John 15:15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. [NASB]
Moving from slave to friend is a progression. Long before I was even aware of a thing called a “personal” relationship with Jesus, I believed Jesus was God’s son and I was a faithful church member. Faithful in the sense I was there and I was active. There were very good reasons to be there. Church was a place where people put their best face forward. The activities were at an obvious level of insulated kindness and integrity. It was a place we went every Sunday as a family without question. I was a willing, and content, “slave” to religion. Thankfully that was enough to keep me there because as it turns out “religion” is the very busy place the Spirit of God often chooses to reveal the truth that Jesus was born for slaves in the midst of religion!
That’s the progression of how my friendship with Jesus became a reality. Friendship is what connects John 15:15 and my Advent celebration this year. It was friendship that revealed the Cradle as more than the destination of an annual Advent celebration. That long-ago Cradle is where God revealed His desire for our future: Jesus, God in-the-flesh, born to be our pathway from slavery to salvation and friendship.
I’ve finally reached Chapter 1 of the book of Hebrews. Honestly this grand finale feels like one of the biggest accomplishments of my years of study. I began at the end of Hebrews and have ended at the beginning of the book to discover this simple proof for myself; there is no “the end” anywhere in it. It’s all about beginning.
God’s provision of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are still at work in every chapter even with my own limitations of what I could comprehend from this theologically challenging book. The weeks of reading with the expectation I would personally discover an ultimate conclusion taught my heart something more than I expected. That is surely the gift of the Word of God.
Chapter 13. ”Outside” is where Christ receives your brokenness and disgrace and makes them his own. It’s the plan of God that we who are outsiders can go to where “new” begins, the Cross.
Chapter 1. I’m in God’s Kingdom because of the provision of that righteous scepter, His Son, “the exact imprint of God’s very being,” being the “crutch” that held me up so I could limp into it.
The ultimate conclusion of the Word of God always leads you to the cross and Christ and the reality there is no “the end” to your beginning.
NRSV 1:1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word…8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.
Scepter’s not a common word today so that caught my attention. A scepter is an ornamented staff often used by kings as visual evidence of power but the word also has a practical meaning as something one can lean on for support.
You may have heard a negative description of faith as being a “crutch” as I have. Your reaction may have been as defensive as mine was so it was back to the dictionary for another definition – crutch: a long stick with a crosspiece at the top, used as a support under the armpit by a lame person.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard your faith referred to as a crutch. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been confronted by your own need for support. My heart still has a negative reaction to identifying my faith as a crutch but the reality is my hand is in the air.
My heart and my hand respond today to God’s own words identifying his Scepter: “But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.” My heart and my hand have responded to His Son. Jesus is the righteous scepter God provided for the support of His own Kingdom and for each of us to personally lean on. All you have to do is admit to being lame. I’m in God’s Kingdom because of the provision of that righteous scepter, His Son, “the exact imprint of God’s very being,” being the “crutch” that held me up so I could limp into it.
MSG 2:1-4 It’s crucial that we keep a firm grip on what we’ve heard so that we don’t drift off. If the old message delivered by the angels was valid and nobody got away with anything, do you think we can risk neglecting this latest message, this magnificent salvation? First of all, it was delivered in person by the Master, then accurately passed on to us by those who heard it from him. All the while God was validating it with gifts through the Holy Spirit, all sorts of signs and miracles, as he saw fit.
MSG 13 Again, he puts himself in the same family circle when he says, Even I live by placing my trust in God.
I’m thankful this morning for the wisdom and work of the Holy Spirit in those who dedicate their lives to either translating the Word directly from original texts or taking the risk to trust in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who’s the real author in both cases anyway. I trust that. The Word reveals it’s own accuracy to the heart. The power of that accuracy began here for me today…
The “firm grip” we need to hang on to “so that we don’t drift off” is Jesus. The perfecter of our salvation has recreated His life within us so His experience can become our own. “Even I live by placing my trust in God.”
NRSV Galatians 2:20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God [Or by the faith of the Son of God], who loved me and gave himself for me.
NIV Hebrews 3
• 1…think carefully about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s messenger and High Priest…
• 7 That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, 8 don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness…
• 15 Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”
There’s a mystery involved in hearing the unspoken Word of this book we call our Bible. We know the mystery involves our training to recognize guidance and respond to Word that can speak truth into the human heart. “There is a beautiful story in the Old Testament where the prophet stands at the mouth of a cave and the Lord is passing. There is thunder, and the Lord is not in the thunder. There is an earthquake, and the Lord is not in the earthquake. There is fire, and the Lord is not in the fire. Then there is a still, small voice, and the Lord is in that voice. (See 1 Kings 19: 11–13.)” Intro to Following Jesus [Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety] by Henri Nouwen
OK, it’s the Holy Spirit…√. Do you imagine the writer of Hebrews was just casually writing “think carefully about this Jesus” or “today when you hear his voice” or “remember?” The answer of course is no! The Holy Spirit is the vital voice that teaches us to consciously respond to that mystery. The “gentle whisper” that happens “today” when you allow Jesus to teach you is the Holy Spirit speaking the reality of the Word within you despite the noise of the world around you.
The passage from 1 Kings ends with the question of the day. “And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here Elijah [insert your name here]?” I hope your answer is thinking, hearing and remembering.
NIV Hebrews 9: 1 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary…23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.
Truth: God is Sovereign and human’s are willful. I don’t know where I found this quotation but it’s inserted itself into my thinking about Hebrews 9. “Circumstances are where God begins.” Those three sentences led me back to the very beginning. I’m going to assume the fall of Adam and Eve was not a surprise to God. Right from the beginning He desired to be present in their lives. I think it’s possible those first two people were created to be God’s dwelling place but instead temptation and circumstances resulted in the first broken relationships. Those circumstances were where God set into motion the plan He’d always had to save His relationship with the people he loved. Jesus was NOT plan B.
Right from the beginning God desired to be present with us because of love. Right from the beginning when our circumstances might have denied that truth, God began to work within us. The same lives that could be broken by temptation and circumstance could now become His earthly sanctuary and a dwelling place for His own Spirit through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.”