Jesus, the Pioneer of Our Salvation

 

August 1, 2013

If you have visited Alaska, you know that it lives up to its nickname, “The Last Frontier.” It is fitting for Alaska is the largest and least densely populated state in the US. To put this into perspective, in Alaska there are 1.2 people per square mile while in Utah there are 33.6 and Cache County 96.7. In fact, according to the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game, there are an estimated 950,000 Caribou in Alaska compared to its 735,000 two legged residents.

When I think of the frontier, I think of pioneers exploring and settling these areas. While we no longer would consider those moving to Alaska as pioneers or frontiersmen, visiting the state helps one visualize the obstacles that these early explorers overcame. The dictionary defines a pioneer as, “A person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.” 

Your translation may use a different word, but “pioneer” is the literal meaning of the Greek word used in Hebrews 2:10, “In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.” Jesus was the founder, author, captain, and pioneer of our salvation. As a pioneer, Jesus went on ahead to make it safe for us to follow.

Hebrews tells us that before Jesus led us into salvation that He had to be made perfect “through suffering.” Because we suffer in temptation, because we know pain and hunger, Jesus had to be like us in every way if he was going to bring the help we needed. He not only serves us through his suffering but by going ahead of us as the pioneer of our salvation, He was made perfect or complete. This is the inheritance of righteousness that is promised to those who believe. 

In Hebrews 12 the same Greek word is used again to describe Jesus as a pioneer, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (1-3)

Once again, these verses testify of how Jesus has gone ahead of us to lay claim for us the salvation that we could not obtain without Him. It also repeats the idea of the perfection that he claims for us. Jesus was the real pioneer, the one who prepared the way that is to be followed. Rather than speaking of Jesus as our pioneer, other translations read author, founder, the “champion who initiates” and one tell us to “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.” He has not only cleared the path for us but having been made perfect himself he has laid claim to the perfection that we need.

God isn’t calling us to be the pioneer – Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For every man, woman and child there is one final frontier that we are to explore – that is the frontier of salvation. What does this mean? Hebrews tell us what Jesus has done for us but unless we “consider him who endured such opposition” for our sake the words will not apply for us.

The promise of the New Covenant is that we are made perfect, righteous, when we accept Christ by faith. What does this mean? 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that as Jesus went to the cross, bearing our sins, we are made righteous, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

Jesus, our pioneer, entered death to make it safe for us to follow. That is the good news of the gospel in Jesus Christ. My prayer is for you to consider Jesus, the pioneer of our salvation, so that you too may be made right with God through Christ.

 

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The Tug of Sin

 

July 11, 2013

Our choices reveal our desires. Jesus told his followers that, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” The question we should ask is, “What are our words and choices revealing about our hearts?” In the end, unless our hearts are centered on Christ, sinful desires can pull us under. 

Recently my wife and I decided that it was time for us to purchase a used vehicle. I am sure that many of you have undertaken this adventure with mixed success. We started with a general idea of what we wanted; ideally, a wagon type vehicle with AWD and low miles. With this and a price limit, we began the adventure.

Whenever you place constraints on how much to spend, you are likely to feel a tug to spend more. Why? Because unless you have no limit on what you can spend, it may be difficult to find your ideal car. Prioritizing our criteria will help us find an acceptable solution even if it is short of our ideal. For us, our top priority was to keep the cost under the agreed price.

Nevertheless, we still felt the tug to spend a little more to get closer to that ideal car. We were tempted to test drive that “perfect car” just to see what it was like even though it was above our price range. However, yielding to this desire could open the doors to either being sucked into spending more than we had budgeted or cause buyer’s remorse thinking, “If only!” when we purchase a cheaper vehicle.

This tug to compromise effects not only our purchase choices but also our moral choices. We may find ourselves making moral compromises that cause us to ask ourselves, “How did we get here?” Proverbs 7 offers us the answer by using the example of lust to illustrate the problem and solution.

The chapter opens with simple words, “Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands. Obey my commands and live! Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes. Tie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.” The advice is to remember God’s word for it will guard your hearts. Guard them against what? The tug of sin!

Proverbs tells us about a street where a woman “dressed like a prostitute” lives; she is looking for “naive young men who lack common sense” in hopes of seducing them. Verse 8 tells us, “He was crossing the street near the house of an immoral woman, strolling down the path by her house.” If this were a movie, the theme song of Jaws would be playing.

The woman’s intentions are not for the young man’s good – and the young man knows this. Just as we know that taking a car that we cannot afford for a test drive will not increase our satisfaction, the young man crosses the street, seeing how close to the fire he can get. Yet, he will likely find that the tug will turn into a pull and eventually he will find himself in the fire.

What is the solution? “So listen to me, my sons, and pay attention to my words. Don’t let your hearts stray away toward her. Don’t wander down her wayward path.” (24-25) Don’t even go down her street for you know that it leads nowhere good. We may want to say, “What’s the harm as long as I don’t stop at her house? However, the heart problem is that we go down the street hoping to justify our irresistible urge to stop. “It wasn’t my fault…”

The problem doesn’t start with the seduction; the problem begins with the naive heart that walks into folly. Because the heart is difficult to control, some will desire to regulate behavior through laws. An article in CacheValleyDaily.com recently discussed this reporting citizen complaints about a local business’ window displays. Residents wanted the displays removed to protect minors from viewing what they found offensive. Nevertheless, as Logan City Attorney Kymber Housley said, "Not everything that may be considered bad taste is necessarily criminal."

What is the solution? Certainly, citizens can and should present their objections to their civil leaders but ultimately we cannot legislate morality. Prohibition clearly illustrated this principle. New hearts not new laws are what we need to resist the pull of evil desires. As Paul instructs, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

 

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