20. When Better Feels Backwards

Reading Plan

If you’re looking to dive deeper into what the Bible says about this topic, here’s a suggested Reading Plan, one passage per day for a whole week, based on the sermon:

  1. MONDAY: Hebrews 1-2
  2. TUESDAY: Hebrews 3-4
  3. WEDNESDAY: Hebrews 5-6
  4. THURSDAY: Hebrews 7-8
  5. FRIDAY: Hebrews 9-10
  6. SATURDAY: Hebrews 11-12
  7. SUNDAY: Hebrews 13

eGroup Discussion Questions – Great for personal reflection/journaling, too!

Sermon Notes: “When Better Feels Backwards” ⤵️

[Nick: Hey Elevation fam, these notes are coming from out-of-town where I was for a wedding. I caught the 11:30 service and Pastor Steven mentioned that 9:30’s message would be used for the recording, so keep that in mind if the notes don’t line up with the video!]

Pastor Steven begins by quoting a Lil Yachty song: “It could be better,” then mentions that his wife Holly had him take the Enneagram personality type test, where he was labeled a One, often called the “Perfectionist.” He joked about being “number one” (there are nine personality types), but Ones always think, “It could always be better.” What works well for wanting to improve can also be a discouragement when things don’t seem to be moving forward.

Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.

Hebrews 6:9, ESV, emphasis mine

TAOH is writing to a tired church under persecution. Nero hasn’t even started his games and maniacal persuection of Christian in Rome, but this author writes, “Thing are going to get better.” [Nick: The author of Hebrews is unnamed, anonymous, so I’m going to abbreviate the phrase “the author of Hebrews” as TAOH.]

When life is getting worse,
the last thing you want to hear
is that things are getting
better.

Better

Hebrews is about Jesus and how he is better than:

  • Worldly pleasures
  • Religion
  • Moses

Jesus is a better:

  • Covenant (7:22)
  • Promise (8:6)
  • Hope (7:19) –Hope that kicks in at the bottom, it doesn’t just float on top.

Better (Greek kreitton) appears in Hebrews 13 times [Nick: I only see 12 uses of this Greek word–not always translated into “better”–so I’m not sure where he got 13 from… may be a specific English translation that has 13 uses of “better.”]

(Writing to the Hebrews) The blood of goats only works for a little while, but Jesus is a better high priest. (8:1-6) His blood is better than the worst thing you did.

Better is Relative #1: Feelings

Better is relative to who God is shaping us to be.
Don’t try to grow fruit that belongs on someone else’s tree.

Do we confuse what feels better with what is better?
The
challenge of the church in Rome: To walk in a new covenant when the old one feels better.
Like getting a medical transplant, we are in a “
rejection period.”
We’re trying to assimilate new truth into an old life.
We’re tempted to go back to bad because bad
feels better.
We’re tempted to go back because what what is new
feels worse at first.
Don’t go back! What you have now is better!

Better is Relative #2: Struggles

But if it’s better, why do I keep struggling with it?
Sin = Until you resist it, you don’t know how strong it is.
When you’ve been doing something wrong for long enough, the right way feels awkward–Pastor Steven shares a story about taking some tennis lessons and having to relearn how to grip a racket, he got worse before he got bettersometimes you have to go back before you go forward.
Trying to turn the other cheek.
Trying to be generous.
Trying to be still and know that he is God.
This is a season where God is fixing your grip.

Better is Relative #3: Comparisons

There was only one good Christian.
He’s the one with the “Christ” in the “tian”
[Pronounced like “Christian” broken up by syllables.]
The rest of us are just
following him.

Sometimes it gets better,
but sometimes it
doesn’t,
But
you do.

Don’t compare your real life,
With someone else’s fake life.

Better is relative-
Is Krispy Kreme better than broccoli? If we’re talking about nutrition, no. If we’re talking about taste, yes.
For what God intended you to do, you are perfect for it

(Because God chose you to do it!)
e.g., no one is better equipped to raise your child than you.

Depression is not being able to believe things can get better. [Nick: I encourage those who are wrestling with long-term depression to seek professional and medical help. God can and does work through medicine and therapy.]

Jesus is Better

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Hebrews 1:1-2, ESV, emphasis mine

In Hebrews 1:1, we see TAOH go all the way back…
God used to speak to the Hebrew people through the prophets.
But now… something better… God speaks through his Son.

The Jews had a hard time looking to Jesus because they were comfortable with the way things had always been. Are you looking for better but haven’t recognized it yet?

Some of us need to go back to our first love (Revelation 2:4, c.f., Matthew 9:9-13).

Pastor Steven shares a story about asking his son Graham to make a list of five things that would make their life better. He responded by saying, “Things are as good as they could be,” reminding Pastor Steven to appreciate his current blessings.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Hebrews 1:3-4, ESV, emphasis mine

Jesus’ name is superior (kreitton) to that of the angels:
The
creator is better than what he created.

God is doing something deeper,
While my spirit is getting
better,
So why is my situation getting
worse?

If Jesus is already better, (he is the “exact imprint” of God)
How did he become better? (he “became as much superior to angels”)
He got better by becoming lower (“making purification for sins”)

Is it possible God is making you better by bringing you lower? (God exalts the humble, Matthew 23:12)

Jesus “went backwards” so that you could “get better.” (Jesus incarnated himself in human form and died on a cross so that we could be forgiven of sins, Philippians 2:6-11)

(Change your grip:)
You are not gripping onto God’s grace.
God’s grace is gripping on to you

The moment that hell did its worst to Jesus,
Was the moment that the power of forgiveness was released
In a way the world had never seen before.

Our hope in not in our promises to God,
But in
God’s promises to us.

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