Saturday, May 28, 2016

Final Words, Writer of Hebrews Asks for Trust and Prayer

Keep Calm, Trust and Pray
The Final words of admonition by the writer of Hebrews. Importance of trusting leadership & praying for them!
 Heb 13:17-23 

Heb 13:17  Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 
18  Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19  I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. 

1862, during the Civil War, the Union army took Fredericksburg, Va. And advanced on the confederate army assembled behind a large stone wall south of town. The union army attacked and shortly 8000 soldiers lay shot and scattered in front of that stone wall, most of them Union soldiers. Night fell and soldiers in both camps heard the cries and moans of those dying on the battlefield. They were wounded, cold and parched, it was one of the horrible scenes of war. Next day sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland asked Brig. General Kershaw for permission to scale the wall and help what soldiers he could. He was told no, it was too dangerous. But he continued insisting and got permission. He asked if he could wave a white handkerchief as he went and the General said no. Kirkland said, “All right, sir, I'll take my chances.” And over the wall he went.
Immediately shots rang out, the other side thought a charge was forming but then stopped when it was just one man. Kirkland took many canteens with him, covered a man with his own coat. Both sides watched as he went from wounded soldier to another. He stopped at every wounded soldier. Did I mention these were mostly northern boys? Did I mention Kirkland was a confederate sergeant? He was promoted to Lieutenant at the battle of Gettysburg and I have a feeling, he was the kind of leader men would trust. The kind of leader men would follow.
     V17: Obey your Leaders and submit to them.
   But what does it mean for Christians? In this context, leaders are spiritual leaders. Back in V7 he says we should imitate these leaders. Now he says obey and submit. But the word obey has other meanings. It’s not just the word barked out by an angry parent or drill sergeants. It carries the idea of trust and agreement, even to befriend. So obey implies follow them because you trust them. The next word, submit, means surrender, as in ‘go their way’, give in to them.
     Some people think this is a pastor’s favorite verse: “Obey your leaders!” because we want to boss people around. But actually it reminds us to be trustworthy. To be people who others are willing to follow.
     But he quickly tells you why to trust your pastor. They “keep watch for your souls because they must keep account!” Let me repeat that last bit: “Must keep account!” Interesting idea. The pastor is to serve the church. Jesus came to serve. Pastors are to imitate Him. But while the pastor serves the church it doesn’t mean he works for the church. He keeps account with God. Now, the pastor may serve at the church’s pleasure. It could be the church who tells him when its time to go. But he works for God. He serves and gives his account to God.
     There are people who know a lot more about leadership than I do. I just keep it simple. I just want to lead, by following hard after Jesus. I want to follow Jesus in such a way, someone just might say, “He’s following Jesus, I can follow him. I trust him.” I cannot think of any higher tribute man can give me. In fact, if you wrote that on my tomb it’d be great – “He followed Christ.”
     But this isn’t about me, it’s about the church trusting their leaders. If your leader proves himself untrustworthy find one who is. Now I don’t mean they have to be perfect, they can’t. But they ought to earn and keep trust.
     Because they keep account. I used to think that meant someday I’d stand before God and be held accountable for what I taught and preached and how I led others. And that may be true. But I’ve learned something else. When I come before God in prayer, I may pray for your Dr. visit and your Aunt Bobby’s surgery, but I have to give account for you in prayer. Now I don’t have to tell God how you’re doing, He knows better than I how you’re doing! But I am either rejoicing over your progress or I carry the burden of your lack of following Christ!  When I come to the Lord, on your behalf, with a burden for your eternal soul, that doesn’t speak well of your walk with Christ.
     So after telling them to trust and obey, he invites them to pray for Him. He follows Trust and Obey with Pray and Pray!
     V 19: Pray for us! This is a very logical thing to say after “Trust us and obey us!” Pray for us! Why? There are lots of reasons but here he says that He will act honorably! To deal honestly with people, to Behave Well! I so wish more pastors were concerned with that! Pastors should be about acting well! I see so many pastors with an “I’m right and I don’t care what you think” attitude. That’s not honorable! I may be right about a lot of things but guess what! I’ve been wrong a time or two. All pastors, all teachers and all leaders are wrong now and then.
     He has a clear conscience about the letter he has written and his position on the Excellence of Jesus Christ, but he says pray for me to act honorably AND to be able to see you all soon.
     How do you pray for your pastor and teacher and leaders? Do you pray for them? I did a quick look at the times Paul asked for prayers in his letters. He did that a lot! I figure if Paul needed prayers I definitely do! Here are a few things he asked prayer for: He wanted to be a blessing to people, he wanted boldness to preach the gospel, he hoped for open doors for the word of God and that the Word of God spread freely, He asked for safety and and for restoration; to be with the people of God once again.
     Pray for your leaders! Pray earnestly. Pray with your heart and soul for me, and Larry and Matt and your Sunday School teacher and any other leader you come across. Wives pray for your husbands. Men pray for the people who teach you what it means to follow Jesus.

Heb 13:20  Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 
Heb 13:21  equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 
Heb 13:22  I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 
Heb 13:23  You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. 
Heb 13:24  Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. 
Heb 13:25  Grace be with all of you. 

     Then the Writer prays for them: (read 20-21) V20 is a beautiful benediction. He packs so much in just a few words. There is a God of Peace who wants us to be at Peace with Him. There is the Lord’s Resurrection that gives us this peace with God. There He is as shepherd, or savior and our Lord and leader, and it is all because of His sacrifice for us! His blood establishes an Eternal Covenant! Not a temporary stay of execution!
     And he says all that to introduce V21 (read) God has to equip us so that we can please Him.

            You know what this means?
It means you were not equipped to please Him until He graced you with His presence. And He is working in you – all the time – to continue to please Him! And it’s all through Jesus Christ that you are equipped and enabled to bring Glory to God the Father! That is the ultimate goal! Not our obedience, not our pleasing Him, Both of those are good! But the Goal is God’s Glory. Men should see our good works and do what? Glorify our Father in Heaven!
     So, he says, give heed to this brief letter! (V22) It may seem long to you but concerning the subject matter, this is short! It’s like the author knew how many books would be written on the subjects he wrote about in this book!
     And He calls them brothers. Even though he is a leader, he is also just a brother. He is not their father, he is their brother. In equal standing before God, the same grace and mercy was needed to save his rotten soul as well.
     He gives them a bit of good news. Timothy has been released. He has just asked for their prayers and then he tells them, look! God has answered your prayers for Timothy! He’s released and I’ll try to bring him to see you! SOMETIMES we need to be reminded that prayer really does matter! It’s easy to think God is going to do what God is going to do no matter what I say. But God says the effectual fervent prayers of the righteous man avails much with God!
     And Finally; (read 24-25) Grace be with you all. It is Grace that makes ALLLLL the difference! Without grace we are lost and dead. But when grace is with us we have life eternal!
When it comes to your salvation, your growth, your eternity in heaven – Its ALL GRACE!
    Do you have grace?

The Gospel in Hebrews - Keep Calm we have an Altar

Keep Calm We have an Altar!

Every time we read, meditate, or preach the Word of God we deal with the Holy. Holiness is not just another attribute of God; it is His very “Godness”. He is merciful, right? His Mercy is a Holy Mercy. He is wise, His wisdom is Holy Wisdom. He Judges. Even His judgment is Holy. But it’s hard to appreciate His Holiness until His Holiness has broken out on you.
Why do I mean by that? Imagine how Isaiah felt in when he saw the Lord. Isa 6:3 One called to another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at His voice; the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: "Woe is me! For I am undone; I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"
The Holiness of God broke out before him. Later he prophesied: Isa 66:1 Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool; what is the house you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and all these things came to be, says the LORD. But to this one I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
Hosea prophesied a time when all God’s people would be affected by His Holiness: Hos 11:10 They will walk after the LORD, He will roar like a lion; He will roar And His sons will come trembling …
Jesus Christ’s holiness broke out on people, too. Like the woman who touched the hem of his robe. Luke 8:47 When the woman saw she had not escaped notice, she came trembling, falling down before Him, declaring in the presence of all why she had touched Him…
How about when Jesus calmed the sea? Mar 4:41 they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this…
Or the women at the tomb on the 1st day of the week? Mark 16:8 They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing… for they were afraid.
     Hebrews is Inspired by Holy Spirit. The writer wants God’s Holiness to break out on them! He elevates Jesus like they never heard before. He taught and warned, encouraged and maybe even threatened them to look to Jesus. In Chapter 13 he wraps it up. These are His final words. And, it’s my prayer that through this study the Holiness of God will break forth onto you. May your worship be greater. May your love be stronger in light of His word and may your faith be rooted in the Living Lord, Jesus Christ.  

Heb 13:10  We have an altar of which they have no right to eat, those who serve the tabernacle. 
Heb 13:11  For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the Holy of Holies by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. 
Heb 13:12  Therefore Jesus also, so that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 
Heb 13:13  Therefore let us go forth to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 
Heb 13:14  For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. 
Heb 13:15  By Him, then, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, confessing His name. 
Heb 13:16  But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 

Let him who has ears to hear, hear and understand.

     The Jews put a high value on the altar on the temple grounds where sacrifices were killed. The blood of the covenant was shed there. It was sanctified originally by Aaron himself. The animals killed there were tangible evidence they were following God’s law and buying another year’s worth of mercy. Now in light of what we know about Jesus, that is pretty sad. But in these final words the author of Hebrews reminds them they do have a New Altar and they have New sacrifices!
I.       We Have an Altar: Now an altar is where animals are sacrificed to God. The Greek word actually means "place of sacrifice." What is our altar? The cross is one example of that. Jesus died there. That’s why we have a cross hanging here in our worship center. It reminds us where Christ was offered up and how He gave His life for us. And I’m glad that it is made of rough wood. The highly decorated, gold plated, pearl inlaid crosses are a bit incongruous. They can be quite beautiful. But Jesus died there! He bled there in torture. He groaned there in agony. Now that cross in the baptistery is not where Jesus died, but it reminds us that we have an altar! There was a sacrifice!
     We have an Altar! And those priests who serve at the temple’s altar don’t have access to this altar! Not that they couldn’t have if they turned to Christ. But they are not trusting in God’s Lamb! They are trusting in animal sacrifices. And the blood they carry into the Holy of Holies is just that, the blood of a dead animal. That animal has not experienced the wrath of God. So God’s wrath is still aimed at sinners! Let me repeat that. Under the Old Covenant, God’s Holy Anger is still aimed at people of sin!
     We have an Altar! But, it’s a different altar! We have an altar where blood was shed - not at the hand of the priests, but at the hand of God! God’s wrath, poured out on Christ for all who believe! We have an Altar!
     When the priests would kill the sacrificial animal they’d take it outside the camp to burn it. They committed to the animal the sins of the people. In its unclean state they would burn it outside the camp. V12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. This is a radical departure from tradition. Jesus wasn’t slain inside the camp, inside the temple grounds. He wasn’t carried outside Jerusalem, He walked, He volunteered! And, part of the way, He carried His Own Altar! We Have an Altar!
     Why did it happen this way? Well, He died to make US holy! To Sanctify, to change us! He doesn’t make us gods, He gives us Christ’s righteousness. He gives us the indwelling Holy Spirit. He makes us His Children, part of the family of God!
Bohdi tree
     But also there is the fact that he is rejecting the Temple sacrifices. He wouldn’t be offered there. He is ending the Priesthood. He didn’t need a Levite Priest. He gave Himself! He is ending this religion of good works, of earning temporary grace! And He ushers in a Relationship of eternal Grace, of never ending Peace with God  We Have an Altar!
      So what do we do with this altar?

II.                II. V13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp. Up until this time they went physically to the temple.
             Today, Jews travel to Jerusalem to pray at the western wall. Muslims go to Mecca on the Hajj and perform their rituals. There are estimates of 100 million people a year going on religious pilgrimages. Hindus to the Ganges river, Catholics go to Lourdes or Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, or the Vatican. Buddhists go see the Tree where Buddha meditated. Bahai’s go to north Israel. Pagans go to Stonehenge, and Christians go to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Galilee.
But here He says, Lets Go To Him! We have someone who has done everything for us. Sure I’d like to go to Jerusalem, but it’s because I have already come to Christ, not so I might meet him!
Let’s go to Him Outside the Camp! We too must leave behind religion. Offering sacrifices in order for God to be pleased with us! Don’t tell me you never tried that. “Oh God forgive me. I’ll do this and this for you.” I’ll stop cussing. I’ll stop gossiping. I’l do this and I’ll do that. Come To Jesus! We have An Altar where the Son of God was slain for us!
III.   And We have Our Sacrifices to make! We are to bear the reproach He endured! Oh wait! We have to bear something? 
What is reproach? Reproach is disapproval, being scorned, held in contempt! Jewish scholars saw the death of Christ as a reproach! Hung on a tree? That’s unacceptable! Claimed to be God’s Son? Unacceptable! Expelled from Jerusalem to die? Unacceptable! And you want to follow this man? You are unacceptable!
   Often in this world Christians are just Unacceptable! Just make sure it’s for being like Christ you are rejected. No good in being rejected just for being a jerk! But coming to Christ is entering into His Reproach. It is being willing to be scorned for Christ!
Another Sacrifice we offer is the sacrifice of Praise. (V15) These are not sacrifices that earn God’s favor. They reflect God’s grace back to Him! They are not the fruit of the womb or the fruit of the field but the fruit of our redeemed lips! It's like the words we sing in Blessed be the Name of the Lord, "Every blessing You pour outI'll turn back to praise." (Matt Redman)
   And then there are the sacrifices of good works and generosity! Once again, reflecting the Good Work of Christ, the Generosity of God who has lavished upon us the riches of His grace!

Coming Out to Jesus is not traveling across the globe to see Bethlehem. It is the heart'Reaching out to Christ. Responding to His love for you. Rejoicing in His presenceReveling In His Amazing Grace!
 Have you Come out to Him? Are you still Coming out to Him?