Hebrews chapter 13

And now, may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to him. Jesus is the great Shepherd of the sheep by an everlasting covenant, signed with his blood. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen. – Vs 20-21 (NLT)

In this closing chapter we have been encouraged to “let love of the brethren continue,” to “not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,” to “remember the prisoners as though in prison with them,” to see that the marriage bed is “held in honor among all,” to “make sure your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have,” and to “not be carried away by varied and strange teachings.” We are reminded of the unique sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for our sins. In gratitude for what He has done we are to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Vs 15). And we are to please God by “doing good and sharing” (Vs 16). We’re to obey our leaders, submit to them, and imitate their faith.

But how are we supposed to do all this? Is this just some kind of a gut-it-up, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of effort on our part? It all sounds great, but it also sounds impossible. At least for me. I find it hard to continue loving the brethren. Some of them aren’t so loveable. I don’t particularly like showing hospitality to strangers or even friends. I sometimes find it difficult to be content with what I have. And I don’t always do a very good job of praising God and thanking Him for all He has done. Complaining and murmuring seem to come easier to me. So how am I supposed to pull this off without just gritting my teeth and trying like crazy to make it work?

That’s where this closing prayer come in. My hope is in the same God who raised Jesus from the dead. He will equip me with all I need to do His will. That word equip means “to strengthen, perfect, complete, make one what he ought to be.” God will fully provide what I need to do what He is calling me to do and become. It is God who produces in us the capacity to do what is pleasing to Him – all because of what Jesus has done for us. This is totally a God thing. Jesus is our Great Shepherd. He is the one who provides for us. He gives us the ability, the empowerment to do all the things mentioned in this chapter. In fact, they are a natural response to our growing dependence on and relationship with Him. So if we struggle with them, it is a sign of our need to depend more on Him and less on ourselves. I need to learn to turn to Him more and more for the strength to live the life I have been called to live. I don’t need to gut it up and try harder. I need to give up and lean harder on Him. That means spending more time in His Word, more time on my knees, and less time living in my own strength. Not only is salvation God’s work, our sanctification is as well. That Greek word translated equip can also mean to repair, restore, or mend. It was used when speaking of restoring something back to the way it was originally supposed to be. So God is restoring us back to the condition He first intended for mankind. He is perfecting us. He is repairing what was broken by the fall and marred by sin. He is doing it, not us. That is why the writer of Hebrews says “to Him be the glory, forever and ever.” God gets all the glory, not us. Because He is doing ALL the work. He is doing in me what I could never do. All because of what Jesus has done for me. To God be the glory!

Father, I can’t thank You enough for the reminder this morning that it is ALL up to You. You are the one who equips me with what I need to live this remarkable life to which I have been called. You give me the capacity to do the things You call me to do, those things that are pleasing to You. All because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ Your Son. Thank You! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Hebrews chapter 12

My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. – Vs 5-7 (NLT)

Discipline. Not exactly a favorite word in our culture today, even among Christians. It conjures up some fairly negative images. The concept of self-discipline brings to mind dieting, exercise, abstinance, denial of self in order to achieve some worthwhile objective. Being disciplined by someone else is even more distasteful because it usually thoughts of punishment or pain due to some mistake we have made or our failure to meet someone’s expectations. So when we run into a passage like this and read, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,” all kinds of conflicted ideas come into our minds. Love and discipline just don’t seem to go together. In spite of the fact that most of us have told our children when spanking them, “I’m only doing this because I love you.”

Nine times in seven verses the writer of Hebrews uses the word discipline. It is the Greek word peideia and as is usual with most Greek words, it is rich in meaning. It comes from another Greek word, pais, which means “child.” So the term peideia has to do with the training of a child. “The word is a broad term, signifying whatever parents and teachers do to train, correct, cultivate, and educate children in order to help them develop and mature as they ought” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary). The NET Bible defines it this way:

The whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment) It also includes the training and care of the body

So while the word does include the idea of punishment and reproof, there is much more involved than that. It is a positive term that involves instruction which aims at increasing virtue. So when hardship or trials come our way, we are to view them with the perspective that God loves us and is disciplining or training us. “It is for your training that you undergo these things” (BBE). We are to see our difficulties as part of God’s sovereign, loving plan to discipline us. It is not always punishment for wrongs done, but like a loving parent or teacher, God is using every circumstance in our lives to mold into us Christ-like character. My kids hate exams in school. They see no value in them. They only view them as some kind of sick punishment meted out by unfair teachers who seem bent on ruining their lives. But what they fail to see is that their teachers have a greater goal in mind than my children’s happiness. They are responsible to mold and prepare their minds for future study and in to ready them for future careers. But because my kids live in the immediacy of the moment and do not want to think about the future, they can only see these tests as roadblocks to their personal pleasure. They would prefer they be taken away altogether, not realizing that to do so would be an act of hatred, not love.

So we too are constantly asking God to take away those tests or trials we find distasteful or disturbing to our idea of comfort and pleasure. But because God loves us, He refuses to do so. Instead, He treats us as a loving Father, who knows exactly what we need and refuses to give us what we want. God loves us too much to give us our way. He knows better. And if we will learn to view the difficulties and hardships of life through Gods eyes, we will begin to see that He has a plan for even the hardest moments of our life. We have to cultivate an eternal perspective that helps us see beyond the moment. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening––it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Vs 11 – NLT).

Father, thank You that you love me so much that you are willing to train me. Please help me look past what I can only seem to see as the pain of discipline and see the fruit that will result from it. Give me an eternal viewpoint that sees my circumstances from your perspective. Help me to remember that Your discipline is proof of just how much You love me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Hebrews chapter 11

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see. – Vs 1 (NLT)

What is faith? That’s a great question. Is it something we muster up or is it, like salvation, a gift from God? For years I have heard this passage referred to as the “Great Hall of Faith.” In it we have chronicled the great feats of faith of such icons of the Old Testament as Noah, Abraham, and Moses. Verse after verse tells us that these men and women accomplished certain things in their lives “by faith.” Abraham offered up his son Isaac as a potential sacrifice “by faith.” “By faith” Noah built a boat big enough to hold two of every kind of living thing, plus his family – when there wasn’t a body of water big enough to float it anywhere nearby. We read of Jacob’s faith, Sarah’s faith, Isaac’s faith, Joseph’s faith, even Rahab’s faith (a woman referred to as a harlot). Over the years this chapter has become a source of inspiration and irritation for me. It has been used by pastors in an attempt to inspire me to greater feats of faith. To muster up the kind of faith that Abraham and Moses had. It has been used as a measuring rod to determine the amount of my own faith as compared to that of these members of the great hall of faith. Which is why this chapter has also irritated me. I have found it defeating and deflating to look at the lives of these individuals and try to compare my meager faith with theirs. I just never seem to measure up. I ask myself what I would have done if God had asked me to sacrifice one of my sons on an altar. I just don’t think I would have had the faith to pull it off. If God had asked me to build a boat in my backyard in order to save the world from a flood, would I have had the faith to pull it off? Probably not. So I just don’t measure up.

But I think I’ve missed the point. This isn’t a celebration of these people’s faith. This isn’t about their ability to conjure up just the right amount of faith so that they could be recognized and rewarded for it. This is about God producing faith in us, in spite of us. The very fact that we have faith is evidence of God’s work in us. Faith is the evidence of things we cannot yet see. The New American Standard Bible translates verse 1 this way: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. That word conviction means “proof, that by which a thing is proved or tested.” Faith is proof of the unseen things of God. The very fact that we have faith is a gift from God. We can’t manufacture it or conjure it up. We can’t try to have more of it. As I read through these verses, it hits me that I could replace the word “faith” with the name of God and it all begins to make more sense.

“By God Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance…”

“By God Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark…”

“By God he [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king…”

These people were able to do what they did because of God, not because of themselves. Their faith was proof or evidence of God’s work in their lives. He was orchestrating things behind the scenes that they weren’t even aware of. It was God who gave Joseph the faith to believe that the people of Israel would some day return to their land. So he asked his family to return his bones there when it happened. The faith of every one of these individuals was future-oriented. It was based on things yet to come. We are told that “all these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance” (Vs 13). Their confident assurance was in things they hoped were going to happen. Isaac and Jacob both blessed their sons, hoping and trusting in God’s faithfulness to fulfill the blessing. Rahab helped rescue the spies, at great risk of her life, hoping and trusting in God’s faithfulness to rescue and protect her. The very fact that we have faith is the evidence of things we cannot see. It is the proof that those things really do exist. God has given us the faith to believe in them. He has given us the faith to believe in the substitionary death of Jesus Christ. He has given us the faith to believe in a future kingdom and our place in it. He has given us a faith to endure the trials and tribulations of this life because we know He has given us eternal life. Faith is a gift from God.

Nothing supports this more than verses 33-40. Here we see a list of nameless individuals – some of whom accomplished great deeds. They conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, shut the mouths of lions, from weakness were strong, became mighty in war, etc. It is by faith they were able to do these things. But who gave them the faith to do so? God. Others didn’t fare so well. They were mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two, tempted, put to death, afflicted, ill-treated, and destitute. But they are noted for having had faith. They endured what they did because of faith. They had hope in something yet to come. “Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised” (Vs 39, NLT).

The emphasis is not on their faith, but on the One behind their faith and on the object of their faith. Our faith is God-given and future-oriented. It isn’t about the here and now. It is about what is to come. It is about the things not yet seen. It is about the gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news that we have an inheritance reserved for us in heaven because of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fact that we can live lives of faith here and now is proof of the reality of God’s promise. We live with our eyes set on the hope that lies before us and ahead of us. “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.”

Father, thank You that the issue is not the amount of faith I bring to the table, but the fact that I have any faith at all. The presence of faith in my life is evidence that You have changed my life. The fact that I have a hope in things I can’t even see is proof of Your Holy Spirit’s presence in my life. Thank You for giving me the faith to believe. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Hebrews chapter 10

Let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. – Vs 22-24 (NLT)

Let us draw near. Let us hold fast. Let us consider. These are the three encouragements given by the writer of Hebrews in light of the fact that they have “been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Vs 10). Unlike the sacrifices made under the Law, which had to be offered “year by year” (Vs 1) and “time after time” (Vs 11), Jesus “offered one sacrifice for sins for all time” (Vs 12) and He has “perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Vs 14). “Now where there is forgiveness … there is no longer any offering for sin” (Vs 18). What Jesus did for us is done. We can have complete confidence to enter into God’s presence completely forgiven and accepted by Him.

So we can draw near with a sincere heart us full assurance of faith” (Vs 22). Or as the New Living Translation puts it: “go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him.” Why” Because we have had our hearts made clean and our bodies washed pure. What were our hearts made clean from? The condemning nature of our own conscience. Our conscience condemns us and reminds us of our own guilt. But Jesus’ death removed our sin and, therefore, our guilt. The second aspect of our cleansing is that our bodies have been washed with pure water. This is not a reference to baptism, but to the cleansing and transformative presence of the Holy Spirit.

“He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit.” – Titus 3:5

The Holy Spirit within us changes us. He is sanctifying us daily – transforming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ Himself. The reality of both of these cleansings allow us to come boldly and confidently into the presence of God Himself.

Secondly, we are to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. Why? Because He who promised is faithful. We are to remain faithful because of God’s faithfulness. Again, the New Living Translation says it well: “Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” Our steadfastness is based less on the strength of our own faith than on the reality of God’s faithfulness. He will do exactly as He has promised. “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Third, we are to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. We are to “think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” Once again, we see the importance of the community of faith – the body of Christ. We are to constantly be thinking about ways we can encourage or stimulate each other to love and serve one another. Notice that in all three of these words of encouragement, the writer uses the terms “us” and “our.” WE are to do these things, and we are to do them together, not alone. We are to love and be loved, serve and be served – all in the context of community – “not forsaking our own assembling together” (Vs 25). There is no place for free-agent, Lone Ranger Christians in the family of God. We are in this together. We need one another. We are to encourage one another – to draw near and to hold fast. Because the day is drawing near. The Lord is coming back. We are to live with that reality in mind.

Father, thank You for the once-for-all sacrifice of Your Son that has provided me with complete forgiveness and complete access into Your presence. Because of what He has done for me, help us to not be afraid to draw near to You – free from guilt or condemnation. Help us to hold firmly onto what we say believe because You can be trusted to keep your promise. And help us to constantly be thinking about ways we can stimulate each other to greater love and acts that reflect who we are in Christ. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Hebrews chapter 9

all thing are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. – Vs 22 (NASB)

The concept of shed blood would not have been foreign to the writer’s Hebrew audience. In fact, they were well aware of the role blood played in their sacrificial system. But the author is comparing the old and the new. The old covenant (law) and the new covenant (grace). Under the old covenant, the High Priest had to enter the Holy of Holies “year by year with blood that is not his own” (Vs 25). No one sacrifice was enough. And his sacrifice was to cover the sins of the people and his own as well. He was just as sinful and in need of cleansing. Even Moses inaugurated the giving of the covenant with blood. “He took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people” (Vs 19). “Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood” (Vs 18). Blood played a major role in the old covenant. The purpose of the blood was to symbolize sacrifice for sin, which brought cleansing from sin.

Even under the old covenant, forgiveness was a costly thing. It involved the loss of life. In the case of the old covenant, the lives of countless innocent animals. But under the new covenant, the loss of the life of Jesus Christ Himself – the sinless, innocent Son of God. But we take forgiveness so lightly. We are grateful that we have forgiveness for our sins and it is readily available any time we ask for it. We love verses like 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But Paul warns us in Romans 6:1-2: “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” I love what John MacArthur has to say on this topic in his commentary on Hebrews:

“To realize and rejoice in God’s boundless grace is one thing; to presume on it by willfully sinning is quite another. How can we, as forgiven sinners, take lightly and presumptuously, the price paid for our forgiveness? We become so used to grace that we abuse it.”

Our sin cost Jesus His life. It’s why He came. Yet we can’t overlook the cost. We can’t ignore the fact that your sin and my sin are the reason He died. Our sinfulness caused His blood to be shed. Because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Our sin demanded payment by death. And the only death that could pay for all the sins of mankind was that of the sinless Son of God. God didn’t overlook sin, He provided the payment for it. And it cost Him dearly. So should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! The Savior of the world has paid for the sins of the world with His own life – once for all. And one day He is coming back, but this time not to deal with sin, but to consummate our salvation. “So also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again but not to deal with our sins again. This time he will bring salvation to all those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Vs 28). So lets live our lives in appreciation for the forgiveness we have been given and in anticipation of the salvation we will one day receive.

Father, thank You for Your Son’s selfless sacrifice. Thank You for the blood that was shed for me. Forgive me for taking His death so lightly and Your grace so cheaply, without considering the cost. Without Jesus shedding His blood, I would have NO forgiveness for my sin and NO hope for salvation. Keep that thought in the forefront of my mind at all times, so that I might live a life that reflects my appreciation and gratitude. I can never repay You, but I can live for You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Hebrews chapter 8

But our High Priest has been given a ministry that is far superior to the ministry of those who serve under the old laws, for he is the one who guarantees for us a better covenant with God, based on better promises. – Vs 6 (NLT)

A more excellent High Priest. A superior ministry. A better covenent based on better promises. Chapter 8 seems to sum up everything from the previous 7 chapters. In fact, Paul says, “Here is the main point: Our High Priest sat down in the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand” (Vs 1 – NLT). Jesus, our High Priest, sits at the right hand of God, a place of power, honor, and authority. He has complete access to God the Father. He ministers in the true sanctuary, not a temporary, man-made, representation of what is to come. It is not “a copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Vs 5), but the real thing. He is the real High Priest who has real authority and who ministers in the real sanctuary in the very presence of God Himself.

And as our High Priest, Jesus guarantees us a better covenant. A new covenant. Why? Because the old covenant had been broken. The people of Israel had failed to keep their end of the covenant. They had disobeyed and rebelled time after time. They could not and did not keep the laws that were tied to the Mosaic covenant. They did not hold up their end of the agreement. Paul backs this up with a quote from the prophet Jeremiah. He says that this is going to be a completely, radically new covenant, “not like the covenant which I made with their fathers” (Vs 9). The blessings of the old covenant were conditioned on Israel’s obedience to the law that God gave with the covenant. Because they “did not continue in” the covenant, God “did not care for them” (Vs 9). In other words, their lack of obedience led to curses, not blessing. God could not bless them because of their disobedience.

But God made a new covenant with Israel.

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds so they will understand them, and I will write them on their hearts so they will obey them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” – Vs 10

The old covenant was based on externals. It was external rules and regulations that required complete obedience. And obedience was primarily out of fear of punishment. The new covenant is internal. Obedience will be inwardly motivated and generated. It will come from the heart and will be empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit. And there will be a knowledge of God unlike anything they have ever experienced before.

“And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their family, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will already know me.” – Vs 11 (NLT)

Paul is telling his Jewish readers news that should be extremely exciting to them. The old covenant, based on rules and ritual, has been replaced with a new and better covenant. One that is based on the faithfulness and mercy of God alone. It is the new covenant based on the blood of Jesus Christ (Luke 22:20). It is a new covenant “not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old way ends in death; in the new way, the Holy Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). It is a new covenant based on mercy and forgiveness of sin. It is an unconditional covenant, that requires nothing of me because I have nothing to give. It has been written by God, ratified by God, and made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son. It’s new. Its better. It’s available here and now. Are you living in it and under it? Or are you still trying to keep a set of rules, somehow trying to earn favor with God? Do you still believe that your salvation or better yet, your sanctification, is somehow up to you? That is the old way. You are living according to the old covenant based on works, human effort, and self-righteousness. We live under the new covenant. We have the Spirit within us who has given us a new heart and a new desire to obey because we are loved, not to try to earn God’s love. The new covenant is better. So let’s live in it.

Father, thank You for the reality of the new covenant. I do not have to live under the law. I don’t have to try to keep a set of impossible standards in some attempt to appease or please you. I am not doomed to failure and defeat. Because of Your Son’s death and resurrection, I am a new creature with a new nature, and a new capacity to obey and worship and know God that I could never have manufactured on my own. Help me to live according to the new covenant and not the old. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Hebrews chapter 7

He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has now been set apart from sinners, and he has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. He does not need to offer sacrifices every day like the other high priests. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he sacrificed himself on the cross.” – Vs 27-28 (NLT)

This is a confusing chapter. All the talk of priesthoods, laws, Melchizedek, commandments, and covenants can leave your head spinning. So what’s the point? It would seem to be to stress that Jesus brought a new way of doing things. Instead of life lived according to the strict and stifling requirements of the Law, administered by sinful men serving as priests from the tribe of Levi, we are offered a better way. We have a High Priest who was born into a different tribe and offers a totally different solution to the problem of sin. He is Jesus, our High Priest. He is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens” (Vs 26). Unlike the Levitical priests, who had to offer up sacrifices every day to atone for their own sins and the sins of the people, Jesus offered one sacrifice – “once for all when He offered up Himself” (Vs 27). And He never had to offer a sacrifice for His own sins, because He was sinless.

God provided a new way. He provided His own Son because the Law, administered by sinful men, could never give the people what they desired: restored communion with God. No one could keep the Law, not even the men who were sworn to uphold it. The sacrificial Levitical system never accomplished what it set out to do. It couldn’t. It pointed to a future sacrificial system that would satisfy the justice of God and pay the debt for sin that was owed by mankind “once for all.” Through Jesus Christ, God made a way for us to have our sins forgiven permanently and perfectly. He made a way for us to have our relationship with Him restored, mercifully and justly. And it wasn’t left up to us to keep some set of rules or standards that were beyond our ability to obey. Jesus did that for us. He lived the life we could not live. He fulfilled the requirements we could not meet. He satisfied the righteous standard of God we never could have kept. And He “has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Vs 22). The covenant that God made through Jesus is better than the old one because the old one was temporary and the new one is eternal. A better priest guarantees a better covenant. This is not to say the old covenant was bad, but only that it was imperfect and temporary.  In Romans, Paul defends the Law when he says, “Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is evil? Of course not! The law is not sinful, but it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “Do not covet” (Romans 7:7).

The Law, the old covenant, was given to reveal my sin and my need for a Savior. The Law and any attempt by men to keep it only further proved our complete inadequacy to live up to the kind of standard God required. God knew that the Law could never save us. Why? Because we have a sinful nature that prevents us from obeying it. But if God had never given us the Law, we would have never realized just how sinful we really are. Without a holy standard of measurement, we would never have realized we don’t measure up. But God didn’t leave us in this sad state.

“The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature. But God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4 – NLT)

He gave us His Son, a better High Priest. He gave us a way to become righteous that is completely outside of ourselves and not based on our own efforts. Or salvation is no longer based on us having to do something, but on what His Son has already done on our behalf.

Father, thank You for coming up with a better way. Because if You had not, we would have all been doomed to failure. We were without hope, lost in our sins, incapable of saving ourselves. But You graciously provided another way for us to be restored to a right relationship with You. You provided a way for us to stand in your presence as righteous and holy in Your sight, that was not based on our own efforts, but on the sinless sacrifice of Your Son and our great High Priest. I am literally forever grateful. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Hebrews chapter 6

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast, which reaches inside behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner entered on our behalf, since he became a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” – Vs 19-20 (NET)

We have a hope that is based on God’s unchangeableness and faithfulness. The two unchangeable things are God’s promise (Vs 13) and His pledge (Vs 19).  They are unchangeable or unalterable. The Greek word is ametathetos and it was used in relation to wills. Once made, a will was considered ametathetos, unchangeable by anyone but the one who made the will. God has said that His promise and pledge is ametathetos. They are binding and cannot be changed – even by Him. So those who believe in His promise and pledge are secure. Those who place their faith in God can rest in the knowledge that He will never let them go. They are secure. And our security is not based on us having to hold on to God, but in Him holding on to us. He has made a promise and a pledge to keep us and never let us go.

It is because of these two unchangeable things – His promise and His pledge – knowing that God will not lie to us, that we have taken refuge and have found a strong encouragement to “take hold of the hope set before us” (Vs 18). That hope is an anchor to our souls, a hope both sure and steadfast. It leads us right into the throne room of God, past the curtain and into His presence, where Jesus has already entered before us. He has opened the way ahead of us. At His death, the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was torn in two – from top to bottom – removing the barrier between God and man. Now we can enter confidently, with hope, into the presence of God, where Jesus our High Priest intercedes on our behalf. He has entered into the Holy of Holies as our High Priest and offered the final atoning sacrifice for our sins. Our soul is anchored, safeguarded, kept, or secured by the very presence of Christ at the right hand of the Father. His sacrifice was accepted by God. Our sins have been atoned for. We are secure and can never have our right standing with God removed.

So who are these who have “fallen away” in verse 6? They have “been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away” (Vs 4-5). If we are secure, how can we fall away? The writer of Hebrews is speaking to those in his audience who have heard the truth and acknowledged it, but who have hesitated to embrace Christ. They had been around the things of God. They had heard the truth of the Gospel. They had seen the works of the Holy Spirit. They had seen the life-changing power of God in the lives of others. But they had failed to place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Now they run the risk of losing their opportunity to believe. They have heard, but have rejected the truth of what they have heard. They have even feigned a form of repentance, but with no real heart change. There are those in our churches today who fit this description. They have been exposed to the truth of the Gospel, but refuse to accept it. They have all the appearance of being saved, but have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their sin-substitute. Instead, they think they can somehow save themselves through their own righteous acts. They can somehow earn their way into God’s good favor.

Our hope and assurance is in Jesus alone. He is our anchor. He is our source of confident assurance that we can never lose our salvation, and that we will inherit the promises that God has made to us who believe (Vs 12). I can know that I am right with God because I know that Jesus has died for me. He is my High Priest. My sins are forgiven and I can stand before God as righteous in His eyes.

Father, thank You for the hope that I have because of Jesus Christ. I am saved and can confidently know that my salvation is permanent, not based on my behavior, but on Your unchanging promise and pledge. You will never let me go. Your own Son stands in your presence as my High Priest, having offered the final sacrifice for my sins. He has paid the price, once for all, and I am Your child. Thank You that it does not rest on me and my good merits, but on Your good grace. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Hebrews chapter 5

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! – Vs 12 (NIV)

The letter of Hebrews is written to Jews. Thus, the name. This was more than likely a congregation of believers who lived outside of Israel – possibly in Italy. Within this congregation were believers, but also those who professed belief, but were not living it out in their daily lives. Their common bond, besides the gospel, was their Jewish heritage. For some this was posing a problem. Their “Jewishness” was making it difficult for them to embrace faith in Christ completely. They had been exposed to the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but as chapter 4 seems to indicate, they were being disobedient to it. They were hearing God’s voice, but hardening their hearts (4:7). Now they are confronted with the reality that even though they had been raised on the Old Testament teachings of God and had been around the gospel message of Jesus Christ for some time now, they were still immature in their faith. They had not grown. They were like infants spiritually, who couldn’t handle the “meat” of God’s word concering Christ. “Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food” (NLT).

The writer has been telling them about the high priestly role of Jesus. That even though He wasn’t born into the priestly tribe of Levi, Jesus was appointed to be a high priest by God Himself. In that role, Jesus offered the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of man, His own life. “In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him” (Vs 9, NLT). And while the author of this letter (probably Paul) would love to tell them more, he can’t, because some in his readership have become dull of hearing. They are spiritually slow to learn, difficult to teach, and unresponsive to instruction. So they are not able to grasp the significance of all the talk about priesthoods, sacrifices, and the order of Melchizedek. Their dullness is what is behind their spiritual child-likeness. Because they cannot or will not hear the truth of God, they end up remaining in spiritual infancy – stuck on the elementary or basic teachings about God, faith, and salvation. They never progress, never move forward in their faith. They’re stuck in perpetual spiritual infancy.

How many in the church struggle with the same problem today? They have been exposed to the Word of God. They have heard the message of the gospel. But they can’t grasp the significance of it all because they are dull of hearing. They sit in pews Sunday after Sunday, hearing the message of salvation, but refuse to accept it by faith. Even believers can be exposed to the deeper truth of God’s Word and refuse to obey what they have heard. John MacArthur has this to say:

“When we do not trust and act on any part of God’s truth that we know, we become hardened to it and less and less likely to benefit from it. Or we can avoid delving into the deeper parts of God’s Word, being satisfied with the ‘basics,’ we insulate ourselves from the Holy Spirit to that extent.”

We become satisfied with what we have and what we already know. We refuse to go deeper. We become content with milk and not meat. We remain in spiritual infancy when we should be progressing into spiritual maturity. We turn up our noses at the “solid food” of God’s truth. Yet Paul closes this chapter with the warning, “Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right” (Vs 14). So how’s your hearing? Better yet, how’s your appetite? Do you crave the meat of God’s Word or are you satisfied with the basics? Are you content with milk or have you moved on to the main course – the word of righteousness that can change your life and lead to spiritually maturity? By now you ought to be the one teaching. Are you?

Father, we have far too many infants in the church. Not new believers, but long-time converts who have refused to listen to Your Word and have remained in spiritual infancy. Show us how to help them gain an appetite for the meat of Your message. To grow and mature in their relationship with Christ. So that they can become teachers and instructors of others. So that they can know right from wrong and truth from falsehood. May spiritual maturity become a real priority and a constant pursuit among Your people. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Hebrews chapter 4

For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.. – Vs 10 (NASB)

Rest. It seems to be the main theme of this chapter. In fact, the word rest is used at least 10 times in today’s reading. And what an attractive word rest is. It has a certain appeal to us because most of us are in desperate need of rest. We live busy lives filled with activity and action, seldom pausing long enough to really experience true rest. Even our sleep is filled with anxious thoughts and restless nights. We wake up tired instead of refreshed. We take vacations in the hope of finding rest, but return from them worn out and dreading the thought of all the work that has piled up while we were away. But the writer of the book of Hebrews talks about a rest that seems to be a non-negotiable. The rest he talks about is tied to the gospel and can be rejected through an act of disobedience. But what kind of rest is he talking about?

In his commentary on the book of Hebrews, John MacArthur says this, “Rest involves remaining confident, keeping trust. In other words, to rest in something or someone means to maintain our confidence in it or him. To enter God’s rest, therefore, means to enjoy the perfect, unshakeable confidence of salvation in our Lord. We have no more reason to fear. We have absolute trust and confidence in God’s power and care.” It carries the idea that we can confidently “lean on” God both now and for eternity. We can depend on Him for everything and in everything – for support, for health, for strength – for everything we need. We have confidence in Him, so we rest in that confidence, because we know He is going to be there for us. It is like a child sleeping soundly in the arms of his father, even in the midst of a thunder storm. He rests because he knows he is safe from harm. He trust his father.

But this rest only comes to those who believe in God. Hearing the good news is not enough. You must believe. To not believe is to disobey and to disobey is to never enjoy the rest God offers. So we are warned to “be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience” (Vs 11). The example given is that of the Israelites in the wilderness, who because of their disobedience, never got to enter the rest of the Promised Land. In the New Living Translation verse 11 reads this way:

“Let us do our best to enter that place of rest. For anyone who disobeys God, as the people of Israel did, will fall.”

The choice of words here is interesting. The author says, “Let us do our best.” The Greek word is spoudazo. It means to make effort, be prompt or earnest:-do (give) diligence, be diligent (forward), endeavour, labour, study. We’re to make every effort to enter that place or rest. We should so want to enter the final rest that God offers, that we will do everything in our power to see to it that we get there. Now this is not talking about earning our place in heaven or our salvation. But it is promoting the idea of value or worth. The rest God offers is so valuable that we will do anything to gain it. We will not allow anything to sidetrack us or distract us. And God will examine our intentions and our hearts through His “living and active” word. He will determine whether we have embraced His offer of rest through faith or not.

But if we believe, we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace” and “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We can find rest NOW – in our times of need. We can come with confidence to His throne and appeal to His mercy and grace and He will give us rest – even in the midst of the storm. But we can also rest confidently that we will one day enter into His final rest for us. There is a Promised Land prepared for us. And while we wander through this wilderness experience of our own, we can rest knowing that He is taking care of us now, leading us, feeding us, providing for us – and guiding us into the place He has prepared for us.

Father, I need rest. I need physical rest, but I also need emotional and spiritual rest that only You can give. Forgive me for doubting You, because that is what causes so much of my unrest. I doubt, so I worry. I doubt, so I stress out. I doubt, so I wake up at night in a cold sweat. I am not resting confidently in Your word and Your promises. I am not resting in the assurance of Your promise of heaven. I obsess about the inconveniences of the “wilderness” and I grumble and complain. Father, I want to enjoy Your rest, now and for eternity. Show me how. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men