Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Challenges of Hebrews 12:12-14

This past week on the Lord’s Day at SGCF we looked at Hebrews 12:12-14 (The Path of Perseverance) which tells us that which we should do in light of the exhortations given in 12:1-11. The truth is we need to go back to Chapter 11 as well as it is only then that we see that the only way to do what we are called to do is “by faith” as those in Chapter 11 modeled for us. Just has been the case with all of Hebrews it places challenges before us that we all too often read over too quickly.

In V12 we are told to “lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees.” This tells us a few things but most of all it tells us that the pilgrimage we are on as believers is one where weariness and struggles will exist. But, the encouragement, gotten from 12:1-11, is that God is the one that has ordained those trials for our benefit and is the one that will strengthen us to persevere. The Christian pilgrimage is fraught with hazards but they are hazards placed by God for our growth and He is also the one that will sustain us and keep us in the midst of those trials. This is a great hope as we can then see that in the midst of any situation that God has not abandoned us. He may be correcting us or strengthening us but He is still there moving us towards holiness.

Then in V13 we are told to make straight paths so that we and others that are struggling will not stumble. This is a great verse because it speaks of our responsibility for our walk as well as that of other believers, especially in our particular community of faith that God has placed us. In our highly individualistic age we are so prone to see scripture for what it says to me, about me, and for me but there is so much more. God has given us the local church so that as we travel on our pilgrimage we can know we are not alone and that we are to work together to persevere to the final reward. We are to encourage others and even realize that we may face trials that are simply bestowed on us to encourage others by our walk , “by faith,” through the trial.

Next in V14 we are told to strive after peace and holiness. It is so great that these are together because it sets the limits to how far we can go for peace and that is it cannot hinder our striving for holiness. The word strive is one of intensity as if one were hunting a prey. The goal is that we strive and the encouragement is that when faced with those that are difficult to be at peace with we can know God has put them there for His glory and our growth towards holiness. So we are to strive for peace, it may not come but it will not be because we have not tried.

We are also to strive for holiness which is a virtue that I think many do not contemplate enough, I know I do not. But if we see this verse in light of 12:1 we see that we are to put aside whatever gets in the way of our pursuit of holiness. Of course we will not achieve perfect holiness this side of glory but we are to pursue it never-the-less. How would our lives change if we asked a simple question when faced with choices: “How will this choice hinder or increase my holiness.” I know for me this makes for some choices that seem strange in our culture today. But I would challenge us to try this and to take heed to 12:1 and do all we can by the power of the spirit to put aside whatever it is that hinders our pursuit of holiness.

The challenge of Hebrews is that it is not simply a book about a group of 1st century believers struggling with faith choices. It is a living and real sermon for us today in a culture that at every turn seeks to have us deny the Gospel. We may not see our actions as so just as the Hebrew believers probably did not, that is until they heard Hebrews. The call is for us to heed the message that Christ is to so hold our affections that all we do is to reflect that and anything that hinders that reflection is to be done away with. Let us, “by faith,” seek after holiness so that God gets the Glory that only he deserves.

No comments: