PJ’s Daily Devotional for Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
There is nothing more important in your life than what you believe about God.
As I read Hebrews 12 this morning, I said, “Wow!” Then, I read it again and again. There is a pattern in this Scripture. It doesn’t jump out at you at first, though you start noticing it; it is the biblical rhythm of “IF you believe this about God, THEN live this way.” Scholars often call it the “indicative-imperative” pattern. The indicative of the language tells you what you are to believe about God and the imperative of the language commands what then you should do.
Hebrews 12 starts with a “Therefore” and the common thing you do when you see a “therefore” in Scripture is you ask yourself: “What is it there for?” Don’t devoid the commands of God of their meaning and grace by just reading what comes next, but go back and see what the Bible teaches you. In the Bible, God’s grace always precedes the call of obedience! If you don’t get this, you can easily become a legalistic Christian only focusing on the commands of God and not understanding the heart of God. It is only by grace that you are even in a relationship with Him, nevertheless, have the ability to please him through obedience. Just like in Romans 12:1-2, Hebrews 12:1-2 transitions from the previous chapter’s indicative to the now imperative.[Geek note: Don’t believe me that this is the heart of God? Then go back to the famous Ten Commandments and see it for yourself. What is the first thing God says in Exodus 20 before launching into the big 10? God says, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). GRACE! I choose you, I rescued you from slavery, not because you deserved it, but because I love you; therefore… follows these 10 commandments! Starting to see it yet?]
In today’s Bible Reading, the faith stories of God’s people summarized in Hebrews 11 inform our lives and our lifestyles this way: “THEREFORE, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
If you aren’t quite getting it, go back and read the context. Read Hebrew 11 into Hebrews 12:1-2 and you will see greater depth as the chapter’s unfortunate placement breaks the flow of the inspired writing. [Geek note: I will not go into this kind of detail deeply in these daily devotions, but just know that the chapter breaks and verses, as well as chapter headings and sectional headings are NOT considered inspired, but were added over time and are editorial in nature. Just like the notes and comments in your study Bibles are NOT inspired, but added much later by well-intentioned people to assist you in organizing and reading the Bible. Only the original text of the Bible is the inspired Word of God!]
Here is the next one in today’s Bible Reading, but instead of the word “therefore,” we see another set of famous transition words, “so that.” Again, anytime you see the “so that” in a passage say to yourself “So what is the purpose of ‘so that’?”
Listen to this quick example: “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, SO THAT you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:3). The emphasis is on what Jesus Christ has done for sinners (He endured hostility against himself for sinners); therefore, you, like Jesus, do not grow weary or fainthearted. Again, don’t minimize the rich and graceful theology of the Bible by minimizing the teaching down to moralistic rules. The Bible teaches us about God before it is the “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” [Important note: That is not what the word Bible means, that is another well-intentioned person’s teaching to help people see that the Bible is applicable to their daily lives, which is great, but causes many modern-day Pharisees to miss that the point of Scripture is to teach us about who God is and how He has worked throughout history to redeem humanity, climaxing in Jesus Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and imminent return. If you minimize the Bible to a moralistic rule book, then you miss grace. If you miss grace, then you miss God no matter how much you think you are obeying Him!]
What you believe matters! Your thought life matters! Your life and actions of your life flow out of what you believe about God, yourself & people, the world, the reason for living, and your views of the afterlife (these are all elements of a coherent worldview that come from a right understanding of the Bible). To say your actions are divorced from your beliefs is to only deceive yourself. This divorce only leads to dissonance and denial within your own life. You are to live a healthy and integrated life, where your mind, body, heart, and soul are aligned to one another, not alienated from one another.
Therefore, in your life….
I exhort you today, don’t divorce your life from grace! May the love of God compel you, not your own compulsive needs to obey. Only the Spirit of God, not your flesh, can lead you to a life that pleases God. Only by faith!