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Who wants to merely go through the motions of religion? We long for something authentic—something worth opening our hearts to, filling our minds with, and giving our lives for. We hope for something better than the “churchianity” of our parents and the vague spirituality of our neighbors, something better than guilt-induced, holier-than-thou morality, better than here-and-now, health-and-wealth promises. In her thought-provoking and authentic style, Nancy Guthrie shows that Jesus himself offers the something ...
Who wants to merely go through the motions of religion? We long for something authentic—something worth opening our hearts to, filling our minds with, and giving our lives for. We hope for something better than the “churchianity” of our parents and the vague spirituality of our neighbors, something better than guilt-induced, holier-than-thou morality, better than here-and-now, health-and-wealth promises. In her thought-provoking and authentic style, Nancy Guthrie shows that Jesus himself offers the something better we've been looking for, applying the truths of Hebrews to real-life issues such as guilt, shame, disappointment, hardship, unhealthy obsessions, personal ambition, and fear of death. Tyndale House Publishers
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My husband gave me a very thoughtful gift for my birthday last year. Since my birthday fell a week or so after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, he made a donation to the Salvation Army in my honor. I loved it! I didn't need anything or want anything else-and it fit just right!
But then he made a mistake. The morning after my birthday he showed me a catalog and said, "I was thinking about how you are teaching Hebrews this fall and that you might like something to carry your Bible and notes and notebook in, and I saw this bag but I wasn't sure if it was the right color or style or if you would like it, so I didn't get it."
Like it? I loved it! It was the season's color of green in suede and leather with a nickel buckle.
"You know, your mom sent me a check for my birthday that is the exact price of that bag," I told him, picturing myself with this oh-so-stylish tote hanging on my shoulder.
So the next day I sent him an e-mail:
From: Nancy Guthrie Sent: Monday, September 12, 2005 10:42 a.m. To: Guthrie, David Subject: franklin covey bag If you happen to beby the Franklin Covey place, I would love it if you would pick up that bag for me. NG
And he e-mailed me back:
From: Guthrie, David Sent: Monday, September 12, 2005 11:22 a.m. To: Nancy Guthrie Subject: RE: franklin covey bag I was going to "happen to be there" shortly! Still likin' the green one? DG
He brought it home that night. I wish you could see it. It is not too big and not too small. It has just the right mix of pockets on the inside, and it matches the green in several of my new fall outfits. I feel so chic.
Can you picture my bag in your mind as I tell you about it? Though you may have developed a picture of it in your mind, it is fuzzy and uncertain. Your mental picture will be slightly off in some way in terms of color or size or style.
So if I really want you to know what my new green bag looks like, I'll have to show it to you. If you could see the bag for yourself, then you would no longer have to settle for a picture of it in your mind that is slightly off. It would be clear.
In the same way, God wanted us to know exactly what he is like so we wouldn't have to be misguided or forever in the dark. So he went beyond describing himself and giving us pictures of what he is like. He has shown himself to us-in Jesus Christ. He went beyond words of description to giving us the living Word, the person of Jesus.
HOW DOES GOD SPEAK?
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways. (Hebrews 1:1)
From the first words of his sermon-letter, the writer to the Hebrews makes his case for showing these Jewish believers that the very purpose of everything in the Old Testament and their Temple traditions was to prepare them for the definitive revelation of God in the person of Christ.
Just as children are first taught letters, then words, and then sentences, God began revealing himself to us with the "picture book" of symbols and ceremonies. He started giving us a picture of who he is through the Law, the prophets, and the books of poetry-through the story of the children of Israel that was written down by more than forty writers over a 1,500-year time span. It was God speaking, but it was in bits and pieces, in forms and shadows. It wasn't wrong; it just wasn't complete.
In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:2)
To the letter's recipients, "in these last days" didn't just mean "recently"; it referred to the anticipated messianic time. The Old Testament had said that "in the last days," the Messiah would come. But the phrase also means, in a sense, "finally." It is saying that God has been speaking in bits and pieces and now we have his final, complete, and authoritative Word. There is no fuller or more final expression of God than Jesus. Nothing further is needed; this is it.
And this is good for us to know, because many people today claim to have a word from God for us, and we are right to be skeptical or at least make sure it is confirmed by Scripture. Because Jesus himself is God's final and complete Word. God has given us his written Word, the Bible, and his living Word, Jesus, and we need nothing further to know and follow God.
God wants us to know what he is like, so he told us about himself. He began revealing himself to us in the Garden of Eden, as he showed us his love for beauty and order in his creation. He revealed the power of his wrath in the Flood and his ability to save in the ark. He revealed his ability to deliver us from captivity and bring us to the Promised Land in the story of the Israelites' escape from Egypt. He revealed his love for holiness and righteousness in the Law. He revealed his plan for the ages through the prophets. And he gave us some hints about how he was going to take care of our sin problem in the building of the Tabernacle and in the festivals, feasts, and sacrifices. He showed us his wisdom in Proverbs and his passion in Song of Songs. All of these gave us snapshots of what God is like and what he is doing in the world.
But our vision of God was still fuzzy and uncertain until ... "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" ( John 1:14, NKJV).
In the person of Jesus, God has spoken and is still speaking into our lives.
Sometimes our feelings may tell us that God is silent. But when we complain that God is silent, when we're straining to hear the voice of God, what we are really saying is that we have exhausted this final decisive Word he has spoken to us in the person of Jesus and in the pages of Scripture. It's as if we are saying the Bible has nothing further to say to us, that we've seen all there is to see in Jesus and heard all there is to hear in the gospel, that it has no power to speak into our current situations.
But have we? Have we exhausted what Jesus has to say to us through his words and his ways and his work?
Or have we only given it a casual hearing, skimmed his Word like the newspaper and decided it simply doesn't apply or has no appeal?
WHAT IS GOD SAYING?
In Jesus, God is saying, "I want to show you who I am." We would never know God if he did not speak to us. And he wants us to know him for who he really is, not for who we want to make him to be. So many times we want to make him into a God who suits our liking. We hear people say, "Well, the God I believe in would never ..." or "I believe God is ..." almost as if we can determine what God is like merely by the whims of our own imaginations.
God doesn't need our help in designing his personality or deciding what he should be like. He is I Am, the eternal, self-existing one. And he wants us to see him and know him for who he really is.
One day when my son, Matt, was in early elementary school, he and I were driving along in the car discussing some lofty topic. I made the statement that we don't really know what Jesus looked like since we don't have a picture of him. Matt replied, "Yes we do. I've seen it."
Of course he was talking about the traditional painting of Jesus that we've all seen countless times and have come to think of as an actual rendering of the physical likeness of Jesus.
But while we don't have a photograph or a reliable painting of Jesus' outward appearance, Hebrews 1 paints a picture of the person of Jesus for those of us who want to see him and know him.
Jesus Is the Beloved Son (1:2)
In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. (Hebrews 1:2)
Larry King once said that if he could land an interview with God himself, he would have one question: "Did you have a son?"
I suppose that is because he knows that this has been the crucial question of history and religion. Was Jesus merely a good teacher and a prophet? Or was he the divine Son of God, the singular Savior?
Just this week I read a newspaper article about a church in which the pastor is "questioning the existence of a personal deity, and he says he doesn't believe Jesus is God." This is the pastor of the church. When I read this, I couldn't help but think to myself, Then why bother with religion? Why bother with calling yourself by his name?
Some religions diminish Jesus by calling him "a" son of God, suggesting that there have been others. But John describes Jesus as the Son of God, "the Father's one and only Son" ( John 1:14, NLT).
Two times during Jesus' life, God spoke in an audible voice from heaven: when Jesus was baptized and when he was transfigured on the mountaintop. Both times he said for all to hear, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). And at the Transfiguration he added, "Listen to him!" (Matthew 17:5). Jesus is loved and honored by his Father. God himself has broken the silence of heaven to tell us that we need to listen to his beloved Son, Jesus.
Jesus Is the Appointed Heir (1:2)
In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things. (Hebrews 1:2)
God, the creator and owner of this world, has chosen Jesus to inherit everything. It's all his. So what does this mean in practical terms? This means that Jesus, the Son of God, can make good on all that he has promised to give us. Why? Because he has all the resources. He is the heir of all things.
Romans 11:36 says that "from him and through him and to him are all things." Everything that exists, exists for Jesus.
In the end Jesus will have under his complete control and ownership all things-all natural resources, all governmental power, all human intelligence, all the riches of the earth. Everything will be at his disposal and command.
And while Jesus doesn't have to split the inheritance, he will.
My parents recently bought the house next door to my brother. He has been the "in-town" child living near my parents for years while my sister and I have lived in other cities, and he has enjoyed telling my sister and me that because of the heavier load he has carried for parental care, when the inheritance comes, it is not going to be split evenly three ways. (I think he's kidding. You are kidding, right, Tom?)
While Tom may kid me about being stingy with our inheritance, I've been adopted into another family. And I know my brother, Jesus, will not keep his inheritance to himself. Jesus has promised that he will share all that he inherits. In Romans 8:16-17 we read that "the Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ."
Have you ever heard the Spirit of God whispering to your own spirit that you are his child? If so, then one day Jesus will share with you all that he possesses. In fact, Jesus is so generous, he offers to share his inheritance with anyone who will trust in him.
Jesus Is the Universe Creator (1:2)
In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ... through whom he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:2)
You might have thought that God the Father created the heavens and the earth and that Jesus did not appear on the scene until he was born in Bethlehem. But Jesus was with God the Father as the Living Word from eternity past. While God the Father is the source of all creation, it was Jesus, his creative agent, the Living Word, who called creation into being.
Jesus has the ability to create something out of nothing. John 1:3 says that "all things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being" (NASB).
But the word in Hebrews 1:2 for what he has created is not kosmos, which refers to the physical universe. It is a word that is translated "the ages." So Jesus not only created the physical earth, he created time, space, energy, and matter-all without effort-just by speaking it into being.
When we look through a telescope at amazing outer galaxies or when we touch the delicate finger of a tiny baby, we don't have to wonder where it all came from. As we welcome the changing of the seasons or study the rise and fall of empires throughout history, we recognize that it is Jesus who set it all in motion. The Bible tells us the maker of all things is Jesus Christ.
Jesus Is the Radiant Glory (1:3)
The Son is the radiance of God's glory. (Hebrews 1:3)
We see the sun by means of seeing the rays of the sun. They are the essence of the sun flowing out of the sun. The round ball of fire that we see in the sky is the sun streaming forth in its radiance. To say that Jesus is the radiance of God's glory is to say that Jesus relates to God the way the rays of sunlight relate to the sun. We see God the Father by seeing Jesus. Jesus is the radiance of God streaming down on us so we can see him and experience him and know him.
The term "God's glory" had deeper meaning for the original Hebrew recipients of this letter than it does for us today. These Hebrews remembered hearing about the glory cloud of God's presence that lit the sky and led the children of Israel in the desert. It was the tangible presence of God in their midst. And now the writer of Hebrews is saying that Jesus is the ultimate cloud of glory. In fact, Jesus is the fire of God's glory that will not burn or consume us. Jesus enables us to relate to the glory of God in human form.
Standing in the Temple one day, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). We live in a dark world, and perhaps there are circumstances in your life right now that would cause you to say that your world is very dark. Into the darkness of this world God sent his Son, Jesus, so that we could see and live in the radiance of his glory. Even now, Jesus is the only sure source of light for the dark places in our lives. He brings the radiant light of God's presence into our darkness.
Jesus Is the Exact Representation (1:3)
The Son is ... the exact representation of his being. (Hebrews 1:3)
Did you ever have one of those Hallmark sets for sealing envelopes? I had one in grade school. I would light the candle and melt the wax onto my stylish stationery envelope and then press onto the wax a big metal seal with an N and hold it until the wax hardened. When I pulled away the metal seal, a perfect N, an exact representation of the metal seal, was left in the hardened wax.
Jesus is the perfect, personal imprint of God in time and space. As Colossians 1:15 says, "He is the image of the invisible God."
Some people see the God of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament as two dramatically different beings-a sort of good-cop/bad-cop scenario. They like the gentle, nonjudgmental Jesus on the hillside teaching and healing, but they reject the vengeful God of judgment they've picked up from selected Old Testament stories.
But Jesus is not the softer side of God. Jesus is God's full personality and power and purpose in a person. He's a precise copy, a perfect imprint, an exact reproduction; he is no less than God himself in human form.
Jesus Is the Powerful Sustainer (1:3)
The Son ... sustain[s] all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:3)
Everything in the universe is sustained right now by Jesus. Imagine if the sustainer suspended the law of gravity for just a few moments. Imagine if the sustainer tilted the axis of the earth a few degrees. Jesus didn't just make the world and leave it on its own. The reason there is order to the seasons and the sun keeps coming up in the morning is because Jesus Christ is the powerful sustainer.
But understanding Jesus as the sustainer is not just about his holding the physical world in place; it is more about Jesus' governance and authority and direction of history. Jesus oversees the progression of time, the course of history. And he does so by the power of his word. No further effort required.
Excerpted from hoping for something better by Nancy Guthrie Copyright © 2007 by Nancy Guthrie. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted March 15, 2008
Hoping for Something Better is a great Bible study for small groups. Nancy brings the book of Hebrews to life and allows the reader an opportunity to see Jesus for who He really is. Sometimes the 'church' can get things wrong, Nancy encourages you to examine the ways of the world and then compare them to scripture. Our small group loved it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.