Exhortations To Meet God's ExpectationsVideo Link
MS Word Link
Charles Schultz's Philosophy. Charles Schulz, the creator of the still running Peanuts comic strip became a Christianity shortly after returning from World War II, and what he say there, sparked a love inside of him for sacred literature. He became a voracious reader of theological commentaries, and the margins of his personal Bible were filled with hand-written notes. He was also a long-time Sunday School teacher at churches in the Midwest and California. I don’t know where this quiz originated in his thoughts perhaps it was in one of his Sunday School lessons. Bear with me as I give you the quiz.
1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.
Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:
1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through life.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
6. Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you..
Why was the second quiz easier? Charles Schultz put it this way, “The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.” That is a pretty good philosophy.
This world we live in has certain values, expectations, and goals that it compels us to share as well. Those expectations are much like the first quiz, all about fame, fortune and in the end futility. God has much different expectations for his children, who are merely passing through this world. His expectations are higher, holier and eternally hopeful. Hebrews 13 is Paul’s final exhortation to the Hebrew Christians to meet God’s higher expectations for them. Higher than the law, higher than the tabernacle, higher than the Temple, higher than all the tradition and formality of the Old Testament was the New Covenant of Jesus Christ and with Him and in Him, a life worth living now and an eternity that is real and secure in God’s love and power.
In this final chapter, Paul exhorts the Hebrew Christians to live up to God’s expectations of them as His people. He exhorts them in several areas of life all of which still have direct application to our Christian duties today. The final chapter is like a shot gun blast of Christian duties. It as though Paul wanted to make sure he covered everything before he closes his letter. I want us to consider it today because the exhortations Paul writes to the struggling Hebrew Christians, are the same responsibilities and duties we need encouragement in today. So, turn with me to Hebrews 13 and lets listen to Paul’s exhortation for us to meet God’s expectations.
Alexander MacLaren, the great Scots Baptist Preacher preached a sermon on Hebrews 13 and he titled it God’s Voice and Man’s Echo. Now I have to say, as an expert in the field, that is a good title. I thought about just stealing it and not telling you it was from MacLaren, but some of you are just too well read and besides if I ever run for President it make come back to haunt me. What Maclaren title states so wonderfully was that these exhortations are God’s voice speaking to us from the pen of Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and our actions are the echo that returns to God as we obey. I told you that was good title, didn’t I.
Exhortations To Love Hebrews 13:1-6
1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. 4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. 5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
Paul’s First Exhortations Are To Love
He talks about 5 kinds of love, love of God’s family, love for strangers, love for the prisoner, love in marriage and love of God’s promises.
In verse 1 he says, Let brotherly love continue. This is of course the Greek word philedelphia, literally brotherly love. Of course, in this context he is speaking of love for the family of God, brothers and sisters in Christ and especially those of your church family. Love them as Christ loved them. He tells the Hebrews just keep on loving one another.
He then spreads this exhortation further by adding also love strangers in vs. 2
The word here that is translated entertain strangers is the word, philonexia. Literally loving strangers. Just as he used the word philedelphia, loving brothers and sister in their local church in vs. 1 here he uses philonexia, loving strangers.
By this he has two things in mind. Primarily he is talking about those who are traveling Christians. During a time when there were few inns it was vital that you take in those who were traveling. Especially was this true when the strangers were “missionaries” like Paul and Timothy.
But the idea here is more than just hospitality to Christians but also means showing love to those who are lost. These are strangers not only to us but also to the love of God and they need to see the love of God in Christians if they are ever going know it themselves.
Love For The Prisoner vs 3.
Hebrews 13:3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
They are to remember, to love, to have sympathy, compassion and above all empathy for those in the body of Christ who are were being jailed, persecuted and hunted by both the Jewish authorities and the pagan rulers of the cities and empire where they lived. Remember them as though you were bound right along side them.
Love For Your Spouse vs. 4. The next love Paul talks about is love in marriage in vs. 4 “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled.”
The idea here is that marriage is to be held in honor by the Christians. The pagan societies of Paul’s day treated marriage in much the same way we do in our society today. Marriage had no honor; it had no value in their culture.
Wives were for having children and heirs but prostitution, perversion was accepted and even encouraged as a rite of passage for both young men and women. This is why Paul says marriage should be honored in all. He means in all things from the privacy of the bedroom to the openness of the marketplace. He makes his point clear to any who would dishonor their spouses and marriage, by warning “whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”
His next exhortation about love deals with God’s promises. We are to trust in His providence. In vs. 5 “Let your conversation (your lifestyle) be without covetousness and be content with such things as ye have.” I originally thought this was a negative, a don’t love among all the positive exhortations to love, but upon considering it further I realized I was looking too low.
Literally, the Greek reads, “Let your manner of life be without love of money.” –RWP
Live free of the love for this world’s money, riches or wealth. “Be content with the things you have right now.” The things that God has and will continue to provide.
The reason they could and should be content was because God had made a promise. Vs. 5 “For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” God had provided himself and there could be no greater treasure. The exhortation was to love God and trust His promise. When they did this, then they could say as the Psalmist did in Psalms 56:11, “The Lord is my helper and I will fear not what man shall do unto me.”
It wasn’t an exhortation about not loving money, it was an exhortation about loving God and His word of promise.
Let Us Love
Love as God expects us to love, love the right things and love in the right way. Love your brother and sisters in Christ, especially in this local body. Love them because you are of the same blood, the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Love them because you will spend eternity with them in that perfect love of our heavenly Father. Love your brother and sisters who are missionaries, serving Him to the often bleeding edge of devotion. And yes love those who are lost and away from the family of God, because if you love them with the love of Christ, they too will become your brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Love those who are being persecuted for being a part of the family of God. We so easily forget them, so easily look past them because we are not in the cells, or concentration camps with them, but the persecution of God’s people has never been so rampant and so wide spread as it is in this day and age. We should remember them as though we were chained beside them.
Love your spouse and honor the institution of marriage that God established for that special love. Let me be blunt, there is no honor in two people living together before marriage, there is no honor in adultery or fornication and no honor means there is really no love, not as God intends love to be understood and not a love that will stand the test of time, crisis and sacrifice. A society which debases and destroys marriage is a society that has forgotten what love is and it is a society that will ultimately debase and destroy itself. No one in this sanctuary needs to be convinced of that reality of that statement in our nation today.
Finally, love the Lord for all He has promised. Don’t covet, don’t love the things of this world. You’ve already been given an eternal treasure that exceed all this world can ever give you. Be content in God’s promise, be content in His love.
Let me give you two examples to finish this point.
When John D. Rockefeller was the richest man in the world, someone asked him how much money was enough. He replied, "Just a little bit more." - Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). Its ever that way with the world and what it loves. It’s never enough, it never satisfies, it never lasts.
Now lets go real old school for this next example of Diogenes and Alexander the Great. Once when the stoic and cynic philosopher Diogenes was sunning himself in the Corinth marketplace, he was visited by the great military commander, Alexander the Great. Alexander was thrilled to meet the famous philosopher and said, "Ask any favor you wish from me." Diogenes who believed in contentment above all things, responded, "Please move out of the sunlight." To which Alexander said, "If I could not be Alexander, I would be Diogenes." Diogenes is said to replay, If I could not be Diogenes, I would still wish to be Diogenes.”
That was an example of contentment, but it is nothing to compare to the eternal peace and contentment that we as God’s children can know. “I would not choose to be military genius Alexander, who conquered the world or Diogenes, the founder of the Cynic and Stoic philosophies. I would choose to be a child of God and know and live His love.”
Paul has begun with love as he often did and now, he moves from Christian love to Christian Loyalty in vss. 7-9
Exhortations To Be Loyal - Hebrews 13:7-9
7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. 9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
Paul Exhorts To Be Loyal To The Loyal
He exhorts them to be loyal to those who have shown their loyalty to Jesus Christ.
He says in vs. 7 “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God.
“Remember them” means to be mindful of them, think of them, see them as examples and a pattern for you to follow. These he says have the rule over you and have spoken, the word of God. This is why you are mindful of them, because they are the ones “whose faith you should follow.” Paul tells them to think deeply about “the end of their conversation,” the way these faithful leaders lived and the way they died.
Paul is encompassing all the leaders the church had had from Paul, Apollos, Timothy but also those like James and Stephan, who they knew of and had died for the cause of Christ. He would also include all the Old Testament heroes he had listed in chapter 11’s “Faith Hall of Fame.”
These pastors, apostles, prophets and elders, Paul exhorts the Hebrews, need to be kept in your mind, following after their faith, a faith that was genuine as proven by the way the lived and died. These leaders lead a life of faith and concluded that life with a martyr’s death proving their steadfastness. Be loyal to their example.
Then Paul points them to the ultimate example of truth and steadfastness, Jesus Christ.
Vs. 8 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and for ever.” As these leaders, preacher, pastors and OT saints followed Jesus Christ the Hebrew Christians should follow them. In vs. 9 he gives the conclusion to their following faithful leaders. “Be not carried away with divers and strange doctrines.”
He gives an example then, “It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace not with meats (foods)”
He is giving a foundational premise to sorting out what is good and what is unprofitable. It all centers on “grace.” The grace which saved them, is also the grace that establishes their heart and anything that is not grace is just another regulation about “meat,” about the law and things so base, mundane and short lived as lunch.
In Colossians 2:20-22, Paul stated it this way, “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Those things are gone once you use them, but your life is hid with the eternal Christ, above the rudiments of this world.
Loyalty To Those Who Have Led
Paul exhorts us today, “Look to those people who inspire you to follow the Lord.” Yesterday’s heroes of the faith should inspire you. “Read about the heroes of the OT and NT.” Learn of the heroes of the faith from today, like Jim Eliot, Oswald Chambers, or David Livingstone. Our for like Bro. Johnston, or Bro. Watson, or Bro. Aubrey Cooper, or my dear friend Larry Jones. And many of you right here in this sanctuary, heroes by your faithfulness and loyalty to the Lord, even as these days grow darker and darker. Think of them and let those heroes of the faith inspire you to be faithful as they were faithful. Our heroes should be the men and women of God who have faithfully served Him with no reserves, nothing held back and in complete dedication.
Remember them as they remembered Jesus Christ. In a world that is constantly shifting under our feet, with values that promote sin and punish morality. We need something steadfast, someone who will not change because He has always been “the truth, the way and the light.” In this world that changes like the winds of a storm there is a place of unchanging surety in the person of Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
In Colossian 3:1-2, I think Paul is saying much the same thing, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
When my eyes, my heart, my goals are set on Christ and I reflect on those whose faithful lives proved they had set their heart on Christ, then I will better equipped to be steadfast with my eyes on Christ.
Illustration: Loyal To Their Example of Loyalty to Christ
Borden of Yale – No Reserves, no retreat, no regrets.
Watchman Nee – Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and was resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ.
David Livingstone – My Jesus, my King, My life, my all, I again dedicate my whole sef to Thee. Accept me and grant O gracious Father, that ere the year is done I may finish my work.
Jim Eliot – God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life, that I may burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.”
The final point we are going to consider from Paul’s final
chapter is his exhortation for sacrifice and it might not be what we first
thing of, at least it was that way for me.
Exhortations For Sacrifice - Hebrews 13:10-15
10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. 11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. 15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
Paul Exhorts The Believers To A Sacrifice
Paul looks to the altar built for us by the sacrifice of Christ. He uses the sacrifice of the lambs in the Temple on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement to illustrate what he is striving to make the struggling Hebrews understand. In a scenario, they knew very well as Jews, Paul tells them that the blood of the slain lambs was taken within the sanctuary, behind the veil, but the bodies of the animals were taken outside the camp and burned.
These sacrifices he says, were a foreshowing of the sacrifice of Christ. Jesus was offered as our sacrifice and He suffered God’s wrath outside the camp on Golgotha’s stony hill, away from the temple and outside the authority or the approval of the Jewish religion of that day. Yet though Jesus’ body was outside the camp, His blood was offered before the presence of God.
The Hebrew Christian’s altar, their new place of sacrifice is with Jesus on Mt. Calvary and they must go with Him outside the camp, outside Judaism, outside the Old Covenant.
In vs. 10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. They, the Jews who rejected their Messiah, have no right because they do not know Christ and only those who do know Him as Lord and Savior can come to the this altar worship Him.
Paul then exhorts the Hebrews to “go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. The Hebrews are urged to go to Christ no matter what the cost in shame and humiliation, bear His reproach as He bore theirs on Calvary.
The Hebrew believers must go there because they have nothing within the gates anymore, they don’t have a “continuing city” a permanent place to dwell on this earth, Jerusalem was no longer their spiritual home, but like Abraham, Paul says, “we seek one to come”
Paul finishes and says, “Therefore, by Him, through His sacrifice, they should now offer their own sacrifice, the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” This was their new offering, Christ fulfilled the Old Testament offering, now the new sacrifice was to be praise to God continually.
Go To the Altar, With Our Sacrifice Of Praise
This exhortation is the same for us as it was for the Hebrews, we need to “Go forth therefore unto him without the camp.” We are to seek to worship Christ at an altar that this world and its religions cannot understand, cannot accept and have no right to worship at. We came to this altar, outside of this world’s approval or authority, because Christ bore our sin and reproach outside the camp and that is where we must meet Him outside this world’s power, approval or authority.
We can bear the reproach of this world, because like those Hebrews believers of Paul’s time, we don’t have a permanent dwelling place here on this earth. Our home is in heaven outside the camp as well. In that sense we are still Hebrews, the wanderers, in this world looking for that city yet to come.
When you know this, when you realize the truth of who we are and what Christ has done for us. And you let go of this world and its false promises and begin to go to Him outside the camp, traveling as a Pilgrim on our way to that fair city, as we go we will “offer the sacrifice of praise continually to God” because that is what pilgrims who have left this world behind have always done. We offer the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips giving thinks to His name. We are not beaten down, we are not struggling to get by. No, we are praising Him, giving thanks, joyfully bearing the reproach he bore. We sing as we continue on to that city who builder and maker is God.
We may stumble, we may falter, we may even have doubts and fears but ultimately and unstoppably once again comes the sacrifice of praise from our lips. We can’t help it; we can’t stop it. The world is behind me and glory is before me. That’s were my life is, that’s where my hope is, that’s where my God and my Savior is. What else can I do but let the praise pour forth?
How Can I Keep From Singing
1 My life flows on in endless song,
above earth’s lamentation.
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.
2 Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?
3 What though my joys and comforts die,
The Lord My Savior liveth.
What though the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.
4 The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
a fountain ever springing!
All things are mine since I am his!
How can I keep from singing?
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is lord of heav’n and earth,
How can I keep from singing?
There is much more in this wonderful final chapter that we could talk about, but I want to end on that climactic high note, the believers sacrifice of praise. Can’t think of a better exhortation to send you out into this wearisome, wayward world than that. So, just let me conclude with Paul’s benediction in Hebrews 13:20-25
Conclusion - Paul’s Goodbye Hebrews 13:20-21
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
This was Paul praying for these hesitant, struggling, sometimes backsliding believers. He prays in the power of God, the power of life over death. He prays in the care and comfort of Jesus that great shepherd and by his shed blood of the everlasting covenant. And here is what he prayed for them, he prays that God would make them perfect, complete, lacking nothing in every good work, doing His will.
This is a prayer that continues to echo down the centuries and its hope and power can still be felt and fulfilled in us today. His prayer is a summation of all the exhortations that preceded it, all wrapped up in his plea to God that they lack nothing in every good work and that they do His will.
May it be so for us as well.