Hebrews 13:5-9 Living the new life in the unshakable kingdom II
In this second installment of living life in the kingdom, we are faced with man’s impoverished dependency and obsession towards earthly wealth. Believers must shift their gaze from the concerns of money to the secret ways of God. By learning to emulate Jesus as the supreme model, believers receive grace to live life in the unshakable kingdom.
5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” 6 so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”
The literal translation omits money: Make sure that your lifestyle is without covetousness. It repulses self-centered pursuit of material possessions, and encourages contentment. The author warned against love of money and all things earthly. The lifestyle of an unshakable kingdom must be derived from the faithfulness and the all sufficiency of God: I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you. Hence, be at peace knowing that what we currently possess is fully sufficient to handle the needs at hand. God promises that He will never in any circumstances withdraw His presence from His people: I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you. However, the Spirit is repulsed by greed, unbelief and things of the flesh. The apostle Paul said,
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another. Galatians 5:17
The virtues and gifts of the Spirit are diametrically opposed to all things fleshly. At the same time, a restless concern for material wealth is a betrayal of trust in God. Believers of that time had their assets plundered before and hence the tendency to doubt God’s care and provision for his children. Hence, they were tempted to place their security in earthly assurances in times of crisis. However, security in earthly assurances and trust in God are mutually exclusive. “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” is quoted from Psalm 118:6. Here, the psalmist called believers to put their trust fully in God who loves us, and who alone created the heavens and the earth.
7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
The author called believers to remembrance of their former leaders: Remember those who led you; who taught and lived out the word in integrity and accuracy: and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Disciples learn best when they observe their leader through his manner of speech and behavior. Jesus was the original leader and preacher of the gospel through whom all disciples take after. Therefore, Jesus remains the universal model that is unchanging and not subject to historical and cultural contextualization: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. In other words, the emulation of Jesus remains the core of discipleship and church growth from time past to eternity future. However, Jesus is not to be the object of faith but rather the supreme model of it. In the case where Jesus is the object of faith, His “followers” depend on Him to fulfill their prayers. In the case where Jesus is the model of faith, believers emulate His manner of life and receive the promise of life and salvation.
9 Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.
It is of utmost importance that all teachings must not leave the centrality of Christ-likeness through repentance. Believers must not be sidetracked by enticing teachings that shift their focus of faith through ritualistic observances. Believers of that time appeared to adopt the tradition of Jewish meals involving various foods as a way to receive grace. The grace of God was not mediated through the celebration of certain sacrificial meals; the church will not find its security in such earthly assurances. On the contrary, God’s grace is bestowed when the believer acknowledges Christ as Lord and entrusts himself to God’s faithfulness and instructions.
We must always focus on discerning God’s ways and not on acquiring solutions or resources. We must shift our gaze from the concerns of money to the secret ways of God. For the ways of God are paved with blessings and provision. If only we can discern God’s will and walk in it, no crisis can come near us. Most people unsettled by dire circumstances immediately go down the trail of pragmatic solutions without first consulting God. As a result, they bring upon themselves great sorrow and losses. However, the psalmist reminded believers to trust in God and God alone,
“Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.” Psalm 20:7
Proverbs 11:28 says, “He who trusts in his riches will fall. But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.”
Therefore, we must set our hearts right by putting our trust in God and not in human wisdom and earthly resources. The psalmist’s words, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” summarily excluded the threat of man in his personal wellbeing. By putting our trust firmly on God, we will be able to perceive God’s voice clearly and walk in His will. God will not speak until our hearts are settled and submitted under His authority and faithfulness.
Jesus is not the object of faith but the supreme model of it. Many churchgoers are being taught that faith is praying and depending on God to bless and solve their problems. They put Jesus as the object of faith by praying in Jesus’ name and claiming the promises. As a result, many did not have their prayers answered. On the contrary, true faith is the endeavor of modeling after Jesus in all that we do; it is doing what Christ would do, speaking what Christ would speak at all times, while leaving the results to God. Therefore, whether it is yesterday and today and forever, Jesus remains our supreme model of life. Faith is acquiring the mind of Christ and perceiving the world according to His wisdom. Faith is putting on the heart and the virtues of Christ in love, kindness, patience, goodness, and obedience. Faith is being bold in doing what God says while standing firm against oppositions.
God’s grace is acquired through a heart that is fully yielded to His Lordship. Today, we find churchgoers appropriating the Holy Communion as often as they can but without true obedience to the Lordship of Christ. Their focus and desires remain earthly and fleshly even though they were thinking of the blood covenant of Jesus. They suppose by partaking the Holy Communion, they may acquire abundance of earthly blessings and fulfill their desires. As a result, many did not receive grace and remained trapped in their weakness. Firstly, grace is given for the purpose of strengthening believers to fulfill the commission of Christ in their lives. Secondly, faith in Christ means obedience towards His ways as opposed to acquiring blessings for personal gain. Therefore, by partaking Christ’s flesh and blood through the Holy Communion, God imbues His grace through which we put on Christ, the supreme model of faith.
- Are you accustomed to having Jesus as your blesser or your model? Most churchgoers see the role of Christ as merely their guardian and fulfiller of their prayers. It is a fact that blessing has always been the by-product of a Christ-like life. If you discipline yourself to read the word and to obey God’s voice daily trusting not in your own instincts, you will experience blessings like never before. Proverbs 3:5-10 says,
Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
8 Then you will have healing for your body
and strength for your bones.
9 Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the best part of everything you produce.
10 Then he will fill your barns with grain,
and your vats will overflow with good wine
- When you are partaking in the Holy Communion, focus on “eating” Christ’s wisdom, love and power. In doing so, God’s grace imbues you with Christ-likeness that can cause you to be successful in all that you do.
Dear Lord, I am determined to shift my focus from the acquisition of solutions and resources to obtaining your virtues and power. Cause me to put my complete trust in you and to obey all that you command. Knowing that you are my supreme model, give me the grace to operate like you in all my endeavors. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.