SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
June 29, 2008
True Life Flows from the Abiding Presence of Christ
Key Verse: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8
A man loved his Cadillac so much that he arranged to be buried in it. Another man, observing the dead man behind the steering wheel as the car was being lowered into a huge grave, remarked, “Man, that’s really living!”
Most of us would agree that Jesus had a different quality of life in mind when he said, “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Abundant living for Jesus had nothing to do with possessions. It had everything to do with knowing and loving God and offering Christlike love to other people.
The Hebrews “preacher” explains how people live the life that the eternal Christ makes possible. He does not speak in platitudes; he talks about the everyday living of ordinary people who have become “new” people through faith in Jesus Christ.
Throughout the ages change has been constant. Everything about us is constantly changing. The Native Americans whose weapons were arrowheads never dreamed of the automatic weapons of our time. The pioneers who went west in covered wagons could hardly imagine spaceships flying to the moon.
Butterflies are here today and gone tomorrow. Humming birds drop by for a season and fly on. Few people drank “green tea” when I was a boy. Now millions of bottles of green tea are consumed daily. A few years back our family had a crank telephone on a “party line,” sharing the privilege with other people. Now even small children have a personal cell phone.
Yet one thing remains unchanged: Jesus Christ who “is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The changeless Christ is the one reality, the only reality, in a world characterized by constant change. Christ is our Rock. He is Life, and thus our Source of life. He is Truth, and his truth is not affected by the changing tides of pagan culture. He is the Way, not just today but always. He is Love, and thus the Source of the agape (self-giving) love God calls on us to practice. He is everything. Without Him life simply does not work right. With Him all things are possible. He is the Wind that propels us to do God’s will. His presence within helps us, despite our shortcomings, to live fully a life that honors Him. Because he is “God with us,” he empowers us to live so that people can see “Christ in us.”
This Hebrews passage is filled with practical guidance about “really living.” There is no mention of being buried in a Cadillac. Instead we are shown how the strengthening presence of the eternal Christ helps us:
1) Love one another. Because of our sinful nature, and our sometimes sharp difference, only Christ can create “mutual love” within the church. Christ makes it possible for us to love people we would otherwise despise.
2) Show hospitality to strangers. Our culture has become strangely impersonal. We often fear strangers, supposing one might be the Boston Strangler or a serial rapist. Christ helps us discern the persons to whom we should offer kindness and assistance. Now and then we realize we have entertained an angel God sent our way.
3) Reach out to those in prison. Our church assists women inmates as they are released from prison. Kate’s Closet provides each woman several outfits of clothes and assists them to find a job. Christ helps us to identity with people who are suffering, share their suffering, and help them find healing.
4) Honor the sacred bond of marriage. Marriage is the sacred union of a man and a woman. God’s plan is that sex be reserved for the marriage bed. Two become one basically through their sexual union. People suffer when God’s plan is ignored or replaced by the pagan customs of a hedonistic society. The eternal Christ helps a husband and wife remain faithful to each other.
5) Be content with what you have and refuse to let the love of money ruin your life. Money is a terrible taskmaster. Only Christ can help us resist and overcome greed. Selfish greed is destroying people all around us. Christ teaches us to be satisfied with what we have and to enjoy it.
6) Give thanks for your spiritual leaders and imitate their faith.
True spiritual leaders teach us to trust Christ and follow his teachings. False leaders mislead us with “strange teachings.” True leaders inspire us to worship, serve, and follow Christ – nothing more and nothing less. The faith of such teachers is worth imitating. No other sacrifice than the blood of Jesus can save us from our sins. No other sacrifice is necessary. The eternal, changeless Christ is all we need, now and forever.
7) Continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God. God no longer asks for the sacrifice of the blood of animals. There are other sacrifices he delights in our giving. One is the sacrifice of praise with our lips. We must learn to complain less and praise more. When our energy is devoted to criticism, we are unable to offer praise to God. In our church we sometimes sing the lovely song, “Give thanks.” The song invites us give thanks to God “with a grateful heart” because “He’s given Jesus Christ His Son.” Because of all God has done for us, this should be the spirit in which we live each new day.
8) Remember to do good and to share what we have. Obviously God wants us to do more than praise him with our lips. He also wants us to praise him with good deeds that benefit people in need. The people in whom I “see Christ” are constantly doing good; they are unselfishly taking food to people, visiting the sick, and encouraging those who are hurting. Sharing what we have with the needy pleases God and honors the Christ who abides in our hearts.
The world is constantly changing so that nothing in the world is stable and dependable. The eternal Christ is the only lasting reality. He alone is real. So real, authentic living flows only from the abiding presence of the Rock of Ages. We need not fear. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hallelujah!
(Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)