Last week we had a great bible study on the first chapter of the book of Hebrews. It was heavy in discussion, which unfortunately we can’t replicate for you effectively, but in this post we will give you a look at what we were talking about. If you missed it, don’t forget to check out part 1 .
This passage gives us a great hint to the nature of angels.
Hebrews 1:14 NIV
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
They’re spiritual beings who are, by the accounts we read of people’s encounters with them, pretty fearsome. But here they’re described as servants. And we know that one of the ways they serve is as divine messengers.
Hebrews 2:2-4 NIV
For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
In this culture, when a messenger delivered a message, it was as though the originator of the message was speaking. That’s why you will sometimes see references to “the angel of the Lord” speaking, and sometimes it will just say “the Lord said.” Based on this passage, the Law was delivered through angels; that is “the message spoken through angels.” We can tell that from the context, and through at least one reference in the Old Testament.
Most of chapter one is devoted to demonstrating that Jesus is not just a mere messenger. This is really important when you consider the message. The beginning of chapter one sets Jesus as superior to the prophets—and as we discussed, His message is the culmination of everything the prophets said.
What is the author saying about the Law and the Gospel here?
Remember how strict the punishments were for breaking the Law? God will be just as strict with those who reject Jesus. The Gospel is the new standard. Don’t ignore Jesus.
Application: Are you trying to save yourself?
Really, the Law just demonstrated the fact that we couldn’t save ourselves with self-effort. That’s why God instituted a system of sacrifice; we needed cleansing. Are you drowning in shame every time you make a mistake? Are you striving to prove yourself worthy of God’s love, worried that you won’t get it otherwise? Are you judgmental of yourself and others? Don’t ignore Jesus. We’re saved by grace. Accept that, and act like it. Make peace with it, and you will begin to leave fear behind and move toward love.
Application: Are you spreading the Gospel?
How will the people around us escape if they ignore so great a salvation? This message is for all of us. Jesus has commissioned us to be His messengers, to use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us in order to bring the world to Him—and maybe even to go and do signs, wonders, and various miracles. What is your part? We know this is God’s priority; listen for Him, and He will show you.
Please feel free to join us for bible study on Wednesdays at 7pm at Crossroads Christian Fellowship (5501 Dewey Drive, Fair Oaks, CA 95628). We hope to see you there!
We had another great XLM Bible Study last Saturday. Here’s the audio. The background noise is the Magic players from the next table over.
Here are my notes. Hope they’re useful!
By baggage, I just mean the stuff that’s happened to us that we still carry with us. Maybe it was our fault, maybe it wasn’t (maybe we think it’s one way when it’s the other). Whatever happened, it weighs us down. It could just be depressing to think about. We might have developed a bad habit because of it, or one of those automatic reactions that gives us trouble sometimes. It’s something in our past that’s negatively affecting our present.
Baggage is stuff we don’t need to hold on to, but it’s tough to let go of.
Read the rest of this entry
Sometimes, we think of sin like candy: a little bit is arguably good for you. It’s only a problem if you have too much. If you eat nothing but cheesecake all day, your pancreas will eventually give out, but a little indulgence here and there isn’t bad.
We should look at sin more like cancer. No one is okay with a tumor, no matter how small it is. When there’s cancer within you, you take drastic measures to destroy it.
That’s what I talked about last Sunday at Spring Valley Church.
Pastor Bill and most of the staff were away at a marriage retreat, and he invited me to guest-preach. It makes me particularly happy that he’d ask me because I took a preaching class from him a few years ago.
Spring Valley has been going through the book of Mark in their Sunday sermons. When Pastor Bill gave me a list of scriptures I could use, I knew I had to talk about the part where Herod chops off John the Baptist’s head. I had a direction in mind when I started researching the story, but God nudged me in a different direction.
In the end, my sermon was about how our view of sin affects us and those around us. I suggested three reminders for when we’re faced with temptation:
Don’t nurture death. There’s always a point behind temptation: to separate you from God, which is lethal to the soul. Think beyond what you’re being tempted with to the consequences of sin.
Don’t normalize evil. The more you’re in the midst of sin, the less it seems like sin. Like a friend of mine once said, “It’s appalling what people can get used to.” Remember that what you accept now may become your new normal.
Don’t bring trouble on those you love. There is no such thing as a private sin. Your actions affect others, whether by direct consequences or through your personal example. Think about how many of your parents’ hang-ups you inherited.
Thanks to Pastor Bill and everyone at Spring Valley for the chance to preach!
Here’s the last lesson in the series. Hope it’s been useful!
Last week, we talked about personal disciplines, actions we can take to grow in holiness. We know that it’s the Holy Spirit that changes us from the inside out, and disciplines simply help us cooperate with what He’s doing.
Now, holiness isn’t just an individual matter. God is a God of holy love, and He wants us the world to become holy again. And He wants us to help Him accomplish that. That’s why He created the church.
To be clear, the word “church” can mean a lot of things. It can mean the building we’re in, or the property we’re on. It can mean the people we’re surrounded with. It can mean the collection of churches that we’re a part of. It can even mean the collection of all the churches of all time.
Today, we’ll be talking about the church largely on the local level. We’re talking about the group of believers you spend your time with. it’s not really about the building: it’s about the body of Christ. Why do we call the church the body of Christ? Read the rest of this entry
[This is actually a bonus lesson! I didn’t teach this lesson at Crossroads because I was at my Grandma’s memorial. The incomparable Pastor Ashley Jennings filled in for me. These are the notes I would have taught from. Enjoy!]
Last week, we talked about holiness.God is a God of holy love, and He wants us to lead lives that please Him. That starts with our confession of Christ: accepting Him as our Lord and Savior. Then, the Holy Spirit indwells us, lives within us and changes us from inside out. He helps us to let Jesus truly be the Lord of our lives.
To be honest, it takes us the rest of our lives to work out, and we’re not even really done until we die. And as we discussed, that’s okay. God expects us to keep moving forward, though. We’re expected not to just stop growing. We should be secure in where we are with God, but not satisfied enough to just get comfortable and quit striving. Does that make sense?
To that end, God has given us tools to cultivate our own personal holiness. He wants us to engage Him, to cooperate with the changes He’s making in us. Let’s talk about some of those tools. I’ll also refer to them as disciplines. Read the rest of this entry
Last week, we talked about God’s solution to sin: Jesus’ death and resurrection. He died as a sacrifice for us. He paid the penalty for our sins and restored our relationship with God.
Before the cross, we were enslaved to sin. We couldn’t avoid it. But because of the cross, we’re free to live lives that please God.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…
Now, people throughout history have been tempted to say that since God forgave us, we can do whatever we want. Even the Jews were tempted by that idea: after all, they were God’s chosen people.
But remember, God is a God of holy love. He loves us and accepts us and forgives us, and He also wants us to do what’s right. That’s why He gave the Law to the Jews in the first place: to show them right and wrong, to show them how to live a life that pleases Him. Read the rest of this entry
Last week we discussed how pervasive and destructive sin really is. We talked about how, because the first people screwed up, we all suffer the consequences. But today, we’ll talk about the reason we have hope — hope for this life and the next. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the answer to the problem of sin.
Now, to understand the cross, we need to understand the Incarnation: Jesus coming to Earth as a human being.
When we discussed the Trinity, we saw that God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We saw that Jesus is the Son; that is, Jesus is God. Let’s look at one passage that illustrates that.
30 I and the Father are one.”
31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
Jesus claims to be God. Yet it is also clear that He was a human being. Read the rest of this entry
Today, we’re talking about sin and its impact. It will be a little bleak, but don’t worry: things will brighten considerably next week when we talk about the cross. This week, we’ll talk about the problem; next week, we’ll talk about the solution.
Now, we use the word “sin” to refer to a few different ideas. The word “sin” can refer to an act, or the consequences of an act. “A sin” is something you do: “sin,” in theological terms, can refer to the repercussion we face because of it. Perhaps the most helpful description is this: when we describe something as “sinful,” it means it’s contrary to God’s nature.
As we talked about last week, God is a God of holy love. He’s both merciful and just. He’s a moral being; His character is what defines good, and therefore evil. He is our standard.
We can find an illustration of sin and its effects very early in the Bible, unfortunately. Let’s turn to Genesis 2, and the story of Adam and Eve. Read the rest of this entry
Last week, we talked about how the Bible is the standard for our worldview. We might have a lot of different ideas about God, but if we really want to understand Him, we should look to the Bible. In fact, we can learn a lot about God from the first words of the Bible. Turn with me to Genesis 1.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
We’ve read one verse of the Bible, and we can already answer some of the most important questions about God. For example, where did God come from? This verse tells us: God was already there.
God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. He didn’t come from anywhere: He always was, and is now, and will be forever. Before there was anything else, there was God. Read the rest of this entry
For the next week, I’ll be posting the audio and my notes from a Sunday School series I recently taught at Crossroads. It’s a review of the basic beliefs of Christianity, but I tried to make it useful to longtime believers and noobs alike.
If you find these lessons useful, pass them on! And I’m always down to talk about this stuff in the comments or any of the social media links to the right.
Here’s the first lesson.
We’ll start with the Bible because we’ll be referring to in continually throughout the rest of the series.
The Bible is as good as God talking to us. It is perhaps the primary way God talks to us. It records His words to us to people in days past. It gives us example after example of how God works, and shows us who He is.
The Bible is the standard for our faith. If we’re going to teach anything in the church, it needs to be compared to what is in the Bible. If we’re not sure which way God is leading us, we compare our desires to the Bible. It’s our source for our worldview and the answers to the major questions of life: where do I come from? How do I tell right from wrong? Why am I here? And what’s going to happen to me when I die? Read the rest of this entry