Modern Christianity suggests countless ways you can earn your position before God. Some are deep-rooted in history. Some are esteemed by celebrated leaders. But is knowing God really that complicated an endeavor? In this 5-day reading plan by Pete Briscoe, you’ll discover there is a better way—a true way—to gain access to God.
Greater Than, Less Than
The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death. —Oscar Wilde, Salome
Because I struggled with math as a kid, happy memories from class are few. But I did love the day we played the “Greater Than” game. At first, it was easy; but as the numbers grew larger, I struggled. When my teacher added letters to the numbers, I checked out.
Still, the game excited me. Finally, I could apply math to everyday life. As long as I measured something numerical, the game was useful. I could use statistics to definitively argue which NBA team was the best. But when I tried to use the “Greater Than” game on categories that are subjective—like favorite musicians, presidents, or pick-up trucks—things got a bit more complicated.
Why is this important? The author of Hebrews loved to play the “Greater Than” game. A major theme of his letter is “Jesus is better than… ” But to him, this wasn’t a game; it was of utmost importance. He was acutely aware that some of his letter’s recipients had turned from the new covenant back to the old covenant. They were choosing the lesser over, the greater and forfeiting the joy of their salvation.
And so he develops what I call a “downstream argument.” A downstream argument states that: once you’ve established the greater thing, everything downstream from that thing is greater as well.
Hebrews 7:7 asks us to consider the greater priesthood by contrasting two men—Melchizedek and Abraham. Both men were good, but one man was greater. And when we follow the greater man downstream, we will find a most powerful truth.
So who was the greater man? Surely it was Abraham, right? That’s why he gets all the press in Sunday school.
We don’t know much about Melchizedek, but we do know that in Genesis 14:19 it says, He blessed Abram… And when the author of Hebrews writes about this event, he tells us, And without doubt, the lesser is blessed by the greater (Hebrews 7:7).
Why was Mel greater? And how does this knowledge affect our understanding of Jesus? Stick with me through… this is going to be so worth your time!
Jesus, sometimes I choose the best thing; other times, I am pulled toward the lesser. Examine me this week. If any part of my faith is rooted in the lesser, uproot it and replant it in Your indestructible life. I want to experience the full joy of You—today! Amen.
Better Than Good
I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up! —Mark Twain
Today, we are invited into the aisle of Hebrews to examine two men—Melchizedek and Abraham. Our choice isn’t between good and bad, but rather good and better. Some of you are thinking, This is a no-brainer. I’ve heard about Abraham since Christian infancy. And who in the world is Melchizedek? I can’t even spell his name.
Yet, here we are. This decision is essential, for the rest of the book of Hebrews is a downstream argument that will follow the better man. So let’s tally the points from Hebrews 7:1-3.
- The name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness…” (7:2)
- This Melchizedek was king of Salem… [which] means “king of peace.” (7:1, 2)
- He is without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever(7:3). He has A mysterious birthright, but he’s also called a high priest forever. That’s another tally.
- He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him… (7:1)
- And Abraham gave him a tenth of everything (7:2). Meaning, Abraham submitted to Mel.
In this small passage, we have five points for Melchizedek and zero for Abraham. But if we’re still in doubt regarding who is greater, then we can skip ahead to Hebrews 7:7 and read, And without a doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater.
The lesser—Abraham—was blessed by the greater—Melchizedek. Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, and we know that Jesus is a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 6:20; 7:17).
Jesus is in this greater stream, and it isn’t the stream of Abraham. How will this affect our understanding of grace? Take some time today to meditate on this text. Ask the Spirit to lead you as you contemplate what it means for Jesus to be “in the order of Melchizedek.”
Lord, Hebrews asks me to reframe knowledge—perhaps rooted in my childhood—by stepping into a culture from which I’m a millennia removed! This is hard! Lead me. Wash away whatever doesn’t belong. I’m committed to following You on the journey—trusting I’ll be refreshed and revived in this stream of grace. Amen.
Away With the Old
The Greek word for “return” is nostos. Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return. —Milan Kundera, Ignorance
Nostalgia is a magical set of glasses. We can look through its lenses and long for yesterday’s drive-in theaters, simple technology, or values. But those same lenses blur yesterday’s lead-based paint, atomic bombs, endemic racism, or alleged McCarthyism.
When we wish for what used to be, are we wishing for the whole package, or is our remembering blurred?
The Hebrew Christians were wearing nostalgia glasses. In Christ, they looked back at the law and wondered, What was wrong with it? After all, God gave us the law through Moses. What is from God is good. Weren’t those days just as good—even better?
The answer to that is an emphatic “No!” Yes, the law was good, but today is better. How do we know? Well, just look at the stream of Melchizedek.
We have established that Melchizedek was a greater man than Abraham, and therefore everything downstream from Mel was better too. We also know Jesus is in the order of Mel, which means Jesus is better. But better than who? Who was downstream from Abraham?
The answer is in Hebrews 7:10 When Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor(7:10). Levi, the father of the Levitical priesthood and Abraham’s great-grandson, was directly downstream from Abraham.
So Jesus was better than the Levites.
Whew! Did you follow that? The message is simple: The new covenant is better than the old. Grace is better than law.
Now maybe you’re nodding your head in agreement with this. Yes. Yes, that’s right. But do we know why the new is better than the old? Many believers live like Old Testament Jews rather than new covenant Christians. I believe this is because some don’t understand the better things available to them through Jesus’ gift of salvation.
If you’re going to live downstream from Jesus—in the better stream of grace and acceptance—you must know what was given to you by your forever priest.
Jesus, modern Christianity peddles countless ways to earn my position before You. Some are deep-rooted in history. Some are esteemed by celebrated leaders. But I don’t need more ways to reach for You. I need to rest in Your embrace that surrounds me. Remove these glasses of nostalgia, so I see You. Amen.
What’s Better About Jesus?
Why sell farming equipment to farmers? I should cut out the middleman and sell tractors directly to people dining in restaurants. —Jarod Kintz, This Book Is Not for Sale
There are times when using a middleman makes sense—it not only works well but also works best. But there are other instances when eliminating the middleman offers an opportunity for something better.
We’ve agreed that Melchizedek is better than Abraham, Jesus is better than the Levites, and grace is better than law. But we also noted that many believers live more like Old Testament Jews than New Testament Christians. What does it mean to choose the law over Jesus?
The law and the Levitical priesthood went hand in hand. The law’s purpose was to show you just how far you were from God’s standard of perfection. No matter how hard you tried, failure was inevitable. As failure increased, so increased your desperation for righteousness and peace with God.
Enter the Levitical priesthood. Sinners who recognized their own sin could ask the priest to offer an animal on their behalf. This sacrifice said to God, “I’m sorry and need your forgiveness.” It was a way for God’s people to connect to Him, even when they fell short of His perfection.
Yet through the law, perfection never came. Instead, it remained a cycle of sin and sacrifice—never becoming a permanent remedy that transformed the cesspool of sin into a mountain stream. So there was a change in the priesthood—Jesus. And… when the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed (Hebrews 7:12).
- With Jesus… there were no more middleman priests; the Lord is now our forever priest.
- With Jesus… there are no more cyclical sacrifices; Jesus is our final sacrifice.
- With Jesus… we are no longer seen as cesspools of sin. Jesus is Living Water who invites us to come in, be washed clean, and experience His life.
In Christ, we have direct access to God. He is no longer hidden—no longer once removed by intercessory priests. Instead, He is revealed and accessible.
Jesus, I stand in the presence of the Father, filled with the life of Your Spirit because You—my forever priest—have cleared the way. May I access our intimacy daily—whether in prayer or study, dinner with friends, or singing loudly during my commute. Amen.
Make Room for the New
So many of us have believed that we need to labor and perform for God so that… we might be accepted. But in the Kingdom, we start off accepted. —Beni Johnson
There seem to be two types of people when it comes to tidying up: those who purge without regret; and those who sort their stuff, remember why they have it, worry they might need it, and then stuff their stuff back into a cabinet—just in case.
Purging can be difficult. It requires us to throw out things that have been with us for a long time. Sometimes these items are tangible, but sometimes they are habitual—traditions or routines—and we just can’t let go.
The early Christians struggled in a similar way. They knew Jesus offered a relationship without contingencies. They had heard His teaching on the acceptance and love of God. They knew intimacy with God was accessible through His Spirit. But was that really it? What about the law? Perhaps they should observe some of the old traditions—just in case.
To that temptation, the author of Hebrews wrote, The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God (7:18-19).
The term set aside means canceled. It’s used one other time in Hebrews (10:9-10), telling us our sin is set aside because of the blood of Christ shed upon the cross. Our sin is canceled.
Do we believe that? Absolutely! Scripture tells us so.
So if we believe our sin is canceled, we must also believe the law has been canceled. Was the law good? Yes, it was. But setting aside the law made room for a better hope:
- A hope that is secure.
- A hope that knows our indestructible life in Christ will be waiting for us at the end.
- A hope that isn’t based upon performance or adherence to rules but upon clinging to Christ.
This is better news, friends. To wonder if you’re pleasing God is the old way. The new way is a way of rest. As long as Jesus lives, we are secure.
Lord, how would my days be different if I released the temptation to perform for You? My hands are open—remove all law-based living from my life! Thank You, Jesus. Amen.
- Do you find yourself choosing the law over Jesus and wanting to perform instead of living in light of His grace?
- What might be holding you back from living in a place of freedom and grace?