Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hebrews 7:23-35, Self-help vs. God-trust: Why the bible is not a self-help manual

The most well stocked and stacked section at your local Barns and Nobles or any book store for that matter would be the self-help section. We are obsessed with self-help and self reliance, its a carry over from one generation to another of the "pull yourself up by your own boot traps" american way. Just look at the self help section and you'll find books on do it yourself tax code, web design, computer programing, veterinarian science and of course finding true love. We pride ourselves as a nation of "do it yourselfers" and "self made men...and women" its not the most biblical way to live, but it's an accepted way.

What's most interesting about self help is the way we go about seeking it out. Really the idea of self help is a bit of an oxymoron, I mean the idea of self help, meaning helping yourself without any outside influence is a bit ludicrous especially when we are actually seeking expert advice via reading or video and the most ludicrous idea is the idea of the self help group!!! (nuf said). When we do seek out self help we pick and chose which part of ourselves we are going to prim and prune instead of holistically seeking to be better. Some people treat the bible like a self-help book, a list of does and don't for quality and successful living, which it's not. If you truly live the life prescribed in the scripture there are plenty of hardships awaiting you.

Regardless of time and era, there's always been self-help. In ancient Rome there was self help. In fact there was a lot of similarities between us and the Romans. They like to sit around on Sunday afternoons and watch brutish men beat up on each other for sport while enjoying their favorite snacks. The difference is their brutish men (gladiators) fought to the the death, while ours only fight until the end of the fourth and sometimes in OT and their favorite snack was Dormice, which was little field mice, dehired, dried, cook, rolled in sesame seeds and dipped in honey. Ours...well, isn't quite that .... exotic? It's usually pizza or potato chips, maybe cheet'os and beer....never mice, but you get the idea. For self help they inquired from the dice oracle, which would predict the future path of their children, of which 1 of 3 were predicted to die in some tragic way or another. They sought out the advice of diviners, future tellers, kinda like us calling psychic hotline. They also would seek the direction of a prophet or philosopher (two very different people by the way). Either way humanity has always tried to...help ourselves. How has that worked for us?

Our passage this week addresses this self-help phenomenon, by making it clear that we cannot help ourselves when it comes to the most basic and drastic problem we all face...the sin problem. The author of Hebrews (not sure who he...or she is) uses an old image to help explain an new message. The image of the priest ministering before the Lord day and night on behalf of the people. Daily sacrifices, festivals and atonement rituals all were a regular part of the priests work and the author of Hebrews knows this as does the audience. The author speaks of a new priesthood, actually an old one that is being renewed in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the order of the Priesthood of Melchizedek. Mel, as I'll call him so that I don't have to keep typing out MELCHIZEDEK, was both a priest and a king. He was the king of Salem and the Priest of the LORD most high. He is mentioned in one other place, in Genesis where Abraham offers a sacrifice to the LORD through the Priest Mel. In the Mosaic law it was forbidden for a man to hold both the office of priest and king, the two where seperated. The Levites, the sons of Aaron were priest while the Sons of Judah and Benjamin were Kings. Whats so cool about this passage is with the advent of a new Priesthood comes also the advent of a new law. The law of Moses has been fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ! Therefore you and I are no longer under the law of Moses, a law that was proven to be no good in dealing with the sin problem, but we are now bound only to the law of love...love God, love each other. In these two commands are the whole law summed up.

One other thing this passage does is prove to us theres no such thing as self-help when it come so sin. Only Jesus can stand blameless before God and it is through faith in Jesus that we are forgiven. There is no amount of work, good deeds, means of grace (communion, bible study, prayer, fasting) that we can do that will fix our sin problem. Only faith, only trust in God will solve the sin problem. So how about it, no more self-help...no more pulling on boot traps, only trust in God. Author John Kavanaough writes about a visit he had to the outreach of Mother Teresa in India. When he met the saintly old women she asked him what she could do for him, he said "pray for me." She said "for what shall I pray?" He responded by asking for her to pray for claity. Mother Teresa refused to pray for clarity for John, she said, "clarity is the last thing you are holding on to." John objected and said, "but you seem to have so much clarity." Mother Teresa responded with a laugh and said, "I've never had clarity, only trust. For you I will pray for trust, that you will learn to trust God." Will you trust God today?

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