Year C – Proper 14 – Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Hebrews 11:1–16 – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old gained approval. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. . .

Understand the Definition of Faith (vv1-3) – This “faith chapter” gives a definition and description of faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (v1). The description is that men gain approval by faith. Faith is in the fabric of creation since the worlds were made from what is invisible by the Word of God (v3). We must accept this as a foundation of a life rooted in Christ. Faith is not a one-time decision; it is a continued disposition of heart and mind. We must “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Take Action: Examine yourself to see if your heart believes or if you demand to see it all now. Trust in Jesus and then do what He says. Be assured of Christ’s presence in your life or seek help. Seek counsel for your doubts and recognize that unbelief arises from a sinful heart, not from a lack of information or reasons for faith.

See the Demonstrations of Faith (vv4-12) – The demonstration of faith is through the lives of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and other patriarchs. Faith is required and demonstrated in – Right worship (Abel), deliverance (Enoch), approval (v6), household salvation (Noah), obedience and perseverance (Abraham), and the ability to fulfill the promised role (Sarah). Faith is not inactive. True faith acts. Take Action: Read about the lives of the faithful (in the Bible and bibliographies). Fill your conversation at the dinner table with stories of how you and others have acted out of faith in Christ.

Persevere with the Deposit of Faith (vv13-16) – These faithful patriarchs died without receiving the fullest object(s) of their faith, yet they did not lose hope. The presence of God in their lives was their deposit. Abraham was promised multitudes of descendants as an old childless man, along with a land/the earth and to be a blessing to all nations (Gen. 12). We are included in these same promises (Rom. 4:11ff). However, Abraham “was looking for the city” of God but we have come to that City (12:22). The promised age and city has now broken into our reality through Christ’s resurrection-ascension. We have access to this reality by faith. Take Action: Trust and obey … Keep on this path. If you fall down, get up. If you struggle with seeing reality from a place of faith, reach out to other believers. Count your current blessings as part of the deposit. Make rejoicing in Christ’s victory and reign part of your ordinary devotional actions and part of your family discussion.

Year C – Proper 13 – Colossians 3:1-11

Colossians 3:1–11 – “1   So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!”

Summary – There are three foundational commands in this passage which form our outline of this text: 1) Set your mind on Christ (vv1-4). Since we are spiritually united with Christ in His death, resurrection and even ascension in baptism, we are to see life from that point of view. He contrasts the heavenly (rule) and earthly (slavery) (v2). 2) Consider yourself dead to sin (vv5-8). Setting our minds on Christ leads to obedience. Don’t offer any part of yourself to immorality (porneia), impurity (akatharsia), passion (pathos), evil desire (epithumia) (v5). These are all forms of greed, an excessive desire for more and more, rather than contentment in Christ alone. Greed is idolatry. Wicked desires that produce immoral and selfish actions are idolatry which is valuing and appraising something more than God. These internal desires are matched with “expressive” or “reactive” sins: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech must also be put aside. 3) Put aside the old self and put on the renewed self (vv9-11). Paul’s exhortation about honesty (v9) leads directly to putting off the old and on the new “self” (lit. anthropos – man) (v9). The image is of putting on clothing. We are new Adams and Eves, a new humanity (Eph. 2:15ff) and individually we should dress ourselves as renewed people in gospel knowledge (v10). This new “self” or “man” is an identity which is more foundational than our culture & heritage, our ethnicity, or our station in life, because Christ is all and in all (v11). The only identity that matters is being “in Christ.”

Insight – On vacation this year, I went from snorkeling under the sea to getting a tour of a cruise ship and standing at the helm of ship several stories high. I saw the sea from two very different places. Often in the NT we are invited to look at life from very different points of view. Ordinarily we are looking face to face with earthly problems of ordinary life or even extraordinary hardships. It is just in these times that we must join the captain and see the world from the throne room, “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” When we do this, we do not become “so heavenly minded we are no earthly good,” rather we are no longer controlled by the passions and responses of our “old self” that was a slave to sin. Rather we are free to see ourselves as “in Christ.” Do you see yourself, first and foremost, as a disciple of Christ? Or do you see yourself as a composite of your nationality, your job, achievements or accomplishments, and status?
Catechism – Where is Christ and where we seated spiritually? At the right hand of God in heaven.

Discussion – How is “Christ our life” (v4)? Why do we need to Christ’s life?

Prayer – Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we come to you as your sons and daughters, grateful for the redemption we have in Christ. We have been united to Christ in His death and resurrection and therefore we are seated with Him spiritually. Grant that we may see life from this place of heavenly rule so that we may not continue in the sins of our old self, outside of this glorious redemption, but rather walk in newness of life and gratitude, claiming the forgiveness and renewal that was purchased by Christ. In His Name, Amen.