We are almost finished with the book of Hebrews. Last week I shared with you the six traits of someone who has a living faith in Jesus. Today I want us to look at five traits of a strong faith.
I saw this video that some of you may not have been able to handle watching. The vacuum company, Bissell, claims their new vacuum will kill 99.9% of bacteria and germs on hard surfaces. A Canadian branch manager, Ravie Dalchand, took this vacuum to the Toronto subway in the middle of the day. He cleaned the subway floor even while people were coming and going on it. After he cleaned the floor, Ravi took his sack lunch and dumped it on the floor. He proceeds to eat his meal right off the floor that he just got done cleaning. He dumped sauce on the floor and smeared it around with his bread before taking a bite of the bread. People were getting sick watching him eat off the floor. He put his belief in the vacuum on display for everyone to see.
I want us to look at five visible demonstrations of your faith. If you are new to Christianity, you may think that faith cannot be seen. Faith is a matter of the soul. How can you put something that cannot be seen on display? My disclaimer for today is that this is not a checklist of things to do to make Jesus be pleased with you. I think the writer of the book of Hebrews takes last week’s six things and this week’s five things and puts them together. He may be saying that if you have these 11 traits in your life then your faith is rock solid. If there is something wrong with these 11 areas of your life you should be concerned about where you sit with Jesus.
I. Study godly examples. V. 7-8
7 Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Verse eight is one of the verses from the book of Hebrews that you should memorize. Jesus Christ never changes. He is always the same.
The writer says that we should pay diligent attention to and study godly examples. The word “study” that he uses here is the idea of a painter who is about to paint a masterpiece. The painter has the object that he is going to paint in front of him and he studies it carefully before painting the canvas. That’s the kind of detail the writer wants you to use as you study good godly examples. Every one of us in this room needs a good godly example that we can model our life after. That’s why we make a big deal out of small groups because that is where you share your life with them. You can’t see someone’s faith on display in the corporate worship setting. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd. In small groups you get to see someone living out their faith in front of you and it is encouraging.
II. Beware of strange teachings. V. 9-10
9 So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them. 10 We have an altar from which the priests in the Tabernacle have no right to eat.
The idea that he is talking about here is that you were paying attention to godly examples and following the Word of God but something got your attention and made you deviate off course. He uses the example of food. When this book was written food sacrificed to idols was a big controversy in the church. For example, if someone sacrificed a cow to a pagan god there were some in the church that felt you couldn’t eat the meat. Other believers felt that you could eat the meat because a pagan god is not God. This became such a controversial issue that it almost divided the church. In Acts 15 the great men of the church came together to try to settle this issue.
Jesus also had to deal with this issue. The Pharisees felt you that you had to wash your hands a certain way in order to eat a meal. Jesus corrected them and explained that they had it wrong. He said it wasn’t what goes into your body that makes a person unclean it is an issue of the heart. It’s what comes out of your mouth that indicates an unclean heart.
Hebrews wants to take it a step further and says you can eat from the table that no one else gets to eat from. In the tabernacle, one of the most holy parts was a little table that contained some bread called the “show bread”. Only the priests could eat from that. The writer of Hebrews is using this as an example. He is saying that you get a chance to come to the Lord Jesus’ table and eat from his bread. That’s something that only a Christian gets a chance to do. When we take the Lord’s Supper together we are eating bread that other’s don’t have the right to eat.
We have a lot of pastor’s on staff here. However, we only preach one sermon 52 different ways. That one sermon is that a man or a woman is completely incapable of forgiveness for their sins except that Jesus spilled his blood and purchased them back from their sin. That is the same sermon that we preach every single week.
III. Be willing to suffer for Jesus. V. 11-14
11 Under the old system, the high priest brought the blood of animals into the Holy Place as a sacrifice for sin, and the bodies of the animals were burned outside the camp. 12 So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. 13 So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. 14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.
The motivation is to be willing to suffer like Jesus suffered. Jesus was crucified the night before the people celebrated Passover. His death inside the holy city would have made many people unclean. So, the priests negotiated with the Roman government and had Jesus killed outside the city so they wouldn’t become unclean. The book of Hebrews tells us that we should be willing to go to whatever extent Jesus was willing to go to if you call yourself a follower of Jesus. None of us are saying that we want to suffer the same fate that Jesus suffered.
Hebrews gives you a little bit of motivation when it reminds us that this is not our eternal dwelling place. We were not created for earth as it is right now. Earth is broken, fractured and marred by sin. You were created to be in God’s presence. You were created for heaven. Your home is ultimately waiting for you after this life is over with. Don’t look for it here on earth. Don’t be surprised when suffering comes.
There was a university professor teaching a physics class about the law of decreasing motion. He drew the math formula out on the board and described how once you set a pendulum into motion it always loses momentum even though it doesn’t appear so. He had placed a huge pendulum in the middle of the classroom. He asked for a volunteer to stand against a wall while he placed the pendulum against the student’s chin and then let it go. He told the volunteer that once the pendulum swings back it will come close but will not touch them. He waited and waited but not one student would volunteer to stand against the wall. No one was willing to put their faith in the formula into action.
William Penn was a great saint of God who lived in old time England. He was a Quaker preacher. Three times Penn was imprisoned because of his faith. The last time he was thrown into the Tower of London was 1668. He spent eight months in the tower. While there he wrote a book entitled No Cross No Crown. The thesis of the book was “Christ’s cross is Christ’s way to Christ’s crown.” There is no short cut. Penn was saying what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said you are blessed, doesn’t mean happy, when people persecute you because you belong to the Kingdom of God. Since you were willing to suffer like Jesus you are able to share in his inheritance. That’s why we don’t cling to this earth. We were not created for this world but for heaven.
IV. Sacrifice for Jesus with your actions. V. 15-16
15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. 16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.
This is almost a slam on those priests that are still sacrificing animals. It’s like he is sitting there watching the priests spill the blood from the animals. The blood from the animals could never please God now that Jesus has become the ultimate sacrifice. In fact it is an offense to God to try to sacrifice an animal. God wants us by our actions to sacrifice a heart that is yielded to him and prepared to suffer for him in total surrender.
Hebrews lists two specific things here that you should be willing to do with your actions. The first is to praise God. You should use your whole heart and hold nothing back. We’re not just talking about singing songs and coming to church. You need to live your life out wholeheartedly for Jesus and not for yourself. The second thing that he says is to be willing to do good for others. That’s the kind of sacrifice that pleases Jesus now.
Each week I invite someone to be willing to come and sacrifice to Jesus. You cannot be good enough on your own. Your sin makes it impossible for a sinful person to be in the presence of a holy God. Someone has to deal with your sin and it can’t be you. That is what Jesus did when he left heaven and came to earth. He lived the perfect life. He lived the perfect example. And, then he died on the cross, a death that he didn’t deserve. Jesus died that death for you. Now he invites you to follow him wholeheartedly. He invites you to be willing to surrender, submit, and to sacrifice everything if necessary to him.
V. Submit to godly leaders. V. 17
17 Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.
Right before Jesus was about to go to the cross, he was standing in the presence of Pontius Pilate, who was the representative for Caesar in Israel. In John Chapter 19, Pilate was asking Jesus a bunch of questions but Jesus wouldn’t answer them. Pilate told Jesus he had the power to take Jesus’ life or to spare it. Jesus replied to Pilate that he didn’t have any authority except what God had given him. All human authority is a mini-representation of God’s authority. When it comes to spiritual authority, Hebrews tells us that the way you submit to godly leaders can either be for their benefit or their sorrow. I’m not saying that you should blindly do what a spiritual leader tells you to do. Compare what a pastor is asking of you against what Scripture says. When God has placed you under someone’s spiritual authority remember they are a representation of God’s authority. Hebrews reminds pastors that one day they will give an account for the spiritual condition of people in the church as much as they are able to influence it.
Let me tell you about a phone call I received a week ago. A member of our church called me. He is a man that I love and respect. He said someone recommended that he talk with me because I am his pastor and he is under my spiritual authority. He proceeded to tell me how his life was unraveling before his eyes. It devastated me to hear his story and how the circumstances of his life were falling apart around him. As soon as I got off the phone I remember thinking to myself, “No God not him. Not another good man in this church.”
I love being a pastor. I loved being the pastor of this church. I have asked God to allow me to pastor this church for the rest of my life. I would love to die still being the pastor of this church. But I’ll be honest with you. Some days it is awesome to be a pastor. Every pastor in this church and the world would have to admit that. And, some days it is awful. It is awful because I have a chance to see the muck, the mire, the sin and the brokenness in people’s lives and it can be devastating.
Hebrews reminds us that God has placed us under someone’s spiritual authority. It could be a small group leader or a pastor from this church. Listen to that person, compare what they say to you to Scripture, but listen to them because some days it is awesome and some days it is awful. Often it comes down to how you submit to God first and then submit to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ that makes the difference.
We want to be a body of believers who put Jesus on display for the entire Chattahoochee Valley to see. We want people to see that Jesus is real by the way that we live our life. They will want what you have – Jesus. If you put these 11 traits together you are putting Jesus on display. If some or all of these areas are not right then you have a soul problem that needs to be dealt with. Hebrews says that if Jesus is real you need to make it known to the people around you by the way that you live your life.
- Who is someone that you are modeling your life after right now? Are they a godly influence on your life?
- Have you been able to ‘live courageously’ this week because Jesus is Lord? Explain your answer.
- What difference should it make in your life that Jesus never changes?
- Have you even been in a situation where you have had to suffer because of your faith? How did you handle it?
- What do you do to ensure that you are not listening to false teachers?
- What is a sacrifice? Why would Jesus want us to sacrifice? When was the last time you sacrificed for Jesus’ sake?
- Pray that our actions would bring glory to Jesus this week and be a witness for him.