One of my heroes of the faith, Dietrich Bonheoffer, once said in his book The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man or a woman he bids them to come and die. Die to self, die to sin and to follow him.”
Last week I told you to listen for the voice of Jesus. I said that the voices that you listen to don’t just want your attention they also want you affection. They go from your affections to your attitude and the way you see the world. Ultimately those voices are trying to impact your actions. They are trying to get you to do something. Today we are going to see that Jesus is asking the same thing of you. He doesn’t just want your attention but he also wants your attitude and actions. He wants it to show up in the way that you live your life.
Several years ago GQ did an interview about Denzel Washington, the multi-award winning Academy actor. The reporter, Michael Hainey, talked almost exclusively about Denzel’s faith in the article. Denzel Washington grew up in a preacher’s home. His dad has been a Pentecostal preacher for more than 60 years. In the interview Denzel said at the age of 20 years old he had an intense encounter with the Holy Spirit. He personally started to wonder if God was calling him to preach. He struggled with this for several years but settled the issue in 1999. Denzel said “I decided that I’ve had an opportunity to play great men and, through their words, to preach. I take what talent I’ve been given seriously, and I want to use it for good.”
If you’ve been with us through this whole study of the book of Hebrews, you know that the first 11 chapters have said that Jesus is the voice that God speaks to us through today. Jesus is the sinless Son of God. He is the sacrificial Lamb, the only payment for your sins. Jesus is your Great High Priest. Eleven chapters from the book of Hebrews describe the theology of how much of a difference Jesus makes in your life. Chapters 12 and 13 now want to look at how your faith should show up in the way that you live. Let me warn you today this sermon is going to be deep in your business about the way that you are living your life. We are going to look at the first six verses from Chapter 13 of Hebrews. I want you to see six things about a living faith. The kind of faith that if Jesus is really the center of your life these are some of the ways that it should show up during this week.
I. Love each other.
Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.
I say this all the time when we do baby dedications. I say the church is supposed to be a family. We are supposed to function like families. Sometimes it is hard to be around brothers and sisters. Sometimes family fight. Brothers sometimes fist fight each other. Sisters are sometimes ugly towards each other. That is also true in the church. Now, I’m not saying that we get in parking lot fights. What I am saying is that sometimes people get on your nerves. Sometimes it is hard to love some people who are not as lovely as others. And, I’m not talking about the way that they look. Hebrews says that because we are a family we are to love each other.
The word “love” here means to show it through your actions. It is not just a fluttering emotion in the heart. It is asking you to show people around you that Jesus is the center of your world by the way that you treat other people. The verb tense that the writer uses here is continual. He wants you to keep on keeping on loving one another. In other words, never stop loving each other. It is almost like what Garth Brooks says in one of his songs, “It’s people loving people. That’s the enemy of everything’s that evil. Ain’t no quick fix at the end of a needle. It’s just people loving people.”
This is the same thing that Jesus says in John Chapter 17:23. Jesus said to the crowds that in order to show the world that they were his disciples they needed to love one another. Love one another and the world will see that Jesus is real in your life by the way that you treat one another. I want to challenge you this week to show love to each other in noticeable ways, in ways that your next door neighbor, your co-workers, your classmates, will see that there is something different about you. They will identify that that difference is that Jesus is the center of your life.
II. Be hospitable.
Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!
Back when this book was written, Rome was at the height of its power. By history’s standards, Rome was an incredibly mobile society. Those famous Roman roads carried millions of people. The writer of Hebrews expects you to take where God has placed you and what he has given you and use it for Jesus’ glory. In other words, if you owned a house along one of those major thoroughfares you were expected to open your home up. They didn’t have hotels like we do. If you were traveling with your family and needed a place to stay you would ask someone to open their home up to you. It was expected if you were a Christian that you would do this for the sole purpose of introducing them to Jesus.
The writer of Hebrews gives us the example of Abraham in Genesis Chapter 18. Three strangers came to Abraham’s tent when he and Sarah were a very old couple. Abraham gave them a meal to eat. The Bible tells us that after these strangers leave that two of them were angels. The angels left Abraham’s tent to go to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destroy them. We get from Scripture that the third stranger was God himself. I believe it was Jesus personally who showed up in Abraham’s tent and told him that he and Sarah would have a baby boy. Hebrews tells us that by being hospitable and opening your heart and home up to others you may be entertaining angels. You don’t do it for that reason though.
If you are not in the habit of opening up your heart and home to others, I want to challenge you to start to make it a habit of inviting people into your life for the purpose of making a difference for King Jesus.
III. Remember people in need.
Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.
The writer takes it a step further and says it’s not good enough to just open your home up to others but you have to also open your heart up, especially to Jesus’ people. In 1st and 2nd century Christianity, if you confessed faith in Jesus you could be thrown into prison or killed for it. That was the context of what was probably going on when this verse was written. It says the church is supposed to function like a body. When one part of the body suffers the whole body starts to suffer. When one part is in pain or being mistreated the whole body is in pain. When one part is in prison the whole body is in prison.
Peregrinus Proteus was a Roman citizen who became a passionate follower of Jesus in the 2nd Century. Proteus went to Palestine to share the Gospel with people who had not heard of Jesus before. Proteus was arrested and thrown into prison because of it. The church loved Proteus and wanted to help him so they started to pray. They didn’t just stop at praying like most of us. They went to the prison warden and started to beg for Proteus to be released. They were denied. So the church bribed a prison guard, not to let Proteus out but to let them in. They took meals to Proteus and men volunteered to live in the same prison cell as Proteus until he was released from prison. They took literally what Hebrews Chapter 13 says.
There are folks in our church who are really, really struggling. Some of them are struggling with finances, some with health problems and there are some in prison. We need to pour our hearts out to them. We suffer with them because we are a body and a family. Churches suffer together like families. Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 25 that when someone is hurting and you ministered to them; when they were thirsty and you gave them a cup of water; when they were naked and you clothed them; when they were in prison and you visited them; you did all those things like you were doing it for me. That’s how the church is supposed to function. We are supposed to love and serve each other; especially the people who cannot pay you back. Scripture is challenging us to make a difference and invest in their lives.
IV. Remain sexually pure.
Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.
The discussion goes from honoring the body of Christ to honoring Christ with your body. We tend to throw the word “marriage” around pretty flippantly in our society. Marriage is a biblical term. The Bible refers to marriage as an institution created by God. God alone defines what marriage is. God defines marriage as one man and one woman coming together in a holy union before God’s representative for a lifetime. Only God Himself can bring them together and only he can separate the union. I don’t have enough time to talk about the whole institution of marriage but the reason why I am explaining the definition of the term marriage is because in our society we tend to look to the government to define marriage. We are wrong! If this is a biblical term, if God is the author of marriage, if God defines what a marriage is then the federal judges are usurping their power when making decisions about the definition of marriage. Right now when the US Supreme Court tries to decide whether or not they will view a case on the subject of marriage, we unfortunately start to look to the government to tell us what a marriage is. Shame on us! Scripture defines what marriage is. Scripture alone tells us what a marriage can be and what it cannot be. It is only Scripture that should define what a marriage is.
Scripture is telling us today that any sex outside of marriage is illegitimate sex. The writer used the term adultery. Adultery means that once you are married you only have sex with the person you are married to. He also used the word immorality. Sexual immorality is any sex committed outside of marriage, before or after it has ended inappropriately. Only God defines what sex should be. It is God’s definition that you and I should be looking to and not the governments. I tell men when they date a woman they shouldn’t date her to see what they can get out of her and then dump her. Guys should start the dating relationship asking if this is the woman God wants them to spend the rest of their life with. I tell ladies not to look at man for how much money he makes or his looks. I tell them to always start with his character because if this is the man that they are going to spend the rest of their life with the money and looks won’t matter. His character is what is important.
Guys, if you know a friend that is personally struggling with sexual sin I want you to bring him our men’s Bible study on Tuesday morning. We want to be a church that makes a difference in men’s lives. Men all over the Chattahoochee Valley are struggling with this. Ladies, I have a challenge for some of you in this room, especially you godly older women. There are a number of women in our church who are struggling with sexual purity. The pastors on staff and I can’t personally disciple them because it would be inappropriate for us to do that. They need a godly older woman who will tell them how to live a sexually pure life that honors Jesus. Please volunteer to make a difference in another lady’s life.
V. Be content.
Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”
Verse 4 of Hebrews Chapter 13 is telling you to be content with your wife. Verse 5 is telling you to be content with your life. The only antidote to the love of money is contentment. It is to come to the point where you accept what God has given you. There is a problem in our society. We are totally overwhelmed by the lack of contentment. We have every modern advantage known to man and yet we are a completely discontented society. I can’t tell you how many times this week I heard good God-fearing people who were only talking about the iPhone 6. I started to wonder if that new piece of technology occupied more of their time and attention this week then Jesus did. When it does, you are now worshipping technology and no longer worshipping Jesus. Jesus says you literally cannot love both God and money at the same time. You can love one and hate the other. You have a choice to make. It is an impossibility to love them both. What is really important in your life shows up in how you spend your money. Hebrews tells us that because Jesus loves us and is always the same he will take care of us. There is no need to love money. You don’t need to be discontent. You can find rest, peace and contentment in the fact that Jesus will always be with you.
VI. Live fearlessly.
So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”
What can people do to me if I believe there is a sovereign God who controls everything in the universe, even other people? He has me in the palm of his hand and will never let me go. If I believe those things to be true why would I possibly fear anyone or anything else? When Jesus is the center of your world it shows up in a whole lot of ways. It definitely should show up in courage. You should be able to face situations that other people around you are not able to face. They will look at you in total amazement as you do it.
Let me tell you about a friend of mine, Dan Bush. I try to tell this guy’s story as often as I can because it deserves to be told. Dan Bush and I were in the invasion of Panama together. We came back together and parted ways as I went to do some training in Florida and he went to a new job in Fort Bragg. We met back up together again in Somalia. He was in a different unit and I was still in the Ranger Regiment. Dan was a very, very committed follower of Jesus. We hung out together in Somalia. Dan was one of the guys that were killed there. If you’ve seen the movie Black Hawk Down, when the first helicopter crashes you see a guy crawl out of the rubble and start shooting. He keeps shooting until he is killed. That guy was Dan Bush.
Dan wasn’t married. He often wrote letters back and forth to his mother. Dan’s mom had raised him and he knew that he would spend eternity with Jesus. In one of the last letters that he wrote to his worried mother, he told her not to worry about him. He wasn’t saying that he wasn’t going to get shot or that nothing bad would happen to him. He told her not to worry because, in his words, “every Christian is just one click away from home”. In other words, every Christian is just one hilltop, one mile, and one street corner away from your ultimate destination. It is not here on planet Earth. It is ultimately in heaven. When you understand that you can face any circumstance in life without fear. Dan realized that the worst thing a man could do to him here on planet Earth is the best thing that can happen to him in light of eternity. When Dan Bush died on the city streets of Mogadishu I was thinking about his words.
When Jesus is the center of your world it should affect the way that you love each other. It should affect how hospitable you are to each other. It should affect the way that you remember people in need. It shows up in the way that you conduct yourself sexually. Jesus shows up in what you do with your money. Ultimately, Jesus shows up in the way that you face fears, difficulties and challenges in life. Some of you are really struggling right now and Hebrews is telling you that you can face it without fear if you know Jesus.
Maybe you’ve listened to this list and realized for the first time that it doesn’t describe you. You may have realized that Jesus hasn’t been the center of your world but that you have. It is time for you to get your soul right with your Creator in heaven. For the rest of us, I want you to do something with what you’ve heard today. Hebrews is challenging you to live out a faith in such a way that Jesus is reflected. I want to challenge everyone to take the Next Steps.
- Would someone who has never had the chance to hear about your faith think you are a follower of Jesus? If so, why? If not, why not?
- How well do you show love to the ‘difficult people’ in your life?
- Do you know someone who is struggling with sexual purity? Ask them to come with you next week. We want to be hospitable to them and mentor them toward godliness.
- If the ‘stuff’ you have right now was all that you would ever get for the rest of your life, would you be able to be satisfied? Does stuff have more of your attention than it deserves?
- Do you fear a person at home or work? What is the difference between respecting someone and fearing them? Why does Jesus command us not to fear others?
- Pray that we would always preach Jesus by our actions and that God would give us the chance to preach him with our words to someone this week.