In Closing…

The Epistle to the Hebrews closes like a letter. Not much else has sounded like a letter, but the ending does. Could the ending have been added to an essay to support Pauline authorship? Probably not, but authorship aside, the content of the wrapping up of this epistle has very interesting elements.

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21 NASB

Is it interesting that, while the benediction begins calling on God to equip the disciples, it ends with praise of Jesus specifically? It turns out this is somewhat unique to Hebrews. Although, considering the great length the writer has gone to deify Jesus, it should be expected.

This benediction also contains the only direct reference to Jesus’ resurrection in the entire letter (I had to go back and check that). Which is only true because Jesus’ resurrection is assumed in the many references to His ascension and intercessory work in heaven.

Notice what is prayed for. That the God who raised Jesus, the Good Shepherd, from the dead would equip the writer’s audience. And the equipment would “every good thing”, the purpose of which is the practice of God’s will (or Jesus’ will), and the method of equipping is God Himself “working in us that which is pleasing in His sight”.

Think that through for a moment. Once more, we see that the life we live is less about us than our Savior. It’s our life to live, is it not? Yet it is our Savior “working in us” which equips us to do His will. Like Paul wrote, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”, or, basically, let it happen. Our role is submission, our achievement is the will of another not our own, and our participation is almost passive.

I say “almost” because we are held accountable for our participation. We are, in fact, supposed to participate in the work/will of our Creator. The struggle is to “discover” that work/will. We have so much baggage, so much self, so much we desire that we can barely hear His voice through all the noise.

The most amazing, unimaginable, fantastic, unbelievable opportunity in human history is to participate with the Creator of the universe on His projects. Instead, we choose to consume anything we want that we believe makes us safe, great, and powerful over others. We become about our clothes, our image, our rights, our comfort, our money, our…whatever. And we miss our Creator’s purpose.

When you consider the immense depth of love such a powerful Creator has for rebellious creatures, doesn’t it seem strange that we are so quick to dismiss His eternal powerful projects to focus on our own temporary weak goals? And yet, that describes humanity throughout human history. A world-wide flood resulted from this propensity, and yet, it continues.

Perhaps, on this day where a “world power” celebrates freedom from oppression, we can decide to trade our slavery to ourselves for freedom as slaves to our Creator? We can choose to do that because He is also our Savior. Celebrate submission, even as we celebrate freedom.

So, what’s your view through the knothole this morning?

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


The “City Slickers” Answer

But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NASB)

The “secret of life” is described in the movie, City Slickers as “just one thing” (must be said holding up the index finger).  When asked what the one thing is, we are told, “That’s what you need to figure out.”  The point in the movie is that a life with one thing at the center is more successful.  Ironically, Jesus says the same thing, but He challenges His listeners to make Him the center.  And that’s where it all falls apart for us.

I had a couple of teachers make the same joke about different people, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t original with either one.  They said this guy was a great theologian except he seemed to want to be “theo”.  This sums up a lot of the American church; and not just modern, but even in our early days.  Before the American Revolution, Jonathan Edwards who was famous as a preacher who sparked a few revivals, was fired from his church when he wanted more authenticity from his people.  Americans have been self-centered from the outset.

Again, it’s nothing new.  In Paul’s letters to nearly every church he addresses selfishness.  Even in his “nicest” letter to the Philippians, he has a famous passage all about selfishness (chapter 2).  He stresses the death of the “old man”, love for the fellow believers, and warring against the “flesh”.  The reality is that even Jesus, in His Eastern culture faced tremendous hurdles in preaching against selfishness.  With people from Pharisees to fishermen, plowmen to priests, Jesus addressed selfishness at the heart of the human problem.

On the other hand, people cannot be our center either.  Billy Crystal’s character focuses on his family, but Jesus says plainly that unless we hate our family we cannot be His disciple.  No one putting his hand to the plow but wanting to look back at his family obligations is fit for the Kingdom.  It’s harsh, but Jesus knows that only He can function as the fulfilling center of a life.  Here, Mary had chosen the better part.  Martha should have just set out snacks, veggies and dip, and sat down to listen.  Jesus was feeding them with more satisfying food and she was skipping the meal.

So, if you’ve been following this blog, and see a lot of my “conclusions” are about being selfish, and how that’s a bad thing, get ready, because here I go again.  I see in myself that selfishness is my number one problem.  I have emotional pain driving anger and other problems, but my core issue is selfishness.  It’s what keeps me from true repentance.  I don’t know what keeps you from true repentance, or even how to define that for anyone else, or whether you’ve actually truly repented or not.  I know that I continue to struggle with it.  I know that I need to practice spiritual disciplines that challenge my self-centered thinking, help change my behavior patterns to focus on the others my Master has placed in my life, and hopefully, eventually, make me more available to my Master for His purposes and His presence.  Mostly for His presence.

What do you learn from Jesus’ correction of Martha?

No Rest, No Problem, Seriously?

When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida.  But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:10-11 NASB)

Continue reading “No Rest, No Problem, Seriously?”

Growing Upward

“And Levi gave a big reception for Him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.  The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?”  And Jesus answered and said to them, “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. ” (Luke 5:29-32 NASB)

This is one of my favorite accounts of Jesus. I love the whole scene as Levi responds in joy over his new life, Jesus enters into that joy with him, the Pharisees are offended, and Jesus calls them on it. But as I read more closely, it now seems to me Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees is that they should have been doing this all along.  But I find plenty of growth areas for me as well.

Continue reading “Growing Upward”

For What Will I Sell My Worship

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,  and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.  If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”  And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”
(Luke 4:5-8 ESV)

I once heard a pastor say that if the devil had taken any more than a moment of time to show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world that it wouldn’t have been much of a temptation.  People say the most ridiculous things.  There is no way this was much of a temptation for Jesus; not even had this devil taken a week to display all the glory.  Think about it.  Can you really imagine Jesus going, “Oh, wow.  I know I can form entire galaxies with a word, but you know, these, these look really neat too.  This is a tough one.  All I need to do is worship you, who I created in the first place?  That is a pretty sweet deal…”  Seriously?  I’m telling you, there has to be more to this temptation than what can be found on the surface.  Because it makes the devil seem pretty stupid on the surface.  I doubt he’s that dumb.  That would be nice, but I don’t think so.

Continue reading “For What Will I Sell My Worship”