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Thomas Chalmers, in his famous sermon The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, developed the idea that a man’s heart is continually looking to seat “the best” on its throne. That is, humans naturally orient themselves around whatever they think is most valuable. And for the current occupant of your heart’s throne to be unseated, a new thing of more significant value must unseat it. A quick survey of humanity easily confirms this premise as we see men and women captivated by great loves, whether religious, material, or even the local sports team. Chalmers suggests that we have only to look at Christian conversion as God’s revealing to us the immeasurable value and beauty of Jesus Christ. Jesus unseats any would-be pretenders to the throne of our hearts. And because Jesus is the most valuable possession a person can possess, He cannot be unseated. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be challengers. And that is why the author of Hebrews opens his book the way he does.

The author of Hebrews is writing to an audience that is predominately, as the name of the book suggests, Hebrew. As Hebrews who are now Christians, they come as treasurers of the Old Testament, a major part of the narrative of God’s great works in human history. The author is writing to remind his readers that Jesus is the most valuable, most precious possession even in comparison to the heroes and national glories of Israelite history. Jesus isn’t just the hero over the pagan word; He is also the hero of the total Bible.

Take the advice of the author of Hebrews. Make Jesus comparisons a regular part of your life.

But we also can’t miss the author’s method. He proceeds by using the method of comparison, holding up Christ to any would-be rival, especially among Old Testament contenders. He uses ample Old Testament quotations, some about the greatness of Old Testament heroes, some prophesying of the Messiah to come. There is this back and forth that dominates especially the first few chapters of Hebrews. Jesus and angels: Who wins? Jesus. Jesus and Moses: Who wins? Jesus. Jesus and the Levitical priests: Who wins? Jesus. Jesus’ new covenant or the old covenant: Who wins? Jesus’ new covenant. This is not a general, vague allusion that Jesus might be better than other options. This is armed combat. This isn’t offering Jesus as one flavor among many but rather singling Him out as the only antidote for the disease of sin.

In both method and content, the author of Hebrews provides insight into our hearts as Christians. At our conversion, our new birth, God begins this great renovating work. But the dark side to our lives as disciples with Christ is that we will always be tempted to trust in idols over trusting in Christ. We will, even as God’s purchased heritage, make those comparisons to the lordship of Jesus. Jesus or His potential rival: Who wins? Sometimes we aren’t so sure.

And we can add, from the author of Hebrews’ point of view, that good things from within the church are the challengers at times. Jesus is better than your view on eschatology. Jesus is better than being able to memorize a hundred Bible verses. Jesus is better than Calvin and Kuyper—together. And these are things that we should not hesitate to tackle head on. We need to make these comparisons, realizing this is the only way to appreciate the goodness of these potential idols. Eschatology, Bible memory, Calvin, and Kuyper are all amazing gifts to fuel our love for Christ even while they are soul destroying when put in place of Christ.

So take the advice of the author of Hebrews. Make Jesus comparisons a regular part of your life. In doing this, you’ll develop two bins into which to put potential rivals to Christ. Some rivals are sins and idols—Islam, pornography, bitterness, greed. Call these out for what they are: enemies to God’s throne to be given no quarter in the Christian life. But in your second bin, you’ll put good things in their rightful place: heroes of the faith, spiritual disciplines, godly pursuits, the Christian family. And as you make these comparisons, as you give yourself to this practice of sorting the rivals to Christ’s throne, you’ll also find yourself prizing Christ even more, charting the divine contours of the glory of Christ.

Prayer That Matters

We Never Suffer Alone