It seems odd to have to say so, but too much religion is a bad thing. We can’t get too much of God, can’t get too much faith and obedience, can’t get too much love and worship. But religion–the well-intentioned efforts we make to “get it all together” for God–can very well get in the way of what God is doing for us.
The main and central action is everywhere and always what God has done, is doing, and will do for us. Jesus is the revelation of that action. Our main and central task is to live in responsive obedience to God’s action revealed in Jesus. Our part in the action is the act of faith.
But more often than not we become impatiently self-important along the way and decide to improve matters with our two cents’ worth. We add on, we supplement, we embellish. But instead of improving on the purity and simplicity of Jesus, we dilute the purity, clutter the simplicity. We become fussily religious, or anxiously religious. We get in the way.
God has the attention of more people than ever before during this world-wide quarantine period. God did not cause this pandemic but He is certainly using this circumstance for our good, for our growing and maturing, and for His glory. Those of us who have not wavered in our faith see God for who He is more clearly and love Jesus more deeply with a keen sense of His work of salvation in us. He is ready to invite us to HIS work once more as long as we realize that it is, indeed, HIS work.
It’s a great time to read and pray our way through the letter to the Hebrews, written for “too religious” Christians, for the “Jesus-and” Christians. In the letter, it is Jesus-and-angels, or Jesus-and-Moses, or Jesus-and-priesthood. In our time it is more likely to be Jesus-and-politics, or Jesus-and-education, or even Jesus-and-Buddha. This letter deletes the hyphens, the add-ons.
In 2020, the FOCUS becomes clear and sharp again: God’s action in Jesus. And we are free once more for the act of faith, the one human action in which we don’t get IN the way but ON the Way.
“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” –Jesus (John 14:6)
Here are only the highlights of this letter, but I encourage you to read it all. Later, we will go back, taking smaller bites to chew on as we go deeper into God’s revelation of Simply Jesus.
HIGHLIGHTS OF HEBREWS (NIV)
Hebrews 1 – God’s Son, Jesus
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.”
Hebrews 2 – Jesus, Sent to Save Us
“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”
“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 by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
Hebrews 3 – Focus on Jesus, He is Our Hope
“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”
“Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.”
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
Hebrews 4 – Sabbath, A Blessed Rest with God
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.”
What God says is forever…
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.”
Hebrews 5 – Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”
Hebrews 6 – We are Challenged to Grow Up!
“Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…”
To those who fall away, leave Jesus and His teachings…
“To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”
“Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 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. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.”
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever…”
Hebrews 7 – Jesus, our Perfect Intercessor
“…because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
“Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”
“He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.”
Hebrews 8 – The New Covenant
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
“By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”
Hebrews 9 – Jesus Shed His Blood for Our Salvation
“..he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.”
Jesus Cleanses us from the INSIDE Out!
“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. 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!”
“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.”
“Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
Hebrews 10 – Jesus, Once and For All
From religion to relationship…
“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.”
“…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
“The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
‘This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.’
Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.’
And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.”
OUR UNWAVERING FAITH BECAUSE OF JESUS!
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 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. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Jesus – Our Blessed Assurance!
Encourage Each Other as the Body of Christ!
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Jesus IS Coming Back, you know!?!
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,
“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”
“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”
Hebrews 11 – FAITH IN JESUS
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”
Hebrews 12 – Jesus Perfects us, God loves us enough to confront and correct us!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
LEARN from the bad times and circumstances…
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?”
“God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.”
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’”
Hebrews 13 – Do What Jesus Would Do
“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.”
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure…”
“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.'” (God will provide!)
“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?
Am I a part of a religious following or do I have a close, intimate relationship with Jesus as my Savior, Friend, and Lord of my life?
In Jesus Name. Amen.