NLT Hebrews 12 and James 1 & 2 [NLT]
Hebrews 12:2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy [or instead of the joy] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame…23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which `speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel. 25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking…
You have come…. x4 to the place that “speaks of forgiveness.” When we ask God to forgive our behavior His response is the unmerited favor of His Grace. Forgiveness is the foundation of our faith that becomes this specific discipline of Grace; “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith” and “mediates the new covenant between God and people.”
Hebrews urges “Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking.” The first words I heard as I listened were; “forgiveness” [what only God can do] and “discipline” [what I can do]. Then I heard a familiar echo of those words with these from James 1 and 2 – “faith” and “actions.” They’re copied below for you to read with ‘forgiveness’ substituted for the word [faith], ‘discipline’ for the word [endurance] and ‘Grace’ as the verb that replaces [actions].
James 1:3 For you know that when your forgiveness [faith] is tested, your discipline [endurance] has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your discipline [endurance] is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing…2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have forgiveness [faith] but don’t show it by your Grace [actions]? Can that kind of forgiveness [faith] save anyone?
This post has become a perfect example for me of these truths:
ALL the books of the Bible work together for our good. The Spirit really does link truths from different Scriptures in new and meaningful ways. Forgiveness and discipline do help explain faith and actions AND faith and actions do help explain forgiveness and discipline.
AND finally the most important truth of all: God has saved the unmerited favor of His Grace IN us. Living with the reality of that forgiveness is the discipline of Grace that turns faith into action.
James 2:12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Mer·cy: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
Here’s my checklist from James so far: √ endurance and √ need. Next on the list is √ mercy. We learn what it means to endure when we become completely aware of our need for Jesus to work out within us what God has promised. Even before we “came to our senses” and spoke our own commitment to be a follower of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit was at work revealing our need to do just that. Walking into the arms of Jesus wasn’t an act of our own making. Those words we spoke were the result of God’s mercy seeping into the cracks of a stony heart and triumphing over judgment, his and ours.
Mercy is the beginning of our own baptism into the Kingdom of God. Shared mercy has other benefits that are just as real. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Love, Jesus
James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Per·se·ver·ance: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
The issue isn’t whether we’ll have trials. They come in all sizes and shapes, and to everyone. One thing all trials have in common, large or small, is they focus our attention on a specific situation. Perseverance becomes a spiritual exercise for us without a known end date or predictable outcome. Perseverance in the midst of the trial is where our faith and expectations begin to rely on the value of just getting through this one day. All we have is the hope we can endure.
Endurance is the byproduct of the spiritual exercise of perseverance. It’s a result of doggedly putting one foot in front of the other every day during the trial and letting “perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Perseverance is the muscle-building exercise of faith that results in endurance.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters”…not for the pain, fears. tears, stress and struggle of the trial but that it reminds you every day of your need to depend on Jesus to get you through. God is building your endurance and insuring your survival on that one fact alone. You just need to show up every day.
NCV Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
We read the Scripture because we believe they were “written to teach us.” Learning from them is a very good reason but I don’t think that alone would keep us coming back day after day or account for the impact the Bible has had for such a long time on so many lives. There’s something far more personal happening “so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
We read because we believe our faith is a gift from God that we want to learn about. We read because we believe our relationship to Jesus has brought us grace and forgiveness. We come back and read some more because we discover within those pages there’s something that gives those ancient words new life for today. We read because the secret of endurance and encouragement lies within us, the Holy Spirit – hope, that has promised to reveal the mystery of our personal connection to God and help us navigate in this foreign land we call life.
A Responsive Reading
“1:4…we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—”
People are talking. The change your faith has made in you is obvious and it strengthens our community to know that our prayers have played a part in that.
“1:9…We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…”
It’s great to be around people who agree with what you know and understand. What’s even better, though, is the awareness that the Spirit is teaching each of us just what we need to know to agree with God himself. That’s what we want for you.
“1:10…so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God”
Fruit doesn’t just happen. It’s a result of what you do AND your intimacy with God that results in your personal growth.
“1:11…so that you may have great endurance and patience”
You’ll need both of those things because our community is filled with people just like you. People who struggle to learn from each other how to endure through imperfection. People who have enough patience to believe God really is working to build This “Perfect” Community while we each practice “bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.”
“1:12…and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
And everybody said Amen!