Monday, August 22, 2011

CONCLUSION OF THE BOOK OF HEBREWS

THE BOOK OF HEBREWS
“Obeying, Praying, Perfecting”
Hebrews 13:17-25
August 17, 2011

In this final lesson from the book of Hebrews, we again consider yet other marks of Christian conduct. In this lesson, we see an additional three marks. The first of these 3 marks is:

TO OBEY LEADERS -- Hebrews 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.”

This verse has reference to the pastors of the churches in these days. And yet the emphasis isn’t so much on the pastor as the message that he preached. It’s important to remember that some of the Christian Jews being written to in this letter, were seriously considering returning to the Old Testament covenant and recanting their faith in Jesus Christ. The statements made here were not meant to carry any thought of blanket obedience or submission to these ministers. Rather the obedience here is to the Gospel being preached. This does not pertain to a person submitting their entire life and conscience blindly following these leaders and drinking Kool Aid as did the followers of Jim Jones which were murdered by this process.

Neither does it call for churches to be authoritarian as some house churches have and are doing where members submit every decision to the leaders of those churches. I read of one instance where all of the members, men and women, were forbidden to wear clothing that was made of blended fabrics like Dacron and cotton and wool and rayon. That was because of Leviticus 19:19 which reads in part, " nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.”

So, “Brother Smith, let’s take a look at the tag on your shirt. It appears to be a little suspicious.” And if Brother Smith’s shirt was not proper, he was asked to leave the meeting and go change into something more acceptable.

God has called pastoral leaders to watch over us. They are concerned about our welfare, our spiritual growth, our holiness and purity, our knowledge, our faith and about our trials, sicknesses and sufferings. All of this is done by the teaching and preaching of the true Word of God. And these leaders are accountable to God and they must know that they will stand before God to give an account as to how they have led.

As well, leaders can be grieved and hurt. If they are followed they are filled with joy because the work of Christ can go forward. Some of these Christian Jews had excellent Pastors who preached the true gospel. But they didn’t listen to them and as a result, their faith was impacted.

3 John 4 says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Ministry has many difficulties and challenges, but they are offset when God’s children hear the gospel and obey it.

Continual strife and contention brings hurt and the work of Christ is hampered. Disobedience and rebellion affects the individual and the church. There have been times in our ministry and others that we know that there has been a refusal to accept the leadership of those in the church – pastors and board members alike. That can really hamper the life, growth and ministry of the church body. The 2nd mark of Christian conduct is:

TO PRAY FOR LEADERS AND THEIR FAMILIES -- Hebrews 13:18-19 “Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.”

This carries with it the idea that believers should continually pray for all ministers who are doing the work of God and preaching the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That means those are present with us and those who are not but are ministering in other places in the world. That certainly includes our missionaries. The prayers of the saints for the leadership can remove obstacles to the effectiveness of the church. Satan certainly doesn’t want the gospel of Christ going forward and he will do whatever he can to stop it. Prayers can and will stop him. Yet another mark of Christian conduct is:

TO BE EQUIPPED -- Hebrews 13:20-21 “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, 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.”

This is a prayer of the writer of this epistle to the Hebrews. It gives a meaningful picture of God and of Jesus Christ. First of all it tells us that God is:

THE GOD OF PEACE -- Peace with God is obtained by faith and trust in Jesus Christ and what He did on the Cross on our behalf. God, then, is the source of our peace. To get through the daily grind of life and its challenges, we need peace. But apart from Jesus Christ, there is no peace. It’s only as we turn to Christ and put our trust in Him can we have peace. That’s mans only hope for peace in a world of complete chaos. Secondly, this tells us that God is:

THE GOD OF RESURRECTION -- This is the only mention in this epistle of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. God raised Jesus Christ from the dead to a life of glory and exaltation that last eternally. If we turn to Him and put our trust in Him, He will raise us up and give us a new life that will last eternally. Thirdly, this tells us that Jesus Christ is:

THE GREAT SHEPHERD – He is the One who guides His people and provides and protects them. And Jesus did what no other shepherd has ever done – He died for us, His sheep and He did that willingly. We need guidance, provision and protection and Jesus gives all of that to us. But we also need deliverance from the tactics and advances of the enemy as he seeks to kill us, steal from us and destroy us. We need protection from wolves that come to us in sheep’s clothing. Jesus gives us that deliverance. Fourthly, this tells us that Jesus Christ is:

THE PROVIDER OF AN ETERNAL COVENANT -- Prior to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, man only had access to God through the Jewish High Priest and that only once a year. Now, however, Jesus has established a new way to approach God which is through the shed blood of Christ on the Cross of Calvary. When Christ died, He died as the Ideal and Perfect Sacrifice because He was the Ideal and Perfect Sacrifice. Therefore, whatever Jesus did, was pleasing and acceptable to God. By His death for our sins, Jesus provided a new way for man to come into the presence of God. Hebrews 9:14 states, “….how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Finally, this tells us that Christ:

THE ONE WHO EQUIPS US TO DO GOD’S WILL -- God has a will for everyone and He will equip us to do that. However, that equipping isn’t the result of our own efforts or works. Those things will eventually pass away. So, the will of God can be equipped in us only by the working of the Holy Spirit to that which is pleasing in the sight of God. Only the energy and the power of the Holy Spirit can strengthen us to do the will of God. And that energy and that power is determined by our walk and fellowship with God. If we will walk with Him, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and we pray, remain in His Word, and trust in Him, then the Lord will give us the knowledge, wisdom and understanding of what He wants us to do.
Now we come to the conclusion of Hebrews and find:

FOUR IMPORTANT LESSONS -- Hebrews 13:22-25 “I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with all of you.”

Lesson #1 – Believers are to be built up in the Lord Jesus Christ through the Word.
Lesson #2 – Believers are to help others to grow and develop in Christ.
Lesson #3 -- Believers are to love and fellowship with each other.
Lesson #4 – Believers are to pray for each other and ask the Lord to extend His continuing grace to others and ourselves.

Father, as we have come to the end of this study of Your Word in Hebrews, we have seen Jesus Christ as our great High Priest and the Ideal and Perfect sacrifice for our sins. Help us to allow the Holy Spirit to remind us of the greatness of the New Covenant that Jesus has given to us. Help us to grow in our walk with You so that others might see Jesus in us and be drawn to Him. In Jesus name I pray. AMEN

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