On Sunday, Dan Doriani will finish his sermons on Hebrews with love. In its final chapter, the soaring theology of the book of Hebrews descends to the daily realities of demonstrating the love of Christ to leaders and other brothers and sisters in the church, to husbands and wives, to strangers, and to those mistreated and in prison (Heb 13:1-7). Hebrews has given us a breath-taking view of the supremacy and beauty of Jesus Christ as the divine Son who is the fullness of God’s glory, our great high priest and atoning sacrifice, our prophet and teacher, our song leader and intercessor, and our champion reigning victoriously over the enemies of sin, death, and Satan. The final chapter of Hebrews shows us that the reason that God painted this exalted portrait of the Lord Jesus for us is to lead us to love. In Hebrews, the ultimate purpose of knowing theology about Jesus is loving Jesus and his people. Indeed, showing Christ-like love in our relationships is a supremely important test of the reality of our faith because there is a direct connection between our belief and our behavior. If we truly trust that Jesus is the divine Son who became man to identify with us and serve our need, then we will naturally learn to identify with and serve others who are in need. If we truly trust that we have forgiveness of our sins in Christ because he is our merciful high priest and sacrifice, then we will be able to extend forgiveness to others who sin against us. If we truly trust that Jesus is a mighty champion, we will find courage and strength in him to persevere in love when relationships are very difficult.
On January 13, the sermon by Dan Doriani in the morning services at Central Presbyterian Church focused on Hebrews 12:5-13, which addresses the Lord’s loving discipline of his children. A major lesson from that biblical text and sermon is that God allows some hardship in our lives in order to refine us and strengthen us, just as a good physical trainer and a good parent challenge us to help us grow and mature.
However, as Dan said, not all suffering and hardship are expressions of the Lord’s discipline to correct and challenge some weakness or sin in us. The whole book of Job and Jesus’ encounter with the man born blind in John 9 are only two of many examples of suffering in the Bible that have no direct connection to anything done by the individuals who suffered. Some hardship is inflicted upon us by the weakness and sin of others for reasons that may be completely unknown and unknowable by us.
These observations, of course, raise an obvious and most practical and existentially pressing question: How do I know if some specific hardship is the Lord’s discipline for my own weakness or sin? Biblical scholar Donald Carson has a wise set of reflections on this issue in the following article on The Gospel Coalition blog: How Do We Know if God Is Disciplining Us?
Mike Farley, Director of Worship and Arts at Central Presbyterian Church, is currently teaching a Sunday school class on worship. The weekly lecture notes from that class are now available here. Additional notes will be added regularly until the class ends sometime in the late spring of 2013. If you attend Central Presbyterian Church and would like to join the class, it meets on Sunday mornings from 9:00-9:30 am in the Choir Room.