Dis·cern·ment – the ability to judge well.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Reality and healthy survival demands our being able to judge well to live well. That ability to judge well is what our Sovereign Judge, Resurrected Perfecter an Evidence of Truth have united to provide us. Defining the “division of soul and of spirit” requires more imagination than the grisly image Hebrews paints of a sword whacking through bone to reveal the living inner part, the marrow, that actually provides it needed nourishment.
Hebrews is saying the soul is like a boney structure we might identify as the biblical hard heart. The penetration of that boney structure has to happen to reveal the marrow, the Spirit, inside that hard heart. That allows the Spirit and the Word of God to become the needed nourishment of our growth, impact the intentions of our heart and teach us to judge well. It’s the total package.
Hebrews 12:1 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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
1. one that gives evidence, specifically: one who testifies in a cause or before a judicial tribunal.
2. one asked to be present at a transaction so as to be able to testify to its having taken place.
What a day! I’m thankful I have a “great cloud of witnesses;” the heroes of the Bible and real-life saints whose evidence has become part of my life of faith. I’m thankful this morning for the realization that in addition to those heroes and saints that great cloud also includes what the dictionary defines as the judicial tribunal; God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I’m celebrating a new awareness on this day of the Resurrected Perfecter.
“For the joy set before him he [Jesus] endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We’re quite familiar with the middle part of that sentence; “[Jesus] endured the cross, scorning its shame” and we know the end of the story – He’s risen, Hallelujah! But pay special attention to the first and last last phrases of that sentence. “For the joy set before him” followed by “and [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
This Easter morning I have a new awareness there was a celebration of joy at the “throne of God” when the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were physically reunited. Their reunion completed our list of witnesses in that great cloud and put the final plan in place. The Sovereign Judge, the Resurrected Perfecter and the Evidence of Truth were to be witnesses AND evidence forever on our behalf.
That’s what makes this Easter celebration the best day of your life! Hallelujah!
Hebrews 12:1 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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of notable political figures being carefully guided through a pressing crowd surrounded by a cadre of secret service agents for their protection. That image came to mind when I read “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” Have you ever considered who your personal cloud of witnesses are; the Biblical secret service agents that have impacted your life…and why? Maybe it’s time for you to make your own list. Here’s mine..
Jesus: because he showed me his love, and that I was worth it.
Solomon: because he connected the passion of human love to the love of God for his people.
David: because he was brave enough to repent even though there were desperate consequences to his sin.
Peter: because there’d never been any doubt in his mind that he would faithfully serve Jesus…until that moment when he heard his own words of denial. Then repentance changed his heart’s focus from service to a deep love.
Paul: because he believed in a power that had nothing to do with his own abilities and ideas. He was faithful, willing and yes…an opinionated messenger that Jesus was the Savior of the most unlikely people…even him.
These Biblical heroes are my secret service detail. They’re the “great cloud of witnesses” that are my examples of a better way to get through the hazards of being human so I “will not grow weary and lose heart” in the name of Jesus.
“Just because I have listened carefully and intently to one thing from God does not mean that I will listen to everything He says.” From Devotion of Hearing by Oswald Chambers
These last few days I’ve spent some time thinking about what my goals are when I read the Bible. Sometimes I am unsure about what to read. I really am trying to “hear” what I read but nothing “speaks” to me. It seems presumptuous to look at God’s Word and say, “nope, not that” but I do that at times. Here’s the bottom line of even that very selective reading plan…I’m there and so is God.
It’s times like that when the devotional “words” of personal heroes of the faith like Oswald Chambers can be a welcome catalyst of direction. His title and simple confession I quoted above reminded me that even my written words can become a “devotion of hearing.” The secret is learning to be a better “listener” as I read what God has to say for himself…and write myself a note so I’ll remember.
Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV) Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Romans 10:17 (ESV) So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Luke 11:28 (ESV) But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Hebrews 2:1 (ESV) Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
Excerpts from Hebrews 6 [NIV& TLB]
1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity,
10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him
12 Then, knowing what lies ahead for you, you won’t become bored with being a Christian nor become spiritually dull and indifferent, but you will be anxious to follow the example of those who receive all that God has promised them because of their strong faith and patience.
19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Hebrews 6:1 & 2 TLB Let us stop going over the same old ground again and again, always teaching those first lessons about Christ. Let us go on instead to other things and become mature in our understanding, as strong Christians ought to be. Surely we don’t need to speak further about the foolishness of trying to be saved by being good, or about the necessity of faith in God; 2 you don’t need further instruction about baptism and spiritual gifts and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.
Remember my last post? God chose some creative phrasing last Sunday to reveal I have a will and it’s not always in line with his. That’s a fact. Duh! Wasn’t that one of those first lessons I thought I’d learned? You bet it was. That was an experience.
I’m thanking God for caring enough to remind me of those two things again. It’s just another example that longevity is only one aspect of our walk with Christ. This passage reminded me of a sermon by one of the wisest Pastors I’ve known; Leonard Anderson of Crossroads Covenant Church in Forest Lake, Minnesota. The basics of his sermon about walking with Christ were this: “We need to live more of what we know, not just learn more.”
It’s lovely when faith is new and you’re so tuned in to God working in you…and on you. You’re content to ride that crest of newfound faith knowing very little more than Christ and Christ alone; your first love. It seems so “complete” but the time does come when you find you do know more. The blessing of spiritual maturity is God bringing together fact and experience to refresh your heart to remember “We need to live more of what we know, not just learn more.”
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for…13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.
Oswald Chambers said “Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him.” The mystery of living by faith is how easy it is to forget that. Sometimes circumstances seem more real than faith
Hebrews 11 is called the “By Faith” chapter. The real life stories of those notable “ancients,” elsewhere in the Bible, tell us the human side of their lives as well. They were not perfect. Their circumstances were very real. Faith was just as mysterious, and the evidence just as elusive, for them as it is for us today and yet they were commended for it. Why?
Twenty one times Hebrews 11 gives us the simple answer to what makes “living by faith” a reality that works even today for our lives. It’s all summed up in that one small preposition, “By.” That little word is the agent of change that makes possible a faith that impacts what we’re able do. Remembering our most intimate moments with God is what makes living “by faith” something that’s more real than circumstances. That’s commendable.