A New and Living Way
"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:19-25, NIV).
This new Way, the Way of life, was available to Adam and Eve in the garden, but they chose something else (Genesis 3). This Way was not available to large groups of people for another 4,000 years, beginning with the first New Covenant Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). This new and living Way of life, so different from the way most people are living, is what sets us apart as holy (which is the definition of being sanctified).
One of the things we did when we came into this Way of life was to begin attending Sabbath services. It would be very difficult indeed to obey the Ten Commandments without obeying the fourth one. The purpose of these Sabbath assemblies was (and continues to be) to help us on our way of living a godly and perfect life before our Father. Part of what we learned at Sabbath services is that obedience to God is a vital part of our Christian walk (Romans 6:16; 2 John 6). Disobedience is called sin (1 John 3:4). Even Jesus Christ the man had to learn obedience in this life (Hebrews 5:8).
It seems as if there aren't as many sermons being preached today about sin. That's unfortunate, because sin is still the one thing that will keep us from achieving our goal of entering God's Kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:21; Revelation 21:8). The way of sin is simply the wrong way to live. If there is any pleasure in sin at all, it is only fleeting (Hebrews 11:25). If we continue in sin rather than conquering it in our lives, all we have to look forward to is "a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God" (Hebrews 10:26-27).
Some of us in the ekklesia are ready for advanced studies, while others are still at what we could consider a beginner's level, and need an occasional reminder of what is good and bad in our daily lives. There are dire consequences to sin. Some of us could yet lapse back into worldliness and carnality, as many of our brothers and sisters have. It is the downward pull of human nature, the spiritual gravity we fight against, that gives us the opportunity to lift spiritual weights, in order to develop spiritual "backbone." Satan knows that, whatever it is we forget to be vigilant and watchful about, that's the area where he can get us, even today!
The paid clergy in the church organizations are there to function as our coaches and trainers. If we were doing daily physical work-outs, under the supervision of a coach, but we weren't making any improvement, growing in strength, or lifting more weights more times, we would never become better as athletes!
Imagine being in physical training for years and not getting any stronger! Imagine being in the church for years and not learning how to continually grow as a Christian, beyond a certain level of accomplishment! With the physical body, there may be some point beyond which we might not be able to strengthen ourselves, some limit of matter or maximum muscular development. There should not be such a barrier in our spiritual growth and development!
If we haven't been coached well, in sermons and Bible studies and personal counsel, so that we become progressively stronger Christians, then we need to take to ourselves the initiative to train ourselves, and take back the coach's position from the men who haven't been doing the job, and give it to the One who will always give us personal training, in the best Way, at our own speed -- the One who will take on the responsibility for our spiritual "work-outs" and see to our growth and development.
That's part of this new and living Way -- to have the Messiah Himself becomes our coach, rather than a fallible man or a corrupt religious organization. We can rely on Him, and God working in us will be able to see to our salvation (Philippians 2:12-13)! In the final analysis, that's what we needed to be doing all along!
"Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
We have a responsibility to train ourselves in godliness. Even if we sign up on God's team, with God as our coach, we must still do the things necessary for growth. If we continue to lift spiritual weights, we can develop the muscle we need to fight against the foe. We must not only avoid sin, but we must also move positively in the right direction by living righteously. We are encouraged to "spur one another on towards love and good deeds." We are told that we must love God with our whole hearts, minds, etc. (Matthew 22:37).
As with any exercise program, the only value anyone can receive from this program is in the doing of it. Having a set of weights gathering dust in the corner does not develop growing muscle mass. Likewise, owning a set of Bibles and reference books will not help you grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18) if they are gathering dust on the shelf.
Also, as with any exercise program, it only works if you do it, and keep doing it every day. One athletic clothing company has a slogan that says it all: "Just do it." Form the habit of exercising godliness, trying to see things from God's perspective, always attempting to live by godly principles.
I once knew a man who came across as being very righteous. I sometimes wondered about it. Could anyone, even in a leadership position in his congregation, actually be so fully on-track, so completely "with it," as this man seemed to be? One hot summer day I was in his town, and I dropped by his house to deliver some things. He happened to be dressed in swimming trunks because of the heat. It was the only time I have seen him in short pants. I saw with astonishment that both of his legs had thick callused areas just below the knee caps. This was not a medical condition. It was evidence that the man really did spend a considerable amount of time on his knees! I never again doubted his sincerity!
How are calluses built? God designed our skin to develop extra layers in areas where there is more friction or pressure. This man had thick calluses over his knees. Other people who work hard with their hands develop calluses on their hands. In aboriginal cultures, where people run barefoot over the land, their feet develop thick calluses on the soles.
We must develop spiritual calluses on our hearts and minds! Not the type of callus that means we have been hardened against our fellowman, but rather the supportive layer that grows up in areas where we have been exercising and working hard -- in our hearts and minds. Letís all check our spiritual knees to see if weíre praying enough. Letís see if the soles of our spiritual feet are not only callused, but beautiful, from bringing the gospel (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15). Are our spiritual hands callused from doing good deeds?
If weíve trained for a job, we should have a desire to do that job! If we donít have calluses in these areas, perhaps weíre not yet working hard enough! Letís get on Godís exercise program, for life and vitality, with Jesus Christ as our personal Trainer.
Thatís the new and living Way!
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