This post was written for the Six:Eight Community Church blog. I’ve been serving as the pastoral intern at Six:Eight Church in Ardmore, PA, for almost a year now and blogging has been one of my regular duties. Sometimes I re-post the 6:8 blogs here on my personal blog just for kicks. You can view the original post on the 6:8 blog here: http://sixeight.org/rants-raves/we-are-hebrews.
Over the next few weeks of summer, the [Six:Eight Community Church blog] will be a place to reflect back on the past week’s sermon. Hopefully, these reflections will help us process the messages we’re hearing on Sunday by offering some further ideas and insights or maybe asking a few more questions. No worries if you happened to miss the sermon – you can download the audio recording along with the full text and slides for every sermon over on the Sermons page. As always, we invite you to interact with the blog posts by leaving a comment below. Now that you know the plan, let’s get started!
In our last sermon, Pastor Jason preached on Abraham’s test recorded in Genesis 22 where Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice his promised son Isaac. Abraham acts in obedience to God’s command, but God intervenes to save Isaac’s life just as Abraham has raised the knife to offer his only son on the altar. God provides a ram for the sacrifice instead of Isaac. God’s promise to Abraham to be the father of many nations through the offspring of Isaac is fulfilled. God is faithful; God provides; and life for God’s promise-people continues.
One interesting note that Jason made in his sermon was about the meaning of the word “Hebrew.” The people that grew from Abraham’s offspring as a result of God’s promise were known as “Hebrews.” The root word of the term “Hebrews” means “one who crossed over.” Think of God’s people crossing the Red Sea to escape from Pharaoh’s army in the book of Exodus. In a sense, Isaac can be thought of as a Hebrew in the way he “crossed over” from death to life; of course, he didn’t actually die but he came pretty close to it! Isaac’s metaphorical crossing over points to the real crossing over in the resurrection of Jesus. As our resurrected Lord, Jesus is the ultimate Hebrew – the one who made the ultimate crossing over from death to life.
Pastor Jason ends his sermon with this admonition: we are Hebrews! In John 5:24, Jesus says that “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” We are Hebrews because we have put our faith in Jesus and have crossed over by God’s grace from death to life! Our hope is the same reality we witness in Jesus: bodily resurrection. But this new resurrection life doesn’t just begin when we die. Look at Jesus’ words in John closely: those who hear and believe have ALREADY crossed over from death to life. The Apostle Paul echoes this idea in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
This is really good news! For one thing, it means that our life of faith is not a test. Our salvation is by grace alone through faith alone – not by works. We have nothing to prove to God; nothing to earn. God’s love for us is pure gift, pure abundance, and entirely unconditional. God loved us first – period.
Of course, we still have work to do! We are empowered by the Spirit of God to live into, live up to, the new creation life God has secured for all creation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God’s grace is God’s complete acceptance of us but it is also God’s power for living new lives of freedom as partners and co-creators in God’s kingdom. While we have crossed over from death to life, this crossing is not yet complete – not for us individually and certainly not for all creation. We know this intuitively. We all struggle with sin, with believing the lies of the evil one and turning from God. We experience evil and suffering in our own lives and we see it in our world all the time. By faith, we have crossed over from death to life, but God is still in the process of bringing this work to its ultimate fulfillment. Abundant life is coming, and we get to taste it now, but it will not be complete until the day of Christ’s return.
In the in-between time, we are called – just like Abraham and Isaac – to a life of faith. God may not be testing us, but this doesn’t mean we won’t face struggle and pain as we follow Jesus in faith. Just before Paul makes his statement about our new creation life, he says “For we live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Paul knew by experience that living by faith includes trials, struggling, and “light and momentary afflictions” (2 Corinthians 4:17). As we follow Jesus as Lord and submit our lives to Him as King, we are up against the “rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:11).
Living by sight means living by what we are trained/taught to expect from the dominant voices in our world. It means giving authority to the stories about what “really” matters in life that we hear from advertisers, tv shows, movies, and all other kinds of media. It’s the “vision” of the “good life”, the “American dream” that is embedded in how we practice life and make everyday decisions about how, where, and with whom we spend our time. Living by sight is living the unexamined life, just going with the flow, down the “broad path” Jesus describes in Matthew 7: the one that leads to destruction – not abundant life (Matthew 7:13).
Living by faith is being swept up as actors in God’s story. It is making our purposes align with God’s purposes. It is living as if God’s promises are true and everything else is a lie. Jesus is our perfect model of this life that is attuned to the voice of God’s Spirit: bringing healing, wholeness, and good news to those who trust and believe in him. Jesus makes this “invisible” life of faith “visible” for the world. As God’s people filled with God’s Spirit, we are called to be Christ’s body – to make visible the life of faith founded on God’s story, God’s promises, and God’s kingdom.
Do we know God’s promises? Are we familiar with God’s purposes? Is God’s story authoritative in our lives? If not, we will live by sight and be deceived and led back to the ways of death, the ways of Egypt. Faith in God alone as our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer is life – new, abundant, and restored. We are Hebrews. May we all, as a community of God’s people, follow God’s Spirit out of slavery towards resurrection as we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly for the sake of our families, friends, neighbors, community, and world.