< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Hebrews 12 Part 3

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hebrews 12 Part 3

Hebrews 12:12-17 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

Most people can come through in a pinch. But it’s the day in day out of living our faith that can be hard. This section deals with a Christian’s daily life and struggle. The author tells us to strengthen ourselves so we can strengthen others. Christians have a duty to God, but they also have a duty to man: that they don’t mislead him.

Our example needs to make it easier for others to believe in and follow Christ. If we say one thing and do another it confuses people. And that’s wrong. Christians should live a life above reproach. One commentator said, “A man must offer his heart to God and his service and example to his fellow men.”

Where is says we should make every effort to live in peace means we should pursue it. It requires effort. Peace to the Hebrews was not just freedom from trouble. It meant 2 things. First, it was everything which makes for a man’s highest good: it meant the highest welfare man could enjoy and that (as the Hebrews saw it) could only be found in obedience to God. So the Christian must aim at that complete obedience to God in which life finds its highest happiness, its greatest good and its peace.

The second meaning is a right relation between men. Where man only seeks good for his neighbor. Love, forgiveness, service…no hatred. So, tying this together; the peace we strive for comes from obedience to God’s will, which enables us to live in and produce right relationships with our fellow man.

Going on in this verse we are also to aim for holiness. The intense pursuit of holiness is to be the predominant priority of every Christian. The pursuit is a spiritual mindset. If someone is spirit-filled, there will be a burning thirst to experience God’s holiness in every corner of his being. Daily, serious Bible reading and prayer are the primary means by which we pursue such purity and growth. In Matthew 6:20 Jesus said we are to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” The entire book of Leviticus was written so the Israelites would learn how to be holy. God tells us to “Be Holy because I am Holy. Remember that holy means to be separate, different and that the world’s standards are not ours.

Our ideal is different, our reward is different. We are not holy now, but holiness is our destiny. (1 John 3:2-3) Our lack of holiness is what causes most of our problems in life though and that’s why we need to strive to be holy now. Ask yourself, “What changes must I make to live a holy life?” That would be a good way to spend quiet time with God, a pencil and paper. Then check yourself on it everyday.

We’re also told not to let a root of bitterness spring up. Bitterness comes when we allow disappointment to grow to resentment or when we nurse grudges over past hurts. Bitterness is ugly and it causes jealousy, dissension and immortality. But the Holy Spirit can heal us from the hurt that causes it if we ask Him.

The author uses Esau in the next verse as a man who put his earthly comfort and pleasure above God and lost his inheritance. Any man who lives just for this world throws away his birthright – eternity. Remember how God promised Abraham that He would make him the father of a great nation and that people would be blessed through him? And that Jesus was the fulfillment of that? He was the one from Abraham’s lineage that would come and save people. The promises to Abraham were what Isaac was passing on to his eldest son. He didn’t have any land to speak of. His birthright was still in the future. In a previous post I wrote that the great people of faith who were listed in Hebrews 11 died without seeing all of God’s promises fulfilled, but they kept their faith. They kept God first so they, including Abraham (Esau’s grandfather), Isaac (Esau’s father) and Jacob (Esau’s twin) were listed in the “honor roll of faith” but Esau is in Hebrews 12:16 called a godless man. It says that later he sought his birthright, but was rejected because he didn’t repent. Remember Judas went back and tried to un-do the sin he had committed too. But saying you’re sorry and truly repenting (changing your action and your attitude and your life!) are two different things.

The author says that Esau despised his birthright. He deliberately rejected God. Therefore God rejected Esau. We too have a spiritual birthright. We may have been born into a Christian family, but we still, when we reach the age of accountability, must choose God. We may know the facts, we may know the promises, we may know the only way to receive eternal life is through believing that Jesus died and rose again for our personal sins. But if we are acting any other way then the way God calls us to be we are despising our birthright.

We live in a land where there are Bibles and we have the freedom to read them. If we don’t, we despise our birthright. We can belong to a church, but when we stay at home on Sundays to enjoy the weather, or whatever, we despise our birthright. We make daily choices whether we think about them or not. God wants us to take our birthright seriously.

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At 1:44 PM, Blogger Norma said...

What a great title for a blog. Everyone who teaches Sunday School or VBS talks about how much they've learned.

At 4:20 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Nancy said...

Thank you, Norma. And I love learning it!


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