Strengthened by Grace

Today’s Bible Journaling Scripture comes from my favorite book in the Bible, Hebrews. Hebrews 13:9 says, “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 so occupied were not benefited.” (NASB) The World English Bible says, “Don’t be carried away by various and strange teachings, for it is good that the heart be established by grace, not by food, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.”

Two things struck me as I read this. First, we are not to be carried away by strange teachings or doctrines. Just as in the times of the early church, many preach doctrines that do not line up with the Bible. They “adjust” verses to say what they want and then develop religions around their distorted view of what the Bible really says. That is one reason why we must use discernment in choosing versions of the Bible to read and study. Look into the background of the ones promoting or writing it. Do that version and the writers heed to the original Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic? Is the meaning the same as the authors intended it to be? Next, be discerning in listening to teaching from the pulpit. If what the pastor says does not match what God’s Word says, it’s time to either leave that church and find one that teaches the Bible, or speak to the pastor about what he is teaching, and above all ask God for clear direction in both cases.

The second thing that hit me was the author’s mention of food. The author of Hebrews was speaking to the Jewish Christians. They were being distracted and led astray by those who were telling them that they were sinning because of the food they ate. He also states that their pursuit of eating certain foods did not benefit them. In Acts 10:9-16, Peter was praying and became hungry, and while waiting for the food to be prepared he had a vision. He saw a sheet full of different animals and a voice from Heaven told him to eat. There were animals included that, by Jewish law, were considered unclean and they were not to eat. Peter said that he couldn’t because they were unclean, and the voice said. “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.’ Again a voice came to him a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’” (Hebrews 10:13-15 NASB) From that time to now, God has not put any restrictions on food, it was all created by Him for our consumption. We are not to set up doctrine around restrictions such as food or attire. The Bible says that God looks on our heart, not the outward appearance. (I Samuel 16:7) He gives us strength, by way of grace, to live according to His will. That grace helps us live holy lives.

When we find ourselves trying to live up to others’ expectations of us or we put unreasonable expectations on ourselves, we must remember that there is grace to be attained through Jesus Christ. When we look to other things and people to be the answer to our problems or to regulate the way we live our lives, we find that those avenues will not bring us strength or lead us down a pathway of contentment or holiness. We must first look to God. It is through His Word and by way of prayer that we can conquer issues we face. No amount of “doing” outside of God’s pathway will bring us satisfaction. When we are so focused on being holy by what we do on the outside without taking care to ensure the inside is holy, we are living a life of hypocrisy and thereby we find ourselves unhappy and unsettled.

God’s grace helps us to face those difficulties. It also strengthens us to live in a manner that will bring God glory and honor. The writer of Hebrews says it is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace. God’s grace will set our feet on a solid path to follow and will lead us down a pathway of righteous living and we then can become an example for others in how to live.

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