I am reading in Hebrews 12 today, which was written to those who profess faith in Jesus Christ. One of the central themes running throughout the whole book of Hebrews is to explain, in detail, what it means to truly be a follower of Jesus Christ, and to warn against apostasy, falling away, and unbelief resulting from disobedience, and thus ending in not being able to enter into God’s eternal rest, i.e. into eternal life with God.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. Hebrews 12:12-17 ESV
This is a call to perseverance in the faith. It is a call to revitalize or to kick into action and/or to revive and to give new life to any of our deeds of faith or our godly actions which are now in a slump, which are lazy, inactive, and/or which are declining and going downward spiritually. And, this is a call to spiritually strengthen any part of our lives which is giving way to fear or which is lacking in faith, or is lacking in obedience and in surrender to our Lord and to his will for our lives. This is talking about spiritual revival.
And, instead, we are to make straight paths for our feet. We are to clear anything out of our lives which may cause a hindrance to our walks of faith with Jesus Christ. And, these don’t all have to be sinful things, as such, but can be any distractions which end up consuming our time, affections and attention which then draw us away from walking with our Lord in purity of devotion to him and with wholehearted surrender and obedience.
And, then we need to walk the straight and narrow path God has for us to walk which is total surrender to him, with him truly as Lord (owner-master) of our lives, and with us as slaves to him and to his righteousness.
We are to no longer be conformed to the ways of this sinful world. We are to no longer be walking (in practice, in conduct) on a sinful course, following after the ways of our sinful flesh. But, we are now to be walking daily in our Lord’s righteousness and holiness, living godly lives which are pleasing to him (Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Jn. 1:5-9).
And, we are to strive for holiness, for without it we will not see the Lord. And, holiness means we are set apart (unlike, different) from the world because we are being made into the likeness of Christ.
So, we don’t watch movies or videos or listen to music or play games which glorify the flesh and which promote sensuality, and which laugh at sin, and which influence our minds, hearts and attitudes to sin against God. But, we fill our minds and hearts with what is from God and with what is wholesome and praiseworthy. And, we don’t follow a sinful path, but we follow a righteous path, which is the way of holiness, in obedience to our Lord.
And, we are to see to it that we and others do not fail to attain the grace of God. And here we need to understand what the grace of God is and what it is not. Yes, it is forgiveness of sins. And, yes it gives us the hope of eternal life with God. But, it is also deliverance from slavery (addiction) to sin, and it is empowerment to walk in righteousness and holiness, free from the power and control of sin over our lives. It is not free license to continue in sinful practices without guilt and without remorse.
Rather, it teaches and empowers us to daily say “NO!” to ungodliness and fleshly desires and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives (Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Tit. 2:11-14).
So, attaining or receiving God’s grace doesn’t happen just on a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. We attain his grace when we submit to his will for our lives, when we surrender our lives to him, when we forsake our former lives of living for sin and self, and when we walk (in practice) according to the Spirit of God and no longer according to our sinful flesh.
For, it is possible to feel badly when we sin, and even to cry tears over our sins, but if we do not change, if we do not forsake our former lives of living for sin and self, and we do not turn to God to follow him in obedience to his will and to his ways, then we do not have eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:16-21; Gal. 6:7-8; 1 Jn. 1:5-9).
See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:25-29 ESV
So, what is this saying? We are not to refuse Jesus Christ and his Word. And, refusing him is not just verbally saying “NO” to him and to his salvation. Refusing him means to not do what he says, to go our own way, to follow in the way of the flesh and not in the way of the Spirit. It means that we walk in the darkness, according to our flesh, and we don’t walk in the way of holiness, according to the Spirit (1 Jn. 1:5-9; Gal. 5:16-21).
Thus, we are not going to escape hell and have the hope of eternal life with God and heaven as our eternal home if we walk (in practice, in conduct, in lifestyle) according to our sinful flesh, and not according to the Spirit. If we walk in disobedience to our Lord, in sin, it is the same as unbelief, and we will not enter into God’s eternal rest. This is taught not just in Hebrews but all throughout the New Testament (see all scripture references noted).
So, if we want to have the assurance of salvation from sin and eternal life with God, then we need to be those who are walking according to the Spirit of God and not according to our sinful flesh. And, this is why we have all these warnings in scripture and all these many instructions on holy living, because without holiness we will not see God. We need to take this seriously! And, we need to not play around with sin.
We need to, thus, offer to God acceptable worship of him, which is to give our lives to him as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to him, no longer conformed to the ways of this sinful world, but transformed in our hearts and minds away from sin and to God and to walking in his righteousness (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; 2 Co. 5:15).
And we need to do so with reverence and with awe. And reverence means that we walk in the fear of the Lord, in obedience to him and to his ways. It means we submit to his Lordship over our lives, that we take him and his word seriously, and that we don’t continue living in sin, taking his grace for granted. It doesn’t mean we are perfect, but it does mean that sin is no longer our master and that we are no longer walking in the ways of the flesh as a matter of course, of habit and of practice.
And, why do we need to take this seriously? Because our God is a consuming fire, and he will judge just like he said he would. He will judge us according to what we do, not according to what we profess. For we will all reap what we sow. If we sow to please the flesh, from the flesh we will reap destruction (decay, death). But, if we sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit we will reap eternal life (Gal. 6:7-8; cf. Gal. 5:16-21; Rom. 2:6-8; Rom. 8:1-17).
So, if we want peace with God and the assurance of eternal life with God, and for it to truly be well with our souls, then we need to die with Christ to sin and live with Christ to his righteousness, by his grace. We need to walk according to the Spirit and no longer according to our sinful flesh. And, daily we must be putting to death, by the Spirit, the deeds of our flesh, and daily we must be walking, by the Spirit, in Christ’s righteousness and holiness.
It Is Well with My Soul
Lyrics by H. G. Spafford, 1873
Music by Philip P. Bliss, 1876
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well; it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well; it is well with my soul.
*copyright status is public domain