For November 1, 2020
The New Testament book of Hebrews provides us with enduring lessons of faith, comfort, and joy—especially during these times of uncertainty,
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2 AKJV).
Three thoughts emerge from this passage, which are well worth noting. First, we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.” This implies our physical death is not the end of our human existence. God has given us a spiritual dimension that will continue to live long after our bodies have passed away. (God also gives us the responsibility to choose where we spend our eternity in Heaven or Hell.)
In other words, along with the “Roll Call of Faith” of Hebrews 11:4-40, all those who have died in Christ surround us like a crowd of ardent spectators cheering us toward the successful completion of our individual Christian races. Just think. We have our own “cheering section” rooting for us!
Our loved ones who have departed this life are “absent from the body and present with the Lord,” awaiting His glorious return for us. Then, they along with all those who have “died in the Lord,” will accompany Him to be reunited with us who are yet alive (2 Corinthians 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
I am comforted knowing that one day, very soon I will see Jesus along with all those precious saints, including loved ones and extended family, “coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26). A most welcome and most wonderful day that will be indeed. Amen!
Second, we as Christians are to make every effort to “lay aside” the continual practice of sin, particularly the ones we find extremely tantalizing and are within easy reach. Instead, we are to pursue earnestly and heartily His righteousness consistently. Jesus makes this observation in Luke 11:35-36 (NKJV):
Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light.
“No part dark” means our lives are faith-driven, Spirit-powered, Christ-centered, and God-honoring quests for spiritual and moral purity publicly and privately, with no “secret” sins. We strive to be the same spiritual and moral person, whether we are alone or in the company of others. In other words, what we do, and how we act on Sunday during church services should be the same way we act on Monday at home, work, or school.
The “what I do in the privacy of my own home” should never be shameful or embarrassing if ever disclosed publically, since our lives reflect an integrated, consistent ethic that flows from our genuine conversion in Christ,
Sin is turning away from God. As someone has said, it is aversion from God and conversion to the world; and true repentance means conversion to God and aversion to the world. When there is true contrition, the heart is broken for sin; when there is true conversion, the heart is broken from sin. We leave the old life, we are translated out of the kingdom of darkness unto the kingdom of light.1
In Jesus’ Intercessory Prayer, He foretells how His followers live “in the world,” yet they will never become “of the world” (John 17:15-18). This was true two-thousand years ago, and it remains true for us today.
Our “spiritual eyes” must remain focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the source and consummation of our faith in God, as His Spirit actively works within us. His great work of redemption, dying on the cross for our sins and being raised for our justification (Romans 4:25), pays the debt for our sins and reconciles us to God forever.
Our lives are then changed forever as we “pass from death unto life” (John 5:24). Thus from the moment we meet Christ onward, ours becomes a life-long race where His penetrating words ring true for us each day,
If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23 NLT).
God commands us to be holy, just as He is holy (Leviticus 20:26). Jesus calls us to be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Jesus is the Vine, and as His branches, we can yield His fruit consistently, just as He tells us in John 15:5.
Although only Jesus was perfect, yet we can make every effort to refrain from habitual sin and let our lights shine before the world. Then we can glorify God and be a blessing to others just as the Lord teaches in Matthew 5:16 (NIV),
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Unfortunately, dishonesty, deceit, and debauchery have become commonplace for many professing Christians as three-quarters of Americans identify themselves as Christian, yet only 13 percent say they have no faith at all. Only one in every four is Bible-minded, although nearly two-thirds have an orthodox view of God.2
Oh, how I long for a time when noble character with principled behavior is deemed as innate Christian characteristics. To the modern-day society, inconsistent conduct has hampered our noble Christian witness,
Christianity is often not portrayed well in media. It is not “politically correct” to be a Christian anymore. Social pressure to “fit in” as a Christian is largely absent. In contrast, it is considered more socially acceptable to embrace non-Christian identities and lifestyles that stand in conflict with biblical values.3
God’s eternal purpose for His people—to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” before Him each day—has not changed (Micah 6:8). Jesus declared that as the Light of the World, His followers will not walk in darkness but will have “the light of life” instead (John 8:12). In this way, He affirms His righteousness and ours.
Christian faith changes human lives as we enter into the presence of the Living God. Drastically changed human lives think, speak, and act in ways that improve the welfare of others without being motivated by race, gender, culture, social status, or political affiliation. Such is our destiny,
We don’t have to be victims of our glands. We are not automations or victims. We are free to make choices, whether noble or ignoble. To live for money, power, or pleasure is to die one day and leave it all behind. Indeed, to live for anything except Christ will mean reaching the end haunted by guilt and despair.4
Contrary to popular belief, I believe that we as Christians can and do change the world around us for the better—one person at a time.
Finally, Jesus paid the price for our sin so that we can share in the perfect joy that was set before Him. It is His most exhilarating joy that captivates our hearts and minds today and always as we receive His unfathomably precious gifts of forgiveness and freedom.
I believe that our understanding of the “joy” set before Him, produces an assurance, comfort, and security we will not find anywhere else on earth as this enduring hymn encapsulates,
Fanny J. Crosby (1820—1915)
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
Perfect submission, perfect delight, Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; Angels descending, bring from above Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blest; Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
This is my story; this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long; This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.
Yes! The Lord lavishly provides His children with forgiveness, freedom, and joy. We can never be “good enough” to earn His consideration. But we can continue pressing toward the heavenly prize He has in store for all of us who love His appearing (Philippians 3:14, 2 Timothy 4:8).
What a Wonderful Savior!
- Dwight L. Moody, The Overcoming Life, Moody Classic Edition, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995) 51.
- Bible-minded means reading the Bible during the past week and asserting its accuracy in the principles it teaches. See: The Barna Group, Barna Trends 2018, What’s New and What’s Next at the Intersection of Faith and Culture, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2017) 210-211.
- Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez, Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials are Walking Away and How You Can Lead Them Home, (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2017), 61.
- Ted W. Engstrom and Norman B Rohrer, Making the Right Choices, Maintaining Your Integrity in a World of Compromise, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993) 154.
- Fanny J. Crosby, “Blessed Assurance,” Voice of Praise, B.B. McKinney, ed., 12th ed., (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1947) 3.