“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
These two verses in Hebrews 12 were shared with me by a gentleman at the church I go to who sends out daily verses by text to a group of men. Sometimes things like this are particularly timely and poignant. These verses inspires my thoughts today.
I have been wrestling with my own sinfulness lately. I have been painfully aware of areas of sinful behavior in my life and sinful attitudes in my heart that I have yet to conquer. The threads of this sinfulness go back to childhood, and they are rooted deeply.
I find myself stumbling over the same things time and again. I sometimes feel like a bird caught in a snare that cannot escape. I am tempted to be completely disgusted with myself, indignant, and condemning. Then, I recall that God is faithful to forgive; and I must ask myself, “Who am I to condemn?” Unless, of course, I am not really “saved”.
I have variously felt convicted, forgiven, hopeful, condemned, hopeless, and depressed in cycles for a long time. I tire of continually going back to God, asking for forgiveness…. again! I fear that my lack of success in overcoming these things means that I do not have the power of the Holy Spirit in me; and maybe I have fooled myself into believing in Christ’s power in my life.
I am reminded today that the letter to the Hebrews carries in it some of the most hopeful and some of the most despairing verses that can be found in the New Testament, like my cycle of feelings. I am digging deeper today to explore them. In doing so, I am reminded that the trajectory of Hebrews is hope!
The following verses provide great hope to the weary Christ follower:
“[S]ince we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
If we “hold firmly to the faith we profess” and “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence”, these verses promise mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. These words bring great comfort to a person like me.
Yet, thoughts arise in my mind that are concerning: What does it mean to “find grace to help us in our time of need”? How does this grace help us? Does this grace mean forgiveness in our time of need? If so, then I am thankful for that grace?
What is that grace in our time of need us the power to overcome the sin – to put a stop to it? What if the grace we receive is meant to empower us to stop, and I don’t stop? Does that mean I didn’t receive the grace that is offered? Am I doomed if I continue to fail?
A fear naturally arises that grace is not enough for me, that maybe it isn’t offered to me, or that I have spurned that grace by continuing to fail. If we go on sinning, we fear we will exhaust God’s well of mercy. The consequences of “falling away” loom ominously:
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”
This passage is particularly ominous in its finality and the impossibility of coming back from “falling away”. I have tasted of the goodness of the word of God, If I go on sinning is there no repentance for me?
Am I the only who thinks like this? Am I the only one who fears being on the wrong side of this grace that is offered, doomed to a life of sin and, eventually, death? Fortunately for us, we have hope!Continue reading “Hope in the Midst of the Warnings in Hebrews”