Sermons & Sunday Schools

The Imperative Virtues of the Christian Race, Part 4

Full Transcript:

Alright let’s take our Bibles again and turn to Hebrews 13. We have been looking at the imperative virtues of the Christian life and race. Let’s have a word of prayer. Lord, this morning we thank You that Your Word if available to us. We pray that we would be available to You to hear and obey Your Word and apply it to our lives. I ask for myself, that Holy Spirit You would take hold of me and speak clearly through me in a way that people will learn. I pray that Your people would grow stronger in their declarations of faith. In Your Name, Amen.

So in Hebrews 13, we are looking at verses 5 and 6 today! In order to unpack this passage of Scripture, we will be going to several different passages. Essentially we have been examining the marks of the Christian life, which is important to us because this has to do with all of us. As you grow in faith, these are the things that will become more and more evident in your Christian walk.

These are also the sacrifices we offer up to God, as we do so every day in our daily walks. These are well pleasing to Him, especially in our relationships with other people. But of course it is first pleasing to our relationship with the Lord Himself. So far we have considered four of these marks.

The first one is constant brotherly love. Secondly, it mentions hospitality for those who need it in verse 2. In verse 3, it mentions simple sympathy for those who are in trouble because of their faith in particular. The fourth virtue, which is mentioned in verse 4, is purity before marriage and purity after marriage. That’s how we exalt the institution of marriage by a pure life. That’s what honors God and pleases Him. So Christians in the power of God’s Spirit are continually growing in these marks and virtues.

Now we come to a fifth virtue in the Christian life. It is one that is absolutely essential to a persevering faith. In other words, the psalm mentioned this morning which is psalm 23, is really a faith declaration by King David. If you ever read the psalms, you realize that David was in the valley way more than he was anywhere else. In the valley, God taught David that He is with him right to the very end. But we don’t learn that right away, the first day we become believers. Sometimes it takes a long walk throughout the Christian race to learn that. We find ourselves in the valley many times.

In that valley, God is going to teach us about Himself. If you grow in the knowledge of the character of God, your faith will grow. I’ve been saying that many times in the book of Hebrews. But this should lead us to the place that what God has shown about Himself is actually real! It’s real every single day. Therefore I can say to people because of what I’ve experienced in my Christian walk what God has done for me. I can say enthusiastically how God has saved and rescued me and met my needs. These are all faith declarations and everyone has them. Some people don’t tell what God has done for them or can’t even recognize what is going on in their lives.

So this fifth virtue becomes the crowning point for reality in your every day life. Because you have to ask yourself this question, do you have this virtue and is it constant in your life? Look at Hebrews 13:5, which says:

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

The virtue is realistic containment. We must be content with what we possess on earth. Don’t get this wrong. It is not just about being satisfied, it’s way more than that. It’s about being content with what you have. Do you have discontentment or contentment in your life?

If people were to write up a little bio on you, would they say that you are a mostly content or discontent sort of person? See before we can truly learn to live contentedly, we must make sure to free ourselves from defiling sin, which is mentioned in this passage. Just as impurity in Hebrews 13:4 is mentioned as defiling sin, then continuous sanctification where the Holy Spirit is cleaning you up is important. He is conforming you and your mind to His good, acceptable, and perfect will.

The other sin that needs to be cleansed and recallibrated is greed. This includes our relationship to and understanding of money and possessions. The Word ofGod tells us that greed is a defiling sin as much as impurity and immorality are, and maybe even worse. In fact, if you just search out the Scriptures, you will find out that this particular word of immorality and greed are often in the same context. If you just go back to the Ten Commandments, the sixth commandment says that you shall not commit adultery. But the seventh commandment says not to steal. And it ends with not coveting. All of these are a challenge to someone’s mindset concerning property and what God has given you as opposed to what God has given someone else. This all deals with our relationship to money.

There is a similar occurrence in the New Testament. A passage already mentioned is Ephesians 5:3, where it says:

But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

In other words, you and I have a relationship that must be changed when it comes to money and possessions. Another passage in Colossians 3:5 says:

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

Another way of saying this is that greed has in it a power to get people to want things so much that in reality what they desire they actually live for, and what they live for is what they ultimately worship. Many people worship money, even though people may not say that. Many people’s motives are to get wealth so they can retire and live comfortably, so they constantly strive to fill the desire for things.

Scripture says that if you live like that, it actually is idolatry. It is putting money up on a pedestal and bowing down and worshipping it. What you give your time to, what you think about, and what your goals are, if they all revolve around money that that’s wrong. You can’t be content if you live with that mindset. So if you look at our text in Hebrews 13:5, it says:

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

Your character is ultimately who you are! And it’s saying that you need to be free from the love of money. It is the love of money that is going to hinder us from being Biblically content. Christians are to have a non-money living disposition. Let’s face it, we all need money and God has given it to us to use in this world. But where we go wrong is we take it and and move it to a place where God never intended it to be.

In other words, your behavior towards money and its usage has changed since you’ve been a believer, or is changing right now. And today it may change even more. In fact, there is an interesting Greek word that is used by the writer of Hebrews in this particular passage of Scripture which means to turn. The Scripture again says, “Make sure your character is free from money.” It is the word that means to turn the mind and manner of your life and behavior away from money and to the place that honors God. It is the movement away from any intention of idolatry.

This section of Scripture is connected to someone in Hebrews 10. These people were under persecution, they lost their property and their religion in a sense by being moved from Judaism to Christianity. Because of that move, many of them lost their jobs. They lost their position in society too.

Therefore, money was probably a lot harder to come by than before. Family members didn’t help others out anymore, so it had to be the church that stepped in to help these people. So Hebrews 10 lays the foundation for what is said in Hebrews 13.

Remember that once these Christians looked more closely at their past troubles and sufferings, they discovered after closer examination that they gained more by being one of God’s children than they can ever gain by having money and possessions.

As a matter of fact, they gained six distinct things. Look at what it says in Hebrews 10:32:

But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings.

The first thing they gained was light. And what was this exactly? It was the light that came into their hearts by the Spirit of God and the saving knowledge of the gospel through Jesus Christ that delivered them from the old works of Judaism and made them Christians.

It’s the same thing for us! Before conversion we were dead with no spiritual hunger. We didn’t desire the Bread of Life, we didn’t want the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. We had no thirst for righteousness! Not until God stepped in and penetrated our hearts with the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We only had darkness before. All things regarding the Lord and spiritual things were dead, and we were spiritually unresponsive.

Then we were born again into God’s family and we were quickened by the Holy Spirit and made alive through the things of God. And there was spiritual movement in our hearts and that showed spiritual life! Therefore everything changed and we started moving in our thinking on a lot of different things.

A second thing they learned in verse 32 is endurance for suffering. They calmly and bravely bore ill-treatment, and they held fast to their confession in Christ by enduring spiritual combat as slides of Christ. Their trials actually made them strong in faith and promises.

A third thing they gained was a deep appreciation for the church, because they had to learn to depend on other people. God brought them from the you, me, and I to the us. Now they realized that they can’t live the Christian life alone, and that they must do it alongside the Church. Therefore they grew in a deeper appreciation of the church body because Jesus Christ indwelt those who came together.

A fourth thing they learned was sympathy. They started sympathizing with others who have needs, which includes some who maybe never before were even talked to. It’s not only sinners who need Christ, but it’s others who just need help.

A fifth thing they learned was joy. Look at Hebrews 10:34, it says:

For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.

While losing affection and attachment from things, they gained joy and accepted joyfully the seizure of property. They discovered an inexpressible joy when they had their earthly possessions taken away from them. Why? Because they calculated and did the math that what has been gained by being in Christ could not never measure up to any materialistic gain or temporal pleasure, it couldn’t come close.

So we’re talking about real believers here who understood what they gained in Christ. Any why can Christians have this attitude? Because as it says in the above verse, they had a turn of mind. The word knowing is to know positively that one is or does something. For example, I know that I have the best treasure in my possession. Far better than the best thing I could have on this earth. On this earth, the moth comes, the rust comes and decays, and the robber comes and steals. But the treasure that we have as believers receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

In fact, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, this language is wedding language. Jesus says in John 14:3:

I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

It’s the kind of things a man would say to a woman when he wants to be engaged to her. In a Jewish context, it would be a year before they got married because a man would leave his betrothed and go prepare a dwelling place. Sometimes that meant building it! The man would get everything ready and then go back for his bride and bring her to the place where they would dwell together forever. That’s what God is saying to us.

The Hebrews understood that this language was very very intimate. They understood in their minds that God has gone and prepared a city for them. They also know that God will come for them to get them because they are His bride.

We are the Church married to Jesus Christ. We have that relationship with Him. Therefore that is what we gain when we come to Christ. Why would you ever want to throw that away? If you think seriously about what you have gained by being in Christ, you will conclude that it would be utter foolishness to throw away something so precious and valuable.

Here’s the logical imperative in Hebrews 10:35, it says:

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

This is the connection to chapter 13. What is the confidence spoken of here? That’s what the Word of God is telling us there, that we are not to throw away our confidence that God has been giving us about who He is and what He has done!

But if you love money, you can’t make those declarations because it is not God who helps you, but money. In your mind, money takes care of everything. I used to think like that for many years, and so do you I bet.

So if you’re going to have Biblical contentment, you need to consider the danger to avoid, the disposition to acquire and the declaration to pronounce. In Hebrews 13:5 it says:

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

The danger of making money or possessions the center of one’s affections is at stake here. Money will ultimately master you by your constant worrying that you don’t have enough of it, or by your constant desire of wanting to have more and more of it. And you don’t actually have to have money to have these things go on inside you.

These have guided many people’s lives who are enslaved to the love of money and are steeped in worry every day of their life because of it. They are putting all their stock in money, and in the belief that it would change their life for the better. Well the Lord said concerning money in Matthew 6:24:

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

The Apostle Paul teaches pastors to teach their people about this. Turn to 1 Timothy 6:6-8, it says:

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

If you have food, and a covering, that is all that God said He would provide for you. Except that we want much more than that, we want things. You know, one thing that this flood has taught me is that we have too much stuff. I don’t know how many dumpsters we filled up of all this stuff that we had in our basement for ten years! I didn’t even know we had all of it! I told my son Josh not to even tell me what was in there, and to just throw it away! I don’t miss it and I will probably never will miss it. Although at one time, those things were probably very important right?

If you really ever looked at yourself, you don’t take up much room. But your stuff does! Look at what it says in 1 Timothy 6:9-10:

But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

There’s what the love of money will bring you. The wisdom literature of King Solomon really brings to life the mind turning principles concerning money management. If you just read through Proverbs, you’ll find that there are a lot of proverbs devoted to money.

In fact, some of the principles that you can glean from that is that those who honor the Lord with their money are blessed in return. That comes from Proverbs 3:9-10, which says:

Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.

The principle is this, that all you have comes from God. And if you learn to turn around and give it back to God, you will be blessed in return. It’s not always about being financially blessed. But you will be blessed in all kinds of ways that innumerable. That’s what happens when God changes your mind concerning money.

A second principle to learn from Proverbs about money is that those who make riches their passion, lose much more than they gain. For example look at Proverbs 23:4-5, which says:

Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.

That’s the way it is, but that’s alright. Because money is never supposed to be more than just for providing basic needs, and those of others. You’re meant to have it so you’re not kept in slavery and so that you can give. You are meant to work so you can give!

Also in Proverbs, wisdom gives wealth guidance. You have Scripture like that in Proverbs 8:10-11, 19:

Take my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold. For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her. My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield better than choicest silver.

He’s talking about wisdom here, which is really precious. Once you get your hands on it, don’t let it go or exchange it for anything. That’s the thing that’s gonna get you through life and whatever God gives you. Also in Proverbs there is a principle that money cannot buy life’s most valuable possessions, like peace. Proverbs 15:16 says:

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it.

Wealth also can’t buy love. Proverbs 15:17 says:

Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred.

Wealth can’t buy a good name and a good reputation. Proverbs 22:1 says:

A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.

A person of integrity is much more desirable for those who know the Lord than anything that money can supply. In fact, money can only buy things that are for sale. Happiness, a clear conscience, and freedom from worry are not among them. Those only come from God.

It’s neat how in Proverbs, God says that He blessed some people with money without giving them joy to rejoice in what they have. These people save up their money, die, and the money goes to a person they never wanted it to go to. Again in Proverbs 28:6 says:

Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked though he be rich.

This represents everything about our society. Money can be used to purchase lovely and comfortable dwellings. It can be used to purchase vacations and delightful works of art. But the priceless things in life are just simply not for sale. That’s why the Lord says if you’re going to get salvation, come and get it free of cast. You can’t buy salvation, no matter how rich you are.

Maybe there is nothing more nerve wracking than the headaches and heartaches that come from financial irresponsibility. People increase their debt with credit cards. People spend impulsively without going back home and asking themselves if they really need something. If you think about it for 5 seconds, you won’t buy it.

Or you can lend money to people indiscriminately who don’t deserve it. And you withhold money from the people who do deserve it. If that happens to be your situation this morning, then you can’t ignore it any longer or make excuses because there is just too much help already out there. You must have a mind that turns away from the slavery of money. We need to have a disposition of contentment.

When we do, it’s a great benefit to us and a great sacrifice to the Lord. God has shown Himself to use every day to be faithful, trustworthy, and present in the time that we need help. If that’s true then to love money and trust it’s ability to get things and supply needs, is a disposition that shows a lack of trust in God’s care and His desire to provide for His children.

It was Chuck Swindoll who said, “Greed is a cancer of attitude, not caused by insufficient funds but by inappropriate objectives. Discontentment is a sneaky thief who continues to disrupt our peace and steal our happiness so we can’t have contentment.”

Well, our passage of Scripture in Hebrews 13:5 again says:

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have.

Once we come to the place where we know we have to avoid this danger, then the next thing we need to do is acquire the proper disposition, which is that of contentment. Regardless of what God has given us, little or much, the goal is to be content. This is the cure of all love of money and worry about money. Let your turn of mind be free from the love of money and be content with what you have!

Don’t say to yourself, “Why am I in this position when someone else who is evil has much more?” Comparing yourself to others is very dangerous to curing this wrong mindset of money. Instead, we need to learn contentment. Paul said in Philippians 4:11-12:

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.

I am so glad that Paul said he learned something. He learned that he doesn’t need to sin the sin of discontentment. It was Martin Lloyd Jones who said: “Paul was not mastered by his circumstances. If it can’t be changed, don’t let it master you, bring you down, take control of you, determine your misery, or your joy. He gives us a picture of having equilibrium in all situations.” Paul gives us a breakdown of this in verse 12 of Philippians 4.

He says that he has learned to get along with humble means, without a sense of grudging, complaint, or questioning God’s goodness. He does without a bitter spirit, being worried or anxious, and without losing faith. He also knows how to live in prosperity if God so chooses to bless him that way. And he knows how to do that without feeling independent of God. Money never brought Paul to the place where he felt independent of God. He wasn’t manipulated by wealth, and he learned not to forget about God.

Paul learned how to live without allowing circumstances to affect his inner peace or inner joy. God carried him through various kinds of conditions, and he was not lifted up by the one or cast down by the other. He learned contentment upon God’s supply. It was all about his relationship with God, it was about what he knew he had in Christ already. It was all about what God had promised him.

So the truth about Paul’s spirit of contentment is that God is, by providence, ordering all things in your life. Do you think that there is anything in your life that happens by coincidence? That something could happen by mishap that God might have missed? No! When you think that way, you are already being robbed of the contentment that God wants to give you. We have to let a Christian often think about why he was placed in the circumstances he was placed in.

No matter what sphere you are in, it should never affect where you are. It is not by chance or fortune, as the Gentiles imagine. It is the wise God who has providentially fixed you in your orb where you are at, during the time period that you are on this earth. So God has fixed us in a situation by wisdom. We need to conclude that God knows better than us about what we should have and not have, what we should be and not be, and where we should go and not go. And we have to learn and stumble through that. We have to walk a lot in the valley of the shadow of death because there is where we find that we don’t have to fear evil. God is leading us!

The ultimate goal of where we are heading is to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. And no one and nothing are going to prevent that from happening. That is what increases your faith and brings you to a place where you can cry out with God and tell Him how you praise Him for His help.

If God sees it better for us to abound, then we shall abound. If He see it better for us to be in want, we shall be in want. So to be content is to be at God’s disposal, in the place where God has brought you.

Jeremiah Burrows says the following in his rare 1600s Puritan book, The Jewel of Christian Contentment, “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit which freely submits and delights in God’s wise and Fatherly disposal of every single condition.

I don’t know how Paul, when floating in the ocean on a log, thought that God had ordered that for him. Or when he had his back ripped with a whip 39 times. Was that a great day? Was that ordered by God? Yes, and not only for Paul but us as well. It was ordered for the greater glory of God. Do I understand it? No! But as Paul said, in that situation he’s learned to be content.

This brings me to my last thing in the passage. Let’s turn back to Hebrews, because all what we talked about has to do with what the author says next. Here’s the declaration worth pronouncing because our minds have been informed with truth and now we have something far better than any earthly possession. Look at the end of Hebrews 13:5:

For He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

God said that He would never abandon us. The author here is quoting from Deuteronomy 31 when God forewarns His people of all that will come in the Promised Land. This is what is says in Deuteronomy 31:6, 8:

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Then it says in Joshua 1:5-6:

No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.

So God is saying that they have a promise of the continual presence of God. God is vocal with us where He says something generous to us, like when we become believers He will never abandon us. Look at what is says in Hebrews 13:6:

So that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”

This is a confident declaration about the fact that God has never left us and will never leave us. We have always had a roof over our heads, even though it may not have been the ideal. All basic needs have been met, and not only that, but the Word has been given to fill hearts and minds! We now have stories to tell each other about what God has done for us! We can pass it down to the next generation.

I have a story to tell you now. When I first got out of the Marine Corps, I had applied for unemployment. In the meantime, I had a little job that I had for a couple of weeks, which didn’t end up working out. So when I went back on unemployment, the officer then said, “Oh you worked? You cancel out all your unemployment rights.” So I had no money and no job.

And that’s when I met Jayne. And I said okay, if I’m going to get married, after a short engagement, I have to get a ring but I had no money for it. I was really broke, the most that I have ever been in my life. But I just kept asking the Lord what He wanted me to do.

So I got to the mailbox one day and the government owed me a certain amount of money, and it happened to be almost the exact same amount that the ring had cost. So it was a confirmation to me that does supply wants. When we cry out to Him when there are no other solutions possible, He enters in and helps us.

And you know what? That’s just one of the many events in my life that increased my faith. All so that I can declare it to you now of the faithfulness of God! What can man possibly do to me? Take my life? Go ahead! I have life in Christ forever.

Can man take away my home? Go ahead! I have a mansion in glory. Want to take my wealth? Well I am the wealthiest person who has ever lived, I have eternal inheritance! See those are the things that increase our faith so that we can actually declare to God that He has helped us! Money and possessions do not help. Only the Lord helps us. That’s a faith declaration.

And believe me when you have a whole bunch of faith declarations, they are going to come from what you have learned and experienced. It’ll reinstate the assurance that the promise of God’s continual help is real to you, it’s not just in the passage of Scripture tucked away theoretically. It’s reality to you! You will believe even more that God has entered into your life and is working through you!

You will say that your Lord has helped you, you will need the help of no other. So contentment becomes a vocal expression which is expressed in a calm, trust, and satisfaction in the lot God has given you. That’s what it is all about. But realize this, your desires may not be lined up with God’s will at the moment.

But when they do, and they will for real believers, especially in regard to money and contentment, then you will say to God before others and with confidence, “Let me tell you about the time that God did this for me and helped me. Allow me to put my head down on my pillow at night without worrying about what’s going to happen the next day concerning bills and wealth, etc.”

Do you realize that you cannot do this without the Spirit of God? You cannot have this change of mind without the Spirit of God working in you. But when you learn it, you’ll never go back. It’s going to be a declaration that comes out of your mouth with great confidence, and that’s praise and worship. You’re going to be worshipping God in very strange places and during unusual times.

You will just lift up your heart to the Lord and say how amazing and awesome He is. You will loudly admit that you don’t deserve His goodness, patience, and long-suffering. But you will also thank Him for allowing you to experience these things. That’s what it means to have contentment and grow in faith.

So, it’s appropriate in Hebrews 13 for the author to conclude like this. We need to understand that this how we are to live. Make sure you are free from the hold of money, and be content with whatever God has given you. And if you are, praise God for the rest of your life. It starts here but it won’t end. Worship will go on for the rest of eternity. And that’s our ultimate goal as believers.

Let’s pray. Lord, thank You, once again for Your awesome goodness to us. I pray that the Word of God would stick firmly in our minds. I pray that this particular passage and the principles that come out of it would be characteristic of our lives. I pray that You would use every one of us to open up our mouths and give You declarations of faith and contentment about how great You are. I pray that through this in our lives, it would open up many opportunities to bring us to a place where we first started and needed light. I pray that we would be that light for others by sharing the gospel with them. Please do that, Lord. Help us be ready for those who are going to come into our lives who don’t know You. And let us always be growing in these virtues to adorn the gospel of Christ. And I pray this in Your Name, Amen.