This is the last day in the book of Hebrews. Let me spend a few minutes telling you where we’ve been in the past seven months in the book of Hebrews. Some of the sermon titles have been: Jesus really is God, He is the King of the angels, He can really be trusted, Jesus is greater than Abraham, He is greater than Moses, the High Priests, Melchizedeck, the entire Old Covenant and all the challenges you and I face in life. The last two weeks we looked at how Jesus deserves a living faith and a strong faith. If you really believe in Jesus, you should show it and not just say it.
Let me tell you where we’re headed after this series. If you’ve seen this booklet, The Impact, it shows you where we’ve been in the last year. In years past we’ve asked all our different ministries to tell us what has happened in their areas over the last year. It used to be called the Book of Reports but really it is a whole lot more than that. Very few people on this entire campus get a chance to take a 30,000 foot view and see all that God is doing all over this campus. When you get a chance to look back over any year, but especially this past year, it is staggering the things you will see in this book. Please pick up a copy and spend some time looking it over. We are going to start a sermon series called Heartbeat that will look at who we are as a church. There are a lot of things we do on this campus that are really important but some of it is essential to who we are and what we are all about. It is the stuff that makes our heartbeat around here. Our motto is Carrying Out the Great Commission by Healing Hurts and Meeting Needs. We will spend about two months describing what that means for Jesus’ church in general and for Calvary Baptist Church specifically. I am going to refer to a number of things that you will read about in The Impact book.
We are going to finish the book of Hebrews by looking at the last eight verses today. I have said this to you more than once, “It doesn’t really matter how well you start out – but how you finish.” The topic of discussion today is how to finish the faith well. I may offend a few of you right now but I don’t care if you walked down the aisle of your family’s church or if you prayed a prayer that someone told you to say. The real question that Scripture asks is if it really meant something to you to last a lifetime. The book of Revelation tells us that those who endure to the end will be saved. Let’s look and see what it takes to finish the faith well.
I. Live right. V. 18-19
18 Pray for us, for our conscience is clear and we want to live honorably in everything we do. 19 And especially pray that I will be able to come back to you soon.
I told you from the first week that we started this study that we aren’t really sure who wrote the book of Hebrews. That question is not answered today but it does identify who didn’t write it. It also gives us an idea of when and perhaps where the book of Hebrews was written. The man who wrote this book was supremely concerned about the way that he lived before Jesus. He wanted to have a right conscience. In fact, he says his conscience is clear and that he wanted to live honorably. He wanted to live a life that would be pleasing to Jesus.
The clear conscience that he is referring to is the idea that when you go to bed at night to the best of your knowledge there is nothing wrong in your relationship with Jesus. You may have heard this statement before, “A clear conscience is a soft pillow.” Not having to look over your shoulder to see if you’re going to get busted for doing something wrong means you have a lot more peace when you know you’re living right.
He also says he wants to come back and see them. He is probably referring to the church in Jerusalem, the hub from where Christianity spread all over the world. The man writing this book knew that believers needed to hang around with other believers, which is why we always say that you need to be plugged in to a small group. Share your heart and life with each other that is where real growth in your relationship with Jesus happens.
When we take the Lord’s Supper, one of the things that 1Corinithians tells us is that we have an obligation to examine our hearts and whether we are living right for Jesus. If we are not living right get it right with Jesus now before you take the Lord’s Supper. In fact, 1Corinithians Chapter 11 says if you do this without your life being right it can seriously damage your relationship with Jesus and it could affect your health. Corinthians tells us that some brothers and sisters have fallen asleep or literally died because they took it flippantly.
II. Lean on Jesus. V. 20-21
20 Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood 21 may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.
Knowing where you are going to go after you die is the peace that the writer is referring to here. He reminds us that the God who raised Jesus back up from the dead will also raise us up. We are able to live with our Father in eternity because of what Jesus has done for us. Then the writer points back to what happens now on planet Earth. He says, when you lean on Jesus, the God of peace gives you the ability to do good for his glory. Notice how he says these verses. God gives you the ability through his power to do his will. I want your friends, neighbors, co-workers and classmates to see that there is something different about you because you are leaning on Jesus. When they start to notice something about you, you have the ability to point all of the attention back to Jesus so that he gets the glory. It is Jesus working in you that gives you the ability to do good and bring glory to him. It starts with Jesus and it ends with Jesus. You and I get none of the credit along the way because we don’t deserve it.
Hebrews tells us that there are four things that happen in this exchange. Jesus makes us complete. He helps us to do his work. He works inside of us. And, he makes our work pleasing to God. Our best efforts apart from Jesus are worthless but with Jesus you bring glory and honor to God.
III. Learn from each other. V. 22-23
22 I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, to pay attention to what I have written in this brief exhortation. 23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released from jail. If he comes here soon, I will bring him with me to see you.
The writer is telling us to pay very close attention this brief exhortation or short letter. It literally can be translated to mean very few words. The writer is saying that it isn’t a lot to remember. He wants the readers to learn from each other, to live right, and to lean on Jesus.
He then uses Timothy as an example. As I said before, we don’t know the identity of the writer of this letter but we can be sure that it wasn’t Timothy. The New Testament doesn’t tell us what happened to Timothy. Church history believes that Timothy was probably taken to prison because he was very open about his faith. He was probably placed under Nero in Rome. Church history teaches us that Timothy was placed under guard and was to be executed. Before his execution, Nero the Emperor of Rome died. Nero’s Praetorian Guard knew that he was a wicked man. Nero took great pleasure in persecuting Christians and finding creative ways to kill them. The Praetorian Guard decided after Nero’s death that there was no legitimate charge to keep Timothy in prison except that he believed in Jesus. So, the guard let him go.
I want you to think for just a second about what we just read in Hebrews 13. The writer of Hebrews says that if Timothy is released he is going to take him and return to the Jews in Jerusalem where Christians are being persecuted and many of them are being killed for their faith. If you were Timothy would you go to Jerusalem? Essentially, Timothy would be trading prison to go to Jerusalem and probably be imprisoned again and almost certainly executed for his faith in Jesus. Why would he leave prison just to go somewhere else where you may get thrown into prison again? What was Timothy’s motivation to be willing to go? The answer is that the Christians in Rome and all over the Roman Empire loved their brothers and sisters in Christ. They cared about people who were suffering for their faith. That’s why this church should care about our brothers and sisters in places like Nigeria who will die if they confess faith in Jesus. That’s why we should have passion for our friends in India, China and sub-Saharan Africa. We should be willing to go to the extent that Timothy was willing to go because of our love for each other.
IV. Love each other. V. 24-25
24 Greet all your leaders and all the believers there. The believers from Italy send you their greetings. 25 May God’s grace be with you all.
The man who was writing this was probably in Rome and was writing to the Hebrews in Jerusalem. He had never met these people but the love of Jesus bound them together. Since they loved each other they were willing to go to extraordinary lengths for each other. The writer of Hebrews says that his heart goes out to the believers in Jerusalem.
The writer then says he wants the “grace of God” to be with them. Those words literally translated mean that he wants God to shower his love and kindness on them. The church is supposed to be a family. When we come together at the Lord’s Table it is one way that we visibly and tangibly show each other that we love each other. We act like a family when we eat a meal together.
- Do you know someone who started out strong in their faith and then fizzled out? Was their faith really sincere in the first place?
- Do you go through your day totally dependent on Jesus?
- Does total dependence on Jesus mean that you no longer try your best at life’s challenges? (Explain your answer.)
- How has Jesus equipped you this week? (Give one specific example.)
- If Jesus produces in you the power to do what is pleasing to God- is God really pleased with you or pleased with Jesus?
- Whom have you learned what it means to follow Jesus? Who has has the biggest impact on your faith? Why?
- Obviously prayer is important to followers of Jesus. How are you praying for Jesus’ people? How often do you pray for Jesus’ church? When people bring specific prayer requests to you what do you do?
- Pray hard for each other right now- that we would finish strong- for Jesus’ glory.