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Justice Not Judgment

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though once we regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Image result for light handGod is just, and He made us in His image. We are to act justly, as our gracious heavenly Father does. That is, we are to behave according to what is morally right and fair.

Who determines what is morally right and fair? Our just God–Creator of all that is. His character is our standard of morality. His person defines what is good and separates it from what is bad.

So how can we, as sinful human beings–prone to doing wrong–know what is good and right?

We develop a personal relationship with God through prayer and studying His Word [Hebrews 4:12]. We meditate on those things that His Word defines as good, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy [Philippians 4:8]. We allow the Holy Spirit to prick our consciences and to counsel us in God’s wisdom [John 14:26; Acts 2:37].

Yet while God is just and has charged us to live justly, justice–like vengeance–is not ours to mete out [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19]. That does not mean that we are not to establish courts of law or punish criminals. On the contrary, upholding impartial criminal justice is a part of living justly. But we are not to judge others [Matthew 7:1-6; Luke 6:37].

When we judge how others are or are not measuring up to God’s Word, we invite that same judgment back on ourselves. Even Jesus did not come to judge the world, but to save the world through Him [John 12:47]. He proclaimed that God the Father would be the ultimate judge in the last day, and because of this, He would not retaliate for the wrongs suffered at the hands of men [John 12:48].

We can get so busy being judgmental of others and the sinfulness all around us. We can be so bound up getting revenge on those who wrong us, that we miss the fact that we ourselves fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. If it weren’t for God’s grace in my life and in your life, we would be nothing more than unforgiven sinners just like any other unbelieving person [1 Corinthians 15:10].

And God is just, but He is also gracious, merciful, loving and compassionate. He forgave us our sins and spared us our death penalty [Matthew 26:28; John 3:16; Romans 5:12-21 & 6:23].

Knowing this, how can we possibly stand in judgment on any other human being? Not that our condemnations will last past this life. And not that our judgments of them matter in light of their eternity anyway. Instead, the role that God has called us to play in His justice is simply this: to be an ambassador of His reconciliation message.

Do you play judge of the world? Or do you live justly, a light guiding others to a saving knowledge of Jesus?



Justice and Morality

“Far be it from you to do such a thing–to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25

Image result for justiceGod is just. He constantly acts according to what is morally right or fair, morals being the principles that determine what is good and bad.

God is the moral law. Our Creator is the standard of right and wrong, good and bad. And He is unchanging in His promises [Hebrews 6:18]. He cannot be defined by whim or caprice [Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:21]. Though His judgments are unsearchable by the human mind [Romans 11:33], His justice is as unchanging as His character.

Throughout human history, cultural values and moral judgments have shifted. But with God that which is right today is what has always been and what will always be right. Likewise, that which is wrong today is what has always been and what will always be wrong.

Most people don’t like this attribute, because–having bought into Satan’s lie that they can be their own god–they want to decide for themselves what is good and bad, what is right and wrong, what is just and unjust. So much so, that people will surround themselves with others who say exactly what they want to hear [2 Timothy 4:3] just so they don’t have to deal with God’s truth on the matter.

But God is the judge of the whole earth. Everyone will stand before Him alone one day [Hebrews 9:27]. Everyone will answer for the things done and said in this life [Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12]. Everyone will bow their knee and confess God as God and Jesus Christ, His Son, as Lord of all [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10].

In that day, God will separate the righteous from the unrighteous [Hebrews 4:12]. The one blessed with eternal life and the other cast into the lake of burning sulfur [Matthew 25:31-46].

The choice is as simple and clear cut as black and white. As God posed the question to Cain, let us also consider, If you do what is right, will you not be accepted [Genesis 4:7]

Who determines what is morally right and good in your life? Which side of eternity will you be on?


Hazy Copies

“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.'” Hebrews 8:5

Image result for copy of a copyA copy is never identical to the original. But it is clearer and more accurate than subsequent copies. Meaning, if someone were to make a photocopy, then make a photocopy from that copy and so on, each copy becomes hazier and less accurate than the first.

It’s the same way with our understanding of and patterning after God. We are called to be like Christ [1 John 3:2]. If we are in Christ, our hearts are being built into a living tabernacle, acceptable to God [1 Peter 2:5]. We ourselves are to be a copy of the original.

God made us in His image at the Creation. Christ makes us anew and the Holy Spirit reforms the Father’s image in us, but only if we pattern ourselves after Him.

God is good. While our goodness can never save us, in Christ by faith we do the good works God intended us to do from the Creation [Ephesians 2:10]. Without God, how would even know what good is?

Many, however, accept hand-me-down faith. They attend church from childhood and become a copy of the people in the church. Maybe the pastor is a great man of God. Maybe the choir leader has a great heart for worshiping God. Maybe our teachers genuinely know and love God. Maybe our parents and grandparents are people of true faith. These are all good things. And these people are all good role models.

However, their lives–like ours–ultimately fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. They themselves are still in the process of being transformed by the renewing of their minds [Romans 12:2]. Patterning ourselves after any one of them will make us an untrue version of another person rather than a genuine copy of Christ.

God is good and we are the light of His goodness to the world around us. Are you patterning your life after the original through prayer and Bible study? Or are you living as a copy of a copy?


Together for Our Good

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Image result for bound wristsGod is good.

And though He has not pre-planned our lives, being omniscient, He does know what we will face and how we will respond. For many, this understanding is enough to reject God as anything-but-good. Others find this verse in Romans and question how God can make good out of the bad in our lives–why He wouldn’t just start with ensuring that we don’t experience bad to begin with. Two wrongs don’t make a right, right?

But with sin jamming up the spiritual rudders of human beings, bumper boats happen all day every day. What I mean is, our lives effect others and their lives effect us. Because of sin, the result can often be tragic. Sometimes these offenses are mishaps of close contact. Other times they are premeditated evils.

Joseph, Israel’s eleventh son, knew this full well. Motivated by sheer jealousy, his brothers beat him up, threw him in a cistern and sold him into slavery. They lied to their father, Israel, to cover up their hateful sin. And they believed the worst was behind them. Until one day, they found themselves standing before the mercy of the brother they had so hatefully mistreated.

But Joseph loved God. And Joseph knew that God had called him to Egypt for a purpose. What his brothers did out of hatred, anger and jealous spite, God worked for the good of Joseph and his father Israel [Genesis 50:20]. Really, for Israel’s entire household.

We can’t often change our circumstances or the people who mistreat us. God doesn’t condone sinful behavior, and everyone will have to answer to Him for their wrongdoings [Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 4:5]. And though He calls people to step into these situations to right them, people don’t always listen or obey.

But that doesn’t nullify God’s goodness. Rather, when we keep our eyes on Him–our help, the author and perfecter of our faith–God reveals His goodness to us in surprising ways [Psalm 121:1; Hebrews 12:2]! He takes the lemons [excuse the cliche] that sin chucks at us and makes, not lemonade, but the most refreshing living water and satisfying bread of life–beyond what we could even imagine–if we allow Him to.

Are you in a difficult circumstance today? Have you come through a tragic past? Do you find it impossible to forgive your parents or other family members for any reason? Remember who your help is. Fix your eyes on God who is working in you to bring about your good despite what the world throws at you. Will you trust in His goodness? Will you let Him do the work He began in you [Philippians 1:6]?


An Impossible Challenge

“Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like His? Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at all who are proud and humble them, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you.” Job 38:32-36

Image result for man pushing a boulderGod asks Job so many questions leading up to this moment. Not because He needs Job’s counsel but, in true God fashion, because He wants to instruct him. In response to His own questions, God challenges Job further. Show yourself to be the God Satan told you you could be [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14]. Go ahead.

Except that Satan lied, and even Job knows it.

All his life, Job faithfully praised our Creator God. Even when he lost everything and his wife told him just to turn his back on God and die [Job 2:9], Job held firm to his trust in the Almighty. His friends came with less than Godly counsel in his time of greatest loss. And at the end of very long, very judgmental tirades against their buddy, God had something to say.

Show yourself as mighty as I AM. And if you succeed, then you can be your own god. An impossible challenge.

All human strength–whether the might of brawn or sword or schemes–together cannot scratch the omnipotence of God.

Though we can observe God’s steadfast power at work in nature, we can only comply with His laws to maintain the life He created. We cannot create new plants out of nothing. We cannot make plants act other than He designed them to act [i.e. make oak trees grow underwater]. Though we have noted how life reproduces, science can never explain why life generates more life. But God made all things out of nothing [Genesis 1:1]. He designed their every attribute. And He knows the why behind life.

Though we can enjoy the beauty of the sun and stars, for danger of incineration and for sheer distance, we cannot even approach them. But God hung each in place. He knows their blueprint as intimately as He knows each and every one of us [Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7; Hebrews 4:12], and He alone fuels their light.

Though we build ships and airplanes to cross the seas and have circumnavigated the globe and dove to great depths, what human being can control the ocean? God not only reigns it in, regulating its tides, but He dug its depths with a Word.

Every creature, save one, obeys the Creator. Bees pollinate and make honey. Trees and grass scrub carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Cats keep mice populations in check. Ecosystems with their communities and food webs all work together in God’s design. All except for human beings.

We choose not to obey the stewardship commands given at the Creation [Genesis 1:24-26]. We choose not to love God and to love one another as ourselves [Matthew 22:38-29; Mark 12:30-31]. We choose to deny God’s power–though it is evident all around us–in an effort to try to usurp the control for ourselves.

But who are we that God should fear or answer to us?

Does your life flow out of a reverence for God’s omnipotence?


Omniscience vs. Predestination–Part 2

“When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. ‘Sovereign Lord,’ they said, ‘You made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against His anointed one.’ Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak Your word with great boldness.” Acts 4:24-28

Image result for tack on mapFaith without free will is no faith at all. Love without free will is no love at all. And God desires both from the joyful submission of our free will to Him.

Here after Peter and John were released from prison, they prayed with fellow believers. And they acknowledged that, from the beginning, God knew exactly at which point in human chronology He would send Jesus. God sent His Son when the Roman-centric world would swallow up His chosen people, Israel, and both cultures would converge to crucify Him.

Because it was all a part of His plan to redeem His Creation.

Though–being all-knowing–He knew who would carry this out, God didn’t choose to villainize or destine people or force anyone to do the job. Everyone who denied, denounced and destroyed Jesus’ physical body did so of their own free will. Just as everyone who comes to Christ also does so of their own free will.

Faith is absolute certainty in what we hope for but cannot see. But it must stem from the free will of our intellect, for without faith it is impossible to please God [Hebrews 11:6]. So if God chooses who will have this faith and who will not, then it is no longer faith. It is coercion.

Love, by necessity, is a choice. No one can force someone else to truly love them. But each person comes to love another purely as an expression of their own free will. We each choose whom we desire and how to demonstrate that affection. So if God chooses who will love Him and who will not, then it is no longer love. It is coercion.

But God is self-sufficient–He needs no one. God does not show favoritism [Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11]. He sent His to die on the cross for whosoever would believe in Him [John 3:16] and He doesn’t want anyone to choose to perish in the lake of fire [2 Peter 3:9].

And even knowing what we will choose, He still acts mercifully with all of us. Indiscriminate of our ultimate decision to accept or deny Him. He still loves each and every one of us. He still lets us choose for ourselves whom we will serve [Joshua 24:15].

Whom have you chosen?


With the Omniscient

“(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” Romans 2:14-15

Hand In Hand, Holding, Hands, Holding HandsIn a world where conscience has become synonymous with being true to self, which in turn equates to self-as-god, let us return to the root meaning.

Con-with; science-knowing.

And as Christians, we can take this one step closer to the reality of eternity and understand that conscience is living with THE Knowing One.

God is omniscient–all-knowing. The fear of the Him is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom [Proverbs 1:7 & 9:10; Psalm 111:10]. Does that mean that we need to be afraid of God? Actually, the phrase the fear of the Lord refers to our reverence for God. If we respect Him to the fullness that He deserves, then we are on the road to true knowledge and wisdom.

He Himself becomes our wisdom [1 Corinthians 1:30]. Because–while we can never plumb the depths of the mind of God [Isaiah 40:13; Romans 11:34]–we have received the mind of Christ [1 Corinthians 2:16]. Therefore, we can tap into the wisdom from on high in any situation we face.

We have His Holy Spirit to remind us of everything that God, the Father and Creator, has spoken to us [John 14:26]. His Word is alive and active, judging every thought and attitude of our hearts [Hebrews 4:12], shaping us–as we allow Him–into the image of Christ.

When we live conscientiously or with THE Knowing One, then we have direct access to the truth of our situation. We do not live reactively. We do not live in fear. We do not live in slavery to our doubt, anger, sinful desires or anything else.

Our conscience, that is our God With Us, counsels us. It’s how we can rejoice always, even in troubled times [1 Thessalonians 5:16]. It’s how we can pray without ceasing while walking through our everyday life [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. It’s how we can give thanks to God regardless of our circumstance [1 Thessalonians 5:18]. And it is precisely God’s will for us [1 Thessalonians 5:18].

Do you live with The All-Knowing One? Or is your conscience synonymous with self-as-supreme authority? Are you on the path to true knowledge and wisdom?