“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)
Easter, like Christmas, can quickly become superficial and automatic. This year, Lent devotions, a Christian Passover Seder, and sermons on Jesus’s resurrection are helping me to consider more profoundly Christ’s great sacrifice and His victorious defeat of sin and death. Paul’s benedictions such as the one above remind us that God’s peace is acquired through the blood of Jesus, “the eternal covenant,” that equips us for our Christian lives. But rather than meditate on Christ’s work we often turn these great biblical indicatives (truths) into imperatives (commands). There are no commands in Hebrews 13:20-21. What we have here are glorious truths: (1) God the Father is the “God of peace;” (2) the Father raised Jesus Christ, His Son, from the dead; (3) Christ is our great Shepherd, and we are His sheep; (4) the eternal covenant of grace comes through Jesus’s blood in His substitutionary atonement for us on the cross; (5) God equips us with everything good to do His will; (6) God works in us, through Christ [and the Holy Spirit whom He gives us] for His pleasure; (7) all of this is for the eternal glory of God; and (8) if we are believers we agree with Paul, being absolutely sure of this (“Amen”).
Which of these truths plays a major role in your Christian life? Which do you struggle with, for absolute certainty in your heart? When you hear about global politics and conflicts, do you doubt that our God of Peace is the one who sovereignly reigns? God the Father is the “God of peace. “…until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high…Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (Isaiah 32:15-18) See also: Psalm 10:12-11:7; Psalm 46; Luke 26:46-47; Matthew 24:29-31.
The Father raised Jesus Christ, His Son, from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is as important, if not more important than His atoning death on the cross. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 19) “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:20-21) See also Luke 9:22; Romans 8:31-39; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 3:1-3.
As you go about your life, do you act more like a dependent sheep or a stubborn goat? Is it hard to trust Jesus to be your Shepherd, who provides, protects, and guides you to green pastures? Christ is our great Shepherd, and we are His sheep. In Him we have more than this world, we have abundant life in His places, designed for us. “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep…If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:7-11) See also: Psalm 23:2; Joel 2:21-29.
Some of us are planners, others not so much. But God is a planner, and from the beginning He made an eternal covenant of grace that came through Jesus’s blood in His substitutionary atonement for us on the cross. God agreed with Himself to save us far before we knew we were lost in the chaos of this world, our sin, and Satan’s grasp. In spite of all our mishaps and sinful failings, we can be assured of God’s covenant because it’s not dependent upon us and we know that He is perfectly faithful. “‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10) See also Jeremiah 31:33-34; John 1:12; Titus 1:2-3; Hebrews 8:8-12.
When you and I wake up in the morning, we usually think of the children waiting to be dressed and fed, the crying baby that needs a diaper change, or the things on our schedule for the day. Our minds get wrapped around these activities even before we can consult Scripture in our quiet times. So we are already biased against the will of God, being occupied with what we will do, even if our thoughts are about our ministry, writing, or service. I need at least an hour with the Lord every morning, to change my thinking from the first few moments of waking life. Fortunately, God equips us with everything good to do His will, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) See also Isaiah 45:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:7; Ephesians 4:9-14.
Most of us seek pleasure in a variety of ways: sports, culture, fellowship, parties, TV, music, or videos are just a few of them. God works in us, through Christ [and the Holy Spirit whom He gives us] for His pleasure and eternal glory. The Lord is gracious to share His pleasure with us; when we are united with Him in Christ, we delight in the things and ways of God as a side benefit to His glory. Christ lived as a man, died as our Messiah, and was raised to be our Great Priest and King for His entire kingdom. He relishes redemption of His people for inclusion in the kingdom. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). See also John 17:1-11; Galatians 1:3-5; 1 Peter 5:10; Revelation 14:6.
Do you say “Amen!” to these truths? We all need someone bigger and stronger and greater than us. Hope in the world will be crushed (like a cathedral devoured by fire); hope in people will be disappointed and hope in ourselves, especially, is hardly reassuring when we can’t even do what we set out to do in one day or one week. If we are believers, we agree with Paul, being sure of this. “Regeneration…is a radical change of the governing disposition of the soul, which, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, gives birth to a life that moves in a Godward direction. In principle this change affects the whole man: the intellect…the will…and the feelings or emotions.”* “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 1:20-22) See also 2 Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 10:23.
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)
* Berkoff, L., Systematic Theology (page 468), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993