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Themes in Hebrews – Lesson 7

24/06/2012

Running the Race
Text: Hebrews 12:1-3

The Christian athlete has/needs:-
1. Has Great Supporters! Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses

There is a great cloud of witnesses all around us! They encourage us to go on!
The OT Saints are our encouragement! This why it is important for us to read the OT and recognise the mighty deeds that God wrought through the works of his saints!
The Triumphant Church is our encouragement! This is why we should know a little church history! We are to take encouragement from the great saints of the past. We are to learn of the great teachers and reformers and missionaries and pastors and soldiers of the Cross. We get encouragement from their lives!
Now, in what way are all of these people encouragements to us – By their lives, they have borne witness to the value of faith. He 11:1-40. By their exemplary lives, they encourage us in “Running The Race Of Faith”! The athlete is:-

2. Well Kitted Out!
The Greeks knew what this meant, for in the Greek games the competitors ran unclothed. They ran the race without anything which would slow them down. Now the Hebrew author uses that as an example of the Christian runner in the race of life…
* Strip away every sin! the sin which doth so easily beset us. Sin stops us from running the race. The word ‘besets us’ refers to the way a big long cloak would wrap itself around the runner’s legs and entangle him, and trip him. The Amplified Bible reads, that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us. Christians can be tripped up by the small sins, just as easily as by the big sins. Matthew 5:29-30. If doing something, or looking at something, or being somewhere, causes you to sin… stop doing it, stop looking at it, stop going to that place! So strip away every sin! And,
* Strip away every weight! let us lay aside every weight. Amp. let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight). Now there may be things that hold us up, and trip us up, that are not sinful! They are perfectly legitimate! But they stop us from giving our time/talents/resources etc to the Lord, and so they trip us up!
What is hindering you in your Christian race? What is tripping you up? What ever it is, get rid of it! So this is our second piece of good advice. Make sure the Lord and his work comes first. Now, the athlete has:-

3. True Grit!
let us run with patience the race that is set before us The apostle is speaking in the gymnastic manner, taken from the Olympic Games and other Greek athletics. Notice the key to endurance in the Christian race is PATIENCE! Don’t think of patience as a passive thing, where you just sit down and accept everything that is thrown at you, like a Greek stoic, or like the traditional English ‘stiff upper lip.’ The Greek word for patience is an ACTIVE VERB! Patience is something we do! The Amp Bible reads, let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us. That’s what Christian patience is! Active persistence! It is true Grit! It stands up and faces the trials of life and it conquers and overcomes them! It is Christian determination. The Christian athlete keeps his…

4. Eyes on the Captain!
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Christians have a greater example to animate and encourage them in their Christian course than any or all who have been mentioned before, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ: Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
We must “LOOK UNTO Jesus” … Amp. Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Our focus must be upon the Lord as we “run the race.” We might “glance” at others (cf. He 11) but we are to gaze upon the Lord our Saviour (Believers’ Study Bible). Col. 3:1-2. There are two encouraging facts about Jesus here:-
Jesus is “the author and finisher of our faith”- cf. He 2:10. It was Jesus who started us out on the Christian race.
Jesus Himself ran the race – by looking at “the joy set before Him.” With the anticipation of such “joy”, Jesus… “Endured the cross” (the physical pain) “despised the shame” (the emotional and spiritual agony) — Just as Jesus looked at the joy set before Him, so we must look to Jesus!
We must “CONSIDER Jesus”… For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. We must consider how He endured, not only on the cross, but even before! – He 11:3. How He “endured such hostility from sinners against himself” This hostility is something He experienced frequently – Amp. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds.

A Tale of Two Mountains
Text: Hebrews 12:18ff
It is far better to be a Christian, than what these people had in the way of religion before. Hebrews uses a tale of two mountains! He says…

1. You have NOT come to Mount Sinai
Now the word Sinai is not mentioned as such, but the description is enough for us to realise where the writer means. This is the mountain where Moses received the law. It’s the place where we all are before we come to Christ! We are condemned, under the law! Paul wrote: Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Romans 3:19. Now see here that:-
Sinai is a TANGIBLE mountain! You can touch it! For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, This is the point about ‘law’ religion! Outside of Christ, without God’s grace, every person, every religious person, is doing their best to please God by things that they do. They are trying to keep the law! They are religious, but their religion is ‘external.’ It’s about what you do! It’s about OUTWARD efforts. It’s about the senses. Something you do, or smell or see or hear. It’s about being good, doing the right things, observing an outward religion. All of those are THINGS THAT YOU DO! They are OUTWARD, TANGIBLE RELIGION. Now, what did Jesus say about religion like that? John 4.19 That’s the difference between Christianity and any other form of religion! It was what Paul was making clear to the Hebrews, Judaism (Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism,) is only an outward religion, Christianity will affect your heart! It is a complete change of personality, soul, mind, will, spirit! Now see that…
Sinai is a TEMPESTUOUS mountain! and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, Hebrews 12:18. There was awful blackness and great storms! What human turmoil there is without Christ! We are tossed about by the storms and the tempests of this world! There is no anchor for the soul of the unsaved person!
Sinai is a TERRIFYING mountain! It was a dreadful and terrible place to be; the Jews could not bear the terror of it. The thunder and the lightning, the trumpet sounding, the voice of God himself speaking to them, struck them with such dread that they entreated that the word might not be so spoken to them any more And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded,
Sinai is a TERMINAL mountain! It led to death! And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: Hebrews 12:19-20 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) Hebrews 12:21
Now this is the condition of those who are under the law, that is those who do not know Christ as Saviour and Lord. They are dwelling under the law, at Sinai! They are trying to please God by outward religion, and they are at the mercy of the tempests of life. They are terrified of death, terrified of judgement day and its consequences for them. They recoil from God’s Word, for they realise that they cannot ever hope by their feeble efforts to please him. They are the inheritors of eternal death, for the wages of sin is death! But:-

2. You HAVE come to Mount Zion
But ye are come unto mount Sion Now here again, the Christian is marked out as being different from everyone else in the world. He is not under the law any more Romans 6:14 Now, see Hebrews’ description. We have…
*Come to Heavenly Places!
Unto the city of the living God. and unto the city of the living God It’s the place where God dwells!
To the heavenly Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem The place where we belong! We are free citizens of heaven.
* Come to Heavenly Persons!
To an innumerable company of angels, , and to an innumerable company of angels who are ministering to believers for their good, keeping them in all their ways.
To the general assembly and church of the first-born, [23] To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven. We have our names written in the Lamb’s book of life. The record of our attendance in already sure, we are invited to come, and to join in with this great assembly of born again believers!
To God the Judge of all, and to God the Judge of all. We already have met the judge, for he is OUR FATHER! That great God who will judge both Jew and Gentile according to the law they are under: believers come to him now by faith, make supplication to their Judge, and receive a pardon in the gospel, so they can approach God with Confidence! Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!
To the spirits of just men made perfect; to the spirits of just men made perfect. The church consists in two parts, the church militant and the church triumphant – and together they are one church!
To Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. Of all the people that we come to at this mountain of Zion, we come to JESUS! To the one who came to bridge the gulf between a holy God and sinful men! The One who shed His precious blood on the Cross, to do what the Law could never do for us!
Now, each of us this evening has come to one of these two mountains! We have either come to Sinai or to Zion! Which one are you at? The people at Sinai are terrified and cowering in their sins, under the weight and judgement of God’s righteous anger! The people at Zion are full of Joy, for their sins have been forgiven, and they are going to a heavenly city, to join with a great company of redeemed people, angels, God, the Judge who always does what is right, and Jesus Christ, his Son, our redeemer.

Living for Christ – All Week!
Text: Hebrews 13:1
I wonder have you seen that car sticker that says, “Seven days without prayer makes one weak!” Christianity is not a 1 day a week religion. You cannot live for Jesus on a Sunday, and live for yourself all the rest of the week. Some time ago I had a conversation with a Christian police office – fairly high up the ranks. I asked him about his attitude to homosexuality, the Bible’s attitude to homosexuality, which is that it is sinful, and how he would live with the new police regulations, demanding that police are not allowed to make homophobic remarks, even when off duty, on pain of discipline. So an off-duty policeman could not preach on Sodom & Gomorrah, or on Romans 1, or 1st Corinthians 6. he replied, “It’s possible to be a Christian at home and in church, but as a policeman, I have to be totally professional! Well, if he thinks that’s an excuse for going soft on sin, he’s wrong. Christianity cannot be confined to home or to church or to one day a week. It is, as the Americans say, a 24/7 lifestyle!
So, how will we do that? Hebrews has been teaching three main points:-
Christ is far batter than anything that the old Jewish religion can ever offer. Indeed, as we have seen, Jesus is far better than anything else in the whole world!
Because of that we must never even think about going back to what we were before! As Paul said in Galatians, Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1
We must make progress in the Christian life! It is not enough that we should never go back to where we were – we must go on! Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Hebrews 6:1. We are, after all, in a race, spiritual athletes, competing for a prize! We must strengthen ourselves in the Lord and race on toward the mark!
But in chapter 13, the writer gives us a really practical section, on living for Jesus! He gives advice on:-

1. Christian Brotherhood! Let brotherly love continue
Now the fellow believers in the church are brothers! The church is a brotherhood. We do not have any choice in this, a Christian believer is a brother, whether I like it or not. There are some Christians we do not know, personally, some we do not like, but we are to love them with brotherly love! Bill, a Caucasian; Augie, a Hispanic, and Sam, a black man. All three worked at the same place, and all three hated each other. Then, within about 6 months, they all started to attend church. The Holy Spirit began convicting these men of their sin, and in time each received Christ as his Saviour. Fifteen years later in a testimony meeting, Sam said, “I remember when I used to look at Bill and Augie and despise them. And now we meet at lunch for prayer.”
Bill and Augie each stood at that same meeting and said how meaningful they found those prayer times. All three had come to the same church, all three had become Christians, and all three spoke of being reconciled to one another. In Christ, no one is better than the other. But what is true of us individually must also be true of our churches. Brotherly love must characterise us!
The Hebrews had always known something of Brotherly Love, even though they were divided on doctrine and politics. Among those of them who believed in the Lord, there was a particular display of brotherly love. Look at the early church in the book of Acts. They had all things common, and sold their possessions to make a general fund for the physical survival of their brethren. Matthew Henry said, The spirit of Christianity is a spirit of love. Faith works by love. The true religion is the strongest bond of friendship; if it be not so, it has its name for nothing.
In persecution times there is a danger that this brotherly love would be submerged in the sea of suffering. Isn’t there a danger, when persecution comes, that we might start to put our own safety first, and our own interests before the interests of others… yet this is the time when it must grow! Where Christians must look out for the suffering and persecutions of others, and help them in their time of need. In the Hebrews church, was it possible that the existing brotherly love was being broken down by senseless disputes about the ceremonies of mosaic law.
Matthew Henry pointed out that disputes about religion – and there are legitimate disputes, for we must refute error and false doctrine – too often produce a decay of Christian affection; but this must be guarded against. Such doctrinal disputes must always be conducted in an attitude of brotherly love! Christians should always love and live as brethren, and the more they grow in devout affection to God their heavenly Father the more they will grow in love to one another for his sake. So – Hebrews warns us that BROTHERLY LOVE IS TO CONTINUE!

2. Christian Hospitality! Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares
A few months ago I went in to a church in Newtownards, and slipped into a pew next to a fellow who I have known from we were children. I haven’t seen him for years. He turned to loot, to see who had landed beside him, and what a look on his face! Surprise! Immediately he smiled and said, ‘Hello brother!’ He invited me back for tea, and took my phone number, and promised to get in touch… But he knew me! The author here is insisting that we treat Christians whom we don’t know in exactly the same manner! Brotherly love is not just a theoretical concept – it is practical Christianity in action! Note:-
The duty that’s required of Christians –to entertain strangers, both those that are strangers to the church, and strangers to us personally, Hebrews seems to speak here of strangers as people we don’t know – we should allow them room in our hearts and in our hospitality, as we have opportunity and ability. Now when we talk here about ‘entertaining’ we are not just speaking about having folks round for a dinner party, or a night’s crack, or a wee soiree! This is not just amusing your friends for a night. This is practical Christian kindness! Someone once wrote: Entertaining says, “I want to impress you with my home, my clever decorating, my cooking.” Hospitality, seeking to minister, says, “This home is a gift from my Master. I use it as He desires.” Hospitality aims to serve. Entertaining puts things before people. “As soon as I get the house finished, the living room decorated, my house- cleaning done – then I will start inviting people. Hospitality puts people first. “No furniture – we’ll eat on the floor!” “The decorating may never get done – you come anyway.” “The house is a mess – but you are friends – come home with us.” Entertaining subtly declares, “This home is mine, an expression of my personality. Look, please, and admire.” Hospitality whispers, “What is mine is yours.”
The motivation of the Christian! Thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews would be referring again to OT incidents! Abraham entertained a stranger, and the man whom he entertained was an angel! (Genesis 18) So did Lot 9Genesis 19)Jesus said, I was a stranger, and you took me in. God has often bestowed honours and favours upon his hospitable servants, beyond all their thoughts, unawares.
Now, there is another aspect to this! How blessed would it be to have some stranger staying with you, only to later discover, that totally unknown to yourself, you had been entertaining an angel! What great blessing that angel would have brought into your home! This is the point – that Christian hospitality is not just a blessing to those who are being cared for – it is a blessing to those who are being hospitable! After all, Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive!”

3. Christian Concern! Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. Now, Hebrews has been speaking about Christians we have met. What about those Christians we have NEVER MET?
If you heard that your brother was in prison, what would you do? You would want to write to him and to visit him, and to care for his family. You would send him some food or a book. Well, as a Christian, you have brothers and sisters who are in prison. They haven’t committed any crime. They are in prison because they took their stand for the Lord Jesus Christ! You may never have met them, but because they are part of Christ’s family – they are your brother! What are you going to do about your brother who is in prison? You can’t just ignore him – we are to consider what it must be like to be in prison like they are!
If you heard that your brother was sick, or in hospital, what would you do? You would go to see him. You would ring his wife, and ask if you could help some way. You would maybe help with the children or arrange lifts to and from the hospital. And it wouldn’t matter if all our other brothers and sisters in the family were also doing it, we would do it to! We would WANT to play our part! Well, there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are sick! Hebrews tells us that we should put ourselves in their shoes, and try to see what it must be like for them, and then do what we can to help! Do you know that there are many of our brothers and sisters who are lonely and sick and in despair, and they need us to encourage them with our presence and our love in a very practical sense. Yet in the Christian church the myth has grown up that we don’t need to visit the sick, because that is the pastor’s job. That is completely contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures! That sick Christian is YOUR BROTHER, just as much as mine!
An American who was walking down the streets of a Chinese city was greatly interested in the children, many of whom were carrying smaller children upon their backs, and managing at the same tine to play their games. “It is too bad,” the American sympathetically said to one little fellow, “that you have to carry such a heavy burden!” “He’s no burden,” came the quick reply; “he’s my brother.” When the American reached home he said to his family: “A little Chinese boy has taught me the fullest meaning of the words, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. He recounted his interview, and added: “If a little Chinese boy can carry and care for his brother and refuse to consider him as a burden, surely we ought not to think it a burden to carry our little brothers, the weak and the needy ones, who look to us for help.

4. Christian Ethics!
Now, here is an amazing thing. The Bible is completely up to date! The problems of the ancient society are much the same as today! So the author chooses two areas of ethical concern to the true Christian believer:-
The Christian view of MARRIAGE! Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. There is a terrible downgrade in marriage in our country today. The Christian is NOT TO BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD! The Christian is to have a particular attitude to marriage. In the ancient world, fornication was rife – unmarried people having sexual relationships was a common trend. The Bible calls these people FORNICATORS. (Gk πορνουs) Among married people there were those who practised sexual relations with others. The Bible calls the ADULTERERS. Now, let us not overlook these things, and let us be very careful as Believers, that we do not fall into the world’s ways, and begin to tolerate, or even condone, fornication and adultery. Both are sinful in the eyes of God! 60% of co-habiting couples in this very area are living in sinful relationships that are contrary to the Word of God. It would be easy to be lulled into accepting them as legitimate. One young couple said that they would be getting married soon, but it was not a priority for them – getting a house and furnishing it was more important! Not in God’s eyes! Such behaviour will bring the wrath of God upon a home, and it is up to us to warn sinners to flee from the wrath to come! We can’t afford to overlook sin!
The Christian view of MONEY! 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. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. The world’s attitude to money is one of covetousness. That’s why the national lottery is so successful! Society is riddled with greed! What about the Christian?
The Christian won’t talk about money! What does the world talk about – after sex? Money! Riches! It’s what we want – to be a celebrity with cash and fame and a Ferrari, and a yacht in Nice and a villa in the South of France. That’s why we buy celebrity magazines, so that we can drool over their lifestyle. Not for the Christian! The Christian talks about heaven, where his riches are stored!
The Christian won’t crave for money! He will be content with what he has got – after all, we have the Lord, and his promise of eternal life! What could this world offer us more than Christ?
The Christian will trust in the providence of God! Whatever happens, whether we are rich or poor, whether we are imprisoned or sick or persecuted, we know this, that the Lord is our helper, and whatever he decides, then that’s all right by me!
So, here’s the first instalment in our Lessons for Life for Hebrews! Remember that your fellow Christians are all BROTHERS, so look after them, care about them – even the one you’ve never met, and live an ethical life!

The Christian’s Attitude to Leaders
Text: Hebrews 13, 7 & 8, 17, 24.
We need to be clear about what we mean when we use the phrase, “Rule over you.” The AV is not wrong here. The actual Greek phrase is, ‘those who lead you.’ The word ‘rule’ is not implying dictatorship, but the governance of leadership. There are ‘RULERS’ in the church! We might also call them OVERSEERS, BISHOPS, ELDERS, PRESBYTERS. Let us look at what Hebrews says about the church’s relationship with its leaders! We are to…

1. Remember Them!
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. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Hebrews 13:7-8. Remember…
The Work of these men! They rule over you. They govern the church, and they regulate the affairs of the church, and its worship. There is another indication here to who these men are. They speak unto you the Word of God!
The Example of these men! We are to see these people in their Christian life. Their faith is to be an example to the rest of us, so they must be godly men.
The Achievement of these men! There is an end to their work in the Lord’s house. Now, God is not interested in making us successful! Pastors are to be faithful – not successful! The spiritual growth of the church is far more important than numerical growth! And their faith, leading to that end is to be SEEN. NKJV translates this phrase ‘the end of their conduct!’
Remember…
Church leaders are transitory! There are some commentators who insist that Hebrews here is actually referring to rulers of the church who have died! The Greek verb ‘rule over you’ can be past, present or future tense, so there’s no conflict there. That they HAVE spoken would seem to indicate past tense. They have gone! Now this happens. Two things…
When church leaders depart, we are to REMEMBER THEM. We have a lot to learn from the lives and ministries of Godly men who were influential in the Lord’s Church – both in a local sense, and in a broader sense.
Ministry is transitory. No ministry lasts forever… except one, because…
Jesus is forever! I have often wondered why this verse is planted right here in the middle of Hebrews 13!
The writer is reminding us of a very important principle of ministry – ministers are for now – Jesus is forever! Ministers are only the UNDER-SHEPHERDS OF THE FLOCK. Jesus is the SHEPHERD.
It is the Lord who appoints his ministers, and who always has done, and who always will do, until he comes or calls! Ephes. 4:11
So, we are to REMEMBER those who rule over us, have respect for past leaders, and remember PRESENT LEADERS, who are working for the Lord among us, GOVERNING THE CHURCH and remember that their ministry is temporary, but Christ’s ministry goes on forever! Also, We are to…

2. Obey Them!. Hebrews 13:17
This is the second of these three instructions, and probably the least popular of them. We are to OBEY those who are our leaders in the Lord! How do you feel about that? Now see…
The Extent of our obedience. We are to SUBMIT! That is very important! There are two ways that we can obey. There is obeying, but doing it reluctantly! Now, that’s not the kind of obedience that Hebrews is speaking about here. He wants church members to SUBMIT to their overseers. They are to obey gladly and willing!
The Reason for our obedience.
Real Christian Leaders are concerned for your souls! They watch over your souls! Now Hebrews has been speaking to the Jewish Christians about the danger of becoming distracted and falling away. They need to have someone to watch over their souls. It is because that pastor is CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR SOUL. He is doing what God has called him to do, and is watching over your soul!
Real Christian Leaders will answer to God for their leadership! Now, when I stand before God, to explain my actions at ABCC, I’ll do so, either with joy or with sorrow. Which will it be? Will I have to say, “Well, Lord, I warned them… I advised them, I preached to them, I argued with them, but they outvoted me…” What sadness!
Now there’s the key to order in the church, and to church government. It boils down to the church appointing a minister that they can trust, whose theology and philosophy of ministry they agree with and then being willing to take the spiritual advice that they offer, when offered for the good and wellbeing of the church.

3. Greet Them!
Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you. Hebrews 13:24
The Jews would greet each other with the greeting, ‘Shalom!’ Peace! The Greeks would greet each other with the greeting ‘Grace!’ When Paul wrote to the churches he sometimes used both! 1 Cor. 1:3. 2 Cor. 1:2. But when Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus, two church pastors, he wrote, Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Tim. 1:2. Why did those two pastors need to know God’s mercy, as well as the grace and peace that every Christian would need? Do pastors need to know the mercy of God more than others?
The important fact is that ministers are to be GREETED! Every Christian should be on speaking terms with his pastor, even when the pastor’s decisions don’t please him! Hebrews 12:15. Bitterness among Christians poisons the people concerned, and causes terrible damage to the whole church.

Why is it that churches with strong, spiritually minded leaders are growing, while our churches are declining? True spiritual leadership is God’s pattern for the church. Until we can find a way to implement that pattern within our Congregational polity, we will not know God’s blessing, and our churches will decline!

Closing Words!
Text: Hebrews 13:9ff
In our last study, we looked at four verses, (8&9, 17, 24,) with a common theme; biblical leadership in the local, autonomous church. We saw that in the Bible, churches were governed, (ruled) by elders, and served by deacons. The church of God is described as a FLOCK, under the leadership of a shepherd (actually an undershepherd) who does not just follow the flock, or watch them exercising their self-will, but who actually leads them, so that they are protected, and fed and cared-for and healed. In Hebrews, the writer urges the Hebrew Christians to have a particular attitude to those whom the Lord has set as rulers or leaders in the church:- They should REMEMBER them. They should OBEY them! They should GREET them! Here is the statement that I made to you, twice… “It boils down to the church appointing a minister that they can trust, whose theology and philosophy of ministry they agree with and then being willing to take the spiritual advice that they offer, when offered for the good and wellbeing of the church.” Now, what about the rest of this passage?

1. What we have in Christ!
There is a temptation to return to the law, so Hebrews writes, Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. Remember that in the UNCHANGING CHRIST we have:-
Hearts that are STRENGTHENED BY GRACE! – 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. Speaking of the dietary restrictions of Judaism. He says, We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
We have a HEAVENLY ALTAR! Hebrews says that we DO HAVE AN ALTAR. So what is it, and where is it? Our “altar” is the sacrifice of Christ, which is of no benefit to those who hold to the Old Law or continuing sacrifices! Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. Galatians 5:4
We have a call to SEPARATION! For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. As our sacrifice (Christ), had to suffer “outside the gate.” Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate – “There is a green hill far away, without a city wall, where the dear Lord was crucified, who died to save us all.” Jesus suffered and died, outside the city, outside the camp of Israel, in Jerusalem. What was going on inside the camp? There was organised, institutional, national, nominal religion. It was Passover. It was all an outward show, with no prospect of the soul of the religious people being affected by any of it. So Jesus was nailed to a cross, outside the camp – completely separate from the whole panoply of the religion of Israel – OUTSIDE OF THE CAMP of apostate, dead religion! Now, Hebrews challenges us… Let us go therefore unto Him – outside the camp, bearing His reproach! As he was outside the camp of apostate religion so must we! Romans 16:17, 2 Cor. 6:14-18 We should not expect to be popular in the eyes of the world
We have a CITY! A “city” which is yet to come – He 13:14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. Hebrews 13:14. Like our father Abraham, we wait for the city “whose builder and maker is God” – He 11:9-10
Should we ever endanger these wonderful blessings that we have in Christ? Rather, we should grasp them, and simply obey the Word, and go forward and serve the Lord!

2. What we MUST DO TO PLEASE CHRIST!
Now, as Christians we know that we cannot please God in order to obtain salvation. But we do know that when Christ comes into our hearts, a mark of that conversion is that we will serve the Lord with all our hearts.
We must OFFER SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES! Hebrews 13:15. That includes singing and prayer, which are the fruit of our lips! We praise God as we give thanks to His name — This we are to do “continually” Doing good and sharing –Hebrews 13:16. With such sacrifices God is pleased for they are like the “sweet-smelling aroma” of incense – Ph 4:18
We must OBEY those whom God has set over us in the church! Hebrews 13:17. Now, we have already discussed this issue, and I’m not going over it again, just to note that it is part of our obedience to Christ – it is his will!
We must PRAY for others! Hebrews 13:18-19. He wants to be restored to them sooner and he asks them to pray for this very practical outcome.
We must remember that OTHERS ARE PRAYING FOR US! Having referred to the need to pray for others, it is logical, that as Christians, we should remember that other Christians are praying for us. Hebrews 13:20-21
While we are admonished throughout this epistle to be steadfast, this closing prayer reminds us that we are not alone. In His grace and mercy, God aids in our desires and efforts to do His will! It is God who makes redeemed Christians perfect, and brings them into conformity with the revealed will of God, and prepares them for eternity with the Father in heaven.

3. Closing Remarks.
Bear with the Word! Now that is really hard. The Hebrews were in exactly the same position as us, so the writer pleads with them, And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words. Hebrews 13:22.
Be aware of the events around you! Be aware of what is happening in the church, and be discerning! Something had happened to Timothy. He must have been arrested, and had been imprisoned, and was now regained his freedom. Hebrews 13:23. Now, how aware are you and I, about the events that are happening in society that affect the church? We are to be discerners of the times in which we live!
Final Greetings. You can’t close a letter without saying goodbye. We say, ‘Yours sincerely’ or ‘Yours faithfully.’ The author greets the elders of the church and the flock of God in general. Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. He sends greetings from the Christians in Italy They of Italy salute you. There is a simple farewell: “Grace be with you all. Amen”

This letter’s focus has been to show that Christ is supreme, and because he is better than anything else, Christians must make progress. They must go on, and must never go back! We should live in the light of its teaching.

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