Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 28 September 20:
Hebrews 13:10 -16 — We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
The Book of Hebrews ends in chapter 13 with some overall principles of how to live the Christian life and to offer “sacrifices pleasing to God.” (Isaiah 56:7; Hebrews 13:6) The chapter starts with how to treat others – with love, hospitality, empathy, and compassion. (Hebrews 13:1-3) Then, the chapter talks about how we should live personally – with purity, satisfaction and steadfastness. (Hebrews 13:4-9)
Then Hebrews expands upon how we are live our lives in Christ by encouraging us to live by “faith… strengthened by grace” and warning us not to be led away by empty, ritualistic, works-based, powerless religion with its practices “which have not benefited those devoted to them.” (Hebrews 13:9) What follows are some of the most difficult verses to understand in the entire book – Hebrews 13:10-16. These verses refer to the Old Covenant sacrificial system for atonement of sin in order to proclaim the “Good News” of the perfect and ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our eternal atonement and life in Him, the ultimate and perfect sacrifice which put an end to the old system, a sacrifice which isn’t ritualistically representative but is real, a sacrifice which isn’t brought by us and cannot be fulfilled by earthly priests, a sacrifice not of the blood of animals but rather the blood of Jesus, the Son of God; a sacrifice that not only pays the penalty for our sin but overcomes sin, a sacrifice which lives eternally in Christ and provides eternal justification (just as if we have not sinned), and a sacrifice which gives us eternal life with God, which begins not when we die, but immediately upon accepting this gift of grace through Jesus. (John 17:3) Above all else the writer of Hebrews wants us to remember and live by the awesome truth and power of the Gospel –
“God, through the perfect life, atoning death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, rescues all his people form the wrath of God into peace with God, with a promise of the full restoration of His created order forever – all to the praise of the glory of His grace. Salvation from the judgment of God into fellowship with God is all of God. It is not of us. That is good news indeed!” (The Gospel, Ray Ortlund)
“Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” The author of Hebrews exhorts us to leave our old ways of sin and religion based on works, legalism or merit, and live by faith, trusting in salvation through grace, through Christ alone. He encourages us to “go with him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured” reminding us of Jesus’ words — “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) This is a call not just to understand the Gospel but also to live the Gospel and to proclaim the Gospel, regardless the cost, trusting God with the circumstances with the hope of our eternal reward.
The author of Hebrews encourages us to continually offer sacrifices to God with both the “fruit of our lips” and good works, “for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:15-16). This is the “ministry” and “message” of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19), which always go together (ministry or message alone is not enough). We are called to demonstrate the love and grace of Christ in relationships with others as His ambassadors, ministers and messengers of reconciliation, ‘bearing the reproach he endured’ as sinful people naturally treat us sinfully, continually praying on their behalf, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) As we interact with others in this broken world, we are called to “continually” praise God, acknowledging His Name, sharing the Gospel, and doing good works in His Name as new sacrifices, sacrifices of genuine love, which are pleasing to Him.
In a world polluted with sin, we don’t place our hope in worldly systems, but we “seek the city that is to come,” we “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33),” and we live by the motto “Thy will be done” as we eagerly await Christ’s return and His final restoration. While we await the new creation, the new heavens and earth that will be ushered in by Christ, we live today as new creations and Kingdom citizens, proclaiming the kingdom that is at hand but yet to be fully revealed – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 28 September 20: Today, live by faith strengthened by grace, live today as Kingdom citizens, and proclaim Christ both in word and deed.