Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Best Brother Anyone Could Have

Growing up with a brother or sister or both can be quite a competitive venture. Most of us don’t even mean for competition to happen; it just develops naturally. Some sibling rivalries are legendary.

For those who are blessed to have a brother or sister, often it seems that there is not much middle ground: Either you have a wonderful relationship, or you struggle to have a good relationship with your sibling. Imagine having the best possible brother you could have. What would that look like? Well, if you’re a follower of Jesus, you have just that.

We often think of God as our perfect Father, and we should. But do we realize how vibrant is the picture of Jesus as our brother? The Scriptures say this in several ways. Jesus is the best big brother anyone could ever imagine.

We have previously seen that the basic idea throughout the book of Hebrews is that Jesus is better than everyone and everything. In Hebrews 2.10-18 the writer shows that Jesus is the best brother anyone could have. You can see the family theme in this text in these words:

  • Verse 10: “sons”
  • Verse 11: “one Father…brothers”
  • Verse 12: “brothers”
  • Verse 13: “children God gave Me”
  • Verse 14: “children”
  • Verse 17: “like his brothers”

With this backdrop of a spiritual family in view, we see Jesus on display as the best possible older brother, and that principle has its effect in a few ways.

Having the Son of God as my brother means that I have an eternal family. (vv. 10-13)

As Jesus’ perfection was shown to be complete through His suffering, God’s word says that He brings many sons to glory, and they are tied together with Him not only in His suffering, but also in His future glory. Jesus isn’t ashamed to call them brothers, the spiritual and eternal family who God the Father gave to His Son. This is also reminiscent of Ephesians 3.14-15:

For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. (HCSB)

We have been adopted into the family of God by grace through faith. And because of His suffering for us, He calls us His brothers and sisters in the eternal family.

Having the Son of God as my brother means that I have a powerful representative. (vv. 14-16)

Growing up, it was always a relief when my older brother represented me before others. I knew he would look out for me. Imagine, though, what it’s like to have the Son of God as your big Brother. He always looks out for you in ways that you haven’t even imagined. Verses 14-15 say that He looks out for us so much that He even destroyed the Devil on our behalf. He didn’t do this for angels—He did it for His brothers and sisters (v. 16). Paul says in Romans:

For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8.29, HCSB)

He is not ashamed to call us family, and as the firstborn Brother, he is pleased to look out for us in every way.

Having the Son of God as my brother means that I have the ultimate advocate. (vv. 16-18)

What if your brother not only looked out for you, but also even stood in your place before a holy God? And took the punishment that was due you? That’s what Jesus did for His brothers and sisters. He took our place, and took on Him the wrath that we would have had to take (propitiation). He became like us and was then tested and suffered, so that He would be able to help us. If we trust in Him and do His will, He calls us family:

Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother. (Mark 3.35, HCSB)

What an amazing Brother that Jesus is to those who believe!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Danger of Drifting Away

Have you ever gone to one of those gift shops in a vacation destination that sells fancy driftwood? I’ve seen those pieces of wood in many places. What amazes me the most is how expensive some of them are. Some cost hundreds of dollars. For a piece of wood. A piece of wood that is dead.

Via: WikipediaGranted, some of the pieces look very cool. They are quite interesting. But let’s be honest: Where else but in America would we pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a piece of wood that died and drifted far away?

In Hebrews 2.1-9, the writer discusses the grave danger of drifting away from God by neglecting the great salvation He has made available. Drifting away involves death, whether a slow death or not. Notice how serious the warning is in these verses. He tells us some things to beware of.

Beware of drifting away from the word of God. (v. 1)

The writer is helpful to begin by specifically stating what we must beware of drifting away from: Beware of drifting away from what we have heard. And what had they heard? God’s word. So he says they and we must “pay even more attention” or “pay much closer attention” to His word. Why? Because God’s word is truth, and God’s word is power.

James also highlights the problem with someone who hears the word of God without really listening and acting on it. He says:

But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1.22, HCSB)

So the first thing he tells us to beware of is drifting away from God’s word. That leads to the second one.

Beware of falling away from the salvation of God. (vv. 2-4)

Having stated the place from which our drifting begins—from the word of God—now the writer tells us that neglecting “such a great salvation” will cause us to fall away from it. He questions how we can escape our due punishment if we neglect His salvation. And he says we have all the proof we need: Jesus spoke it; those who heard Him confirmed it; signs, wonders, miracles and spiritual gifts testified to it. How much more evidence do we need?

The Bible graciously warns of a great falling away, and it comes after people have been deceived and have drifted from the truth:

Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy [rebellion, falling away] comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. (2 Thessalonians 2.3, HCSB)

Sadly, it seems that many will be deceived by the false signs that will be on display (see 2 Thessalonians 2.9-12), and they will believe the lies of the adversary instead of the truth of the cross of Jesus. Many in our day think that this kind of talk is foolishness, but God graciously predicted that, too (see 1 Corinthians 1.18).

Beware of missing out on the glory of God. (vv. 5-9)

If drifting away from the word of God can make us fall away from the salvation of God, the worst part is missing out on the glory of God. The writer here is saying that Jesus was subjected to suffering and death so that we don’t have to face the due and just punishment described in verse 2 if we trust in Him and do not fall away. What is that just punishment? Eternal death…separation from the glorious God. He then says that because He was subjected to death, He has been crowned with glory and honor—glory and honor that we get to experience when we are with Him. In addition to being with Him, which we don’t deserve, look at what else happens:

Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of the Messiah, and they will reign with Him for 1,000 years. (Revelation 20.6, HCSB)

Missing out on God’s glory happens because we fall away from His great salvation. And falling away from faith happens when we drift away from His word. There’s a terrible pattern of regression here. God desires that you know Him through His word so that you can delight in His great salvation and begin to share in His true glory!

A dead piece of driftwood may appear beautiful and have value to many people. But it’s still dead.

Monday, May 7, 2012

For Marriage

There are times when certain issues require our attention. For North Carolinians, this is one of those of those times.

At the end of our worship gathering at Fellowship yesterday, I shared with our congregation why I will be voting for the marriage amendment to our state constitution. While we do not endorse candidates, and carefully choose when we make any public comment on political matters, in my view this amendment is far greater than any merely political action.

Simply stated, I will vote for the amendment because marriage matters to God. He created marriage in the first place, immediately after He created Adam and Eve. And although there were cultural shifts throughout biblical times, it is clear that God’s purpose and design for marriage never changed. I have briefly written previously on marriage here and here.

To me, the greatest principle, coming from Ephesians 5 (see links above), is that we as husbands and wives, in one-man, one-woman covenant relationships, have a great privilege in sharing the gospel of God through the picture of marriage. It’s as simple as that.

Some have argued that it is not loving for us to keep marriage as defined as being between one man and one woman—that this excludes other types of relationships and is therefore unloving. To that, I would say that the most unloving thing that I can do is to have what I believe is the truth and grace for all cultures, and yet not share it. Not to give the truth, in loving and caring ways, is unloving.

These are the primary reasons why this vote is necessary and critical.

Some interesting and helpful commentary has been offered by JD Greear and David Horner.

If you live in North Carolina, I encourage you to vote for marriage, and for the marriage amendment, tomorrow on May 8.