There’s a story of a man who was always looking for his next score of cash. He would fraud friends, he would steal from stores, and even occasionally rob bystanders. One night the malicious man was walking through the park while he saw another gentleman sitting alone and reading a book on a park bench. The man decided he was going to pull out his knife and threaten the gentleman’s life if he didn’t give up his wallet. After yelling and making a threat on another’s life, the man noticed the gentleman wasn’t reading just any book but the Bible. The malicious man asked, “What are you, some kind of preacher?” And yes, in fact, the gentleman affirmed he was a reverend. The news of the man’s identity created a moral dilemma. The man could not kill or rob a reverend. He told the pastor he couldn’t go through with his plan and he was safe. The man of God responded with gratitude and drew his hand from inside a coat pocket and said, “Would you sit down on the bench and have a cigar with me?” The thief replied, “Oh, no, I couldn’t do that. I’ve given up smoking for Lent.”
The man had many vices, but he drew the line at robbing reverends and smoking cigars – at least for a few days. While some may laugh at this story, it illustrates the unfortunate divide between our beliefs and our behaviors.
The book of Hebrews has spent several chapters creating a foundation for Christian belief. Perhaps outpacing any other NT book, Hebrews explains the relationship between OT and NT and the groundwork for the gospel of Jesus Christ to make a radical difference in our daily living. This last chapter of Hebrews provides practical action steps to fuse together with your faith.
EXAMINE Hebrews 12:28-29; Hebrews 13:1-8
I start with the previous chapter closing because the original was a letter w/o chapter & verse division. My point is that the instructions given in chapter 13 are how we worship the holy God of consuming fire who by grace through faith offers an unshakeable kingdom. In the Bible, the commands to the believer flow from the character of God and the gospel. Gospel grammar indicates imperatives (statements of command) are the result of indicatives (statements of reality). Theologians would note our sanctification (spiritual growth) is the result of our justification (God’s declared righteousness). Imperatives without indicatives are impossible. Apart from grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we cannot obey and please God.
Illus: Parents command children: Brush your teeth / Make your bed / Do your hw / Mow the grass / Walk the dog / Stop pooping on the living room floor (that’s not to a pet but me talking to my 2 year old son this week!). Hopefully, these imperative commands are communicated with gentleness and love. Loving parents are frequently partnering imperatives with indicatives: I will always love you / Nothing you do or don’t do will ever change the reality you are my child / You are beautiful outwardly and inwardly. While imperatives are needed, indicatives are the fuel and passion for our children’s behaviors (and our own). The fire ‘to do’ in the Christian life comes only from being soaked in the fuel of what has been done through Christ. Instruction without relational indicatives will eventually result in drudgery and rebellion, but commands connected to gospel identity result in gratitude and godliness.
– Imperatives exist on almost every page of the Bible right from the beginning: “Be fruitful and multiply” “Rule the earth and subdue it,” “Work and tend the garden,” “Don’t eat the fruit.” But these imperatives only come after God’s breathtaking indicative: “And it was good… And it was very beautiful.” The same pattern is repeated in all of Paul’s NT writings. The order is important to communicate God’s instructions come from a way of wisdom and pathway of love for us.
So, what are our instructions and action steps of faith? Thanks for asking 😊
#1 Love fanatically.
The author of Hebrews is concluding this important letter with final applications. His very first command is to let mutual love abide and abound. The term is “φιλαδελφία,” which we know as brotherly love, but was used frequently among early Christians to establish their new-found family affection and caretaking for one another (cf. Mat 23:8; Rom 12:10, 1Thes 4:9; 1Pet 1:22; 2Pet 1:7). The early believers were known by their love and tangible support with each other (Jn 13:34-35; Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-37).
The author plays on words and adds “φιλοξενίας,” from phila-delphia to philo-xenia, which our English Bible translates it to show hospitality to strangers. He’s talking about a love that starts in the church that overflows outside the church and into the community. Again, this kind of love was another hallmark of the early church. The Roman emperor Julian, a persecutor of Christians said in a letter, “Nothing has contributed to the progress of the superstition of the Christians as their charity to strangers… these godless [meaning they don’t bow to Roman gods] Galileans provide for not only their own poor but ours as well.” A hallmark of Christianity is caring for disadvantaged and dejected of society.
Such compassionate hospitality reflects the heart of God, who revealed Himself as “executing justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. [So] Love the sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deut 10:17-19). While Israel lived in a foreign nation, God saw fit to notice their needs and be their Provider. Likewise, we are all outsiders, but God loves us in a costly way with the blood of His one and only Son. Therefore, the church of Jesus should seek to focus its ministry and mission on outsiders. We turn strangers into guests and friends and ultimately brothers and sisters because that’s what God did for us!
The author also makes an aside comment comparing love to strangers from both OT and NT examples of hospitality resulting in entertaining angels. An OT example was in Genesis 18-19, where Abraham hosts the Lord and two angels with foot washing, preparing food, lodging, and helpfulness. A NT cross-reference is where Jesus tells disciples that actions of compassion to strangers is done as if to Himself, the Lord Jesus (Matthew 25). Even further, hospitality is a qualification of every elder (1Tim 3:2) and all Christians (Rom 12:8-13).
- One simple action step is to signup with 2Gather. Ironic how it was like pulling teeth to previously recruit but now complaints for not seeing people. Well… there will be future opportunity to test your words and put faith into action.
- Further, many believe hospitality with Christians (church members specifically) and developing relationships with non-Christians will be a primary means of a mass movement of a new Great Awakening and conversion of souls.
Additionally, the author exhorts believers to remember those in prison. Undoubtedly, the emphasis is on those mistreated and wrongly imprisoned, being persecuted for their faith. There are many religions who experience persecution, but none more than Christianity. According to one Christian mission organization, in just the last year there have been 2,983 Christians killed for their faith, 9,488 churches and other Christian buildings attacked, and 3,711 believers imprisoned without trial.
- One simple action step is to increase your awareness by subscribing to a free magazine VOM.
- Remembering these does not indicate we think to ourselves, “Wow, how sad,” and then go on about our life. Instead, we are to feel their pain as a member of our own body or family. If your arm catches fire from a bbq, the rest of your body doesn’t react “Hmm, that looks fascinating and perhaps a little over-cooked.” Instead, your whole body screams and reacts to extinguish the fire. Your brain and nerve centers unify to feel the suffering to notify you it needs immediate medical attention.
- Christian brothers and sisters around the world are denied rights, denied having tongues to speak, denied food, denied human dignity with unspeakable acts, denied life as tortured and terminated for their faith. We are to feel their pain and live in light of this reality. We are to work together in prayer, in protest and activism, and in solidarity of witness by likewise testifying to the gospel in our own context – regardless of what it may cost, because we believe Jesus is worth it.
- Another application in this area is to consider participating in prison ministry. The most notable is Prison Fellowship, started by the late Charles Colson – imprisoned during Watergate; became Christian and after exit gave back in ministry. Our church has two bold sisters who minister in prison system: Helen White and Ann Dean. You may consider praying for them and possibly partnering with them.
- There are also people in prisons figuratively through unfortunate circumstances, mental illness, or addiction issues. The Christian mission is that of Jesus when he read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
In all, being a fan sometimes looks irrational and ridiculous; trust me, I know this as a Redskins fan. Yet, looking foolish doesn’t stop a true fan because we root for what’s in our heart. My friends, the Christian cannot help but love fanatically the world around us because Jesus has loved us with fervent and faithful devotion. – – – That does not mean the Christian becomes a doormat for abuse and doesn’t create boundaries. Even Jesus limited exposure to certain individuals and groups who were unwilling to listen. But, the love of God compels us to a life of pursuing peace, reconciliation, and even Christ-centered love towards those who know not what they are missing in the gospel.
There’s a sign on the wall in a Calcutta orphanage,
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered / LOVE THEM ANYWAY.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives / DO GOOD ANYWAY.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies / SUCCEED ANYWAY.
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow / DO GOOD ANYWAY.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable / BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds / THINK BIG ANYWAY.
What you spent years building may be destroyed overnight / BUILD ANYWAY
People really need help but may attack you if you help them / HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth / GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU’VE GOT ANYWAY.
#2 Live with integrity.
There is a lot that can be said about this action step, but sex and currency have been temptations for generations. However, the early church was strikingly different from the culture in this way – the secular society was stingy with its money and promiscuous with its body. A secular person gave nobody their money and practically gave everybody their body. But Christians came along and gave practically nobody their body and they gave practically everybody their money.
Notably, the author of Hebrews emphasizes marriage as a moral light in the immoral darkness of culture. God’s design for marriage should be honored among all society not just some.
Example: We all know the graduate and post-graduate degrees are costly with the investment of time, academic proficiency, and of course the financial expense. No one can, or should be able to call themselves a “Doctor” or “PhD” without following the credible standards of education and experience our world has come to expect. But, what if a modern group is launched to promote their standard of “PhD” or “Dr” is different from what we’ve always knew? What if this new group redefined an entire school to receive post-graduate degrees simply by making a public statement, “I want to be a PhD/Dr. I feel I am a PhD/Dr”? Upon such sworn statement the person was classified by the school with that degree. And then those persons started their own organizations and entered employment with the same salary demands as a regular PhD/Dr. Over time, would that chip away at the education system standards? Over time, would that cheapen your academic investments and career? And so, there are standards for certain things that we must not devalue or seek to redefine.
Hebrews uses two different words that dishonor marriage: πόρνους and μοιχοὺς, with the first referring to any sexual immorality and the latter specifically adultery against a marriage. God will judge both. The point is that the potential to sin surrounds both the married and unmarried. Christians must look different than the secular world.
- Regardless of relationship status, centralize your relationship with God.
- If married or dating, with spouse read a psalm and pray for next 7 days.
- If unattached, ask 3 people for 3 faith encouragements/exhortations they may give you. Discern what God may be saying to you from these 3 different individuals.
- All, re-dedicate your life to the glory of God and moral purity.
The same is true when it comes to money and materialism. Thankfully, the verse doesn’t say keep our life free from money, but the love of money! It is ok to earn a living and enjoy nice things purchased with money. We can possess money; we just cannot let it possess us. “It’s not what you have that matters. It’s what you do with what you have that will count either for you or against you in the kingdom of heaven.” Ultimately, our contentment is in God’s fatherly provision and faithful presence.
- Giving is living. The Lord has given us everything and we cannot out-give His blessings.
#3 Lead others to grow godly generations.
A third exhortation from Hebrews is to remember our spiritual leaders – “those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” The implications are at least 4-fold.
- Honor Christian parents. They are primary disciplemakers and faith leaders. We dishonor them when we do not involve them in church discipleship programs.
- Honor teachers of God’s word. They are priceless gifts to us. I’m thankful for past pastors, seminary teachers, as well as preachers of God’s word whom I listen and learn from – some in & out of SPBC.
- 2A Pray for your pastor and church leaders. I get weary like anyone else and desperately need God’s wisdom for our next season of ministry at SPBC.
- Imitate their faith not their form. God made each of His children independent yet interdependent. We can learn from and be shaped by others, but He has a unique gift inside each one of us. If we seek to envy and emulate God’s gift in others then we are neglecting to expand and employ God’s gift in us.
- Multiply their message. The message of truth and grace in Jesus Christ from Christian parents and faith leaders is worthy of passing on. True disciples of Jesus duplicate other disciples of Jesus. We want to see multiple and repeated spiritual grandparents. At SPBC, we call this growing godly generations where our goal is not just to create church attenders or even converts, but to mature and multiply disciples of Jesus Christ.
à WhosYour1 for sharing faith?
à WhosYour1 for multiplying the message?
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
In a world filled with tension, transition, trials, and tribulation, we need the strength and security of our Savior. We can be easily tossed by turbulent circumstances or tempted to stray and sin from God’s timeless truth. However, we must return to the rock and refuge that never changes. “The grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1Pet 1:24-25). Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Love fanatically. Live with integrity. Lead generations.
 J.D. Greear
 This has been true for the church in all generations. In 1833 George Müller lived among an impoverished city of Bristol, England plagued by cholera epidemic. Upon one of his travels he met a young girl carrying her baby brother piggyback. The children’s mother had died from cholera and the father was working but hadn’t been home for several weeks. George’s encounter with these and other children haunted him so much that he made it his life mission to care for them. His legacy is caring for over 10K orphans, providing food and establishing 117 schools which offered education to more than 120K children.
 Tim Keller. Meaning of Marriage.
 Andy Stanley, Be Rich.