Be strong as servants of God
1 So we have learned about many people who trusted God long ago. They are like a very big crowd all round us and we should copy their example. We must be like people who run in a race. We must throw away everything that stops us from running well. The sins that we do make us fall down very easily. We must not let those sins rule us. God has prepared the way that is in front of us. We must continue to be strong while we run along that way. We must choose to run that race well. 2 As we run, we must always look towards Jesus. He is the one who trusted God completely. Our faith starts with him, and he will help us to trust God all the way to the end. Jesus accepted punishment on the cross. He chose to receive much pain. He did not think about being ashamed to die like that. He knew that God had prepared something very good for him that would make him happy. Now he has sat down at the right side of God to rule with him in heaven.
12:1Our lives as Christians on earth are like a race. It is very important that each of us finishes the race. We must never stop obeying God. When sins give us trouble, we must stop doing those bad things. When we reach the end of the race and we have left this earth, we will then have life with God for ever.
3 So think carefully about how Jesus lived on earth. Bad people did very bad things against him, but he continued to be strong. Think about him, and then you will not become weak as Christians. You will not stop trusting God.
4 You have been fighting against sin in your lives. But you have not yet had to fight like that until someone killed you. 5 God speaks to you as his children. Do not ever forget these words in the Bible that will make you strong:
‘My son, when the Lord shows you what is right,
do not easily forget it.
Do not be upset when he punishes you.
6 The Lord does that to everyone that he loves.
He punishes everyone that he accepts as a son.’
7 When you have troubles in your life, you must be patient and strong. Remember that God is teaching you what is right because you are his children. There has never been any son whose father did not punish him. 8 God teaches all his children not to do wrong things. So if he does not punish you, it shows that you are not really his children. Instead, you are like children who do not really belong to him. 9 Also, we have all had human fathers who punished us. As a result, we respected them. So think about our Father that our spirits belong to. We must surely obey him, and then he will give us true life.
10 Our human fathers punished us for a few years. They did this in a way that they thought was good. But God punishes us in a way that will really help us. As a result, we can become completely good, like he is. 11 Punishment never makes us happy at the time when we receive it. No, the pain makes us sad. But later we know that the punishment has taught us good things. It helps us to live in a right way that gives us peace in our minds.
12 So be strong as servants of God! If your hands feel weak, lift them up! If your knees are not strong, stand up straight! 13 Walk straight in front of you, step by step! Your example will help other Christians to serve God well. People who cannot walk well will not become worse and fall down. Instead, their legs will become strong again.
12:13Our life as Christians is like a journey. We need to walk strongly as we serve God. When we feel weak, we must be brave and continue to walk well. If the stronger Christians serve God well, then weaker Christians will copy their example. The weak Christians will become strong and serve God well too.
We must not refuse to do what God says
14 Do everything that you can to live in peace with other people. Make yourself separate from bad things. Nobody will see the Lord unless their life is good and clean. 15 Remember that God is very kind. Nobody should refuse to let God help them. Make sure that nobody among you causes trouble so that people turn against God. A person who is angry against God is like poison. He spoils many other people's lives so that God does not accept them.
16 Make sure that nobody among you has sex in a wrong way. Be careful that nobody is careless about God's rules, like Esau was long ago. He gave away everything that he would have received as his father's first son. He gave it all away so that he could get only one meal. 17 As you know, after that, he still wanted to receive those good things from his father. He wanted his father to ask God to bless him. But his father refused to do that. Esau cried very much when he asked his father to give him those good things. But there was no way that Esau could change what he had done.
12:16Esau was Isaac's first son. The oldest son in a family was very important. He received the biggest part of his father's land and money when his father died. Also, the father asked God to bless that son and give him good things. But Esau gave away all these things to his brother, Jacob. See Genesis 25:29-34; 27:30-41.
A picture of two mountains
18 You have come near to God. But you have not come to a place that you can touch, like Sinai mountain. That mountain burned with fire. But where the people stood, it was completely dark. They could not see at all. There was also a very strong wind and a storm. 19 There was the loud sound of a trumpet. There was a powerful voice that spoke to them. When the people heard that voice, they were very afraid. So they asked that the voice would not speak to them any more. 20 They were very afraid of what God had told them. God had said, ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, you must kill it with stones.’ 21 Even Moses was very afraid when he saw God's great power. He said, ‘I am full of fear!’
22 But as believers in Christ, you have not come to God in that way. You have come to Mount Zion. You have come to the city of the true God who lives. You have come to the city of Jerusalem that is in heaven. There are many thousands of happy angels all together in that place. 23 All God's people meet together there. They are like his most important sons. They belong in heaven because God has written down their names. You have come to God himself, who will judge all people. You have come to the place where the spirits of God's people are. Those people have become right with God. God has now finished his work in them. 24 You have come to Jesus, who brought the new agreement from God to his people. In that agreement, the blood of Jesus' death makes us clean from our sins. It tells us that God has forgiven us. When Cain killed his brother Abel, Abel's blood brought God's punishment. So we see that Jesus' blood brought us something much better than that.
12:22The Bible often uses the name Zion to mean Jerusalem. But Christians belong to God's city in heaven. They belong with all of God's people, who will live with God for ever. Everyone who believed God in earlier times is also part of his people. Those people are dead now, and their spirits are with God. We are not dead yet. But it is like our spirits are already there too, with them.
12:24Jesus chose to die. But Abel died when his brother killed him. Abel's brother, Cain, killed Abel, and Abel's blood came out onto the ground. See Genesis 4:8-10. So Abel's blood only shows us about bad things. It shows us that God had to punish Cain. But Jesus died for us so that God does not have to punish us any more.
25 So be careful! Always be ready to listen when God speaks. God used Moses as his servant on the earth to speak to Israel's people. When they refused to obey, God punished them. They could not get away. As for us, God speaks to us from heaven. So we will certainly not get away from God's punishment if we turn away from him. 26 At Sinai mountain many years ago, God's voice caused the earth to shake. But now God has promised this: ‘Once again I will cause the earth to shake. But this time I will also cause heaven to shake.’ 27 These words, ‘once again,’ show us that God will take away the things that he has made. All things on the earth that he causes to shake will finish. After that, everything that nobody can shake will continue to be there.
12:27At some future time, God will destroy this earth that he has made. After that, he has promised to make a new earth and a new sky. See Isaiah 65:17; 66:22 and Revelation 21:1. All the things that we can see must come to an end. But the things that we cannot see are much, much more important. They will never come to an end. They include the place that God has prepared for us to live with him in heaven.
28 But we are receiving a place where we will rule with God. We belong to God's kingdom, and nobody can ever shake that! So we should thank God. We should worship him in a way that makes him happy. He is great, and we should serve him well and respect him. 29 Remember that our God is like a fire. He destroys everything that is not good.