Advent Readings Day 17
Reading: Hebrews 13:7-17
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 3:15 -16
It is hard to look different or weird, isn’t it? We have cultural forces and religious forces around us that tell us how we should look, what we should do and how we should spend our money and time. Sometimes it comes from inside the church. For example here in Ethiopia when the Bible was being translated into Amharic there was the poor choice of a word to translate what we translate in English as orgy. In Amharic it was translated to say dancing. Now, much of the church condemns dancing other than one special kind saying that it is a sign that you are not a true believer if you dance. Same goes with drinking, smoking, movies, music and the list goes on and on.
Most of us shrink at these thoughts because they seem legalistic and excessive. But then there are other forces at work in our culture that also try to inform us of how we should act. These forces tell us to spend our money on ourselves and to live lavish lives not concerned about others. Fake it till you make it. If you’ve got the money you deserve to buy it. And even if you don’t have the money, there’s always credit because you still deserve it.
These forces that tell us what to believe and do are hard to push back against. Fortunately for us, Jesus comes right into the middle of this activity and He changes everything. He sets us free to follow Him authentically rather than being pulled to the left or to the right. He brings freedom from the powers of religiosity and culture that would draw us away from True Life in Him.
In today’s passage we see the writer to Hebrews speaking out against a draw to make Jesus’ followers follow the ins and outs of the Mosaic law even though they were covered by grace. The writer of Hebrews calls people trapped in this thinking to walk in freedom. They are called out from the camp (to what was considered a godless place by traditional Judaism) and called to live differently in under God’s rule of grace. They had been set free to follow Jesus outside of a strict set of rules, however they were going to face ridicule the moment they step out. They would be labeled as unclean and evil – those who do not play by the rules.
It is funny that today we can face these pressures from both sides. On the one side are the religious pressures that want to weigh us down with legalism. On the other side are the cultural pressures that many times are even more difficult to resist as we are labeled as crazy or kooky in choosing to not bow at the altar of materialism and consumerism to instead bow before the cross, the altar of Jesus.
But how do we live outside the camp? How do we find life and thrive there while looking like we’ve lost our minds as we say yes to Jesus and no to the loud voices around us? It would seem that the author of Hebrews gives us 2 directives. The first is to continually offer praise to Jesus. To have hearts and minds that continually have the reminder of Jesus’ coming in them and therefore our lips always loaded with words that bring Him glory. Perhaps this is less about being able to say the words “Praise The Lord” and rather having all words that come from our mouths ring with that truth. This is our sacrifice of praise. It is not a Sunday morning sacrifice of praise, but rather a minute by minute, 24/7 activity.
The second is to remember to do good and share with others. We are no longer under the weight of the Law to do this to earn our salvation, BUT now that we know the One who has come we do it out of hearts and minds that are being transformed by His love and grace. He has set us free to do good and to share. That is true grace.
Jesus, in His coming sets us free to truly make sacrifices of praise, to do good and to share with others. We are not under compulsion, other than the compulsion that comes from the outflowing of gratitude and worship in response to His coming for you and I.
This season may you find those ways to praise and do good, under His Grace and in His Name. We are set free for these things. What a great season to practice them!