Where Has the REVERENCE and AWESOMENESS of God Gone?

 

 

I want to begin this study with a question:  Do you ever feel like something has changed in your life where maybe you used to get excited about something and then, it has just become part of the day in/day out a mundane living?

It seems the longer we are occupied with something, the more it becomes a part of our life and the more likely that we become less excited over it.

Before I retired from the mechanical contracting business, people would ask me if my job was exciting and typically I would answer that it’s a job like any other.

But it wasn’t always that way.  It always was a daily challenge with the responsibilities that came with the different positions I held, but there was the daily excitement of accomplishing and succeeding and new things.  Doing my best was always in place because of the way I was raised, but going beyond the best and succeeding was thrilling.

Looking at Marriage Relationships

Before I was married, the excitement of talking to my intended on the phone, seeing her in person, the getting ready to go on a date, putting on cologne and nice clothes, looking my best, the getting married, the wedding night and honeymoon, even the first couple of years.

Then you get into a routine and the excitement and awe seem to fade.  And even in our relationship with God, the routine can set in without notice.

When you first become a Christian you couldn’t get enough of the Bible.  You wanted to be talking to others about Jesus whenever and wherever you had a chance.

And right now you’re still enjoying being in God’s Word, but the same AWE and EXCITEMENT isn’t always there.

Hebrews 12:28-29 (AMP)

If we are truly going to worship God in Spirit and Truth–to be true worshippers, there needs to be “reverence and AWE”.

“AWE” – Definition: “Fear mingled with reverence and wonder” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia – 1996)

“AWE” –  “a very strong feeling of wonder, reverence (or fear) caused by something grand or powerful” (www.Wordsmyth.com)

I asked myself the question over the last several months: Am I worshipping on Sundays and the rest of the weekdays with AWE as it’s defined?  I have reverence for the Lord, but sometimes, I confess, I don’t have that sense of awe and wonder.

And when we lose a sense of awe of God, the scripture tells us that we fail to worship God acceptably.  I don’t know about where you are right now, but I want you, us, to return to a sense of being In AWE of God.  Maybe you’ve never experienced that sense, but it’s available for all.

To do that though. I think it’s important to ask ourselves some questions.  We know that it happens, but why does it happen? Why do we lose our sense of awe?

I believe as we become all too familiar with anything, including our own faith in God, it starts to become commonplace.

There is a balance for us to maintain.

As we grow with the Lord, our understanding and relationship with Him will grow as well and we become closer and more familiar. 

We need to recognize that when we approach our heavenly Father with confidence and with closeness, as a child approaches his daddy (Abba), but at the same time, we need to approach with a sense of awe and wonder that we have God Almighty as our Father.

We need to avoid our faith becoming common, that we look at God as we sometimes look at our earthly fathers as someone who pays the bills and lets us borrow the car.

How do we do that?  How do we maintain or get back our sense of AWE for God?

I think it originates in our heads, in our thinking, or lack of thinking.

In my marriage, if I was thinking each and every day how blessed I am to have a wife who chose me to spend her life with, who is there making our house a home, and who cares for me and about me, I know I would have a better and more grateful attitude toward her than I sometimes do.

But it all starts in our minds.

And the same is true about our Godly relationship.

Our minds need to be focused on the relationship so that we can recapture our AWE for God.

Instead of just focusing on God, we need to be focusing on specific aspects of God and it starts by recognizing who God is.

I believe there are some specific things we need to focus on about who God is if we’re going to have that sense of excitement and AWE for God.

  1. RECOGNIZE GOD AS CREATOR.

The Scriptures support this approach as well.  Often when Awe is being discussed, it’s in context with Creation.

Job 25:2 (NIV)

[2] “Dominion and awe belong to God; He establishes order in the heights of heaven”

Psalm 33:6-9 

God has made all of Creation, sustains all of Creation and if we stop to think about it, it’s absolutely unbelievable and awe-inspiring.  The problem is, we often don’t think about it because we live here and this too has become commonplace.

With that thought in mind, I want to take the time here to refocus on this place where we reside that God has made and created for our benefit.

  • The Universe–the vastness of the universe.
  • The Body–the intricacies of the design of the human body.

We have 30 to 100 trillion (with a “T”) cells in our body that work independently, yet must work in coordination with the other cells.  I’ve worked in offices for over 30 years where 10 people couldn’t work in coordination with each other. And yet, the body is self-healing; it has reproduction properties.

Beauty of Creation

So often in our world, it seems we need to give up beauty and creativity for functionality.  Not so with the world.

Our world not only functions orderly, but the BEAUTY of what God has created is amazing! And if we can keep our minds focused on the awesomeness of Who God is as Creator and recognize the awesomeness of His Creation on a daily basis, then I think we will go a long way toward having an AWE inspiring view of God.

Each day we should seek to view the Lord’s creation in a specific way that recognizes this awesomeness.

Each and every day, even on the way to church on Sunday morning…make it a point in the car to point out God’s awesomeness,  And by the way, it’s a great lesson for our children as well.

But we need to not only be AWED by God as Creator, but we also need to realize and recognize God as Judge  (Hebrews 28-29).

God is a “consuming fire” and He will JUDGE the world in regards to His Holiness.

That brings to mind, that “If one receives Jesus Christ as Savior, then they won’t be judged, right?”

You will not be judged to your salvation.  That’s a gift from God.

But each one of us is going to face the judgment seat of Christ in eternity for what we do in terms of our rewards in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:10).

For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with, and given himself and his attention to accomplishing].  (Amplified Bible)

That’s for every one of us!

And because God is a JUDGE, we should stand in Awe of Him because of His JUDGMENT & AUTHORITY over us.

Just as we enter a courtroom we’re expected to show respect for the power and authority there and if we don’t we may be held in contempt and judged accordingly for those actions.

Therefore, with that premise in mind, should we show any less respect on Sunday morning worship–coffee mug in hand, baseball hats on our heads, Smart Phones checking out the latest sports scores, etc.?

We should always stand in Awe and respect of God for the One Who will JUDGE ALL of our actions and attitudes.  And as a Christian, even more so, we should stand in Awe of God as our Judge.

In addition to recognizing Who God is as Creator and Judge, which will help us stand in reverence and Awe, there’s one more thing I think is necessary for us to understand and focus on for standing in Awe and reverence of God, and that’s…

Recognizing who We  Are.

I believe it’s imperative that we have a proper view of ourselves for us to be able to have a proper view of God.

READ what the apostle Paul’s viewpoint regarding who he was and how it gave him a proper, awe-inspiring view of God:

1 Timothy 1:15-17What Paul is saying to me, perhaps to you as well, having a realistic view of our own sinfulness and how it should help us to be in Awe of God.

Are You Standing In Awe of God?

Maybe you have lost that Awe, or maybe you’ve never experienced the Awe at all, and in either case, you’ve been going through the motions of being a Christian and haven’t been feeling the Awe of God that you should be experiencing.  Here some suggestions that I’ve found to start with for all of us:

Open your eyes to God’s Creation and really see things around you.

  • Notice the sky and the Sun.
  • Notice the number of people driving our highways at all hours of the day and recognize God is the creation of each and every one of them and knows every hair on their head.

Think about God, the great and mighty judge of ALL MANKIND that will one day stand before us.

Be on Awe that we will stand in the presence of the greatest authority in the universe, greater than the Supreme Court of the land, with the Son Himself our mediator.

Recognize your own selfishness and the fact that God’s loves you and me anyway and still desires to use us even though we don’t deserve the privilege of being used in God’s plans in such an awesome way.

I want to pray for those who may be feeling a little unconnected from the Lord, that over these next days, weeks and months, that you might be awed by the Lord, God Almighty, our Savior and Judge, and find your self, standing in Awe of Him!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS

YouTube Video:  I Stand In Awe Of You

Photo Images:  Google Images–Settings, advance search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version; Amplified Bible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIRST BLOOD

In 1982, an American action film hit the box office, “First Blood”.  It was co-written by Ted Kotchheff and starred Sylvester Stallone who became known to most of us as “Rambo”. 

It was based on David Morrell’s 1972 novel of the same name.  I remember a line in the movie that plays into the movie’s title when he said to his pursuers, “You drew the first blood” and as odd as it may seem, while I was reading in my Bible, the Letter to the Hebrews, this movie theme played in my head as I studied and took notes for this study, FIRST BLOOD.

First blood in the Bible – Genesis 4:4; (Genesis 3:21).

[4] And Abel also brought an offering–fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.  The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering…

It was a sacrificial lamb. 

His brother Cain’s offering was far more attractive than Abel’s was, but Abel’s was what God wanted.

Abel’s offering anticipated the coming Lamb of God.

There’s only one way to approach a holy God and that’s through shed blood (Hebrews 9:22).

It’s an echo of Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

While the first blood shed by Abel was prophetic and pointed forward to that which was to be, the blood of Jesus, on the other hand, it declares the whole work of salvation is finished.

This brings us to our study in the New Testament in Hebrews 9:10-28

The Blood Covenant

JESUS is in heaven right now and seated at the right hand of the Father, guaranteeing the promise of the COVENANT with two aspects:

  • LEGAL GUARANTEE
  • LIVING GUARANTEE

Hebrews 9:11-15 (NIV)  First Blood vs. The Blood of Christ

[11] When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation.  [12] He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.  [13] The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.  [14] How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!  [15] For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Jesus has shed His blood for us on Calvary 2,000 years ago and now appears in Heaven to plead for us.

Hebrews 9:16-22 (AMP)

[16] For where there is a [last] will and testament involved, the death of the one who made it must be established.  [17] For a will and testament is valid and takes effect only at death, since it has no force or legal power as long as the one who made it is alive.  [18] So even the [old] first covenant  (God’s will)  was not inaugurated and ratified and put in force without the shedding of blood.  [19] For when every command of the Law had been read out by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of slain calves and goats, together with water and scarlet wool and with a bunch of hyssops, and sprinkled both the Book (the roll of the Law and covenant) itself and all the people.  [Leviticus 14]

[20] Saying these words:  This is the blood that seals and ratifies the agreement (the testament, the covenant) which God commanded [me to deliver to] you.  [21] And in the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and all the [sacred] vessels and appliances used in [divine] worship.

[22] [In fact] under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sin.

COVENANT is an agreement, but it also means “last will and testament.”

The thing about a “will” is that it doesn’t come into effect until a person dies.

In order for the terms of the New Covenant to come into play, Jesus had to physically die on the Cross.

Luke 22:20 (NIV)

[20] In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Even the Old Covenant was established on the basis of the ‘first’ blood so to speak, but the blood, fire, water (Num. 31:21-24) couldn’t change a person’s nature.  (The altar, ark, people didn’t change when the blood was put upon them, but it did change God’s relationship to it).

The reason why blood was such a big variable in the Old Covenant was that God required BLOOD to be shed before sin could be forgiven (Lev. 17:11).

The Old Testament saints were saved the same way we are with the finish work of Christ Jesus.

People before Christ’s death on the Cross were promised a Messiah/Redeemer by God, they died believing/trusting that God Promise would be fulfilled, however, this is really important…they died with the promise unfulfilled.

One of the first accomplishments of Jesus’ death was to REDEEM all those who had believed in God under the Old Covenant (Christ’s atoning death was retroactive).

In the financial world, redemption is “a removal of a financial obligation by paying off a note, bond, etc.” [Dictionary.com]

In a way, the believers of the O.C. were saved on “credit” or a “note,” and Jesus was the actual payment, “redeeming” the note.  The only way a person could come to God was to have the penalty of his SIN paid for and Jesus provided it for everyone who trusts Him.

He was the bridge!

With Jesus dying on the Cross, He legally died and His Last Will & Testament was legally enacted.

Our inheritance is primarily spiritual in nature. Forgiveness, spiritual gifts/fruit, the changing of our nature.

When Jesus died, what all the ‘first blood’ that had been offered up until that time couldn’t do, Jesus accomplished.

The Howard Hughes Story

One of the richest men in the world when he died in 1976.  His fortune, which he accumulated as an aviator, inventor, engineer, filmmaker, had an estimated worth in the billions when he died.  In the final years of his life, he spent them as a recluse in a Las Vegas hotel as his OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder) took its hold.  Upon his death, it was discovered that he had no WILL made.  All his wealth was divided by the State to 22 cousins.

When Jesus died on the Cross, His last Will and Testament came immediately into force.  He designated all His wealth, power, authority to His children…us!

How foolish we are to fail to claim our inheritance in Him!

A Living Guarantee (vv. 23-26).

OUR LORD BECAME THE SACRIFICE FOR OUR SIN.

He is the better sacrifice, a final sacrifice.

Hebrews 9:23, 25-26 (NIV)

[23] It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

[25] Nor did He enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.  [26] Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world.  But now He has appeared once and for all at the end of the ages to do away with the sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

His final Will & Testament was notarized on Calvary’s Hill.

If you’ve ever had to get an official transcript from a school, or an official copy of your birth certificate, it had to have the official seal on it to be valid.  A notary public will authenticate your signature on an important document by stamping it with his/her seal.

Even so, God’s Spirit is the SEAL on every true believer, showing that you are no longer your own.  He bought you with the blood of Christ and now you belong to Him.  No one can take you from Him!!!

He died, but He lives again!

He’s alive to serve as His own executor of His own estate!

He can enforce the PROMISE of His Will and His Will is incontestable because He lives in heaven as our guarantee!

When we come to God we must go through Jesus.  There’s no other way.  Jesus satisfies the Father, therefore no one comes to Him except through His Son, Jesus.

The idea that God accepts us as we are is unbiblical.  We come to Jesus just as we are, BUT…He doesn’t present us to the Father just as we are.  We are a 100% unpresentable as we are.  [God is holy, and SIN cannot be in His presence.]

When Jesus presents us to His Father, He presents us in Himself, as He is.

So when God sees us, He sees Jesus instead; He sees Jesus’ sacrifice instead of our SIN.  His BLOOD PAYMENT for our sin instead of the penalty we deserve for our iniquities.

Hebrews 9:24 (AMP)

[24] For Christ (the Messiah) has not entered into a sanctuary made with [human] hands, only a copy and pattern and type of the true one, but [He has entered] into heaven itself, now to appear in the [very] presence of God on our behalf.

Jesus has taken us into the real Holy of Holies with Him through His SACRIFICE of BLOOD on the Cross.

Hebrews 9:27-28

One person said: Man’s life is made up of 20 years of his mother asking him where he’s going.  50 years of his wife asking him where’s he been, and one hour at his funeral where everyone wonders where he’s gone.

I know where I’m going because I’m in the Will.

The only way we get into the Will is to be placed into the death of Christ Jesus and say, “God, I’m a sinner.  I place myself into the death and resurrection of your Son.  Be satisfied with me for His sake.”

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Howard Hughes Story – Wikipedia.

“FIRST BLOOD” – Wikipedia.

Video:  First blood Instrumental YouTube.

Photos:  Google Image Search, Settings Advance search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); other translations as marked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Is Melchizedek in the Bible…Or As I Like to Call Him, ‘Mel’?


If one goes to the Internet to answer this question, there are all sorts of claims made in the name of ‘Melchizedek”.  I’ve come across the name, once again, in bible study in The Letter to the Hebrews 7:1-22, and to save me the time of writing down “Melchizedek,” over and over again, I took the liberty of calling him ‘Mel’.

Many religious groups with ties to Christianity make claims regarding Melchizedek.  Ancient Gnostics go to great explanations of claiming Melchizedek was actually Jesus [For more on the term “Gnostic,” go to GotQuestions.org/”What is the definition of the term Gnostic? ]. Others say he was the archangel, Michael.

Suffice to say, I don’t recommend an Internet search answering these sorts of questions.

In Hebrews 7, the information presented gives the most information about ‘Mel’ in the entire Bible.

Of course, Melchizedek first shows up in our Bible in Genesis … 12 pages into my Bible.

  • Genesis 12 contains God’s call of Abram and God’s promise that would make Abram a great nation and Blessed him (Genesis 12:2).
  • Genesis 13 includes the story of Abram (Abraham) and his nephew Lot agreeing to separate and occupy different territories in the new land.
  • At the beginning of Genesis 14, there’s a report of war among several kings.  Caught up in the plunder of war, Lot was carried off by the victory and apparent victim of circumstance, Lot was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • In the middle of Genesis 14, Abram learns of his nephew’s plight, takes a group of 318 soldiers, routs Lot’s captors and liberates Lot, his possessions, and all the people with him.

It was after Abram’s return from the victory that the story unfolds with Melchizedek.  Even though it is contained in just three chapters in our Bibles, it was a significant encounter for Abram.  Mostly because it’s a moment in which Abram acknowledged God’s Blessing on his life:

  • He chose the Blessing of the priest over the spoils of war offered by the other kings.
  • He credited God for the victory won.
  • He tithed, giving an offering in worship to “God most high”.

AND THIS IS THE END OF THE ACCOUNT.

There are no more details about ‘Mel’ to be found in Genesis.

Most history books I’ve run across don’t deny the existence of Melchizedek, but they don’t have much else to add either.

Aside from our text in Hebrews in this study, the only other place I could find in the Bible was Psalm 110.

Psalm 110 is what Bible scholars call a Messianic psalm, a prophecy that describes the ultimate Savior, the Victor that would deliver God’s people for all eternity.

And this particular Psalm describes the Messiah as “a priest after the manner and order of Melchizedek”  (verse 4).  

Sound familiar?

Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.

He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

This duplication of this specific language presented at the end of Chapter 6 of Hebrews is in the precise language of Psalm 110.

Hebrews 6:20 (AMP)

[20] Where Jesus has entered in for us [in advance], a Forerunner having become a High Priest forever after the order (with the rank) of Melchizedek.

This is to remind us that none of this is primarily about ‘Mel’…it’s all about Jesus!

Although, as a Word Detective, it might be really tantalizing to think of all this in terms of unlocking some great mystery about this baffling Melchizedek.  The main point I find here is to tie Jesus to the prophecy found in Psalm 110.  So we will be best served to look at this passage of Scripture not so much for answers to the question “Who is Melchizedek?”  Rather, what we should really be after are the answers to the greater question, “Who is Jesus?”

The author who penned these words under the leading and inspiration of the Holy Spirit has no interest in leading us as readers to Melchizedek.  We are being led to Jesus!

What is found in this passage of Scripture now is Melchizedek being used as an illustration to help us understand more about Christ Jesus.

Melchizedek’s position is worth taking a close look at in Hebrews 7.

The beginning of the chapter explains that he is both king and priest.  Specifically king of Salem (ancient Jerusalem), priest of God Most High.

Jesus too is both King and Priest.

This mention of genealogy seems curious when it comes to studying this in the context of the Bible, especially the Old Testament historical books.  Unlike almost every other figure in the O.T. historical books, ‘Mel’ has no genealogical context.  He isn’t identified as “the son of” anyone, no begat.

Neither his birth nor death is recorded.

In Melchizedek’s case, scripture is silent about all that made him unique.  In this case, what distinguishes Melchizedek isn’t his genealogy, but his righteousness, peace, his association with God Most High!

Verses 4-10 makes us aware of Abraham’s position in respect to Melchizedek.

Abraham, the father of faith, the one through whom God chose to create a special people for Himself, subservient to Melchizedek.

  1. Abraham tithed to Melchizedek–giving him, in an act of worship, a tenth of what he had.
  2. ‘Mel’ blessed Abraham.

First the blessing and then the tenth. 

The lesser person is blessed by the greater.  Abraham wasn’t BLESSED because he tithed.

He gave because he was already BLESSED!

Jesus, too, is greater than Abraham.

Jesus, through this illustration, is associated in a superior order than all kings and priests, especially all those kings and priests that would come from Abraham.

Verses 11-14 make more of this idea of genealogy and ancestry.

The LAW given by Moses, established the tribe of Levi, the tribe of priests.

But Jesus wasn’t a Levite, as ‘Mel’ wasn’t a Levitical priest; Jesus was from the tribe of Judah.

Under the old covenant, one would be a law-breaker if one claimed to be a PRIEST but not qualified by his genealogy,

If you weren’t a LEVITE, you couldn’t be a PRIEST.

But like Melchizedek, who preceded the Levites, Jesus is a PRIEST superior to the Levitical priesthood not on the basis of RULES or ANCESTRY, but on the basis of the POWER of an indestructible life…a life everlasting! 

So, Jesus makes possible what the imperfections of the old priestly order could never deliver.

Jesus introduces “a better HOPE” as described in verse 19.

In the priestly order, only a select few could dare approach YHWH, but Jesus set aside what “was weak and useless” and made a way “by which we draw near to God.”

The old order of SACRIFICES made in the old order of Levitical priests, in which men continually offered payment for SIN through offerings, was set aside.

There were no chairs in the Temple or Tabernacle, for the work was not done.  But Jesus accomplished for us, once and for all, A NEW HOPE by which we draw near to God.

Finally, these last verses in the passage take our mind and spirit back to the prophecy in Psalm 110.  We have to remember, the point here is that Jesus isn’t merely like a king, like a priest, like a Messiah.  

The POINT here is…Jesus IS that Messiah!

He is sealed with an oath from the Creator (“The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind” Psalm 110:4) and not a priest by association or ancestry, but a PRIEST by declaration.

God said to him:  “The Lord has sworn (made an OATH) and will not change His mind:  ‘You are a priest forever'”

(verse 22 b.) – Because of His OATH. Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.  A whole new order, a new way, a new deal, a better covenant…

“SO WHAT?” you might say.

At one level, the “so what,” is simply the benefit of study.  The illustration found in Hebrews regarding Melchizedek gets a little technical, I’ll admit, but it’s powerful!  There’s a real reward that comes with a clearer understanding of God’s Word.

That understanding draws us closer to God and for this confidence that comes from the Word, we can shout, “AMEN”!

There’s of course, this very practical reminder…to keep our focus on Jesus.

‘Mel’ is one of those figures that has been hijacked and made into something that was never intended by many.

If you were googling Melchizedek, you’d soon find yourself way out in the theological weeds.  You can also go to Amazon.com and find all sorts of books that would want to take you down all sorts of weird roads.

But those “roads” take people away from the plain and simple basics of our faith.

We should take away from this study, a reminder that Scripture points us to Jesus.  We don’t need to search for secrets and mysteries about Melchizedek; the intent of this passage of Scripture is clearly to draw our attention and understanding to Jesus:

He is…

  • King of Righteousness
  • King of Peace
  • Priest Forever.

We’re reminded of the continuity of our faith.  That all ancient history points to the hinge of history, Jesus our Savior.

…that all religious practice, all rules, and law, all sacrifice and worship…ALL of it is trumped (if you will), superseded by a Superior Order, Jesus, the promised priest forever!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS

The New International Commentary On The New Testament – The Letter To The Hebrews

PHOTO/IMAGES:  Google Image Search – Settings, advanced.

Bible Translations used:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and other translations used are so noted.

 

 

Returning to One’s Own Vomit [Part Two]


I proposed a question for the readers at the close of Part One:

“Could enlightenment, tasting the heavenly gift, sharing in the Holy Spirit, tasting the goodness of God’s Word, and the powers of the coming age…could they be true of a person who has not received Christ as Savior?”

Well, in seeking to interpret this with the view of the Bible as a whole, it’s challenging to understand this as a Christian who LOST their salvation.

Look again of the context of the Letter to the Hebrews that helps us to possibly understand this meaning differently.

Overall, the Letter is saying that Jesus is Greater and the message is greater to persevere through challenges.

Additionally, the immediate context of this passage leading up to our verses in Chapter 6, focused on The Word of God being able to hear it, speak it and digest it and growing in our understanding and knowledge of it and living it out.

So, could these verses, instead of being about a person who is truly saved, be about a person who has heard the word, seen the truth of it and its power, but…has not yet truly TRUSTED & RECEIVED Christ Jesus?

So with the rules–the PRINCIPLES– of the interpretation given and set in place in Part One of the studies, let’s take a look and see if things begin to fit and make sense that another Scripture supports.

Hebrews 6:4 (a) (NIV)

“It is impossible for those who have been enlightened…”

What does “been enlightened” mean?

Does it mean to be a Christian or something else?

“the giving of spiritual light to the soul” – Grk.photizo  [*See footnote]

Enlightenment in this sense, in the context of my previous comments, is the Word of God.

Other Scriptures seem to confirm this.  Ephesians 1:18 (AMP) reads “By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light [“enlightened”], so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones).”

We are enlightened to the HOPE we find in the gospel message,  We respond to that by receiving Christ. That happens before we receive Christ and is necessary to be able to respond and receive.

We need ENLIGHTENMENT so we can come to receive Jesus!

Also, 2 Peter 1:19 says,  “And we have the prophetic word [made] firmer still.  You will do well to pay close attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dismal (squalid and dark) place until the day breaks through [the gloom] and the Morning Star rises (comes into being) in your hearts.” [AMP]

It’s saying to pay close attention to God’s word through the prophets of old because in doing so, it will give you LIGHT (enlighten you) to see and understand.

And Paul tells Timothy something similar about God’s Word:  2 Timothy 3:15 says, “from infancy, you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”  (NIV).

So these other Scriptures should give us confirmation of our understanding of being enlightened.  This enlightenment–this understanding of the Truth of God’s Word and the hope found within it must be before SALVATION, because it’s this “enlightenment” that makes SALVATION even possible!

If you don’t know the message of HOPE found in God’s Word and BELIEVE it, you’ll never be saved!

WHAT’S NEXT?

“TASTING THE HEAVENLY GIFT” — What does it mean?  [vs. 4-6].

[4] It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  [5] who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age.”

How this ENLIGHTENMENT works.

So what does it mean to have “tasted the heavenly gift”?

It means having read the word of God, is like tasting a new food item on a restaurant’s menu. But, because it seems foreign to your taste buds, you just can’t swallow it and spit it out in your napkin.

Scripture talks about the word being a treasure given to us in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (NIV).

Verse 6,  For God, who said, “Let the light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ,”

And Verse 7,

THE WORD OF GOD IS A TREASURE…

A GIFT from heaven to us, to tell us of the HOPE that’s available through Christ Jesus.

“Shared in the Holy Spirit” (Hebrews 6:4)

The meaning here is that the Spirit has revealed truth and drawn you to the Lord.

It doesn’t mean they have the Holy Spirit indwelling them as some think.  But the teaching of the rest of the Bible disputes that idea and it can just mean that you have been on the receiving end and the Holy Spirit’s work is revealing the truth of God’s word to you and His work has drawn you to the Lord.

Let’s remember what the author of Hebrews doesn’t say here.

He hasn’t said, “The Spirit of Truth lives with you and will be in you” – John 14:17

He hasn’t said, you are a temple “of the Holy Spirit, who is in you” –  1 Corinthians 6:19

He hasn’t said, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit – Ephesians 4:30

Here the author says “Shared in the Holy Spirit”.  It’s a recognition that this person has been a participant in the work of the Holy Spirit which as Jesus says in John 16:13, “guide you into all truth”.

“TASTED THE GOODNESS OF THE WORD OF GOD”  (vs. 5)

I didn’t find this particular phrase as difficult to understand as the others and pretty self-explanatory in that a person knows God’s word is “good” and true.  You have seen the WORD working in people’s lives and know its goodness and truth.

What does “tasted the powers of the coming age” mean?

You’ve seen miracles that have been performed among you that have been used to confirm the message of the gospel.

Looking back at the author’s words in Hebrews 2 about the message of SALVATION.

Hebrews 2:3-4 (NIV)

[3] how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?  This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.

[4] God also testified to it by signs, wonders, and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The person being spoken about has been enlightened by the work of the Holy Spirit to the truth of God’s word, the Gospel.  It’s not a person that’s already in Christ but a person that has all they need to know to become a Christian.

This person has seen it all and knows the truth of it since the Spirit has shown them these things and drawn them to Lord Jesus, but they haven’t yet truly believed in and received Christ Jesus and if after all of that, they turn away from the Lord’s calling and the Truth set forth by the gospel; there’s no hope for them of ever coming back to this point again.

HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?

How can someone, a friend, a neighbor, a family member be enlightened and fall away?

The answer is “I don’t know.”

But we see the truth of it in Scripture who’ve seen all of what the author talks about and yet fall away.

What is described in Hebrews 6:4-6 are the people who the Apostle John refers to in 1 John 2:19 –

This here is one of 2 things that confirm the reality of our salvation.

THE REALITY OF OUR SALVATION IS CONFIRMED BY OUR PERSEVERANCE.

The importance is, it’s not required that you persevere in order to be SAVED.  It’s truly the saved who will persevere!

Your perseverance shows the reality of your salvation.

If you are saved you’ll not fall away.  You’ll persevere.

When it becomes hard to be a “Christian,” or to act like one anyway, those who aren’t really Christians, either turn to Christ in reality or fall away, showing that they were never really Christians, to begin with.

This is why the author of Hebrews warns his readers and us.  If you have seen the truth and goodness of the word of God and the Spirit of God have demonstrated the truth of it all, enlightening you to its truth as He is drawing you to Jesus, you have got a choice to make.

Will, you receive Christ and truly be SAVED, guaranteeing your salvation by the indwelling presence of the Spirit?

Or, will you not receive Christ truly, but simply go along until it gets hard and then have the reality of your salvation shown for what it is – not real – and that reality will be determined by your falling away and turning from Christianity?

Hard and challenging times await us all, Christians and non-Christians.

Christians will be encouraged in their faith as they persevere and see the reality of their own faith.

We also see that the reality of our Salvation is confirmed by Producing Fruit (Hebrews 6:7-8).

[7] For the soil which has drunk the rain that repeatedly falls upon it and produces vegetation useful to those for whose benefit it is cultivated partakes of a blessing from God.

[8] But if [that same soil] persistently bears thorns and thistles, it is considered worthless and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.  [AMP]

FRUIT is an essential element of salvation.

Again, it doesn’t earn you salvation, it’s evidence of your salvation  [see Matthew 7:17-20, 13:22-23].

A true believer produces good fruit.

There will be differences in the amounts and kinds of fruit produced, but a true Christian will produce fruit!

So what’s all this mean?

There are times when we need to test the reality of our salvation.  2 Corinthians 13:5 says it best:  Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?

We need to stop and examine ourselves in testing the reality of our salvation.

And while the author of Hebrews warns some who have yet to truly TRUST in and receive Christ, he also wants to encourage the majority who are facing hard times and circumstances that their perseverance and fruit are clear and present to others.

Hebrews 6:9-12

Encouragement and help come to the forefront in encouraging themselves and to see their perseverance and fruit.

The text of testing ourselves is not designed to make us constantly question if we are saved, or not.  No, for the truly saved, we should be encouraged to look at the whole of life we’ve been living and know that we have salvation because of the perseverance we’ve had in difficult times and the fruit that is being produced in our lives.

And in this realization, it should be an encouragement to keep on, keeping on, because the author tells us in the closing verses that God’s promises are sure and they should be “an anchor for the soul”  (Hebrews 6:19).

But it’s to those who examine themselves, who don’t see perseverance or fruit, that’s the warning and should be the wake-up call to some.

Don’t think that just knowing about the Bible and all its stories is enough! 

You need to enter into a knowing relationship with Christ Jesus by receiving Him as your Savior, recognizing the REALITY of Who He is and What He has done, FULLY believing in Him!

So if today you’ve examined your life and don’t see fruit or perseverance, and not concerned about your salvation, don’t harden your heart, but turn to Him confessing TRUE BELIEF and follow after Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you do see fruit and perseverance in your life, be encouraged and continue to be strengthened to follow Him.

May God be a blessing in your life!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS & FOOTNOTES FOR PART TWO ~

Footnote:  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia/Bible Hub Link.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – Settings, advance

Note:  Applied credits and footnotes from Part One of this blog-study can also apply to Part Two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Returning to One’s Own Vomit [Part One]

PROVERBS 26:11 (NIV)  

“AS A DOG RETURNS TO ITS VOMIT, SO A FOOL REPEATS HIS FOLLY.”


History Repeats Itself  [See Ecclesiastes 1:9].

I was reading an article the other day which prompted me to begin this study in Hebrews 6, believe it or not.  The article was entitled “Reasons why millennials are walking away from their faith,” by Stacia Hall.

The statistics show that 65% of them would not consider themselves to be religious.  This is a huge number, but when you’re talking about a cause-driven generation, who is very focused on community and are actually finding it both online and in person, you can see how the purpose of the church and God’s Word would be less necessary.  Being a grandparent, trust me, I’ve noticed.

But the statistics don’t end there. 

32% of them say they actually don’t believe in God’s existence.  1/3 of people between the ages of 18-30 don’t believe that God is, that He exists, that He started it all.  [See footnote [i] ]

Worse, many who at one time said they believed, and now don’t.  And let’s not just point fingers at the “millennials”.  Many people today from all generations are walking away from Christ.

Many are compliant but unconverted.  Some may come to Christ later.

Many of those are not denying that Jesus is the Son of God, they just don’t care!  Some have become enemies of the Gospel or embraced false religions.

Others just numb, deliberate rejection. 

That was the question the Messianic Jews had when they saw and heard their peers trashing Jesus and returning to mainstream Judaism.  We call this APOSTASY and shouldn’t be confused with falling into sin.  A lot of evangelical Christians, as many of us like to call ourselves, based on group dynamics, are a lot like the ancient Hebrews who followed Moses.  It was the thing to do.

Most of us agree I think, that someone whose FAITH & TRUST are not in Jesus is lost.

But what if they once professed the faith that they now deny?  What happened?  Were they SAVED then lost their salvation, or were they never really SAVED?  I believe the later.

In one sense, it doesn’t matter they are lost.  In another sense, it does matter, because if God ELECTS people to salvation, is God really in control here?  Is His SOVEREIGNTY broken?

We can anticipate knowing people who once claimed to be followers of Christ but later in life decided to disavow Him.

I’ve asked myself the question regarding a few members of my own family.  How could this have happened?

THE HISTORY LESSON ~

The lesson I’ve chosen for this study is built upon  The Rejection of the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14).

Most of the Hebrews were skeptics, even though they were ENLIGHTENED by God’s Word.  However, their commitment to Yahweh was flimsy, with reservation, not final, unreserved, and genuine.  It could have been a case of group dynamics and being overwhelmed.  Sound familiar?

They had seen God’s Power in miracle after miracle on their journey to the Promised Land.  Yet, in their hearts, they wanted to return to Egypt and worship the gods of Egypt.

The twelve spies were sent out to preview Canaan and then sorted out its challenges in two opposite ways.

They tasted the amazing produce of Canaan, including the giant grapes.

The people refused to believe God and honor His Word.

They couldn’t backtrack: too late.  So because of their ‘stiff-necks’ and their unbelief, they suffered God’s judgment [Numbers 14:32-37]:  Wandering 40 years in the wilderness until they dropped dead.

And their problem?

They didn’t actually Trust God’s character?

The same principle applies to those who have professed faith in Jesus to later reject Him.

Hebrews 6:4-12 (NIV Bible)

[4] If it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  [5] who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the [powers of the coming age,  [6] if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  

[7] Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  [8] But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed.  In the end, it will be burned.  

[9] Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case–things that accommodate salvation.  [10] God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  [11] We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.  [12] We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Applying this passage of Scripture to the people who professed their FAITH in Christ Jesus only to later REJECT Him is drawing parallels in some sense.

If you spend some time in the Book of Numbers account, it’s obvious that many or most of the Hebrews were not right with God, at least that first generation.  It’s not like they were ‘godly’ and then fell away.  They went along with Moses (sometimes), but did they take ownership of their relationship with the Lord?  No, they didn’t!  And this understanding is crucial.

Why has REPENTANCE become impossible?

It’s not that God won’t accept repentance, it’s, rather, that it’s impossible for these mentioned here to repent; they have crossed a boundary.  An expression I love to use in this regard is “You cannot put an impression on concrete once it’s dry.”

They had been ENLIGHTENED with the Gospel.

  • The Hebrews were enlightened by a pillar of fire/the Torah.
  • The Hebrews sampled the grapes, this sampled SALVATION.
  • They have tasted the produce of the HEAVENLY Canaan.  They haven’t entered the land and the rest that goes with it.

They have seen God’s POWER through the Holy Spirit in their lives and yet they desired to return to their previous religious status forsaking their inheritance that God had promised.  It’s one thing to doubt and it’s another thing to backslide.  And yet another to deny and reject Jesus!

They changed their INTERPRETATION of the Cross in unbelief and in their unbelief they’re agreeing with those who nailed Jesus to the cross.  If Jesus was a false teacher and a fake, then death was the appropriate penalty.

They cannot BACKTRACK and now accept the Messiah; too late!

Look closely at Peter’s words:

“wallowing in the mire” – Def. deep mud; wet, spongy earth.  To soil with mud or foul matter; to stick in a mire.

I was about 16 months in this old photo, but looking at my expression, I didn’t seem to be enjoying the “mire”.

At this point in the study, to correctly interpret any Scripture, we must know the basic rules of interpretation.

The FIRST RULE is to interpret Scripture in the context of the Entire Bible.

Secondly, we are to interpret in context with the Immediate Passage; we need to know the purpose of the letter or book that the text is written by looking at the verses immediately around our text, then interpret with the things as a backdrop for our interpretation.

And THIRDLY, we need to interpret Scripture using other Scripture.  Scripture isn’t going to contradict itself!

Finally, we want to interpret Scripture that is less clear with Scripture that is more clear.  So in this study, I have tried to use these principles in interpretation.

The verses in the first part of our passage of Scripture have been some of the most challenging for Christians throughout the centuries to interpret and taken by themselves, can seem to indicate that if you are a Christian and turn away from Christ, you can lose your salvation and there’s no hope of you ever being saved again.

THAT’S NOT WHAT IT’S SAYING AT ALL.

Verse 4 and 5 says it is impossible for those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become a sharer of the Holy Spirit, and have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come [AMP].

That certainly could be a Christian, but then the author goes on to say if they fall away, it would be impossible for them to be brought back to a place of repentance.

So, when trying to understand this in light of the context of the Bible, it would seem to contradict other Scriptures that say otherwise, because the Bible as a whole, teaches that Salvation is by Grace and Guaranteed to believers by God.

It teaches that a TRUE BELIEVER is eternally secure in their SALVATION when they have truly believed.  We’ll explore this in greater detail in Part Two of this study.

Ephesians 1:13-14

When a person has truly believed they are given the Holy Spirit–and God says through Paul that the indwelling Holy Spirit in a person’s life becomes a deposit that guarantees our salvation.

And other Bible verses give testimony to the same:  2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 2:8-9.

Additionally, I want us to be aware of what the author of Hebrews doesn’t say, that other writers of Scripture say when they are talking about someone who is actually saved.

He doesn’t say that the people he’s talking about have been sealed with the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13, 4:30), or…

  • born again (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23), or…
  • chosen (Eph. 1:11; 1 Peter 1:12), or…
  • predestined (Roman. 8:29-32; Eph. 1:5, 11). or…
  • reconciled (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18; Col. 1:11), or…
  • forgiven (Luke 5:20, 7:48; 1 Jn. 2:12), or…
  • that they had never believed at all! (John 1:12; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9-10; Eph. 1:13).

Those phrases are each used in multiple places to describe a person who is SAVED.

Here is what the author does say about those he’s talking about:

  • They’ve been enlightened.
  • tasted the heavenly gift.
  • shared in the Holy Spirit.
  • tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age.

Now while those things would certainly be true of a Christian, the QUESTION is…

“could they be true of a person who hasn’t received Christ as Savior”?

To answer that question you will have to continue the study in Part Two, Returning to One’s Own Vomit

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Footnote [i] – everything.church, Jan. 5, 2016.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search.

Personal Photo:  “Muddy Mel” – Family Photo Album.  1943.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or as noted.