How would you describe a perfect parent? You might start with scriptural instructions:
- Teach children about God’s ways continually. (Deuteronomy 6:7)
- Train up a child in the way he should go. (Proverbs 22:6)
- Don’t withhold discipline. (Proverbs 23:13)Don’t provoke children to wrath or exasperate them. (Ephesians 6:4)
- Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
Parenting is one area where Jesus could not model perfect behavior for us. He was never a husband or a father. However, our resources are not limited to the popular parenting books on the market today. We can look to our Heavenly Father who always took His parenting duties seriously. He treated his earthly family, the children of Israel, as a responsible parent would faithfully act toward his beloved children.
Now that Jesus has provided eternal salvation for believers under the New Covenant, God’s eternal family can expect God to parent them well also. After all, He is perfecting believers for the heavenly kingdom where they will reside with Him for all eternity.
Hebrews chapter 12 speaks to believers about God’s discipline of His children. As the text says, discipline is never pleasant in the moment, but it is absolutely necessary for the training of children. We need to learn how to take it, how to benefit from it, and how to recognize it. This is an important chapter for our lives.
In the previous chapters we learned that the “the just shall live by faith.” Then we learned what faith is and how to grow in our faith. Chapter 12 likens our Christian life to a race set before us. We will see how God helps us to keep growing in faith and stay on track for the duration of our time on earth. Put on your track shoes and get ready – there is much good information in the final two chapters of Hebrews.
DAY ONE: HEBREWS AUTHOR DESCRIBES LIFE WITH A HEAVENLY FATHER.
READ: Hebrews 12:1-6
GOD’S CHILDREN MUST LIVE PURPOSEFULLY.
As believers, we have already entered the race of our lives. It is a race with a beginning, middle, and an end. It started when we became believers. The end is heaven with all of God’s glories awaiting us. The middle is a time of growing up and becoming perfected.
Shakespeare compared life to a stage, but the Bible compares it to a race. We are not just actors; this race is for real. We are not competing with others in this race. We are all running to reach our potential in Christ so that we will be prepared for the wedding feast and the new life in the family of God.
There is a finish line to this race – a time when faith will become sight. But now in the middle we must live by faith. We must remember these points.
1. It can be done successfully.
Look at the testimony of the witnesses we have just studied. God’s approval of them proves that earthly life can be lived well. These people lived by faith in the midst of great trials, challenges, suffering and testing. Think of them often.
2. We must have self discipline.
Remove the hindrances – things that draw you off course (like unhealthy relationships, lifestyle habits that use you up, worldly books or activities that diminish Christianity, etc.)
Remove the sin – things that our culture condones but God has forbidden or perhaps secret sins that harm ourselves and others – things we are rationalizing away.
Persevere – live a purposeful life of obedient service, not a life filled only with pleasures and comforts and vain things. Keep on a path of growth through diligent study.
3. Jesus is the ultimate example.
His suffering was far greater than ours. Look to His life often as our model. He always did the right thing, even when it involved great sacrifice or suffering.
Go about the Father’s business – serving well with your spiritual gifts.
4. Jesus is the perfecter of our faith right now.
He offers help to us along the way by His Holy Spirit. When we ask, he sends grace in the right amount at the right time.
We are not alone in our struggles. He prays for us and intercedes for us.
He gives us wisdom regarding right living when we seek it.
GOD DISCIPLINES HIS BELOVED CHILDREN.
5. God will be a responsible Father to us.
God will pay careful attention to His Children. He will never neglect His duties. Every single child of God can expect good parenting from their Heavenly Father.
Sometimes we can expect to be rebuked when we stray. God will send someone or something to let us know we have gone off the course, or He will speak to us in Scripture to let us know in some way where we are erring.
Sometimes we can expect punishment – when we turn a deaf ear to the rebuke that He has sent. God doesn’t give up easily because He loves us infinitely.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- How deep is God’s love for humanity in general? (John 3:16)
- What does this chapter say about God’s love for His own?
- What are some ways that people react to discipline?
- What are some “hindrances” that you have observed in your life or in the lives of others?
- What are some of the sins we need to put off according to Colossians 3:5-8?
- How do you personally “fix your eyes on Jesus” when you are enduring hardships or discipline?
DAY TWO: GOD DISCIPLINES US TO PRODUCE RIGHTEOUSNESS.
READ: Hebrews 12:7-13
GOD MODELED PERFECT DISCIPLINE.
In the midst of discipline, what parent has not told his child – “I am doing this for your own good”? Of course, that should always be our motive. It is never pleasant to discipline another human being. As human parents we sometimes discipline in anger or for other wrong reasons. Sometimes we are reluctant to discipline at all. We need to stop and take a long look at the way God disciplines and understand the purpose of His discipline. He is our perfect model for parenting. He always disciplines us for our own good.
How does God discipline?
- Sometimes by natural consequences – He lets us reap what we sow. He lets us live with the results of our bad choices. When we own the behavior we own the consequences. We learn by experience the results of disobeying God.
- Sometimes by direct consequences – He allows hard things to come into our lives to train and teach us lessons that we need to learn. Without this kind of discipline we would remain weak and vulnerable. Or perhaps we were headed headlong into a tragic mistake that would be irreversible – like the Hebrew Christians we are studying. He puts up roadblocks or causes failures or shuts doors.
- God’s aim in discipline is always to bring about our good, our holiness, our peace, and our righteousness. He knows just what it will take to get our attention. Is God’s discipline always effective? It may depend on how it is received.
MAN’S RESPONSE DETERMINES THE OUTCOME.
We have a choice in the way that we will respond:
- We can accept it with resignation – walk through it without learning or changing.
- We can dissolve into self-pity – spreading our misery all around as we whine and complain.
- We can become angry and bitter – suggesting to ourselves and everyone around that we don’t deserve the consequences.
- OR — We can see it as a proof of God’s love and earnestly seek what we are to learn from it. We then move to a new level of maturity, and we are even able to help those who are lame. He is conforming us to the image of His Son and making us fruitful.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- In your opinion, what does it mean to “strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees”?
- How are the weaker church members described in verse 13?
- How does your endurance help the lame to succeed?
- Give some benefits of discipline from James 1:2-3
- How do you respond when some kind of hardship or suffering comes to you?
- How teachable do you consider yourself to be?
DAYS THREE & FOUR: GOD DESIRES TO BLESS HIS CHILDREN.
READ: Hebrews 12:14-24
WE MUST PREPARE TO RECEIVE GOD’S BLESSING.
Running the race can be full of challenges, hidden dangers or roadblocks. Running successfully requires a certain diligence and watchfulness. God wants to bless His children, but we must place ourselves in the place of blessing. If we are aware of the ways we can be sidetracked, we will at least have a warning. What are some of the dangers to avoid?
- We must attempt to live in peace and holiness with everyone.
If we want to focus our energy on successfully moving through the hard times, we need to pursue peace and live with honesty in our human relationships. A right relationship with our fellow man is necessary if we want to have a right relationship with our Heavenly Father. Fighting and quarreling use up our time and energy. It can rob us of the grace of God and support from others.
- We must recognize and eliminate any root of bitterness.
Bitterness eats away at our soul and comes out in ways that impact our relationships with other people. We must allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and root out any bitterness or resentment that has grown inside.
- We must avoid living immoral or irreligious lives.
Living on a purely sensual level eliminates life on a spiritual level. When we spend our lives wantonly indulging our base appetites and living a worldly life, we disqualify ourselves from service to God. Esau lost his opportunity to be a part of the covenant people. (Genesis 27)
WE MUST NOT GIVE IN TO FEAR.
These Hebrews are in danger of losing their opportunity to run the race successfully. If they sell out to their fears, they will move themselves out of God’s will and be disqualified from service. They need to be aware of the differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
- The Old Covenant came in with terrifying warnings – because of God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. The people couldn’t go near the mountain or they would die. This refers to Mt. Sinai where Moses received the Law. This is where the Hebrew people now wished to return.
- The New Covenant comes with hosts of angels and an open invitation to draw near to Mt. Zion to be perfected. They are invited to join with God, departed saints, and Jesus in joyful assembly in the heavenly Jerusalem. What’s not to like? There is no comparison.
QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- How are each of the two mountains described in Galatians 4:24-26?
- How would you compare a life lived only for self and a life lived for God?
- Verse 24 speaks of the superiority of Christ’s shed blood over Abel’s acceptable blood sacrifice. What makes Jesus’ blood more acceptable?
- Which of the dangers mentioned might be a danger for you?
- How will you place yourself in a place of God’s blessing?
DAY FIVE: GOD DESCRIBES THE UNSHAKABLE KINGDOM.
READ: Hebrews 12:25-29
GOD’S VOICE MUST BE HEEDED NOW.
What is the result of ignoring the very voice of God? It is something that we would never want to experience. The ultimate sin is to refuse God’s words for they are the words of eternal life and salvation.
When Moses went up on Mt. Sinai, the voice of God shook the mountain and it trembled violently (Exodus 19:18). It was so terrifying that the people asked God to speak through Moses. They promised to listen for if God spoke directly to them they felt that they would surely die.
Now God has prophesied that one day He will shake the whole earth and everything physical and material in it. From Haggai 2:6-7 we read:
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord Almighty.”
The shaking of Mt. Sinai is a symbol of the future final shaking of heaven and earth. Now is the time between the two shakings when God is speaking quietly in grace. The next time He speaks will be in judgment. At that time He will introduce a new order that is unshakeable – the future Messianic Kingdom.
GOD’S JUSGMENT WILL ONE DAY COME.
Since that is the destiny – the end of the race – believers need to be thankful and worship God with reverence and awe. God is not only a God of grace, but also a God of judgment – a God of consuming fire. (Deuteronomy 4:24)
This chapter ends with an offer they can’t refuse. There are two reasons to move forward and endure the current hardships:
- The New Covenant makes us perfect so we can enjoy eternal life with God now and enjoy God’s rewards in an unshakeable kingdom in the future.
- Jesus will return in judgment – only the faithful will survive.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
- What do the following verses say about the coming “shaking of the earth”?
- Isaiah 34:4
- Joel 2:31
- Matthew 24:29
- II Peter 3:10
- Revelation 6:14-16
- What did Jesus say about the inheritance of the righteous? (Matthew 5:10)
- What are the two choices of the way we will meet God?
- What does an unshakable kingdom mean to you?
- Where do you see yourself in the race of life?
When we become believers we enter into the eternal family of God. We also enter into a race to run well in spite of opposition and persecution. Our Father works to enable us to stay on track and to become ever more righteous and fruitful. We can either cooperate with His discipline or resent it and refuse to be trained. When we reject His gentle rebukes, we are destined to go through the training again in some form. God does not give up on His children easily. What a mighty God we serve!
PRINCIPLE OF THE WEEK:
Our heavenly Father has a purposeful agenda for our good each day.
Greet each day with the anticipation of growth in some way. Smile as God takes the rough edges off our personalities and corrects our errant habits. He makes everything beautiful in His time.
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