Yesterday, Today, and Forever

Hebrews 13:7-8 – Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. [8] Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

No Expiration Date

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is unchangeable. What blessed consolation there is in these words. What challenge there is in these words.

If our Lord is the same today as he was yesterday, then that means what he said 2,000 years ago about himself and his work remains true to this very day. He has overcome the world. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. He is living water. He is the bread of life. He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the door. He is the gate. He came to bring life. He came to save sinners. He came to bear witness to the truth.

His words of exhortation to believe and receive all these truths about himself (and more) are just as true, binding, and life-transforming for us today as when they were first spoken. And they will continue to be so 2,000 years from now, should our Lord wait that long to return. His promises are trustworthy because he is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

A Larger Perspective Needed

When I consider the saints who have gone before us and read their words about our Lord, I am moved by the fact that, regardless of the century in which their words were written, there is a vital and familiar thread that runs throughout. It’s not simply because those who wrote were merely using the same vocabulary to describe Christ. It’s much more intimate than that. Instead, they were describing someone they knew – someone who does not change with the tides of time and place. Span the centuries and you will find the Lord Jesus being written about, adored, and worshipped with striking continuity and intimacy.

We would do well to imitate those faithful saints who traveled the way of Christ before us. Our vision of our Lord, when confined to our time and place alone, can become myopic and limited. It’s easy for us to grow accustomed to his face. Instead, we need to step outside our surroundings and see a bigger, more beautiful Jesus. We need to cross the generations to discover what others have said about our Lord and learn how their thoughts and lives were transformed and renewed because of him.

I love to read the works of the saints who lived, served, and died over the last 500 years (though, admittedly, that too can be limiting). I want to learn from those giants of the faith, whose lives, ministries, and teachings have stood the test of time. They have much to teach me today in my narrow little place in history.

I encourage you to do the same. Aside from time in God’s Word, there are few better ways to occupy your life of study and mediation than to read Christian biography. The lives of those who traveled with our Lord in the past can serve you as you travel with him in the future.

Walking Points

  • What are some of the ways you are comforted and encouraged by the unchangeable nature of Jesus?
  • What are some ways that truth convicts you?
  • Do you have a favorite person you enjoy learning about from Christian history? What is it about that person that inspires and encourages you?
  • There are many fine mini-biographies available to introduce you to some of the great saints of Christian history. Find one that interests you and start reading today. Keep a journal of some of things you learn from it.

Prayer

Eternal God, you are the one, true God of the past, present and future. Your Son is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I give you praise and thanks that the promises you made in the past are just as true today and will be tomorrow as well. I bless you that what was true about you in the days of the Apostle Paul were just as true when you spoke to Abraham. And praise God, they are just as true today. You and you alone, are worthy of trust because you are the one, true God, and you do not change. Please fill me with your eternal Spirit and keep me close to you today, tomorrow, and forever. In Christ I pray. Amen.

Lasting Hope

Part 3 of a series on encouragement. Click here (for Part 1) and here (for Part 2).

Hope in Jesus

The author of Hebrews reminded his readers that because of who Jesus was and what Jesus did, we now have real and lasting hope. It’s not what we sometimes call hope, which is really nothing more than wishful thinking, like “hoping” your team wins the big game this year. Instead, it’s a hope more akin to an absolute fact because it’s grounded in the work of Christ and the promises of God.

This Jesus, the writer encouragingly reminded his readers, is supreme over our problems, our circumstances, and whatever else is weighing us down. Jesus is where those early believers were directed to place their hope. It’s where we too are called to place our hope.

These Three Things

The writer to the Hebrews encouraged his readers to do three things. The first thing he said was, because of who Jesus is and what Jesus did, and because God’s promises are true,

Hebrews 10:22 – let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith (Emphasis Added)

In other words, we don’t have to stand at a distance from God. We can come close to God and know him. We can have assurance that he loves us and that he’ll keep his promises.

The second thing he says to is,

Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful (Emphasis Added)

We have hope because God is a promise-making and promise-keeping God. It is that God in whom we place our trust and hope. We therefore can and should hold to it unswervingly.

The last thing the writer encourages his readers to do is this:

Hebrews 10:24-25 – And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. [25] 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 (Emphasis Added)

Encouraged to be Encouragers

In these two verses we’re encouraged to be encouragers. The underlying point is we can’t encourage one another if we don’t often see each other, if we don’t meet together, if we don’t participate in worship and other forms of fellowship together, if we don’t know each other. Whether it’s Sunday morning worship, a Sunday school class, a Bible study or small group, an accountability group, or a close Christian friend, you are unlikely to know what’s going on in someone’s life if you are not meeting together. Others will not be able to know how to encourage you if you stop meeting with them.

Christians Need One Another

Christians need to be with each other to encourage one another. This was the heart and soul of how John Wesley understood discipleship. This is what it means to watch over one another in love.

But How?

What does it mean to encourage one another? We often think of encouragement as simply a pep talk or the power of positive thinking. It includes a little of both of those. But it’s far more than those. Here are some ways the word “encouragement” is translated in the New Testament: Beg, comfort, desire, pray, plead, console. As previously mentioned, it literally means, “to come alongside another person to help out.” That’s what Barnabas did!

Panic!

During my last year of seminary, it finally started to dawn on me I would soon be graduating without any actual pastoral experience. I had never done a funeral. I had never performed a wedding. I had preached a total of two or three times in my whole life. I had not even led a worship service. And they were actually going to appoint me to a church? Had they lost their minds? I thought so.  

Thankfully, there was a wonderful and godly professor who took me under his wing and met with me once a week to help me. He encouraged me by telling me I wasn’t the first baby bird to be kicked out of the nest.

He encouraged me by building me up. He encouraged me by investing his time and effort in me. He encouraged me by giving some practical “how to” help as well. And, he encouraged me by giving me a little pep talk from time to time. Like Barnabas, he came alongside me to help me when I needed it most.

Who Do You Know?

Who do you know who is discouraged, depressed, scared, or hurting? Who do you know who has lost their way or is struggling with something serious in their life? Who do you know who seems to be stagnating in their faith or even moving in the wrong direction?

Friends, they need your encouragement. They need a timely word. Will you encourage them? Who will if you won’t?

Maybe It’s You

Maybe you are the person wrestling with one of those things. Are you connected to your brothers and sisters in Christ? How else will they know you are in need if you are not regularly meeting together? How can they encourage you, strengthen you, comfort you, and help you if they do not know what is going on in your life?

Our Ultimate Encourager

It is true we need each other. Yet we must never forget that our hope is in God. Psalm 10:17 says,

Psalm 10:17 – You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry

By all means encourage one another. By all means allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to be encouraged by others. We need each other. But never forget our ultimate encouragement comes from the person and work of Jesus Christ and the hope we have in God’s promises. The encouragement we offer others ought to primarily point them to their real Hope.

Walking Points

  • Who do you know who needs encouragement? What are you doing to come alongside them, like Barnabas, and encourage them?
  • How about you? What’s going on in your life? Where are you struggling and hurting? Who is encouraging you?
  • Do you regularly meet with a group of Christian friends? If not, find a group to join this week.
  • Are you already part of such a group? Then why not find another person to encourage and invite him or her to join you.

Called to Encourage

Part 2 in the series on encouragement

Called to Encourage

Barnabas seems to have had the spiritual gift of encouragement. Yet, though there are those with that particular gift, all Christians are called to encourage others.

Can you think of anything quite as meaningful and as powerful as a well-timed word of encouragement from a family member or close friend? Encouraging and comforting words are like balm to the soul. They’re healing. Observe how the book of Proverbs describes encouraging words.

Proverbs 15:23 – A man finds joy in giving an apt reply– and how good is a timely word!

Proverbs 25:11 – A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver

Is that your experience?

Who Encourages You?

Who is the person in your life you want to hear from more than anyone else when you’re scared or discouraged or depressed or hurting? When your world is crumbling all around you, who is the one person you know will have a word of encouragement for you? What is it they do or say that makes them such an encouragement in your life?

Who Do You Encourage?

Who in your life would say that you are that person for them? Are you an encourager? Do you seek to build people up with your words and presence, or tear them down? James puts it this way in James 3:9-10,

James 3:9-10 – With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. [10] Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be

Indeed, it shouldn’t be. Sadly, however, it often is.

Encouraged and Encouraging

The testimony of the Book of Hebrews is that we need to be both encouraged and encouragers.

We don’t know who wrote the Book of Hebrews, but we do know it was written primarily to a group of Jewish followers of Christ who needed to be encouraged. They were being persecuted and were losing hope. Many were being tempted to fall away from their faith and go back to previous ways of life.

Jesus is Supreme

Therefore, in order to encourage those believers not to lose hope, but to persevere to the end, the writer exalted the supremacy of Jesus Christ over all things. Jesus, the author made clear, had no equals. He was superior to Moses and the angels. His covenant was superior to the old covenant. His priesthood was superior to the old priesthood.

Through most of Hebrews, the writer showed how and why Jesus was supreme. And then, toward the end of the letter, the author revealed why the supremacy of Jesus matters.

Stay tuned for Part 3