Tag Archives: Hebrews

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Hebrews 13:16 – “Well Pleasing a Perfect God”)

“Well Pleasing a Perfect God”

Hebrews 13:16, “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

This morning, our broken, fallen world seems to slip day by day further into the clutches of darkness. Even looking at the denominational Christian world – as opposed to the reprobate ungodliness of the world in general – things are slipping that were steadfast in days gone by. How many professing Christians could only be called nominal at best? To be a Christian is to literally be “Christlike.” How Christlike is it not to pray without ceasing as He did? Do we resemble Christ when our bodies are not presented regularly in worship as His was? He referenced His own Book repeatedly, and does it resemble Him when our knowledge of His Book is but mere fragments and crumbs? Broken creatures we are, but He has endowed us with the power and ability to do better. Christian deportment seizes upon this opportunity and ability to emulate the Master in our lives to His glory.

One of the stark reminders that I have every day is what a great sinner I am. This is not a proud statement but an objective declaration of fact based on years of observation. As a lifelong attender of God’s house with many years of Bible study coupled with it, another stark reminder comes brilliantly to the surface that shows just how much grace outshines and exceeds sin. When you read and study God’s word, it becomes obvious and apparent that God is perfect and demands perfection. What was the problem with the law given to Moses? Was it an inherent problem in God’s law? No, for Paul tells us in Hebrews 8 that the fault was with the people not the law given. God’s law demanded perfect obedience, and imperfect people failed that injunction repeatedly – as we still do today. So, what reminder do we have as disciples of the Lamb that outshines the great sinners that we are?

In our study verse, Paul is concluding his rich treatise of Hebrews by giving the closing arguments about why our worship in this era and age is better than the worship of the Old Testament days. He references in Verse 10 of this chapter what we have today that they had “no right” to in their day. All the order of worship then pales in comparison to the order of worship today. Reason? Christ has come and fulfilled all that the old order pointed to, and now today we can look back with thanksgiving and appreciation for His work giving glory to His name. (Verses 13-15) These sacrifices and offerings are simple in thought, but our fallen nature that we still wrestle makes the application difficult so many times. We feed the old flesh with all of its affections and wicked desires. Whether lust, envy, bitterness, pride, etc. we find ways to nurture these infernal weeds rather than fostering the care of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost in God’s kingdom. (Romans 14:17)

However, when we put forth the effort to put down the old man and his affections and put on the new man, we find ourselves in a blessed condition wherein we have true fellowship with our God and His dear people. This bond and experience far outshines any earthly experience we could hope to have. The view outstrips the gaze from the highest natural mountain. The happiness it engenders exceeds the highest earthly pleasure. When God comes down by His Spirit to anoint our preaching, eat at the table with us, and whisper sweet peace with His still, small voice, we find a scene that renders peace in a chaotic world, joy in the midst of suffering, and the revived hope of a better world to come. These experiences come when we offer sacrifices and offerings to Him as Paul here declares. Our doing good and communicating these things brings such scenes to view. To communicate in this way literally means to live it. We do not just say it. Rather, it tattoos itself with a lasting imprint upon our lives. People who know us see us as joyful, peaceable people who know and love Him and His family.

If you kind reader have experienced such scenes as here described, you understand that words cannot capture the whole of the experience. To try to tell someone about it seems futile, which is why the 1st century invitation “Come and see” is still so relevant and applicable today. But think back upon those times. Think of the preparations of the heart that preceded them. Think of the effort that went on while engaged in them. Whether it was study, prayer, and meditation beforehand or singing, prayer, and attentiveness while in them, how perfect were your sacrifices and offerings? How good has your study ever been? How good has your worship ever attained? No honest minister ever says he preached a perfect sermon. No honest member of the Lord’s church believes their local assembly is perfect. We still have imperfections and problems that plague us, even in the best of beautiful situations in Zion.

God has not changed. He still demands perfection, and as such, we still owe it to Him. Do we deliver? Our only hope is that Jesus delivered it on our behalf so that we would be blessed to live with Him forever. And yet, consider the grace for today. As you study today, pray today, meditate upon His goodness today, none of it is perfect. When next you meet in His house to worship Him publicly, none of that will be perfect. Is this what a perfect God deserves? Should such meager offerings be acceptable to Him? I would reckon that most of us have standards for others that are less than perfect that we get distressed about when they are not met. No one likes to be let down. Sometimes we take it badly when we think someone is capable of more and yet not giving it. God knows exactly what we are capable of giving and how much we do not do. He knows how much better our service could be than it is. Friends, here is the heart of the gracious observation from a lifelong churchgoer and Bible student.

Knowing all these things and what He is not getting from us, Paul here tells us that God is well pleased with these efforts. Not just pleased. Notice the specific nature of it. God is “well pleased” with real thank offerings and sacrifices of praise. When we in honest hearts give Him praise for His mercy and grace, God is well pleased. When we render thanks for the great work that Christ made on our behalf, God is well pleased. When we resolve ourselves to do better than we have been doing, God is well pleased. When we forgive those that have wronged us, God is well pleased. When we strive above all other enterprises in our lives to shine forth the light of Christ to bless others, God is well pleased. Every time we make a decision that is truly Christian, God is well pleased, for it reflects back an image akin to His Son. Does God deserve more than we have ever given Him? Absolutely! And yet, His grace is so noble to broken creatures to visit us so richly with His pleasure! I do not know about you, but such a thought of God’s continual visitation with His people here and regular condescension to men of low estate makes me desire as the songwriter said, “Want to love Him more.” A perfect God will never get perfect praise from His people this side of glory, and yet He is well pleased with efforts that we strive to give Him according to His pattern. Wow!

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Hebrews12:1)

Morning ThoughtsHebrews 12:1, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,"
This morning, one of the greatest fears that many have is being alone.  While a very select few people enjoy being by themselves, it is a general truism that people enjoy sociality.  The idea of dying alone or living alone is quite bleak to most.  In a spiritual sense, one of the most effective darts of our adversary is convincing us that we are alone.  How often has Satan influenced someone to sing his siren song, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen"?  If he can convince a misguided child of God that they are alone, he can then advance the ideas of discouragement, sorrow, and depression that bring discouragement to the little lamb and heighten his sadistic pleasure.  Friends, the Bible is quite clear that we are never alone.  God repeatedly promises "never to leave or forsake us.”  Paul will utter those very sentiments after our study verse in the 13th chapter.  If God's companionship was all that we had, that would be sufficient, but Paul's point makes the thought of our fellowship ultimately even more sublime.  God has not just given us His presence, but He has given us so much more as well.
Even though our study verse begins the heading of a new division in Scripture, the language and thoughts of the verse are directly correlated to all that the previous chapter contains.  Therefore, we might look at this verse as not the opening of a new thought but a firm conclusion on all the previous points that Paul makes about faith in chapter 11.  Consider how many characters Paul brings under the glass to examine.  He mentions Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Rahab, and many others – whole groups that are not specifically named but referenced in glowing terminology.  All of these characters truly lived and died, and their witness of faith is clearly seen from Paul's discussion.  Still, it is needful to point out that these people were not supermen and superwomen.  They had like passions as you and I do, much like Elijah did, though he was still blessed to do some marvellous things. (James5:17-18) Therefore, we should not look at this heady list from chapter 11 and think, "Well, they're just better than I am and were able to do more than I can."  Friends, God has dealt the measure of faith to each of His children in regeneration (Romans 12:3), and we are all capable of producing honoring and glorifying fruit by faith unto Him.
When Paul finishes talking about all these different characters of faith, he brings in a grand conclusion in our study verse.  It is not only the conclusion of the thoughts but also the answer to the inevitable question.  After talking about all these people from bygone years, what would someone inevitably ask when shown all these wonderful examples?  A very real question would be, "What good does this do me today?"  The question pertains to two things relating to the people in Hebrews 11: 1. Their faith – while quite noble – was about different circumstances than I have today and 2.  Their lives – while Godly – are now over so that I cannot interact with them while I live.  None of us have ever been called upon to build an ark to the saving of our house like Noah did, so how well can we relate to his experience?  Moses was raised the son of an earthly king's daughter but refused that honour to lead his native people out of captivity, but how many of us can similarly so say?  And ultimately, we cannot talk to Noah, Moses, or any of the others as they have all passed from this life.
So, what good do all these examples do for us today in our personal walk of faith and life of service?  Paul states quite simply that "we are also compassed about."  Notice that Paul brought in different characters from different periods even though those periods had people living by faith concurrently.  For example, during the time of Moses, there were other Godly people trying to seek Him (like Joshua).  During the life of David, we read of many Godly people like Samuel and Nathan that were seeking to serve God by faith during that time.  However, Paul shows that lives of faith have perpetually been upon this earth throughout all generations.  And though these wonderful people are not with us today in the flesh, the same thing happens today.  Do not miss the tense of what Paul says: "we are also compassed about."  That is present tense, and the word "also" pertains to something in addition to what has already been discussed.
Paul's concluding point and answer to the question is that today we have something in addition to all these wonderful characters.  100-200 years ago, the people in this great nation had wonderful examples of faith as seen through church history.  Very edifying ministers like Hassell, Cayce, Oliphant, Newman, Daly, Craig, Redford, and countless others wrote extensively and preached to God's people.  They were blessed characters of faith for generations past.  What about today?  Do we have witnesses of faith?  Based on Paul's conclusion we undeniably do!  Though God is always with us, He never leaves this world without a great cloud of witnesses for each of us personally to walk with, lean on, counsel with, etc.  Every generation has had witnesses, and any future generations will have them too.  The promise is given in present tense, and no matter the present, the promise stands solidly.
All of us are prone to falling prey to Satan by developing the "Elijah complex."  In I Kings 19, he complained to the Lord about 5 things.  4 of the 5 things were true.  Naturally speaking, he had a good percentage, but God rebuked him for getting one thing wrong.  Elijah complained that he was the "only one left."  Was he?  No.  God reminded him of something – out there in this nation are 7,000 that have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.  How often do we feel that we are alone with no one to counsel with and have to be reminded by the Lord of the countless multitudes that have strived to live faithfully?  Perhaps they are outside the purview of our sight, but they are still there.  Paul says they compass us about.  That means they are all around, and the fact that we have not seen them is likely a failing on our part.
The immediate command from this promise is for us to "lay aside every weight."  Have you ever noticed that it is always easier to do the right thing when surrounded by good people?  Quite frankly, my decorum is much higher at church than by myself.  It is not that I am trying to put on a fake church look, but the right path seems easier to find and follow when you have good communications. (I Corinthians 15:33) What if we were journeying down the road of life with no fellow pilgrims and strangers?  The weights of sin would seem heavier and the path longer.  However, God has not just blessed us with a measure of His Spirit to give us comfort.  He has blessed us with company too!  People do know the trouble we have seen, and people have been to the places we have been.  There are other precious people in this world that intimately understand our plight.  With this company, the command to lay aside the weights of sin becomes even brighter.  With all of us walking arm in arm, we can mutually set our eyes on the One who authors and finishes our faith.  (I Corinthians 11:1, Hebrews 12:2)
The next time that any of us feel alone, let us remember that God has not left us today without a cloud of fellow pilgrims and strangers.  The fact that Paul refers to this band of people as a cloud gives a couple of connotations.  1.  This is a grand collection rather than just a couple (God revealed the existence of 7,000 to Elijah rather than 7) and 2.  Clouds provide much comfort through shade.  When the sun of trials beats down on us, we have been given shade not only by God Himself but through His people to relieve some of the burdens from our hearts.  This shade allows us to rest for seasons in His love and mercy and reflect on His goodness.  Friends, I have experienced the shade and company of God's faithful in this world, and my hope is that my life will likewise help to shade and comfort other pilgrims in this world.  May we seek to be this help and rest to our kin as part of a great cloud witnessing by faith the glory of God.
In Hope,
Bro Philip