Series on Hebrews, VI Superior Piety, A Superior Persuasion Text:13:1-6 Title: Encourage One Another

Introduction:

37 years ago as a young Pastor in Burlington New Jersey, fresh out of Seminary, I met a middle-aged man who was addicted to alcohol, homeless and in need of assistance. As I became acquainted I was amazed at his extraordinary grasp of Christian truth. That man knew as much about the Bible as most of us sitting here today. Unfortunately, it had no effect upon his will. I have also met many people who belittle Christian doctrine as impractical, and who think that theology is unimportant.  Bible knowledge does not guarantee holiness, but neither is it possible to be holy without it. Twelve of the thirteen chapters of Hebrews are devoted to understanding the Bible. The only exhortation in the first twelve chapters is to hold fast to Christ under the pressure of persecution. Avoid both pitfalls. Bible doctrine is both practical and indispensable. Without it there is no motivation, no commitment, and no zeal for holiness. The author of Hebrews undertakes the daunting task of persuading Jewish Christians to hold fast during intense persecution and temptation to turn back. His whole method of argument is, if you know the truth, the truth will set you free. If you do not understand God’s plan and purpose there is no reason why you should not turn back, take it easy, and get some relief. But if you do follow at the risk of your life, then our text says, you need to be on your guard. It is easy to succumb to the world around us which is controlled by lust. Notice the author says we should not forget. Fundamental responsibilities can easily be forgotten when  power, passion, and privilege beckon. We are commanded here to encourage one another to persevere and we are to do this by maintaining a distance from the world. The things mentioned are common in Scripture. For example in I John 2:15 we read, Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever. These same things are the mind of the Holy Spirit here.

I Power - The pride of life

As we read verses 1-3 we may contrast the attitude commanded with the prevailing spirit of the world. Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. The opposite of love is really the will to power, the pride of life. It is dog eat dog. It is advance no matter who you have to trample on in the process. It is the will to progress in a fallen world. It is the survival of the fittest. Most people don’t set out to see how many others they can hurt. They just want to get ahead, and in a sinful environment, the pride of life is the venue the world offers. To be separate from the world means to reject this lifestyle. How do you spend your time? In personal advancement? Of course you do. But is that what your life is about: or is your real agenda loving the brothers, entertaining strangers, and remembering those who are the victims of injustice? Do you care about people? The world does not. We keep trying to devise plans and programs to make the church efficient and successful. But what will make us different from the world is how we care about people. Some churches drive me crazy because neither their worship nor the conduct of their affairs is done decently and in order, but they are successful because they care about people in a world that does not. Think about the people who have encouraged you most in your walk of faith. It is always the people who have time to care about others. Please remember that what the author of Hebrews wants his readers to do is encourage one another to persevere. Are you doing this?

II Passion - the lust of the flesh

According to verse 4 another way in which the world entices is by the lust of the flesh. Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. In hard times, such as war, the morals of a nation decline. Under pressure people are tempted to grab for what they think is their last chance at happiness. They lose the ability to distinguish between lust and love. But the author of Hebrews makes clear the distinction between fornication and faithfulness. Love is faithfulness to your marriage partner. It is working, caring, and serving unselfishly. There is no better remedy for sexual promiscuity than a healthy marriage. Let the marriage bed be held in honor. This is not an indictment of human sexuality, but of the misuse and abuse of it. Sexual longings are good and honorable in marriage. But you say you don’t know what its like to be married to a difficult man or woman. My mate is impossible, even horrible! Do you think the people to whom this is written all had perfect marriages. They had the same temptations we do. I’ve seen more miserable marriages than I wanted to, and I can tell you something about everyone of them. Even when there are spouses that are trying to follow the Lord, when they are being frustrated, they always become persuaded that the situation is hopeless. If I had one scripture to give them it would be Revelation 2:2-4, I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Jesus is speaking to the Church in Ephesus. Pastors and leaders in the Christian world are falling like dominoes to the lust of the flesh. How will we be different from the world which has run amok with perversion. How will we encourage one another to persevere unless we maintain faithfulness.

III Privilege - the lust of the eyes

Verses 5 and 6 introduce us to the lust of the eyes, 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.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” The lust of the eyes is the Apostle John’s terminology for the allurements of the world. This is cupidity, concupiscence,  or covetousness. It is different from the will to power, the pride of life which arises out of our struggles. Here the aim is pleasure and enjoyment of the finer things in life. Desperate people turn to earthly satisfactions.  But the way we encourage one another in following the Lord is by contentment. While the world focuses on who has the newest and biggest toys we are commanded to find our contentment in God.  I  remember Dr. Harold S. Laird, a pioneer in the Bible Presbyterian Church. For a number of years he worshiped with us, and he used to say to me, I haven’t seen much of this world but when the Lord comes again I’ll see all that I ever desired. A widower, he married an elect lady of means and I suppose got to see more of the world than he ever expected. However he knew the secret of contentment and that was an encouragement to me and to many others. He well understood the words of Psalm 16, In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forever more. It is just as important for us to be content as it was for these first century Jewish believers. Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have. Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get.  In the final analysis we need to cultivate a lifestyle that encourages perseverance. We will only be doing this if we reject worldly values and reaffirm that the Lord is our helper who sets us free from all kinds of fear.