23 Sep Sun. Msg. – Hebrews 13:1-6, The Promise
- Reference: Hebrews 13:1-6
- Date: 23 September 2012
The Promise • Hebrews 13:1-6
I. INTRO • Read vs.
A. The Ship
1. The universal symbol for Christianity is the Cross. It has been for a long time.
2. So it’s surprising to hear it wasn’t a symbol for the first few hundred years.
3. The earliest symbol was mostly likely a ship, which represented the Church.
a. Christians were shipmates.
b. And the church sailed thru the stormy sea of a hostile world.
4. That was an image the original readers of Hebrews well understood.
a. They were under great pressure to give up following Jesus & go back to their past in Judaism.
b. That pressure was so great & had been on for so long, some of them had.
c. So the writer penned this letter to show Jewish believers the superiority of Jesus & The Gospel.
d. Jesus fulfilled what Judaism only pointed to.
5. Now-as the writer concludes the letter, he bullet-points several quick things the readers need to pay attention to.
6. Even though these things are 2000 years old – it’s amazing how poignant they are for us today.
A. V. 1
1 Let brotherly love continue.
1. Now – that seems like a no-brainer for Christians. But he has to remind them because of one of the effects of long-term persecution.
2. One of the immediate effects of the hardship hostility causes is that people are forced to put away the petty things that divide them.
a. Minor arguments, silly disagreements are set aside as people share a sense of unity in being the object of hatred & scorn.
b. Things they used to fight over are dropped.
3. But over time, when that outside hostility becomes the new norm = the old arguments often resurface. The disagreements are renewed.
Story: A few years ago, Ross told me how he was out riding his Motorcycle on the Rose Avenue bridge over the 101 later one night. This was before it had the fence. He noticed a guy standing over the Northbound lanes looking down at the freeway. Sensing something was wrong, Ross pulled his bike over, and hopped off & approached the guy. Seeing Ross walking toward him the man stepped up onto the top of the wall and said – don’t come any closer; I’m gonna jump. Life’s just too painful & I can’t take it anymore.”
Ross stopped, put his hands out & said – “Wait! Just hear me first. I’m sure things must be bad to bring you to this point. I’ve gone thru some terrible things in my life. But what got me thru was knowing God loves me. He loves you too!”
The man looked back at Ross w/a tear in his eye. Ross asked, “Are you a Christian?” à “Yes.”
Me too. Catholic or Protestant?
Evangelical or Liberal?
Denominational of Non-denominational?
What church – CC
1st, 2nd, 3rd, service?
“Die heathen scum!” Ross pushed him off.
4. And odd as it seems—sometimes long-term persecution works to set the persecuted against each other.
a. Think of it this way; back to our analogy of the Church as a ship.
b. You & your family are on board as it sails thru calm seas. Your family has your own cabin.
c. Every day, your ship rescues a few people floundering in the water. There’s plenty of room on board.
d. But then a storm comes & whips the sea into a fury. The ship is tossed & life on board gets hard.
e. Besides that there are now dozens of people to rescue from the waves.
f. The ship gets so crowded families have to share cabins.
g. You have to move in w/the family next door you haven’t really gotten along so well with.
h. But it’s an emergency situation on board, so you move into the same small cabin and make due.
i. You think, “This is only temporary. It’ll be over soon and we’ll be back in our own cabin. I can be nice for a while.”
j. But the storm doesn’t end. It goes on day after week, after month & year.
k. Now there are people living on every square inch of the ship & there are 4 families in your cabin!
5. The original readers of this letter had been under intense pressure & persecution for a long time.
6. So the writer urges them to make sure their love for each other didn’t flag or falter.
7. We need this reminder too. We need it because while Christianity has been the predominant religion in our nation for 200 years, we’ve now entered what’s called the post-Christian era.
a. Hostility to the Gospel is growing. God has been expelled from the public square.
b. Don’t forget it was religious people who led in the persecution of the early church; it was Jews & pagans.
c. It’s religious people who are loudest in attacking Christianity today: The neo-pagans of secular humanism – that is their FAITH, their religion, & they are fanatical about it.
8. Hear me: If we do not have a revival that turns our nation back to God, hostility toward us as the Followers of Christ will grow.
a. The persecution a few individuals are already seeing, will become common.
b. At first, to survive, churches will drop the petty things that have divided them.
1) Charismatic & non-charismatics will set aside their doctrinal debates.
2) Pre-tribbers will embrace mid & post-tribbers.
3) Hawaiian shirts will shakes hands w/dress-shirts & ties.
9. BUT – It has to go further than that! Love for one another must endure.
a. We must do MORE than just PUT UP W/ONE ANOTHER!!!
b. Love demands we focus on what we share w/one another rather than where we differ.
c. I’m not saying where we differ isn’t important: It is!
d. But what we share is MORE important! For what we share is JESUS!
e. And it breaks the heart of God when His children don’t get along.-
f. Note that that’s the way the writer casts it here. “Let BROTHERLY love continue.”
B. V. 2
1. In v. 2, love isn’t just for fellow Christians. It’s to be shown to outsiders as well.
2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
2. This does NOT mean you should stand on a street corner & sing. It’s not a call to jump up on a table in WalMart & do a dance number. Not that kind of “entertainment.”
3. The word simply mean to show practical concern for those who aren’t already friends.
4. A good synonym is hospitality. It’s opening our resources to take immediate care of those we meet who are in need.
a. It’s being open-minded & open-handed as we go about our daily lives.
b. What’s not really in view here is organized, regular outreach to the poor & needy. That’s important & worthwhile, but it’s not what this means.
c. This is more the abiding mindset that says, “As I go thru my day, if I see someone who needs help & I have the capacity to provide that help, I will.”
5. The writer had to remind them of this because their hospitality had fallen off somewhat.
a. It had because even all the way back in those early days there were scammers who preyed on Christian generosity.
b. A pagan 1st Century writer named Lucian wrote a story about a con-man who pretended to be a traveling Christian minister so he could live off their hospitality. He lived quite well off it.
c. The abuse of Christian charity became such a problem, the Didache, which was a very early set of guidelines for Christians said that someone claiming to be a minister could only spend 1 or 2 nights w/someone. If he stayed 3, he was false & was to be marked as a fraud.
6. You might imagine how many requests for help CCO gets from people.
a. They drop by. They call. Need gas, bus ticket, help with utility bill, rent. à CASH!
b. Conflicted! Want to help the needy – but not always easy knowing what’s legit.
7. Same problem all the way back then! Don’t become cynical, hardened by frauds.
8. Help in the moment. Not taking on a long-term project. Stay open handed.
9. Writer then says something startling: Some had ministered to angels.
a. The readers would think of Abraham serving lunch to the 3 travelers who passed by his tent 1 day. They turned out to be none other than the Lord & 2 angels.
b. Those angels then traveled on to Sodom where Lot welcomed them into his home.
1) They went there to evaluate its spiritual condition; to see if it was worthy of God’s judgment.
2) Lot alone was kind to them. The rest of the city wanted to abuse them.
3) So Lot & his family were saved while the rest of the city was destroyed.
10. Might it be, that as history winds up & God prepares to judge this wicked Earth, angels would come as they did to Sodom to see first-hand what things are like?
a. They might be walking the streets of LA, San Francisco, Chicago, NY, London, Paris. Moscow, Beijing right now.
b. They may be in Oxnard; sitting at Del Taco, hitching to SB. They might be here w/us, seeing what the church is like. Do we love, worship & serve Jesus? And does that love prove itself by looking for HOW we can love & serve Him by taking care of the needs round us?
11. One of the ways we all can implement this right now is to repent of the silliness of tribalism.
a. That utterly ridiculous practice of carving ourselves up into groups & going to war w/each other.
b. Raiders vs. Cowboys / Goths vs. Surfers / Anglo vs. Hispanic vs. Black / Ford vs. Chevy / PC vs. Mac / Rock vs. Country / Sam’s Club vs. Costco – it’s all so absurd.
c. Smile more! Stop mad-dogging!
C. V. 3
3 Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.
1. At the time this was written, persecution of Christians was unofficial.
a. Rome frowned on the new sect but it wasn’t yet illegal.
b. Their leaders like Peter, James & Stephen were arrested for trumped up charges like disturbing the peace or blasphemy.
c. All of that would change a couple decades later when the faith was officially banned.
2. The writer urges Jesus’ followers to not neglect those who are arrested & tossed into chains.
a. Prisoners needed attention for 2 reasons –
1) Encouragement. They needed to know they weren’t forgotten.
2) Basic needs like food & clothes. Jailors didn’t feed their prisoners. Family or friends took care of them & if not, they didn’t eat.
b. The danger for Christians was that if they visited those in prison for their faith, they immediately came under suspicion as well.
3. What’s our application, since we’re not being tossed into the pokey for loving Jesus – yet!
a. Well—Who’s in danger of feeling forgotten?
b. Who’s faithfully serving Jesus & depends on support as those ancient prisoners did?
c. How about missionaries! à Going to be taking a little time regularly to tell you about them.
D. V. 4
1. Now we get to some fun stuff . . .
4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
2. This is one of the writer’s bullet-points because marriage was under attack in the 1st Century.
3. Though this was written to Jewish believers, the Greco-Roman culture was pervasive & powerful.
a. It exerted a huge influence on them. And marriage was being down-graded.
b. Fewer people were getting married; choosing instead to live together.
c. Sex was untied from marriage & people began questioning why they needed to get married since it had become acceptable to engage in sex outside marriage.
4. Even adultery had become acceptable as marriage declined.
a. For a good part of the Gentile world, marriages were arranged, not for love but for wealth.
b. Marriage was to have a house, kids, & standing in society.
c. So many men & women sought pleasure outside their marriage in an affair.
5. That idea has been resurrected today. Driving home from MW study Wed. night I heard an interview with the founder & CEO of a website called Ashley Madison.
a. It links up married people wanting to have an affair.
b. The CEO claimed that his service saves marriages; not tear them apart.
c. In a modern day version of the old Greco-Roman idea, he said people want a home & kids & marriage is good for that – but that sex doesn’t need to be a part of that.
d. So he provides a service for people to have their sexual needs met so they can be a better husband & father, or wife & mother.
e. The interviewer asked some tough questions & I thought: “Good! He’s really going after this guy.”
f. But after 3 or 4, I realized they were in collusion. Those questions were really just lobbed up there for him to hit out of the park. His answers were so slick & sounded so reasonable.
6. It’s all based on the idea that began to float around about 5 or 6 years ago that evolution has made people need to have affairs. It’s a biological urge & to resist it is to damage your psychological well-being.
7. No! It’s not a biological urge. It’s lust; it’s sin. And it’s giving in to it that will harm you.
8. Marriage isn’t merely some man-made social convention.
a. It’s ordained by God. It was part of the Creation – going all the way back to Gen. 2.
b. At the wedding of the first man & woman, God announced this as the template for ALL marriage:
“A man shall leave his father & mother & be joined to his wife, & they shall become one-flesh.”
c. It was Adam & Eve; Not Adam & Eve & Mary & Brittany & Tiffany & Maggie.
d. Nor was it Adam & Steve.
9. I don’t want to launch into a long digression on same-sex marriage but this verse does shed important light on this.
a. A lot of Christians wonder what’s wrong w/-same sex marriage. Why shouldn’t 2 men or women be allowed to marry?
b. If fewer people are getting married as the statistics seem to say, and there are people who WANT to get married & marriage is good, why not allow homosexuals to marry?
10. For one important reason à Marriage is something GOD planned & He defines.
a. His Word is utterly clear. It’s for a man & a woman.
b. Homosexuality, like fornication & adultery – is sin. // Look at the last half of v. 4!
c. I’m gravely concerned about what’s happened in our society w/the way the Evangelical church has handled homosexuality.
d. I think we’ve allowed the same-sex marriage issue to eclipse our call to proclaim the Gospel w/its call to redemption.
e. God does not hate homosexuals & neither ought we.
f. God loves sinners; adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, thieves, & gossips.
g. He loves them too much to leave them that way, so He calls them, convicts them, saves them then sets about to redeem them.
h. There are people sitting here today, Jesus lovers & followers who know homosexual desire. God is healing their heart & replacing them w/holy affections & desires that please Him.
i. There are people here addicted to porn God is healing & setting free.
11. The Church is a hospital where the morally & spiritual sick get healed.
12. But how can we do that if instead of being a hospital we look & sound like a fortress w/cannons bristling from a hundred gunports, blasting away at a fallen world?
13. The best way to bless the world is for Christians to live the Redeemed & Redeeming life before them.
a. A healthy, growing marriage is a powerful means of evangelism.
b. A marriage between 2 broken people, committed to Jesus & committed to making a bad marriage good is an amazing testimony to what the Gospel is all about – That God saves!
14. So in a culture that’s grown sour & cynical on marriage, let’s honor it by recommitting ourselves to make it the delightful, pleasurable, rich thing God intends it to be.
15. And one of the important ways we can do that is in the physical part of marriage; in the sexual relationship of a husband & wife. Look—it’s right here in v. 4 =
Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled
a. That word “bed” is a polite euphemism for sex. In Grk – coitus; the technical word for intercourse.
b. Now – Sunday morning; I need to be discreet.
c. But, I’m convinced because the Church has been reluctant to speak on this, it’s left a huge gap the world has been more than ready to fill.
d. While we avoid talking about sex – it seems it’s most-times ALL the world doe talk about.
1) It’s all over the radio, TV, movies, & internet.
2) The public schools are dominated by it.
3) Magazines, newspaper – advertising > Saturated w/sex.
16. The writer wanted his readers to know in the sex-saturate culture of the 1St Century that sex between a husband & wife is clean, good, holy, & right. Sex outside of marriage is a sin – but IN marriage it’s a blessing.
17. It’s to be enjoyed, not endured. // In 1 Cor. 7, Paul warns husbands & wives against with-holding sex form each other. // They OWE each other sexual satisfaction.
18. So let me pause right here & address those of you married folk who find sex difficult because of abuse.
a. God wants to heal & redeem that. You need to seek Him for it.
b. 1 in 4 women & 1 in 6 men have suffered from sexual abuse at some point in their lives.
c. That abuse is going to leave some kind of a scar.
d. But it’s the very kind of thing Jesus came to deliver us from.
5 Let your conduct [better = “lifestyle”] be without covetousness [greed]; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, [Deut 31:6-8] “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say: [Joshua 1:5] “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
1. The problem w/greed is that it never ends. It always wants more.
2. A friend asked John D. Rockefeller when he was young how much money he wanted.
a. Rockefeller replied, “A million dollars.”
b. After he’d made it, the friend asked him again how much he wanted.
c. Rockefeller said, “Another million.”
3. A life of greed knows increasing desire w/decreasing satisfaction; The Law of Diminishing Returns.
Eccl. 5:10 • He who loves money will not be satisfied w/money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.
4. It’s part of our fallen nature – The more we get the more we want.
5. When it comes to things, our having will never catch up with our wanting.
Luke 12:15 • [Jesus said] “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions.”
6. Several decades back a major company had trouble keeping employees working in their assembly plant in Panama.
a. Most Panamanians were farmers & their economy was barter; they didn’t use much money.
b. The factory workers were paid in cash & made more in a week than most of their countrymen had ever seen.
c. So they’d quit after just a couple weeks thinking they’d made it for life.
d. The company quickly thought up a way to keep their workers on the job. They passed out Sears catalogs.
e. Sure enough, the workers stayed on the job because they all wanted the things they saw.
7. The writer calls us to contentment rather than covetousness.
a. And I have to admit – this seems almost un-American. / Isn’t ambition a good thing?
b. Isn’t it, as Gordon Gekko said, “Greed is good”? / Isn’t this the engine of modern economy?
8. Maybe. But the economy won’t suffer by Christians repenting of greed & learning to be content w/what God’s provided.
a. On the contrary; when we turn our attention for the love of things to the love of people, the whole world will be blessed.
9. When we have God, we have all we need.
a. Mere things break, wear out, get lost or stolen; they don’t last.
b. But God will never leave. He’ll never wander off, nor turn His back on us.
c. And God’s presence means His provision – so we ought to be content.
A. He Says, We Say
1. Notice the link here –
a. V. 5 = Because He has said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
b. V. 6 = We can boldly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
2. Our lives are based on God & His Word.
a. Our contentment is centered on His promise.
b. Because God has spoken, we can live.
3. Here’s God’s promise – “I’m with you always! I will never leave you!”
4. So here’s what we can say as we get up each morning, “The Lord will help me today!”
a. Here’s what we say when we turn on the news & hear dire predictions: “I will not fear!”
b. When persecution threatens: “What can man do to me?”