The “Bread” of the “Sandwich”

People love simple statements. There are some in Scripture, but most of them are fairly complex. While one exception might be Hebrews 13:8, the common use of Hebrews 13:8 is anything but simple. It seems, though, the most common users neglect the verses on either side, for some reason (imagine my eye-roll). It’s easy, when a passage seems made up of staccato statements, to pick and choose from among them, like they make up some sort of buffet. And, in this particular case, I’ve done it too.

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.

Hebrews 13:7-9 NASB (emphasis mine)

Jesus Christ is the same as He has always been. So, watch those who walk with Him so that you can as well. Notice that this doesn’t mean that I must apply the Jewish dietary laws to my current menu (bad teaching). It’s not necessarily a bad practice, it’s simply doesn’t bring you closer to Jesus. THAT is what the writer is getting at. What do most people do with verse 8? Depends on the group, but the typical usage ties it to some teaching found somewhere in Scripture, and justifies applying that teaching to wherever they happen to be. It has become, for some, the “multitool” of Scripture verses.

The truth is, there is tremendous comfort in knowing that Jesus is the same forever. And I believe this statement right here where it is in this passage is supposed to give that feeling. But the writer begins and continues to claim that, because of the consistency of Jesus, we can follow our leaders which will protect us from being carried away by varied and strange teaching. As you peruse the various entries of this blog, you may find things I’ve said that you believe qualify as “varied and strange teaching”. If you find any such things, please don’t be carried away by them.

Notice that these verses begins by referring to “leaders”. That’s also a neglected portion of this “buffet”. The writer of Hebrews calls on his audience to remember their leaders as a guard against false teaching. This works because Jesus remains consistent. We can imitate great leaders of our faith and experience the close walk with Jesus they experienced because our Savior remains consistent.

But we’re not great followers either. We have a “buffet” of churches now, and feel free to pick and choose among them based on what we hear, what the worship music is like, and whether the pastor remembers us. We feel empowered to direct the overseers, vote with our tithes, and kick up a fuss when leaders pick on us rather than those people.

So, this passage is a charge to follow the example of leaders. If they fail, take notice and don’t go that way. If they walk with Jesus, follow the same path, because Jesus is consistent.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation



Many people may not know that the term “con”, as in “swindle” or “deceive” is actually a shortened form of the word, “confidence”. A “con-game” is a “confidence-game”, at least that’s how it’s played. Someone uses their projected sense of confidence to deceive another, or others. But, when we hear the word “confidence”, we don’t immediately go to that negative inference. And that’s good, because confidence is good.

In fact, an argument could be made that the reason such deceptions work is only because of the attractiveness of confidence. People can be thought of as having an innate desire for confidence. The alternative is fear. The greatest solid basis for confidence is Jesus.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV

Jesus instills confidence in His disciples, or at least in His sincere disciples. And it is this confidence that the writer of Hebrews is trying to use as an inducement to faithfulness. Entering the rest of chapters 3 and 4 is only possible through faith (Heb. 4:3), and part of what is enjoyed in this “rest” is confidence before our Savior (Heb. 4:16).

Views either for or against eternal security miss the point here. The point for the author, the goal he’s trying to accomplish, is the perseverance of his audience. Arguments about the state of a person’s salvation while they walk this earth is outside the view of the author. He wants these Hebrews to make it across the finish line, and into the eternal rest of our Savior.

Jesus is the One, the High Priest and Apostle, making the rest of God accessible. We experience that rest when we respond to the access through faith. Part of how we experience this rest here-and-now is through our ability to approach Jesus’ throne with confidence. There is a future aspect, but there is a present aspect as well, access to Jesus.

So, what is our confidence based on? It has to be based on something for us to be convinced of its validity. Our confidence is based on Jesus’ example. That may sound peculiar, but Jesus laid out a path for us to follow (see my last entry The Walk). Our confidence is experienced as we obediently follow the obedience of Jesus:

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:8-10 ESV

The writer here isn’t concerned about theological arguments about the immutability of God any more than he is exploring eternal security. His point is that Jesus laid out a path for us to follow, and we too are to be obedient, we are to be made perfect, we too are to follow the role to which our Creator has designated for us. In so doing, we live out our faithfulness, experience the rest of God, and confidently approach the throne of Jesus.

That’s the lesson I see in these chapters. Hebrews hasn’t been about what I thought it was about. It has held challenges I didn’t expect, and made assertions I didn’t expect to find. I’m sure I’ll find a lot more as I go along. As you read chapters 4 and 5, what do you see through this “knothole” of Scripture?

Three Costs of Discipleship

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  (Luke 14:26-27 NASB)

So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:33 NASB)

I may have bitten off more than I can chew here taking all three, but I’m going to give it a shot.  The thing is, “classic” evangelism, the kind practiced in the last 40 years or so has been unbelievably “flies with honey” in its approach.  Jesus really wasn’t that way.  He was unbelievably honest.  He did things like heal or just talk to someone, but also acknowledge the sin.  He didn’t let the sin get in the way of talking to them, or even using them to reach an entire village (Samaritan woman for instance).

Jesus came to begin a process of making disciples, and we have somehow forgotten that.  Some now content themselves with butts in seats and baptisms.  Others with “participation” or acceptance.  We figure if we can get them in the door then the teaching can begin and at some point these lost people will become more like Jesus just by simple association with us, who are so much like Him…oh please.

The problem with this concept is the missing life change, the intentional transformation that leaves so many much like they were before hearing of Jesus.  If I’m no different a year after passing through the water than I was before, what has the “church” accomplished?  It certainly isn’t “making disciples” of Matthew 28.  But it’s uncomfortable to discuss the hyperbole of Jesus’ statements which call us to pay a much higher cost for following Him than we thought.  No one told us it would be so expensive.  Had we known before hand, we probably wouldn’t have signed up.

Jesus lists three costs here.  Jut three, but seriously, they are as if He addressed them to Americans.  Hate your family (and yourself)?  Not very popular today.  In fact it argues against the upsurge of “redefining” marriage and family by minimizing their place in the life of a disciple.  It becomes less about family and more about Jesus.  Anyone a little uncomfortable yet?  Easier to talk about family and make that the issue isn’t it?

And what about hating your own soul?  Just in case the people were a bit unsure what He meant, Jesus goes on to say that we must take up our personal method of execution and follow Him.  Yes, we are to die to ourselves.  I’m supposed to give up my goals, my plans, my ideas of right, wrong, what is important, and so on.  Those are supposed to die, and in their place, I am to allow Jesus to fill me with His goals, plans, ideas of right and wrong, what is important, and so on.  Oops.  He was serious about that?

But again, just in case we get to a point of asking, “everything?”, Jesus goes on to explain that we are to figure this out up front.  Figure it out before hand, because unless we give up all our possessions we’re not going to be able to “afford” to be a disciple.  So possessions are another thing that are supposed to go, they are to to be left behind in our pursuit of following Jesus.  Not very American or even Western of us is it?  Who’s ready?  Let’s get on this bandwagon!  Burn it all!  Well actually no, sell it all, give the proceeds to the poor, and be content following Jesus.

Here’s the point:  To be a disciple of Jesus is expensive.  In fact, it’s so expensive, most people working so diligently to get more people into the program haven’t paid the cost of the program themselves.  No one sees how expensive it is as they are being coaxed to “join up”!  They see people much like themselves doing the coaxing, so it never occurs to them that there’s this cost involved.  Ironically, it rarely occurs to the ones doing the coaxing either.

Let’s make a change.  In Luke 14:16-24, Jesus made a very clear and insulting point about the relative danger Jews were in with God.  And then in verse 25, we have many throngs following Him around.  So, He insults them in a sense, and they flock to Him.  Not a typical approach to “evangelism”, insulting the people you’re trying to reach. It worked for Him though.  So then He sort of “thins the herd” with His explanation of the cost of being a disciple.

I’m sure the disciples were hearing and going, “Yeah, no lie.”  They had given up careers, family, status of one sort or another, all sorts of things.  We sometimes forget that.  They paid a literal cost.  Jesus describes this here, and we think, “He’s exaggerating”.  And then come away from the passage content we don’t actually have to hate our families and give up all our stuff and carry around some heavy thing that we later die on.  I believe if we’re comfortable, we’re missing the point, and do not have ears to hear.

What do you learn from Jesus’ declared cost of discipleship?