Our Thoughts on Jesus
A great encouragement in difficult times is
to understand Christ's willingness to help us, and his faithfulness to
us in those times. In the previous chapters of Hebrews the writer has emphasized
the superiority of Christ. His birth as God's Son makes him far superior
to men and angels. It is Christ's superiority that makes his faithfulness
to God and us important. It is no lamb on the altar; it is Christ--God's
Son. The final verses of chapter 2 help us understand that Christ suffered
when he was tempted. His suffering enables him to help those who are suffering
with temptations. In chapter 3 the writer speaks of Christ faithfulness
to God's house, which is the church. (1 Timothy 3:15)
Therefore, holy brothers, who
share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle
and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed
him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. Jesus has been found
worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has
greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone,
but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in
all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ
is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold
on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. (NIV)
The readers of this letter know how faithful
Moses was to the Hebrews in Egypt and through the wilderness. He laid his
life on the line numerous times. He not only risked his life as he went
before the Pharaoh, he risk his life before the Hebrew slaves when things
went awry. On one occasion when the people had grown tired and weary "Moses
cried out to the LORD, "What am I to do with these people? They are almost
ready to stone me." (Exodus 17:2-4) When Moses feared God would destroy
the Hebrews for making a molten calf he fasted forty days and nights and
prayed to God on their behalf. (Deuteronomy 25:19-25) On another occasion
when God was about to kill the rebellious Hebrews Moses interceded. The
people spoke against God and God sent fiery serpents upon them. Moses interceded
by making a brass serpent and lifting it up so those who look upon the
serpent would live. (Numbers 21) Moses was faithful to the Hebrews even
after God told him he would enter the Promised Land for his personal anger.
The point is that Moses was faithful to them
in the wilderness and so has Christ been faithful to them through death.
Hebrew readers are encouraged to be faithful because of Christ's faithfulness
to them. Christ's faithfulness is a dominant theme in Hebrews.
Keep your lives free from the
love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" Remember
your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of
their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday
and today and forever. (NIV)
The theme of Christ's faithfulness runs throughout
"To the angel of the church
in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true
witness, the ruler of God's creation. (NIV)
I saw heaven standing open
and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and
True. With justice he judges and makes war. (NIV)
God's mercy is a result of his faithful commitment
to salvage our lives from sin. It is through God's faithfulness that he
uses our temptations to discipline us into becoming better Christians.
God's faithfulness is demonstrated to each of us by his willingness to
be faithful to us as we learn from our temptations and failures. His faithfulness
to us is seen in that he is willing to give us wisdom in difficult times.
(James 1:5) His power turns our failures into victories as he enables us
to gain wisdom from the failures, which in turn allows us to develop endurance
for the race.
And you have forgotten that
word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make
light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he
accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as
sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined
(and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children
and not true sons. (NIV)
Fixing Our Thoughts on Jesus Instills Courage
Courage is essential to faithfulness. We gain
the proper courage by fixing our thoughts on Christ. The writer says:
But Christ is faithful as a
son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage
and the hope of which we boast. So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if
you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and
tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with
that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and
they have not known my ways.' So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They
shall never enter my rest.'" (NIV)
Courage is a prerequisite to faithfulness:
Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house,
if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." When
things go awry, if we are not careful, the first thing we lose is our courage.
A loss of courage results in unfaithfulness. We are only a part of God's
house if we hold on to our courage. Fear is the opposite of courage and
it is a foe to faithfulness. It is no accident that "courage" and "fear"
are connected in the writer's thoughts. The lack of either increases the
The Hebrew writer is quoting from Psalms 95:7-11
as he reminds us of the dangers of unbelief. The difficulty's of the children
of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai made them faithless. The story of
the Exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan wasn't a happy story.
There was a long period between the exodus and the conquest of Canaan that
was filled with grumbling, disobedience, and temptation to give up on the
pilgrimage. They refused to see the benefits of their trials. Instead,
they tried God. They refused to obey God.
The Israelites were grumbling at the sight
of Pharaoh's army before they crossed the Red Sea. Their loss of courage
blinded them to the bright hope of God's deliverance.
They said to Moses, "Was it
because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert
to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we
say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would
have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!"
They were grumbling when they were hungry.
In the desert the whole community
grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, "If only
we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat
and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert
to starve this entire assembly to death." (NIV)
They were grumbling when they became thirsty.
So they quarreled with Moses
and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel
with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?" But the people were thirsty
for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, "Why did you
bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die
of thirst?" Then Moses cried out to the LORD, "What am I to do with these
people? They are almost ready to stone me." (NIV)
They turned away from God as God was giving
the Ten Commandments on Sinai.
When the people saw that Moses
was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron
and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow
Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to
him." Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives,
your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me." So all
the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what
they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning
it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought
you up out of Egypt." When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of
the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD."
So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and
presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink
and got up to indulge in revelry. (NIV)
After the law was given they refused to cross
the Jordan River to conquer the land of Canaan.
Joshua son of Nun and Caleb
son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore
their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed
through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us,
he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and
will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid
of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection
is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them." But the whole
assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the LORD appeared
at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites. The LORD said to Moses, "How
long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse
to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed
among them? (NIV)
The story of the Exodus served as a warning
to first century Christians that they must guard their hearts in difficult
times. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to Christian's who thought their initial
salvation guaranteed them that they could never fall.
1 Corinthians 10:11, 12-13
These things happened to them
as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment
of the ages has come . . . So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful
that you don't fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common
to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what
you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out
so that you can stand up under it. (NIV)
Courage will motivate us to look for reasons
to obey. Courage will motivate us to look for the way of escape, which
only God can provide. Fixing our thoughts on Jesus will instill the courage
Fixing Our Thoughts on Jesus Instills Confidence
Fixing our mind on Christ will instill
the confidence we need to overcome. A confident belief that Christ
is in control is the key to courage in difficult times. Just as the prerequisite
to faithfulness is courage, confidence is the prerequisite to courage.
The key to confident living is found in verse one: "Therefore, holy
brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus,
the apostle and high priest whom we confess." It is not confidence
in self and it is not confidence in others, but rather confidence in Christ.
You must fix your focus on Christ because he is far superior to the powers
I keep asking that the God
of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit
of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also
that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know
the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance
in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That
power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ
when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the
heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion,
and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also
in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed
him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness
of him who fills everything in every way. (NIV)
Do you see how much superior Jesus is to Moses?
In his powerful position as conqueror of the forces against us he sympathizes
with us in our weakness. He will never turn his back on us.
"We will never survive in the
midst of adversity unless we discover something reliable and secure on
which we can rely. The church can never live on temporary, fascinating
diversions. How can we base our lives on ideologies, which shift with the
wind?" (2:17) (James Thompson, Strategy for Survival, A Plan for Church
Renewal from Hebrews, Sweet Publishing Company, 1980, Page 36.
The author reminds us that Christ is "merciful
and faithful." The point is that we can place our confidence in
Christ as a result of his mercy and faithfulness to us. He was faithful
to the work God appointed him. He was faithful as spokesman and high priest.
He completed the journey; he reached the goal victorious over our enemies.
If we fix our thoughts on him it will us the confidence we need for victory.
The answer to our frustration is that the
pioneer of our salvation understands the pain, agony and frustration of
the long march. Christ's victory over the world did not begin with a continuous
string of victories. It began with a savior who was tempted to quit in
the presence of adversity. His faithfulness was measured by tests of endurance.
Our confidence comes from his faithfulness
in his trials for us as he died on the cross. It was his faithfulness through
each temptation he faced that enabled him to develop endurance. At the
cross we begin to understand that God's power enables allows our temptations
and failures to become the very things that build our endurance to live
1 Peter 1:6-9
In this you greatly rejoice,
though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds
of trials. These have come so that your faith-- of greater worth than gold,
which perishes even though refined by fire-- may be proved genuine and
may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though
you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him
now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious
joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your
Fixing Our Thoughts on Jesus Instills Hope
Fixing our minds on Christ instills hope.
It is our hope that gives our courage something to hold on to. "But
Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if
we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." Hope
is so essential that Paul says we are saved by hope. (Romans 8:24)
The key to your survival lies in your response
to frustration and disappointment. Much of the imagery of our songs portrays
Christians as pilgrims overlooking the promised land. It is our hope for
the future that keeps us alive. Fixing our eyes on Jesus is the only thing
that can instill during spiritual battles.
"Viktor Frankl observed from
his years in a Nazi prison camp that only those people who believed in
a future had the will to go on in extreme adversity. Despite hunger and
intense pain, even the slightest ray of hope that something awaited them
outside prison gave them amazing endurance." (James Thompson, Strategy
for Survival, A Plan for Church Renewal from Hebrews, Sweet Publishing
Company, 1980, Page 44.)
Fixing Our Thoughts on Jesus Warns Us of
We usually try to remember the victories.
Victories have a tendency to blind us to our defeats. Only in fishing do
we talk about the one that we lost. A golfer can have the worst game of
his life and make a whole in one during that game. What do you think will
be remembered? We remember the victory of the cross, but we forget the
agonizing trail that led to the cross.
We tend to look to Joshua's victories when
he crossed the Jordan River. We may forget that the Israelites wandered
forty years in the wilderness. The psalmist from whom the writer quotes
recalls the tragedies of the wilderness journey. He reminds us of those
who failed to reach God's intended goal for their lives. They discovered
that God was not to be toyed with.
See to it, brothers, that none
of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living
God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so
that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to
share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at
first. As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden
your hearts as you did in the rebellion." Who were they who heard and rebelled?
Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry
for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in
the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest
if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter,
because of their unbelief. (NIV)
There are constant warnings throughout Hebrews
that we had best not trifle with God. The writer issues stern warnings
to encourage us to faithfulness: "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They
shall never enter my rest.'" (3:11) Again in Hebrews 12:15, "See to it
that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to
cause trouble and defile many." "How shall we escape if we neglect such
great salvation?" (2:3) "Our God is a consuming fire." (12:29) He is the
"one with whom we have to do." (4:13) The writer speaks of Esau who "found
no place to repent." (12:17) "Do not refuse him who is speaking." (12:25)
We are reminded that our salvation is conditioned by our response. "We
have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence
we had at first." (3:14) It is a terrible thing to fall into the hand of
God for judgment for our unbelief.
The writer asks five questions in 3:6-18.
He uses questions to answer his questions.
Who were they who heard and rebelled?
Were they not all those Moses led out of
And with whom was he angry for forty years?
Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies
fell in the desert?
And to whom did God swear that they would
never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?
What does this say to us? "So we see
that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief." These
words are addressed to us today. We are on our way to the Promised Land.
We are on a journey filled with doubt and despair, a pilgrimage that is
The words of Jesus echo in our ears.
Then Jesus said to his disciples,
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross
and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever
loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he
gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in
exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's
glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to
what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will
not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
The words of Peter are also echoing
in my ears.
1 Peter 4:16-19
However, if you suffer as a
Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For
it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins
with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel
of God? And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become
of the ungodly and the sinner?" So then, those who suffer according to
God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator
and continue to do good. (NIV)