Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hebrews 13:1-6 – How to live your lives in Christ!

Hebrews 13:1-6 – How to live your lives in Christ!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 27, 2013 AM

If you only had a few days to live or if you knew, you may not see certain people you cared about ever again, what advice would you leave them? In Douglas Adams’ book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” all the dolphins and whales leave earth right before it is destroyed to make room for an intergalactic interchange and off ramp. Their final message is, “So long and thanks for all the fish!” Not to worry, earth is later rebuilt by the dolphins in their Save the Humans campaign. As silly as this is, what message would you leave? Perhaps you might share how those you leave behind should live their lives in Christ.

The author of Hebrews is closing his sermon to his fellow Jewish believers. He is concerned for their future and rightly so. He had spoken to them in general terms before but now he gets down to the nitty-gritty and very specific moral obligations they are to be mindful of doing. It seems as if he feels his time is limited and he has to get in as much advice as he possibly can in a short while. He desperately wants to warn them in how to live their lives in Christ. Let’s discover what he says…

READ: Hebrews 213:1-6

We can forget that we have obligations in our relationship with the Lord. We discover that there is a reason the Lord reminds us that “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15 NIV) The author of Hebrews understood this and this is why he writes a set of…

I. Moral obligations in living for the Lord! (Vv. 1-4)

  1. When Jesus told his disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV) he was referring to the godly union all Christians are to share with one another and not the world in general. I know this to be true because Jesus continued by stating, “By this all men will know that YOU are MY disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35 NIV) The author of Hebrews echoes the same message and tells them to, “Keep on loving each other as brothers.” No matter what occurred this moral obligation was to continue between believers. How sad in our day when fellow Christians do not treat each other as instructed. Christians are commanded to “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” and to therefore “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13 NIV) However, few do! And, just as Abraham did, we are not to “forget to entertain strangers.” He knew that “by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it!” I believe this means fellow believers as well as heavenly heralds. We are God’s messengers and we often forget to encourage and help one another! We are also encouraged to “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” The idea here concerns those who have been bound up and imprisoned by war, drugs, alcohol, addictions, slavery, crimes, or religious persecutions. The word used includes spiritual or physical bonds, shackles, and chains. So it includes those caught in sin’s bondage. Jesus proclaimed, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” However, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34, 36 NIV) Jesus came “to preach good news to the poor.” He was sent “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV) Lastly, Hebrews turns to the core of a godly society. He relates, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” The wording for “sexually immoral” is pornos, where we get pornography. Christians are not to be sucked into the ungodliness of the world’s standard of what constitutes love. Paul warned, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders.” (1 Corinthians 6:9 NIV) Emotional love is not the basis for marriage, God’s standard is and it is therefore between one man and one woman. This is why Paul warned, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way, the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” (Romans 1:26-27 NIV) These are our moral obligations in living for the Lord!

  EXAMPLE: Do you have a standard in life? A godly flag you have raised or a moral compass line that you will not cross no matter how you feel, what occurs, or how others feel about you? Or do the words “I deserve this,” “I want this,” “I need this,” or “I feel this” creep into your vocabulary more often than not. Do you value what the world thinks about you more than what the One who suffered and died for you does? How can we be the salt and light or the leaven in an ungodly world when we cannot be distinguished from the world and its momentary feel good philosophies? The author of Hebrews wanted to leave some lasting advice for his listeners. Are you listening to what he taught concerning our moral obligations in living for the Lord?

We can easily forget that there are specific actions that are required on our part in order to maintain our relationship with Christ. There is a reason why Jesus told his disciples, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Luke 16:13 NIV) Therefore, Hebrews teaches it is important in…

II. Knowing one’s priority in living for the Lord! (Vv. 5-6)

  1. One would think that this should be included in the above list of moral obligations, and possibly, it could. However, we discover that God saw personal stewardship as an important priority in one’s life. In fact, God sees it as a matter of one’s continued worship of Him! This is why the Psalmist reminded us, “For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones.” (Psalm 37:28 NIV) Faithfulness for God is a matter of personal stewardship of one’s time, talent, and treasure. How we spend our money, how we spend our time, and how we use our talents, says a lot about what we truly believe about God or not. This is why the author of Hebrews tells his listeners, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” There is a reason. In Malachi the Israelites were told by God, “Return to me, and I will return to you, but you ask, ‘How are we to return?’” And he gives them the answer, “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” (Malachi 3:10 NIV) God equated their faulty stewardship with “robbing” Him personally! Proverbs 3:9 reminds us to “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all” that we have! God deserts those who have left him, not that he actually spiritually does but that he cannot and will not work in the life of someone who is not totally committed to Him in all things, including their giving! I am not talking about personal perfection; it is a matter of personal priority! In our needs driven world we have forgotten that “godliness with contentment is great gain,” why, because “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” In fact, “if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8 NIV) Paul “learned to be content whatever the circumstances”! (Philippians 4:11 NIV) When we have our priorities right, we can “say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” When one’s priorities in life are correct, they have nothing to fear. We can declare with the Psalmist, “Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalms 124:8 NIV) It is a matter of knowing one’s priorities in living for the Lord!

  EXAMPLE: What we often fail to realize is that when we do not give to the Lord the best of our time, talents, and treasure He views it as idolatry. We are tacitly telling the Lord, “I do not have time for you, but I have time for me.” We are telling Him that, “My talents are my own and I am not obligated to you for anything you have given me.” In fact, we are being greedy with what God has provided when we do not tithe, as we should. We are bluntly spitting on Him and declaring to the world, “I owe nothing to God!” when in fact, we owe Him everything! When we give God our leftovers, He is angered by it. Remember Malachi, God told him, “And you say, ‘what a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously, when you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?’” Of course the answer was “NO.” in fact, we learn that “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord.” (Malachi 1:13-14 NIV) We are cursed cheats when our stewardship in life is skewed. This is why Hebrews reminds us, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” It’s a matter of knowing one’s priority in living for the Lord!

Conclusion:
We have learned about our 1) Moral obligations in living for the Lord! And 2) Knowing one’s priority in living for the Lord!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hebrews 12:18-29 – Shaken, not deterred!

Hebrews 12:18-29 – Shaken, not deterred!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 20, 2013 AM

There is the line from the older James Bond movies where he ordered his martinis to be “shaken and not stirred.” Bond supposedly wanted his drink well mixed and chilled with crushed ice. Though you will rarely see a vodka martini mentioned in a peer-reviewed paper, the scientific principles that go into creating the favorite drink of Ian Fleming's James Bond are more sophisticated, perhaps more than his imaginary gadgets. It is a matter of chemistry. Twenty shakes, makes any drink as cold as it is going to get. How in the world would this apply to what I am going to teach today?

We as believers in Christ should display the same cool character while under fire in life as James Bond did when confronted with an evil adversary. The author of Hebrews describes how the Hebrews had been shaken and terrified when Moses went up on the mountain to receive the commands of God. God has replaced that fear and the commands with a new covenant that is better and far less fearful. While God is a consuming fire for those who do not come to Him by faith, for those of us who have we may be shaken, not deterred! Let’s find out why…

READ: Hebrews 12:18-29

It seems that for the first four years of some children’s lives, you have to rule by “holy” fear. We called it “the wrath of mom”. My mom warned, “If you make my life miserable now, you will not like what happens to yours later…” We knew if we did not follow the rules of mom, we would suffer the consequences. You know, in some ways, that’s what the Old Covenant was. Hebrews teaches that…

I. The Old Covenant brought fear! (Vv. 18-21)

  1. Vividly, the writer pictured the situation on Mount Sinai where the Old Covenant was given and its awesome and fearful nature was described. The Israelites were fearful of the mountain Moses climbed to receive the commands of God, and rightly so. No one else was welcome but him. Surely, death awaited anyone or anything that dared even touch the mountain of God without permission. They were warned, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.” The apostle’s desire was to show that the dispensation of the law engendered terror, not comfort. He tells them, “You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them!” Therefore to come before the mountain of God was truly a most awful and restricted experience. The mountain pathway belonged only to the Hebrew people and that, even to them, was so terrible that they could not endure it! Exodus relates, “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’” (Exodus 20:18-19 NIV) God would not communicate with them in person, but only by the ministry of Moses and even to Moses, who held the highest intimacy with Yahweh, His revealed glories, the burning fire, the blackness, the darkness, the tempest, the loud-sounding trumpet, and the voice of words, were so terrible that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear!” That’s what the Old Covenant did; it brought fear.

  EXAMPLE: Now do not get me wrong, fear if properly applied can bring about some good results. The longest walk home for me was after I had gotten myself in trouble at school and then I had to go home. I knew with every step it brought me closer to my doom. My third-grade teacher used to leave herself wide open for verbal comebacks. And after one particular sunny day where everyone would have rather been outside playing than inside reading history, she told us, “Turn into your textbooks…” That’s all it took. I could not stop the words from coming out of my mouth. I retorted to the girl beside me, “Poof! I’m a textbook!” She giggled and the whole class erupted into laughter. I was sent to the Principal’s Office. I learned there was a time and a place for such humor. Later, I had to face the fear of explaining to my dad why I was punished at school. While I knew my parent’s loved me, I also lived in fear of punishment because of my behavior. That’s what the Old Covenant did; it brought fear.

As I headed home I knew my only hope was to throw myself on the “mercy of the court,” so-to-speak. And as we read the Book of Hebrews, we discover that this is what he is trying to convey to his listeners as well. While the Old Covenant often brought fear…

II. The New Covenant brings mercy! (Vv. 22-24)

  1. The good news is that believers in Christ “have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God!” It is so wonderful that we are in the presence of God’s own messengers, “thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly!” What a contrast between the burning fire, darkness, gloom and storm of the mountain! The disparity of Mt. Sinai in the wilderness and Mt. Zion where the temple was built is startling. One was a legal dark and gloomy place where God gave out commands, while the other is a place of hope, rejoicing, and the gracious presence of the Living God! It is described as “the church of the firstborn” where the “names are written in heaven” of those who trust Jesus! It’s the church of the disciples, apostles, Hebrew and gentile. It is made up of all who have given themselves to the Lord! We are the first born, the reborn, those who died to self and live for Christ! While the believer’s name will be written in heaven, however, “Those who turn away from (God) will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.” (Jeremiah 17:13 NIV) Hebrews writes, “You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” We will be with God the Creator, Jesus the Mediator, and our fellow benefactors of His selfless sacrifice! This is no mere man like Moses, this is no mere mountain like Sinai, and this is a whole new relationship and not a set of commands! It is not based on God’s vengeance but rather His mercy. That’s what the New Covenant does; it brings mercy!

  EXAMPLE: Mercy is not found in what one deserves, but rather in what one experiences in spite of what they truly deserve! We had not done anything special and in fact, we had just been regular brothers, playing, picking on one another, and not getting into too much trouble. But for whatever reason, my mom called us inside, and to our surprise, she had baked bread. Now my mother’s bread was the best thing in the world, almost as good as homemade pie. What made it even grander was that beside our plates was a cool glass of milk, butter, and her homemade strawberry jam! I did not realize the significance of it then, but now I remember her humming to herself and wistfully remarking that she had looked out the window and saw “her boys playing together” and she decided “to do something special” for them. That’s the definition of mercy. That’s grace, which is something so undeserved and special for those who receive it. The New Covenant is like that, it brings mercy!

Sitting there with strawberry jam smeared across my face, I could not have been happier, except the fact was my father was not home. He had to go to Alaska in order to find work to earn a living for our family. It had been rough for our family, but in the midst of tough times, we were still together, safe, and provided for. Hebrews relates for us kind of the same thing in that in our relationship with Jesus…

III. We are shaken, not deterred!  (Vv. 25-29)

  1. Just as God had once spoken to the Hebrews from the mountain in the wilderness, He speaks to those who are willing to listen from His throne room in heaven! Therefore, the author of Hebrews warns his listeners by telling them, “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?” Perhaps he was well aware of John’s vision on Patmos, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2 NIV) Hebrew’s description of a new heaven and earth; and the names of the redeemed written in heaven, gives some credence to an earlier date, before the destruction of the temple, for the writing of Revelations by John as many suspect. In fact, the writer notes, “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’” On Mt. Sinai, God’s “voice shook the earth, but now he has promised” something quite different! God “will shake not only the earth but also the heavens!” Hebrews explains exactly what he means: “The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.” This is a wonderful promise! While the people of God were once shaken, they do not need to be deterred! Whether it is in our daily life, or while we await our Lord’s return, we may be shaken, but we should never be deterred! Jesus is going to return! “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” He will judge all things and we need not worry! We are shaken, not deterred!

  EXAMPLE: My father died when I was in ninth grade, in January, a couple of weeks after Christmas. It was a tough time for us as a family, but what amazed me as a teenager was how quickly things seemed to go back to “normal.” My mom went off to work, my brother did his job at the grocery store, and we went back to high school. The following year, we moved to a much larger city and started high school there. I started working that summer before school began at a regular job in order to help pay the family’s bills. Our family faced some severe times emotionally, financially, and physically but we were not deterred in what we were to do in order to survive as a family. I now realize that if our family had had the reinforcement of knowing Christ, how much easier and stronger our family would have been! Now, when I face severe times like these, I know I can get through it but also be far stronger because of my relationship with Christ! I no longer live for the day, but for the promise. I know in my faith we are often shaken, not deterred.

Conclusion:

The Old Covenant brought fear! The New Covenant brings mercy! We are shaken, not deterred!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hebrews 12:12-17 – Get Up and Get Going!

Hebrews 12:12-17 – Get Up and Get Going!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 13, 2013 AM

Have you ever had one of those days where it is tough to get out of bed? The other day I think my get up got up and went! It was tough to roll out of the covers. Usually, I am happy and singing the moment my feet hit the floor but the other day I thought that someone set off firecrackers and then I realized it was the sound of my bones cracking! I ended up having to claim the verse out of Revelation that states, “And he swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, ‘There will be no more delay!’” (Revelation 10:6 NIV) I had to get up and get going!

The writer of Hebrews now focuses on the fact that his listeners needed to get up and get going with their faith. It was time to stop procrastinating. Perhaps many of them, like many of us, had decided to be more faithful, tomorrow. This was totally unacceptable for the writer. We cannot rest on the faithfulness of others who proved to be faithful. We are accountable to God to be the people He has called us to be in Jesus Christ. It is a matter of priorities in life and a matter of how we live our lives for the Lord. I believe that the church today will not see this nation come to Christ until individual believers decide to get up and get going! Let’s discover how Hebrews encourages us to do just that…

READ: Hebrews 12:12-17

While many authors have written a myriad of books about holiness, it seems that little of it has infected the church today. If we desire to be all that God desires we must get up and get going and…

I. Make holiness a priority in life! (Vv. 12-14)


  1. The Apostle Paul reminded his listeners, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV) While the benefit of our faith in Jesus leads to holiness (Romans 6:22) and the result is eternal life, we are also to “be holy” because God who has called us “is holy”! (1 Peter 1:15-16) Hebrews writes, “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” It is a call to spiritual vitality. Something the worldly church needs today! He knew the spiritual weakness of his listeners. Well, how does a believer who is already holy in Christ, strengthen themselves spiritually in order to be holy in their life? It is a matter of priority. He first quotes Isaiah 35:5 and then Proverbs 4:26-27 whereby the people are to get rid of anything in their pathway that would cause them to stumble in their righteousness. We forget that while we have been made holy we can also stumble in our walk with Christ. We need to strengthen our weak appendages, and then get rid of anything in our lives that would cause us to stumble into sin! We continually make lame excuses for our disability to walk in the Lord. The fault is no one else’s but our own. Far too often modern-day believers are far more focused on what they get out their faith, than what they bring to their faith. They want churches, preachers, and musicians to make them sprint into the presence of God and forget that if they are not walking with God, no amount of external bandaging will help them to run the race He has already set for them. This is why the writer of Hebrews states that we as individuals are to “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy”! Why, because he knew without any doubt that “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” I believe he is making a two-fold admonishment here, one for those who have never been saved to get rid of any hindrances and come to Christ, and for those of us who have accepted Jesus by faith to do the same thing. We are to return to Jesus, and get rid of sin in order to be holy. In order to get up and get going in our faith, we need to make holiness a priority in life!

  EXAMPLE: Oswald Chambers writes, “It is a trap to presume that God wants to make us perfect specimens of what He can do— God’s purpose is to make us one with Himself.” This is what Hebrews meant. Chambers continued, “Christian perfection is the perfection of a relationship with God that shows itself to be true even amid the seemingly unimportant aspects of human life… I am called to live in such a perfect relationship with God that my life produces a yearning for God in the lives of others, not admiration for myself.” We need to return to Jesus, and then get rid of any hindrance that causes us to stumble in our faith. Growing faith produces wholly living for the Lord, which produces holiness in life. We need to make holiness a priority in life!

Jesus was full of grace and mercy, and we as His disciples are to be as well. We are to be the reflection of our Master and Savior, “who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV) Hebrews therefore relates that we are to…

II. Make God’s grace your life’s song! (Vv. 15-17)

  1. Lest you have forgotten, the preacher of Hebrews has already admonished his listeners over and over to not forget their faith. He began this sermon by saying, “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” (Hebrews 2:1 NIV) He also told them, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (v. 3:12) and “let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.” (v. 4:1) It was of paramount importance to him that his listeners would “See to it that no one misses the grace of God”! God’s glorious unmerited favor towards those who could have cared less, should make all of us wonder at His love for us. When we miss the grace of God and what it means, bitterness can grow in our lives. His desire was “that no bitter root” would grow “to cause trouble and defile many.” That’s what bitterness does; it poisons our lives and the lives of others. Notice the author uses some very graphic terms to describe the results of bitterness: sexual immorality and godlessness. The words he uses are words we derive pornography from and the term for crossing the threshold from grace into utter heathenism. This is what Esau did when he sold his birthright to feed his stomach! We sell our birthright in Jesus when we miss the grace of God in our lives! We can want God to bless our lives, but he cannot, just as Esau could not be blessed, because of our ungodly lifestyle. We might be saved, but we are without God’s graciousness in our daily living. We have deliberately crossed over into sin rather than wanting to be holy. Just like many of us, “He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.” We cry and beg God to bless us and wonder why He won’t when in fact the problem is not with God, but with us! We have drifted away from the Lord, we have forgotten His grace, and we have become embittered and poisoned in our lives. We want God’s blessing without any change in our lives. This is why Paul wrote, “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV) and “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16 NIV) Where there is God’s grace, there is no room for bitterness. Therefore, make God’s grace your life’s song!

  EXAMPLE: Some of the first words many of us were taught to say are please and thank you. No one gets quite as excited as a parent does when a toddler first utters those words and makes the connection between asking politely and receiving gratefully. However, as we grow older we become more skilled at saying please than thank you, especially with our heavenly Father. We focus more on our pressing needs than on His previous provisions; we petition more than we praise. And while God invites us to come to Him with all our needs, He urges us to make gratitude a habit as well. In Colossians 3:15, Paul instructed every follower of Jesus Christ to “let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” Then three times, he reminded us to remain grateful to God: “be thankful” (v.15); sing with gratitude to the Lord (v.16); “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (v.17). Very few things honor and glorify God more than a thankful heart. It is so full of the song of praise there is no room for the bag pipe of bitterness to take root. Make God’s grace your life’s song!

Conclusion:
Make holiness a priority in life and make God’s grace your life’s song!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Hebrews 12:1-11 – Discipline Yourself!

Hebrews 12:1-11 – Discipline Yourself!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 6, 20 12 AM

Whom would you emulate in life if you could? As I remarked last week, few adults have heroes anymore. We see those who society holds up as heroes and they fall far short of what true heroes are all about. In fact, we have reduced heroism to anyone who faces a difficulty in life, an illness, or anyone who we think is special. Now, do not get offended. I personally believe that heroes are more than that. While there are those who are very courageous and those who are strong in character, that does not necessarily make them heroes. Heroes are those individuals who are, in the face of personal danger, willing to sacrifice themselves or risk it all for others. We want to be careful not to reduce heroism to a politically correct definition in order to sooth our conscience.

Courageous folks who face a terminal illness or overcome difficult circumstances in life are great role models for us and Hebrews has just given us some examples of such individuals and their faith. Some even became heroes because of their willingness to sacrifice themselves for their faith. What does it take to become someone with the courage of convictions as these folks were? We will discover that the author of Hebrews encourages us to “strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.” I believe it takes discipline. You are to discipline yourself! Let’s find out how…

READ: Hebrews 12:1-11

Jesus taught his disciples, “For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40 NIV) We look to Jesus for our salvation but we also look to Jesus for our spiritual maturity. Hebrews writes that we discipline ourselves as we…

I. Consider Jesus and those who are examples of faith! (Vv. 1-4)

  1. Can those who have gone before us see what is happening to us here on earth? This question is often on the minds of those who have experienced the death of a loved one. While we would love it if our loved ones could view our lives after death, do we truly want them to see us at our worst? I mean it is tough enough that God can see us, but his grace is sufficient for us even when we sin; however, that is not the case with our loved ones in the Lord. Paul reminds us that, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8 NIV) I believe those who are with Jesus, do not care about what is occurring here because in a mere moment of time, we will be there as well. Plus the presence of God is better than watching what is happening here. So what does the writer of Hebrews mean when he says, “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses”? He is referring to the examples and encouragement from the faithful he had just described and not actual people. The witnesses in the verse are not modern-day loved ones, but the faithful saints in Hebrews 11 who trusted God. Their lives testify about the value of relying on God no matter what hardships we face. They are active witnesses who speak to us by their example; not passive witnesses who watch us from heaven! Therefore, we are to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” This can be easier said than done, yet, we have Jesus. Hebrews therefore encourages, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” When we “fix our eyes” on someone, we look intently at them. This is the idea, when we, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men.” We are to look intently at Jesus, so that we “will not grow weary and lose heart.” The author knew our “struggle” in life is “against sin.” His readers had “not yet resisted to the point of shedding (their) blood.” I believe however, he was aware that they were about to or could very shortly be tested. We are to consider Jesus and those who are examples of faith!

  EXAMPLE: The word for “witness” here in Hebrews is the Greek word “martus” where we derive our word martyr. To be a witness for Jesus in the early church meant to be willing to die for one’s faith if needed. They were willing to witness unto death! Early Christians felt that if Jesus was willing to die for us, and his disciples were willing to face imprisonment and perhaps death, then they were to be willing to martyr themselves as well! How could they do such a thing? They looked at Jesus. They also remembered what Paul had written, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” (Philippians 3:10 NIV) They wanted that for themselves as well, so they took to heart Paul’s admonishment, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.” (Philippians 3:13-15a NIV) We are to consider Jesus and those who are examples of faith!

Paul related that personal discipline was the only way the believer could know the will of God. He wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV) Discipleship comes from the word for discipline. Hebrews reminds us to…

II. Remember we are made holy when we accept our discipline! (Vv. 5-11)

  1. When we focus our lives on ourselves, instead of Jesus, we can easily forget who are faith is based in. Hebrews writes his listeners that they had “forgotten” the “word of encouragement that addresses you as sons.” They had forgotten Jesus, the “author and perfecter” of their faith! As God’s children, his sons, we are “not (to) make light of the Lord's discipline” nor are we to “lose heart when He rebukes” us. Far too often, we can whine or complain when things do not go our way in life, yet if we do, we are forgetting “the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” If we do not “Endure hardship as discipline,” we are again in danger of forgetting that “God is treating you as sons.” And the question remains, “For what son is not disciplined by his father?” Perhaps his readers had forgotten this, have you? When we forget we are the children of God and that He is active in our lives, we are tacitly telling God we do not trust Him. This is sin. Perhaps, our faith is not as valid as it should be if we whine about our discipline. “If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” The writer uses the example of our earthly dads and reminds us, “we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it.” Now, I did not always like it when I was disciplined, but now I realize it was for my own good. Therefore, “How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!” We can understand that “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” We can be so feeble and weak in our faith-walk at times. God always disciplines us for our good. He desires His children to be holy in all they do and while “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” We are to remember we are made holy when we accept our discipline!

  EXAMPLE: One of the reasons I believe there is so much violence in our society today is because we do not know how to properly discipline our children and therefore they do not learn proper discipline for themselves. We have allowed political correctness to dictate and thereby mandate to us how to discipline not just our children but ourselves as well. We do not deny our children or ourselves anything. Every child is an “honored” student and we are to make no distinction between ability, sex, or worth. It is a “can’t we all just get along” philosophy. It has infected the church as well. Getting along is not good enough for God, only holiness is. Holiness is only obtained through faith in Christ and personal growth in Him. We are to remember we are made holy when we accept our discipline!

Conclusion:
We are to consider Jesus and those who are examples of faith! We are to remember we are made holy when we accept our discipline!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.