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Old Testament Heroes

God had foreseen something better for us.                    Hebrews 11:40

Hebrews reviews the stories of Old Testament heroes so that readers may be inspired by their examples of perseverance.

When we read Hebrews 11, however, we may find the list of heroic believers discouraging.  How can we measure up to these spiritual giants? On the other hand, when we examine the list carefully, we see that some of them did nothing very spectacular for God (take Samson and Jephtha for example, v. 32): in fact, it it wasn’t their action, but God’s action in their lives that made them significant.

More important, according to verse 40, these people are presented not merely as models but as those whom we should excel.  Jesus tells us that the least saint in the kingdom is greater than a great prophet like John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11).  He also says that those who believe in Him will be able to do greater works than He Himself performed (John 14:12).

Heroes of faith do what they do by the power of God, by means of Christ’s Spirit within them.  And God does much more through Spirit-filled believers than He did through people like Samson who had the Spirit only occasionally.  The Spirit never abandons Jesus’ believers.  “He who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:17).

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Seeing the Invisible

[Moses] endured as seeing him who is invisible.             Hebrews 11:27

We see here that the explanation for the endurance and perseverance of the Old Testament believers was that they “saw” that their world of shadows and pictures was not the real one.  Jesus even said, “Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day” (John 8:56).

Those who believe in Christ endure and persevere in this age in the same way, for Hebrews tells us that the realities of the New Testament are only pictures of greater reality in glory.

The glorified physical bodies we receive will be quite unlike our present ones.  The new heavens and new earth which will remain after all buildings and cities are destroyed will also be different.  And God’s city, the new Jerusalem, being built now in heaven, has foundations that will last eternally.

When God made our present temporary world He made human beings last of all.  But, in the construction of His new Jerusalem, He uses us as His associates.  What an honor!

The new world is and will be so wonderful that we cannot conceive of it with natural minds.  But the fact that there is such a world that no eye has seen and no ear has heard has been revealed to us already.  Because believers “see” this, they can endure whatever happens to them.

 

What Kind of Judgment?

It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment.     Hebrews 9:27

There is no question that each of us will stand before the Judge of all the earth, our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).  But we must think about the judgment properly.  When we study the total biblical picture, we learn that unbelievers should experience nothing but fear and trembling when they think about this awesome event.  Those who believe in Jesus the Judge, however, are invited to remember that He died for them and always intercedes for them.  They do not have to fear condemnation (Romans 8:34).  The Bible assures us that everyone who trusts in Jesus will never be put to shame (Romans 10:11).

Those who have Jesus’ Spirit within them may think of Judgment Day as if it will be something like an awards assembly at the end of a school year.  Surely this is the meaning of the parables Jesus told which feature the distribution of honors to the Master’s faithful servants (Matthew 25).  But the awards will be of sheer grace, for the very works which believers perform have been prepared for them by God Himself (Ephesians 2:10).  They remember this: “God is at work in you” (Philippians 2:13).

Who could be afraid of seeing Him who lives within them, who enables their best efforts, and who waits with gracious gifts at the end of their course?

Deliberate Sin

If we sin deliberately after receiving the …. truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.         Hebrews 10:26

The Old Testament makes a sharp distinction between sins committed involuntarily and those done deliberately.  Old Testament believers had the “excuse” that they did not have the Holy Spirit in them to tell them what was right.  Hebrews says it is extremely serious, however, when New Testament believers fall into sin.  We have no “excuse,” for God Himself is at work within us, both to will and to do His pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

Alas, a born-again believer does sin occasionally, but, when this happens, he may say, as the apostle Paul said, “Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.  So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me” (Romans 7:16, 17).

God guarantees that no temptation will ever come our way that we cannot escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).  He “always leads us in triumph” (2 Corinthians 2″14).  And Jay Adams says that it is not enough to learn to cope; Christians must be overcomers.

We can’t use the excuse any more that we can’t help sinning, that it is just part of our nature.  If we talk that way, we are denying the fullness of Jesus’ work at Calvary.  He died to save us from guilt and to send His Holy Spirit to live in us.  In the power of Christ, we must now resist sin and live for God.

Getting Together

Let us consider how to stir up one another … not neglecting to meet together.      Hebrews 10:24, 25

When Hebrews talks about meeting together it is not talking only about going to church.  Hebrews is saying that the greatness of salvation cannot be experienced in isolation.  No Christian is an island.

Jesus had this in mind when He said that wherever two or three Christians get together, He is present (Matthew 18:20).  When believers get together it is as if Jesus says, “This is me!”  Christ does not merely join us when we meet for worship or fellowship; He is automatically there — in us.

Ephesians 1:22, 23 (NIV) says: “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

Christ is what makes a Christian home beautiful; He makes the Christian family one with Him.  Where is that “two or three” more real than in the union of a believing husband and wife, possibly with one or more children?  The book of Romans tells us that many of the early Christians had house churches (see 16:5).  Some of the most meaningful events and thoughts recorded in the Bible were born out of this family-type fellowship as saints, drawn together in Christ, promoted oneness in Him.  Is your home today like a church?  Is your family a body of Christ?

He Forgets Our Sins

“I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more.”     Hebrews 10:17

Salvation is far more than the forgiveness of sin.  Sometimes, however, we have a very small idea of what this forgiveness is.

The fact is, our past sins are so completely pardoned that God says He doesn’t even remember them.  This means that when God thinks about us, our past sins do not enter the picture, for they are gone once and  for all.  Why should we torture ourselves, then, by dwelling on past sins?

A Christian need not feel guilt at all.  Hebrews says that our consciences have been cleansed (10:22).  In his delightful book Love is Now, Peter Gilquist reports agonizing over a recurring sin in his life and crying out “O God, I did it again,” and then hearing a “voice from heaven” say, “Did what again?”

Sometimes we may tremble as we think about the future and worry about the sins we may yet commit, but even then we can be comforted.  Christ’s forgiveness applies to future sin also.

When a person becomes more “holy” he becomes more conscious of sin both in and around him.  But he or she also becomes more conscious of God’s forgiveness.  Whenever this person does sin, then, he or she promptly confesses it thanks God for His forgiveness, and remembers that God is able to forget.

We Are Saints

He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.      Hebrews 10:14

It is impossible to make progress in the Christian race unless a person realizes that he or she is a saint in Christ.  Can you imagine cheerleaders encouraging a team yelling, “Let’s go, losers”?

Possibly we get the wrong impression of ourselves because many of the songs we sing in worship services emphasize human sin.  For many of us, worship can become a time of telling God how good He is and how bad we are.  Hebrews 10:14 however, tells us that Christians have been made holy.  In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul lists many types of sinners and then says: “Such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (v. 11). We must be careful not to overlook Gods work of grace by calling attention to our sins all of the time.

Failing to recognize God’s complete salvation may also cause Christians to offend and confuse prospective converts.  What appeal does becoming a Christian have if a person doesn’t change or show any joy?

Perhaps we should address each other as “saints.”  Then, however, people would say we were being presumptuous and proud.  On the other hand, we must not take pride in humility.  Let us never call unclean what the Lord our God has hallowed.