10 For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.
— Hebrews 3:7-12 NLT
This passage should not be interpreted to mean that we must work for our salvation. That would be in direct conflict with other passages that clearly state that we are saved by”grace through faith”. What the writer of Hebrews is saying is that doing good works after we are saved is how we lay up rewards in heaven. This should encourage us to help our neighbors and others that we see in need of food, housing, clothing, etc. God gave Adam and Eve the job of tending the Garden of Eden. Work in and of itself is not a curse. God expects each of us to be busy doing good works. We are instructed to “redeem the time”. James tells us that we show our faith in Jesus by doing good works. If we want to enter into the rest mentioned earlier in Hebrews, we must continue in faith and be patient. The day will come soon enough when we will receive our rewards.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. — James 1:12 NLT
Why do Christians have to endure trials and persecutions? I suppose people have been asking this question since the first century. The disciples never quite understood why Jesus had to suffer and die until after the Resurrection. God does not allow us to go through suffering so that He will know where we are on our journey, He allows it so that we will know. He allows it so that our “I can” will turn into “No, I can’t but God can”. “No pain, no gain” applies to spiritual growth as well as physical. Would understanding the “why” really make the pain any less real or painful? I am sure that since Jesus was in on the plan of redemption, He understood the why, but that didn’t keep Him from asking His Father if there might not be another way. As he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane.
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”–Matt. 26:42 NIV
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. — Matthew 5:16 NLT
Salt and light, two things that, in today’s world, we give little thought to. But in the first century, these things were not taken lightly. In fact, salt was such a precious commodity that it was considered proper to give salt as a gift to royalty. Having light after the sun went down was not just a matter of flipping a switch or setting a timer on your cell phone (for you techies). It required a lot of work to keep the palace garden lights burning. And it was very costly since oil and tar were also precious commodities. But it was even more costly to the Christians that Nero had dipped in tar and set on fire to use as lights in his garden. So, when Jesus used these items as comparisons to what Christians must be to a lost world, the people in that time could really appreciate it much more than we can today. With no refrigeration, salt was their major preservative. God’s mercy and grace are our only preservatives against evil destroying our flesh. Think of how much less time in each day that we could be productive without artificial light. But we have a light inside of us that lights up the world even on the brightest day. Are we sharing our salt and light with those around us? Why not? The supply is endless, it is always available and monetarily, it costs us nothing. We need to take the top off the salt shaker and the shade off the lamp and share our abundance with others even if it takes us to Nero’s garden.
15 I will make you and the woman enemies to each other.Your descendants and her descendants will be enemies. One of her descendants will crush your head, and you will bite his heel.” — Genesis 3:15 NCV
God made satan a promise before He cast him out of the garden. God always fulfills His promises. That descendant of woman that God spoke about was Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross and said “It is finished”, the final blow was dealt to the head of all evil at the foot of the cross. It was crushed by the weight of the love of Jesus as He died for all mankind. We need to bring all of our sins, doubts and fears to the foot of the cross and allow Jesus to crush them for us. Lay them down and leave them there, Jesus will take care of the rest. But there are some good things that we need to bring to the cross and ask Jesus to watch over them and protect them. When we bring these things to Jesus we don’t leave them at the foot of the cross, we place them in the palm of His hand. When He receives those things from us they are placed under the loving care of the Father and legions of angels.
16 “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me
. — Isaiah 49:16 NASB
30 Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, 32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.” — Mark 4:30-32 NLT
Earlier in this chapter, Jesus had told His disciples that they were permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. He also stated that there would be some who would hear and refuse to believe (outsiders) and they would not be able to understand His teachings in the parables that He used (Mark 4:11,12). So, if the disciples were permitted to understand the Kingdom of God, then so can we understand it. Jesus told Nicodemus to enter the Kingdom that it was necessary for him to be born again. So, we become a part of the Kingdom of God when we receive Christ as our Savior. In doing so, we become eligible for all the benefits of that Kingdom here and now, not just in the future. As the birds nest in the shade of the mustard tree, so we live under the umbrella of God’s protection now. Right now, it is a spiritual Kingdom inside of us. When Jesus comes back, He will establish a Kingdom here on earth that will encompass all of His creation and creatures except those that refuse to hear and believe (Daniel 2:44, Rev.11:15). We are preparing to live in that Kingdom in our present life and one day that process will be completed when we are changed into immortal beings (1 Cor 15:50-53). Jesus taught us to pray “may Your will be done on earth even as it is in heaven”. So, while we are preparing for eternity, we live with the assurance that the hope that we have will one day be fulfilled. And it will be so — His will “will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. That is why we end our prayers with “Amen” which means “let it be so”. Partially now and completely in the future.
38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. 39 Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.—John 19:38-42 (NASB)
God is waiting to show you the Way.
After the death of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea asked for permission to take the body and bury it. Joseph was a man wealthy enough to have his own tomb dug for him. He was also a member of the Sanhedrin, as was Nicodemus. Nicodemus was wealthy enough to purchase the hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, both of which were very expensive items in that day. It would have taken someone influential and well-known to approach Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus. Though they were both influential and wealthy men, they were both secret disciples of Jesus because they feared both the Romans and the other Jewish leaders. They could have been imprisoned (as Joseph was in later years), beaten or sentenced to death. The question we need to ask ourselves today is this: “What are the fears that keep us from openly serving Jesus?” What keeps us from telling family, friends and neighbors about Jesus?