still wish we could do them over.  I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes. I’m the poster child for foolishness and failure. I have spent so much time living with regrets, wishing I had made wiser decisions, or that circumstances had turned out differently.  I have discovered that when I live in constant regret I set myself up for a very sad life.  But it doesn’t have to be.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about regret is to look ahead, not behind.God said, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.  (Isaiah 43:18-19)  He specializes in fresh starts. But it’s even more than a do-over; this is the genesis of “a new thing.” He has and continues to do that for me.  He has taken so many dead ends and made“a way in the desert” of my life.  He has turned so many hard seasons into “streams in the wasteland.”  But if I sit in the ashes and lament my past, I will not see the new things God wants to do.

Yes, Beloved, you have a past. But you can be sure of one thing: God has a plan and a purpose for you – and your past doesn’t change that. In fact, it may just be the “fertilizer” for your future.

That’s Not Who I Am Anymore

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“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of the light.”  Ephesians 5:8

One of my responsibilities at work is to cover my bosses’ classes from time to time when he must be away.  He had to be out one day and we were talking about what I needed to do for his class as “the sub.” We laughed as I recalled some mischief I pulled on substitute teachers in the past and then I said, “That was before Jesus.  I don’t do that stuff now.”

Paul had that same message.  In Romans 6 when he talked about the difference between who we were before Jesus and who we are now.  Before Christ, we were dead to righteousness and alive to sin.  We “used to offer the parts of [our] body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness,” (v. 19).  Throughout his letters, he describes some of the things in which we indulged in our pre-Christ state.  Things you would expect like murder, sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, hatred, anger, drunkenness, selfishness, lying, stealing, envy, greed, obscenity, and things you might not expect like foolish talk, coarse joking, and gossip.  Paul said that is who we were.

But if you are in Christ, that’s not who you are anymore. Let me say that again: YOU ARE NOT THAT SINFUL PERSON ANY MORE.  Paul said, “But now you have been set free from sin” (Romans 6:22).  But now, you are a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), dead to sin and alive to righteousness.  You are not bound to obey your old sinful desires and the temptations of the world. You can leave those sinful actions behind and live for Jesus.  You are not who you once were.  I don’t know about you but that gives me tremendous hope.

When those old familiar desires rise up and the enemy dangles that favorite temptation before you, you can say – “I don’t do that now.” And you can walk away.  You really can Beloved. Because that’s not who you are anymore.

A Life of Hope

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

What does it mean to really live?  Is life just existence, just taking up space on planet earth – or is there something more to life than that?  What is the difference between “life” and “living?” On this fifth day of Advent we are going to look at a Life of Hope, tomorrow we will expand our focus to the Hope of Eternal Life.

God meant for our lives to have real meaning and purpose.  No one ever set a life goal to just exist. Our lives matter – and that was God’s intention.  So how, then, can we move into this purposeful and meaningful life?

First, we must come to the One who promises life.  We must come to Jesus Christ, the One who died to give us life.   You may be reading this and thinking, “My life has no great purpose,” or even “I have made such a mess of my life, there is nothing left for me.”  God says differently.  There is no life – no person – that God cannot touch and change.  Here is a wonderful word of hope for you and me: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17, emphasis added)!  If you have received Jesus Christ, you have been given a new life.  And if you have not – there is no better time than now.  Pray this simple prayer to begin a new life in Christ: “Dear God, I know that I am a sinner, and I need Jesus Christ to save me and cleanse me.  I receive Jesus by faith, I receive this new life by faith.  I am Your child God, lead me in this new life.”  God promises new life to all who will come to Christ.

With that new life comes the abundant, or “full” life, as our key verse says.  Jesus was not talking about an abundance of things, but of purpose and meaning – namely an abundant, fruitful life.  Jesus declared it just prior to His arrest saying, “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.  This is to my Father’s glory.” (John 15:16, 8).  Paul reminds us that  “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).  Now, mind you, this is not to say that Christ saved us because of the good work we do, nor did He save us merely to do good work.  This good work is the calling of God on our lives, the purpose for which we are here on earth.  There is much hope in knowing that God has chosen and called you to serve Him by serving others, and that He receives your good works as a fruitful offering.

If you have received the new life Christ offers, you are a child of God.  And if you are a child of God you have a calling that will result in fruitfulness.  Because of this helpless little baby in the manger, we have hope for a new and meaningful life here on earth.  That is real hope for a real life indeed.

My God and Father, I pray that You will receive my “work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope in my Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thess. 1:3)” as an offering to Your glory.  Amen

Old Photographs

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone the new has come!”  2 Corinthians 5:17

No long ago I ran across some old photos of myself when I was much younger.  I laid them out in the progression of ages from about 3 to my high school years, watching myself grow taller, with a variety of hair styles and some really strange fashion sense.  There’s the year I first began to wear glasses, and my “purple season,” and the year I grew so fast, my Mom had to sew trim onto the hem of my pants for added length.  I smiled at the parade of old friends, and grimaced at some of my old boyfriends (oh what was I thinking!).  I began to study my face through the years, chubby cheeks giving way to more defined features.  Then I focused on my eyes.  If the eyes are the window of the soul, then somewhere between 10 and 15, my soul became filled with confusion and pain and my eyes revealed a sadness that was reflected in my expression and my stance.   The girl in those later photos took on a darker, more withdrawn spirit.  Pictures gave way to memories of being hurt by others and by my own choices.  I was being drawn back into those old photographs.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like reminders of my past – I tend to bristle at memories of being hurt and of my own rebellion and selfishness and sin.  Glancing up into the mirror on my dresser, I thought how much I physically looked like the girl in the pictures, but I no longer recognized those eyes. God spoke to my spirit, “That is because that’s not who you are anymore. Now you are mine.”

Paul wrote in his letters, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world. (Ephesians 2:1-2)  He gives a list of sinful and wicked behaviors in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and says, “That is what you were. (1 Corinthians 6:11)” In Ephesians 5:8 Paul says, “You were once darkness…”  Paul is coloring in the darkness of his readers’ past in order to highlight the contrast when he says but now…you are light in the Lord.”  He is painting a before and after portrait.  “You were once…but now you are.”  Like God’s message to me, Paul is saying, “You were dead in sin and rebellion and selfishness. But that is not who you are anymore.  Now you are in Christ.”

One of Satan’s favorite ploys is to assault us with our past, to tell us that we will always be who we were and there is no point in trying to resist those old familiar sins.  “You know deep down, you still want it.  You haven’t changed. You are bound to your past.  You are bound to me.”  But if you belong to Jesus Christ, Satan has no authority over you. You are free from your past; you are free to choose not to give in to sin.  You are a child of light, purified from all your sins (1 John 1: 7).  Where you were once bound to your sin, you are now bound up in God’s love.

In Philippians 3:13, Paul gives us the secret to walking in our new identity when he says, “one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on…”  We can forget what is behind because “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)” If only we could understand that because Jesus Christ has completely removed all our transgressions; our old sinful desires have no authority over us any longer.  .

Look at yourself in the mirror.  You are a new creation in Christ.  You have light in your eyes, and God’s love shines on your face.  You are free to choose all the wonderful things God has planned for you.  You are no longer bound to a painful, sinful past. You are not who you once were.  Now you are His.

Holy Father, You have claimed me for Your own.  I am a new creation in Christ.  I am forgiven and free. I am Yours.  Amen.