“How Long Will it Last?”
by Sinclair Ferguson
“He’s going through a religious phase.” How often did you overhear that being said about you in your early days as an openly professing follower of Jesus Christ? Admittedly the sheer force of conversion on an untaught mind can lead to us drawing confused notions of exactly what has happened to us. Looking back on my own conversion I feel sure my parents must have thought I was going through a decidedly unbalanced “religious phase” as the golf clubs to which I had long been devoted (even at the tender age of fourteen!) were relegated to the cupboard for months on end. An unenthusiastically completed entry form and an ignominious second-round defeat in the national junior golf championships followed. What had happened to their relatively normal golf-adoring son? I am thankful for their love and patience with a young teenager who took a little time to realize that conversion called him to an ongoing life in and engagement with this world — not to monasticism!
Yet, when you are only three weeks old as a baby Christian, finding your feet in an intoxicatingly new world, whispers such as, “It won’t last!” can really hurt, and they can readily sow seeds of doubt that grow into the trees of mistrust and the forests of confusion.
Yet, whatever pressures we feel as contemporary Christians in the West, they pale by comparison with the obstacles that confronted the new converts to whom Hebrews was written. If indeed they were Jewish converts, each one became persona non grata in both family and community — big-time non grata — disinherited, ostracized, and alienated from the tight network that provided personal, educational, emotional, and financial support. They had joined the notorious “third race of men” that followed a claimant Messiah who had been roundly rejected, humiliated, crucified, and accursed. Now they too experienced reproach and the loss of family, property, and security (Heb. 10:32-4; 13:13). From now on they had to camp outside.
Would they last? Will I last? Where should I look (or point others to look)? The answer to this question, as indeed to virtually every question in Hebrews, is this: “LOOK TO JESUS.” For “he is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him” (Heb. 7:25).
The phrase “to the uttermost” expresses the multi-dimensional saving ability of Christ. His adequacy is not limited by the breadth of my frailty, the depth of my sinfulness, or the ongoing nature of my need. In each of these dimensions Christ is “fitting for us” (v. 26). That is to say, Jesus is exactly the kind of Savior we need. That is why the words “he is able” are woven into the very warp and woof of His eternal high priestly garments. He intercedes for us “in the power of an indestructible life” (7:16). No wonder the refrain of the author is: “Look to Jesus” (3:1; 12:2)!
So what implications follow from the unique and everlasting priesthood of our Lord Jesus? Many, but for the moment notice these two implications: First, my security as a Christian does not reside in the strength of my faith but in the indestructibility of my Savior. How much I need to learn again and again the basic principle that I must walk in Christ in the same way I received Christ (Col. 2:6), not depending on anything that resides in me but on everything that is mine in Him. The reformed fathers and masters of spiritual counsel used to say wisely that the weakest faith gets the same strong Christ as does the strongest faith.
The second implication is that my perseverance as a Christian does not depend on the degree of my stoicism in the face of trials but on the perfection of the work of Christ and His perseverance with me.
Hebrews is an exhortation to persevere. We are engaged in an endurance test (10:36), running a marathon race (12:1). We feel the heat; we encounter periodic pain barriers, and at times the summit seems hidden in the clouds — the finishing tape miles away. This is why the perseverance of Jesus is an even more important biblical truth than the perseverance of the saints! He is with me now and will greet me there at the finishing tape and on the summit. He is in every conceivable way perfectly suited to my present needs. Recognize this and our hard daily work turns into a great journey of adventure shared with God’s people in every age (11:4–12:2).
So, “consider Jesus” (Heb. 3:1). The verb “consider” (katanoeo) is an intensive form of the verb “to understand,” and implies giving detailed attention to something (see its use in Matt. 7:3!). The author of Hebrews realized that Christians in his day (as in ours) are capable of giving detailed attention to almost everything (a football game, new clothes, our appearance, school studies) — often, sadly, with one exception: the Lord Jesus. Hebrews teaches that we must reverse that trend. More than that, it engages in reversing the trend by showing us how captivating our Lord really is. Let’s be captivated by Him — for He lasts forever as Savior (7:3; 8:16, 23, 25)!
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From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343. www.ligonier.org