Closer Attention

Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 7:15 a.m. – Several songs are going through my mind this morning: “Near the Cross,” “Oh, To Be Like Thee,” “Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” and “Fully Surrendered.” They are all songs (hymns) of commitment, submission and surrender to Christ Jesus and to the cross of Christ. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 1-2 (ESV):;

By His Son

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” ~ Heb. 1:1-3 ESV

But of the Son he says,

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.” ~ Heb. 1:8-12 ESV
Jesus Christ was and is the fulfillment of the law and of the prophets, for they all pointed to him and to our salvation. So, all we need is now found in him and in his word. In Old Testament times, God spoke to people through prophets who spoke the exact words of God to the people. Their words are recorded and are now scripture, i.e. they are God’s God-breathed and written words. But, this says, God now speaks to us by his Son.

Yet, this is not to say he no longer uses human instruments to get out the gospel of Jesus Christ and/or to share words of counsel, encouragement, hope, edification, instruction and/or healing to the body of Christ. He does (See Mt. 5:14-16; 28:18-20; Ac. 1:8; Ro. 12; 1 Co. 12; and Eph. 4, etc.). Yet, we are no longer dependent on a human prophet to tell us what God says, because we have the written word of God, and because those of us who are in Christ have the Holy Spirit of God within us teaching us all things - counseling, leading and guiding us into all truth.

Yet, the spiritual gift of prophecy still exists within the church for the edification of the body of Christ, and scripture teaches we should not despise prophecies, but it does tell us we are to test everything. Our measure for testing is two-fold – the teachings of Christ and of the apostles (God’s written word) and the knowledge of God’s divine character and will. We should never put God in a box and say he won’t work a certain way or use a particular method. He is not bound by our reasoning and logic, so he may use whatever is at his disposal, which is everything and everyone, as long as those means and methods are not contrary to the teachings of Christ and of the apostles, and/or to his divine character and will for us as his people. Remember, he once used a donkey to speak to a man. That had never been done before, that we know of, but that didn’t make it wrong.

Jesus Christ has the authority of God to speak God’s exact words directly to us because he is God, he is the Son of God, and he is our creator; because he upholds the entire universe by the word of his power; because he became our perfect Lamb sacrifice and offering for our sins through his death on a cross; because he conquered death, hell, Satan and sin on our behalf through his resurrection from the dead; and because he now sits at the right hand of God the Father where he reigns supreme over all things.

I mentioned here that the test to see if something is of God, or not, is two-fold – the first being Christ’s teachings and those of the apostles (the gospel of Christ), and secondly that of God’s divine character and will for his people. Well, we get a glimpse of God’s character here in Jesus Christ. The scepter (symbol or character of his rule and authority) is one of uprightness (honesty, decency, morality, and honor). He loves righteousness, but he hates wickedness (evil, sin, lies, malice, immorality, etc.). So, if one who says he hears from God and speaks messages from God does not also teach what is in agreement with God’s divine character and will, then we should question whether or not what is taught is of God.

What We Have Heard

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. ~ Heb. 2:1-4 ESV

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. ~ Heb. 2:14-18 ESV

I believe there is a message here both for the non-believer in Jesus Christ and the believer, as well as for those who claim to know Christ, but may not truly know him, but only know of him. If you have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, but you have not yet accepted God’s invitation to make Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior, then the encouragement here is that you pay closer attention to what you have heard so that you don’t drift away from it and never come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, thus neglecting such a great salvation, and then condemning yourself to eternal punishment in hell.

When this passage of scripture uses the phrase “Pay closer attention to what you have heard,” this is not speaking about merely taking in more information, but it means to heed what you have heard, too, i.e. it means to take what you have heard and to put it into practice in your life. This applies to non-believers, professing Christians only, and to those of us who have genuinely trusted in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

We are still in this world, and we are still in flesh bodies and are thus subject to temptation even as Christ was tempted when he walked the face of this earth, yet without sin. So, it is imperative, if we want to live godly and holy lives for Jesus Christ while we still live in this world that we pay close attention to what the word teaches us, and what the Holy Spirit says to us in our hearts, and that we put into practice what we have heard. Otherwise, we may drift away to non-belief, casual Christianity, lukewarmness in our faith and practice and/or back to a life of living for self and sinful pleasure (See Mt. 13:1-23). We must remain in Christ and his word must remain (and take hold) in us. Jesus said so (See John 15).

Yet, we cannot do this in our own flesh or of our own willpower. We can only have the desire to come to Christ in faith by the Father in heaven drawing us to Christ. We can only come to Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit of God in our hearts and lives in transforming us from living for self and sin to walks of obedience to Christ, as we cooperate with that work (by faith). And, we cannot live righteous and holy lives in human strength and reasoning. It is Christ living us which gives us all we need for godliness and holy living.

As well, Jesus Christ, through his death on a cross for our sins, set us free from slavery to sin, so that through faith in him we should no longer be held captive to sin’s deceitfulness, but we should be liberated by the Spirit of God to walk in the Spirit in Christ’s righteousness and holiness within us. And, because he suffered like we suffer and because he was tempted like we are tempted, yet without sin, he is able to help us when we are tempted, and he will and has provided a way of escape out from underneath that temptation so that we don’t have to give in. Through Jesus Christ, who loved us and who gave himself up for us, we are more than conquerors!

My Savior, My God / Aaron Shust

I am not skilled to understand
What God has willed, what God has planned
I only know at his right hand
Stands one who is my savior
I take him at his word and deed
Christ died to save me this I read
And in my heart I find a need
For him to be my savior…

My savior loves, my savior lives
My savior's always there for me
My God he was, my God he is
My God he's always gonna be…