How are we to live, in light of Who Jesus Christ Is, and in light of His fiery glory? How may we serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (12:28)? I’m glad you asked! The writer of Hebrews has provided a mini-handbook of ways in which we should live, knowing that we are in the Presence of Jesus Christ, the King of Glory, who the writer of Hebrews has been revealing to us for 12 chapters.
There are so many different commandments that, as with the entirety of God’s commandments, it’s impossible to keep them all before you all the time. Here, in 8 short verses, you are commanded to: let brotherly love continue, entertain strangers, remember the prisoners, honor marriage and not be fornicators or adulterers, avoid covetousness, be content with what you have, not be afraid, remember the church leaders who rule over you, and follow the faithful conduct of these rulers.
Got all that?
What I find is typical of my life and the lives of other saints is that God directs us to deal with a particular sin of either commission or omission, and, if we are being faithful, we dutifully obey and make a point to be hospitable. But then, as we focus on this, temptation sneaks in to covet the wife or house or life of another.
Sin is a devouring fire in my life. So I go to the Living Water, draw enough water to put out today’s fire, and when I have finished putting that fire out, either that fire has reignited or another one in a different place in my soul has started! So I go back to the Living Water, draw enough water to put out that fire, and the cycle continues, world without end.
A few years ago, as I was meditating on this problem, God showed me a better way and one that led to less discouragement in my life in Christ. Instead of focusing on the myriad kinds of sins that I’m capable of and that may potentially come up, instead of fretting about the all-encompassing commandment to give up myself and to love and serve God and others, God told me to focus on His Son.
I think this is something the writer of Hebrews would have us see as well. He’s warned us about the very real and catastrophic possibility of apostasy in our lives, He’s reminded us that God is a holy, living fire, and he’s taught us the necessity of faith, which is obedience to God and His commandments.
But we might have missed the fact that he’s also showed us the only way to adequately respond to these overwhelming responsibilities before God: and that is to remember who Jesus Christ is and to boldly approach the throne of grace in our time of need. No sooner does he remind us of God’s comprehensive commandment to love in every relationship and circumstance (verses 1-7) than he reminds us as well that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (verse 8).
The Jesus Christ who was described as the maker of the worlds, the brightness of God’s glory, and the one who is far superior to both the angels and the Old Covenant is the same Jesus Christ who is with you today. The same Jesus Christ who was your perfect sacrifice is still your perfect High Priest, interceding for you. The same Jesus Christ who perfectly obeyed the will of the Father in His life on earth is with you now, making it possible for you to obey the will of the Father. And the same Jesus Christ to whom the saints of Hebrews 11 looked forward with obedience and faith is now with you, but even more gloriously and powerfully.
The way to deal with the sin in my life is not to focus on the sin or on myself and my response to it but to focus instead on Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of my faith, the Obedient One, and my perfect Sacrifice and High Priest.
Instead of making many trips to the Living Water which is Jesus Christ and putting out the fires of sin one at a time, God has graciously given us a better way. The way to deal with all of these fires, including the potential ones I can’t even see yet, is to live in the Living Water. Instead of making trips back and forth between Christ and sin, what if I made it my ambition to always dwell in the Living Water? What if I focused on being in the presence of Jesus Christ so much that no matter which direction sin came from and no matter how subtly Satan tried to introduce it into my life, I would recognize it and be ready to reject it?
Instead of focusing on the many, many sins that I am likely to commit, I have to focus only on Jesus. If I truly see Him and receive Him with faith at a given moment, then I not only know what my response is supposed to be but also find the grace and strength to help me in my time of need. This is true not only for the sin that is perpetually crouching at my door but also for the suffering in my life. If I focus on seeing Jesus Christ, then I understand my suffering and God’s purpose in it. Without this vision of Christ, I see suffering as the enemy to be avoided at all costs, and I’m more prone to blame God or grumble or be depressed. But, when I see Jesus, then I remember that whatever suffering or troubles I am experiencing today are reminders that Jesus is with me, offering Himself to me in my time of need. Given the number of times per day I either don’t feel well or am disappointed or thwarted in my will or don’t have things go my way, my life is a veritable smorgasbord of ways to feed off Jesus every day!
As you consider what God has commanded you to do in love, the sins He has called you to forsake, and the suffering He has asked you to endure: seek Jesus Christ today with all of your heart and body and mind, and all of your passion and creativity and skill. Gaze at the transfigured, blindingly brilliant Christ of Revelation 1. Sing His praises whenever you experience the beauty of God’s world, and see the One who created it. Turn away from yourself and the world whenever you sin, and turn your face instead so that you can see Jesus Christ again. In your hour of need, pray to Him and look for Him to come to you.
Gather a crowd of saints, your local church, around you so that you are constantly reminded of Jesus Christ in their praise and thanksgiving, in their suffering and prayers, and in the life you share with them. Don’t let the saints in your life forget their Savior for a single second. Make plans to remind them in as many ways as possible: this is what it means to disciple each other!
If you want to please God by obeying His holy will, then look for Jesus throughout the day, and when you find Him again, don’t ever take your eyes off Him again.
Prayer: Father, I ask that You would reveal Yourself to me today through a vision of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help me to see Him as my Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer; as the brightness of Your glory, as a Living Fire, and as the Judge of all men; and as my Intercessor, Blesser, and Brother. By His love, give me strength to love You; by His obedience, teach me to obey You; and by His faith, enable me to be faithful. Amen.
Point for Meditation: Give some serious thought to discovering and implementing a way to keep a vision of Jesus Christ before you throughout the day. As I’ve mentioned before, I am working on consciously turning to Him briefly before the beginning of each new activity during the day (and even keeping tally marks to motivate me more). You might set your watch to beep every hour or make it your goal to pray briefly before every time you pick up the phone. If you are tired all the time, every time you remember your fatigue use that as a reminder to see Jesus Christ and turn to Him. If you have physical pains, remember Jesus every time you are reminded of your pain. Be creative in finding what might work for you.
Ask the saints in your life to find creative ways to remind you of Christ throughout the day, and do the same for them.
A good little book to consult is Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God, which is widely available, even on the Internet.
Resolution: I resolve to practice seeing Jesus and turning to Him all throughout today.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson