Friday, November 17, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday November 19, 2017

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(A call to listen to GOD)
(Hebrews 12)

   In Hebrews chapter 12, the author of GOD gives us a remarkably vivid description and summary of the Christian life, and, shows us the attitude we should have, as we aspire to obtain our goal of becoming more like CHRIST. In the Greek, the word used for “discipline” is “paideia” (pahee-di-ah), and it is “education or training”. It also means “to nurture, instruct, or chasten”.
    The Christian life can be likened to a relay race. The people of faith, like the ones mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, who have run before us, have passed on the baton, and now, they anxiously wait to see how we will carry on in the discipline that Christianity demands. As we run, we can look back and see how JESUS ran HIS race, and, at one and the same time, we can also look ahead, and see HIS exaltation at the finish line.
    JESUS, is our supreme example, and, HE is the “Author and Finisher” of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). A life that is void of testing from GOD is most likely going to be a life void of prayer, humility, holiness, and appreciation of what GOD has done for us. Tests from GOD are not made to make us fail, but rather, are made to make us better representatives of CHRIST, and Christianity, here on earth.
    Trials are what GOD uses to refine us, and prepare us for a life of eternity with HIM, in HIS kingdom. It takes a certain amount of discipline to become, and remain successful in the Christian race. When we take into account how much JESUS endured, we can realize that suffering and hardship are no excuse for us to give up and drop out of contention (Hebrews 12:3-15).
    If we fail to understand the love and purpose of GOD’s discipline, we are likely to become bitter, and miss out on GOD’s graceful intent. If we see our trials and difficulties in the perspective provided by GOD’s grace, we will be better able to understand and accept HIS discipline in our lives. Remember, Esau, who saw no value in spiritual things, ended up selling his birthright to GOD’s covenant promise, for a mere a bowl of stew. If we value only material things as he did, we too, are in danger of missing our blessings in the end (Hebrews 12:16-17).
    We, as Christians, are not people who meander along the paths of life in a totally oblivious manner. We are not like tourist, who, each night, return to the point where we started that previous morning. The Christian life is about going somewhere, and at the end of each day, we’ll do good to ask ourselves, “Have we gotten any closer to our goal of being more like CHRIST?” That should be the aspiration of every Christian, to, each day, become more and more like CHRIST.
    However, the Christian also has another inspiration. It is the inspiration of the “cloud of witnesses”, who have gone before us, and witnessed their confession to CHRIST, and now witness our performance from way on high. They are those people mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, who personified faith during their Christian walk here on earth. They are those people like Moses, Abraham, and Noah, who have already claimed their crowns of victory.
    But, unfortunately, we Christians also have “a handicap”, and it is “the handicap and weight of our own sins”. It is very difficult to run a race, when you are carrying excess baggage. If we wish to travel far, it is much better to travel light. The burden of sin can weigh heavily on a person, who is trying to run the Christian race, or walk the Christian walk. It is paramount that we first discard the unnecessary things that hold us back, and what holds man back is sin. If we are to endure the Christian race to the finish, we must first learn to lighten our load of “sinful cargo” (behavior), and move away from our carnal desires (sin nature) (Hebrews 12:1).
    Our supreme example of faith and discipline is CHRIST JESUS HIMSELF. HE is also our companion along the way, and, HE is our goal at the end of the race. Remember, GOD’s kingdom will remain when the universe itself is shaken, and this old world itself will ultimately disappear. That is when one will truly appreciate how good it will be to be a citizen in the kingdom of Heaven.
    We should also remember that our trials, can and will, both refine us, and, help prepare us to dwell in eternity in the presence of THE ALMIGHTY GOD in Heaven, at the end of our Christian race. The motivation for pursuing holiness here and now, is the realization that, without it, no one can see GOD, or stand in the presence of GOD in the spiritual life that follows our stay here on earth. In other words, Christians must be, and will be, sinless when they see the LORD in Heaven.
    A person’s perception of GOD in this present life is the true measure of his or her holiness. In order to help us reach the state of holiness we need to achieve, GOD whips us into condition with his Holy discipline, and testing. When we fail to understand the love and purpose of GOD’s discipline, we are likely to become bitter towards HIM, and thereby, miss HIS unfailing grace. However, when we are able to see our trials and difficulties in the perspective of GOD’s grace, we are better able to accept HIS chastening.
    In Hebrews 12:14-29, the author calls for a renewed spiritual vitality among GOD’s people. It is a call to listen to GOD with a renewed interest in how HE wants us to live our lives here on earth. He also urges us to begin by trying to live in peace with one another, being a good example for those who have not yet reached your own stage of spiritual awareness, so that not even one of us will miss out on GOD’s special favor.
    We can also help others guard against going astray by being accountable to one another, making sure that the bitter root of immorality does not infiltrate the lives of ourselves, and, of those whom we are close to. Beginning in verse 18, the author of Hebrews gives us a final warning, as he vividly depicts with his writing, a clear picture of the situation on Mount Sinai, where the Old Covenant was given to the people in an awesome way that only GOD could stage.
    Here he describes the scene of that event as a place of flaming fire, darkness and gloom, and a whirlwind, as GOD delivered HIS laws to the Israelites. And they could hear an awesome trumpet blast accompanied by a voice with a message so terrible that they begged GOD to stop speaking. Even Moses was admittedly terrified by this awesome display of GOD’s power.
    However, in verse 22, the writer reminds the people that, that was then, and this is now. Now we fall under the protection of the New Covenant, which was ushered in by CHRIST JESUS, and the realities pertained to in it are even more impressive because they are Heavenly, and not only is there a Heavenly city, but there is also, both, angels, and, the spirits of those who have been redeemed and made perfect by the LORD.
    Ultimately, all created things will be removed by GOD. When Moses gave the law at the foot of Mount Sinai, the mountain itself burned with fire, and the surrounding plains shook uncontrollably. The fear that was felt by those who were present at that event will be nothing compared to what will be felt by those who cannot see spiritual realities through faith, and as a result, fail to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
    The Kingdom of Heaven is all that will remain after the universe itself is shaken apart, and all of creation disappears. We must see to it that we obey GOD, the ONE WHO is speaking to us. If the people of Israel didn’t escape the wrath of GOD when they refused to listen to Moses, GOD’s earthly messenger, then, how much more terrible it will be for those of us, in this day, who refuse to listen to CHRIST JESUS, WHO came directly from Heaven to warn us.
    And since GOD, through HIS tender mercies, has given us a choice to be redeemed, and spend eternity with HIM in Heaven, let us be thankful and begin worshipping HIM in spirit, and, in truth, with holy fear and reverence, because our GOD is truly a consuming fire.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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