As we work through Hebrews in my small group, there are two key themes that are being re-enforced –
- the fact that Jesus is greater than all and is alone worthy to be glorified, and
- the assurance of our salvation in Christ.
The writer challenges readers concerning the sincerity of their faith and that, apart from faith in Jesus alone, there is no hope. Throughout these warnings, he weaves the concept of perseverance.
Time is the acid test
In my opinion the best evidence that assures ourselves and others of the sincerity of our relationship with Christ is what we do when the going gets tough. Do we draw close to Jesus and strive to obey Him, or do we draw away seeking comfort elsewhere? Just as ‘time’ is the acid test in any relationship in determining a potential spouse, so it is time that ultimately reflects whether our relationship with Christ is a ‘flash-in-the-pan’, or one which has been established by God for eternity! If we truly understand what it means to be a Christian and trust in God’s work in it, then our perseverance in obeying and following Christ throughout our lives is simply a reflection of what God has already done in our heart.
“Only Christian faith that perseveres to the end is genuine. That’s why God lovingly exercises discipline: he is training us to persevere.” D.A. Carson
Our response to tragedy and trials will reflect the true nature of our hearts
The world in which we live seems to have more tragedy and heartache then ever; one filled with cruelty, uncertainty and sorrow.
Where are people to put their hope?
Hope is only as good as the object of its focus. In times of pain, the problem is that we seek comfort and hope from worldly avenues that may be a short-term distractive remedy, but ultimately they all come up short. The only lasting hope we have is in Jesus Christ – crucified and risen for us! How ironic that the greatest testimony of God’s love for us is embodied in the horrific, cruel and bloody death of His Son Jesus on the cross.
Hope in Christ is the only remedy that will bring peace to our souls forever. The sincerity and foundation of that hope is tested by the trials and heartache we, to some degree, all face in life. The more we understand these truths, the more we can draw on the joy and peace that supernaturally springs up deep within, despite the circumstances around us (Romans 5:3-5).
Our hope is fueled by knowing and understanding what Jesus has done for us?
Although perseverance in our faith in Christ is the true test to the sincerity of our relationship with Jesus, we need to know and grab hold of what Jesus has done for us on the cross and in His resurrection. When we have a healthy understanding of this, our hope in what God has done for us will grow because we know He IS faithful.
Jesus’ died on the cross to take our sin upon his shoulder, to take the full brunt of God’s wrath because of the sin in our lives. Jesus did that for us so that through faith in Him we are spared God’s wrath and judgment, and clothed with the Jesus’ righteousness. The Bible calls this being ‘justified’ (Romans 5:1), or made right before God. Through Christ’s sacrifice for us, we are found ‘not guilty’ in the court room of God and free to enjoy being with Him forever! There is now no condemnation because Christ was condemned for us (Romans 8:1)!
This highlights God’s love for us more then anything else – “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Without Christ’s atoning death for us we are powerless to please God, without hope of being spared the awful judgment that God will justly put everyone through. However despite our sinful rebellion against God, Jesus chose to die for us so that we may be spared. What grace… what mercy!
Do you extend that same mercy to those around you?
Our hope and assurance rests on what Christ has done, not what we can do
The key ingredient to the assurance of our salvation is this – knowing and believing that it is solely through the work that Jesus has done for and in us. Even our faith in Christ is a result of the Holy Spirit opening our spiritual eyes to our need to trust in Jesus’ sacrifice for us (Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 2:13). Our assurance is based on both the factual event of Christ dying for our sins and being raised again from the dead, thus conquering death, as well as the supernatural reality and experience of every true Christian of the love of God being poured upon us by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
So to be assured of being a Christian is to trust that our salvation is a work done by God alone. It’s not by our effort. Our work or spiritual fruit doesn’t validate us for heaven, rather it’s the evidence of the saving work God has already done within us. We need to draw close to that truth and allow the fact that we are a new creation in God, enabled spiritually to follow God and become more like Christ, which is ultimately God’s purpose for us (Romans 8:29).
In becoming a Christian our hope rests in what Christ has done for us, and as we persevere in our faith and obedience to Him, our hope is strengthened. We realise that this world may throw all kinds of heartaches our way, but our eternal security is not in danger of being stripped away. In fact we look forward to realising and experiencing it all the more!