“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Hebrews 6:19 (NIV)
Our hope in Christ is like an anchor for the soul. It keeps us firm and secure through the storms of doubt, delay and disaster. Life is challenging but God says we are “ …more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 (NIV) Like an anchor, His love is immovable and holds us firmly on course even when our lives are battered. The writer of Hebrews illustrated that truth in the life of Abraham. In verse 15, he tells us “Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.” When you do the math, Abraham was 75 years old when God called him and promised him a son. Isaac was born when he was 100 years old. Twenty-five years is a long time to wait. The time that lapses between when a promise is made and when it is fulfilled is the most challenging. As the years pass doubt creeps in and makes us wonder if we really heard from God. Is He there? When will He fulfill what He promised? What do I do? This is when you experience the anchor that holds you and keeps hope alive because the promise that was made to you was made by God. Verse 18 says, “…it is impossible for God to lie.” Are you experiencing a storm today? Stay tethered to the only hope that can keep you secure and steadfast.
“Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.”
Hebrews 10:25 (CEV)
Church. What does it mean to you? The Bible uses many metaphors to describe it: the family of God, a building, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ and a royal priesthood of believers. Because of what religion has done, institutionalizing church, she has become more synonymous with boring, irrelevant and out-dated. Modernists wonder, What’s the point of church? Even many confessed Christ followers have fallen away and lost connection with the church today. Apparently, this was not an uncommon issue. The writer of Hebrews challenges Christ followers to realign their priorities and consider the value of church in their lives as a place to worship in community with fellow believers, encouraging each other to love and service. We need that today more than ever in our culture. We need the church. It’s vital to our spiritual health and purpose to share God’s love to a broken world. One translation puts it like this: “…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some….” That phrase “the assembling of ourselves together” pictures how parts make up a whole when they are put together. You can have all the parts to a bicycle in a box but you’ll never be able to ride it until it is assembled. Disassembled, we have potential; but we will never realize that potential until we are assembled together with other Christ followers in the common vision to which Christ has called us. If you’ve gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, rediscover the value of church this weekend. Shift your focus from seeking a church to meet your needs to worshipping the only one worthy of all our praise. Then look for ways God may want to use you to encourage others.
“Jesus replied, ‘The truth of the matter is that you want to be with Me because I fed you, not because you believe in Me.’”
John 6:26 (LB)
Do you follow Christ for the benefits or because you believe in Him? Sins forgiven, a clear conscience and a home in heaven appeal to our own sense of self-preservation. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it falls short of what Jesus was really seeking when He came to save that which was lost. His mission was to restore our relationship with God. “I am the way…No one can come to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus seeks a commitment from us that is far deeper than a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude. In the first part of John 6, the Gospel writer tells us, “A huge crowd kept following Him wherever He went, because they saw His miraculous signs as He healed the sick.” (Vs. 2-3 NLT) By verse 26, they had all been fed with Christ’s miraculous feeding of the 5,000. Who doesn’t enjoy a free meal and a show? Jesus knew their hearts. Even though they crossed to the other side of the lake to find Christ the next day, He spoke to the real motive in their hearts. “The truth of the matter is that you want to be with Me because I fed you, not because you believe in Me.” (Vs. 26) One person explained it like this, “As you follow our Lord’s ministry in John’s Gospel, you see Him moving gradually out of the bright light of popularity and into the dark shadows of rejection. At the beginning, it was easy for people to follow the crowd and watch His miracles. But then His words began to penetrate hearts with conviction following; and conviction leads either to conversion or opposition…People who want His works but not His Word can never share His life.” Like them, miracles attract us. What reasonable person wouldn’t want eternal life and sins forgiven? But how many are willing to seek the Giver alone? Faith in Jesus goes deeper.
Once it was the blessing,
Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling,
Now it is His Word;
Once His gift I wanted,
Now, the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing,
Now Himself alone.
“The person who sins is the one who will die.”
Ezekiel 18:20a (NLT)
People who take personal responsibility for their own choices are a rare breed today. Since we are all part of the Adam’s family, it’s easy to pass the buck and blame others, our circumstances or whatever we can find to shift the responsibility somewhere else. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. Who are you blaming for your present situation? In Ezekiel’s day, many of God’s people were in trouble. Like him, many had been deported from Jerusalem and were living in captivity in Babylon. It was only a matter of time before the final blow would come and Jerusalem would be completely defeated, the Temple destroyed and the city burned to the ground. Those who survived were trying to deal with how and why it all happened. Many came to the conclusion that they were being punished for the sins of their ancestors and not their own. They thought this way because of their understanding of the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:5 said, “…I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.” That belief led to fatalism and irresponsibility. Rather than looking at their own choices, they settled into the belief that it was the problem of those who came before them; and there was nothing they could do about it. Recognizing their error, Ezekiel gave God’s new policy because the people had misunderstood the old one. The reality was that although they were affected by the decisions and behavior of those before them, God would judge each person individually. Even today, we may suffer for the sins committed by others who came before us, but God does not punish us for someone else’s sins. Each person is accountable to God for his or her own life. On the flip side, there were those prior to the final destruction of Jerusalem that thought God would never judge their sin since they were the people of God and possessed the Temple of God. They thought that because of their righteous ancestors and the blessings God had given them that they could do whatever they chose with no consequence and used that as an excuse for disobeying God. To both groups God said, “The person who sins is the one who will die.” Ezekiel 18:4, 20 (NLT) If they would only take responsibility and turn to God for forgiveness, they would have hope and a new beginning. God’s appeal couldn’t have been more clear. “…Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live!” Ezekiel 18:30-32 (NLT) Isn’t that true for us today? Responsibility is really “responding to His ability” to forgive us and give us that new heart and new spirit.
“… I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation ….” 2 Corinthians 6:2b (NIV)
If Publishers Clearing House came to your door with a multi-million dollar check made out to you, how long would it take you to cash it? Would you shut the door in their face and reject the money? More than likely, you would welcome them into your home no matter how messy it was. You wouldn’t think about putting them off and asking them to return at a more convenient time, would you? Maybe you’re thinking, “It would be my luck that they had the wrong address!” God has an offer worth far more than all the money you could ever win. The prize He offers is eternal life in His Son! Forgiveness of sin! No condemnation now or in eternity. Salvation from the judgment we deserve. He offers us mercy and grace. Mercy is not receiving the punishment we deserve. Grace is receiving the blessings we don’t deserve! And when is that offer made? Look at our verse today. Two times the Bible says, “Now…” “…Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” God’s favor is another way of saying grace. And the day of salvation is another way of saying mercy. That is an offer too good to refuse. So, what are you waiting for? Now is the time. Today is the day. If you’ve never settled it, do it now! Pause in prayer right now and ask Jesus to forgive your sin. Receive His offer of mercy and grace. Experience the joy of sins forgiven and the promise of a home in heaven! You say, “But, I don’t deserve it.” Come on. Is that what you would say to Publishers Clearing House? I don’t think so. Besides, that’s why they call it mercy. If we deserved it, it wouldn’t be mercy, would it? The real issue is often fear. We’re afraid of what God may want, how it may change our lives or what we may become. Exchanging our sin for His grace opens the door for an intimate and personal relationship with the God who loves you. He’s knocking at your door today. Will you let Him in? Do it now. What are you waiting for?