Jesus invites us outside the camp (Hebrews 13:11-16)

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MOTIVATE

There’s a true story of a man named Henry “Box” Brown. He was born enslaved in Louisa County, Virginia in 1815. When he was 15, he was sent to Richmond to work in a tobacco factory. His life was filled with unrewarded drudgery. Henry Brown was married to Nancy, who was owned by a slave master on an adjacent plantation. She was pregnant with their fourth child when, in 1848, when received tragic news that Nancy and his children were to be sold to a plantation in North Carolina. He stood with tears in his eyes on the side of the street as he watched 350 slaves in chains walk by him, including his wife with their unborn child and three young children. He could only wish them a tearful last farewell— he was helpless to save them.
After months of mourning his loss, Henry resolved to escape from slavery. He was a man of faith and a member of the First African Baptist Church where he sang in the choir. He acknowledged that, through his faith in God, he was given the inspiration and courage to put together a creative plan of escape.

Henry Brown found himself a box, a small wooden crate, and postmarked it to an abolitionist James Miller McKim in Philadelphia, which was free territory. Henry Brown got inside the box, sealed the box from the inside, and mailed himself to Philadelphia.

Henry Brown was banking on the U.S. Postal Service to deliver him. He was in slavery and needed to be delivered. The abolitionist got the crate. When he opened the box, Henry Brown stood up, after being in that box for three weeks, and said, “How do you do, sir. My name is Henry Brown and I was a slave. I heard about you being an abolitionist, so I’m entrusting my future to you.”

The audience of the book of Hebrews were slaves to religion. Their lives were filled with drudgery and heartache. Their endless sacrifices could never provide them freedom, peace, or confidence to stand before God. They were devoted to following laws upon laws on the outside, but inwardly they knew they frequently fell short and doubted they could ever be accepted by God or anyone else.

So, the author of Hebrews writes to establish a person’s identity not in “doing” but in what has been “done” for them through Jesus Christ. We have an invitation from God to be delivered from religion and set free in a faith relationship with a living God. We can entirely entrust our future to God.

Together_Hebrews

EXAMINE       Hebrews 13:11-16 (in future weeks we will come back to this chapter).
11  For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp.
12  So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
13  Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
14  For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
15  Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
16  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

 

Religion has limitations.

Throughout the book of Hebrews, the author writes at length about the limitations of the Old Testament.

  • God spoke through prophets and dreams, but now has spoken through His Son (Hebrews 1).
  • Moses led Israel away from Egypt but failed to enter the promised land and peace (Heb 3).
  • High Priest offered sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin but was always incomplete (Heb 4).
  • Sacrificial system was limited to external righteousness, but the inward heart was unchanged (Heb 8-11).
  • Hebrews 13 references the sacrifices on the temple altar and then being burned outside the camp
    (cf Lev 16:27-28).

The sacrificial system seems foreign to us. If we sacrifice an animal, it’s because we’re about to fire up the grill and have a feast. Our view and motivation for making a sacrifice is different from the OT:

  • We forego something because we don’t have the resources (think purchases).
    • It pains us to hear of drs sacrificing treatment due to lack of masks, ventilators, beds, etc.
  • We abstain because we believe will receive something better (think eating habits).
    • SP community used to complain of too many grocery stories, in future they will complain about not enough gyms because of all the food we have consumed stuck in our houses.
  • But we do not sacrifice to have our sins forgiven. Instead we…
    • Rationalize our actions are not bad; which fails to understand the supreme holiness of God.
    • Compare ourselves to other’s; which fails to own responsibility.
    • Half-hearted apologize to retain a desired reputation; which fails sincerity of wrong and hurt caused.
    • Exhaust humility and making amends; which fails to either receive or live in reality of genuine forgiveness.

In all, we can see how religion, whether sacred or secular, has limitations and never fully achieves its intended aim. Sometimes we can focus on the what and miss the who. Our motivation for life, relationships, and even religion can go through the motions without realizing we are missing the main thing. Religion is good at producing external behaviors that mask inward realities. But Jesus is constantly revealing that God values external and internal – He wants us to have clean hands and a pure heart (Ps 24).

  • Investigate Jesus. Often people dismiss Jesus based on their ideas and not their investigations. Read the Gospels to discern not just about His teachings but His life – what He lived with integrity. What makes Christianity different is that it is good news not just good ideas; it actually happened with historical evidence to explore.
  • Grow in grace. Christianity is not about a checklist of do’s and don’ts. Our relationship with God is secure not because of our grasp on Him but His grip on us. He holds us and even when we fall He is there to hold our hand, wipe off our face, mend our wounds, and help us move forward.

Jesus Christ is without limitations.

For OT Jews, only those who participated in the religious sacrificial system were forgiven of sin. However, the author of Hebrews notes that Jesus suffered outside the gate, so that Jews AND Gentiles could be sanctified.

Before Jesus was crucified, a passerby Simon of Cyrene, carried the cross Jesus would be nailed and set in a place called Golgotha.[1] Golgotha was a rocky hillside outside the gates of Jerusalem. Additionally, all burials were outside Jerusalem to keep the holy city ritually pure.

While the OT sacrifices were insufficient to atone for sins, the very life-blood of Jesus speaks a better word – it’s good news that we can be fully and forever free. Further, death could not hold Jesus. He is resurrected and alive forever.

The author of Hebrews invites followers of Jesus to join Jesus outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. Following Jesus will not always be safe or sanitary; it will require you to deny self, surrender earthly comforts and radically follow Jesus in bleak and broken circumstances. Christianity embraces cross-bearing because we know how God transforms evil into good.

  • If we want to meet Jesus then we must go where He is – outside the camp; not just in the church but in the communities of people, especially the lost.
    • Jesus came for the sick, not the well (Mark 2:17).
    • Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).
    • “Some want to live in the sound of chapel bells; I want to run a rescue show within a yard of hell.” C.T. Studd
  • Who is outside the camp that needs to know Jesus is accessible?
    • Share a web link of our page.
    • Invite a friend to a virtual Bible study with you.

The church is being positioned outside the church walls for such a time as this.

  • Where are the bleak and broken circumstances that Jesus is calling you to enter?
  • Who are burdened that have needs you/we can lighten?
    • Senior Living: write letters, make calls
    • Seniors HS: 2020 Grad Kits
    • Medical Community: sewing masks
    • Meals: MD Food Bank, Meals on Wheels seeking appropriate volunteers
    • Families:
      • Domestic violence expected to increase
      • Stress on career adults having to work from home or losing employment.
      • Children experiencing uncertainty and anxiety being confined.

 

The church is promised an unshakeable and unending city.  

We are reminded that “here we have no lasting city” (Heb 13:14). This world is temporary and uncertain. National governments, human leaders nationally and locally, and every individual is being reminded their control and power are partial and not permanent.

There are coming days when our earth will have an expiration date. Revelation, a book of the bible that describes end time events, reflects the destiny of earthly kingdoms being shaken to its core, with people fleeing into caves and crying out for rescue (cf. Rev 6:12-17). The ultimate end will come when “a mighty angel takes a great millstone and throws it into the sea, saying, ‘So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more; and the sound of harpists and musicians, and of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more, and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth and all nations were deceived by your sorcery. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on earth.” (Rev 18:21-24).

However, Christian confidence is not in governments and nations that will be a mere footnote in history. Our hope is in the city that is yet to come.
Hebrews 12:27 “let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken”.
Daniel 4:3 “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.”

Our action is two-fold

  • Speak of Jesus. “Let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb 13:15).
    • The Christian is called to join with others (“let us”) in bringing praise to God.
    • Specifically, we praise God when we speak His name – Jesus Christ. Salvation is found in no one else beyond Jesus (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). He has the name that is above every other name (Php2)
    • It is at the name of Jesus that trees clap their branches and mountains will bow in worship to their Creator.
    • It’s at the name of Jesus that the wind and waves will obey His word and storms will still.
    • One day, at the name of Jesus, demons will be defeated; temptation will be fought against, trials will be refined with fire, and suffering from mental illness and physical hardships will flee.
    • The name of Jesus will finally end all evil and reverse earth’s curse. Every disease will be cured, every hospital will be vacated, and there will no longer be needed the business of funeral homes because at the name of Jesus that our greatest enemy of the grave will become extinct.
    • There is power in the name of Jesus! We must tell somebody that Jesus can save anybody.

 

  • Show Jesus. “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Heb 13:16).
    • Doing good. This is a time in history where our communities might say, “At the moment I do not believe in their Jesus, but I’m glad they live in my neighborhood.”
      • Prov 2:27 “Do not withhold good from those when it is in your power to do it.”
      • Matt 5:16 “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
      • James 2:17 “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
    • Sharing life (κοινωνία), implies contributing to the welfare of others, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

 

APPLY/THINK

Nick Wallenda has tightrope walked over Niagara Falls, Grand Canyon, Times Square, and most recently an active volcano in Nicaragua. Some may call Nick Wallenda reckless and irresponsible. I’m not judging as he gives credit to God’s help in each step he takes.

Others might say that

  • Jesus was reckless teacher and got himself killed.
  • Harriet Tubman was impulsive and foolish for putting so many in danger in the underground RR to free slaves.
  • Corrie Ten Boom was irresponsible putting herself at risk by hiding Jews from Nazi Germany.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. was reckless for civil rights protest that enflamed a nation and resulted in many getting hurt, jailed, and several dying.
  • – – We cannot change the world by playing it safe. If we want to build God’s reputation, we often have to be willing to risk our own.

 

My friend Will has gone on youth retreats the last few years and one of the activities is the zipline. For two years Will has done everything to zipline but jump – he put on the harness, wore the helmet, hiked up the hill, stepped on the platform, but for whatever reason he couldn’t jump. Each time I encouraged him for his willingness to even try. This past year, Will repeated the same process with the harness, the helmet, the hike, the platform AND he jumped! What changed? Will has begun to learn that growth happens outside of our comfort zones.

You see, Jesus does His greatest work not inside our comfort zone but outside it. Do you want to see God do a great work? Then let’s go meet Him outside the camp.

  • What is one action out of your comfort zone that Jesus is calling you to take this week?
  • What is keeping you in the comfort zone from not trusting in Jesus?

    – – – – – – –

[1] Golgotha = Skull (Aramaic), Calvary (from Latin calve).

 

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