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By Bob Cowles 16 Sep, 2017

(Basic Beliefs)

The biblical basis for our series is suggested by the first Letter of Peter: "Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence" (1 Pet 3:15). That passage says to me that a Christian ought to know what he believes and why he believes it.

 

The apostles had a conviction which made them willing to place their lives in jeopardy. Paul described himself as set for the defense of the gospel (Phil 1:16). In the first century, beliefs made a difference. The people of Beroea searched the scriptures daily to see if what Paul was telling them was true (Acts 17:11).  

 

Jude in his letter urges his readers "to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). If one has no firm convictions, how is he going to do that? Paul, as an apostle, was proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy (Gal 1:23). At the end, he could claim that he had kept the faith (2 Tim 4:7). That is, there was something that could be called "the faith." Paul warned of times when people would not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they would accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires and would turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths (2 Tim 4:3-4).

 

The first Letter of John admonishes, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:32). The implication is that falsehood believed does not make one free.

 

There are things to be believed, commands to be obeyed, and promises to be received. There is great need for teaching on what various sorts of service one as a servant is obligated to render. There is a need for teaching on various aspects of worshiping God. We need teaching that will make real to us the corrupting power of sin! How we need to be persuaded that the world to come is more valuable than this world in which we live with all its glitter!

 

There is also the problem of the erosion of belief. When one feels that he has become more broadminded, he needs to ask whether he has indeed become more broadminded or whether his conscience merely has stretched. A person in the modern world has his faith and convictions continuously bombarded. With all this, it is easy to forget that teaching ourselves and persuading others what to believe is essential. Reformations start with convictions of truth, conviction that truth has been abused, and conviction that truth has been neglected.

 

I am not suggesting by this series that I suppose that we are not instructed on the various topics that will be covered. It is more like what is suggested in the first Letter of John. John says that he is not writing because the reader does not know the truth, but because he knows it (1 John 2:21). Our rate of forgetting is very high. What we knew well gets away from us. So if in the series we cover a subject that we all know, we can just count that as review. 
By Bob Cowles 07 Sep, 2017

Hebrews 13:1-25

Chapter 13 marks a change in tone. A letter that has brought us to the heights of the glory of Jesus Christ ends with down-­to-earth instructions. As we come to the close of Hebrews, let us remember that we will truly profit from our study if we are able to put it in our daily lives.

Practical Exhortations (13:1-6 )

The chapter begins with a series of exhortations. Since love is so basic, it is first on the list. "Let brotherly love continue." As the readers had displayed love toward one another in the past (6:10; 10:33-34), so now they are urged to maintain that love.

One practical expression of love is hospitality. "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers" (v. 2). Hospi­tality was regarded as an honored virtue in the ancient world. Because Jesus taught the reception of strangers (Matt. 25:35), hospitality became a distinguishing mark for his disciples and was to be extended especially to trav­eling Christians and evangelists (Rom. 12:13;1 Peter 4:9; 3 John 5-8).

Another expression of love, also exalted by Jesus (Matt. 25:36), is the care of prisoners. "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them" (v 3). Timothy had recently been released (13:23), and the readers are to see about the needs of others who remained in prison. Strangers might visibly appear at their doors for help, but prisoners were out of sight and must not be forgotten. "As though in prison with them" suggests the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12), the disposition Christians should always have toward others. A similar spirit must be shown to those who are mistreated, the author says, "as if you your­selves were suffering" (NIV).

Brotherly love that is genuine rules out marital infidelity. "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the mar­riage bed be undefiled" (v 4). Marriage is to be hon­ored. But sexual promiscuity will bring judgment that comes from God himself.

Selfishness may express itself in immorality or in greed. "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have" (v 5). Living by faith demands a dif­ferent attitude toward earthly things. Money is not an end in itself, and craving for it causes many pitfalls. The admo­nition here is very similar to Paul's pointed instructions about wealth and contentment (see 1 Tim. 6:6-10; cf. Phil. 4:11).

But does contentment mean absence of ambition and economic stagnation? The answer is that contentment is an attitude of mind made possible by a determined trust in God. And what has God said? "I will never fail you nor forsake you" (v 5). This promise was first made to Israel and to Joshua when Moses was about to be parted from them and then restated to Joshua as he was beginning his victorious campaigns (Deut. 31:6, 8; Josh. 1:5).

Because of God's unfailing presence, the believer can courageously say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?" The words, from Psalm 118:6, apply with special force to the readers who were face to face with persecution. If they maintain God as their strength, that will be enough to carry them through. 
By Bob Cowles 01 Sep, 2017

Hebrews 12:14-29


For those who are disheartened, there is a negative prospect to consider for anyone who turns back from the journey. The stakes are too high. We must not turn back. Hebrews 12:14-29 is the conclusion of the sermon. It is the Hebrew writer’s final attempt to persuade his people that they should not turn back from the path they have chosen. They should continue in faith and persevere in the race. They should follow Jesus to the end.

This section divides as a theological exposition (Hebrews 12:18-24) between two strong exhortations with warnings of judgment (Hebrews 12:14-17 and 12:25-29). The warnings are the Hebrew writer’s last attempt to stave off apostasy in the community. His exposition is his last major attempt to encourage perseverance in faith by pointing the church to the reality that Christ has won for them.

1. Exhortation (Hebrews 12:14-17).

Though the community will experience persecution, the preacher appeals to them to live in peace with everyone as much as they can. This is not simply peace within the community of believers, but also to seek peace with the hostile environment in which they live. Peace is the way of holiness, and the church must seek holiness, as it is the way it shares God’s life that is holy.

But more specifically, the preacher is concerned that some will turn away and apostatize. They will trade their inheritance for the comfort of “peace” with their neighbors. We are always in danger of trading our future with God for the comfort of the present (whether it is the comfort of materialism, or the comfort of “getting along” with those who oppose our values). The people of God have a tendency to compromise their values for the sake of comfort. We don’t want to seek peace with those around us in the wrong way—in a way the compromises our values or that creates bitterness within the community of God. Seek peace, but don’t compromise holiness. Seek peace, but don’t give up your eternal inheritance for temporary comforts here. Esau is the preacher’s example of this thing.


2. Exposition of the Spiritual Reality (Hebrews 12:18-24)

Hebrews 12:18-24 is a contrast between the experience of God’s presence at Sinai and the experience of God’s presence now. Christians experience God as gathered in his throne room, and this foretaste of the future is experienced in the communal gathering of God’s people.

 

3. Exhortation (Hebrews 12:25-29).

God has spoken through his Son (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2). God has spoken through the blood of Christ (Hebrews 12:24). If we refuse this divine speaking, there is nothing but judgment left. If Israel refused the Sinaitic divine speaking and did not escape judgment, how much less will the church escape God’s judgment if we refuse his speaking through his Son?

The exhortations are fundamentally calls to perseverance. Don’t give up; don’t miss the grace of God; don’t refuse God’s gracious offer. When the offer is rejected, there is nothing else left but judgment. God is a consuming fire and when we lose our inheritance rights, we will experience God’s fire.

An Encouraging Word?

We have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. We have a faith that is purified, not destroyed, by fire. We react to the gift of that unshakable kingdom by worshipping God.

 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

(Hebrews 12:28-29)

 

Reverence... Awe... Fear... This is how we approach God. Not just fear of a punishing fire, but respect for the fire that disciplines and refines us. We serve a God we cannot control. We dare not try to manipulate him. Instead, we fall at his feet, unworthy and unclean. He sends his fire to cleanse us. He raises us to our feet to worship, adore, and serve him forever. We burn with the fire of his love.

By Bob Cowles 25 Aug, 2017

Hebrews 12:1-13

 

The Hebrew writer has some in his audience who are suffering. In addition to all these they were having to face persecution for their faith. Some of them would be forced either to abandon their faith or to die as martyrs for the sake of Jesus! The stakes were high.

 

There is nothing new about this perspective on suffering, but it is one that needs to be named and held to in our times of greatest struggle. Paul, for example, wrote this: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom.8:28).

 

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. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it ( 12:7-11 ).


Suffering for one’s faith is not pleasant while it is going on, but it yields an outcome that puts it in perspective. Hear Paul again: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom.8:18). And hear James as well: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials [troubles, tests, RS ] of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. . . . When tempted [to sin, RS ], no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (Jas.1:3-4,13).

One thing is certain: The point of God’s discipline in our lives is to salvage, restore, and strengthen, not to shatter and destroy. And the make-or-break factor in turning Satanic assault, a random heartache of the sort life brings to everyone, or an attention-getting act of God in a human life is faith. Trusting God for the fulfillment of his promises brings hope into our dark places and enables us to endure what otherwise would overwhelm us. Failing to trust God, we will surely turn to our own devices that center everything on ourselves and – because of our insufficiency in a hostile world – die in our helplessness.


Summary:
Yes, we learn from the examples of those who have journeyed the faith-path before us. But ultimately we look to Jesus himself. By keep his eye on the goal (i.e., joy set before him), he endured and triumphed. He has become the focal point for our own faith.
By Bob Cowles 19 Aug, 2017

(Hebrews 11:1-40)

 

Why the List of Heroes in Hebrews 11?

Scripture has always taught that God’s people live “by faith.” In the present situation as well, those who will be saved are not the bystanders and onlookers but “those who believe.” And just what does this writer-preacher expect us to understand faith to be? What does he mean by saying, “We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved”?

The Power of Faith

For many people, the church includes people who be­lieve in a story and in a God who is far removed from the real world of their experience. Scientific advances have made God seem more and more remote from the world. Today’s secularism con­cludes that the real world consists of our homes, our land, and those other material items that give us a sense of security.

The sluggishness of the original readers of He­brews was probably the result of a conviction that faith was impossible because they could not see or touch its reality. Frustration set in when the prom­ises were not immediately fulfilled. Perhaps the fact that Christianity had turned out to be a long pilgrimage or a distance run had unsettled their convictions and left them with the feeling that faith had brought no security. Persecution and imprison­ment (10:32-34) had left them at the point of “ fall­ing away ” and “ shrinking back ” (10:39).

The answer to their shrinking spirits, according to Hebrews 11 , is faith. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (11:1). Contrary to the opinion of many today, faith is not a blind leap – taken either from despair that nothing could be worse than our plight at the moment. If others say “I’ll believe it when I see it,” his take on things is that the promises of God are more dependable than anything we can see, figure out, or fathom by our devices.


“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (11:3). Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, and dozens more – these characters from the Hebrew Bible received and trusted the assurances of God. Moses, for example : “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible” (11:27) . For Moses, faith was being more certain of the invisible God than he was frightened of the visible Pharaoh!

Hebrews 11 is an Honor Roll of people whose life stories exemplify the meaning of faith. If Abraham Lincoln and others deserve to have their stories told and retold as part of the definition of American history, so do Noah and Gideon deserve to have theirs held in memory as unwavering children of God. We need persons like Abraham, Daniel (cf. 11:33b), and the widow of Zarephath (cf. 11:35a) for the sake of faith and perseverance. We need heroes to help us find values beyond our­selves.

Conse­quently, the author of Hebrews presents his dis­couraged readers with a roll-call of ancient heroes who had faced their discouragement. All of these heroes exemplify, in one way or another, the defini­tion of Hebrews 11:1 . We have now reached one of the truly outstanding chapters of the Bible, the great and wonderful chapter 11 on faith.

By Bob Cowles 13 Aug, 2017

1 Peter 1:1-9

 

Focus : Peter writes to his readers to remind them of the hope God has given them through the resurrection of Jesus and to take courage from it (3). The living hope is further defined as an inheritance (4). God is using his power to guard Christians until they receive their inheritance (5).

Function : Christians of every generation can take courage because of this hope.

 A newspaper did a follow-up story on some of the prisoners of war who had come back to their homes to resume their lives after captivities in North Vietnam, which had ranged from ten months to eight years. It is interesting to learn what happened to them since their return to this country in the spring of 1973. During the years that have passed since that return, what adjustments had been hardest to make? Had their values and life goals changed from what they had been before their experiences as POWs?

    The story that impressed me most was that of a colonel in the Air Force (Charlie Plumb). He flew 75 combat missions in Viet Nam. On his 75th he was shot down over Hanoi and spent six years in a prison camp. He spent 2,103 days in an 8' by 8' prison cell with no windows or anything to occupy his mind. He reflected on what had kept him going during that or­deal. He spoke of the solitude and terrible loneliness that he felt. “We were forced to spend so many hours and weeks and months and years with nothing to occupy our minds,” he said. How did he survive it? How did he manage to retain his sanity? He said thoughts of coming home to a good family and his faith in God kept him going while he was in exile in prison­. Thoughts of home and faith in God gave that man something to keep up his hope.   It is the same with the Christian and his thoughts of home.

        It is this fixed hope of heaven that has given Christians of every generation the courage they needed to carry on. In the text for today’s lesson, Peter is holding the promise of heaven before the weary eyes of his readers. We would be wise to make sure that thoughts of our heavenly home are in our minds at all times. How beautiful are the thoughts of home and Jesus! How strong they can make us when we are being pressed hard to yield our faith!

 It is important for us to understand what hope is in the biblical sense of the word. Hope is defined as "desire, with the expectation of getting what is desired." Notice hope is not just desire; it also involves an expectation that you’ll get what you want. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 5:1-2 (NIV): “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” As Christians, we rejoice in hope.

 There are times that life can become very difficult and we may think that things can’t possibly get any better. But I’m here to share with you this morning that, no matter how bad things get, there is hope in Jesus Christ.

 Engaging the World with Hope

            The time has never called for more courage, faith, commitment, and hope in the world in which we live than today. The world needs the good news of Jesus Christ. The world is filled with lost people, and our role is taking the good new to them.

In “ Telling the Truth Fredrick Beakner describes a scene that unfolds on any given Sunday, in any given church almost anywhere. “The preacher mounts the steps to the pulpit. He looks out on the congregation and there they are. Everyone has his or her own problems do deal with. Everyone is listening. What will the preacher tell them?”

Brian Wilkerson in a sermon “ What the World Needs Now ” adds these words, “What words from the Bible can speak to us today where we are?” As we contemplate our issues there are others going through the same thing over and over again.

But it extends beyond the walls of our building. There is a crying need for hope, not only among our people, but also for people in the world. They need some expectation and joy in their life. Think about some of the people that you have crossed paths with over the last few weeks. Some have had problems and tragedies to deal with. Some are just about ready to give up hope.

There are people who are facing insurmountable problems and are wondering is there is any hope that can give some meaning or purpose to their life. Can God become more real to them instead of some distant thought? As we look around the world, we see the terrorism that threatens us. We wonder about the safety for ourselves and for our children in the future. We send our children off to school, and we know the drug culture that surrounds them. We are aware of the moral decline of our culture and the violence that is present even in our schools and streets.

We wonder as we open our Bibles and as we assemble on Sunday morning, “Is there a word of hope in a world like ours?”   In answer to the question, we would have to say the word “yes there is a word of hope.” Lewis Smedes saw a billboard that said “ Don’t give up hope .” In a city like L.A. you wonder how many thousands of people are on the brink of giving up hope.

Hope is that word that gives relief, strength, endurance, and courage to go forward. It is not just a word that provides motivation. It is a word that provides healing for the soul and purpose for life. There was some research that was done on 122 cardiac patients. These 122 men had their lives tracked for several years after their heart attack. They were evaluated with the degree of hopefulness that they possessed and the degree of pessimism that they were experiencing. When they examined the 122 men, they found of the 25 most pessimistic 21 died over the next eight years. They found of the 25 most optimistic only 6 of them died over the next eight years. The loss of hope increased their demise 300%. It predicted their deaths more accurately than their medical risks (high blood pressure, damage to the heart, cholesterol level). The state of their mind was a greater predictor of their death risks than their physical symptoms. John Ortburg recently said regarding these statistics, “ It would be better to eat Twinkies and have hope, than to eat broccoli and have despair .”

We all have to agree that hope is a very powerful thing. It can heal the soul. It can motivate a life. There are those who come to a preacher’s office and share their struggles and when they learn there is hope, they are better able to deal with what comes their way. God can be at work in your life. Things can be better than they are now. You need to commit yourself to a process of healing and help. When you let God be at work in your life, things can be different. People will get a lifted spirit, when they realize there is hope.

The early Christians needed hope too. That is a big part of what the first epistle of Peter was all about. Here were Christians about the year 63 A.D. in Asia Minor. They were far from Jerusalem where the church was first born. Christians were surround by a pagan culture and environment. They were removed about 30 years from Jesus’ ascension back to heaven. They were anticipating his return, but they were wondering if they were not in it for the long haul. Here is a group of Christians in the midst of opposition. Jews saw these Christians as heretics. Romans saw them as a threat. Peter writes this letter to scattered, beleaguered believers. They were struggling with their faith. They were experiencing opposition and suffering persecution. They are looking for a hopeful word that can carry them through the difficult times and help them be faithful to God.

As Peter begins to write to them, he begins with these words, “ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3). It is in the midst of this backdrop on a stage that could be filled with hopelessness that Peter begins with optimistic and hopeful words. Peter gives praise to God and he speaks of the mercy of God. Peter talks about a living hope that predominates in life and carries them in a relationship with God. As they first heard those words, they have wondered “praise” and “hope” in a world like ours. How can there be optimism? Has he read the paper lately? Has he seen the news? Has he not seen the insurmountable obstacles that we are all facing? Does he know what I am going through?

People in our world need real hope and that is what Peter is reminding them of. He is not talking about a vague wish or a distant desire. He is not thinking of hope in the sense of wistful, hopeful could it be? It is more than “I wish” or “I long for.” Biblical hope is always an expectation. It carries a sense of certainty. There is a sure thing for us and for our churches and for our community and world. Peter affirms loudly for them a living hope and that hope is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter’s word to them is about future. It is always a discouraging thing when we have lost our hope for the future. Many times we get overwhelmed with the problems of the present and stuck in the problems of the past. When we have lost our hope of the future, we have lost our will to go on and our capacity to see possibilities, to dream new dreams, and to see things on the new horizon. We have a calling to walk into the future with confidence to accomplish things for God that will truly make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others.

What is it in the gospel that provides that kind of hopeful outlook on life? It can carry us, heal us, and motivate us. I want to highlight three things from 1 Peter 1 about this living hope.

 

I. The Future Is Bright. (1:1-3)

The first thing I want us to know about Peter’s affirmation is that the future is bright. It is bright because God is offering us new light. In his great mercy he has given us a new birth and a living hope. He talks about the new birth. One is often amazed as we see a congregation that is made up of people from all stages of life. There are those on the one hand that are at the end of life and there are those on the other hand there are welcoming new life into the world. We all know what happens to a family when a newborn is brought into the world. There is new life and hopefulness for the future. It lifts the spirits of everyone involved because a new birth has occurred. This new birth which comes to us when we become children of God is described in verse 2 when he says, “To God’s elect, strangers in the world…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood…” (1 Peter 1:1-2). This new birth has come about a calling and eternal purpose from God. It was not our initiative. It came through his. It came about because of the sanctifying work of the Spirit to purify us and to cleanse us to a holy life and to a new way of life. We encounter a new way of living that changes us forever. We are obedient to God and submit ourselves to his Son Jesus Christ.

We have been given a confidence that we have been cleansed completely from our sins. Our new birth means new beginnings. It means being cleansed from the past and having a changed life and a transformation for the future. Peter knew what that was like as well as anybody. He had experienced the failures of denying the Christ three times in the critical hours before Jesus’ crucifixion. He has experienced the shame to what followed when Jesus went to the cross. It was only after Jesus had appeared and said, “ Peace be unto you ” and affirmed Peter in John 21 did Peter’s life become transformed. Jesus helped Peter to look into his soul and called him to follow him, to lead his sheep, and to lay down his life for his people just as Jesus as did. Jesus was affirming Peter and he transformed his life. This man who was so impulsive and so unstable becomes this powerful minister who writes this letter of hope to God’s elect in a strange land. They have been begotten again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Peter knew the resurrection power that changed and transformed his life. He knew what Jesus’ coming back from the dead had done and his awareness of his relationship with God. He knew the resurrection power that Paul had described in Philippians 3 when Paul said I want to know Jesus and the power of his resurrection . He later on talked about his desire to participate in that resurrection from the dead but he is speaking of that transforming power of resurrection power that was of Christ and he knows it is not by his effort or his power. It comes only from the operative in his life. It was helping him become more than he is transforming him into the image surrender of his spirit to God’s Spirit.

What a joy it is to know that God can take our sins away as far as the east is from the west. Someone has said that we cannot rewrite history, but we can be released from it. Our message to the world is that God is more interested in their future than he is in their past. We too want to be a fellowship of hope, love, and forgiveness, healing for everything that life can bring against them. With all the guilt and sin, Jesus can cleanse, forgive, and give new beginning. He can help us be born again unto a living hope. He can also give us that changed life.

I wonder sometimes in our churches do we really believe in the power of God to change human lives. Do we really believe that God has the power to make a difference in the communities in which we live? Do we believe in the transforming power of the Gospel? Have you observed in your churches where lives have been touched and changed because there is a fellowship of people there who bear the life of Jesus within themselves? Are people drawn to find healing and hope because they see it in the lives of the people there? It is not by our effort. John Wartburger talks about spiritual transformation. “Significant transformation always involves training and not just trying. It involves both God and us. It is like trying to cross an ocean. Some people day after day try to become spiritually mature. That is like trying to take a rowboat across the ocean. It is exhausting and it is completely unsuccessful. Sometimes there is no power in our lives or power in our churches because we are trying to walk in our own strength and on our own power. It is not going to take us very far. Others have given up and have tried to depend solely on God’s grace. They are like drifters on a raft. They hang on and hope that God gets them there so they just drift aimlessly through life. Wartburger reminds us that neither trying nor drifting are effective in bringing about spiritual transformation. A better image is not the rowboat or the raft. It is the sailboat. If it moves at all is a gift of the wind. We cannot control the wind, but a good sailor knows where the wind is and adjusts the sails accordingly. Working with the Holy Spirit, which Jesus likens to the wind in John 3 , we have a part in discerning the wind and knowing the direction we need to go. We adjust our sails in the direction in order to catch the wind that God provides. If the world is going to be hopeful, it is going to be through the power of Christ through his Holy Spirit working in us to draw people to himself and help people to experience the transformation that only he can give.

The future is bright when it is centered on the good news of the Gospel. He can help us to be born again unto a living hope in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

 

II. The Future Is Also Secure. (1:4-5)

            The future is also secure. In 1 Peter 1:4 Peter talks about, “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, 5) who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”  Peter talks about an inheritance and he says it is reserved for you. It is not going to fade away; it is not going to perish. Paul in Philippians 1 says, “ the God who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion .” If you continue to follow God, he will finish what you have begun. Your future can be secure because of the goodness of God.

 Peter opens his first letter with these words: “ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you …” ( 1 Peter 1:3-4, NIV).

 Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we begin to see that God has something better in mind for each of us. You may get sick and die in this life, but if you’re a faithful child of God, you won’t get sick and die in that life. You may have all sorts of hardships in this life, but you won’t have any of them in the next life. The treasures you cling so tightly to right now may get old and fade and rot away, but in the next life it won’t be that way, because we have hope. Hope that says, no matter what we have in this life, there’s something better that waits for us in the next life. One day you’ll be raised from the dead to live with God forever and ever. And the reason that we can have that hope is because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 Peter says that we are kept by the power of God through faith. In Jude 24 “he is able to present us faultless before his throne.”   It is not because of our achievements or our own righteousness, but we are blameless because of his imputed righteousness. Jesus reminds us that as long as we are in his hand no one can snatch us from the Father. We can turn and walk away from him if we choose. As long as we are in Christ (not perfect but faithful) no one can snatch us from the Father’s hand. When there is a sense of security and hopefulness, it presents us with a sense of boldness. We know God will see us through and finish the work he has begun in us. God promises us the future is secure and the promises are bright.

 

III.     The Future Is Already (1:6-9)

 The future is already. As strange as they may sound that is what he says beginning in verse 6. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (7) 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 .” He says this is not a hope that doesn’t take into consideration the realities of life and the obstacles along the way or even the times of suffering that we will face. God is even at work in that Peter says. In verse 8 he says, “ 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, (9) for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” I highlight that last phrase “ you are receiving the goal of your faith .” The process is already under way. This talk of heaven or hope is not just talk. It is not removed from the present and now. We don’t need hope for the future; we need hope for today to face our challenges. It is a message of good news to the world. This inheritance of which he speaks is not just an inheritance that will be ours, it is an inheritance that we can begin drawing right now. “The sense is that Christians now obtain by faith what they will only fully enter into at the end.” (Achtemeir)

 What a difference that makes. It would make a difference if you see the financial inheritance you would receive one day. You knew that inheritance would be yours. It would make a difference in the way you would live your life in the present. It make a difference in your life if you knew that inheritance was not just down the road, but that you could begin drawing on it right away. The benefits and blessings of that inheritance become yours now. It would give you boldness as you planned your financial future. It would give you great generosity that you could do more for others. It would give you a great sense of freedom to know that it would be part of your life right now.

So it is with the followers of God. Peter speaks to them in the face of suffering. He says we can have joy. He affirms the power of peace in our lives. He affirms the power of God to carry us in his transforming power. He talks about the wisdom and calling we have received from God. All of that is our inheritance now. It is no wonder that they could be hopeful about the future. There is a sense in which the future is already here.

 In the words of John the Baptist as he came preparing the way for the Lord said, “ Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand .” Jesus came speaking that same message. The rule and reign of God was breaking into history and changing lives. He came to reverse the work that Satan accomplished in the world. That breaking into the kingdom of God is still actively present in the world and in the people of God as they yield themselves to him.

The kingdom of God is both now and not yet. It is a future reality in its consummation, but it is a present reality in that God is present through his Spirit in ruling and reigning among his people. In that sense the future is already and we can sing the song “Blessed Assurance Jesus Is Mine Oh What A Foretaste of Glory Devine.”   We are not marking time in anticipation of something that cannot be ours until then. It is already breaking into our lives. This is the message of the hopeful.

Peter knew that if his readers could only look beyond the circumstances of the moment to the eternal things of God, they would find the strength to hang on. More than that, he knew that they could find reason to rejoice and sing.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweigh them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). See: 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 8:18.

The trials that come to us during the course of a lifetime are from various sources. There are tragic accidents, lingering illnesses, physical handicaps, business failures, and countless others. God does not allow these things in human experience for the purpose of hurting his creatures; he allows them for the sake of testing our moral and spiritual quality. Every man or woman is regarded as unproved before God, and the trials of life come to put faith to the test. These trials are not evil in themselves, and God is not blameworthy for allowing them. To the contrary, as with the passing of gold through a refiner’s fire, these challenges allow the purity of one’s faith to be made evident. The Christian who is faithful to God through some period of intense testing brings praise, honor, and glory to the Father; the outcome to himself is the salvation of his soul.

One said we need more of a VCR mentality. He explained what a great sports fan he was. When he missed some of his sporting events, he would videotape them. He said that he would rewind to the end of the game so he could see who won. If his team won, he would go back to see the whole game. He said that by knowing the outcome, no matter how bad things seem, he would not have to worry about it because he would already know the end of the story. You know what hope is for us. It is hope that reaches backward from the future and gives us strength today. It fills us with hope because we see it through the eyes of the kingdom of God.

What would it be like if we as a church could have this hope for the future? How would it change our ministry, leaders, teaching, preaching, and planning for the future? How would God use us in powerful ways? How would we engage the world, if we did with more hope and power of God?

  Application:

I want to move from the realm of the hopeful to the realm of reality. Where are we today? Flavil Yeakley on Church Growth (1980-2000) 13,000 churches. We have been losing ground with respect to the world’s population. Lyle Schaller says to keep up with the population growth the church needs to add 1% per year. Over two decades we need to add 2,862 new churches. We have added 289. We need to plant new churches.

Of the 400,000 churches in the U.S. 62% are declining; 21 % are growing less than the national average; 17% are growing above the national average. Take all the unchurched people in America, they would the 9th most populated nation on the earth. We are part of aging churches. We have planted 289 churches in 20 years. That is a sign that most of our churches are aging churches. Most churches are 40 years old most designed to reach a different generation. Fewer Americans are connecting with our existing churches. People and culture are changing.

What does this have to do with engaging the world with hopefulness? If that hopeful spirit could be in us, and believe that same spirit that began the church could be reproduced again we could begin to show the world there is hope. Get beyond self-preservation and begin to engage the world with hope.

  Drumbeat of Love by Lloyd Oglebee is a book on the Book of Acts. He did graduate studies in Scotland. He sailed on the Queen Mary from New York to South Hampton. He talked about the Queen Mary, the crew, and recaptured the ship’s history. He compared the ship to the church. Years later the ship was a museum piece. The motor was removed. It had become a hotel. Oglebee said the ship can no longer do what it was designed to do – to sail the high seas. The vessel had become a monument to past glories. “ The greatest ship that had sailed the seas has now become the greatest ship to come and sea .” One woman made a statement that was intended to be a compliment about the church where Oglebee preached, “ I have waited for years to visit this church to see the things that used to happen here .” He said, “ The memorable church that was sent to sea is now the church to come and see .” Oglebee said that churches are not to become museums but become like ships that need to stay at sea .

  Kingdom Come by John Mark Hicks talked about James Harding and David Lipscomb . From 1888-1910 due to the influence of people like James A. Harding, Nashville went from 5 churches to 50 churches. That is our heritage. We need to plant new churches to reach new people in new places. We need to renew the hopeful spirit of our existing congregations and help them sail the high seas all over again. We need to reach the millions of lost souls. Think beyond your local church with a hopeful spirit.   The kingdom of power is within us. How are we going to plant another 13,000 over the next decades?

If we engage the world as the hopeful, we will have enough confidence in Christ to see what God can do through us to have a profound impact in taking the gospel of Christ to new places and to new people.

  King George the VI spoke Parliament on New Years Eve in a time when their future was uncertain (he had cancer but did not know it and died the next year). He made this statement, “ I said to the man at the gate of the year give me a life that I might walk safely into the unknown .” I think we long to walk safely unto the unknown. If we engage the world as the hopeful we don’t have to know all or see all or have all the strategies. We need to go out into the world and join God in kingdom business. We need to go forth as the hopeful. God calls us to engage the world with hope. “Go forth to love and serve.”

 

Conclusion

A few years ago the psychology department of Duke University carried on an interesting experiment. They wanted to see how long rats could swim. And so, in one container they placed a rat for which there was no possibility of escape. He swam a few moments and then ducked his head to drown. In the other container they made the hope of escape possible for the rat. The rat swam for several hours before finally drowning. The conclusion of the experiment was just the opposite of our common motto. We usually say, “ As long as there is life, there is hope .” The Duke experiment proved, “ As long as there is hope, there is life .”

 You see, without Christ, life is a hopeless end. But with him, life is an endless hope. I don’t know all the problems you may have in your life, but I do know the one who has the answers.

  Jean-Paul Sartre was a famous atheist who died in Paris in 1980. It is said, though, that a little over a month before he died, he would say to himself, "I know I shall die in hope ." Then in sadness, he would add these words: “ But hope needs a foundation .”

 This morning, our hope as Christians has a foundation – it is built on the trustworthiness of God’s Word. It is built on the love of God that was manifested on the cross. And it is built on the knowledge that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead some 2,000 years ago.

 There’s not a reason in the world why anyone should go home today without that hope that God provides.      

 Thoughts of home were what kept an imprisoned man alive and sane during his ordeal of eight years in a prison camp. Thoughts of their heavenly home kept many a Chris­tian of the first century strong in the face of wild animals and cruel men. These same thoughts in your heart will see you through your darkest hours.

The Bible calls us to view life from the end, to take what we might call “the eternal perspective” on things. A woman in great pain endures it triumphantly, for she is looking to the birth of her child. A scientist persists day after day through failed experiments, for he is looking for a cure for leukemia. The Word of God tries to get us to see things this way — pain overshadowed by a great out­come, frustrations erased by a fuller understanding.

In every Christian’s life there will inevitably come times when the Lord’s promise to come again and receive his people unto himself in heaven will have to carry him through some great difficulty. Faith reaches out for strength, and it is hope that gives something to hold on to.

  Maybe there is someone in the audience whose hope has been damaged? Maybe there is someone who needs to begin his or her life as a Christian?   Be born again unto a living hope.

By Bob Cowles 05 Aug, 2017

(Hebrews 10:19-39)

 

I. The Results of Apostasy "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries." (Hebrews 10:26-27)

 

In the Old Testament, there are two phrases that are frequently used to distinguish between two very different types of sins. There were sins of ignorance, and there were presumptuous sins. And the response of the Jews was to be entirely different toward people who committed those two kinds of sins. Numbers 15:27-28 ,  (Numbers 15:30-31)

 

Now, do you see the parallel between the presumptuous sin in the Old Testament and the willful sin here in Hebrews 10? In both cases, there is no sacrifice for sins. There is no hope for forgiveness. There is nothing that remains but "a certain fearful expectation of judgment".

 

And if you ever reach that point in your spiritual life, the Hebrew writer says, "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries."

 

These were Christians who were considering leaving the church and turning their backs on Christ and the Hebrew writer wants them to know just how serious that is in terms of the eternal consequences. And it's a very powerful passage that shows us it is possible to fall away from God's grace.

 

The fact is that we can fall away. We can, if we choose, make the conscious decision to reject God and walk away from him. And if that happens, then we no longer have any hope of salvation. Our God is a God of love and a God of grace. But, if we reject him, we need to be reminded that he is also a God of wrath. And "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

 

The person who leaves the church no longer has a sacrifice that can atone for his sins because the only sacrifice that can bring a person into God's presence is the sacrifice of Christ's blood. So if you choose to turn your back on Christ, then all hope of salvation is forfeited. Hope is gone, eternal life is gone. Apart from Christ, everything worth having is gone.

 

II. The Deterrents to Apostasy

 

"But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated;  “for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.

“Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise." (Hebrews 10:32-36)

III. A Final Word of Encouragement

 

The Hebrew writer closes out this section with a word of encouragement. "'For yet a little while, and he who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.' But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." (Hebrews 10:37-39).

 

The writer then says, "But I know you are not going to fall away. We are people of faith and we are going to keep on living by faith. We are not going to quit." Jesus Christ was crucified only once. At our baptism, we received the benefits of that sacrifice.  May we all be encouraged to look back to the early days of our Christianity, and to look forward to the reward that waits for us, if we remain faithful?

By Bob Cowles 29 Jul, 2017

The new covenant, which is superior to the old covenant, stands at the center of Hebrews (ch. 8). Its two main features, according to Hebrews, are its superior high priest (chs. 5-7) and its superior sacrifice (chs. 9-10). The sacrifice of the new covenant is discussed in three stages. First, the old covenant system at the tabernacle is presented as a background picture to help explain what Jesus did in the new covenant (9:1-10). Second, the effectiveness of the blood of Christ is described in detail (9:11-28). Finally, the sacrifice of Christ is exhibited as being made once, but effective for all time (10:1-18). The "therefore" of 10:19 introduces a section of exhortation based on this three staged discussion of Christ's sacrifice.

 

The central Old Testament quotation for this section is found in 10:5-7 and is taken from Psalm 40:6-8. Most sections of Hebrews place the major Old Testament quotation at the beginning of the section. Only the discussion of the covenant in chapter 8 and this discussion of the sacrifice in chapters 9­-10 place the Old Testament quotation near the end.

 

A. THE TABERNACLE AND ITS TOOLS (9:1-5)

9:1 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.

Our author explains that "the first covenant” had regula­tions for worship and also an earthly sanctuary." He discusses them in the reverse order, beginning with the tabernacle and its tools (vv. 1-5), and then proceeding to the central ceremo­ny and its meaning (vv. 6-10).

 

B. THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (9:6-10)

9:6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their min­istry.

The rituals of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) are fully described in Leviticus 16.

 

C. JESUS’ SACRIFICE CLEANSES OUR CONSCIENCE (9:11-14)

Now that our author has described that which is an "illustra­tion for the present time" (9:9) - the tabernacle and rituals of the first covenant (9:1) - he now proceeds, in that light, to describe the superiority of Jesus' blood sacrifice. The remain­der of the chapter is devoted to three major accomplishments of the shed blood of Christ: (1) the cleansing of our conscience (vv. 11-14), (2) the inauguration of the new covenant (vv. 15­-22), and (3) our complete purification from sin (w. 23-28). The thrust of the chapter to this point is now summed up in this lesser to greater argument. 

But "how much more" was accomplished by the blood of Christ! His sacrifice was able to do what the others could not (9:9) - "cleanse our consciences."  What Jesus offered for our cleansing was "himself unblem­ished." Peter uses it in the same sense that our writer does here when he refers to "the pre­cious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Pet 1:19).

 

D. JESUS' DEATH INAUGURATES THE NEW COVENANT (9:15-22)

We now read about the second of the three major accom­plishments of the shed blood of Christ: the inauguration of the new covenant (vv. 15-22). 

Finally, this verse indicates that Christ's death makes it possible for the entire community of faith, old and new, to receive this inheritance. Those whose sins were "committed under the first covenant" were set free not by the sacrifices and gifts of that covenant but only by the sacrifice of Jesus.

 

E. JESUS’ SACRIFICE WAS ONCE AND FOR ALL (9:23-28)

9:27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 9:28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

This verse contains both a promise and a warning. As Christians, we say "maranatha!" ("Come, Lord Jesus!" Rev 22:20) for we desire to be with him. Two truths are certain. All men die. And all men will face judgment. On that day, only one decision will matter - whether we have embraced the Christ who sacrificed himself for our sins and our salvation.

By Bob Cowles 22 Jul, 2017

Hebrews 8:1-13

    Chapter 8, is the beginning of a more lengthy section that goes down to 10:18. Broadly speaking, chapters 5-7 deal with the person of Christ as "high priest"; chapters 8-10 focus on the ministry of Christ as "high priest."

The Heavenly Ministry (8:1- 6 )

This new section opens with what appears to be a sum­mary: "we have such a high priest," the one who is "seated at the right hand" of God's throne in heaven. Then, continuing to speak of Christ, he introduces a new theme by saying that this Christ in heaven conducts his priestly duties in heaven. That is, he is "a [priestly] minister in the sanctuary" in the real Holy of Holies erected not by mortals but by the Lord.

Now "Christ has obtained a ministry which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better" (v 6). The word "min­istry" is used in the same sense as "minister" in verse 2; both refer to Christ's ministry as our heavenly priest. The statement is in the "how much better" form, significant in Hebrews. Christ is "so much better" than the angels (1:4). His covenant and his ministry are "so much better" than the old (8:6). His offered blood is "so much bet­ter" than the blood of goats and bulls (9:13-14). His blood speaks "better" than the blood of Abel (12:24).

The statement contains also a different level of comparison between Christ's better priestly ministry and his better covenant. The first inextricably involves the sec­ond, for a better ministry demands a better covenant. Indeed, the minister is the mediator. Christ is our high priestly minister and God's mediator. Ordinarily, we think of a mediator as a go-between who stands on neutral ground and brings the contracting par­ties together. Certainly, Christ is our mediator. In Hebrews, however, his mediating work on our behalf is as high priest. But with reference to the (new) covenant, his func­tion is not the same. Where the covenant is concerned, he is primarily God's representative or agent.

 

The New Covenant (8:7-13)

A better covenant with better promises implies the inad­equacy of the previous covenant. "For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second." This in a nutshell states the author's contention. The Levitical priests and sacrifices were "weak and use­less" in the sense that they could not bring a person near God (7:18-19). And where in the old covenant was there a place for Christ? It was God, then, who censured the first covenant and replaced it with the second. Notice that the opening and closing statements of this section declare the temporary character of the old covenant.

The old covenant was no more than a brief setup that would have to give way to something better. This was very clear even in the time of the prophet Jeremiah. Six centuries before Christ, he saw that the nation of Judah would fall to the invading armies of Babylon. Judah had sinned; it had broken its covenant with God. It would be snuffed out, and its beautiful temple would be reduced to rubble.

But Jeremiah looked beyond all of this to the time when God would establish a new relationship with his people. "The days will come, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" (v 8). The quotation, from Jeremiah 31:31-34, is the only passage in the Old Testament that specifically speaks of a "new covenant." This covenant would be rad­ically different.

The author, as he continues to quote Jeremiah, describes the essential nature of the new covenant.

1. It is a covenant of assurance. "This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord."

2. It is a covenant of obedience. "I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (v 10).

3. It is a covenant of grace. "For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more" (v 12).

But written in the terms of the new covenant is God's promise of pardon. Our sins are fully forgiven and for­gotten. Instead of "a reminder of sin year after year" (10:3), God remembers sin no more at all (10:17). Of course, this remarkable promise of forgiveness, this won­derful covenant of his grace, is only through Christ and his sacrifice (9:11-14, 28; 10:12-14; 13:12).

In the author's view, however, the prophecy of Jeremiah comprised something in addition. It was for him total proof that God had dated the old covenant and had made it a thing of the past. "In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obso­lete and growing old is ready to vanish away" (v. 13), Notice the word "obsolete" occurs twice. First, it refers to something that is past. This is made clear: "he has made the first one obsolete." God himself antiquated it. It could no longer serve his purpose. Second, "obsolete" is used.

The new covenant perfectly fulfills the terms of an ideal covenant. God had this in mind from the time of Abra­ham. At Sinai he sought to establish his covenant with Israel, but Israel disdained it. They did not keep their part of the bargain. Now God has provided a new and better covenant for his people. He is theirs, and they are his. Engraved within them is the delight to do God's will. They know him and walk in his ways. And forevermore they have the forgiveness of their sins.

Christ is in heaven for them, their great high priest. He ministers in the real sanctuary above, where God is and where real forgiveness takes place.

By Bob Cowles 15 Jul, 2017

(Hebrews 7:1-28)

Chapter seven explains why we have a special cause for security in having a “high priest after the order of Melchizedek .” This chapter explains the two verses of the Old Testament, which mentioned Melchizedek. This “order” of priesthood is supe­rior to the order of priests who served in the temple. The author exclaims, “ See how great he is! ” His greatness consists in the fact he has no beginning or end. He “ continues a priest forever ” ( 7:3 ). The levitical priests died, but he lives (7:8). His particular order depends, not on bodily de­scent, but on an indestructible life (7:16). Death prevents the old order of priesthood from continu­ing in office, but the new order “ continues for ever(7:23-24 ).

As we read through chapter seven, the argument may appear difficult to understand. But the point that stands out is that the “ order of Meichizedek ” is eternal (7:3, 8, 16, 23-24). Jesus Christ was not qualified to be a priest of the temple (7:14), but he belongs to a priesthood that lasts forever.

The point of this chapter is that the church has not been left alone . There is one who is able “ for all time ” to save those who draw near, since he “ always lives to make intercession for them ” (7:26 ). A church rooted in Christ, who saves “ for all time ,” is anchored in eternity. This church will survive. We need today to reaffirm the promises, which serve as an “ anchor of the soul .”

Typology

    There is a device used several times in Scripture called typology that figures into our ability to appreciate this chapter. It is from this perspective on history that Melchizedek becomes a type of Christ. He prefigured what would be revealed in Jesus. He had some dim level of participation in the reality that Jesus would bring to light. The shadowy figure mentioned only at Genesis 14:17-20 and Psalm 110:4 is offered in Hebrews 7 as an Old Testament anticipation of Jesus.

    Melchizedek didn’t get his priestly appointment through family ties as a descendant of Aaron. Indeed, insofar as the biblical record itself goes, he has no ancestry! Of course he had parents. And he may have had children. But insofar as the biblical data on him, we have no family tree. He is “without father or mother, without genealogy.” Why, one could even go further to say that the priest-king of Salem was “without beginning of days or end of life” – again, insofar as the record itself give us no details – and thus “remains a priest forever .”

    Furthermore, in keeping with his motif of the superiority of Jesus, he proceeds to demonstrate the preeminence of Jesus even to Father Abraham. So when Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek, not only Abraham but all his descendants (i.e., those “still in the body of” Abraham) – including Aaron and the high priests descended from him – were granting the superiority of Salem’s priest-king to Abraham. Thus if it can be shown that Christ’s priesthood is of the Melchizedekan order, it will be proved – to our writer-preacher at least – that Jesus is superior both to Abraham and to the system of priests and offerings within Judaism.

The Melchizedekan Order

The Israelites understood that priests functioning within their community must come from the Tribe of Levi and that high priests must be descended from Aaron. So how could Jesus – who is of the Tribe of Judah – qualify for the priesthood, much less for the role of high priest? That is the question addressed next: (7:11-22).

This permanent change of priesthood has several implications. For one , it means that the covenantal system embodying the Aaronic priesthood would have to be changed . Perfection was not in view with the Law of Moses. It could not make those who lived under its ordinances and rituals perfect, and – to borrow the language of Paul – served best to make its subjects aware of their sinfulness and of their need for something more than its rules and regulations. “No one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law,” he wrote, “rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (Rom. 3:20) .

Jesus is much more, however, than a mediator. “Jesus has become the guarantee (Gk, engyos ) of a better covenant” (v.22). Jesus is the personal guarantor whose indestructible life means that he is always on duty to see that we triumph over Satan’s devices. If his death was the ultimate sacrifice for sin that made further sacrifices unnecessary, his present function on our behalf as high priest means that we need not cower before threats and persecution (cf. Rom. 5:9). “Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34 ). His work has brought us into a “better covenant” with God; it is a covenant written on hearts rather than stone tablets and carries the promise: “ I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (cf. Jer. 31:31-34 ).

He Meets Our Need!

The language that follows is the great assurance the Hebrew writer wanted the discouraged believers of his time to embrace .

(7:23-28 ).

What incredible language! “ He is able to save completely those who come to God through him .” “ He always lives to intercede for them .” And – well, I’m going to cheat here and sneak a look ahead in order to round out this incredible process of redemption – his gracious relationship with us makes us perfect in God’s eyes, even while we are stumbling and fumbling around down here! “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (10:14).

The preacher-writer of our text wanted his desperate hearers-readers to know there was one place they could go in their distress. Don’t quit on faith. Don’t turn back. Don’t give in to the pressures. Let your distress drive you to Jesus !

The beleaguered saints to whom Hebrews is addressed had found themselves awkward, unlovely, and undesirable. They didn’t fit their past social environments. Their old friends weren’t friends anymore. For some, even family had cut them off . Yet all of us need to be wanted! So Jesus could never be an “incidental luxury” or occasional Sunday guest for them. They would need him as their one bright thing for each day – until he came again for them. And so do we!

Conclusion

This text isn’t really about Melchizedek – any more than previous ones have been about angels, Moses, Joshua, or Sabbath. They are all about Jesus . For this preacher, everything is about Jesus! Tying together 2:17 with 7:1-28 , watch the three key terms he has used of him.

First , Jesus is faithful . Tested though he was, he not only survived but passed with flying colors. He is “holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens” in his unsoiled nature as Son of God. Second , he is merciful . Although “set apart” in his personal holiness, Jesus has chosen not to set himself apart as aloof and unavailable to us. He has shared our humanity, endured our unbelieving rejection, borne our vulnerabilities, and taken our sin debt onto himself at Calvary. Oh, he is merciful beyond comprehension. And, finally , he is perfect for our situation of need. He forgives, empowers, disciplines, and reassures; at the end, he will raise us from the dead and transform us into the very likeness of his own indestructible, conquering, and glorious self.

Jesus. Remember, the subject of chapter 7 is not Melchizedek but Christ. Melchizedek serves as an illustration of Christ and then fades from view. Verses 20-28 form the climactic section, and here the name "Jesus" appears for the first time in the chapter. "Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant" (7:22 NRSV).

By Bob Cowles 23 Jun, 2017

Hebrews 5 :11- 6:20

 

 The first priority in understanding Scripture is that it be read by paragraphs and chapters, not one verse at a time. This entire midsection of Hebrews should be read and reread with a view to the message overall. If we read over it sev­eral times, perhaps we can begin to see the distinctive fea­tures of this section. They may be outlined as follows: Exhortation: on to mature teaching (5:11-6:20)

Solid Food (5:11 -14 )

The first readers of this letter had been Christians for a considerable period of time, long enough for them to be able to receive "advanced" instruction. This is what the author refers to when he says that by now, "you ought to be teachers." He is not saying that each and every one of them was expected to be a teacher. Instead, he is using "teachers" to stand for those who think and act maturely. In other words, he says that they are acting not as adults but as infants. They need to be taught all over again "the elementary truths of God's word." They need a diet of milk.

On the other hand, "solid food" is for grownups. While an infant is "unskilled" or "inexperienced" in the "word of righteousness" (God's word which leads to right conduct), "solid food is for the mature" (v 14). Who are the mature? "Those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil."

Pressing on to Maturity (6:1- 3 )

The next few verses, indeed down through 6:8, con­nect directly with the foregoing. Verse 1 involves a twofold exhortation: "Let us leave ... and go on." That is, let us leave behind the elementary teachings pertaining to Christ, and let us go on to more advanced teaching con­cerning his priesthood. If the readers will truly under­stand the meaning of Christ's priesthood and his atoning sacrifice, this will be enough to keep them from apostasy. Once and for all, they must decide. The author lists six items as examples of basics that need no further emphasis.

1. Repentance from "dead works." Repentance is much more than sorrow for sin. It is a turning from the "dead works" of sin (cf. 9:14), a renunciation of the former life that leads to death (cf. Rom. 6:23).

2. Faith in God. In Hebrews, faith is always active, as demonstrated in chapter 11. It is not enough to leave the dead works of sin, but there must be the positive turning to God in faith.

3. Baptisms. The term is plural and is the general word for "washings" (cf. 9:10; Mark 7:4). Jewish and pagan washings would need to be distinguished from Christian baptism, and so the author uses the general instead of the specific term for baptism.

4. Laying on of hands. This was essentially a Jewish custom, generally either to appoint someone to a task (Acts 6:6; 13:3), or to confer a blessing (Matt. 19:15), including that of healing (Mark 5:23) or of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17; 19:6).

5. Resurrection of the dead. Jesus and the apostles taught the resurrection of all the dead (John 5:28-29; Acts 4:2), a basic truth that the author's readers readily acknowledged.

6. Eternal judgment. The preaching of the resurrection also involved the preaching of impending judgment (Acts 17:31) with its lasting consequences.

This list of elementary truths is not a complete list, but the author is anxious to move his readers on to more mature teaching "if God permits."

A Warning against Apostasy (6:4-8)

This is by no means the first warning in Hebrews, but it is (together with 10:26-31) the most startling and severe. The warning is stated in a long, impressive sentence beginning with the words, "For it is impossible ... " "For" connects with that which precedes: if the readers do not go forward in their understanding of Christ, the alternative is to fall back, presumably to their prior Judaism, and commit apostasy.

The author goes on to set forth the hardened condi­tion of apostates: they "crucify the Son of God all over again" (NIV) and "hold him up to contempt." This is why it is impossible to restore them. They abuse him who is "the Son of God." They nail him to the cross again and publicly shame him. They do not simply dis­believe him, but they denounce and disgrace him before the world.

It needs to be emphasized that the subject of the passage is apos­tasy. Such a person cannot be saved because he is no longer able to repent.

A Word of Encouragement (6: 9-12)

Later, the author will return to the subject of apostasy, especially in 10:26-31 and in 12:12-29. That he has dealt with the topic previously and will do so again clearly shows apostasy to be possible for his readers. Never­theless, he hastens to add here that in their case he is quite confident of "better things ... that accompany salvation" (NIV). He wants to en­courage them.

Standing on God's Promises (6:13-20)

In the paragraph before us, the author establishes the certainty of these promises and their self­-evident basis for hope. Truly, the Christian stands on the promises of God. "He who promised is faithful" (10:23). Of all those who "inherit the promises," the name of Abraham is distinctive. "When God made a promise to Abraham, . . . he swore by himself, saying, `Surely I will bless you and multiply you."' To swear by God is the strongest oath possible, and so God swore by himself. The occasion referred to is that of the offering of Isaac, when God promised that Abraham's offspring would be as numberless as "the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore" (Gen. 22:17). We see the working out of God's promise when Christ came (11:13; 11:39-40).

By Bob Cowles 16 Jun, 2017

(Hebrews 4:14-5:10)

 

The writer of Hebrews had an exalted view of Christ. He is superior to angels, greater than Moses, and far above Joshua. He is, after all, God’s own Son who made purification for sins and is now seated at the right hand of God (1:1-3). He is a merciful and faithful high priest who made atonement for the sins of the people in service to God and has the ability to help us in our trials (2:17-18). He is the faithful Son over all God’s house (3:6). He is the one alone who can give God’s Sabbath-rest to those who believe in him (4:9-10).

Hebrews (4:14-16). The role of the high priest in the Old Testament is impressive. He intercedes with Yahweh on behalf of the nation. He wears special robes. He functions with great ceremony and solemnity. So we can be sure that God wants us to come to his throne of grace. He is our Father! And by the good offices of his one perfect Son, our prayers will be made effective and powerful. As our high priest, Jesus has carried blood – not that of a sacrificial animal but his very own – to the mercy seat. He has presented himself in the very presence of God on our behalf to plead our case. He understands our case because he has lived our weaknesses and experienced the same trials and temptations we face. Our high priest is a real human being, our friend, our kinsman – yet without sin.

 

The Credentials of Our High Priest

One cannot take the role of high priest to himself. It must be conferred. So the writer of Hebrews moves quickly to make it clear that the One seated on the throne has himself credentialed and ordained Jesus to his unique high priesthood. When he ascended “through the heavens” after his bodily resurrection, he was paving the way for us. He was not only opening heaven’s door but was being declared in his very person “The Way” (cf. John 14:6). Because this is so, we do not have to face down Satan ourselves. We simply “hold firmly to the faith we profess” in the Christ who has already defeated him for our sake.

Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, (5:1-6).

Just as Aaron was selected and called to his role as Israel’s first high priest, so Jesus was selected and call to his high-priestly function. Yet, just as Jesus is greater than angels, Moses, and Joshua, he is also a greater high priest than Aaron. His priesthood is “in the order of Melchizedek” – a phrase that occurs no less than five times in Hebrews and so must be important. It is such an important fact that our preacher will treat the issue at some length later. For now, he simply tantalizes his readers-hearers by dropping the mysterious name. For now, he only hints at the “forever” significance to Christ’s high priesthood in this special order.

 

So Why the Distress?

Hebrews (5:7-10). on that horrible night Jesus ended his intense prayer three times – so intense that sweat poured off his body as though he were bleeding – with reverent submission. By saying “ Not my will but yours be done ,” he was essentially committing to obey the Father even if his obedience meant still more anguish and suffering. And it did! Gethsemane gave way to Calvary. If we go back to Hebrews 2:14-18 for a moment, the same thing has already been said in slightly different words. In his oneness with God’s creatures who have flesh and blood, he faced the devil’s ultimate threat to human beings – the fear of death. Like us, he trembled. Like us, he cried out for relief. Unlike some of us, however, he knew that the death of the body was reversible. He knew that his Father could raise him from the dead and restore his life.

He knew full well that “ Not my will but yours be done ” entailed the payment of the death penalty for sin that would bring anguish to his soul beyond anything that could be done to his fleshly body. Cf. Matt. 10:28.] God “heard” the cries of Jesus – both from Gethsemane’s garden and from Golgotha’s tree – and delivered him from the stranglehold of death. By raising his body from the tomb on Sunday morning, heaven signaled that the human race need never again live as captives “held in slavery by their fear of death.”

Jesus learned obedience by trusting the Father to see him through that ordeal. His reverent submission perfected him for his role as trail-blazer for us. In his perfection, he has become the source of eternal salvation for all who ever follow him on the obedient path of reverent submission. Follow Jesus with the same reverent submission he showed the Father, and you will experience the same outcome. Just as his faithful obedience under trial was part of the process that perfected him within God’s greater plan, so is our faithful obedience under trial part of the process of purification and refinement for our faith.

 

“Because [Jesus] himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (2:18 ). So why would the first-century hearers try to face their temptations in their own human strength? With their high priest identified, ordained, and forever at their disposal, why would they struggle with their personal stresses or external tormentors without his aid? He was able to help them!

By Bob Cowles 10 Jun, 2017

Hebrews 4:12-13

 

The Bible is always relevant and always applicable. We must always be in awe of God and the power of his Word. Our communities of faith need to be places of real worship, reverence, and radical openness to that Word. The truth God communicated to men and women contained the power of God to transform and empower their lives. The power of his words is explained this way in Scripture.

We must cling to the joyous truth that the Word of God is powerful. When we teach it with authority and expectation, it will achieve the result God has ordained. These words were written to a tired church. They came at a crucial point in the appeal of the author of Hebrews to his weary com­munity. After he urged his readers to remain faith­ful in the midst of the temptation to drop out, he told his tired community that their greatest need is to be challenged by the word of God.

 

  God says to Jeremiah. “ Is not my word like fire. . . and like a hammer which breaks a rock in pieces” (Jer. 23:29 ). Their commit­ments may be meaningless, but God’s word is last­ing. “ The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our Lord abides forever” (Isa. 40:8).

The story of the Bible concerns people who sometimes had nothing to sustain them but a prom­ise. They often seemed on the brink of collapse. But the promise was not extinguished. It looked that way, even at Calvary, but God brought hope out of despair. As Paul told the Corinthians, “ All the promises of God find their yes in him”, (2 Cor.1:20 ).

 

A Happy Ending

The Bible is not a book of thousands of isolated verses. It concerns the God whose word is “ living and active ,” who offers our lives a promise. The Book of Hebrews reminds them that it is the challenge of Scripture, which stimulates and encourages. The God who once made a promise to Abraham and Moses holds out the same promise to His church today. We may share the frustrations of Elijah or Sarah, but Scripture reminds us that God’s word “is living and active.”

In the Bible things do turn out well. And people who are inundated with the message of hopeless­ness need to be refreshed by the word of hope that comes in Scripture. We need to hear about the Bible’s happy ending.

Paul’s letter to the Romans speaks of the hope, which Scripture provides. “For whatever was written in former days was written

for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Hopelessness and chaos do not have the last word in the Bible. That is probably why the church may be one community that has not lost its hope in a society where we are showered by words of de­spair. In Scripture we discover the God whose word is “living and active.”

Early Christians were sustained largely by the conviction that the thread running through the Bible was the word of promise. They recalled that God had made promises to Abraham (Gen. 12:2) and David (2 Sam. 7: 10-17). In the coming of Jesus Christ they recognized that God had kept his promise. Paul told his listeners in one speech, “ We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their chil­dren by raising Jesus” (Acts 13:32-33 ). The good news was the word that was “ promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures” (Rom. 1:2 ). The Scripture was “living and active,” for it demonstrated that God keeps His word.

By Bob Cowles 27 May, 2017

Hebrews 3:1-19

 

It is difficult to overstate the importance of Moses to people of Jewish background. No life is more intriguing and no ministry had more impact than Moses. But he merely set the stage for the one whose life and ministry are for us. There is a better story than the one about Moses. This text draws an analogy between the present experience of the preacher’s audience and the past experience of the children of Israel in the wilderness under the leadership of Moses. The preacher brings the events of Numbers 14 (as reflected in Psalm 95) into analogy with the present experience of discouraged believers in his day.  

Israel followed Moses into the wilderness. While Moses was faithful, Israel was not. The church follows Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus was faithful, but the question remains whether the church will be faithful. Will the church follow Jesus or will they follow the example of Israel in the wilderness?

1. Hebrews 3:1-6 . This section is fundamentally exhortation. It begins with the most basic exhortation and most foundational exhortation of the sermon: “fix your thoughts on Jesus.” Because Jesus is the exalted Son who is greater than the angels but made himself lower than the angels, focus your attention on him. He is God’s faithful Son. He is further identified as an “apostle” as well as a “high priest.” The idea of “one who was sent” (apostle) is closely connected to the “champion” or “leader” (2:10) where those who are sent are leaders in Numbers 13:2. The Son was sent as a leader, a champion among God’s people, among his brothers.


2. Hebrew 3:7-19 . This section is an exhortation based upon Psalm 95:7b-11. The text is quoted in Hebrews 3:7b-11 and Hebrews 3:15. After each citation, the Hebrew writer exhorts his readers in Hebrews 3:12-14 and Hebrews 3:16-19. Thus, we have the pattern of Scripture followed by exhortation.

The Hebrew writer sees that the potential problem among his hearers is “unbelief.” The first exhortation begins with “See…that no one among you has an evil heart of unbelief” (3:12) and ends with “We see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief” (3:19). The issue is faith or the lack thereof. The question of Numbers 14:11 rings in the background: “How long will they refuse to believe me?” The “unbelief” here is a refusal to believe God’s promises and trust that he will accomplish them. It is not a weakness of faith, but a rebellious rejection.

The rebellion to which Hebrews 3:16-19 alludes is found in Numbers 14. It was a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, but ultimately against God as well. The connection here with Hebrews 3:1-6 is obvious. If they refused to believe God’s promise through Moses and thus could not enter the rest, how much will the fail to enter the rest if they reject God’s promise through Jesus who is God’s faithful son.

It is important to understand the nature of this “unbelief” in Hebrews 3. This is not a temporary lack of faith, or trust. It is not a moment of weakness. It is, rather, a willful rejection of God’s promise. It is rebellion. The rebellious cannot enter God’s rest.

We have an exhortation against disbelieving God’s word. The warning comes from the past, when Israel, in its desert wanderings comes from the past, when Israel, it its desert wanderings, stubbornly refused to listen to God. Israel, God’s people in the past, did not continue in faith; and the same fear of faithlessness runs through the mind of the author with respect to God’s present people.

 

However, he encourages believers who are struggling with their weaknesses to continue their journey. Every community of faith lives with the reality that some in their midst give up their faith, reject God’s promises and refuse to obey. The Hebrew writer encourages us not to be one of those people, but to claim the work of Christ for ourselves and embrace the promise of God’s rest. He encourages us to persevere in faith.

 

The key to the survival of the church may lie in its response to frustration and disappointment. Disappointment has been a part of the life of faith from the days of Israel until now. A church that knows its history is aware of both the tragedy of failing to endure and the motivating power of God’s promise.

By Bob Cowles 20 May, 2017

Hebrews 1:5-14

Let all God's angels worship him. Hebrews 1:6

 

When people in the Bible see angels, they don't say, "How sweet." Instead, they fall on the ground with fear and trembling. Zechariah sees the angel Gabriel and is terrified and overwhelmed with fear (Luke 1:12). Tough Roman soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus see an angel and are so afraid of him they faint dead away (Matthew 28:4). Cherubs in scripture are not baby angels, but terrifying creatures who guard the very throne of God (see Ezekiel 10; Isaiah 37:16). Angels in the Bible are powerful and scary. After all, they come from the presence of the Almighty God.

 

Greater Than Angels

The readers of Hebrews were also tempted to forget the one who is more than an angel: the only Son of God. Having praised the Son as creator, sustainer, and redeemer, the writer of Hebrews lists three reasons why Jesus is superior to angels.

 

  1. He has a superior name .  So it is significant that Jesus is given a name that is superior to the angels. What is that name? The name is Son.

 

For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son;

today I have become your Father?" Or again,

"I will be his Father, and he will be my Son?"

(Hebrews 1:5)

 

These quotations are from Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14. The obvious answer to the questions is, "God never called the angels “sons.’” However, there are several Old Testament passages that do call the angels "sons of God" (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Psalms 29:1; 89:6). Is this a contradiction? No. Angels are called sons of God, and Christians are also called children of God. But neither we nor angels are sons in the same way that Jesus is Son. Jesus is uniquely the "one and only Son" (John 3:16). As the writer of Hebrews has already said, Jesus the Son is the exact representation of God's being. He is God himself. This makes the Son infinitely superior to the angels. He is God; they are not. He is Creator; they are creations. Angels are glorious super-human beings, but they don't hold a candle to the glory of the Son. His name is obviously superior.

 

  1. The angels worship the Son . The second indicator that Jesus is superior to angels is that they worship him.

 

And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,

"Let all God's angels worship him."

(Hebrews 1:6)

 

When Jesus is born, the heavenly host of angels rejoice and praise God (Luke 2:13-14). This may be the worship the writer of Hebrews has in mind. However, it is more likely that the phrase "when God brings his firstborn into the world" refers not to the birth of the incarnate Son but to the Son's entry into "the world to come" (Hebrews 2:5). The Son has entered the world of glory. Now seated on the right hand of the Father, he receives glory and honor from the angels in heaven.

 

Either on earth or in heaven, the point remains the same: the angels worship Jesus. Lower beings always worship higher ones. Thus, Jesus the Son is superior to the angels. They themselves recognize his superiority by bowing before him in worship.

 

  1. The Son reigns, but angels serve. Two verses speak of the role of angels as servants:

 

In speaking of the angels he says,

"He makes his angels winds,

his servants flames of fire."

 (Hebrews 1:7)

 

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

(Hebrews 1:14)

 

Angels are servants by nature. They were created by God to serve him. What's more, angels even serve human beings, "those who will inherit salvation." It makes no sense to give too much glory to angels, because they are sent by God to serve us.

 

It also makes no sense to glorify them more than or as much as we glorify the Son. While they were created to serve, the Son is himself the Creator (Hebrews 1:10­12). They serve but he reigns eternally (Hebrews 1:8). As the servant is not above his master (Matthew 10:24), so angels cannot be superior to Jesus the Son.

By Bob Cowles 12 May, 2017

Hebrews 1:1-4

In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son... Hebrews 1:2

 

God Has Spoken

Hebrews begins with the good news: there is real truth. God has not left us in the confusion of a myriad of voices, but he has spoken a clear word to us through his Son:

 

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son....

(Hebrews 1:1-2)

 

There are three central points I want to emphasize throughout this series that stand out in bold relief in the opening lines of this “word of exhortation” to Christians both ancient and modern. God is at work in this world. How does God work in our world? Through Jesus! Jesus is the final and unanswerable proof that God not only knows about our human plight but cares for us with love that knows no boundaries. the central issue: Is Jesus the Son of God or is he not? the third point we are going to try to make ring in your ears from Hebrews: God is still at work in his church today .

 

1. Hebrews 1:1-2a.

The writer of Hebrews is thinking of the whole continuity of God’s revelation of himself from creation up to the present. In many ways (theopanies, dreams, visions, miracles, etc.), at many times (through the whole history of the world and Israel) and through many people [prophets] (Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.), God spoke to those who preceded us. However, now—in these last days—God has spoken through his Son.


The “last days” is another way of saying “the final age.” Jesus appeared at the “consummation of the ages” (9:26), and a new age has dawned. We look to Jesus because God has spoken through him. Consequently, there is an implied finality and completeness of this revelation through the Son. It is final because it is God’s climatic revelation in the “last days.” It is complete because of who the Son is (which is the topic of Hebrews 1:2b-3)


2. Hebrews 1:2b-3a.

When the author of Hebrews names the “Son” in verse 2, he follows it with four descriptive phrases that reflect language that was common among Hellenistic Jews. The language described is applied to the Son.


First, the Son was appointed the heir of all things (cf. Psalm 2:8 as a background).
Second, the Son was the agent of creation. Jesus is the divine Son (wisdom) through whom God created the world (cf. John 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16). This affirms the pre-existence of the Son. He is before creation and the agent of God’s creative work. The Son is unlike any human prophet.


Third, the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his nature. This language identifies the Son with God. “Glory” and “nature” refer to the same point—divine glory is divine nature.


Fourth, the Son sustains the cosmos by his powerful word. The Son is God’s providential agent in the world. He maintains the universe by his power. The Son is not only the agent of creation, but is also at work within the cosmos to sustain it. The cosmic work of the Son is ongoing.


3. Hebrews 1:3b-4

The Son is exaltation because he is humiliated, that is, the Son is exalted because through his incarnation as a human being he became a high priest who was both priest and victim. He is exalted because he shared the human experience even though he was a participant in the divine reality.

 

 

Theological Substance

Essentially this text portrays the Son in three specific ways. Three theological points, therefore, emerge out the fundamental declaration that God has spoken through his Son: (1) The finality of God’s revelation through the Son; (2) the shared reality of the Son with God; and (3) the shared reality of the Son with humanity. Or, the Son, who is both divine and human, is God’s final and complete revelation of himself.

By Bob Cowles 29 Apr, 2017

1 John 5:13-21

 

1. What do we know for sure?   We seem to live in a world filled with unclear messages.

2. In this day and age, sometimes it is difficult to know what is true and what is false.

3. This passage is written to dispel our doubts. In fact, in v.13 John says you can "know that you have eternal life."

I.   We Can Know Our Salvation Is Certain. 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

A.John says that he “writes these things to you who believe.”

B.Notice how the Bible speaks of our salvation.

1.Consider what Jesus said about our salvation.  

2.Note what Paul wrote about our salvation.

3.These are the words John used on our text.

II.   We Know Our Prayers Are Certain. 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us-whatever we ask-we know that we have what we asked of him.”

A.We can know God hears our prayers (v.14).

1. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”Hebrews 4:16

2. James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

B.We can know God will answer our prayers (v.15) .

1. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

III.   Why Is It So Important To Have Assurance?

A.Assurance of our salvation brings joy to our lives.

B.Assurance of our salvation brings reality to our testimony.

1. John 1:43

C.Salvation without assurance is not reality.

1. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scripture to us?”   Luke 24:32

D.Fourth, salvation without assurance gives little motivation to fight Satan.

1. “Resist the devil, and he will free from you.” James 4:7

IV. Know the Destructiveness of Sin.

1 John 5:16-17, “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.”

A.The nature of sin is that it leads to death.

B.Some sins lead to death.

C.Some Sins do not lead to Death.

 

V. Avoid the Grasps of the Enemy. 1 John 5:18-19, “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”  

A.Our new nature gives us victory over the flesh. (v.18).

B.The world is in Satan’s grasp (v.19).

 

VI. Grow in the Understanding of Christ (v.20).

A.In this next-to-last verse, John reaffirms the consistent theme of his letter, "We know that the Son of God has come."

B.We also "know" that He "has given us an understanding that we may know Him who is true."

VII. Determine to Worship God Only (v.21).

A.John concludes with a final note of intimacy as he calls us "little children."

B.The real threat was an “idolatry of the mind” that made those antichrists who had left the community do so because they thought they were smarter and more enlightened than the rest.

By Bob Cowles 22 Apr, 2017

(1 John 5:1-12)


In the first twelve verses of 1 John 5, the disciple John names four things about Christian behavior that demonstrate and verify true faith. In reading them together today, we must test our own hearts. We must review our claims to believe against these objective criteria for faith.

Love for the Father’s Other Children


The first and perhaps most fundamental measure of Christian faith in John’s “to-do list for believers” is love for God great enough to cause believers to love one another.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome . . . (5:1-3 ).

 

Victory Over the World


The second thing John names in which true faith produces a true outcome is in conquering this world and its foreign-to-God powers.

. . . for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (5:4-5).

 

John has already warned us in chapter 2 that “the world and its desire are passing away.” More fundamentally, he has warned Christians against loving this world because of its incompatibility with God. “The love of the Father is not in those who love the world” (2:15a). To conquer this world is to rise above it so that its money, sex, and power games no longer determine who we are. Be careful, though, how you hear that statement. It is not a moralistic statement. It is gospel proclamation.

Embracing the Truth About Jesus


So John makes even more explicit now what has been the guiding theme in the first five verses. Authentic faith is that which embraces and acknowledges the truth about Jesus Christ and all he has done, is doing, and will do for those who believe in him. At verse 1, John has said, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” Now he expands the meaning of what it is to “believe that Jesus is the Christ” by tracing out a three-fold testimony about the Son of God.

This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth. There are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree. If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son (5:6-9).

 

It was their faith in Jesus as the Christ that brought about their birth from above and made them members of the family of God, the community of Christ. The dynamic power of that faith at work in them to transform and renew had made them victors over the world. So they owed everything to Christ. He was their everything. And it was critical for John that his readers be reinforced in their faith – against the false view of Jesus that was being circulated then.

Eternal Life


The fourth criterion for authenticity in the faith for John is the exhibition of what he calls “eternal life” by those living in holy community with Christ and one another.

Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (5:10-12).

 

For our author, the ultimate legitimacy and power of the Christian faith was not in theology, historical events, or personal experiences. Theology was important, all right, for it was heresy to fail to confess Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. Historical events were important, of course, for the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ achieved the fulfillment of heaven’s purpose to redeem humankind. And the personal experiences by means of which we testify to Christ in preaching, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper are certainly valuable. But all these were means to the experience of transforming the people of God to exhibit “eternal life” in community.


By Bob Cowles 13 Apr, 2017

(Genesis 37-50)

 

What message does the story of Joseph have for us? We have a tragic tale of a boy away from home. We have the ups-and-downs of a Hebrew slave from Palestine. What direction for life do we get from this story? How could any of this relate to the confusion and lack of direction we feel?  

Three times Genesis tells us the point of this story. The first group of texts appears in Genesis 39.  

Five times in twenty-two action-packed verses, we are told what happens: "The Lord was with Joseph and he became a successful man" (39:2); "His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that Joseph did to prosper in his hands" (39:3); "The Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had, in house and field" (39:5); "The Lord was with Joseph and showed his steadfast love, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison" (39:21); "Because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper" (39:23).  

God worked! Providence provided! The Almighty moved! At its fundamental level, this story tells us that God works. He lives! He acts! God works for us.  

The second group of texts which confirm the point of this story comes in Genesis 45. After years of separation, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. Joseph recognizes that behind all the pits and prisons, behind all the missed family times and living in a foreign land, God worked without their knowledge .  

Joseph speaks to his brothers: "For God sent me before you to preserve life" (45:5); "And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant" (45:7); "It was not you who sent me here, but God" (45:8); "God has made me Lord of all Egypt" (45:9).  

God worked behind the scenes.  

The third text comes in Genesis 50. With father Jacob safely entombed in Palestine, the eleven sons come bowing before Joseph, fearing his power, wondering about the fulfillment of the boyhood dream, seeking his pardon for their sin. In response, Joseph makes one of the clearest theological state­ments in the thirteen chapters: "Don't fear me. Am I in the place of God?"  

The frightened brothers think that Joseph controls their world. The brothers who thought they understood their little brother's dream in Genesis 37 now do not understand at all. Only Joseph comprehends the lesson: "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." He was saying, "You thought you were selling me into slavery. I thought it was the end of my dream. You thought it was the end of me. I thought it was the end of you. But God used it all to keep us alive ." God worked in spite of what they did.  

The brothers miss the point. Burdened with guilt, trembling in fear, they have no idea who arranged the last thirteen chap­ters. Joseph knew. God controls . The story tells us that behind the scenes of life, in the pits and in the prisons, in the dreams and in the famines, from king to slave, from family to master, another power backstage has ultimate control. The brothers had freedom. They used it for evil. Mrs. Potiphar had free will. She used it for sin. Joseph had control. But every scene rests in the controlling hand of a powerful God .

By Bob Cowles 07 Apr, 2017

1 John 4:7-21

Why is loving each other such a significant part of Life in the Light? I want us to take a look at why loving relationships are so high on God’s priority list. We are going to see five reasons why loving other Christians is so important to our spiritual journey of following Jesus Christ.

I. Life in God’s Community - Love Shows That We Are Truly God’s Children. 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” This is the fifth time in this letter we are told us to love each other as Christians. John himself has introduced the light metaphor for God at 1:5 when he wrote: “ God is light and in him there is no darkness at all .” Darkness does not originate with God. Sin does not have its origin in him. Neglect, abuse, and hatred are not part of his nature. God can only act in ways that are consistent with his nature, and God’s nature is love. So a community that does not live in, affirm, and share love does not belong to him. “ Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (4:8) .

II. God Accomplishes His Purpose Through Love. 1 John 4:9-12, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

John encourages us to love each other through the example of the cross.   (4:12) No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  In v. 12, John says that God’s love is made complete in us when we love each other. That word "made complete" means "to be completely successful in accomplishing a goal" . In other words, God’s love accomplishes the purpose for which it was given when it empowers us to love each other.

III. Our Love For One Another Is A Witness To Our World. 1 John 4:13-15 “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (14)

Jesus told his followers, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35).

Do we really believe that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world? “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. (15)

IV. Love Frees Us From Fear. 1 John 4:16-18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (18) Once again John calls us back to God’s love as our basis for loving each other. The basis, Verse 16, “God is love.”

V. We Show God’s Love By Loving Others. 1 John 4:19-21, “We love because he first loved us.”

Our capacity to love is directly tied to the fact that God has first loved us. Our business is reaching lost people and helping them grow into followers of Jesus Christ through the love of God. Doing what John is talking about here strikes at the heart of why we exist, to reach people with the message of Jesus Christ and to introduce them to a God of love who can transform them into people who love each other. We have a "commandment" from God that says, "He who loves God must love his brother also."
By Bob Cowles 01 Apr, 2017

1 John 4:1-6

 

It’s important to test our beliefs to determine the truth of what we believe? Satan is a deceiver. We must know the truth!

I want to show you three ways that will verify the truth of what you believe. We should examine our faith by each of these tests.

 

I. The Command to Test the Spirits. 1 John 4:1, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

A.Why is it so important that we test the spirits?

1.John begins with a sobering warning to not be gullible people when it comes to claims about truth. That word "test" means "to try to learn the genuineness of something by close examination."

2.Before we trust any teacher, we must "test the spirits."

3.Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.”

4.Jesus warned in Matthew 7:15-16, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them.”

B.What does it mean to test the spirits? “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God.”

That phrase "Jesus Christ come in the flesh" is referring to the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The word "Jesus" describes his full humanity, and "Christ" describes his full divinity, and "in the flesh " describes how in the person of Jesus Christ both Godhood and humanity are perfectly joined together. The incarnation, God himself revealed in human flesh, is the test John is giving us.

1.Don’t trust every spiritual experience, religious leader or religious organization.

2.Don’t just believe me, but test everything I say and this church teaches against the clear teaching of the Bible, against that core of Christianity. We can get and keep our bearings by developing doctrinal judgment.

 

II. The Criteria for Testing the Spirits.  1 John 4:2-3, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”

A.How do they view the Son of God? (vv.2-3). The first test is the acknowledgement of the historical incarnation of Jesus, that "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh." Believers are to test for truth based on a teacher’s attitude concerning the person and work of Jesus. The first question is always "What do they believe about Jesus?" because if you are wrong about Jesus you are wrong about God. Jesus was the Son of God. He has always existed. He was incarnated, came "in the flesh" to be our Savior. Jesus was fully God and fully man. Many religions seek to honor Jesus as a great man or a great teacher but do not recognize Him for who He is.

B.Are we in harmony with the Word of God? 1 John 4:4-5 “They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.”

1.When John says, "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.” verse 6

 

2.We have the Word of God before us and the Spirit of God within us. Let us "test the spirits" and the teaching of anyone who claims to speak for God.

By Bob Cowles 24 Mar, 2017