Heart-Healthy Foods Part 2

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them. We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Hebrews 13:9-16).

To strengthen his teaching about the supremacy of Christ, the author tells how the high priest, on the Day of Atonement, carries the bodies of the sacrifices outside the camp to be burned. Jesus was also crucified outside the city walls of Jerusalem, and because that is where He bore the shame and disgrace of the cross, that too is where we must go if we are going to stand by Him and be seen as one of His own. We must go "outside the camp," that is, outside the four walls of the church to deliver the gospel, and there we will also bear the cross of Christ.

For the Christian, the cross of Christ is the altar at which all those who do not live for Christ have no right to eat from.

Those who remain inside the safe and secure gates of their religion, in this case Judaism, have no place in Christ and cannot partake of the heart-healthy food of grace that He provides. As Christians we can stay inside the man-made walls of ritual and ceremony, observing special weeks and foods and drinks, or we can serve God through faith by His grace. Rules about food imposed by external authorities have never helped people grow closer to God. Paul said, "The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17). "Food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do" (1 Corinthians 8:8). Jesus, the antitype of the sacrifice offered on the Day of Atonement, became our perfect sin offering once and for all, and is now available to all as the source of our spiritual nourishment as we feed on Him in our heart through faith by God's grace.

The difficulty for many of us today is that we must leave our old ways of thinking and living if we are going to go to Christ outside the gates of our traditions and illusions.

What does it really matter if we are no longer considered part of the "inside group"? Why, if we have a stake in an off-planet city, would we be concerned with the setting down of foundations here on earth? Since we are looking forward to a city built by God (Hebrews 11:10), we are "outside the camp" wherever we are, and once there, we must learn to "be content" (13:5) with what we have.

We would do well to learn this lesson soon in our Christian walk, for when we side with Christ outside the secure gates of rules and rituals and long-held traditions, we will also carry and sustain the disgrace that Jesus bore. In Hebrews 12:2 we are told that Jesus scorned the shame of the cross, and in 11:26 we read that Moses "regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt." What was that disgrace? Scorn, abuse, rejection, false testimonies, rebuke, misunderstanding, shame, exposure, defamation, and insults. The word "disgrace" in 13:13 means "a reproach thrown against someone." Jesus threw reproach against certain cities in Matthew 11:20. Reproach was thrown against Jesus in Mark 15:32, and also against the disciples in Matthew 5:11 and Luke 6:22. Peter knew of this disgrace and opposition when he wrote, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you" (1 Peter 4:12-14).

Becoming a Christian and maintaining a life in Christ has never meant a carefree life of God's blessing and a cessation of opposition, trials, and sufferings.

I have a friend who grew up in a devout Jewish home. When he became a Christian, his family completely disowned him and even held a funeral in memory of the son they no longer had. Years passed when he heard nothing from or about his mother and father. Finally, one day, word reached him through a long and convoluted channel that his mother had died. He found out many weeks after she was buried. That is the cost some people pay when they walk outside the camp and bear the disgrace of Christ. I used to date a girl in high school whose entire family was Catholic. She never felt a close relationship with Christ until she started attending a Foursquare church where, by her own will, she gave her life to Christ. Her father was completely distraught at the thought that she had left "the faith." She replied, "But, Dad, now I am closer to God and more dedicated to Jesus than I ever was before." She paid a price for walking outside the camp.

We must not only make sacrifices when we take the cross of Christ into our lives, but also continue to make sacrifices even after we have accepted the forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Jesus. These sacrifices are no longer animal sacrifices, but in many ways they are much more costly. The first mentioned by the author is the " sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name ." In contrast to the sacrifices made by the Jews, who sacrificed at set times, the Christian is to offer praise "continually," at all times, and there are no circumstances in his life where praise is not appropriate (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I imagine it was hard for my friend to offer the fruit of praise to God when his family disowned him. That's why it is called a sacrifice.

The other two examples of sacrifices the Christian can always make available are doing good and sharing. Doing good is not just an action-- "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8 )--but also an attitude. "Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others" (1 Corinthians 10:24). "Sharing" comes from the word koinonia, and tells us to be ready to share the possessions that we have: money, goods, home, and all those things that make up true Christian fellowship. This reminds us of Hebrews 13:1-3 where brotherly love and fellowship are mentioned. We see now that one cannot do good deeds without fellowship, and with godly fellowship doing good comes naturally.

I have heard Christians say that they do not have much to give to God.

Lacking, in their own minds, talent, material possessions, or an education, they wonder what God could want from them or what they have to offer His kingdom. They look around them and see so much going on, then look at themselves and see nothing. But the Bible tells us that God has given every one of us everything we need to please Him. Paul reminds us that it is not what we have but who we are that pleases God (Romans 12:1). "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27). Lacking all material possessions, we still have much to give to God that pleases Him (Hebrews 13:16), for Jesus said, "'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me '" (Matthew 25:40).

Jesus told His disciples, "'My food ... is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work'" (John 4:34). The greatest food we can eat in the kingdom of heaven is to obey the will of God and finish His work on earth. This not only will increase the capacity of our own hearts, but also will bless the hearts and lives of those our obedience affects.

Jim Thornber