Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Hebrews 13:9, “Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were thus occupied were not benefited.”

How strong is your heart? Arrays of forces work to weaken our determination. Sin failures, troubles, and trials work to reveal the tragic reality--we are weak in the flesh. As with the cowardly lion--who was fearful even of his own shadow--we are prone to grow pint-sized problems into super-size proportions. We are, by nature, timid of heart. We tend to fear even imaginary threats. Sinful temptations, and our propensity to fail, steal away our resolve. We can all relate to the words of the hymn:

“When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources.”

How can our hearts be strengthened? The context of our passage is noteworthy. False teachers were espousing the merits of legalism, in particular, the need to obey certain food laws. Legalism is best defined as a set of rules that are established and maintained in the attempt to earn merit before God. The problem with legalism is that it has no power over the flesh, as Paul clarified to the church in Colossae, “There are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence” (Col. 2:23). Our natural bent is towards legalism. Our typical response to fears and failures is to try harder to do better. The problem is that human resolve is not the answer. Instead we come to realize the truth found in Romans 7:18: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of good is not.” No matter how hard we try, in the flesh, we fail (Cf. Zech. 4:6b). Self-effort works only to expose our weakness--”that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful” (Rom. 7:13). Legalism is no answer for “grace needy” hearts.

To be “strong and brave to face the foe” we need to be encouraged from a heavenly source. Grace is God’s unmerited favor. It is “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense” bestowed upon the believer in Christ. The Christian life is lived under an “umbrella of grace.” The believer in Christ is saved by grace, strengthened by grace, and sustained by grace. “But by the grace of God I am what I am” is the God-glorifying testimony of the right-thinking Christian (1 Cor. 15:10). Grace is bound up in the person and work of Christ: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). We have been made rich in His grace--it has been lavished upon us (Eph. 1:8).

God’s grace is sufficient to make courageous the feeblest of saints. Indeed, feebleness is essential to its provision. The heavenly stream of God’s provision flows freely from the throne of grace not towards the proud and self-sufficient, but to the humble (1 Pet. 5:5). To be made strong of heart we must first measure ourselves weak. The Apostle Paul faced a great trial. He asked God three times to remove it from him. God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul learned to be “well content,” and to “boast” in his weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9-10). He understood the paradox: “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

“I will glory in my weakness, I will boast in Your might;

For I found in my weakness, That You will be the strength of my life.”

Inasmuch as there is no limit to the matchless grace of Jesus, there is no limit to His ability to strengthen our hearts. The believer derives his strength, not from human resources, but from a heavenly reserve of “pow’r than has no boundary known unto men.” Past and present failures are swallowed up in Christ’s victorious grace (Rom. 5:20). By His grace the Lord is able “to deliver (us) from every evil deed...and bring us “safely to His heavenly kingdom.” Apart from Him the believer can do nothing, but through His grace he can do all things (Phil. 4:13).

Indeed, that wonderful promise that declares that He is able to do “exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” is true because of His “power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20). Our hearts our strengthened not as we look to ourselves and what we can do, but as fix our eyes on the Courageous One who “endured the cross, despising its shame” (Heb. 12:2). He stands ready to strengthen us by His grace (Cf. Heb. 4:16). It is indeed good for the heart!

Pastor Jerry