Great Verse – Hebrews 10:35

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” – Hebrews 10:35

Taken as a simple out-of-context, inspirational quote (like Philippians 4:13 often is), this verse would still mean a lot to people from all walks of life.  But the “confidence” of Hebrews 10:35 does not go hand-in-hand with contemporary notions of self-image or self-esteem–it has nothing to do with being comfortable in our own skin–because this confidence has nothing to do with us.  This is the confidence of Hebrews 10:18-19 that God has considered the offering of Jesus Christ as acceptable so that our sins are forgiven and the pathway to God (through Christ) is open.  We may now enter the holy place through the veil (the body of Jesus) as we are covered by the blood of the sacrifice (the blood of Jesus), and so we can “draw near” (v.22) and “hold fast” (v.23) and not “shrink away” (v.39).  We may live confidently–with all our confidence firmly set on Him–because God has promised with an oath (6:17); it is impossible for God to lie (6:18); Jesus our immortal High Priest continues His ministry forever (7:24); He continually intercedes for us (7:25); and He has offered the once-for-all sacrifice to God, now being seated at the right hand of the Father (10:12).  All of our confidence rests in Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (13:8).  He is sufficient, He is steadfast, and so we can be sure.

How about this: Let’s not throw away our confidence today, whatever may come.

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Good Stuff: If we have to choose…

“If we have to choose between Jesus and Millennials, we choose Jesus.” – Russell Moore,

Amen and amen (even as an older Millennial myself ministering to younger Millennials).

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Trustworthy Statements

Five times the Apostle Paul uses the expression, “It is a trustworthy statement,” exclusively in the pastoral epistles.  In some cases it seems unclear to me what precisely the “trustworthy statement” is, but I have bolded what I believe to be Paul’s trustworthy statement in each case:

  • 1 Timothy 1:15 (The Gospel of Grace) – “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
    I have never considered this verse in its context bedrock foundational statement from a fading mentor to his beloved protégé. “Timothy, regardless of how much longer I am around, never, ever, ever forget that Christ came for sinners–sinners like you and me.”  It may be that the statement Paul is passing along is merely “Christ came into the world to save sinners,” a reminder of the loving mission of Christ to give Himself up for otherwise helpless people–and that the rest of the verse is Paul’s reflection that there is no sinner who needed the mercy of Christ more than he did.  That may be the case, but I prefer to read Paul’s statement as “Christ came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all,” in which the “I” does not refer exclusively to Paul, but to Timothy and to every man who would recite this statement after him.  No one needed the grace of Christ more than I (David) did.  No one on earth.  In its fuller expression, this statement disarms me of bitterness or pride I might feel toward another and leads me to mercy and compassion instead (cue “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”).  I know the depths of my own sin more than that of anyone else on earth, and so truthfully I confess with Paul that no one on earth is more unworthy of the grace of Christ than I am.  And yet the truth remains: I am the chief of sinners, and yet “Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Praise God.
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Ananias/Barnabas, Cain/Abel

Losing the context is a dangerous thing, as is making a text of Scripture say something it was never intended to say.  Uzzah falling dead after attempting to stabilize the Ark of the Covenant comes to mind.  All the guy did was attempt to steady it as it was being carted across some difficult terrain.  Seems a bit harsh.  But given the broader Biblical context of the holiness of God and His instructions regarding the transportation of the ark (it was to be carried by poles on the shoulders of priests, not wheeled around on a cart out of mere convenience), Uzzah’s death stands as God’s judgment on David’s casual parade.

This brings us to a similar passage in the Book of Acts, where Ananias and Sapphira fall dead after laying an offering at the feet of the apostles.  Context is crucial here.  The church at Jerusalem was filled with common poor people.  Some members of the church were of some standing and holding some property.  The conviction among the church was that those who were of means should give up their means to ameliorate the poverty and hunger of their poorer brothers, in keeping with what John would later write: “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in Him (1 John 3:17)?”

An interesting aspect of this passage to me is that it stands as a New Testament parallel to an Old Testament story.  Barnabas gives a gift, and Ananias and Sapphira give a gift.  The difference in their gifts is that while Barnabas sold a piece of land and presented the entire sum to the church, Ananias (“with his wife’s full knowledge”) brought a portion of the sale price to offer to the church.  What made it particularly wrong is that he misrepresented his offering before the apostles.  It’s not necessarily that bringing a portion of the proceeds from a sale as a contribution toward the church is wrong; it is certainly wrong to sell a piece of land, bring in a portion of the proceeds, and present that offering as the whole receipt on the sale of land.  With this in mind, think back to Cain and Abel in Genesis 4.  Each brother brought something of his produce to offer to the Lord, Cain from his crops and Abel from his flocks.  The difference in their offerings was that Abel brought “from the firstlings of his flock and their fat portions (i.e. the good stuff).” An equivalent offering from Cain would have been the firstfruits of his harvest.  It’s very clear that this is not what Cain brought; rather than bringing his best, he brought what he was willing to spare.  Ananias is Cain; Barnabas is Abel.  One set laid the leftovers at the feet of God and found their offerings rejected; the other brought the very best they had to offer and found their offerings acceptable before God.

These accounts ought to inform us in the way they we present our offerings (money, time, commitments, energy, passions, etc.).  Perhaps inform is too flippant a verb.  These stories ought to instill in an awestruck humility toward God’s holiness, leading us to take a more calculated, wholehearted, worshipful mindset toward our offerings to God.  That’s really what it comes down to: Do I write a check to my church each month because I know I’m supposed to, and maybe I can fudge the numbers a little, or Do I come each month with my offering in hand in hope of presenting an acceptable and pleasing offering to God?  Do I approach my work that way?  Do I approach the rest of my life this way?

Some goals to strive for: Wholeheartedness; single-mindedness; an all-encompassing, holistic approach to the concept of worship; an earnest desire for the glory of God.

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They’ve Been with Jesus

I’m reading through Acts today (a book I don’t spend nearly enough time in, it seems), and I’ve come across a verse that has cut me pretty deeply:

Now as [the leading Jews] observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

At various points in my life, I have considered different verses as life-defining verses for me–Philippians 4:13 as a young teen, Galatians 2:20 as an older teen, Psalm 37:4 in college, 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 a bit later, and Romans 5:8 more recently (among other verses at various times).  It may be time for me to switch again.  Acts 4:13 fits me so aptly for where I am and what I’m doing right now, as a youth/music minister in a small church with ample study and reflection time in my work week.  I really want this testimony about Peter and John to be true of me as well: Whatever training, studying, thinking, or learning he may have done, it is clear that this young man has been with Jesus.  As 2 Corinthians 2 hits on, I want it to be so manifest that I have spent ample time deep in fellowship with Jesus that I take on this aroma of Christ, everywhere I go spreading the knowledge of the Son of God–death to some, and life to others.  That’s the prayer today, for me and for you, that our fellowship with Jesus will become unmistakable in our daily lives.

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