“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2a NLT)
Our faith journey is begun in and by Jesus and will be finished/completed in and by Jesus. That’s what it means that He’s the One “who initiates and perfects our faith.” According to Strong’s Concordance, Jesus is the “One who in His own person, raised faith to its perfection, and so set before us the highest example of faith.” In other words, He perfectly lived the life of faith He calls each of us to follow. But how can we ever measure up to His standard of excellence?
Obviously, we can’t, but we can improve and strive to achieve our absolute best this side of eternity, then be made complete in Him on the other side. In the meantime, by keeping our focus on Jesus, distractions fall away, and I’m free to learn from the Author and Finisher of my faith, how to follow His perfect example more closely. But how?
One way is to offer less resistance when the Lord seeks to discipline us (see Hebrews 12:5-13), because when we’re able to do that, the easier it becomes to recognize His voice when He speaks and to submit to His authority when He gives us a directive.
It helps us to understand why the Lord disciplines us and what He’s trying to accomplish through it. Verses 5-6 are quotes from Proverbs 3:11-12 and have reference to the ways the Lord corrects those whom He loves. His intention is not to hurt us, but to correct our wrong attitude or behavior. In verse 6 in the New Living Translation, the word “discipline” means “to be instructed or taught or to cause one to learn.” But it can also mean “to chastise or castigate with words to correct.” What does that mean?
It means the punishment needs to fit the “crime/sin.” If we need more correction to enable us to make changes that will lead to the righting of severely wrong behavior or attitudes, that’s what the Lord will do. He’s not going to slap us on the wrist for something that we have done that has serious and/or long-range implications for wrong or evil in our lives. What might that look like?
In verses 15-21 the writer gives an example to illustrate the kinds of things God can and will do to give us a “course adjustment.” One of the most disturbing verses in the Bible to me is verse 17: “You know that afterward, when he (Esau) wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.”
Friends, please hear me. There is coming a time, sooner than any of us can imagine, when it will be too late to repent. A time when bitter tears will not change God’s heart or mind towards us.
Verse 14 helps us to see how we need to live in the meantime: “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.” This is a call to what the Bible calls “sanctification.” It doesn’t mean to be without sin or flaw. It means “to be set apart for sacred use by God.” It means our goal as a Jesus follower is to grow in ever-increasing measure in His likeness, that we may be “set apart” from the world, solely for use by and for our Savior.
In verse 15 it speaks of a “poisonous root of bitterness” that can grow up and trouble the person in which the bitterness resides, but can also corrupt many others. Then in verse 16 it urges us to: “…not be immoral or godless like Esau.” Here “Immoral” means “to allow the lust for sex to overpower and/or replace a desire to be pure before the Lord.” And “godless” speaks to those who take “that which is intended to be holy and sacred and treat it as though it were common and ordinary” (i.e. our body, our mind, our spirit, our resources), in short, everything with which the Lord has entrusted us as His children.
How we behave, speak, and live our life, is either a beacon of light to point those who know us closer to Jesus, or a red flag of hypocrisy, driving them further away from Him.
Blessings, Ed 😊