Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat


I spoke at my church to-night, with Hebrews 3:1 as my subject. It was very nice- considering I've never done such before, I was calm and spoke carefully, though I was rather frightful and nervous. But then, I was not worried at this, as I came across a wonderful passage in I Corinthians this afternoon where Paul writes of his fear, weakness, and trembling- and this before the Corinthians, who were not known for their moral outstandingness. The passage gave me much comfort- God oft actively uses His Word, I think, guiding us to much-needed words. I touched on some Reformed, Calvanist ideas- not really Calvinist, but Scriptural, but one unfortunatley must preface himself with labels. I had originally intended to glance over the bit about the heavenly calling, but realized, rightly I think, that such truths are desperately needed. And I of course did not bang it over anyone's head, considering the rather diverse assemblage of particular theologies present in my church. And many folks have simply not taken to very serious thought on these things. I also went against popular "evangelical" eschatology, in asserting Christ's actual return to earth, not in some secret, meet halfway and come back later affair, a la "Left Behind", but in His Return and reign and judgement. I very much wish we in the Baptist church could get off of these flawed "end times" views, for they simply don't fit with Scripture, unless one contorts the words to one's views. And, if one rightly sees our King as returning as King, is that not much more inspiring and grander? Not that one should to that view for this reason, but rather, because it is truth. And the truth I desire to speak, and live- by God's grace and working.

Here is the text/outline of my talk {if it seems rather fragmentary that's because I left some spots to on-the-spot}:

Hebrews 3:1- “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts upon Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.”

{primary context passages: Hebrews chapters 1-12}

This is simply a lovely little verse. One of the beautiful elements of God’s Word is the great depth with which we may come to it, and find riches continualy within even the shortest passages: for the Word speaks through its whole in the workings of the portion. Thus shall we find in this little passage.

To whom is this verse addressed? It heads a longer passage, and as is often typical in Scripture, the passage has particular people in mind. In this case we find that it is addressed to “holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling”. Holy brothers- and by extension sisters- what finer address may we have! Those whom have called on the name of Christ Jesus and accepted Him, those who are also called believers- these the Scriptures call holy- not by any action of ourselves is our holiness, but by the work of Jesus, and the grace of God. And brothers of whom? We are brothers in Christ, brothers and sisters to each other- whether those here, or those in China, or Uzebekestan, or anywhere- all members of one Body. We count as our highest Brother Christ Jesus: Hebrews 2:11. We are one with Him, and He with us.

And what of the heavenly calling? It is called heavenly for it comes from the Father- and none less. It is the call, the choosing, that each Christian was given: a call to salvation, to brotherhood with Christ: “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. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” {Romans 8:28-30} This is a wonder too great, truly, for us to comprehend: why should God call us? But there is no merit of ours in this! His calling is by mercy and grace, and no deed of ours affects it. How, in light of this, can we despair, or mourn over any lowly estate of ours, knowing these things!

And, in light of this glorious truth- a calling to salvation in Christ, and not merely salvation, but life in Him, and a hope of glorification when He returns to earth- in light of this, we see the second portion of the verse: “fix your thoughts upon Jesus”.

We are creatures of thought: active, continual thought, of one thing or another. I imagine we scarcely consider most of the thoughts that we have, and oft times we make little effort to bend our thought to some will- rather, we tend to think as we go. But we are called in Scripture to more than fleeting thought, or sinful thought- certainly, we are to put aside all sinful thought, and purge our souls of evil intention. “Be no longer conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed in the renewing of your minds,” {Romans 12:2}. Scripture tells us, and we should harken to this: for the mind of the world is dead and sinful, and not in accordance with the things of God. We also should not think too highly of ourselves- Romans 12:3. Rather, have a lowly, humble estimation of yourself in light of God’s love and grandeur. So we must have our minds, our thoughts, cleansed, purified. How then is this to be done? It is not enough to merely state a negative thing- one cannot think upon nothing. If we are not to think of sinful, wordly things, what then shall we think on?

Firstly, we must be cleansed- our soul, our entire essence and being. That our minds, our souls, may be cleansed, purified, must come through the Word: “for your Word is truth,” our Savior prayed. Let us pray that we be sanctified by Truth, by Word: and let us mean it, and earnestly seek and eat of the Word, which is Christ. It is a deep meaning: Christ, who is Truth, Word, Life, and Light, incarnate, brings cleansing, through the direct workings of Himself, through Holy Scripture.

What of our daily thought, the things that occupy our minds? Let us think upon all goodly things, esteemable things {Philipians 4:8}. There are many good things to think upon: and it is good things that we should think on, always- never allow your thought to grow evil and steeped in sinful things, for from the dwelling of the heart the man acts. Evil festers, and sin grows, in the deep recesses of the heart, of deepest thought, and though it linger there for long years, it will grow to outward evil and sin. But while evil thought breeds evil, good thought, thought upon God and His ways, breeds good. Through the workings of the heart, the soul, thought, does the man act.

But while believers have many good things to think upon- and I could spend many hours discussing them- there is One upon whom we are especially called to think upon, for He is the greatest of all things we may think upon, being the “exact representation of God”: God, in the form of Christ Jesus. Through Him, the Living Word, we are cleansed, and through the Recieved Word, Scripture, His Word, are we purified, as by purest water, scourged of sin as by the sharpest two edged sword. By Him are we brought to salvation, and light, and life. Upon His example, His perfect life are we to pattern ours.

In the verse just read, we are called to this: but how should we “fix our thoughts” upon Him? This is a higher thing than thinking upon, say, a lovely sunset, though that is a good thing upon which to think- and may, and should, lead to thought also of our Lord. But thought upon Christ should be a greater thing. It must be done in full faith. It must be done in reverence and earnestness, and not be flippant and vulgar. We approach our Lord, whether in thought or prayer, in a contemplative and holy manner, through the Spirit. We should possess knowledge- a knowledge unlike any other of which we may speak- of Him, which we come to as we grow daily in it, through the Scripture. CH Spurgeon wrote beautifully fitting words on the practise of thinking of our Lord:

“Our Lord would have all His people rich in high and happy thoughts concerning His blessed person. Jesus is not content that His brethren should think meanly of Him; it is His pleasure that His espoused ones should be delighted with His beauty. We are not to regard Him as a bare necessary, like to bread and water, but as a luxurious delicacy, as a rare and ravishing delight. To this end He has revealed Himself as the "pearl of great price" in its peerless beauty, as the "bundle of myrrh" in its refreshing fragrance, as the "rose of Sharon" in its lasting perfume, as the "lily" in its spotless purity. As a help to high thoughts of Christ, remember the estimation that Christ is had in beyond the skies, where things are measured by the right standard. Think how God esteems the Only Begotten, His unspeakable gift to us. Consider what the angels think of Him, as they count it their highest honour to veil their faces at His feet. Consider what the blood-washed think of Him, as day without night they sing His well deserved praises. High thoughts of Christ will enable us to act consistently with our relations towards Him. The more loftily we see Christ enthroned, and the more lowly we are when bowing before the foot of the throne, the more truly shall we be prepared to act our part towards Him. Our Lord Jesus desires us to think well of Him, that we may submit cheerfully to His authority. High thoughts of Him increase our love. Love and esteem go together. Therefore, believer, think much of your Master's excellencies. Study Him in His primeval glory, before He took upon Himself your nature! Think of the mighty love which drew Him from His throne to die upon the cross! Admire Him as He conquers all the powers of hell! See Him risen, crowned, glorified! Bow before Him as the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the mighty God, for only thus will your love to Him be what it should.”

Contemplative life is a joy, and a help to right living: when you quail in despair, or shrink beneath suffering, think of your Savior’s battle and victory upon the cross- Hebrews 12:2-3: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

When you come into temptation, think upon your High Priest who is able to sympathize with you, for He was tempted, but was without sin- and then be ready to approach the Throne of Grace, knowing His presence and comfort- Hebrews 5:2. When you look upon the beauty of creation, think of He Who holds it all together through His Being, by His powerful Word. In all things we may think upon Him, and His Word, for it is an element of Him- Hebrews 1:2-3 and John 1:3.

In this verse we find two great attributes of Christ, both laden with meaning and application for us. Firstly, we see our Lord called apostle. Apostle comes from the Greek words apo, meaning away, and stellein, meaning to send: so apostle means one who is sent away. We could scarcely ask for a better description of Christ’s earthly ministry. We read in Hebrews 5:5 that Christ did not take up the task of coming to earth, but was appointed to it, was called by the Father- sent away. He was sent away from His glory and splendour to this world, leaving that world, where His glory and might are not shielded as they were here. King of all things, captain of the host of stars, He veiled His splendour in the garment of a man, that He might carry out His Father’s will, and His great design. He became flesh, and dwelt among us, the first, and greatest, apostle: sent not from Jerusalem or Judah, but from the Heavenly Jerusalem! He made himself subject to temptation, that He might make Himself sympathetic to His people whom He would sanctify. So sent by His Father, He came, and walked upon the earth, ever approaching the great summation of His ministry: for in death we find Him as our High Priest.

The high priest was a vital part of the Old Covenant, offering up a sacrifice for the sins of the people. But his office was imperfect, for he had to continue offering sacrifice year after year: imperfect sacrifice, within a covenant that prefigured, that shadowed, a greater one, a perfect one. Through this old covenant we see the necessity of sacrifice, and of shedding of blood. But no beast nor man was perfect: none save the God-man, Christ, and He was the only One who could provide a perfect sacrfice: Himself. Thus He was called to the office of High Priest, a perfect High Priest, apart from the Levitical order. He is a priest in the order of Melchizadec- without beginning or end. While the Levite priest had to offer a sacrifice for his own sake, Christ is perfect, and needed no sacrifice to atone for Himself. He gave Himself in death as the final sacrifice, and through the shedding of His own blood He gave to His people the forgiveness of sins, and justification by His righteousness, holiness through his body- offered there on the cruel cross. {Hebrews 10:10}. And when the sacrifice had been presented, He was finished: He did not need to offer Himself up again, for with one sacrifice, it was finished forever! So He went and sat down at the right hand of the Father, signifying completion- forever finished, and viable forever for salvation in Him. His body is given as a “new, living way”, a curtain {Hebrews 10:20}, through which to enter, by His blood, the Most Holy Place, and draw near to God- for we have a High Priest who lives, and whose blood, whose sacrifice, endures forever!

So then, let us truly “fix our thoughts upon Him”. See Him as Apostle and High Priest- and as Life, and Light. Think upon Him, and dwell in Him. Let us eat of Him as He called us to- let us be drawn into Him, and thus unto the Father. Grow daily in that knowledge of Christ, of the mysteries of God-for we are made holy in Him! Call upon His name, and through Him find mercy in your time of need. For He was made like His brothers: and we are being made like Him, through the workings of the Spirit. As we think on Him, we aspire to be conformed to His image. And by God’s grace that is not an impossible goal, for one day we will see the summation of our hope, and we shall live with Him when He returns to claim His kingdom and bestow us with glory, and restore the fallen earth. Let us persevere and remain in the faith unto that day. Amen!


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