August 22, 2010: Demanding the Best and Getting It!

Let us pray: Dear Lord, as we continue our journeys through life You are continually challenging us to always do better. And with Your constant prodding and pushing, we actually do improve when it comes to handling trouble, appreciating blessings, and growing in our faith. Lord, don’t stop any of Your efforts! And constantly remind us that the love and forgiveness won by Christ for us truly does cover our errors while also inspiring us to higher achievements. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO IS BOTH THE PERFECT STUDENT AND THE PERFECT TEACHER!

TEXT: Hebrews 12: 1-13

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

I’ve spent 21 years of my life in school. Looking back it’s hard to imagine spending that much time in the classroom. I can also recall many of my teachers. And the ones that really stand out were the teachers who had very high standards and demanded the best from me. Mrs. Sales, Dorothy Lorenz, Prof. Honsey, and Dr. Teigen come to mind. When I got their course syllabus and saw what was expected of me, I groaned inside. The reading list was extensive, the daily class work was equally voluminous. Likewise, their tests weren’t those easy multiple choice things that students breeze through, no, they were fill-in the blank type tests that you couldn’t shwaffle on.

In many respects each of these teachers was much like my father, a master mathematics teacher. My dad never really graded his students to a curve. No, he evaluated each one separately according to their ability. So, you might have been the “best” in a particular class, but if you didn’t work up to your ability he penalized you. At the time, such demanding standards seemed rather arbitrary. “But, I got a “B” on the test. I was better than almost everyone else! Why am I getting chewed out for getting that grade?” Of course, the answer always was: “Well, I know you can do better, so you better buckle down and study harder!”

All of us can remember such teachers. At the time we probably didn’t much like them. But later on, we realized they were the best of the best. Later on, we realized just how much they cared about us personally, and how much they invested themselves in us.

Today we are reminded of the greatest Teacher of all: Jesus Christ. He not only prepares us for life, He actually gets us through it on a daily basis. Like any great teacher, Jesus has also walked in His student’s shoes. He has labored and learned and sweated over the hard lessons of life. Moreover, He didn’t do it to advance His level of knowledge and understanding, no, He did it to advance us! The writer to the Hebrews touches on this amazing act of selfless love and caring in our lesson. And so, let’s now consider:

DEMANDING THE BEST AND GETTING IT!

I

The Christian Church is much like school. It is all about preparing you for life, most specifically, for eternal life. Each day we go to the classroom—whether it be at home, or at work, or learning at the local school. Now, laziness comes to all people naturally. So, the great temptation is to try to take short-cuts in the learning process, or to merely put in our time until we’re free from such constraints. Thus, in Christian learning, many people think that after Sunday school and confirmation class, they have graduated from God’s school of higher knowledge and they can let their faith atrophy. But, as in most schools, the Church has its own “Hall of Fame.”– Heroes from the past whose exploits are boldly inscribed on the wall and held up for all to remember and to emulate. So, it is in God’s school of lifelong learning.

Chapter 11 of Hebrews is that Hall of Fame. It recounts those heroes and how they learned and persevered throughout life by God’s grace. Chapter 12 picks up on that theme: “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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” In other words, always look to Jesus, who was both the perfect Student and is the perfect Teacher!

Demanding teachers are those who try to instill self-discipline in us. They give us the basic building blocks of knowledge and then motivate us to use them for our benefit. Well, that’s Jesus, isn’t it? He has given us the gift of saving faith which links us with Him. He has given us basic Christian knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil, how to deal with a guilty conscience, and how to live in a way that is truly God pleasing. All these truths are found in our singular textbook: the Bible.
But Jesus is not merely an ivory-tower Teacher who has learned a lot of theory but never actually lived out that theory. No, Jesus was a student of His Holy Father, just like we are.

II

I’ll bet you haven’t thought much, before today, about Christ the student of life? I’ll bet you’ve never really considered that throughout His earthly life, Christ was taught discipline by His Father. Yet, it’s true. As our substitute in all things, Christ lovingly submitted to His Father’s will. He left heaven. He came to earth and agreed to be born in a manger. He agreed to take on our human nature, to have human parents who didn’t always understand Him, and to submit to them even when they were arbitrary. He agreed to hide His divinity under simple humanity. He agreed to suffer pain, scorn, distrust, anger, jealousy, and finally even death—all to win our eternal freedom from such human entanglements. He did all this perfectly, not for Himself, but for us. So that through His Teacher’s heart He might implant such gifts to us. Yes, His gift of faith has done so for you!

Like any great Teacher, Jesus doesn’t expect anything more from you than He did from Himself. I guess that’s why He seems so demanding—because He is! He demanded perfection from Himself.—Good thing or we’d all be lost! Now, He demands perfection, the best, from each of you. But, since we’re not perfect and don’t possess such a capability on our own, how is it ever to be achieved? Ah, that’s the heart of the matter. And the answer is: He gives us His perfection via faith! In a sense, the Teacher has taken our life exam for us and scored 100%! Talk about love and compassion!

Meanwhile, so we don’t misuse this blessing and become lazy, Jesus still demands the best from us. He disciplines us with hardship, personal suffering, inner anguish, and even the second-guessing of regret. He does so because He cares enough to get involved in our lives while refusing to let us succumb to apathy. And the result is always beneficial. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Demanding the best and getting it! That’s really the motto of God’s Christian School. Someday, on the steps of the pearly gates, you’ll receive your graduation diploma from that school. Then, you can personally thank the Best Teacher in the universe for your training. But, until then, listen, learn, and drink in His wisdom. It will never lead you astray. Amen