Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. (Hebrews 3:1)
Do you know what the athletes who will compete in the next Olympic games are doing right now?
The short answer is—a lot of things we aren’t! For starters, they are paying very close attention to what they eat. Most of them are working with nutritionists who have designed diets addressing their specific needs. They are also involved with trainers and coaches who have come up with specialized workout regimens for them according to their sport. Still others are assisting the athletes with competitive strategies and tactics.
They do all these things because they think differently than we do. They think like Olympic athletes. This mindset affects every aspect of their lives, so that everything they do is ordered by their desire to compete as an Olympian.
In Hebrews 3:1 the writer addresses holy brothers and sisters. It’s a bit unusual to see a qualifier preceding brothers and sisters, but the writer is emphasizing the set apartness of the disciples. This set apartness is further defined by the next clause as he speaks of them as those “who share in the heavenly calling.”
Neil R. Lightfoot in his commentary on Hebrews (Jesus Christ Today) notes:
The word heavenly suggests the contrast that appears again and again in the Epistle, a contrast between the present, visible, material world and that of the truly real world . . . eternal and heavenly. Christians have been summoned to the celestial country, to the land of real and abiding things.
With this, he is telling them something fundamental about their identity and status. He wants them to see themselves differently—because they are. More to the point, seeing themselves as having a heavenly calling should (like the Olympic athlete) shape every aspect of how they live.
But whether you were a Jewish disciple or one who lives today, the truth is we can forget who we are and get disoriented on our journey. Just as those who were headed to the land of Canaan needed to listen to God’s messenger Moses, those who share in the heavenly calling today need to “fix your thoughts on Jesus” (3:1).
The word disoriented has as its root the word orient which is another word for East and refers to the practice of travelers who would use the rising of the sun in the East to figure out where they were and where they needed to go. In much the same way, the Hebrews writer is urging disciples to look to the risen Son in order to maintain their spiritual bearings.
It’s clear in Hebrews that the disciples had become spiritually disoriented. They were in danger of drifting (2:1). When you add to that that they had also become “dull of hearing” (5:11 ESV), you have the potential for spiritual disaster. Now wonder the writer tells them to “fix their thoughts on Jesus” (3:1) and later to fix their eyes on Him (12:2). This is what they needed to do to stay on course.
We face the same challenge of keeping our eyes on Jesus. We are bombarded with a world of distractions—everything seems to be competing for our attention. Then there are times when we wrestle with discouragement. This can cause us to look outward and inward rather than upward. These and a confluence of other things can lead us to look away from Christ. The result is predictable, like the disciples Hebrews is written to, we become disoriented. We’ve lost sight of the Son.
When we live with our eyes on Jesus, we live with an awareness of our heavenly calling. This is one of the things that seasons our discipleship. It blesses us but it does more than that. It causes us to live lives that will influence other people and hopefully lead to them recognizing Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Olympic athletes think differently, and it can lead to a gold medal; disciples think differently, and it leads to eternal glory.
Let’s never forget who we are and what that means!