Before the festival of the Passover began, Jesus realized that the time had come for him to leave this world and return to the Father... (John 13:1a)
You often hear statements like, “Jesus was born to die,” and “Jesus’ one mission was the Cross,” and yet here, and also in Luke 9, we are told that Jesus Himself marked time by His impending ascension, not by the Cross or Resurrection.
Here’s how Luke writes it: “Now as the days before he should be taken back into Heaven were running out, he resolved to go to Jerusalem…” (Luke 9:51)
It was out of His own love for the Father, with His eyes on their reunion, that He dared to approach the Cross. It was out of His love for us, with His eyes on our reunion with the Father through Himself, that He carried through the plan of the Cross. And yet it’s only as the ascended Heavenly High Priest that Jesus can administer the gifts that are ours because of the Cross and Resurrection. If He were not there, we’re not here. Let us meditate today on His Ascension and place at the right hand of the Father.
"And even as the Father, with each new morning, meets you with the promise of just sufficient manna for the day for yourself and those who have to partake with you, meet Him with the bright and loving renewal of your acceptance of the position He has given you in His beloved Son. Accustom yourself to look upon this as one of the reasons for the appointment of day and night. God thought of our weakness, and sought to provide for it. Let each day have its value from your calling to abide in Christ. As its light opens on your waking eyes, accept it on these terms: A day, just one day only, but still a day, given to abide and grow up in Jesus Christ. Whether it be a day of health or sickness, joy or sorrow, rest or work, of struggle or victory, let the chief thought with which you receive it in the morning thanksgiving be this: 'A day that the Father gave; in it I may, I must, become more closely united to Jesus.' As the Father asks, 'Can you trust me just for this one day to keep you abiding in Jesus, and Jesus to keep you fruitful?' you cannot but give the joyful response: 'I will trust and not be afraid.'"
Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ
From Psalm 33: "But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations."
It strikes me that we, most of the time, seem to perceive the Lord's plan as constantly changing and thus that we need to "find His will," almost as if we're chasing it down. But David talks here of its essential unchangingness. Perhaps we need to better understand - and align ourselves with - its firm, forevermore steadiness before we do much else.
“How wonderful, and precious and lovely it is that our highest and best treasure, the kingdom of God, is not something exterior, but is an indwelling good that we always have with us, hidden from the whole world and from the devil himself so that neither the world nor the devil can take it from us. For it, we need no great skill, speech, or many books, but rather a heart released and surrendered to God. For this purpose let us diligently turn within to this inner, hidden, heavenly, and eternal goodness and kingdom. What should we seek for externally in the world, we who have everything within us, the whole kingdom of God and all its goods? In our hearts and souls is the true school of the Holy Spirit, the true workshop of the Holy Trinity, the true temple of God, ‘the true house of prayer in spirit and in truth’ (Jn 4:23). Although God is in all things through his general presence, not contained within them, but in an incomprehensible way filling heaven and earth, he is still in a special and singular sense in the enlightened souls of those people in whom he dwells and has his resting place (1 Cor 6:19; Is 66:2), as in his own image and likeness. There he performs the works that he himself is. There in our heart he always answers our sighs. How is it possible for him to deny those in whom he has his dwelling, whom he himself moves and draws? Nothing is more delightful and pleasant to him than to give himself to all those who seek him.”
In view of this great prospect, we pray for you constantly, that God will think you worthy of this calling, and that he will effect in you all his goodness desires to do, and that your faith makes possible. We pray that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may become more glorious through you, and that you may share something of his glory — all through the grace of our God and Jesus Christ the Lord. (2 Thessalonians 1:11,12)
This is one of those very “Paul paragraphs” that’s so totally packed with phrasing and power that we’ll oftentimes read it and then take nothing from it. Something like, “Ah yes, hmmm, that’s quite deep…”
But, through the lens of Jesus, consider the full reality of what Paul is saying to us:
1. “worthy of this calling” – We read the word “worthy” and think: “Uh, oh. Me? Worthy?” And yet the Greek word utilized there is the exact same word spoken by the Prodigal Son to his father: “I’m not worthy to be called your son.” And the father’s response – really Jesus’ response – to his, and to our, sinful self-assertion of unworthiness? “‘Hurry!’ called out his father to the servants, ‘fetch the best clothes and put them on him! Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet, and get that calf we’ve fattened and kill it, and we will have a feast and a celebration! For this is my son — I thought he was dead, and he’s alive again. I thought I had lost him, and he’s found!’ And they began to get the festivities going.” (Luke 15:22-24)
2. “his goodness desires to do” – Or, in other words, HE will effect what HE desires in your life. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)
3. “your faith makes possible” – Yes! That’s the “faith” you can’t get away from in all the four Gospels! In "Luke" alone, consider the statements of Jesus that “It is your faith that has made you well,” cf. Luke 5:20, 7:50, 8:48, 8:50, 17:19, 18:42.
4. “share something of his glory” – If you know the Westminster Shorter Catechism at all, you probably know the first question: “What is the chief end of man?” And the famous answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.” Yet it’s the Larger Westminster Catechism that adds two additional descriptors that make that question and answer even more fun: “What is the chief and highest end of man?” The answer: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.” Let’s you and I be “Larger” rather than “Shorter” believers in the way we go after the highest, fullest enjoyment of our Savior, Jesus!
5. “all through the grace” – And, yes, it’s ALL through the grace of Him alone! Thank you, Jesus!
“…no one learns to know the Father except the Son, and no one learns to know the Son except the Father and him to whom He chooses to reveal Him (Mt 11:27). These are the Lord’s words. The Father and the Son reveal this to certain persons then, to those to whom they will, to those to whom they make it known, that is, to whom they impart the Holy Spirit, who is the common knowing or the common will of both. Those therefore to whom the Father and the Son reveal themselves recognize them as the Father and the Son recognize themselves, because they have within themselves their mutual knowing, because they have within themselves the unity of both, and their will or love: all that the Holy Spirit is.”
William of Saint-Thierry
Isn't it a fascinating thought that the Holy Spirit would constitute the "common knowing" and "common will" of the Father and the Son; that He is their internal means of recognizing each other fully; their mutual knowing of each other; the spiritual mechanism of their unity, will and love?
I think I'd like a fuller indwelling of that Spirit!
“For Christians see that with Jesus human and divine nature began to be woven together, so that by fellowship with divinity human nature might become divine, not only in Jesus, but also in all those who believe and go on to undertake the life which Jesus taught, the life which leads everyone who lives according to Jesus’ commandments to friendship with God and fellowship with Jesus."
Origen of Alexandria
"Bishop Temple says: 'Christ was not a man, but Man, he was not a God, but God.' In him we see what man is and how far we have fallen, in him we see what God is and how far we may rise. He is the universal meeting us personalized. Since I am a person, the universal must meet me personalized… Jesus changes everything he touches. Call him a man, and you will have to change your ideas of what a man is; call him God, and you will have to change your ideas of what God is. You can transfer every quality of Jesus into God without the slightest sense of loss or blasphemy. And when you set him up as man he appeals to universal man."
E. Stanley Jones, Christ at the Round Table
“We should never think of God as being spatially near or remote, for He is not here or there but carries here and there in His heart. Space is not infinite, as some have thought; only God is infinite and in His infinitude He swallows up all space. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.’ He fills heaven and earth as the ocean fills the bucket that is submerged in it, and as the ocean surrounds the bucket so does God in the universe He fills. ‘The heaven of heavens cannot contain thee.’ God is not contained: He contains.”
A.W. Tozer, Born After Midnight
The eleven went to the hill-side in Galilee where Jesus had arranged to meet them, and when they had seen him they worshipped him, though some of them were doubtful. But Jesus came and spoke these words to them, "All power in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. You, then, are to go and make disciples of all the nations and baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you and, remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the world." (Matthew 28:16-20)
* * * * *
On one occasion, while he was eating a meal with them, he emphasized that they were not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “You have already heard me speak about this,” he said, “for John used to baptize with water, but before many days are passed you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
This naturally brought them all together, and they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you are going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
To this he replied, “You cannot know times and dates which have been fixed by the Father’s sole authority. But you are to be given power when the Holy Spirit has come to you. You will be witnesses to me, not only in Jerusalem, not only throughout Judea, not only in Samaria, but to the very ends of the earth!”
When he had said these words he was lifted up before their eyes till a cloud hid him from their sight… (Acts 1:4-9)
* * * * *
“Great expectations are the proof of great love.”
- Honore de Balzac, The Rise and Fall of Cesar Birotteau
Now after the death of Moses the servant of Yahweh, Yahweh spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go across this Jordan, you, and all these people, to the land which I am giving to them, even to the children of Israel. I have given you every place that the sole of your foot will tread on, as I told Moses. From the wilderness, and this Lebanon, even to the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your border. No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not fail you nor forsake you…” Joshua 1:1-5
Imagine being Joshua and standing upon the brow of a hill, looking into Canaan, with the voice of the Lord speaking whisperingly in your ear, like this. That morning you’d awoken with fear and anxiety about leading His people; now, at sunset, He is narrating the glories of your eternal possession, even as He shows it to you. Perhaps He even lengthened Joshua’s sights in order to see these lengths and breadths of the land He was set to give to his people. But can you feel the power of the Presence that had inhabited the cloud-by-day and the fire-by-night, as He's leaning over Joshua to point the way?
Abraham could certainly relate – both to the Presence and the precise words used:
“The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, ‘Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.’” (Genesis 13)
“On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates — the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.’” (Genesis 15)
For us, it is our own knowledge that He never “fails nor forsakes us,” our remembrance that He’s never “failed nor forsook us,” and our belief that He never will in the future “fail nor forsake us” that gives us the ability – today – to arise, to go, to take, to tread, and to be dauntless in His leading and presence. Immediately, here, as we’re reading the opening words of the 24 chapters that make up the Book of Joshua, we must lift our gaze to examine the steadfast face of Yeshua, our Savior, our Leader, Jesus. For we’re only as good for His service as the measure to which we believe He is good; we must stand intimately with Him, today, as Joshua once stood breath-to-breath with Yahweh.
"The Presence and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be the one without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His Presence. On our part there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work it is to show us the Father and the Son. If we co-operate with Him in loving obedience God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face."
A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
Just this morning, I was reading through Romans 5 and relishing how Paul describes our freedom from the Old and our complete, joyous inheritance of the New through Jesus. And reading the latter half of the chapter, I started realizing the degree to which he was using point- and counter-point analysis to show us what's now ours.
Below, for your reading pleasure are his phrase-by-phrase juxtapositions from Romans 5:15-21. I found it helpful to see it broken out by columns...
This is the story of how good our life in Jesus really is! Let's relish it, and Him, today!
"Help me, O Lord my God; save me in accordance with your love. Let them know that it is your hand, that you, O Lord, have done it." Psalm 109:26,27
It is our ongoing relationship with this kind of "He's-done-it-all" realization that will define the weight and worth of our lives. Our help and salvation, all the goodness, all that has held purpose and worthiness and true value - all of it - has come only from His hand. "You, O Lord, have done it!" Today, let's delight to believe that.
"Since, then, I heard of this faith of yours in the Lord Jesus and the practical way in which you are expressing it towards fellow-Christians, I thank God continually for you and I never give up praying for you; and this is my prayer. That God, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ and the all-glorious Father, will give you spiritual wisdom and the insight to know more of him: that you may receive that inner illumination of the spirit which will make you realize how great is the hope to which he is calling you — the magnificence and splendor of the inheritance promised to us — and how tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God." Ephesians 1:15-19
What a wonderful trio of goals for our day today:
1. To know more and more of Jesus
2. To realize how great is our hope and inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven
3. To walk in the power available to us by His Spirit
Shall we give these a try today?
Hebrews 12:4-6 - "Your fight against sin has not yet meant the shedding of blood, and you have perhaps lost sight of that piece of advice which reminds you of your sonship in God:
‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by him;
for whom the Lord loves he chastens,
and scourges every son whom he receives.'"
With these words, the writer of Hebrews switches gears from talking about the joy of Jesus that carried Him through the cross to now talking about the day-by-day practicalities of our fighting for our own belief. And immediately he lands upon our first, and probably most major, stumbling-block: suffering.
Has anyone reading this ever gone through something hard? (Okay, so we're all perfectly aware of what he'll be talking about...)
But typically - and it doesn't matter what scale, what size, of challenge we're dealing with - when personal hardship comes, we tend to use that circumstance as the lens with which we'll now see God. "Oh, I can't afford to pay that bill" - He must not really be a good provider. "Oh, we haven't seen healing for that yet" - He must not really be capable of healing.
Yet the writer of Hebrews, in using that quote from Proverbs 3, is challenging us to look through a totally different lens, not at God, but at those circumstances themselves: we are now, he would remind us, the sons and daughters of God; under His constant perfect care.
"Oh, I can't afford to pay that bill" - but He's my Father: perhaps He's currently teaching me to trust Him more fully...
"Oh, we haven't seen healing for that yet" - but He's my Dad: I know He loves me and thinks of my well-being constantly...
And, to say it better than I ever could, let's conclude with my old pal Andrew Murray's thoughts on the subject:
“We often say that temptations that come to us from our position in life, from the struggle to live, from the conduct of our fellow-men, draw us away from God, and are the cause of our falling into sin. But if we only believed that our Redeemer is our Creator! He knows us; He appoints and orders our lot; nothing comes to us but what He has in His hands. He has the power to make our circumstances, however difficult, a heavenly discipline, a gain and a blessing. He has taken them all up into the life-plan He has for us as Redeemer. If we would but believe this, how we should gladly meet every event with the worship of an adoring faith. My Creator, who orders all, is my Redeemer, who blesses all.”
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthews 28:18-20)
“The promise of this beautiful passage is not only fulfilled in the presence of Christ in the heart of the believer, which is a literal and glorious truth, but it is a presence with us. It is more than the spiritual consciousness of the Lord’s indwelling; it is His direct personality and constant companionship with all our life, and His omnipotent cooperation in all our needs. It is the presence of One who has all power in heaven and in earth, and Whose presence means the defeat of every adversary, the solution of every difficulty, the supply of every need.”
A.B. Simpson, The Christ of the Forty Days
"For I have come down from Heaven, not to do what I want, but to do the will of him who sent me. The will of him who sent me is that I should not lose anything of what he has given me, but should raise it up when the last day comes. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and trusts in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up when the last day comes.” John 6:38-40
How often we hear people say, and even say ourselves, "Oh, I wish I knew the Lord's will" for some decision we need to make, or during a crisis, or on a question we’re presently pondering. But in these last two verses, Jesus tells us the Will of God: 1) that He "should not lose anything of what [the Father] has given [Him]" and 2) "that everyone who sees the Son and trusts Him should have eternal life." THE Will of God is to possess and redeem. How stunning!
But did you notice that each of these will-of-God statements is binary: composed of two parts? The first part in each was different, but the second was the same: He will "raise [them] up when the last day comes." The word John uses there for "raise up" means just that - "to raise up" or "raise from the dead" - but it also has a lesser definition that goes beautifully with what we know to be one of the truest definitions of our lives-in-Him: "to produce a witness."
THE Will of God is to possess and redeem, that we might be raised up - raised from the dead, in fact - and produced as witnesses of what we know and have seen of Him.
“But,” you might say to me, “it would still help to know His particular will in this one particular decision I’m trying to make.” Well, here’s your decision-making grid: “I have come down from Heaven, not to do what I want, but to do the will of Him who sent me.” The “wants” of Jesus were nothing when compared to His delighted, intimate, listening, waiting-upon expectation of having the will of God daily revealed to Him. Can’t you see Him out in those lonely places in the pre-dawn hours, simply waiting and receiving word of the Father’s particular will for each particular day?
May it be so for us as well!
“The heart of the Christian faith is simple but quite revolutionary. It is that a man’s relations with God are no longer a matter of obedience to an ‘external’ God, but a willingness to be led by God’s own Spirit within him. Reconciliation with God is made possible by Christ, who is God as well as man, for, to use St. Paul’s words, 'God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.' And it is by believing in a living Spirit within us that we can know the friendship of God and can experience his power and love actually operating within ourselves.”
J.B. Phillips, Good News
"Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see..." Hebrews 11:1
And thus begins the beginning of the most famous "faith chapter" in all the 1,189 chapters in the whole Bible, including, if you read on, practical examples from real human lives. But first - you know me! - I want to take issue with the way, most of the time, we've heard and been taught and internalized the meaning of this very well-known opening verse. Take a read-through again in the Phillips translation and, then, in the NIV:
Yet the way it seems we've heard and understood this verse is at a position of remove, like "faith" is some remote action of shooting hopes out into the unknown darkness. The actual Greek wording would beg to differ, though: consider it:
“Faith is the foundation of the things hoped-for, the proof of things not presently seen.”
I think, oftentimes, we think of "faith" as a means to get somewhere - to peace, to calm, to Heaven - when, in fact, to believe means you've already arrived. Faith is the Heavenly we can hold onto; it's the economy of Life itself; as the King James' captures it so perfectly, it is "the substance" - the tangible, touchable - of what we claim to believe.
For us to first just sit in a room and truly believe what we say we believe about Jesus is the most powerful human activity available to us. All true Christian doings can only proceed from there.
What - and how - do we really believe?
Hebrews 8:3 - "Every High Priest is appointed to offer gifts and make sacrifices. It follows, therefore, that in these [heavenly] holy places Jesus has something that he is offering..."
...which is a logic that made perfect sense to the Hebrew readers of this epistle, but, let's be honest, you and I are not Hebrew readers and, I bet, most of us don't know all the forms and functions of the historical High Priests of Israel. Beyond, say, the Day of Atonement and the regularly-offered sin offerings, do you know what a High Priest's main duties and responsibilities were? Because, if they're a representation of what Jesus is now perfectly up to on our behalf, I'd sure like to know what those duties were and are...
Well, in doing some research this week, I think I found the full list of all that they did. And wow! do they delight my heart in what Jesus is up to for me!
Here we go...
I. The High Priest conducted the service on the Day of Atonement and entered the Holy of Holies (Leviticus 16 & Exodus 30) – which, as it pertains to Jesus, I'll leave for further thoughts from Hebrews 9 & 10 - there's just too much for right now!
II. The High Priest offered continual sin offerings not only for the sins of the whole congregation, but also for himself (Leviticus 4) – which, with Jesus, was unnecessary: He Himself was perfect; and His one perfect offering – Himself! – covers all our sin for all time, end of story.
III. The High Priest was the mediator between God and the people (Numbers 16:20-22) – wherein, as Hebrews 7 said of Jesus, “he is always living to intercede on our behalf” – in fact, He has probably turned to the Father half a dozen times over the last few minutes to explain you and me – and our faults – to Him!
IV. The High Priest was charged with the responsibility of pronouncing blessings over the people (Numbers 6:22-27) – which, with Jesus, would seem to be one of His highest and favorite works toward us, as He is Himself the best and greatest Blessing – a living alive Blessing! – that mankind has ever received.
V. The people could go to the High Priest in order to know the will of God, (ie. the Urim & Thummim) (Moses, Numbers 27:21) – which Jesus now reveals to us – anytime we ask! – by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) and by His bestowal of the “thoughts of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2) within our minds.
VI. The High Priest oversaw the responsibilities of all the other priests (Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 19:11) – which, since we are now the new “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2) for the Kingdom of Heaven, means that we are directly under His perfect, ever-helpful oversight.
VII. The High Priest offered a meal-offering every morning and evening for himself and the whole body of the priesthood (Leviticus 6) – of which, perhaps, Jesus was thinking when He said, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6) and then “Do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6), ie. He will take care of tomorrow!
VIII. The High Priest kept guard over the sanctuary (Numbers 18) – and Jesus’ "sanctuary" is now both the Throneroom of Heaven and your inner life: It is His work within you that matters most toward your experience of being made new.
IX. And – (and how good is this?!) - when a High Priest died, all those in the cities of refuge were granted freedom (Numbers 35:28) – and it is by Jesus’ death that, once and for all time, we WERE and ARE and FOREVERMORE SHALL BE free!
I think this is just a beginning of the flavor of the activities and blessings and offerings that Jesus is engaged with - on our behalf - in the presence of the Father right now, today. And isn't that all pretty wonderful?
"Now to sum up — we have an ideal High Priest such as has been described above. He has taken his seat on the right hand of the heavenly majesty. He is the minister of the sanctuary and of the real tabernacle — that is the one God has set up and not man." Hebrews 8:1,2
Right now, even as you're arranging your attentions to focus on Jesus via these words, He is there, sitting at the right hand of the Father, minister of the sanctuary and of the real tabernacle, and He is totally and intently focused on you. He is ever at work. And yet He is steadfast, seated, in firm control.
So, following the opening words of this chapter, let us "sum up" - and be reminded of - all that has been described of our High Priest to this point in Hebrews. To do that, I've gone back and collated every single High Priestly description from Hebrews 1-7, and then shifted them from the third person to the second to make them all the more personal. If you have the time today, let these act as a prayer from your heart to His...
Jesus, it was imperative that you should be made like us in nature, since you were to become a High Priest both compassionate and faithful in the things of God, and at the same time able to make atonement for my – and for our – sins. For by virtue of your own suffering under temptation, you are now able to help us who are exposed to temptation… We meditate on you, the messenger and High Priest of the faith we hold, Lord Jesus. We see you as faithful to the charge your Father gave you…
Jesus, seeing that we have a great High Priest who entered the inmost Heaven – you! the Son of God! – help us hold firmly to our faith. For you are not some superhuman High Priest to whom are weaknesses are unintelligible – you yourself have shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that you never sinned. We will therefore approach your throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive – from you, Jesus! – mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need…
Jesus, you did not choose for yourself the glory of being High Priest, but you were honored by the One who said: ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’… When you had been proved the perfect Son by your death for us on the Cross, you became the source of eternal salvation to all who desire to obey you, being now recognized by your Father Himself as High Priest ‘after the order of Melchizedek…’
Jesus, by two utterly immutable things, the word of God and the oath of God, who cannot lie, we who are refugees from this dying world now have a source of strength, and can grasp the hope that you are holding out to us. This hope we hold as the utterly reliable anchor for our souls, fixed in the very certainty of your Father in Heaven, where you, Jesus, have already entered on our behalf, having become, as we have learned, ‘High Priest for ever…’
Jesus, you who are described as our High Priest belonged to another tribe of Israel, no member of which had ever attended the altar! It is a matter of history that you were a descendant of Judah… You derived your priesthood not by virtue of a command imposed from outside, but from the power of indestructible life within… Quite plainly, Jesus, there is a definite cancellation of the previous commandment because of its ineffectiveness and uselessness – the Law was incapable of bringing anyone to real maturity – followed by the introduction of your better hope, through which we approach your Father. Yes, you mean a ‘better’ hope for us, Jesus, because you have become our priest by the oath of God…
Jesus, because you live forever, you possess a priesthood that needs no successor. This means that you can save fully and completely we who approach your Father through you, for you are always living to intercede on our behalf. You are the High Priest we need. A Man who is holy, faultless, unstained, beyond the very reach of sin and lifted to the very Heavens. There is no need for you, like the High Priests of the past, to offer up sacrifice, first for your own sins and then for the people’s. You made one sacrifice, once for all, when you offered up yourself… The word of the oath, which came after the Law, makes for High Priest you Jesus, the Son, who is perfect forever!
"By two utterly immutable things, the word of God and the oath of God, who cannot lie, we who are refugees from this dying world may have a source of strength, and may grasp the hope that he holds out to us. This hope we hold as the utterly reliable anchor for our souls, fixed in the very certainty of God himself in Heaven, where Jesus has already entered on our behalf, having become, as we have seen, 'High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.'" Hebrews 6:18-20
Let me do my best to paint the picture of what is being said here. Jesus, the Word and Oath of God incarnate, having lived and died for our sakes, tore the curtain between God and men, men and God, forever. Then, in rising from the dead, He showed us the unending power of the new and resurrected life that is now ours, and, in ascending to the Father, He lifted our life to Heaven. No separation now exists between Heaven and earth. Jesus is the Way, the Door, the Go-between...
And so, in bursting back through the doors of the Throneroom of Heaven, in re-approaching His Father upon the throne, it was as if He carried all our hope, our certainty, our belief, under His arm. And, in retaking His seat next to the Father, in their shared smile of acknowledgment that "It is finished," it was as if Jesus hooked the arms of the Anchor of our Hope firmly around the legs of His throne...
Do you and I always have grounds for hope? Why, yes! We have our Friend, our Teacher, our Savior, alive, upon the very Throne of Heaven. Do you and I always have grounds for an audacious certainty in this life? Why, yes! Our hope is hooked like an anchor to Jesus Himself.
My friends, as we prepare to start another month, do you see Him there, watching you, loving you?
You and I never lack for anything - especially hope - when our hope is in this Man, a Man we know and love, a Man who is God, the One we know as Jesus.
"Let us leave behind the elementary teaching about Christ and go forward to adult understanding. Let us not lay over and over again the foundation truths — repentance from the deeds which led to death, believing in God, baptism and laying-on of hands, belief in the life to come and the final judgment. No, if God allows, let us go on." (Hebrews 6:1-3)
Following hard on the heels of Chapter 5's closing tongue-lashing, we now get this: A charge to stop, in the Church, always talking about the original stuff - and did you catch this? - the "original stuff" is essentially the Gospel! And let me say this too: If these three verses weren't set here in stone in the New Testament canon, there would be plenty of voices all too happy to say that this writer must be some kind of heretic.
But he's not. He simply knows that it is impossible to transact with the living Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit and stay as you are, stay in the same conversations. Jesus is the Way. The Way is movement. We must move.
But we can read those verses and think - let's be honest: "But where are we supposed to go? What's next?"
Well, if we tweak every clause within those three verses and consider what might follow each aspect - sort of the inverse, converse, or contrapositive of each part - I think we get a pretty clear picture of what we're supposed to be after. Give it a read:
“Let us go toward the advanced teaching about Christ and leave behind the childish understanding. Let us build the house that rises from the foundation truths — accepting the holiness and deathlessness fully acquired at the hour of our repentance; believing God for the fullness of His promises, not just for our basic salvation; receiving our totally new life and living only from it; operating only in the power of the Holy Spirit, experiencing the life of Heaven now and not only after death; and living as those utterly free from judgment so that we might set about the rescue of those presently enwrapped by judgment. Yes, since God allows, let us stand firm.”
But we can read those words and think: "Yeah, but that sounds pretty intense, pretty costly; aren't I just as much a child of God if I just kinda stay put?"
But I want to give you an image that was given to me by a friend, years ago, of the difference we're talking about:
Imagine two sons of a king, one a man, one a little boy. Both are equally, deeply loved and cherished by their father; both sit with him at his banquet table as princes...
But when the enemy comes and lays siege to that castle, the little one is stowed away in a cupboard, and the older one is told, "Go put on your armor."
That's the difference we're talking about.
The question is: What kind of son do you want to be?