Therefor we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

Hebrews 2: 1

 

Let’s face it, we do not like to be told to pay attention. The internal response to such an admonition is to say, “I am listening! I heard every word that you said!” Yet, our actions often make a lie of those assertions, for we do not actually do what we were instructed to do. All of this is human nature, and it is something that most of us encounter on a rather regular basis from both sides of the interchange. When the subject in question is salvation, and the person being discussed is Jesus Christ, the issue becomes much more serious. That is what the author of Hebrews is discussing here. Jesus is the singular one who is superior to any and to all angels, and His way to relationship with God is superior to any other way that might have been set out prior to His coming to dwell among us and His death and victorious rising up in defeat of Satan.

 

In the days when Hebrews was written, there were people who were teaching numerous ways to get into a relationship with God. This is still the case today. There are prophets and seers in our world who claim to be inspired by angels and by other forms of divine revelation so that the way to god that they espouse is claimed to be the only true and effective one to follow. Yet, none of these angels, prophets, or teachers of human-devised wisdom can attest to the fact that they were placed here by the direct hand of God, that they lived among us, were taken and tried and still found blameless by humanity, were put to death and buried, and then were alive walking among us and ascending into Heaven. This well-attested to narrative is the singular one that demonstrates the presence of God in a man and that presents this same man as the One who can take each of us out of the state of eternal death that is our birthright and place us before God Himself as Jesus proclaims us to be holy and righteous. Thus, we are found and adjudged to be fully acceptable to God and granted an eternal home with Jesus in Heaven.

 

Yet, when we listen carefully to God’s Word of truth and life, we are also granted far more than just the wonderful and magnificent hope of eternity. We are also taken into a new life in this world and a new purpose for the days that we have to spend dwelling here. Christ has overcome all of Satan’s hold on life and on this world. Although brokenness is still present with us and evil remains to work its chaos and havoc among us, they no longer have ultimate power or control. When we accept Christ and submit to Him as Lord and Savior, we are also rejecting the ways of evil in our world. We are seeking to engage with life as people who love rather than hate, who show mercy instead of exerting power, who seek justice for all as opposed to using law as a tool for gain. In Christ, we can be motivated to a new economy of grace in all that we think, say, and do, for as we are new beings in Christ, we can strive to make the peace and the joy of Heaven the reality of our world here and now. This will never be an easy endeavor as there will always be opposition to such thoughts and actions. However, Christ also was subjected to rejection, conflict, and opposition. As He went before us then and does go before us now, He will lead us into His victory over the forces of evil in this world.

Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No”; anything more than this comes from evil.

Mathew 5: 37

 

We do not live in an age of simplicity; yet, Jesus is counseling us to act as if that were the case. This idea of simplicity incorporates a lack of embellishment, a stark straightforwardness, and a form of honesty that comes from deep within the heart of each person into its plain tapestry of righteous thought and action. This is the sort of truth that God has handed down to us. It is the form of engagement that Jesus employed when He faced off squarely with all that was corrupt and evil in the world of His days. We too live in times when this sort of directness is rare and wherein its presence would breath new life into our various societal settings.

 

However, I think that this sort of straight-talk truth would also be met with opposition and denial, for it does tend to show up others and to cast their elaborate tales of reason, rationale, and diversionary finger pointing as the falsity and evil lies that they are. So if we choose to change the way of our own world and begin to face into the rest of our culture with this sort of spade-is-a-spade straight engagement, we need to be ready to face opposition and to enter into a struggle with others, many of whom are powerful and entrenched in the leadership structures of our world. If this sort of fight is what we acquire by bringing biblical truth plainly into the discourse of our days, then we will be joining with Jesus in a struggle much like the one that He faced as He did the same thing.

 

The angry words, rejection, and even the plots that led to His death did not stop or even slow Jesus’ drive to say and to do God’s righteous truth in all places and throughout all of His days. As people who believe in Christ and who count our redemption as His work for us, we are called to truly follow Him. This means that we are to be people whose hearts and minds are being transformed from our worldly perspectives into ones that live out and speak forth the pure truth of the gospel of Christ. This is a message of peace and grace. This is a perspective that loves with the purity of the Father so that we do not apply conditions or place restrictions on granting its care and protection to any others regardless of situation or circumstance. This is a confident truth that responds to the world around us, especially to its leaders, with a demand for a simple and direct recitation of fact and asks that it respond to those facts with this same love, grace, and desire for peace that our Lord and its Savior portrayed for us.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.

Philippians 3: 8, 9

 

Most people are hoarders. We usually call it something else. We are collectors, frugal, prepared for any situation, stocking up, blessed by possessions, or fearful for where the next meal might come from. Storing up and holding on tightly to what we have seems to be ingrained deeply into our make-up. That is why the act of moving, of needing to pack it all and physically pick it up and put it some place else is often so healthy. This act usually causes us to consider carefully each thing that we have and consider why an item that hasn’t seen the light of day in over ten years is still essential. In a way, this is the challenge that Paul is throwing down for us here.

 

It is not my intention to be frivolous about the profound and the extraordinary change that takes place in people as we accept God’s invitation to enter into a relationship with Him by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. However, this is a bit like the idea of packing up and moving. Our lives are filled with all that we have collected throughout our years on earth. We also bring with us a large assortment of thoughts, ideas, attitudes, and responses to life that came from our parents and from others who have influenced our development. Regardless of our age, the dwelling place of our soul contains a lot of stuff. Some of it is very useful for living a full life in response to God’s calling for us. Yet, other aspects of who we are will continue to weight us down and to inhibit our ability to respond to Christ fully and absolutely. Paul shows us a truly ruthless attitude toward it all. He says that we should consider all of the self-satisfying and God-denying aspects of our former lives as noting better than the trash.

 

Rather than wrapping them carefully to protect them, we should toss them out. This sort of spring cleaning isn’t so easy to do. Yet, it is vitally important for us. If we wish to leave behind the old life of living under the authority of the law with its rigid demands and its utter futility, then we need to trust Christ fully so that His Spirit can guide us into and through the necessary process of purging our hearts and minds of old ways of thinking about who we are, how we see others, and the way that God wants us to respond to His calling for us. This sort of deep and personal house cleaning can be painful and it is often rather frustrating as the items that we toss out today seem to find their way back in tomorrow. So, we need to do it all over again. Still, God is faithful, and He will remove the old, death-bringing aspects of ourselves from us. As we trust Christ and have faith in His great purpose for our lives, He will move us in and settle us into dwelling in the kingdom of His righteousness.

And he (God) said to man,

“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,

and to turn away from evil is understanding.”

Job 28: 28

 

There is a theme here that runs throughout God’s Word. God is to be respected, reverenced, and viewed with absolute awe and wonder. The Lord does, in fact, know all and see all, and He is engaged in everything that takes place in heaven and on earth. There is nothing that people can do or any sum that we can pay that will secure our relationship with God. Also, none of our skill, capacity, or wealth is sufficiently great enough to bring wisdom to us. Wisdom is something that is possessed by God, and He grants it as a gift to people who know Him, for the Lord is fully aware of the fact that people who do not know Him have no true desire to use wisdom for its intended purpose and also have no capacity to embrace it fully and honestly.

 

We come to know God through surrendering ourselves fully to Him and embracing Christ as the Lord of our lives and Savior of our souls. This surrender of self to Christ is the price that we must pay in order to acquire God’s wisdom. For most people, this payment is greater and harder to tender than anything else that we will ever purchase. Yet, the return on this surrender of self to Christ far exceeds all other investments that we will make in our lifetimes. Thus, as we live as followers of Christ, God becomes our greatest treasure, and He grants His wisdom as a gift to us; so, living as people who are wise from God’s perspective becomes our desire for the journey through our days.

 

As Job understood it, wisdom turns to application as we discern what is from God and what is not in our world and choose to turn toward God’s will and way through life and away from its opposite which is evil. There is a difficult simplicity in all of this, for most of us would prefer to see the moral and the ethical decisions of our days in shades of grey or as points on a continuum of good to bad. Yet, God says that there are only His way and that of the world. God’s way leads to life and the world’s points straight to the door known as death. Christ grants us the ability to discriminate between the two paths, the strength and the will to make those hard choices, and the encouragement of His Spirit to live out the choices that we make.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Romans 11: 33

 

My mind is wired so that I like to figure things out. I want to have the hows and the whys of life firmly in my grasp so that I can explain it all to myself and to others. There is comfort in this in that it brings the mysteries and the challenges of life into the realm of my own control. Full understanding gives me a sense of power, and in all honesty, it makes me feel superior to all of the others who don’t comprehend the process and the flow of life as well as I think that I do.

 

The problem with all of this is that it brings about a false sense of power, strength, and competency. In reality, I don’t know or understand any more than does everyone else, and due to the self-delusion of it all, I probably grasp less than many others do. When I honestly look at the mysteries of life and of living, all of the wisdom that I possess comes to me as a gift from God. Any truth that I speak is made up of ideas and words that have been imparted to me by the Lord. So, Christ is the author and the worker of any love, mercy, justice, and care that I give to others. Yet, this form of reality check leads me into a form of power, strength, and competency that far exceeds any that I might create for myself.

 

All of these highly desired qualities in life are gifts that the Lord grants to me through my submission and dependence upon Him. The Lord provides me with all that I truly need to live well and to flourish along the path of my journey with Him. So, there are times when I need to stop striving and cease my relentless drive to know and to understand so that I can just kneel in worshipful wonder before my Lord and Savior. From this position I can begin to truly appreciate His greatness, and I can open up my heart and my mind to take in the great gift of His presence.

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46: 10, 11

 

There are times when the best thing that I can do is to just stop. Stop moving, talking, planning, considering, contemplating, worrying, debating, deciding, and solving. Just be … just be truly … just be absolutely … still. I need to allow myself to go to the level of calm where all I can hear is my own heart beating, and then allow it to slow and embrace the stillness.

 

When I get all settled in, and the world around me stops pulling at my mind, the voice of God starts to fill my heart, and His words are like a whispered promise and like the roaring of ocean waves against the rocks. They speak of His love and of His peace. The Lord reminds me that He won’t ever leave me for He meant it when He spoke His eternal vows to me. My heart hears God’s love song, and it is a song that seems to have been written especially for me. He speaks about my life, my fears and concerns, and my glorious future with Him.

 

It is in the stillness that God speaks most clearly. These are the times when my mind just gives up on trying to solve it all and when I stop feeding a tired heart the adrenalin of my attempts to run the race of life on my own and in my strength. The Lord says that I just need to listen to Him and reflect on who He is and on what He has done throughout history. Just be still, and know with all of my being, know from the depths of my soul that there is only one God, and He is my loving Father, my Lord and Savior.

 

This is the message that we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

1 John 1: 5

 

Sadly, there is darkness all around us in this life. It creeps into the room like a fog and fills our surroundings with gloom as it seems to absorb all of the visual space. Some of the time it is just present. I get the sense that it dwells in a location or in its people as if it were their true identity. When I started off by saying that the presence of darkness was sad, I was stating my own perspective, for not everyone attempts to avoid those darkened places. Some people are drawn to the dark with its power and its concealment.

 

Christ changes all of this. He brought the light of God’s presence into the darkness of human souls. He also carried, as His own nature, the glory of God’s righteousness from Heaven to touch Creation with the hand of restoration. The darkness of sin fractures. It tears apart the structures of this world and attempts to break the bond that the true word of God established to hold all together. That evil cloud enshrouds people’s hearts and minds, and as it does so, it fractures relationships with God and among people.

 

This light that Christ brings, He also imparts to the people who follow Him. As the Holy Spirit dwells in us, His presence transfuses our entire being with God’s holy light. The brightness of Christ’s love, grace, and righteousness is something that should not be concealed or suppressed. By nature, it wants to pour out into the world. It desires to shout forth with songs of praise and worship to God. As we engage with God’s calling to proclaim His Christ as Lord and Savior, we can do so with like-minded intent and purpose. The light of Christ’s presence is designed to restore people to relationship with God and with each other, and our proclamation of Christ can bring about that same result.