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FIX YOUR THOUGHTS ON JESUS

Hebrews 3:1-3:19
Key Verse: 3:1

So far in chapters 1 and 2, we have thought about Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man. He is definitely superior to angels in his divinity as the Son of God. In his position and nature he is far above the angels. He is also superior to angels in his humanity, in which he did what the angels could not do for mankind. In coming in flesh and blood he was made a little lower than the angels, but suffered death for everyone. By his death he defeated the devil, who has been holding the power of death. It was to bring many sons and daughters to glory, the glory of becoming God’s children restored in the dignity and position of original mankind. He is the author of our salvation made perfect through suffering, and is our merciful and faithful high priest to help us. Now in this passage the writer of Hebrews urges us to fix our thoughts on Jesus, tells us that he is also superior to Moses, and admonishes us to never fall into unbelief in light of the failed Israelites.

First, fix your thoughts on Jesus (1). In verse 1, “Therefore, holy brothers, who shares in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest, whom we confess.” Now the writer calls the audience “holy brothers and sisters.” It is because those who put their faith in Jesus who suffered death for everyone, are made holy. No one can become holy before the holy God through their own efforts. Rather, we all remain unholy no matter whatever we do in our sinful nature. But through Christ’s suffering and atoning death we are made holy through faith in him. It means God regards us holy and righteous in Jesus Christ, who made the full payment for our sins. Those who have faith in Christ Jesus are holy brothers to Jesus and to each other, having God as the same Father. This is the great salvation in the unfathomable grace of God in Christ Jesus. We need to be constantly reminded of this.

Then holy brothers share in the heavenly calling. The heavenly calling is different from the earthly calling. People are called to do a specific task in this world: for example, a calling from a company, university or government. Those who are called are special people. But those who share in the heavenly calling are to live holy lives heavenward against the trend of the world and grow in the holiness of God. In this calling they are not of the world, though they are in the world, and yet truly serve the people to be saved and join in this heavenly calling.

Then it says, “Fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest we confess.” “Fix your thoughts on Jesus” is in other translations, “consider Jesus” (NASB, ESV, KJV), or “think carefully about this Jesus” (NLT), “give careful thought to Jesus” (BBE). To bear the heavenly calling, we need to fix our thoughts on Jesus. Our Christian life is in a significant sense a mind battle. From our thinking action comes. In other words, what we think becomes our life. Living in this world we naturally become full of the thoughts of people and the things of the world. The images of people and their words can occupy our minds. We experience more and more that it is very difficult to fix our thoughts on Jesus because of many distractions coming into our minds moment by moment. It is very easy to float and drift away in the tidings of worldly thoughts and ideas. Then we become spiritually deadened as Roman 8:6 says, “The mind of sinful man is death.”

In our Christian life we absolutely need to fix our thoughts on Jesus. Who can be the object of our fixed thoughts? No one but Jesus. Jesus is the focal point of the Scriptures (Jn 5:39). Jesus is the most precious one. There is no one like Jesus. He is life-giving and life-saving. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). Jesus said, “I am the Bread of life” (Jn 6:35), “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12), “I am the gate” (Jn 10:9), “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11), “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25), “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), and “I am the vine; you are branches...apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Here again, in verse 1, “fix your thought on Jesus, the apostle and high priest.” “Jesus, the apostle and high priest” can be the concise summary of who Jesus is written in chapters 1 and 2. Apostle means “sent.” Jesus is the very one whom God sent from heaven into this world. Jesus is the supreme apostle, from whom all other apostles derive their authority. In the gospel story Jesus said time and again that God the Father sent him. For example he said in John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” He also said in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” God sent his Son into this world. He is the Creator and all things came from him. But he died for man’s sins to purify us and make us hold children of God. He became our merciful and faithful high priest through his own sacrifice. He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven, interceding his own people.

Thinking of Jesus always refreshes our souls and makes us keep alive in spirit. By considering Jesus we grow in his image, in his love and holiness. Considering Jesus we come to know how to live, holy and godly lives, discerning which way to go at each moment. Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:8, “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.” Paul remembered and thought of Jesus, particularly his death and resurrection until he could say, “This is my gospel.” We are also reminded of what Paul said in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” A Psalmist said in Psalm 119:37, “Turn my eyes away from worthless things…” Comparing Jesus, all other things are worthless. All change and wear out like a garment, but he remains the same and his years will never end (Heb 1:12). He is our faithful Lord to the end. He is faithful especially when I am weak and helpless, while no one can be faithful to me.

Again in verse 1, “fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.”

For the Hebrews, this confession was made publicly in a hostile environment. It was not a light matter for them; it was a matter of life and death. They had endured persecution, great conflicts, and much suffering, and yet they held on to their confession (10:32-33). Now, to maintain their commitment to Jesus, they needed to fix their thoughts on Jesus. So do we.

Then how can we fix our thoughts on Jesus? Certainly, it is through his words, the words of God. We need to hear and hear again and remember and recall his words so as to internalize them. That is why we eat daily bread and write weekly testimonies. Then we can go deep into the thoughts of Jesus. Otherwise the words of God remain only on the surface of our hearts and are snatched away by the devil. Without his words, we cannot think of Jesus. Jesus once said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (Jn 6:63). In particular, at critical times, we need a fixed point of his word in our heart so as to consider Jesus.

“Fix your thoughts on Jesus” is a strong command. Yet, may we deeply accept this command into our hearts and overcome our mind battle and indeed fix our thoughts on Jesus day by day and moment by moment, while he is thinking of his own moment by moment.

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Look at verse 2. “He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house.” This description seemed to be out of joint. Why did the author suddenly talk about Moses in relation to Jesus’ faithfulness? Probably, the audience of the Jewish Christians were full of thought of Moses, the representative figure of Judaism, as they were tempted to return to Judaism. Hebrew people were greatly influenced by Moses. To them, Moses was just under God and above the angels. Now by comparing Jesus and Moses, the author most likely intended to help the Jewish Christians to really fix their thoughts on Jesus at this critical time of their lives.

According to verse 2, Their common point is faithfulness. Each one was faithful to God and God’s given mission. Jesus was faithful to teach the word of God, even during the passion week (Lk 20:31) He was faithful in raising disciples. He was faithful to the point of death, dying on the cross taking the sin of all people upon himself in obedience to God’s will of world salvation. God said concerning Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17; 17:5). Moses was faithful to deliver the Israelites who were in the bondage of Pharaoh and lead them right up to the promised land, suffering much to bear with the salve mentality of the people. God said in Numbers 12:7 concerning Moses, “…he is faithful in all my house.”

But the difference between them is honour. In verse 3, “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honour than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honour than the house itself.” The comparison between the honour due to Jesus and the honour to Moses is likened to that of the builder of a house and the house itself. So actually the honour of Jesus is incomparable to that of Moses. Who can compare the honour of the builder of the house and that of the house itself? Then in verse 4, “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” What does this mean? It is true that God is the builder of everything as the Creator. Every house is built by someone. Nothing exists by itself. As it is written in 1:10 through quotation, “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands,” Jesus the Son is the Creator and everything came from him. So in terms of honour Jesus and Moses are incomparable.

Then in verses 5 and 6. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house.” Now even in faithfulness Jesus and Moses cannot be compared. It is the comparison between a servant’s faithfulness and a son’s faithfulness, and the comparison between faithfulness in God’s house and faithfulness over God’s house. And Moses spoke to the Israelites about the future, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers” (Dt 18:15), indicating the coming Christ.

And then in verse 6b, “And we are his house, if we hold on to our confidence and the hope of which we boast.” It shows such a close relationship between him and his holy brothers who are his house. To the owner of a house, his house is his treasured possession. A servant can just work in a house. But the Son, the owner of the house, faithfully pours out his whole heart on the house. This is a special relationship. As we studied, angles are ministering spirits and Moses was a servant who served one generation in God’s history. But Jesus as the Son has a whole-hearted relationship with those who have confession of faith him. According to 1 Timothy 3:15, God’s household is the church of the living God. And 1 Peter 2:5 says, “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.” As keep our faith, we are his house where he dwells and which he faithfully cares for. We are his house by faith to the end. So the author encourages the audience, saying, “We are his house if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. Faith brings courage and hope. So we have enough reason to keep faith and fix our thoughts on Jesus.

Second, never fall into unbelief (7-19). As faith is so crucial, now the author warns against unbelief. In verses 7-11, “So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, “Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.” So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.”’” This is a quotation from Psalm 95:7b-11, a kind of free quotation. In Psalm 95, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.” So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.”’” In writing this there must have been two events in the author’s mind. The first event is written in Exodus 17:1-7. In the desert the Israelites camped at Rephidim, but there was no water to drink. Then they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” They were almost ready to stone him. The LORD answered, “…I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” Another event is written in Numbers 13 and 14. Moses sent twelve spies to explore the land of Canaan. But there were two different reports. The report of the ten spies was negative. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there. We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” Hearing this report, that night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in the desert. Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword…” Then Moses and Aaron fell face down in front of the whole assembly gathered there. At this Joshua and Caleb said, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?...” And the LORD continued, “…not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times—not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it…Not one of you will enter the land…” These two events are dreadful warning.

Now the author connected these events to the audience, New Testament believers. In verse 12, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” “Sinful” and “unbelieving” are written together as the expression, “a sinful, unbelieving heart.” A sinful, unbelieving heart is a terrible thing that turns away from the living God. No one among fellow brothers and sisters should have a sinful, unbelieving heart like the unbelieving Israelites. Then in verse 13, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” A Christian community that encourages one another through the words of God is necessary and precious. In this community we can encourage one another not to harden our hearts caused by sin’s deceitfulness. Sin deceives us (Ro 7:11) and leads to self-deception. But we can be encouraged through spiritual fellowship in the community of God.

Then in verse 14, “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” Sharing in Christ needs confidence that surely comes from faith. The sinful unbelieving Israelites would not share in entering the promised land, the rest. How terrible it is if we cannot share in Christ! For this amazing blessing we should keep our faith to the end and hold firmly to the confidence of faith from first to last.

So in verses 15 and 16, “As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion. Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” By raising these five rhetorical questions, the author severely pointed out the problem of the Israelites, their unbelief, so as to awaken the New Testament believers. The events in the Old Testament well teaches us anew what it means to believe in Jesus, and what it means to have faith. One reality was no water and another reality was the enemies looked formidable. Yet, those who have faith should not stop there. They are to look up at God and trust him and follow his way, not falling into unbelief. They should not live by sight of reality but by faith. Disobedience and unbelief go together. They disobeyed because of their unbelief. The Israelite all started the journey of faith together but not all finished the journey of entering the promised land. It is notable that when their unbelief was accumulated, they finally could not enter. We should watch out for whether we accumulate belief or unbelief. Our promised land of Canaan is in heaven. We all should be finishers of faith. None of us should discontinue in sharing in Christ and in the heavenly calling to our promised land of Canaan in heaven. At each time and in the end faith matters. One of the important teachings of Hebrews is faith.

We are holy brothers and sisters who share in the heavenly calling in God’s amazing race. May we watch out for unbelief at each moment and keep the journey of faith, indeed fixing our thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.

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