When I look at my first grandchild’s head, I see he’s like me in many ways. His ears stick out a little from his head. He also has a somewhat rounded and pointed head. His hairline recedes far back on his forehead. These same features were seen in all the men on my mother’s side of the family.
And there’s a reason for the likeness. A part of my grandfather’s chromosomes were in my mother who transferred them to me. I then transferred them to my daughter who in turn gave them to my grandson.
Jesus was like humans in many ways, but why?
TO SHOW US WE CAN BE HUMAN AND STILL PLEASE GOD
“Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us…so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17 NLT).
Imagine my surprise when I received a response that said: “You have the same name as my husband.” The reader who read my devotion saw her husband’s name at the end, but the place of residence didn’t match. That’s because it wasn’t her husband; it was me. He was in Canada; I was in the United States. Through this coincidence, we established a relationship. But even though we shared the same name, we shared little else. He was older and so were his children. We didn’t look the same, and I had no record of him in my genealogical records. He had great-grandchildren; I only had one grandson at the time.
Jesus, on the other hand, was made just like me. He took on human flesh and experienced the same things I do: hunger, thirst, tiredness, betrayal, abuse, hardships, misunderstandings, rejection, financial deprivation, anger, temptation, grief. The only way he could take me to the Father was to become like me in every respect—except for my sin.
Through Christ, God created everything, but only by becoming like me could he truly understand me. Since he has experienced similar life experiences, Jesus can identify with what I face along life’s journey. The ups and downs, the mountains and the valleys, the temptations and the triumphs. Having experienced how cruel this world can be, he can show me the mercy I often need. Life’s knock-downs are numerous, but Christ’s grace and mercy are abundant enough to get me through them all.
The greatest advantage, however, of Christ becoming like us was fashioned at the cross. Through his death, he took away our condemnation. Though he wasn’t sinful, he took our sin so we could go free. By faith, our sins are forgiven and no longer charged to our account.
TO SHOW US WE CAN BE USED BY GOD
“For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully when he was entrusted with God’s entire house” (Hebrews 3:2 NLT).
Some days it seemed she despised me; other days it appeared I was her favorite. Imagine my surprise when the boss called me into her office and said, “I’m giving you a promotion.” And not just any promotion but one that took me from an ordinary office worker to supervisor. I worried about how others in the office who had done more time than I would welcome my new position.
With the exception of a few bumps, the transition went well as I settled into my new position with its added responsibilities. I was accountable for more than I had been before, but there were days I wanted to return to my old position.
Jesus was greater than Moses, but like Moses was faithful to the mission the Father sent him on. But Old Testament Moses was admirable as well and served God faithfully. From a small baby hidden in the bulrushes to escape a jealous king to the one who led more than a million people through a foreboding wilderness to the Promised Land, he served God with passion. He ruled over both complaisant and rebellious men and women but handled his promotion well—all things considered.
Promotions at my various places of employment were always nice. Yet with more authority came more responsibility—which made the promotion somewhat of a mixed blessing. My best promotions, however, have come spiritually. Born a sinner with a horrendous future, I’ve now been promoted to a saint—not in practice but in position. Ironically, I’ve also been elevated to a servant rather than a ruler.
In God’s kingdom, serving makes us greater than ruling. Our promotion involves a new heart that prompts us to love and serve others regardless of their race, gender, cultural background, or financial standing. And though we’re not there yet physically, we’re now spiritually seated in the heavenlies with Christ (Ephesians 2:6). Our promotion to heaven from hell is a sure thing.
TO SHOW US WE CAN ENDURE TO THE END
“You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God” (Hebrews 3:13 NLT).
Toasted bread is sumptuous, but hard bread isn’t. When selecting a loaf of bread, I attempt to choose the loaf that is soft to the touch. Soft bread means fresh bread. I’ve also learned putting the twist tie back after retrieving slices ensures the freshness lasts longer. My wife and I often encase our loaf of bread in a Tupperware container. Yet, if the loaf of bread remains uneaten long enough, it will harden, get stale, and perhaps even mold. Hardening of bread is inevitable.
Moses faithfully led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery, but many in the loaf weren’t as sensitive to God as he was. No sooner had they left Egypt than they began to complain—not enough water, food, shoes, or clothes. And when Moses stayed on the mountain too long retrieving the Ten Commandments they had his brother construct a gold calf for them to worship. In spite of all they had witnessed God do, they readily hardened their hearts.
Hardening can happen in believer’s lives. I know; it did with me. As a rebellious teenager, I was hardened to God’s voice. I heard him, but his voice was faint because of my sinful practices. Hardening isn’t instantaneous but takes place slowly and sometimes over a long period of time. I didn’t suddenly become a teenager with a hardened heart. My temporary walk away from God came on subtlety and slowly. It began with rebellious thoughts in my pre-teen years and blossomed into full-blown rebellion several years later.
I’ve discovered the best way to avoid hardening is to stay close to God, making time to meditate on his Word, pray, hang around with other believers, and keep my priorities in order. These practices make it easier for us to reject rebellious thoughts. Since we’re not perfect, we fall occasionally, but it doesn’t have to be purposefully or regularly. When we do, we should be quick to confess so the wrong attitude doesn’t linger and cause more destruction. God’s grace has the power to keep us.
TO DEMONSTRATE WE CAN ENCOURAGE EVEN IN DISCOURAGING TIMES
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13 NIV).
John had been drawing disability from the company he had worked with for several years. Sadly, the medical benefits portion of it would soon run dry. He was feeling discouraged when he called his mom for encouragement. Trying to be a good mom, she dished out what she assumed would be encouraging words. Unfortunately, she failed just as I do sometimes.
“Mom, I was just informed that my health care benefits will be discontinued at the end of the year. Neither I nor the kids will have any insurance. Don’t know how I will afford to buy my medicines.”
“Don’t worry, son. God will work things out. Don’t let it get you down.”
“I’m trying not to let it get me down.”
“Do you remember Mike Farmer?”
“Yes you do. He was married to your first cousin’s best friend. He worked at the cotton mill in Orangeburg—the same one I did. Well, anyway, I was talking to his mother the other day, and she said it took him five years to get his disability. He ended up in a homeless shelter for three years. And then when he finally got it, it was six months before he got his first check.”
“Well, I hope mine doesn’t take that long.”
“And do you remember Philip Dawson who used to go to that church your dad pastored in Tennessee?”
“No, I was only three years old when we lived there mom.”
“Well, you ought to remember him. He used to give you and your brother tootsie rolls all the time. Anyway, his son developed some kind of neurological disease when he was young—probably in his thirties. He was turned down every time he applied for disability. In fact, he died before he was ever approved. They didn’t even have money to bury him.”
“Well, I think I will go now.”
“Okay son. But just remember, God is in control. And if you ever need any more stories of encouragement, I’m just a phone call away.”
The temptations to sin and the difficulties of living in a world gone sour make encouragement a necessity—giving it and receiving it. The writer of Hebrews encourages his readers to give it to each other, but not the kind this mom tried so hard to give her son. Encouragement by its very nature should be uplifting. Spirits rise, fortitude increases, and steps are livelier when encouragement is received.