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Hearing God

In today’s Bible reading from Hebrews 8, the writer refers back to a prophecy delivered by Jeremiah.

“Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt—my covenant that they broke even though I am their master”—the Lord’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 4No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin. Jeremiah 31:31–34 (CSB)

In this, the writer of Hebrews says the new covenant is better than the old covenant. The old covenant was an external law, written on stone while the new covenant is written in the hearts of God’s people. Motivation for obedience changes from being influenced from an outside source to being influenced from an inside source.

Under the old covenant, God’s people obeyed in order to get God’s favor (which was really unachievable). Under the new covenant, God’s people obey because they have already obtained God’s favor.

Application

How do you relate to God? Seriously, do you relate to God under an old covenant model — hoping to obtain God’s favor because of your behavior? Or do you relate to God under a new covenant model — behaving because you already have God’s favor?

Perhaps the best way to see if you understand this is to answer this question: Do you think you can make God any happier with you because of something you do (or don’t do)? If you think God will be happier with you if you ____ (fill in the blank with some behavioral change), then you probably relate to God under an old covenant model.

Prayerfully consider your answer.

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Note: Today’s devotional was supposed to have posted Saturday. Internet gremlins kept that from happening. Our next scheduled Bible reading is on Tuesday.


In today’s Bible reading from Hebrews 6, we come across more scary words. The writer warns that if someone were to have been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift and God’s good word, and shared in the Holy Spirit, and then to fall away, there is no redemption, no repentance to enable them to come back because it would mean recrucifying Jesus, which is impossible to do. (Hebrews 6:4–6 CSB)

These are very scary words because it means that if it’s possible to lose your salvation, there is no way to get it back!

I remember growing up, never being sure whether or not I would go to heaven or not when I died. Sure, I was a pretty good kid, but with every white lie, every little sin, the thought would cross my mind, “Am I sure that I’m saved?”

Such questions can be healthy. The fact that we ask the question demonstrates spiritual interest. A lost person won’t worry if they’re saved or not because they have no interest; they’re spiritually dead. Spiritually dead people have no spiritual concerns.

Unfortunately, a lot of preachers have told a lot of lost people that since they prayed a prayer, since they were baptized, etc., they’re saved and they don’t ever need to ask the question again. But what if they were never saved to begin with? They’ve been given false assurance! And that’s really bad news!

Application

I was saved for almost ten years before I heard that it was possible to know that you’re saved for all eternity; I had never heard, “once saved, always saved.” I grieve for those who have never been told that it’s possible to know that you’re a child of God. And I grieve for those who fear that maybe they’ve committed the “unpardonable sin” (Matthew 12:31)

But the bottom line is, if you are one of God’s kids, you can be absolutely sure that you’re saved. And if you’re one of His kids, know that the security of your eternal destiny is based in your Father’s character. The Holy Spirit has been given as a downpayment for your salvation. (Ephesians 1:14)

For God to take away your salvation,
He would have to forfeit the Holy Spirit!

Getting back to the original point, I think that the emphasis the writer was trying to make was not on those who fall away, but the sufficiency of Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice. His sacrifice is more than enough to cover our depravity and all the behavior it gives birth to. And as I said a couple of days ago, our salvation has nothing to do with our behavior — neither for getting salvation, nor for keeping it — but it has everything to do with Jesus’ behavior.

If you’re one of God’s kids, don’t have to worry about Do. Do. Do. Do. Don’t do. Don’t do. Don’t even think about doing. Just rest in Jesus’ “Done!”

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In today’s Bible reading from Hebrews 5, the writer concludes the chapter with,

Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food. Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil. Hebrews 5:12–14 (CSB)

delicious steak meal

I remember when our kids were little. Their first meals were milk. As they grew, we began to introduce formula, then rice, and then baby food as they were ready at each step. As they continued to grow, they began to eat other foods. No longer were they relying on us to prepare their food; they could slap together a nourishing, delicious PB&J sandwich in no time! Today, they are completely self-sufficient. They can buy their own food with their own money and prepare that food in a variety of ways. Their food oftentimes tastes better than mine!

But what would happen if they never prepared their own food? What if they never fed themselves? What if they were completely dependent on us to prepare and feed them? Obviously, something would be wrong!

The same is true in the Spiritual realm. One of the things we did as the kids grew was to prepare them to feed themselves. When a person becomes a believer and is born again, they are completely dependent on other people to feed them spiritually. The goal is to get people to feed themselves from God’s Word. Unfortunately, like many other pastors, I’ve heard, “Pastor, we’re leaving the church. We just don’t think we’re being fed.”

I remember wanting to say, “Well, if you aren’t being fed, it isn’t my fault. I spend hours preparing the meal and setting the table. I do all I can to present the meal that the Master Chef wants me to deliver. Am I supposed to put it on a spoon and stick it in your mouth for you? ‘Open the hangar so the airplane can fly in!’ If you aren’t being fed, it’s your own fault!” But I didn’t say that.

Application

So, what about you? When you go to church, do you feel that you’re being fed a nutritious meal? Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible that you aren’t! A lot of pastors don’t prepare. A lot of pastors don’t know how to feed themselves from God’s Word. A lot of pastors just like to make people feel nice and comfortable. The bottom line is, if your pastor isn’t delivering God’s Message from God’s Word, maybe you need to prayerfully consider looking elsewhere!

But isn’t it also possible that the pastor is delivering God’s Message from God’s Word, but you aren’t benefiting from the prepared meal? Perhaps you aren’t ready for the meat. Maybe you’re just not mature enough. Maybe you need to go back and eat more basic foods.

If you’ve been a believer for more than a few months, you need to begin feeding yourself from God’s Word. No pastor is able to feed a well-balanced diet of what each person needs to everyone in every church.

So how do you start to feed yourself? This is a good place. Read along in your Bible from a translation you can understand, asking God to speak to you. Don’t use an “inspired finger” approach to your Bible reading; read your Bible like you would any other book. Look at a verse in its context within a paragraph and within a chapter.

Yes, it will take time to get used to feeding yourself from God’s Word. But as you read and study, comparing what you’re learning with what other people are learning, you’ll find it easier, more fun, and more nourishing.

You are what you eat.
Are you eating mature food you prepared yourself
or baby food prepared by other people?

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Statue of Moses with the Ten Commandments

The writer of Hebrews compares Jesus and Moses in today’s Bible reading in Hebrews 3. Most Jews of the day – and religious Jews of today – look to Moses as an authority on the Jewish religion. And rightfully so! The writer praises Moses for his faithfulness. But he points out that as good as Moses was, Jesus is better. (Hebrews 3:3)

If you’ve been in church very long, you may remember that Moses was the man who led the Hebrew people out of their Egyptian Captivity to return to the Land of Promise.

During their forty-year trek, Moses communed with God on a mountain where God Himself carved the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1–17) onto stone tablets. (Exodus 31:18) The Ten Commandments were the commands that God expected His people to keep. Later in the other books of the Torah, God gave Moses more commands regarding worship in the Tabernacle.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment (actually not one of the “Top Ten”) is to love God with all that you are and the second is to love other people as you love yourself. He added that the entire Law stood on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37–40)

Application

The writer says that believers should exhort (strongly encourage) each other in order to keep each other from being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. He reminds his readers of what he said in yesterday’s reading: People are prone to wander from the things of God. We need to do whatever we can to keep one another close and clean. (Hebrews 3:13)

What are you doing to help other believers to have a sensitive heart toward the things of God? What do you need for other believers to do to help you to have a sensitive heart toward the things of God?

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Getting to know God through His Word.

We begin reading through the book of Hebrews using our Bible reading plan. No one (but God) knows who wrote Hebrews; the author didn’t give any obvious clues to his identity. Some have pointed to Dr. Luke as the author, however, the book doesn’t begin with an attribute to Theophilus as Dr. Luke did with Luke’s Gospel and Acts. In the end, it really doesn’t matter because God Himself is the Chief Editor.

As we read Hebrews, we’ll see the development of the major idea that Jesus is better. He begins by saying that in the past, God spoke by prophets, but recently, God spoke by Jesus. He adds that Jesus is the exact expression of God’s nature. (Hebrews 1:2–3 )

It’s as if the author already knew the following verses:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Colossians 1:15 (CSB)

Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time and you do not know me, Philip? The one who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? John 14:9 (CSB)

In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4 (CSB)

The twenty-five cent theological word, incarnation sums up what the author is summarizing. John summarized incarnation this way, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ” John 1:14 (CSB)

Application

Jesus defined eternal life this way, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent.” (John 17:3 CSB) If you want to have eternal life, you have to know God.

Hebrews shows us how everything points to Jesus. And Jesus points to God. If you want to know what God looks like, how He acts, what He likes and dislikes, just look at Jesus.

I’ll go one step further: If you want to know God (and not just about Him), get to know Jesus (and not just about Him).

And how do we get to know Jesus? Just like we get to know any other person: Spend time with Him. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. Love Him. We do all of these things through the Spiritual Disciplines of Bible reading, Bible study, Bible memory, prayer, worship, fellowshipping with other believers, etc.

Today’s application is to do just that! Get to know Him better by spending time with Him, listening to Him and talking to Him. If you want to know what God looks like, just look at Jesus. He is the exact image of His father.

For more information on the Spiritual Disciplines, check out Don Whitney and Dave Matthis’s excellent books below. (affiliate links)

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