March 12 - Hebrews 10
RELIGIOUS RAT RACE: Hebrews 10 opens where chapter 9 left off: illustrating the hopelessness of religious systems that depend upon continuing efforts of sacrifice followed by 'good' behavior in order to make a person right. Do you ever feel like you're running on a hamster wheel trying to do enough good things to outweigh the bad things you've done? At first, v4 may seem irrelevant to you: that it's impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. We've already seen earlier in Hebrews how this whole system of blood sacrifice seems foreign and gross to us, so I'm pretty sure none of us are pouring out blood in order to appease the wrath of God, but v4 has huge application for you: you'll never be able to do enough good things to make God forget even the smallest of your sins. We could rephrase v4: it's impossible for good deeds to take away sin. Verse 14 summarizes what will save you:
THE RACE HAS BEEN WON: The first half of v14 says that because of the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ you have been made perfect forever! You don't need to be running circles on a hamster wheel trying to make yourself acceptable to God, because you're more than just merely acceptable: you're perfect!
WE'RE ON THE VICTORY LAP: Verse 14 doesn't end with the fact that you've been made perfect. In fact, it seems to end in a way that contradicts the beginning: You have been made perfect forever, BUT you are being made holy. This is the amazing tension of Christianity: nothing you can do will make you any more perfect than you already are, but it takes a lifetime of hard work to fully realize that perfection. Notice how after the announcement of your perfection in v14, the chapter ends with all sorts of instructions to follow in order to live in a way that reflects what you've been made into:
Let us draw near to God (v22).
Let us hold unswervingly to the faith we profess (v23).
Spur one another on to love and good deeds (v24).
Do not throw away your confidence (v35).
You need to persevere (v36).
Do not shrink back, but have faith (v39).
NOT AS SCARY AS IT FIRST SEEMS: Verse 26 has often scared Christians, because it seems to indicate that there's a limit to God's forgiveness, and that if we go on to sin too much there will be nothing but 'fearful expectation of judgment and raging fire.' But the key word in this verse is deliberately. This verse doesn't refer to momentary lapses in judgment or times of weakness when you trip up, it's referring to a person who has been told what Christ accomplished, but who deliberately stays in their sin rather than demonstrating a life marked by faith.
BUT NEVER FORGET WHAT YOU'VE BEEN SAVED FROM: Modern Christianity focuses on the many positive attributes of God: love, mercy, grace, providence, etc. But we also must be reminded from time to time what we would face were it not for the perfect, completed sacrifice of our Savior. Hebrews 10:31 gives this warning to unrepentant sinners:
It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: A Holy, just & righteous God who will judge His people (v31).
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings (v22).
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: