Tag: Jesus Is the Best

Benediction

Hebrews 13:20-25

Lots of people/entities make lots of promises – peace, power, protection, prosperity, you name it. Others claim there will be no peace, they have all the power, your protection is ineffective, and your money is worthless. Perhaps to many in world it all seems like cruel joke that Christians celebrate birth of one called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”.Isa 9:6

You think peace is problem now? Imagine if you can a world where every last soul is enemy of God, where God is justly angry with everyone, no Savior who has been or ever will be born. Rightly called “hell on earth”. As bad as it may seem, angels did promise “tidings of joy …to all people; peace on earth, goodwill to men”. Unless they got their signals crossed, was a true message. Not just unlikely, was impossible for that to happen. So is it realistic to expect peace? blessing? in a broken world?

Angels declared it, apostles prayed for it, we can count on it. God has not left us on our own to try and live Christian life. Referred to it last week – central element of this apostolic blessing: that God graciously equips his children to do his will. Rest of benediction fleshes that core principle out. Three basic sections to our text: be blessed, bear up, and be a blessing.

A. be blessed v.20-21

is a seven-fold blessing – complete, covers all areas of need, every aspect of life… this one and next

peace – “the God of peace”

first thing believer experiences is peace with God – no longer enemies, estranged; reason for conflict removed by Jesus’ work of redemption applied

Rom. 5:1; 8:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

then God supplies his peace as operating principle for heart and mind – internal peace in midst of external conflict

Phil. 4:7; Col. 3:15 “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”

we can live peaceably with all men, can live in peace because the God of love and peace is with us (Rom. 12:18; 2 Cor. 13:11)

power – “brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead”

could easily associate peace with inaction – not what God has in mind: Christian life is active one, are to be accomplishing things

God does not expect us to produce in our own strength, supplied by our own power – he blesses us with abundant empowering to meet expectations

same power that raised Jesus from the dead raised us from spiritual death to life… and continues to worik in us as we depend on him

is no task whatever that God will expect of us, no place Jesus expects us to follow that exceeds power he supplies

protection – “great Shepherd of the sheep”

can’t be content to play it safe, stay in comfort zone – if Jesus was committed to staying in comfort zone:

would never have left heaven; would have stayed there sharing in glory he had with Father before creation

would never have left Garden of Gethsemane – “not my will… but yours be done”

truth is “Shepherd of the sheep” will lead his sheep into and through places they never would go on their own

bet you didn’t think of that when you were converted – yes, I want to follow Jesus… but not there!

must keep this in mind: the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd never stops being the shepherd, never leads then bails out

John 10:12 “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.”

instead, John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

perpetuity – “the blood of the everlasting covenant”

God’s blessings given to God’s people in perpetuity – come through Jesus to those in union with him… on basis of covenant

“this cup is the new covenant in my blood” – is an eternal covenant: means there will never be day down the road when your bill to God comes due

will never be a day when God takes hands off, takes forgiveness away, takes back blessings of peace and power and protection, says “you’re on your own”

God is way more committed to you finishing well than you ever could be – he has done, is doing, will do all necessary for you in this life and the next

we never outgrow or outlive dependence on God and his gracious blessings

provision – “make you complete”

“Now may the God of peace… equip you with every good thing to do his will” NET – another essential piece, every necessary resource

God blesses his children with the power, protection and provisions to do his will his way – all we need to meet his expectations

step back a little: God will do everything necessary to make you to be person he has designed you to be – won’t arrive in heaven with unfinished details

just as need cannot outstrip God’s power to perform, so need cannot exhaust his ability to provide – his resources are infinite

means he can fully supply everyone’s need without short-changing anyone – God never faced with either-or situation

production – “working in you”

important note: it is God who empowers and equips and works, making your good works possible and effectual

is God who works in us, changing us from inside out by Word and Spirit – see evidence of Spirit’s work when we display: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control

God further blesses by graciously receiving our good works through Jesus – what makes them acceptable to him… as if produced by Jesus

praise – “to whom be glory”

one of greatest blessings: God’s gracious enabling and receiving of our praise – is God who gives us desire, understanding, ability to worship him

Phil. 2:13 “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

remember 5 Solas – sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria …explain

God does everything for his own glory including his working in/through us… expects we will follow his example

Jesus’ “life verse” – John 4:34 “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”

Augustine summarized: “Lord, everything good in me is due to you. The rest is my fault.”

B. bear up v.22-23

under exhortation – don’t be discouraged by correction… and all the rest… in the last hour, or in our case, the last year

preacher had a lot to say, much of it challenging to grasp, some frightening perhaps; occasionally some pinching

can be sure he put himself in category from v.17 – those who “watch out for your souls”: all he said/wrote had good of their souls in view

Prov. 27:6Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

God’s goal for God’s people is their continual ongoing spiritual growth – means you don’t get to coast, go along for ride

faithful under-shepherd will stretch, challenge, encourage study and effort, continuous movement toward greater maturity

same shepherd will be sensitive to all in the flock, making sure to best of ability there is nourishment and encouragement for each individual

don’t tune out what you don’t immediately grasp or don’t want to hear – work at it with God’s help to understand and apply

during incarceration – don’t be surprised by hardship and testing

not a big secret Paul spent time in prison – he speaks openly about it a number of times; Timothy, though, no details

this bit of good news about Timothy also a reminder – following Christ is costly: may be expected to bear up under tough circumstances… more likely with every passing day

Jesus made plain to followers – they treated him badly, we should expect same; don’t need to purposely seek out hardship

but… if sailing through life w/o any opposition whatever, maybe ought to check: how easy is it to identify you as Christian?

additional point: fear of hardship should not keep us from following Jesus openly and boldly; remember those 7 blessings?

God will fully meet our needs regardless of address/or circumstances and man can take away nothing of eternal significance

evil men cannot even take our lives: Col. 3:2-3Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

C. be a blessing v.24-25

“greet those”

spiritual blessings you receive are primarily for you but not exclusively – pass it on

2 Cor. 1:3-4Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

comfort = To make strong; to invigorate; to fortify; — God makes us strong in our affliction so we may be able to make strong those who are in any affliction with the strengthening with which we are made strong by God

share the grace

“he wishes renewed discoveries of the love and favour of God; fresh communications of grace from Christ; an abundant supply of the spirit of grace; an increase of internal grace and external gifts; and a continuance of the Gospel of the grace of God.” Gill

If you are child of God, you are most blessed of all people in world. Have heard Gospel, been given gift of faith, received God’s peace, are empowered by him and equipped to do his will. What more reason do you need to praise him continually? The Savior reigns, we have seen and experienced the glories of his righteousness, the wonders of his love. Let us use all that God has entrusted to us for his glory, be used by him to bring joy to the world.

 

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Christian Sacrifices

Hebrews 13:15-19

If is true that we sacrifice for / to what has our loyalty, provokes a couple questions. What areas of life or activities do we make sacrifices for, what kinds of sacrifices do we make? Loyalty, at least to things like well-known brands appears to be in short supply these days

Most of us figure out how to find what we’re looking for without spending huge amounts of time online.” And this has made customer loyalty pretty much a thing of the past. Only twenty-five per cent of American respondents in a recent Ernst & Young study said that brand loyalty affected how they shopped.” New Yorker, 02/17/14

Might even be tempted to claim that loyalty to people, not just things declining also. Get into situation of serious conflict, see how many friends you have. Real ones. Friends who are loyal, stick up for you even when it doesn’t look good. Yet Christ-follower should be unshakably loyal, to Lord Jesus at least; in theory, if we love Christian brothers and sisters, will demonstrate loyalty to them also. Major way to demonstrate loyalty to Christ – make sacrifices He requires.

You say, “I thought sacrifices were all done; didn’t Jesus take care of that?” Yes… but… Jesus did fulfill all the old rituals and animal sacrifices. However, there are still sacrifices we need to make. v.10 reminds us “We have an altar”, not in Temple in Jerusalem, but nevertheless real. And we are to offer sacrifices on that altar.

Jesus gave indication of what he had in mind: Mark 8:34When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Paul, Romans 12:1, tells more plainly who sacrifice is; current text explains what it means to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

As our “Altar” is not one of wood or stone, brass or gold, but Christ Himself, so our “sacrifices” are not the fruits of the ground or the firstlings of our herds, but the adoration of our hearts and the devotion of our lives. The contrast, then, is between the outward and ceremonial and the inward and spiritual.” A W Pink

So… we present ourselves to God through the Lord Jesus as continual ongoing living sacrifices – we deny / sacrifice self, identify with Christ / demonstrate loyalty to Christ, follow Christ / live by his example in his strength. Got it? Good! Now go live it!! How, you ask? Text identifies 4 sacrifices we are to make: praise and thanksgiving, good works, obedience and prayer.

A. sacrifice of praise & thanksgiving v.15

should be no surprise – only acceptable sacrifice must come to God through Lord Jesus… no one has any standing before God apart from Jesus

have no righteousness of our own, no way to achieve any real righteousness; only have what is credited to us

Psa. 24:3-4a “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place?He who has clean hands and a pure heart”

Isa. 6:5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because 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.”

good news of Gospel – when one by faith in Christ, are not undone, may come to holy place… on Jesus’ merit

and God receives gifts and sacrifices we bring as coming from Lord Jesus – Jesus purifies what we bring and makes it acceptable to God

is to be a continual sacrifice – again… no surprise: is how God is treated in heaven by those closest to him

Rev. 4:8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”

no one would suggest living creatures are overdoing praise! God is worth every bit of praise given to him and more

since that represents God’s will in heaven, we pray for his will to “be done on earth as it is in heaven”, must do our part

if Jesus fills our vision, “looking unto Jesus…”, what will permeate thoughts, speech, desires, actions?

is when we look away from Jesus we get into trouble, so… should fill our vision continually, and, our continual response should honor Jesus

fruit of our lips – firstfruits of harvest

OT people of God expected to bring firstfruits – God to receive his due off the top, from the best, showing it came from him

when NT people of God gather for worship, should be prepared to give him his due off the toip, from the best – praise that comes from the heart, involves all of our being, to best of our ability

if we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, strength, should come prepared to worship him same way

throughout rest of life, what should come out first ought to point to God – thanking, praising, acknowledging his authority, making Jesus look good to others (Erwin Lutzer)

doesn’t stop there: lip-service doesn’t cut it, must be substantiated by sincere living example in order to be pleasing to God – requires all three… words, actions, motives

B. sacrifice of good works v.16

don’t neglect to do good: more purposeful than simple forgetfulness – know what supposed to do, keep pushing down the list

have both the model and opportunities – God made sure of that long ago!

Acts 10:38God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

if you know Jesus at all, understand at least the basics – kinds of things Jesus did, his mindset toward others; and… have record of his life (the Gospels)

“Through the gospel I learn not only of the saving works of God on my behalf, but I also learn that one of God’s key purposes in doing these works is to put me to work myself.” Milton Vincent

Eph. 2:10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

don’t need to ask God for opportunities to do good – he’s already planned then, our job not to neglect/overlook them

what are they? glad you asked – Jesus talked about them, so did Paul and Peter

Matt. 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

actually pretty simple – what has God commanded? 2 commandments at most basic: love God, love neighbor

love God: no other gods, no idols, honor his name, honor his day; love neighbor: honor mom and dad, don’t murder, don’t cheat, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t covet.

and one more: love one another like Jesus did; then do it because you love God and want to please him

sure, gets complicated at times… life is messy; don’t want to give away all of next week but… look at v.20-21

what does it say God will do? “make you complete in every good work to do His will” “equip you with everything good that you may do his will”

don’t get distracted in making it complicated – keep focus on Jesus, expect he will supply all you need to do what he wants, then do it with what he supplies

and remember: “with such sacrifices God is well pleased”, especially when done in spirit of heartfelt generosity

C. sacrifice of obedience v.17

might expect writer to say “obey Jesus”, would fit well with rest of his points; instead… says different: “obey your leaders and yield to their authority”

first, who? have different leaders in various spheres of life; in view here: those who “keep watch over your souls”

before you get too defensive, notice those leaders are under authority – “will give an account for their work”

these leaders the ones Christ has given to equip his church for the work of ministry, to build up body (Eph. 4:11-12)

“be persuaded by”

be teachable and responsive – expect to hear the truth, receive it as coming from one who cares about your eternal welfare

once received, apply truth to own life, putting into practice – spiritual truth from leaders not intended to just stimulate mind

remember your destiny: Rom. 8:29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son”

preaching and teaching from God’s word accompanied by Holy Spirit intended by God as one of means to that end – conforming to Christ’s likeness

incentive: increasing Christ-likeness brings joy to your spiritual leaders; stagnating or worse, falling away, causes great grief – be kind to your leaders

D. sacrifice of prayer v.18-19

this one wraps up the other three: essential elements of prayer are praise and thanksgiving; prayer necessary to carrying out good works well; prayer essential to proper understanding of spiritual truth

three settings for prayer:

Matt. 14:23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone

Luke 11:1Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

Acts 1:14All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

private prayer – Jesus alone; instruction about prayer – Jesus teaching disciples; corporate prayer – the eleven plus

one more: Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Some of best works we can do: speak and act so as to encourage others to praise God – “let your light shine…” But for them to reallly glorify our Father, must first be on good speaking terms with him. Means they must hear Gospel truth first – when we regularly offer pleasing sacrifices to God, he will move. He will change us, he will equip us, he will empower us to speak his Word with boldness. Go, tell to all who will hear that a Savior has been born, Jesus, who will save his people from their sins.

Go to Christ

Hebrews 13:8-14

What passes for Christianity and the Christian church in much of our country is critically ill. Supreme Court decision, attempting to redefine marriage, helped make it obvious.

“homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere. That many Christians regard them as incompatible is understandable, an example not so much of hatred’s pull as of tradition’s sway. Beliefs ossified over centuries aren’t easily shaken. But in the end, the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It’s a choice. It prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since — as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing. It disregards the degree to which all writings reflect the biases and blind spots of their authors, cultures and eras. It ignores the extent to which interpretation is subjective, debatable.” Frank Bruni, NY Times, 04/03/15

Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, United Church of Christ have already expressed agreement, others on the way. In reality, position on homosexuality represents another symptom of foundational problem – inspiration and authority of the Bible. Is there a God? Has he spoken to us through his word the Bible? If so, better pay attention to what he’s said.

If everything to left of Hebrews 13 is God’s perfect revelation to us, then central character is Lord Jesus. Road to Emmaus, two disciples, Luke 24:27And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Jesus also the focus, Rev. 1:17-18 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”

A. who is the brightest? biggest? best? v.8

Jesus – brings light to all situations

“true light which gives light to every man” John 1:9

source of all light, from creation on, both natural and spiritual – a certain light, unwavering, revealed more fully from Protoevangelium onward through prophets, finally in Jesus

Jesus – bigger than any obstacle or opposition

the one who “fills all things” (Eph. 4:10)

when focus is on obstacle, tends to completely fill field of view and obscure all else… including greatness of God

truth remains: no matter how huge obstacle, how powerful opposition, Jesus is unchangeably immense – focus on Jesus puts all else into perspective

will always be true – nothing came before him, nothing will outlast him, he will never diminish or weaken

Jesus – first and best of beings

only one who remains same… eternally – “before Abraham was, I AM” John 8:58

supposedly, according to anthropologists, are in what is called postmodern period – in many ways just recycled skepticism

no metanarratives, no absolute truths, and list goes on – is a morally/intellectually bankrupt way of thinking… no answers

Jesus is one who shapes metanarrative, he is source of real truth in all its forms, he has answers to all of life’s questions

if church is to remain relevant, must stay rooted in God’s unchanging truth, Gospel’s unchanging message

what people choose to do with God’s truth another matter – our job to proclaim it clearly and winsomely

don’t need to defend it: would you defend a Lion? let Lion defend himself, Lion of tribe of Judah, born in city of David

when your world is upside down, need Someone to cling to, to depend on, who never changes

B. do you believe it? then… v.9

stay focused on truth

John 14:6 Jesus is the same, the way is the same, the truth is the same, the life is the same

no new ways to God, no alternative ways to God, no alternatives to God – one God, one way, one Savior

“looking unto Jesus” – only works when Jesus not a moving target

need to be looking to right Jesus, one plainly revealed in Bible, not some other version inventive men have devised

to follow exhortation requires Jesus to be either continuously communicating new information or… unchanging

otherwise, would be like playing game with child… who keeps changing rules – never know what next move should be

if it’s new and exciting… be skeptical… especially when related to what Bible teaches

Jer. 6:16Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls.”

to be convinced there is new way of understanding God’s truth means Christ’s church has been missing / lacking something essential for 2000 years

are we really more theologically astute than apostles? students of apostles? other gifted and godly believers? ask for old paths

don’t buy the lies… for example:

“as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing” – evolutionary framework

principles expressed in God’s word flow from God’s character and are timeless, unchanging… because He is

“all writings reflect the biases and blind spots of their authors, cultures and eras” – denial of inspiration

God the Holy Spirit has no bias or blind spots, made sure finished product has none – Bible says precisely what God intended

“interpretation is subjective, debatable” – truth is relative

any portion of God’s word has one and only one correct interpretation… many applications; our goal is to find right one

bottom line: if you are committed to living Christian life, Jesus and the grace he supplies are all you need

don’t forget how he supplies that grace: by his Spirit, accompanied by his Word, in the setting of his Church

C. what has he done? v.10-12

has accomplished our reconciliation to God – now a kingdom of priests

we have privileges OT saints did not – no one not a priest could enter the tent… either room; only high priest in Most Holy Place

true believers, one with Jesus by faith – access through Jesus to real Holy of Holies, God’s presence

has fulfilled all that OT sacrifice / rituals pointed to

Lev. 16:11, 15, 20-22, 27 bull for Aaron, goat for people, scapegoat to wilderness… yearly – all those satisfied by Jesus

Passover lamb – blood on lintel and doorpost, angel of death “passed over”: 1 Cor. 5:7 “indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”

has endured full penalty for sin, made full satisfaction

Heb. 7:26-27; 9:12 “he did this once for all”; “he entered once for all… by means of his own blood, …securing an eternal redemption”

perfect Lamb of God a suitable and final sacrifice… but had to be a real sacrifice, not just appearance of one

had to bear full load of sin, its curse, its penalty – didn’t just show us how to save ourselves, He accomplished our redemption

made obvious by manner and place of death: common criminal, most degrading manner of death, outside the city

D. how do you respond? v.13-14

seek Jesus – go to him

to benefit from God’s promise, must go… not to baby in manger, to Christ on cross; babe in manger necessary means to end, but most everyone can like him

Christ on cross – where we see reality of our sin, awfulness of its penalty, greatness of God’s love, most important: our utter inability

identify with Jesus – bear his reproach

Matt. 5:11-12“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

live and act and speak so that all around you will know there is a God and he has changed your life

follow Jesus – push toward the city to come

someone was once asked “what’s your favorite statement in Bible?” => “It came to pass”… didn’t come to stay

true about things of this world – we have no lasting city… here; do have one, in heaven, where Lord Jesus stands to greet us

all we do here should contribute to what awaits us there – lay up treasures in heaven, not Gorham Savings Bank, Wall Street

Where does it all end? Worship… in his presence. Is Lord Jesus, our Savior, Redeemer, brother and conquering King who makes heaven worthwhile and desirable. Sure, lots of other appealing things, but… all empty without Jesus.

NY Daily News, 12/03/15 front page, large bold lettering proclaimed: “God Isn’t Fixing This”, responding to murderous situation San Bernadino, CA. First line of cover story: “Prayers aren’t working.” In course of human history, God made first move to fix mankind’s sin problem when he chased down Adam, promised a Redeemer. Redeemer came, satisfied all conditions necessary for sinners to be reconciled to holy God. Next… and final Divine act: Jesus’ second advent, once and for all fix everything. As exciting and heart-warming as that hope is, there is awful truth associated with it: every single individual who rejects the Redeemer inescapably condemned to suffer penalty for own sin.

Steve Jobs, near death: “What is the most expensive bed in the world? – “Sick bed” … You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone to bear the sickness for you.”

when it’s fatal sickness of sin, yes, you can have “someone bear the sickness for you”

Don’t gloat, don’t feel superior – only by God’s grace you are one of his, not one of them. Pray for God’s enemies – would hear Gospel… and receive it, turn from sin, cling to Christ. Pray that they along with you would celebrate birth of Christ child, then worship King Jesus on his throne. “O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.”

Holy Friendships – Part 2

Hebrews 13:1-7

True story:

This past week, I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13. It appears that this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love! In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.

I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen. That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience! An altar call is supposed to make you feel bad! It is supposed to make you feel guilty! The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness. The primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith is your confession, not your self-actualization!” Dr. Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University

Last week: If we love God, worship God as he deserves, are looking to Jesus as the goal, then we will – love others, love spouse.

will love Christian brothers and sisters; will love strangers and cultivate attitude of hospitality; will love those who are suffering and in prison

will honor marriage, love the complement God has given – will demonstrate that honor and commitment in all areas of life: before children, co-workers, neighbors

This week, finish section: love God not stuff, love godly teachers. Be prepared, you will not be “coddled in your selfishness”!

C. love God, not stuff v.5-6

pursue Jesus in your vocation, not stuff (including money)

pursue stuff, you lose; pursue Jesus, trust him for the stuff, you win

world says measure of person determined by: appearance, acquaintances, achievements, accolades, acquisitions

Jesus said: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”Luke 12:15

certainly applies but not limited to material wealth, goods

wealth can be gained and lost…. repeatedly; ask the Donald about that! same true for what wealth can acquire/achieve

what about position – business, government, community; power – to make decisions, to influence: as a goal, just as elusive as wealth

none of those things bad in themselves – wealth, possessions, position, power; even things world says of most importance not necessarily bad

question is: where does all that fit in your life, priorities, pursuits? are they your goals… or God’s gifts to you?

some questions to ask self as you consider what God has entrusted to your stewardship:

how can I best use these resources to bring glory to God? to build up godly character in brothers & sisters? to lead other people to Jesus? to enable Christ’s church to grow in size and strength?

may mean you work diligently, earn lots of money to buy Bibles, support church planter, give to missions; may mean you give away what you already have that goes beyond your need

if Jesus had loved his stuff most of all, would never have left heaven; I know, not possible, but… work with me

imagine Light of the World – lived in the dark for 9 months; Ruler of the World – taking orders from mom and dad; Maker of the worlds – not even place to lay his head

John 4:31-34the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?”Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”

pursuing what would please the Father more important / rewarding to Jesus than food and sleep

loving Jesus more than things requires making difficult choices – when world or circumstances force choice between loyalty to Jesus, retaining things we might think are important

do what is right, pleasing to God => risk material security?

contentment something that must be cultivated

“always had plenty to eat growing up – ask for seconds, Dad would say “you’ve had plenty, now be quiet”” Coach Lou Holtz, Notre Dame

do you love and trust God, your Heavenly Father that much? that God knows how much is enough for you?

here’s low-down on discontent: expression of pride that says “I know what I really need better than God does, I can provide for my own needs better than God can”

if He’s always with you, He knows precise need

God doesn’t miss details, not unaware of circumstances, ignorant of individual limitations and needs

so if God knows need, has resources to meet need, really comes down to trust… in God’s goodness

why is church-at-large in USA in such pitiful shape? too much stuff, life is too easy, aren’t required to trust God

most evil of men powerless to take away anything of eternal value, anything God your good Father says you need

loss is hard, some losses more so than others; human agents can only take away things that relate to this life, only as God permits

if are pursuing holy friendships, most important one is friendship with God: Abraham “was called the friend of God” Jas. 2:23

will be true of us when greatest treasure is Jesus, when Jesus is one we are pursuing, when Jesus satisfies our desires – after all, Jesus Is the Best

D. love your teachers v.7

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” ESV

how do you best learn to love others? spouse? God, not stuff? to cultivate contentment? to have all desires satisfied by Jesus?

1 more question: Jesus’ last instructon? “Go and make disciples, …teaching …and baptizing them”

most effective teaching involves multiple pathways for concepts/information to flow: hear it, see it, do it

“those who spoke”, you heard it; “their way of life”, you saw it; “imitate their faith”, you do it, cycle repeats

remember them

reminiscing is good, especially when purposeful: reminisce in order to consider and then imitate

call to mind one or ones who introduced you to Jesus, those who have come along since, built on their foundation

maybe was parents, should certainly include spiritual leaders – pastors, Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders

think about, recall to mind what they said, those eternal truths they communicated from God’s word

consider their example

audio / video / books are helpful but only one piece of picture – to get really cemented in there, need living example

is seeing theology lived out in all messiness of life that makes it real, demonstrates God’s purpose in giving it

can’t always remember all the words, do remember other things

American, heard much of Robert MacCheyne, anxious to find some one who could give him personal reminiscences. went to see old man who had known MacCheyne and his preaching. “Can you tell me some of the texts of MacCheyne’s great sermons?” “I don’t remember them,” “Then can you tell me some of his best sayings?” “I’ve forgotten them entirely,” was the reply. “Well, don’t you remember anything about him at all?”

“Ah,” replied the old man, brightening, “that is a different question! One day when I was a laddie playing by the roadside, Robert MacCheyne came along and, laying his hand upon my head, said, ‘Jamie, I’ve been to see your poor sick sister. I’m always glad to see her and help her as I can.’ Then he paused and after looking a bit into my eyes added: ‘And, Jamie, I’m very much concerned about your own soul.’ I’ve forgotten his texts and grand sermons, sir, but I can still feel the tremble of his hand and see the tear in his eye.”

culminates in seeing how their faith guides to right goal – “consider the outcome of their way of life”

many opportunities to see how foolish choices made earlier in life lead to sad ending; believer who has genuine saving faith can have good ending in spite of poor beginning – thank God for power of Gospel!!

consider those who end well, remember what they said / how they lived, then imitate their faith

imitate their faith

genuine faith shows its presence throughout life, especially when getting close to finish line

important note: says “imitate their faith” not “imitate their life” – life is the result, faith is the root: belief governs behavior

good, godly leaders be quick to say: “I blew it, don’t copy that part of my life”; that, too, is evidence of right faith

is those same saints of past who poured Gospel truth into your life who are lining sides of race course to heaven

imitate what they did well as they lived out their faith, imitate their faith in Lord Jesus, with God’s help stay focused on Jesus

it’s all about finishing well

each one of these holy friendships has its place in Christian’s life of faith – your own and that of others

just as you have those who bless you and invest in you and leave example for you, God gives you opportunities to do same for others

Lord Jesus came “to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus showed us how to live dependently on God 24/7; gave us task of proclaiming truth to others – telling and showing them who will set them free and give them sight. Not a message or task limited to Advent season – in fact, no off-season for sharing Gospel with others, living in light of Gospel in sight of others. By God’s grace, in his strength may we do just that – continuing to cultivate holy friendships and point others to Jesus.

 

Holy Friendships – Part 1

Hebrews 13:1-7

“He/she so heavenly minded no earthly good!” Lose some of force present in live delivery of sermon in its entirety. Started at beginning in first verse, gradually building, lifting sights of hearers to heaven and worship in presence of God and angels. Wow! What can possibly be left here? Where’s the bus for heaven? Could easily become totally consumed with heaven and all its glories. But wait, God expects us to be some earthly good – “Let brotherly love continue.” If much of focus / emphasis chapters 1-12 on relationship with God, love for God, chapter 13 shifts focus to 2nd command – love for others.

Yes, complete perfect union with Christ in heaven our ultimate goal. However… God hasn’t given up on this earth yet, neither must we. More particularly, God through inspired writer draws attention to people… relationships… what has significance now and in heaven.

“The world,” said Alexander MacLaren, “takes its notion of God most of all from those who say they belong to God’s family. They read us a great deal more than they read the Bible. They see us; they only hear about Jesus Christ.”

Remember what Jesus said: John 13:35“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” So… if we are to portray accurate image of God, verify to others that we are Jesus’ disciples, must pursue holy friendships. Not sure if is result of way nation came into being – war with brothers – followed by several more, then war on terror. Result: war talk all around, goes beyond just talk… influences actions also… and among Christians. Too many wear label of Christian, act like trying to pick a fight. Not what Jesus had in mind, even toward enemies.

If we love God, worship God as he deserves, are looking to Jesus as the goal, then we will – love others, love spouse, don’t love stuff, love godly teachers. Each one worthy of at least one sermon <wink>!

A. love others v.1-3

brothers and sisters (1)

you know what it is, don’t need another dissertation – have Jesus words, Jesus’ example, Jesus commands

4x, last night: “love one another”, twice added “as I have loved you” – love is foundation and fountain of all duties (Owen)

brotherly love must be cultivated – especially with those difficult to love (yeah, even Christians!)

has already begun, let it continue – feed it, water it, weed it, whatever it takes to be strong and healthy

don’t take it for granted… quickly leads to taking brothers and sisters for granted

don’t neglect someone because don’t know them, sit on opposite sides of church, don’t think you have much in common – seriously? have Jesus in common, what more do you want or need?

what does it look like? in a word, Jesus: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you”

in relationship with others, think about what is best for them, do it – what you are going to say or do, will it meet their need

what you are going to say or do, will it move them closer to Jesus? will it encourage a Christ-like response in them? will it stir them up to do what is good for them?

love for brethren “according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” Eph. 4:16

edify – encourage growth of Christian character; happens best within relationships, knowledge of one another

iow… serving, not being served; putting needs of others before our own; sacrificing/denying self and following Jesus

so… who is my brother and sister? who is it we’re supposed to love?

just those present now? those formally recognized as members of this local church? only Baptists? our kind of Baptists?

let’s make it simple: do you love Jesus and keep his commands? do they? then… love ’em!

strangers (2)

be hospitable on purpose, to one another, but especially to strangers – φιλοξενια (v.2) vs. φιλαδελφια (v.1)

somewhat different culture here / now than 1st century, then travel was risky business; Christian hospitality a great blessing

hospitality starts with mindset, beginning even before child can walk – quickness to share resources with others

those not in habit of being hospitable don’t suddenly get that way when strangers need a place

may require extra creativity to find opportunities – consider: Bible college in SoPo, college campus between here and village

must be a few opportunities for hospitality to brother or sister far from home, needing encouragement

take it up a notch or two – how about hosting exchange student, short or long term foster care, endless possibilities

sufferers (3)

not so much of an issue here…yet, as in 1st century – suffering for cause of Christ, but is probably coming

does happen, though – lose job because of choices about work sched; lose opportunities because of Christian witness

are countless numbers of brothers and sisters around the world imprisoned because of their faith; countless more suffering

must be mindful of them, those who love them – pray first, then tangible help when means is available

are others closer by: ones incarcerated who have come to faith, need encouragement; Christian refugees escaped from suffering, come to our cities and towns

Matt. 25:34-36Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'”

B. love your spouse v.4

marriage is honorable

commended by Jesus

“DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is beteen Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul.”

even when marital partner behaves dishonorably

is not performance of individuals that gives it honor – if so, union between Christ and church could not be honorably compared to marriage

responsibility to behave honorably whether you feel like it or not

husbands, are you treating your wife, miserable as she may be, as Christ loves the church?

wives, are you following the leadership, honoring your husband, even when he blows it?

are you both seeking godly counsel when needed, encouraging struggling brothers and sisters?

do you think and act honorably toward spouse if marriage is of necessity dissolved

and when God has not granted gift of marriage

if clear that singleness is your lot, keep proper attitude toward both being single and being married

believer has duty to keep proper perspective on marriage regardless of what world says

marriage is to be honored

true whether past, present or future

formerly married, not any more, keep it right; presently married, do it right; hopeful to be married, plan for it right

part of doing it right is proper modeling for others, including children and young people – will be hard for them to honor what they do not perceive as honorable

we don’t get to make up rules for marriage: Matt. 19:4-5

“He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’?”

significant reason why alternative definitions gain traction easily – shabby condition of too many marriages, lack of esteem in which marriage is held

the Creator instituted marriage as final act of creation before sanctifying the seventh day – only thing that ranked higher than marriage was worship!

don’t forget what Jesus said about faithfulness

Matt. 5:28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

applies to both genders, regardless of marital status – damaging to self, dishonoring to other person to think or act lustfully

remember, too, could be someone else’s husband or wife (present or future) you are dishonoring

biblical (not traditional) marriage to be the setting of mankind’s greatest earthly joy

the ultimate for the believer is union with Christ; marriage is picture of Christ’s relationship with the church – husbands love your wives…; if greatest joy is found in union with Christ, marriage ought to model that

truth is: those who try to find that joy apart any other way than how God has established will come up empty

living together, homosexual relationships, multiple partners, none will provide fullfilling joy

Holy friendships that honor both God and others take work, commitment, most of all… total dependence on God and grace and strength he supplies. It’s 100% our effort and responsibility and 100% God’s provision and enabling that together result in God-honoring friendships. No greater joy to be found apart from fully committed service to Christ, determination to draw closer to him moment by moment.

True Worship – A Taste of Heaven

Hebrews 12:18-29

“Our inherited, work-valued social and economic systems have conditioned us to worship our work, to work at our play and to play at our worship.” Gordon Dahl, (1972). Work, Play, and Worship In A Leisure Oriented Society

That was forty years ago!! Now we play at our work, worship our play, work as little as possible. Worship as we know it, as God’s word describes it is endangered species. While back, church growth movement, catch-phrase: seeker sensitive. We should have desire to see lost come to Christ. Must do our part so as not to offend needlessly. Is one Seeker am most concerned about. Remember what Jesus told Samaritan woman:

John 4:23-24“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

If our following Jesus and seeking the lost is to have God’s blessing, must first be doing our part to please Seeker by our worship. The Father is seeking true worshipers, those who worship in spirit and truth. No longer come to Sinai and all it represents for our worship; instead come to Zion. Old church met by Sinai, new church by Zion; is same voice who speaks, worshipers have same need too! Is powerful portion of God’s word – contrasts and parallels. Keep in mind theme of Hebrews: Jesus is the Best. Implies other lesser things have their usefulness, yet Jesus exceeds them all.

A. old church v.18-21

Sinai, synonymous with old covenant, place of shadows – things that represented other things, not reality themselves

(1.) The mountain that may be touched – was much room for faith in old covenant, much more that could be seen and felt

touching had consequences (v.20); remember Uzzah, touched ark of covenant and forfeited his life

God takes worship seriously – is God who sets conditions, not man – we approach God our way at our peril

(2.) The fire that burned – no way now to know exactly what was like… was visible evidence God was present

was fire that terrified people most: Deut. 5:24-26 – were convinced only miracle would save from being consumed

brightness of the fire enough to show them blackness of their sin, rebellion against God

(3.) Blackness – fire did not dispel blackness, only enhanced it and made more obvious

was clear to observers that fire was supernatural, manifestation of God’s glory in contrast to man’s sinfulness

(4.) Darkness – if all one has is the Law, honest person is left in hopeless gloom, terrified of God’s holiness and judgment

intended by God to portray hopeless situation – no one should be able to find hope in the Law, trying to keep it in order to be saved

(5.) Tempest – thunder, lightning, earthquake accompanying God’s presence on the mountain… adding to man’s terror

Sarah – watching thunderstorm… from shelter of house! no shelter at Sinai, nowhere to hide, not even in blackness

(6.) The sound of the trumpet – announcing and summoning

announcing approach of King and Judge, summoning all within earshot to appear; hints of future trumpet(s)

(7.) The voice of words – sure, God uses pictures… with words so no misunderstanding

picture may be worth 1000 words, can also have 1000 interpretations; God spoke with words, plainly

terrifying experience for all, including Moses – two responses: majority of people… make it stop; Moses… show me more

Mt. Saint Helens – May 18, 1980 – all evidence indicated eruption; warnings by every available means, intended to move people away from harm; everyone left except 84 year old Harry, caretaker of recreation lodge for half century – “Nobody knows more about this mountain than Harry and it don’t dare blow up on him…” 50-foot high wall mud and ash buried entire area

same true of family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – different responses to God’s warnings about sin

some, like at Sinai: “make it stop”; more brazen majority: “it don’t dare blow up on me; a few: “show me more”

story doesn’t end at Sinai! continues on to another mount, Calvary – only those who leave burden of sin at Calvary allowed entrance into Zion

B. new church v.22-24

Zion – is an earthly one, obviously a heavenly one too; here focus on spiritual realities, ones we come to by faith not sight

(1.) city of living God – place of God’s presence, where he rules; city with foundations…, where God dwells with his people

God revealed in his glory in heaven, dwelling there with saints and angels; also by his Spirit dwells in you and me

(2.) heavenly Jerusalem – center of government, center of worship, place of blessing and rejoicing, citizenship of all God’s people

nerve center of Christ’s kingdom, invulnerable to assaults of world and Satan; where primary patriotic loyalty should be

(3.) company of angels – no longer guarding access to tree of life; instead, welcoming the redeemed home

we are honored family members served by angels who celebrate Jesus and victory over his enemies

(4.) church of the firstborn – one with Christ by faith, sharing in privileges reserved for the true Son

joint-heirs with Jesus who is heir of all things; assembly in which all are firstborn – no second-class citizens, no cousins…only siblings

(5.) God the Judge – is that encouraging? remember, this is Zion not Sinai – are coming as “firstborn”

this Judge is omni…(3x), can be counted on to set record straight – right every wrong, vindicate the righteous

(6.) spirits of just men – not “life stinks, you die”; is another life, some have already arrived

notice: “spirits of just men”, not “spirits of perfect men” – perfection, completion reward of heaven not a condition

(7.) Jesus the Mediator – here’s root cause of difference between Sinai and Zion: the Mediator, Jesus the Best

Jesus the one who guarantees our citizenship in heavenly Jerusalem, entrance into church of firstborn, acceptance before God the Judge, the perfection of our souls

(8.) blood of sprinkling – not a Sinai kind of sacrifice, instead absolutely one-of-a-kind: Mediator brought his own blood

is blood of the new covenant, reality seen by faith – we come to Jesus, real man, real experience, real suffering and sacrifice, we relate / he relates

Jesus the focal point of our worship, the goal at the end of the race; heaven not the goal, Jesus is… didn’t begin chapter with “looking unto heaven”

C. same voice v.25-27

him who speaks from heaven – if God speaking Law brought accountability, so much more God speaking Gospel

Gospel not only for unsaved, is for all of us, and is same God who speaks both

Law articulates standard for righteousness, Gospel tells us standard was met in Jesus

Law estranges us from God, Gospel reconciles us, promises forgiveness upon repentance

same God whose voice shook Sinai will shake all things when he returns

if we are not to be shaken then, must listen now – following his voice, depending on strength he supplies

don’t need to be able to see God, tangibly sense his presence for him to have authority — Ruthie, Samuel, jumping, Skype

speaks through his Word, by his Spirit, through his servants whom he has given to his church… is God who speaks

matters not how God speaks, has same weight of authority, has said he’ll be back suddenly and w/o warning

means the stakes are eternal: life uncertain, Bible is clear what comes after – must make most of present, living life for all it’s worth while investing in eternity

D. same need v.28-29

grace to worship acceptably – our God is an awesome God, deserves our reverent worship and godly fear

won’t get past fear without grace; our best attempts at reverent worship only acceptable because of grace

should come to worship expecting God to be present and to bless; what about primary motive??

love God, thank God, acknowledge dependence on God – Lord’s Prayer, e.g.

more we understand our need, God’s provision and further blessing, greater our desire to worship and serve him well

even more basic: grace to worship comes after saving grace – only redeemed sinners are qualified to serve

in your zeal to see unsaved trust Christ for salvation, don’t rush by Mount Sinai – Sinai explains need for Calvary; is only by way of Calvary we come to Zion.

True worship here on earth as wonderful, moving, great blessing as it is… only a taste. We’re not babies, have graduated beyond sippy cups. Disciple of Jesus cannot be satisfied with sips, just a taste. God graciously does give us tastes of heaven; tastes must fuel craving for the real thing.

Desire for tastes of heaven, craving for the real thing must be obvious Monday through Saturday as well as Sunday. How are you spending time and treasure? on what is limited to this life? or what you can take with you? Are you laboring to enlist fellow-travelers? living in such a way they want to go with you?

If you filled out time sheet – what you did, how much time – for what you’ve done past week, would God approve? Would God sign off on credit card statement? checkbook register? If you understand awfulness of sin & greatness of need from Sinai, God’s glorious provision at Calvary, wonders of heavenly Jerusalem that await us – should define how you worship, how you live each moment of every day.

Pursue Peace and Holiness

Hebrews 12:14-17

Way of thinking that presently galloping through our towns and cities – sense of entitlement. Two factors at work – people who want something for nothing, politicians and others willing to devote steadily increasing share of resources. Right up front: are those who have genuine need, unable to address that need. Have a duty to help, both within church family, also public sphere. Not what I’m talking about. Have in view those who have particular need, simply expect that of course they are going to meet it.

Classic example: pictures plastered throughout media following Hurricane Katrina – homes flooded, all junk from storm left behind, yard filled with debris, homeowner sitting in lawn chair on sidewalk.. waiting for and expecting some kind of handout. Getting angry when handout didn’t appear! That kind of thinking not what motivated vast majority of early settlers and developers of nation. Wasn’t a mindset that would build a nation, not the way of thinking pleasing to God, either. If read through Proverbs each month, chapter a day, next time pay attention and write down how many proverbs commend entitlement mindset!

Now here’s really serious part: people in the church think that way… toward God! Think because part of a church, claim faith in Christ, God then is obligated, they are entitled to certain things. Supposed to work this way: professed faith in Christ, now live life pretty much just doing whatever comes next; if God wants me to be any different, well he can just change me. After all, it’s God’s job to change us. If he wants us to live at peace, God needs to change the other guy. If God wants us to be more holy, his job to change us and maybe our circumstances as well.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

My job to live life, enjoy liberty, pursue happiness; rest is up to God and I’m expecting him to do it. After all, if I’m his kid, I’m entitled! Right?? Remember God’s goal in our discipline: back up to v.10 “that we may be partakers of His holiness”. God doesn’t just hand holiness to us – the holiness God demands must be pursued, chased down. Same true of peace, given we live in broken world.

“I am dwelling in a generation to whom nothing is holy. Sacredness is an aspect people never assume toward anything. They revel in bald frankness which enervates [severely weakens] moral consciousness. I feel it affecting me. Oh, to be holy! Just to sense for a moment that I have somehow, however small, simulated some measure of Thy character, Lord Jesus. A word from Horatius Bonar spoke to me tonight. ‘Holiness is not austerity or gloom; it is the offspring of conscious, present Peace.'” The Journals of Jim Elliot, ca. 1950

65 years later, have strayed even further – things held sacred that never should be, label used so much has almost lost all meaning, have written off Creator as non-existent and worship creation instead. Even more essential that we, God’s people, pursue true and lasting peace and genuine holiness that accompanies it. Pursuit pleasing to God requires we love neighbor, love one another, keep looking up.

A. pursue peace and holiness v.14

not peace at any cost – seen that attempted with dire consequences – Robert and the Dentist

pursue peace with those around you while maintaining holiness before God – do not compromise allegiance to Christ for sake of peace

purpose of pursuing peace not so they like you, so you have less drama; is so God’s peace will flow through you to them

if are angry with world in general, neighbor in particular, how can possibly convince of God’s love and peace?

same true of holiness – if for sake of peace have compromised holiness, how can possibly convince he needs to change?

both horizontal and vertical relationships

who is best example? Jesus is the Best – the one to whom we should be looking (v.2) – he kept right relationship with men and God

gentle when could be: Samaritan, adulterous woman, Peter on the water, Thomas; tough when required: Peter (get behind me, Satan), Pharisees

all the while living pleasing to God, staying in close fellowship and communion / communication with Father

need all of that both outside the church, everyday life, and in relationships with church family, all while living coram Deo

requires expending real energy

are well into hunting season, may be preferred method to find tree stand, sit until Bambi’s grampa shows up. Ok so long as you don’t depend on hunting success for next meal.

idea here is – chasing with intent to get it, not giving up until is in possession; don’t forget – are pursuing holiness, not happiness

is important: pursue happiness, will never achieve it; pursue holiness, can achieve it in growing measure each day and happiness / joy / contentment will be yours along with holiness

is not pursuing holiness in order to be saved, is pursuing holiness to show you are saved, to show love for one who saved you

heard on the radio ;-) wrjFor a follower of Christ to be holy means they are devoted completely and irrevocably to God and his use.”

pursuit absolutely fruitless if Jesus not who is in your sights, the one you are trying to be like, the one you are depending on absolutely to make you like him

B. love your neighbor v.15a

prayer request last week for unsaved loved ones – that’s good; what else can / should we be doing to show love for neighbors

our goal in all we do with regard to neighbors should ultimately have good of their soul in view, they need to know our goal

not talking about those who receive God’s grace then fall from it; it’s those who fall short, never receive saving grace even though might appear otherwise

same language used here as in Rom. 3:23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – inspecting, observing them so we don’t make wrong assumptions

love them enough to challenge their assumptions, either in conversation… or with some kind of handout: Gospel based literature, DVD, invitation to service or event

our pursuit of peace / holiness far easier and more enjoyable if bring neighbors along – keep praying for unsaved loved ones, friends, neighbors… and make sure Christ and his truth present in conversation

Rom 10:14-15, 17 “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?And how shall they preach unless they are sent?So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

C. love one another v.15b-16

bear one another’s burdens, prevent bitterness that comes from discouragement / despair

attitudes can be highly contagious – work in shop/office, word starts going around: business slowing down, what happens?

more rumors, morale takes hit, management doesn’t nip it in bud, goes from bad to worse in short order; longer is left to fester, more it grows and spreads

fact is: Christians not immune to such, personally or collectively; can happen in individual, family, even church family – the many are important, so is the one

love for one another includes having good of their soul in view, just like for neighbor; expression making rounds that really fits: “I’ve got your back”

When someone has your back, they are there to support you unconditionally. When life seems to blindside you with undesirable events, they’re there for you without complaint, supporting you in your moment of need, not for their own selfish, self gratifying reasons, but because your well being to them is foremost in their mind and heart.” Urban Dictionary

involved enough in other’s life to know their needs – purpose in having their back to prevent discouragement leading to bitterness, ensure progress toward greater holiness / Christ-likeness

watch for warning signs, love ’em enough to speak up when trend is toward things that are unholy

is there less God-talk in conversation? spending less time with Christian brothers/sisters? excuses coming more easily?

immorality, need for instant gratification not something that usually happens out of the blue – things lead to things

D. keep looking up v.17

don’t settle for world’s promises, temporal pleasures – not taken in by horizontal, see with physical eyes… strive toward goal seen with eyes of faith, keeping focus on Jesus… by faith

keep going back to context: Heb 12:1-2Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

keep in mind those who have gone before, are cheering us on, desiring to see their investment in us bear good fruit

keep in view the best example and encourager – the Lord Jesus, the one we have committed to follow, on whose help are totally dependent

Pursuing peace and holiness something believers must do individually – reading/studying/meditating on God’s Word, fellowship with other believers, means of grace, witnessing and living godly peacable lives. Also something must do as family… church family. Mark of healthy church: spiritual growth evidenced by increasing holiness. Do you desire a healthy church? Do your part to pursue peace and holiness personally, do your part to encourage brothers and sisters in same pursuit so we all grow more like Jesus.