Sermons & Sunday Schools

The Imperative Virtues of the Christian Race, Part 5

Full Transcript:

Let’s take our Bibles this morning and turn to Hebrews 13, where we will be looking at verse 7 through verse 12. I have been preaching on the imperative virtues of the Christian faith. And this is the practical application of theology in the book of Hebrews. We have been examining the marks of the Christian faith.

When you endure in the Christian race, this is what the Spirit will produce in your life. Or course some of the things that you will produce are brotherly love, hospitality, simple sympathy for those in trouble, purity before and after marriage, and a realistic view of contentment.

This morning we are going to be looking at the sixth virtue of the Christian life and that is that of imitable loyalty. What you are loyal to will surely show up in your character and in your manner of living. Scripture points us where to look for models of loyalty. It is good that the Lord directs us in this particular place because loyalty is seen in people and what they do and how they respond to things. That’s exactly where the Scripture brings us this morning. Look at Hebrews 13:7, it says:

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

We are to remember the commendation of faithful leaders, those who have led you in your Christian walk. The leaders referred to here most likely point to those past leaders who led the congregation in earlier days but have now died. This congregation is to remember those that left them examples. You are to look to them and find in their life the characteristic of loyalty in order to follow their example.

That becomes an important admonition and of course the imperative in this part of the Word of God is to consider the result of the leaders’ conduct. This means what they did at the end of their life, but also can include the successful outcome and the result of the leaders’ lives.

Both are probably in view especially when considering their steadfast faith to the end and their serene way that the leaders pass through the life. They died, in other words, while finishing the race. They were unafraid of death or the unknown future before them because of the eternal living and changeless Christ whom they followed.

They proclaimed the Word and kept their eyes fixed on the Lord. Now what are we to consider about these people? We can always point out those who have been influential in our lives in terms of exemplifying the Christian virtues that we want in our own lives. But here in Scripture tells us that they led in really three different ways that are very important for us to follow in our own lives.

The first way is in verse 7; you are to remember those who led you by what they preached. In the lives and leadership of these people, there was a primacy of God’s Word. Of course if the Word of God is primary in someone’s life, it means that they are going to preach Christ and Him alone. The task of real preaching is to remove oneself until Christ is the only One showing. It’s not about you at all.

That includes preaching Scripture alone. It means that this person is reaching to grasp the content, even if it’s just in a basic way, of Scripture and its doctrine. Paul wrote in Titus 1:9:

Holding fast the faithful Word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.

In other words, a person sticks to the Word of God, not his own opinions or notions. He gives himself completely to God’s Word so that not only does he or she hold onto it, but is also a model for others. Something else that goes with that is that this person learns to accurately handle God’s Word. In 2 Timothy 2:15, its says:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

In other words, this is the person’s passion. They do not want to mess it up or manipulate it. They would desire to preach the full council of God, that an elder is responsible for feeding his flock by declaring the whole purpose of God. It says in Acts 20:27, it says:

For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.

There’s a lot to learn in the Bible and we don’t really have time to waste on tons of other things. It also led them to a second thing that was a part of their leadership, and that’s the leading of others by their actions and lives. You can know things about the Word of God without actually living it out.

But here it says that these leaders lived the Word of God. We are to think of these people and the example of their conduct! This means to look back and examine carefully how someone lived by faith. It means to closely scan someone’s life. And the Bible admonishes us to also be that kind of model for someone else.

Can someone look at you under a microscope and say that the Word of God is important to you and what you do? That’s what the Word of God is saying, that we have to examine a person’s life under the lens of the Bible. And once you examine them, don’t just leave it. Look at what it says in Hebrews 13:7:

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

Basically, you are to imitate their faith and be like them! We learn a lot by observation and by looking at someone’s life to see what they are about. We learn about someone’s passions and desires and goals by looking at their life. If God is not included in their goals, passions, and desires, then there is something wrong. You don’t want to emulate someone like that, but rather who has God as first and foremost in their lives.

So you gotta ask yourself if you can really follow a person. This is what the Bible is saying here, that we can imitate someone else, to be a mimic of them. Believers should mimic their teachers as their teachers mimic Christ. This should really bring to our attention that all elders, deacons, and both their wives, Sunday school teachers, worship leaders, etc. are to personally model the gospel before the eyes of others. And it extends past those who are in a teaching or headship role of some sort, but also to those who simply name the Name of Christ.

It goes much farther than just head knowledge. You have to have your heart effected by the knowledge that God is showing you to the point that your desire when you leave the house is to be a model for Christ. That’s part of the endurance that we are called to when we endure by faith. So when we follow after Christ, we become models of people inside and outside the church.

A lot of times the gospel you preach before people is not with your mouth, but with your life. It’s how you respond to circumstances and situations. Therefore when you live like that, it becomes a very powerful picture for people around you.

In fact it gets to the point that your kid should grow up thinking that he wants to be like mom and dad. Perhaps it’s not in every area, but definitely should be in the area of the passion for the Word of God. This should be a sobering reminder for all of us that the image of Jesus in us, that is the way we model Him, is what attracts people at the end of the day. Finally, it gives you the opportunity to open your mouth to tell the truth of the gospel to others so they can be saved.

So will someone say about you that they want to be like you? It was the apostle Paul who in 1 Thessalonians 1:6 wrote out the things that we are to model. The verse says:

You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.

He is saying that the Thessalonians, who used to be idolators, heard the Word of God, became believers and imitators of Christ. As you become sanctified more and more, you become a model of what it means to be a believer, a real Christian.

He says the same thing in 2 Thessalonians 3:7-8:

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you.

He’s talking about them going to actual work! He’s talking about people who do manual labor for the gospel. And then he goes onto say in that passage that they kept working night and day doing their jobs so they wouldn’t be a burden to anyone. We are to work for our earthly bosses as unto Christ. That’s a principle all through Scripture, and it includes our attitudes and standards, which are different from the world’s.

This goes for all jobs, even those that deep down we really don’t like. But if you get up and go to work and say that you are going to model Christ there, I think it would change your attitude and the way you do your job. Paul wanted to emulate not being a burden so that he could proclaim the gospel freely. He had a self-denying love in administering to his recipients. And of course all honest labor is honorable, and that is part of being a model.

And then he finally he said in 2 Thessalonians 3:9:

Not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.

Even those people that he worked with that were not believers, he wanted to be a model for them. So maybe someday they can follow his example in following Christ. We are to be mimics of those who were models before us.

I was sitting there thinking about who has been a model to me when I became a believer. I didn’t come from a Christian family so when I became a believer I didn’t know who to talk to. I didn’t understand about church, where to go or who to talk to. No one was telling me anything and along the way, the Holy Spirit worked in me to get through the Word of God and I began to meet people who were serious about the Lord.

There was one particular person that came to mind as I thought about this, and his name is Terry Wright. He was a fellow Marine with me, and he began to discern that I wasn’t a believer. I looked at his life and his family and thought that I would like to be like him someday. I found out later that he was a Christian and he started taking me to church. I learned the Word of God with him. He and his wife were the only Christians I knew.

And thank the Lord, they were good models to me. They were serious about going to church and the Word of God. They were serious about serving the Lord and I wanted to be like that. They had a great family and had a lot of joy in their life, which was a model for me.

After that I began to grow and there was a guy named Elijah, who was just the same way. And when I went to college, there was Dr. Baker, and Dr. Olson, and Dr. Beek, and Dr. Anderson. And there were tons of pastors and people in the congregation. And of course I read biographies of people like Charles Spurgeon and Martin Lloyd Jones, and all these people really became models to me.

You read about the life of a missionary who goes to a place and spends their whole life there while all these tragedies are happening and you learn about how they stick it out to the end all the while praising and glorifying God. And you think that you just want to be like that!! We begin to pray that the Lord would make us like that.

And God is not done with sending models into our lives. Many of you are models to me, as I learn about your lives and your passions and your families. I’m constantly learning from you! You’re a leader in some way, and therefore you are to endure so that you can grab the models that God is sending your way and begin to implement those characteristics that the Spirit of God is developing in your life.

But here is the problem, people die. Our models die. Humans appear for a little while, we laugh, weep, work, play, and then we’re gone. Sometimes we hold onto our models so much that we depend on them and not God. So what does the Word of God say next in Hebrews? It says in Hebrews 13:8:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

How did the people lead? They led by whom they fixed their gaze upon. Their sticking to the Word of God led them to keeping their eyes on the only One who doesn’t change. Our souls long for something unchangeable. As we get older, it is hard to change or to take change. It’s a struggle to change, and yet the Bible is saying to keep our eyes on Jesus because He is the same and never changes. In fact this has been a theme that the writer of Hebrews has been speaking about since the beginning. Turn your Bibles to Hebrews 1:10, where it says:

And, “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands.”

He always is the same and here Jesus is the agent in whom and through whom the entire universe of space and time was created. He created every spec of dust in the hundred thousand million galaxies, and He also created every sub micro cosmic system that has no measurable size. He created it at all. In other words, creation is distinctly ascribed to the Son.

Secondly in Hebrews 1:11-12:

They will perish, but you remain; and they all will become old like a garment, and like a mantle you will roll them up; like a garment they will also be changed. But you are the same, and your years will not come to an end.

In other words the point is that in the midst of all the changes that will take place, the Lord creates and He will destroy what He creates. The Son remains unchanged. He who is before time and creation will be the same after the heavens and earth perish. When we come to Zion, it will be Christ who will be there who cannot change. And this will be for those who know the Lord and know why they were brought along this Christian race and life. It should bring us great encouragement to an ever changing and falling apart world that we live in. He is the changeless One, just as it talks about in Hebrews 1:12.

So the writer is expanding upon what he talked about in the beginning. God, who has created the heavens and the earth and who has given us His Word, is not going to change direction on us or change His plan or promises on how one can be made right with Him. I like when Paul said in Romans 10:12

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him.

So I can go preach the gospel to anybody and it will about the same Lord. And then he says this in Hebrews 1:11-12:

They will perish, but you remain… and your years will not come to an end.

Jesus, the Son, is the eternal independent Being presented in Scripture and He needs no one. He was in the beginning when neither man nor angel nor creature of any kind existed. And when there was nothing but God in the universe, it says in Hebrews 13:8 that Jesus is the same. It says it like this:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Isn’t there a yesterday and isn’t there a today and isn’t there a forever? Yesterday in history He died for His children as a unique one-time, eternal sacrifice. Today He is the forerunner. In other words, He has already entered heaven and is interceding on God’s right hand for us. He is our High Priest before the Father. We bring before Him our needs and He helps us and gives us grace in time of need. But He is also eternal, that we need not fear changing times, bodies, feelings, or circumstances because Jesus, in His Word, does not change and what He has promised He will accomplish. That gives us great stability and security. In Hebrews chapter 1 to the very last verse is Christocentric, Christ-centered. He is the same, and His grace, help, and power are permanently at His people’s disposal. That means that His character, plan, and Word will not change so that He can be followed and trusted in all He says and does.

Actually the writer is quoting from Psalm 102:25-27, where it says:

Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.

To me and you, that becomes a great foundation and security and doctrine that we can lean upon. God’s not going to change, even in the midst of this ever-changing world. That becomes a verse here that leads us to the next passage of Hebrews 13. I want you to remember this that it’s set between 7 and 9 where we have the commendation of faithful leaders and then the condemnation of false teachers.

So that means if someone sticks to all those things, who are models of the Christian life, who stick to the Word of God and Christ’s supremacy, they will have stability. If you rest and fix your eyes on Christ, you will be stable and it will keep you from false teaching. In fact, as soon as you move away from the Word of God and the centrality of Jesus Christ, you are already floating downstream the wrong way. Look at Hebrews 13:9:

Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.

So it’s saying in the context that there is a danger here that some Christians have stopped listening. Some Christians have stopped following their faithful leaders as models and they have taken their eyes off of Jesus, the One who remains the same. Instead, they start to develop itching ears, accumulating teachers after their own liking, like Paul told Timothy. He told him that people will not endure sound doctrine but will go after what they want to hear. People become apathetic to the Word of God. They make think that it’s not important anymore.

Even Charles Haddon Spurgeon in the 1800s wrote this:

Everywhere there is apathy. Nobody cares whether that which is preached is true or false. A sermon is a sermon whatever the subject; only, the shorter it is, the better.

That was in the late 1800s before there was media, TV, and all of the distractions we have today. But it is still true today! If you get away from the Word of God you are already going downhill. The word here for being carried away actually means to be floated away on a river. It means to be misled by false teaching. This happens when a person is vulnerable and when the Word of God is set aside and is no longer primary and when Christ is no longer supreme. They go together and you cannot pull them apart. You can’t separate Christ from the Word of God, they are a package deal.

The writer uses two words here, varied and strange teachings. Varied teachings could be deviations from the truth not based on Scripture. It’s something that sounds good and encouraging and even funny, but it’s not God’s Word. And then strange teachings can even just be the unbiblical, distorted teaching that doesn’t even sound like Scripture, but people are so far away from the truth that they believe it. They could not discern the difference between good and evil anymore.

The teaching of men, who do not have as their source the Word of God, must have some source to inform their teaching. And of course it could be their own minds, and some people can be very creative. It can also be the doctrines of demons, which slip right in when the Word of God is not our standard and measuring rod for everything we believe.

These teachings are ever-changing and morphing. Whatever you want, that is how we’ll design it. We’ll make a package just for you! That’s what they say. None of these teachings makes anyone spiritually strong. In our day, there is much to discern concerning different philosophies and teachings. In fact, Biblical preaching cannot be geared towards meeting felt needs. It can’t be geared towards solving psychological problems, amusing the audience, or making people feel good about themselves. Biblical preaching must uphold the truth of God and demand that it is heeded and obeyed.

One person says that to promise people a religion that will allow them to be comfortable in their materialism and self-love and they will respond in droves. If you have been reading through the One Year Bible, you just got done with Jeremiah, where God told him something. In his day when he was preaching, this is what God said to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 5:30:

An appalling and horrible thing Has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so!

That’s appalling! And it happens when there is a famine in the land and people are getting false messages from those speaking and they love it! That’s dangerous. And only to those who hold to the primacy of the Word of God and the supremacy of Christ are the ones who can discern what’s going on. And this is important so that you yourself don’t get led astray.

Now getting back to our passage in Hebrews 13:9, he does refer to a specific thing concerning the Jews but it’s something that we do also. Look again at the verse:

Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.

In other words, here he references foods probably in the first century. The false teachers were carried about by their strange teachings concerning dietary restrictions. Realize that many religious systems have something to do with a restriction to do food. Here, food restrictions and food laws were being used to make the false teachers teach that the people would benefit spiritually. Or maybe the people would think that God was pleased with them and they would have the opportunity to take glory for themselves.

Those who were led astray by this false teaching absorbed no lasting benefit at all. The varied and strange teaching was spiritually worthless to them. A lot of stuff people think that is spiritual and religious is actually worthless. It in fact damns their souls and doesn’t make them ready for Christ and Heaven. But this is what happens when you slide away from the Word of God.

So what in fact is proper for nourishing the soul? Back in verse 9 of Hebrews 13, it says that it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace. We are sustained by God’s unmerited, unfavored, unchanging grace. God’s grace strengthens my renewed heart that He gave me in the New Covenant.

The seed of human personality is the heart and has a particular reference in Hebrews to attitudes and conduct. If you’re going to be made firm in your heart, you must be established in the Word of God and the supremacy of Christ to stay there. You will be stronger and firmer by divine grace, which is available for you every single waking and sleeping moment of your life.

And what is that grace? The grace comes right from the Word, from obeying the Spirit and doing what the Scriptures say to do. The heart is continuing to grow firm in grace can’t be moved by every wind and doctrine that is flying around out there. That heart approaches God boldly and is praying, and it is willing to bear the reproach of Christ. These people realize that when they take up the cross of Christ, friends and family may leave them and things may change that are negative to their profession of Christ. But they are willing to bear that reproach because of the truth, and God would work it out somehow.

So Hebrews has always emphatically stated that the law brought nothing to completion. The law brought nothing to perfection. That means that Jewish regulations here about food are not beneficial whatsoever. Also that means that any kind of food regulations have been for all time all surpassed and outmoded by the work of Christ. When we are in Christ, we in fact free from all the rules and all kind of weird regulations.

Therefore legalism, even little rules that we have, impede grace. We cannot help grace and there’s nothing we can do to help it. It is grace which strengthens the believer’s heart. It is not subscriptions to rules or the avoidance of prohibited foods. There’s no more room for material sacrifices in Hebrews, or animal offerings, sacred meals, or hallowed alters. All this is over and gone because of the one-time sacrifice of Jesus Christ when He ended all the pictures and the shadows and the types and fulfilled it all. All we need is Christ’s supremacy.

But who does grace actually go to? What does following the Word of God and making it primary actually lead to? Let me just remind you of this. It was Peter who told the church in 1 Peter 5:5:

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

In other words in this passage of Scripture, it is the person who grows in humility in God’s Word and to the supremacy of Christ in their life where the said, “Lord, there is no where else to look or go for not only my salvation but also for your sanctifying grace so I’m going to stick with You. I’ll humble myself under Your Word and know that I will receive grace.”

Christians are to give grace to the one central aspect of their faith, which is that Christ died for them. We have a sacrifice which some cannot enter into because He is the true nourishment for all believers. He alone is also our access God. If you try to add to Him, or add to the truth of the gospel, then you are undermining what God has established as how someone has access to God. In fact look at Hebrews 13:10:

We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.

Those who serve the tent/tabernacle are those who wish to remain under the Old Covenant. The emphasis is that if you want to stay within the narrow confines of your works based religious system, and believe me they are very narrow and comfortable, you can derive no benefit from the only sacrifice which really matters and therefore cannot share in the great offering for sinners, which is the sacrifice for Christ. You have no right to eat at the altar, which is referred to as Christ Himself.

Therefore such people have no right to eat the eternally satisfying provisions of the New Covenant. If you have your own way, you actually forfeit the truth of God’s Word. So in Scripture here the sacrificial imagery he is using in Hebrews 13:10-12 brings to mind the sin offering on the day of atonement. Under the Old Covenant, the priests were entitled to use the sacrificial food to eat after the offering.

Except it did not apply to the sin offering or the Day of Atonement. In those occasions, the sacrifices were burnt in their entirety. No look at Hebrews 10:11, which says:

For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp.

In other words, the carcasses of those animals were not given to the priests to eat as part of the sacrifice, but they were actually taken outside of the city to be burned because they were defiling. Christ took the sin of the world on Him and the atonement had to do with the shedding and washing away of sin. Those carcasses were going to be burned completely. And all the offering was presented to God and none was offered to the ministering priests to eat. Now look at verse 12:

Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.

Jesus’ death outside the gate means that He is accessible to anyone in the world who will come to Him, not just to the Jews. Those under the old sacrificial system could not partake of the great offering as a meal because that was not the intention. Christ intended to take the load of the sin of the world, making the offer of the gospel available to all peoples of all time. But He is not accessible to the self-righteous, or those who have their own system of salvation and sanctification.What can we do? Well a humble person asks this with earnest.

Really the only thing we have left to do is to go to Him. Look at what it says in Hebrews 13:13:

So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.

Somebody who comes to Christ will bear His reproach. To the Jew, bearing His reproach means giving everyone and everything up and to go forth after Christ. It means giving up rules, regulations, and religion. When a Jew followed Christ, he actually gave up everything including his spot in the synagogue and the community. He might even lose his job and be ostracized by his family. The reproach against him was great.

I wish we could understand that reproach when we enter Christ. Whatever comes in your life that opposes you because of your faith is in fact a reproach. It is something against you because you are a believer. You don’t give everything up about salvation because that happens. Instead, you enter in to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and you give everyone and everything up to go after Christ without looking back.

That Christian has the right to enter. That person realizes that our food, drink, and lives is Christ alone. And no one is going to take that away from you. That’s when you grow firm in your heart and that’s how you’ll stand and think of things. You will of course be blessed because of it. You will grow stronger in the end.

Once I hold to the primacy of the Word of God and have the models in my life to see how others have run and finished the race, I can have confidence that others and myself can keep to the supremacy of Christ. It leads them to a place in which they can share in the great sin offering of all time, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They can feed on the Lord and His Word until the day He takes us to be with Him forever. Our nourishment is Christ and our access to God is the sacrifice of Christ.

I need nothing else to help that along. Amen. I pray that that will be our prayer as a church and a body. I pray that we would continue to serve and grow in these things and in deep, significant theology. It’s going to cause us to endure the race and finish like those before us. There’s nothing like being at a funeral and preaching a message for someone who has lived a faithful Christian life. The person usually goes through the door of death right into the presence of God. You can’t celebrate anything much better than that! Look at what it says in Hebrews 13:14:

For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

We get to this city by keeping the Word of God primary and Christ as supreme. And you will be there as a model to those who follow along and enter into Heaven right behind you. Maybe a little bit later, but mostly right behind you. You were faithful, you endured the race and you finished well. That should be the goal and desire for all of us here.

Let’s pray. Lord, thank You, again, for the tremendous knowledge and insight into the Word of God. I pray that everyone of us that are here this morning would be encouraged by it, strengthened by it, and even rebuked by it. But Lord, take the Word of God and build us up with it so that everyone one of us that names the Name of Christ can be someone who is imitably loyal to the Word of God and to the supremacy of God and to the one time sacrifice on our behalf. So that we can live in a way that others would follow. We know where we are going and we are heading into the very Kingdom of God. We praise You, Lord, for what You’ll do. We lift up our voices know to sing and we pray this in Christ, Amen.