Perfection is the Aim.

“It was finished upon that cross” – as we are singing this tune – a huge new and deeper understanding and awakening strikes me. I suddenly see the whole event of the cross and what was happening in a new and deeper light. At that moment when Christ called “It is finished” (teleo – it has been completely accomplished), there was a total momentum shift in all creation. Locally there were dramatic signs – darkness, an earthquake, people rising from their graves, the temple curtain torn, but I can almost imagine a huge thud that shuddered throughout the whole of God’s creation – the whole universe. Everything started anew from that moment and our calendar is just a small reminder of that. Jesus had accomplished a task which had been planned from the beginning of all creation centuries before. Everything we see and are aware of and much we haven’t seen was different from then on. From that moment on it was and still is possible to be free – really free, not the freedom of slogans called out but true freedom – freedom from slavery to sin to the devil and ourselves – free to worship and follow Jesus completely, unhindered by any force that would drag us down. It seems more important than ever to embrace that freedom and live in it – this is the only way.

So as I completed a careful study of Hebrews 11 this morning, something struck me which is relevant to understanding the “melody line”. We have said the main purpose of the whole letter has been about salvation. In 10:39 we have a sort of summary verse bringing up two important points, in contrast. On the one hand those who shrink back and are destroyed and on the other those who believe and are saved. The question in chapter 11 is what characterizes those who are saved? Well it is the fact that they believe. So the chapter then focusses on that fact, that characteristic of the ones who are being saved -faith, and explores it deeper.

We’ve seen last time some of the characteristics which accompany “saving faith”. 11:39 and 40 summarize what was said – the reality that faith brings hope for a city without end, which one must have patience and perseverance to wait for it, since we only receive the fruit of that belief once we leave this world. And then come the key words – God has a plan for us all , but note that it is a community plan – “together with us” then the word “perfect” which I have explained earlier is another way of describing salvation. So while God is interested in each one of us as an individual, we are taken back again to several places in the letter where he mentions the importance of the church community working together for the common good of salvation. eg 10:24,25. There is no place in the kingdom for ‘loners.’

The one thing that really struck me also, as I studied the various characters in ch 11, is that while there is a common thread, the temporariness of this life and the permanence of the life to come, each person is an individual and their particular experience and role they had in this great plan of God, varied with each one of them according to many factors. There is no common plan, which fits all.

So as I listened to what Jesus was saying to me, I was again reminded of the fact of His plan for me, which is completely unique yet intimately tied up with the community of believers which I mix with.

Blessed Assurance – Saving Faith.

I see a huge tree – silhouetted against a brilliant, beautiful, golden light – the tree stands planted next to the water.

“You are like that tree – planted in the substance of your faith in the Lord Jesus – feeding on the water of life as you meditate on Me night and day, meditating on My word and being fed by My Eternal Spirit and the Living Water of Jesus. Look at the foliage of the tree – it was once lush and green and opulent – that was your younger life – now look how the Autumn season is causing the colours of the leaves to change – a brilliant variety – so, as you get older your life has the potential to glorify Me even more, giving more variety and colour – but only as long as you remain planted firmly with your roots reaching into the life-giving water that I am.”

Now on to Hebrews 11. Last time I asked how the definition of faith in vs 1 fell short of a full description of “saving faith”. I wonder if you all saw the answer when you meditated on that question. The definition in vs 1 introduces the subject which the writer has been emphasizing, the subject of perseverance, from the aspect of faith. Faith, he says is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This reminds us that there is something concrete which we believe in and that the reception or revelation of that lies somewhere in the future. It does not, however tell us 1. What that hope is, 2. How we can know what it is 3. What the means is through which this goal of our hope will be received.

But the passage does slowly reveal the answers to those questions as it goes on. 1. It is a city which God has been preparing for them/us v 16 b. Because of the value of the citizenship of that city, these people were prepared to live this life as aliens and strangers in the world, because the destination was so much more wonderful than what they had here. 2. They know what this is about because of God’s promises, especially those which arise from Gen 12:1-3. So their faith is based on a definite revelation from God. Furthermore as the writer describes how Abraham and his family experienced and appropriated those promises we have an example of how they understood what this faith is and ordered their lives accordingly .

That is still not the whole picture though, because the ultimate means to receive these promises is only really revealed in ch 12. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. 12:2, So saving faith which is driven by hope can only be fulfilled through Jesus, as He and His work are revealed in the Bible. This is all unseen but, nevertheless is not some dream, it is based on concrete promises of God with all these examples of how people understood and lived by them. The purpose being to encourage the readers to also accept and believe them in a way that would affect their lives.

The main point that the writer is drawing out with this is that those promises were so real, despite being unseen, to all these ancients that they were prepared to wait for them, continually believing in them over the years, despite opposition and challenges to the fulfilment of them. This is aimed at reminding the Jewish Christian recipients (and us) that saving faith, although received instantly will only be completed when we reach that city that God is preparing for us and that the proof of the veracity of that first step of belief will only be seen at the end of the road of the alien and stranger in this world if they are still holding on to their belief, which of course is a challenge to each one of us. The unifying factor is the length of time many had to wait and the many obstacles they had to face before getting there.

It is worth meditating on these various characters which are described in his chapter, for what they can teach us and how they encourage us in our walk through the tribulation. of the gospel life here on earth.

Pleasing God.

I am sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening, the attitude of Mary – being close to Him and open to hear what He wants to say to me.

“Yes Ian, that is indeed the ‘better way’, the “way” that recognizes that I am the source of all life, wisdom, power and love. Even as you sit with Me know my blessings which I have poured out on you – “lavished”, by My grace (Ephes 1) – receive Me and and My power and love through My Spirit. But then, having spent time passively receiving – it is time to rise up and follow Me – taking up your cross – put to death your wrong desires and motives and simply follow Me – then you will be able to walk in the Spirit and My Spirit will fill you so that those you meet will be touched by Me and My presence”.

Back to Hebrews 10. there is so much meat in this section that I have been munching on that the proverbial gravy is running down my chin. Ch 10 brings to a conclusion the ‘doctrinal discussion of the last 4 chapters where he warned previously of the severe consequences of turning back from God in ch 6 and now repeats that again in ch 10. This theme of turning back is continually set against the backdrop of the main thought of the letter, salvation through the death of Jesus our High priest on our behalf.

He concludes the discussion with a warning that because Jesus will be coming soon (10:37) with a quote from Habbakuk 2:3,4, that the matter is urgent and then proceeds to repeat clearly the two options which are available to everyone. On the one hand those who shrink back and are destroyed and on the other those who “please God, who believe and are saved”. (v 39).

So now in ch 11 he sets out to demonstrate, by using the witnesses of the ancients, what he means by this statement of v 39. Starting in vs 1 he gives a definition of faith and then in vs 6 he reiterates the connection between faith and pleasing God. Just look at v 1 with me. Maybe a more helpful translation of this vs is ” faith is the foundation, (the base) upon which we build our hope on”.

In 11:6 he expands on that by saying that that the first step and foundation of faith is believing that God exists, and that He responds to our earnestly seeking Him by rewarding us.

Everywhere we read in the bible, especially in the New Testament, that faith is the key, as it were which connects us to God’s love and His work on our behalf. So this section is helpful in aiding us to understand some aspects of faith. The subject is wider than this simple definition though, although it is always useful to help us gather our thoughts on the subject. The writer here however is especially emphasizing the fact that faith, in the light of the transient nature of our, often difficult lives here on earth, is only demonstrated as being real by persevering to the end.

The definition falls short of defining “saving faith”. Maybe the reader may like to ponder what needs to be added to make that definition complete.

I would like to look at ch 11 in greater detail on Friday, but in the mean time what did Jesus say to me? It was a timely reminder of the transient nature of our lives here on earth. I do believe at the age most of us find ourselves, we are indeed experiencing many aspects of the reminder by God of that, nevertheless it is in everyone of our natures to want to cling to that which is familiar in this world.

We’re All in This Together.

JOY, a very small word with a huge meaning – it is so much more than just a feeling of well-being, which is part of it – it goes beyond feelings – it is more than peace because it is an active word whereas peace is a sort of passive experience. The enigma is that if it is studied or sought-after it seems to sort of keep slipping out of our grasp – yet it is to be found in the form of a person – Jesus Christ. It is in the fact and experience of having a relationship with the Person Jesus, that real joy arises – a sense and experience of wellbeing which is unable to describe exactly and when it is there spontaneously as an outflowing of our relationship with Him, we can sing and remind ourselves of its benefit. It is not the same as happiness because we can experience it even in the darkest moments, because all the time it is part of being ‘in Jesus’. But, as I said, if we try and seek it it keeps slipping out of our grasp.

Back to Hebrews 10. When I studied ‘Doctrine’ as part of the Moore College course, I was somewhat taken aback to find that there are sins described in the Old Testament, which were not taken care of by the sacrificial system, which God had introduced as a symbol of the real forgiveness, later to be available through Jesus’ death on the cross. This is described in Numbers 15:29,30 and reflects directly in the statement in Heb. 10:26 ff. They are sins of continual, willful disobedience as compared to all other sins which are committed inadvertently.

So we have now come a full circle after the warning in Heb. 2:1 of the danger of slipping back. The wonderful work of Jesus as high Priest has been clearly laid out and the word “confidence” has been repeated several times. 3;6; 4;16; 10:19, indicating the assurance we can have that that work is lasting and complete. However the letter is addressed to all the Jewish congregation of whom some appear never truly have come to faith.

It is interesting to note that some of those who were slipping back had actually been part of severe persecution vv 32-33. So friends, where the writer speaks several times of the ‘House of God’ cf 3;4ff and 10:21, there are clearly then and still today, those who are sharing in everything that we as Christians do, yet who have not truly believed. These are the ones who are in danger of turning away completely and willfully denying Christ, for whom there is no forgiveness. This is the same as the ‘unforgiveable sin’ (Matt 12:32) and ‘the antichrist’ in 1 John 2:22. Those who are guilty of this are totally unaware of it and spurn any conversation about it, so anyone who is concerned for themselves should understand it is not referring to them.

However the warning of slipping back remains equally important throughout and the only real sign of true salvation (10:36) is the perseverance in the faith. The first and most important factor to resist the possibility of slipping back is understanding and trusting in Jesus work, as high priest and sacrifice on our behalf, continually drawing near to God through Him cf,10:22. That is the true basis of our faith and the one which we must continually take our stand.

In this passage of today comes a second and equally important counter to our tendency to slip away and that is contained in the encouragement in vv 22-25 to interact with each other to ‘spur one another on to love and good deeds’ (10;24). We all need encouragement and love. We are all subject to different moods and experiences which may cause us to doubt God’s love. Ours is a wonderful path but one full of so many difficulties and God wants us to tackle this path together as a community. So that together we can say with the writer in 10:39 ” We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved”.

So what do I hear God saying to me? This is a clarion call to continue encouraging you all in this difficult time of Covid which is, in a way, wrenching us apart. Each one of you should also seize every opportunity to ‘spur one another on to love and good deeds’, whether by meeting together or whatever other means God places at your disposal.

God’s Will through Christ in Me

“Yet not I but Christ in me”.

This phrase is still going around in my mind. I am trying somehow to come completely to grips with this great statement from Galatians. What does it really mean – practically?

“In ‘the Lord’s prayer’ there is a plea “(let) Your will be done” – so allowing Christ to live through you, boils down to submitting your will to mine on a moment by moment basis – this will mostly be subconscious – moved by your ongoing relationship with Me, desiring to walk with Me you will also be moved by the Spirit in you – so this will lead you to a life of joyful obedience. Putting it differently – keeping in step with the Spirit. When you have been diverted to following your own will and become aware of it, it is a small step of realization, repentance and confession to get back on track”.

Now moving on to Hebrews 10:1-18. So the main themes remain prominent: Being made perfect vv 1,14. The word for ‘perfect’ actually describes being made ‘complete’ .It is the healing and bringing together all aspects of your life in line with God’s ultimate purpose. It is actually another way of speaking about being saved. The other theme is the ‘once for all’, describing the completeness of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the picture of Him sitting down at the right hand of His Father shows the finality of the whole exercise. (vv 13,14). This is brought out clearly by the picture of the repetitive nature of the works of the high priest.

Now, although our instant standing, once we are ‘in Jesus’, is perfection or holiness, the practical expression of this in that our lives fall far short of these words. So we have a new thought being brought out. That is the idea of giving a practical expression to our standing of holiness or perfection. So in this passage it is emphasized three times (vv7,9,10) that Jesus came “to do the will of God”. The will of God for Him was to be a sacrifice in His body on the cross v 10.

From this flows two consequences: If we are to become perfect and holy we need to follow Jesus’ pattern of following God’s will. Our status is perfection but our lives fall short of that. This passage tells us that Jesus has made provision for that in two ways. Firstly through His death on our behalf all our sins are forgiven, therefore although our lives do not reflect our perfection, we are already forgiven (v17). As a second part of the New Covenant we have been given the Holy Spirit who dwells within us moving our hearts continually to obedience v 16. this idea will be developed in the next vv I believe.

Now this passage once again linked back so completely to the word that the Lord gave me earlier. Yet not i but Christ in Me. So His word to me is clear, a continual reminder that I have been crucified with Christ and I live, but not I, Christ lives in me, has very practical consequences. He does not want fancy rituals, just ongoing, loving obedience to His will through he power of the Spirit.


“Yet not I but Christ in me”.

I am not worthy to gather up the crumbs under your table Lord, but I come trusting in your righteousness and grace.

“Yes Ian, that is the mystery, the secret of the abundant life. The realization that all of you which is not worthy of Me has been put to death with Christ and you are living a new life, a life ‘in Me’ – you have been set free from the bondage to sin, to yourself and all your efforts to attain righteousness by yourself. Free to leave all the influences of the ‘flesh’ behind and to walk by the Spirit in your whole life. This entails a continual mind-shift – reminding yourself so that you can live in that freedom – live to sow to the Spirit – so that you can reap eternal life. Yet not I but through Christ in me.”

Now back to Hebrews 9:16-28. The writer comes to the important issue of the blood mentioned so often and shed so often under the Old Covenant. What exactly was the role of that blood. It is maybe a little difficult to put it into words.

Blood in the bible equates with death. Here the writer tries to show how a will is not valid till the person who made it dies. It therefore represented a statement saying what has been promised can now be put into action. So it was used as a symbolic act of putting into effect the statutes and promises of the Old Covenant. It is a little difficult to see how the blood actually was intended to indicate cleansing during all ritual cleansing of all things. However what is clear is that the death of a substitute was essential to the symbolism of cleansing and forgiveness of sin allowing the high priest to enter into the sanctuary, once a year. So the understanding was that a death was required to make this cleansing possible. What is clear in this argument is that all that blood was just a picture looking forward to a much greater event.

What was that event? Well the blood was the representation of the death of Jesus who through His death showed that He had entered into the vey presence of God (V 24). Now a word about “Jesus’ blood”. I sometimes get the idea that people believe that His blood has a mystical power of its own. Prayers crying out for God to cover events and people with the blood of Christ. Its important to note that the blood of Christ symbolizes His death on the cross on our behalf and has no separate significant power. So when we sing “There is power, power, wonderworking power in the blood of the Lamb…” What is actually meant is there is power in (Christ’s death, symbolized by) the blood of the lamb.

The most important part of this argument is wrapped up in the last two verses of our chapter: 9:27,28. They link with the simple phrase in 9:12 “once for all, by His own blood”. there are three things mentioned here which are “once for all” and need not and cannot be repeated.

  1. Man is destined to die once, then comes the judgement.
  2. Christ has died once to take away the sins of many people.
  3. He will appear a second time, but only once, this time to complete the work of salvation, which we have said all along is the main theme of the letter.

So there friends is a summary of the whole argument since 8:1 which is actually the gospel in a nutshell. No more fancy rituals and rites. No more fancy religious talk, just those 3 simple statements. Mankind has over the years so often tried to ‘move on’ and in the process has made the gospel more and more complicated till it is no longer the gospel anymore. Speak to you? Did to me.

The Parable of the High Priest.

“Lift up your eyes to the hills – yes I have chosen to reveal Myself in the past on the mountain-top – because the culture of the people was to look to god’s on the mountain-tops, because that was nearer heaven and therefore they believed made them more important and effective. I met with Moses on the Mountain-top and Jesus revealed His divinity on the mountain-top to Peter, James and John – look to Me the real God of the mountain-top. There are myriads of gods out there – gods manufactured and imagined by people who seek to make gods in their own image to their design and desire – twisting the reality so there is a semblance of truth but it is just superficial. Me, the real God – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jakob, the God of Jesus is fixed I don’t change and My love is permanent and it enfolds you in such a way that nothing can separate you from it, but on one condition – that you are IN JESUS because My love rests on Him and through Him on you as He has taken you in to Himself, through His grace. Yes I look at a world that is broken and I weep. My whole motive, driven by My love is to SAVE but many, maybe most, want it on their own terms. Go and continue to shine My light wherever you are.

So back now to Hebrews, as it unfolds in ch 9. Having looked at God’s aim at bringing ‘perfection’ or ‘completeness’ or ‘salvation’ 7:11,19,25. Which acts as an introduction to the concept of a “New Covenant”, because there was no possibility of those things under the Old Covenant, the writer now returns to the role of the “High Priest” and the whole lay-out of the temple (tabernacle) with all its furnishings and rituals an he makes a surprising statement to make his point.

“This is an illustration for the present time”. Heb 9:9 The Greek word translated “illustration” is ‘parabole’. Recognize it? Jesus used this term several times to explain His teachings. What was the point of the ‘parable’ of the High Priest”? Well the passage goes on and explains it: “indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only …..external regulations applying until the time of the new order”

Imagine a family is going to emigrate. They have bought a lovely house, with a big garden in a community of like-minded people in another country. They have a photo, in black and white, of the house enlarged an mounted on the wall. Every evening the parents show the kids the photo and tell them about the prospect of their new life. Can you think how different the reality will be when the family arrives in this new community and the kids can experience in full colour, three D, with stereoscopic sound, what the reality is. Will they long for the picture, rather? Well in a small way, this was what God was doing with His people in the OT. He was showing them a future reality in pictures which could never really reveal the splendour and power of the real thing, Jesus and His role in introducing the New Covenant, with all its benefits.

Now how sad! The readers of this letter were turning their back on this glorious reality and wanting to go back to the powerless pictures of the tabernacle and the high priest, as if they were the reality, because they were familiar with them and they made them feel ‘at home’.

Is there a danger in this warning for us, after all we don’t have a Jewish past? For sure! If in any way a ritual or a habit becomes more important than the real thing we are falling into the same trap. My golf mate, who I have been witnessing to, has been horrified at his grand-children wanting to get married in a house, not a church. “Yes”‘ he says, “they do go to church – occasionally.” That is not the issue for him. When I explained that it is a heart matter, and whether they know the Lord, that was swept aside for the horror of a church wedding held in a house.

There are a lot of examples like this so Jesus keeps warning us that the real point is Himself and our relationship with Him, which can be expressed in many and various ways. I keep my eyes on Him and pray that you will all do that too.

Did God Make a Mistake with the Old Covenant?

“Ian, , look up into the firmament – see the vast space – the activity which you can only see a fraction of – that is Me – I embrace that all – as many as the stars out there are my thoughts – even more, about you and the rest of My creation. Then consider yourself – you are unique, there is only one of you – but as complex and wonderful is My creation – so you are not complete yet – not perfected yet – that is why I am moulding you, sculpting you to conform to My likeness – and sometimes the knife is sharp and cuts deep and is painful, but the harvest of righteousness it produces is abundant. so be patient, appreciate the work of Jesus who has bridged the gap from the distant firmament to your heart – so that you can have communion and continue growing.”

So Kathy is leaving herself a small escape hatch – “it is almost impossible to lose one’s salvation”, she says. I think I know what she means but want to reassert that there is “nothing that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:39b). But there is doubt. What is the doubt? Let me say clearly the doubt is not about losing salvation, but whether one was saved in the first place. So of course the next question is “can I be sure I am saved”. Well friends that is what the major thrust of Hebrews is from ch 6:31 on. So this picture is going to build and gather momentum as we go along.

But maybe, as a starting point. Take a step back and remind yourself that the life and death of Jesus is an historical fact, having taken place in a specific place and at a specific time. This is well documented even outside the bible. The purpose of His death and what it accomplished is explained over and over in the bible. Ask yourself now “Do I believe that He lived and died as described? Do I understand why He had to die and what He accomplished? Am I putting my trust in Him as these FACTS reveal, not relying on my subjective feelings?” If you have doubts about your salvation take that step and affirm your decision to trust God asking Him again to fill you to the full with His presence. Don’t be afraid of doing this, you can do it as often as you want to and God will always respond.

Now back to Hebrews. I have reached ch 8. The role of Jesus as high priest has been established and His absolute ability to save completely (or to the uttermost) as been established in Chs 6 and 7 ( summarized in Heb 7:25). We now come to the central part of the writer’s argument in Hebrews (mainly from ch 8-9), which focusses on the New Covenant. Notice 8:1 “the point of what we are saying is this:”

So now he turns to discuss the terms of the New Covenant, which, to put it another way was God’s explanation of the way He was going to interact with His creation, put in the form of a promise which, as we read earlier cannot be revoked. Now before we study this Covenant, let us stop and consider one question. “Did God make a mistake with the Old Covenant that He had to replace it with a New one?” cf 8:7 “For if there had been nothing wrong with the first covenant, no place would have been sought for another”, 8:13 “By calling this covenant ‘New’, he has made the first one obsolete”.

The answer lies in 8:8 “But God found fault with the people”. So God instituted the Old Covenant with the people, after He had demonstrated His grace by rescuing them from Egypt. This is well documented in Exodus. The terms of the covenant rested on the promise of God to Abraham (Gen12:1-3) and simply required a response from the people to love Him and show this by obeying all the laws He had laid down to how to demonstrate this. eg Exodus 19:5,6. The problem with the ‘people’ was that the reneged on their side and turned away from God to follow other gods, abandoning much of the law and culture He had laid down. The promise of a New Covenant is made through Jeremiah to the people who were in exile in Babylon which was their ultimate punishment for their disobedience.

So the next question we may ask is: “was He not being unreasonable in expecting all this from a sinful people who were really unable to respond correctly”? The answer to that question must be that He was setting the scene over a long period of time to demonstrate the necessity and value of Jesus’ work when He eventually came. All this history was surely known by God before it happened, yet He had to show how weak we are without the work of Jesus, around whose coming the whole of the New Covenant revolves.

So I ask myself: “Am I still excited by the terms of the New Covenant? Every time I read it I am thrilled again from the start.

Can I lose My Salvation?

I deliberately asked this question as we started reading Hebrews because the text seems in some places to suggest we can and many Christians are disturbed when they read them. I was hoping to provoke you to think and be prepared to discuss your doubts. Regard this blog as a further step in the discussion and not the last word.

At first I want to state clearly that no major doctrine has been formulated from the input of only one book of the bible. Salvation is the main theme of the whole bible and it unfolds from the beginning and is slowly completed by the input from various writers at various times to various audiences. So it is also the main theme of Hebrews, once again coloured by the audience and the circumstances.

So as succinctly as I can, what are the essential parts of salvation as revealed throughout the bible?

  1. It is launched and sustained by God through Jesus. This is the central point. It became necessary because every person is born lost and heading for an eternity away from God. The mechanism of salvation depends entirely on the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross, which bridges the gap of sin and enables mankind to be reconciled to God.
  2. While this action is initiated by God and given freely, there is something which we are responsible for. What is that? We have to simply respond to God and receive what He is offering, by faith. I look at it like this – God Woo’s us, every one of us (cf “Parable of the lost sheep” Matt 18:10). Each one of us, however holds the key to our own hearts, which can only be unlocked from the inside. When we are ready respond to his love outreach, convinced of His genuine care for us and His ability to do what He has promised to, all we need to do is turn that key and open the door by faith and He floods His love into us through His Spirit.
  3. When one has responded genuinely like this there is a definite supernatural transaction which takes place: you are “born again”, becoming a new creation, with a new citizenship, a citizenship of the Heavenly Zion, because you are now in Jesus and and have his identity. The transaction involves a sealing or bonding by God through His Spirit (Ephes 1:13-14), described in 1 Cor 12:13 as “being baptized by the Spirit into one body”. Your status has changed you are now adopted into God’s family (in Christ) and have become a true son or daughter.(Romans 8:15-17).
  4. Stop and think. This is a rock-solid spiritual transaction depending mainly on God’s unchangeable promises. They cannot be changed or rescinded. However, here we need to say two things; 1. This is the start of a process and not a once-off happening. We were saved, we are being saved and we will be saved. (Romans 5:9,10). 2. So how do we know if someone is genuinely saved? It lies between them and God. And while there are many signs which accompany genuine salvation, the only true measure is whether they persevere in the faith till the very end.

Now this is where we come in with Hebrews. Salvation is the main theme, as I said earlier. The letter is addressed to a group of converted Jews (a church or other) which is facing persecution from other Jews and who are in danger of falling back into the Jewish way of worship and effectively denying Christ. This group, like any church or Christian group, is made up of genuine ‘born-again’ believers and others who are associating with them, maybe close to salvation, or maybe just because they are enjoying the benefits of Christian fellowship. These are the ones described in Heb 5:11 – 6:7. They have not passed beyond the basic teachings of Christianity, they have not learned true righteousness, but have “tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the world to come and shared in the benefits of being associated with this group of active believers”. It is these people who the writer is addressing when he says that they should be careful to move on to full faith and not drift away back to where they came from. And, he says, experience has shown that once you turn away from this truly Christian group and the teaching of the word, it is going to be impossible to win you back again.

From there the letter goes on to strengthen the faith of those who have really believed, to which he now adds his own name cf 6:18. “We who have fled to take hold of the hope….”

So, in summary, while we have an absolute secure, rock-solid, hope dependent on God’s promises, taken with an oath, covered by is grace, not on our ability to perform in any way, we should never become complacent. Our salvation is only complete when we are ready to go to be with Jesus.

In the words of Ray, yesterday on Reformation Sunday, from one of the Puritans; “We have been set free, to fight the good fight”.

Friends, this subject is extremely important, because sitting next to you may be someone who has not yet been born-again, blissfully thinking they are OK as long as the do certain things, like go to church etc. We need to understand that the church is not made up of an homogenous group of fervent believers, there are always some who are yet outside of the true family of God. This is not so that we may judge them, but that we act towards every other as if you are God’s hand of love, reaching out to them. Be ready to give an answer for the hope you have, always ready, in season and out of season, because even as God is Wooing, He is using each one of us. This ongoing attitude, I believe is one of the truest signs of a real faith in Jesus.