Good news, everyone! Hebrews 8 begins by summing up the point of the previous chapter in a single sentence! If you haven’t read Hebrews 7 yet, you can skip it. All you folks who read Hebrews 7 all the way through and tried to figure it out, sorry you wasted your time enriching your view of scripture through study.
Remember Hebrews 4 from our Sabbath study? We looked at Heaven as the supreme Sabbath, or to put it in the author of Hebrews’ terms, God’s goal of rest for his people. I suggested that the rest that the author discusses has not fully arrived, but as I read the passage today, I’m prepared to reverse that conclusion, or at least to amend it: there’s a sense in which we can, and should, enter God’s Sabbath rest for all creation right here and now. See, there is more to this passage than we originally surmised. On Chocolate Book, we are not content to remain in our former ignorance; we learn as we go.
Yesterday my uncle shot me a link to this video series from RightNow Media: The Book of Titus. In the intro video, pastor Chip Ingram encourages viewers to read through the entire book of Titus and take note of every time Paul uses the word “good.” I couldn’t help reading the third chapter today with that in mind, and it struck me that this really is a book about encouraging the church to do good deeds.
Earlier this week, I was talking with a minister friend who shared with me a problem that he termed “the separation of Church and Christian.” In modern, individualistic America, people become Christians but remain isolated from the body of Christ and the communal practices that allow us to grow and work together for God’s purposes. To a large extent, I think that this phenomenon stems from a short-sighted, single-moment understanding of salvation: say the right prayer, believe the right things, and get your “get out of hell free” card, because once saved, always saved. We’ve got evangelistic rallies that measure success by how many people crossed that line of belief that we’ve drawn; we’ve reduced grace to mere forgiveness without transformation or growth, as if God would pardon us and then leave us in the pits we’ve dug.
How do we keep from not reading the Bible when we read the Bible?
I just checked, and the three parables in this chapter haven’t changed since we last read them. The woman still lights a lamp and sweeps the house in search of her missing coin; it’s still the younger brother rather than the older who demands his early inheritance; there are still the same number of sheep. If anything was true that we previously said about these parables, it continues to be true even now. But we haven’t yet examined the context in which Jesus tells these parables. Where does he tell them? Who does he tell them to? Let’s step outside the parables and find some answers.
In a move that surprises even me, we’re putting our All the Paul study on hold as I begin Hope Church’s Triad Program. Over the next year or so, I’ll be meeting regularly with two of my friends in order to grow in following Jesus Christ with an eye toward spiritual multiplication. The Bible study portion of the program entails reading the week’s passage every day of the week. The Triad program coordinator, Pastor Bill Craig, described it as “soaking” or “marinating” in the passage, which is a little too touchy-feely a description for my tastes. But as an English major, I am all for a sustained engagement with the text, and I look forward to seeing what insights God can reveal to me through prolonged exposure to particular segments of scripture.