Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.
We are walking through the book of Hebrews. Here is the devotional:
In the previous chapter of Hebrews, we saw that Christ’s word is the final word and that He alone upholds all things by the power of His word. We have discovered that if we really believe in Jesus as Lord, we will choose Him over school, work, hobbies, free-time, and anything else. None of these things has the power to uphold our lives, but we often treat them as though they do. The truth is that Jesus Christ is the only one who has absolute authority. We rise and fall, succeed and fail, by His words and not by our work. This is why we see straight-A students who cannot keep a job and drop-outs who earn six figures annually.
We live in a culture which formal education and financial success are highly prized along with a few other things. Parents keep their children from church if they are too busy doing homework or participating in athletics, art, band, choir, agriculture, FFA, or any number of other activities. Sundays have become a day of rest rather than worship, or merely another work day. If something “comes up,” people are so willing to skip the genuine church gathering. We fill and fill our schedules with the things we think are important, and as a result, Jesus Christ is the one waiting like a stood up date, “Where were you. I was waiting for you. What was more important than me?”
Please don’t misinterpret my words, here. I am not saying that people are evil because they miss church. I am claiming that our tendencies reveal the state of our hearts. This is the very cultural mentality that the author(s) of Hebrews is addressing. These truths are the same for us as they were for the Hebrews-preacher’s original audience. What does God say to those who are too busy for or have other priorities than participating with His body?
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
Pay closer attention (v. 1)
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.
When the author(s) writes, “For this reason,” he is about to apply the theological truth that has already been worked out. Jesus is the final and perfect revelation of God, the Father. Because the Father has spoken finally in and through Jesus Christ, we pay closer attention to what we have heard so that we do not drift from it.
The substance that the author(s) refers to, here, by “what we have heard” is the word of Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ is the one who upholds all things by the power of His word (1:3), then His word is the word we hang on, and we hang on every letter and every nuance. This means much for the way that we consider Christ’s words.
Firstly, we pay much closer attention to Christ’s word. This means so much in a world where we have so many options and where we assume that any number of things is capable of establishing us and upholding us. In a world where it is tempting to devote our time to school, careers, athletics, and status, God’s instruction to His people is to pay closer attention to Christ’s word, not neglecting it in favor of this other stuff.
Secondly, we do this so that we do not drift from Christ’s word. I love weekends. Saturday is our family day at the Cannon household. As important as ministry is and as busy as I can be, I guarantee the members of my family that I will be with them on Saturdays. Before anyone asks; no, it’s not the only time I spend with them. Sometimes we have to substitute another day of the week. Every family day is the same in this way: I have to think differently. I do so much during the week that it is difficult for me to wind down. I wake up early on Saturday mornings ready to get to work. It takes much effort for me to wind down. The same is true on my day of rest in the middle of the week. Those of you who work hard sympathize with this experience. In the same way, a lazy person can’t get motivated to get much done. When we drift from Christ’s word and make a habit of giving our attention to other stuff, it’s just difficult to get back without much frustration and exhaustion. Those of you reading this who haven’t been to church in a while but know you should experience this. I’m not condemning you, here, it’s just difficult to get back into the habit of participating with Christ’s body after being absent for so long.
This is why the author(s) of Hebrews is urging the congregation to pay closer attention. In a world that is constantly giving us other stuff to give our attention to, we are encouraged to remain diligent as we yearn to sit under Christ’s teaching. Because we love Christ and desire His sustaining word in our lives, which is the only word by which our lives are both established and upheld, the first thing we schedule is time with Christ and with Christ’s body sitting under Christ’s teaching. All the other stuff is secondary so that we do not drift from the only word that establishes and upholds all of creation, especially God’s people.
The price of neglect (v. 2-3a)
For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
Any time we see the word “angel” in the New Testament, it is a word transliterated from the Greek αγγελος, meaning “messenger.” This word can refer to a heavenly angel or a human messenger. In the first chapter of Hebrews, the author(s) have referred to both the prophets (1:1) and heavenly angels (1:4-14). Since “angels” has not been a word used to describe the prophets, it seems that the use, here, refers to heavenly angels. While there is no reference in the Old Testament that records heavenly angels other than the Angel of the Lord (the pre-incarnate Christ) speaking, it should be understood that the author(s) is referring to God’s word to and through the prophets, particularly the Law to and through Moses.
This word, the Old Testament, proved unalterable. Every time the people of Israel defaulted to their own nature in sin, God’s punishment according to the Law was a just punishment. The author(s) begs the question: If this was the case through the Old Testament and we can read about it, having a witness, what makes us think that we will escape God’s just punishment if we neglect so great a salvation found only in the power of Christ’s word, which is the only sufficient word by which all things are established and upheld, especially God’s people?
This rhetorical question is meant to shock us. If our priorities are off, even a little, this should cause us pause. If Christ’s word, the word of life, is the thing we neglect for all this other stuff, how will we, how can we, escape the justice of God revealed in the Old Testament? The sermon to the Hebrews just got really intense really quickly. The preacher wants us to understand that the difference between eternal life and death is Christ’s word. Nothing else. Christ’s word. This is serious business, and people approach it haphazardly. We choose other things, and we desire to water it down with people-centered stories or devote the time we spend gathered together doing other stuff. In love, I want to plea with you. Consider the seriousness of Christ’s word. This is life and death stuff. It gets to real things, things of the heart and of eternal salvation and real sanctification.
The evidence of salvation (v. 3b-4)
After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
God’s word is revealed finally and sufficiently in and through Christ alone. Those who heard Jesus confirmed what He spoke. The author(s), here, references the signs and wonders that accompanied the message by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost according to the Spirit’s own will. Notice the past-tense in this verse. It was confirmed. Furthermore, it was confirmed by those who heard Jesus (the apostles). God testified with them (the apostles) both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. This is how God confirmed His word. Since it has been confirmed, these types of signs no longer accompany the preaching of God’s word. God’s word, remember, was finally revealed in and through Jesus Christ and written down by the apostles or under apostolic authority. The author(s) of Hebrews believes and here claims that these gifts were for confirming purposes and refers to these sign gifts in the past tense.
Since the author(s) is referencing what was fulfilled in the past, primarily in Acts 2, let’s look at that part of God’s story together.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.
They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”
And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
In Acts 1:14-36, Peter preached the Gospel to the gathering of people. In response to Peter’s sermon, God’s word correctly explained and rightly applied, the people asked, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter’s response was, “Repent, and… be baptized…” (Acts 2:38). It was the word of Christ, not the signs, that had the power in Acts 2. Only after repentance resulting from the hearing of Christ’s word do we see the local church actually functioning.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
The result of coming to know and love Christ was devotion to the things of Christ, most prominently to the correct teaching and right application of Christ’s word. This is exactly the message of the preacher in Hebrews. If we are truly in Christ, we devote ourselves to His word and to the fellowship of believers (c.f. Hebrews 10:24-25).
So, it is not the case that we should simply will ourselves to go to church or to read our Bibles. That would be works-based religion. The Gospel is a Gospel of grace. The text, here, pleas with us to examine our hearts. Where do our loyalties lie? Have we truly loved Jesus, or do we only like Jesus and love any of these other things?
When God did speak through the Old Testament prophetic office (1:1), what He spoke through the angels or messengers proved to be unalterable. God testified through the Old Testament prophets by angels about human depravity and wretchedness and about the salvation that would be, once for all, accomplished in Jesus Christ (chapter 1). God caused sign gifts, signs, wonders, and miracles to accompany the testimony of the Old Testament prophets according to His own will. God no longer speaks through the Old Testament prophets because He has spoken through His Son (1:1-2). Christ completed what the prophets could not. Therefore, those who are in Christ are devoted to Christ’s word rather than to all of the other stuff that they could be devoted to. He is our savior and our Lord, and this is a serious statement; far more serious than most self-proclaiming Christians would indicate by the way they live their lives. Will we repent, and turn back to the things of Christ, counting all other stuff as loss for the sake of knowing Him?
We are walking through the book of Hebrews. Click below for this week’s devotional:
There was no lesson yesterday. This still being a very new ministry, we want to have a committed core group of youths before really walking through Hebrews. Our doors are open, so come hang out on Thursdays after school.
Check out the first lesson here:
We would like for our church-members and families to be in prayer for our community. This week, we are inviting almost 1,300 households in our area to join us.
We are praying for revival (true revival) among families in our community. Scripture tells us that Christ is the only one who can sustain us now and forevermore. This world does a pretty good job of making people so busy that they don’t have time for Christ. Not only this, but the organized church in our community has done a pretty good job showing most people that they are not welcome. We want people to fall in love with God’s life-giving and sustaining word. We want others to experience what we experience in Christ. This means choosing to be with Christ’s body over all of the other stuff, but we like the other stuff too much. We like those empty promises. The reality is that Christ is the only one who can uphold our lives, yet we prioritize everything else for some reason. We show what our gods are by the way we prioritize our time. We pray for revival in our community and that people would choose Christ over all the other stuff, or rather, that Christ would be drawing people to Himself.
Please contact us if you have any questions about ministry or anything else or if you want to get involved.
Our very first youth service was great and we look forward to growing! Youth services will be at 6:30pm every Thursday. Doors open at 5:30pm. If we can serve you by opening the doors sooner, please let us know. Before service begins, we have free wifi and homework helps; or students can just hang out!
If we experience enough growth this year, we will be adding camp to our summer schedule next year! We also hope to expand Thursday evenings to include a Bible study for parents and kids church. Be sure to subscribe to this blog to keep up and join us on Thursday evenings!!!
Here is this week’s lesson:
What are some of your favorite things? What do you hope to accomplish in this life? What are the things you believe are worthwhile? In the First Century, just as we see today, many people who claimed to be Christians were tempted to add human works to the finished work of Christ. Though it took a different form and was probably justified using a different specific reason, the tendency was the same. In order to fit in or accommodate the overall culture, the sufficiency of Christ was not realized. It is not surprising that, in the organized church today, we experience the same struggle with Christ’s sufficiency that the organized church did within only forty years of Christ death, burial, and resurrection. There is nothing new under the sun. This sermon to the Hebrews has the same message and application in our own society because we do the same things, trying to add to Christ in any number of ways.
The book of Hebrews is a sermon written to both Jewish and Gentile believers. If God is really God, then there is nothing that people can possibly offer God. So, the religious worship of many Christians was actually idolatry because they sought to elevate themselves. Our early Christian brothers and sisters needed to know this truth and needed to know their need for a Messiah. Hebrews was probably written before 70 A.D. The name of the human author is not given in the text but was accepted by the early church as Pauline. Other possible human authors or contributors include Barnabas, Apollos, and Luke. There is not much evidence to support any other proposed author or contributor. The author(s) was close with Timothy (13:23), and this sermon was included, by the Third Century, in the collection of Pauline letters. Hebrews was quoted from by Clement before the close of the First Century. In 180 A.D, Hebrews was claimed to be both Pauline and canonical. It is almost definite that Paul was the primary human author of this sermon even though it does not bear his signature or the style of his letters. Hebrews was not written as a letter but, instead, a sermon. It was not written specifically to the Gentiles, Paul’s regular audience, but to the Hebrews. The theme of this sermon is Christ Alone.
As we work through this sermon, we ask, Do we really and truly believe that Christ is entirely sufficient?
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
God’s word through the prophets (v. 1)
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways…
This sermon begins with a reference to the Old Testament prophetic office. As we begin looking at this sermon, we must understand what the Old Testament prophetic office was and why it existed. We see the what and why of the Old Testament prophetic office and gift in Deuteronomy 18:15-18:
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.
This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’
The Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.’”
As God was giving the Law through Moses, the nation God had chosen to be His physical nation on this earth complained because they did not want to hear God directly like they did when God was giving the Law to Moses on in Horeb. They were afraid that they would die. So, by God’s providence, He raised up several prophets through the Old Testament to speak on His behalf. The reason people needed a prophet was because they were afraid to hear directly from God. So, God chose to speak through prophets.
The Old Testament gift of prophecy can be defined in this way: God dictating His word to a prophet to be delivered to a particular audience. It was informal prophets (like Moses and Joshua) and those who held the prophetic office (beginning with Samuel) who were given this specific gift of prophecy. The Old Testament prophetic gift was exercised under the Law in conjunction with God’s covenant with Israel and because of the hardness of people’s hearts.
God’s word in Christ (v. 2a)
…in these last days has spoken to us in His Son…
The author(s) of this sermon identify the time they are living in as the last days. There is something different about these last days when compared to the days of the Old Testament prophets. The time of the Old Testament prophets had ended and the word of God was no longer spoken through the Old Testament prophetic office. In fact, no prophet had spoken for more than 400 years between Malachi and John the Baptist. Now, instead of speaking through the Old Testament prophetic office, God has spoken to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. So, according to Scripture, in fact is is the first theological truth explained in this sermon to the Hebrews, God no longer dictates to people something to be written or spoken on His behalf. The only reason we might desire such a gift of prophecy in our day is because our hearts are hard to the word that God has spoken in Christ. According to Scripture, people choose Old Testament-type prophets because they do not want to hear directly from God.
The prophetic office in the Old Testament was meant to reveal the insufficiency of people and their hardness of heart. The Old Testament prophetic gift was meant to foreshadow Christ and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. If there were still Old Testament prophets or people with the Old Testament prophetic gift, then the work of Christ as the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament covenant would have been ineffective. He would have failed. Jesus Christ is the one who holds the prophetic office perpetually.
This means that Christ’s word is the word that is entirely sufficient for all of life and ministry. Everything that God has for us regarding salvation and sanctification has been revealed in Christ. There is no need for further revelation. If we disagree with that, then we disagree with what the Bible claims explicitly. Academics can be good, but they can only get us so far. Athletics are good, but they can only get us so far. Science is good, but it can only get us so far. Philosophy is good, but it can only get us so far. Success can be good, but it can only get us so far. The words of Christ are what we need and profit us more than any other pursuit in this life or any.
Christ’s identity and why His word is sufficient for all of life and ministry (v. 2b)
…whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
God, the Father, appointed Jesus heir of all things. So, Jesus was the heir of this Old Testament prophetic office. He was also the heir of the covenant prepared through Moses and of the priesthood prepared through Aaron and of the throne prepared through David. Here, we catch a glimpse of the relationship between the Father and Son. The Father explicitly ordains all things. The Son reveals the things of the Father and is exalted. The Son is even the person of the Godhead who revealed the Father’s word to the prophets (Isaiah 48:16). This means that both the Old Testament and the New are the explicit words of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ position has always been the revealer or the word of the Father. Even in Genesis 1, we see that God spoke all things into existence. All of creation was made through Jesus. Jesus, who is one with God and is God (co-equal and co-eternal), has always had this position as prophet within the Godhead and among God’s people. The prophetic position in the Old Testament was not only given to foreshadow Christ but, also, as a parable revealing who Christ has always been. Jesus fulfills the prophetic office because it was always a picture of Him. The same is true for the priestly office and the throne.
From the outset of this sermon, the author(s) are establishing that the word they are preaching, Christ’s word, is entirely sufficient for all of life and ministry. In a culture where Christians were returning to and elevating religious tradition or neglecting their meeting with the church, Christians were either adding something else to Christ’s word or hiding part of His word away. Christ is greater than the prophets, than religious tradition, than dogma, than the catechisms, than cultural Christianity, and He is greater than anything or anyone else claiming to benefit us in this life or any.
We had a couple church members and a couple youth at our final interest meeting. We talked about the importance of Christ-centeredness in youth ministry. The lesson can be seen below:
We also talked about future plans for the youth ministry, including: summer camp and expanding to have options for both parents and kids. Here are some highlights:
Our first youth worship service will be on August 1, 2019 and will begin at 6:30pm. The doors will open at 5:30pm. Please contact us with any questions. To preview the lesson series, please see the video below. We will be walking through the book of Hebrews together.
We had our first interest meeting yesterday and had a few church members come. We talked about what the true focus of a youth ministry is and spent time in prayer for preteens, teens, and their parents in our community. We also released a preview for what we hope youth services will be.
We spent our time together in Deuteronomy 6:4-15
Tonight, we are having an interest meeting for our new youth and family ministry. So, before we have some conversation about what we want to see and how we want to be able to serve teenagers and parents and kids, I want to read from the Scriptures and make some points about the goal of our lives. The truth with any ministry of the local church is that the goal should always be to come together, in every generation, in order to stimulate one another on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.
The Shema (v. 4)
Any time we talk about anything written in the Bible, including the Law, we see that it comes from God and is preceded by God’s identifying of Himself as the only God. As early as Genesis, we see that God is identified as the Father, Word, and Holy Spirit. So, when God identifies Himself as one, He is declaring unity among the members of the Godhead. God is only one essence existing in three persons. He is also clarifying that there are no other gods. He is it.
If there is only one God and He has identified Himself by giving His people His Bible, then He has given the Bible that we may know Him and honor Him and praise Him as He is. The heart cannot love what the mind does not know (Jen Wilken).
The greatest human responsibility (v. 5)
Because there is only one God, and people are not him, the responsibility of every person is to love God with their whole being. People say, all the time, that they love God, yet they are not getting to know God more. They are more concerned with so much other stuff or or being entertained or with simply having a good place to hang out. Most of the time, when people do things like youth ministry (or any other specialized ministry), all they do is cater to a certain set of desires or preferences in order to get people in the door and there is no real profit. If, in our religion, churches, and lives, we are not coming to love God with all of our being, all of our activities, all of our relationships and all of our ministries, then we have ignored the most prominent human responsibility.
Over the thousands of years since this command was given in God’s Law, we have see that no one is able to love God completely on this earth. God predicted that this would be the case in Deuteronomy 31:21, when He revealed that the Law, including the Shema, would stand as a testimony against the people. This is why we need Jesus, who fulfilled all righteousness, and it is why we need to be saved by His grace. Those who are in Christ will grow in the love that they have for the Father as a result of Jesus’ grace working out in their lives.
The responsibility of older generations (v. 6-15)
Because the primary responsibility of all people is to love God wholly, God gave this instruction to the generations- that with each generation, our primary responsibility is to teach the things of God. While, according to this text, the primary place for this is in the home, we have to say that if specialized ministry is not accomplishing the teaching of everything God has given us, then our ministries are unprofitable for teenagers or young adults or anyone else that would need to benefit from a specialized ministry of the church.
Our goal is to know God more deeply so that we love Him more deeply because we cannot love what we do not know. Notice that God’s instruction requires people to learn from His word in order to come to love Him. This is why the focus of the church’s specialized ministry cannot be cool games and cute object lessons and attractional music. The word of God must be central. Christ must be presented as preeminent. All else is secondary.
Where parents and churches fail in discipleship, God shows much grace. We pray that God grants us understanding. That He moves the hearts and minds of those in every generation to know Him and love Him. We pray that our ministry is, first and foremost and wholly, glorifying to God alone.
Next week we will have another short worship service and interest meeting for both youth and their parents.
This service will be on July 18 at 6:30pm
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