Monday, September 12, 2005

It's All About Him: Hebrews -- Lesson 51

Body Life

To look at the hall of faith, we see that we are to set our sights on Jesus as the author and perfecter of our faith. To then look around at the actual people in our churches, we must wonder whether we could ever pull it off. A good distribution of people in a church would have many new believers, some in-between, and several mature men and women of faith. The churches that grew in the best possible way--by adding men and women new to faith rather than acquiring members from other churches with no net gain in the kingdom--would have new believers as its largest group.

Such a church has a problem. It's new members, especially if they are predominantly un-churched, must be cared for. Metaphorically speaking, they will be babies, and will be sick, and will be injured. The high calling, to which the Writer of Hebrews has been spurring us to achieve, will be beyond their grasp. It is to this issue, that the Writer of Hebrews has a few comments:

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. (Hebrews 12:11-17, NASB 95)

I have included a concluding verse from the previous section to establish context.

Here is what I glean from this:

  1. As we come under God's discipline, we become mature and begin to experience the "peaceful fruit of righteousness." This is the foundation from which mature believers in the church exercise their authority to help and encourage others. The world desperately wants peace. People who have peace in their personal lives, marriages, children, work situations, and recreation model the end result of walking in relationship with Jesus Christ. With such we will draw in those who will want to listen.
  2. The proper way to deal with the diversity of new comers to our churches is to come along side them and help them to become strong. The church must not place demands on them and their lifestyles that are beyond their accomplishing. Righteousness must be preached with a helping hand extended. Remember "teaching, reproof and correction" from 2 Timothy 3:16. And Remember Hebrews 6:1 and its reference to "elementary teachings." To be sure at some point the new believer must move on.
  3. We need to guard ourselves and help others avoid becoming bitter over issues that arise in a church. This requires consistent admonitions to forgive and instruction on how it is done. According the the Writer, bitterness is what defiles.
  4. Be on guard for those in the church for secondary reasons. These attend for the contacts, the children's program, and many diverse reasons--all good in themselves. The problem with these members is that they are not men and women of faith, but are of those who will shrink back when a certain level of testing comes their way.

From here the Writer of Hebrews will move to some quick admonitions. In an era where writing materials are expensive, this is how you fill up the empty space on a page. We will find many themes repeated and emphasized in new ways.

Test everything. Cling to what is good.

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