Over the last few weeks I have been studying the book of Hebrews with some awesome guys.
I’ll be honest, it’s a tough book. It’s tough enough that most scholars aren’t even really sure who wrote it, but they are confident that it lines up with Scripture and is a valuable part of our Bible.
As the name implies, it was written to Hebrews, so even though it’s a New Testament book it reflects back on much of what happened in the Hebrew nation of the Old Testament. In the first quarter of the book, there is a warning that basically goes like this: “Do not make the same mistakes you saw those who came before you make.” (Hebrews 3:16-4:2)
Pretty easy advice, eh?
Not so much.
- Have you ever seen somebody run into a car because they were watching a wreck on the other side of the road?
- Have you ever seen someone fail a test because they cheated off someone dumber than they were?
- Have you ever told your children not to do something and explained a specific consequence, only to walk out of the room and have them do exactly what you told them not to do?
We humans are difficult that way. Kind of slow, a little rebellious and continually irritating. (Resist the urge to put these labels on someone else… if you’re human, this applies to us all)
You might call it learning the hard way, ignorance being bliss, or even making your own bed. We have a ton of expressions that describe what it’s like to walk down the same road of destruction that someone else walked down just before us, ignoring all the detour, road closed, falling rocks, little blinking yellow hazard lights, yield signs, and “you must be stupid to still be walking this way” signs. Sometimes we blame it on age and joke about how smart our parents got when we got older.
Either way, experience is a teacher that always tests you first and instructs you later. And, by the way, if you haven’t figured out where I’m going with this; it it’s a stupid way to live if you don’t have to.
I don’t know how many times I have kicked myself in the head for doing this very thing: I see something that I want (generally, something that plugs in, blinks and whistles), and I start the hunt. Doing research on the project you always come across reviews. And when every review says “this is the dumbest thing I ever bought,” “worst product in history,” “you’d have to be an idiot to buy this”… I still get one.
Somehow, I convinced myself that they all don’t know what they are talking about. They’re probably just cynical by nature and would complain about everything. Obviously, they are completely untrustworthy. Surely it will be different for me.
Nope. I find out very quickly I’ve done it again. I look help straight in the face, and kick it in the knee.
Too many times we know the pitfalls, we’re aware of the dangers and yet we walk right in. We make the same mistakes we’ve seen others make, and sometimes even ones we’ve made before.
Seriously, what’s wrong with us?
This was the warning to the Hebrew people in the New Testament writing… be careful. They were reminded of what happened when their ancestors came out of Egypt. God walked with them, did miraculous things over them, provided for them, guided them and endured them. But, in the end, even though they were rescued from Egypt their entire generation was kept out of the Promised Land.
Because of rebellion and turning to their own ways again and again they were saved from slavery, but still captive to their sin. It was a hard lesson for that generation to learn, but what it taught was you can receive the salvation of God and still be so rebellious and hardheaded that you miss all the blessings of being saved.
The writer was warning the Hebrew children in the New Testament who accepted Jesus to not fall back into the legalism of the old Jewish system. But, to embrace the new covenant and the freedom found in the grace of Jesus Christ. He was saying, “Jesus died to set them free, so, don’t accept the salvation and then willfully put back on the chains of what He set you free from! You know the stories from the Old Testament, you know what happened to your ancestors, don’t make the same mistake twice.”
That’s my advice to you today as well. For those of you who call yourselves followers of Christ, look at the example of our spiritual heritage and those who are rescued from Egypt.
They were saved by God, but because of their behaviors and attitudes never really experienced the total blessings of that salvation. Is it possible that you and I can be saved by the blood of Jesus and on the road to heaven, but still live lives of utter stress, destruction, pain and misery?
The answer is yes, but you don’t have to.
Don’t make the same mistake twice. Just because you’re saved and heaven bound doesn’t mean your journey is over. As long as you’re alive there is a need for you to walk with Him!
It’s really quite simple. Make Him number one in all things of life and He’ll take care of number two, three, four and so on. There will be a multiplicity of applications depending on whether you are stuck in difficult relationships, have made some financial mistakes, or just can’t seem to shake that feeling of “whatever” you got going on in your heart.
But, no matter what personal application you’re going to have to make, this universal teaching will apply to us all:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifea? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), Mt 6:25–34.
You gave your soul to Him, now why don’t you give your life to Him as well.
There’s no need to learn this one the hard way. Don’t make the same mistake twice.