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Category Archives: Hebrews

Faith is not a blind leap

The world’s idea of faith is summed up in this Non-Sequitur comic strip.

However, faith is based on facts and has a foundation. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Some translations may describe the objective sense, “substance,” or the subjective sense, “confidence” or “assurance.” It helps us to understand that faith is both a conviction and a sense of certainty. One author described it as the title deed on which we build our lives. The verse helps us to understand that faith is the organ that helps us to see the unseen.

The African Impala is a beautiful animal that can jump over a height of ten feet and a span of 30 feet. But it can be kept in a zoo enclosure with only a three-foot wall. The reason is that the impala will not jump where it cannot see where its feet will land. Faith enables us to trust God and to venture into the unknown and the unseen.

C. S. Lewis described the substance of faith when he said, “We trust not because ‘a god’ exists, but because this God exists.” Since we have a record of how God worked in the past, we can trust him for the future.

While faith certainly requires a step of faith, it doesn’t necessity a blind leap. We can step out in faith knowing that God will guide and lead us each step of the way.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2020 in Faith, Hebrews, Non-Sequitur, Scripture

 

Responsibility to Church Leaders

We seem to have a love/hate relationship with leadership. We want to be led, but we don’t want to follow. We want leaders to provide clear direction and vision, but we want the freedom to pursue our own agendas. One of the prevailing values of our culture is individualism. And nothing and no one better get in the way of me pursuing ME!

Our emphasis on individualism means that we chafe against the command in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” And yet, the passage explains that there are benefits for the leader and the individual when we follow this command. As the author explains in Hebrews 13:17-19, Submitting to church leaders makes their job easier and more enjoyable, and we enjoy the benefits as well.

It would be easy for me to skip over this passage out of fear of being perceived as an autocratic dictator or the criticism that might come my way. Whether you shoot the messenger or not, please understand that God speaks clearly about this issue of obedience and submission to church leaders.

Obey your church leaders (17). Since the context of Hebrews 13 is corporate ministry and religious issues, it is evident that the leaders he has in mind as pastors and elders in the church. The author indicates that the aim of church leaders is the benefit or profit of the congregation, especially the good of their souls.

We need to recognize that “Obey your leaders and submit to them” is a command rather than a suggestion. It involves a voluntary subordination, followed by a desire to do what the leader suggests. Rather than focus on the possible exceptions, focus on the clear teaching of Scripture. Keep in mind that submission is only an issue when you don’t agree with what the leader is asking for. Then, you have to make the choice whether or not you will submit.

The author gives several reasons why we should obey and submit. One reason is that pastors and elders maintain a constant watchfulness over the spiritual health of the congregation. A second reason is that God will hold the leaders accountable for how they carried out this task. A third reason is that ministry can either be a joyful exercise or a draining burden depending on how the congregation responds. We can either make the leaders’ task easier or more difficult.

Obey

Resist

Submit

Demand a voice

Support vision

Personal agendas

Make task easier

Make task harder
Joyful leaders

Groaning leaders

Personal growth

No benefit

Pray for your church leaders (18-19). While the author of the book has a clear conscience about his life and ministry, he also recognizes he is just as susceptible to temptation as those he is warning. So he asks his readers to pray for him.

How will you respond to these instructions? Let me encourage you to obey your church leaders and pray for your church leaders. Submitting to church leaders makes their job easier and more enjoyable, and you will enjoy the benefits as well.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 26, 2020. It is part of a series of expository sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

How should we respond to our church leaders?

This Sunday at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, we will unpack Hebrews 13:17-19 as we consider our “Responsibilities to Church Leaders.” Here’s a video preview of the topic. Hope to see you this weekend.

 

Life in the Church

Who are the individuals that impacted you spiritually? What did they do? What did they say? How did they encourage you in your spiritual journey?

One of the people that touched my life was John Miller, my youth pastor while I was in high school. John challenged me as to who was the Lord of my life. He taught me about the Holy Spirit, and allowing him to fill and empower my life. John had a huge impact on me as a teenager.

Remembering godly leaders is one of the principles mentioned by the author of Hebrews in 13:7-16. In 13:1-6, he addressed moral issues—loving one another, welcoming strangers, ministering to those who suffer for the gospel, honoring marriage, and having a right perspective about money. In 13:7-16, he turns his attention to religious practices. He speaks about following godly leaders (7-9) and worshipping and serving Jesus Christ (10-16). He explains that devoting yourself to worshipping and serving Christ will strengthen your heart and please God.

Follow godly leaders (7-9). The author gives three characteristics of godly leaders (7) and three characteristics of false teachers (9). Godly leaders proclaim biblical truth, demonstrate faith, and live a lifestyle of endurance and victory. We are to remember their impact, consider how they lived, and imitate their faith. In contrast, false leaders promote false doctrine, emphasize externals, and have no effective spiritual results.

On the surface, verse 8 seems out of place. However, it appears that the author is painting a contrast between earthly leaders and Jesus. Earthly leaders come and go, but Jesus lives forever. In the past, Jesus suffered and died for our sins. In the present, he intercedes for us as our high priest. In the future, Jesus will return to conclude God’s work.

Godly Leaders

J

E

S

U

S

False Leaders
Biblical truth

False doctrine

Faith

Rituals
Life worth imitating

No lasting results

Worship and serve Jesus Christ (10-16). Using the phrases, “inside the camp” and “outside the camp,” the author paints a contrast between religion and a relationship with Jesus. His point is that we should not return to religion when Jesus provides a better way.

Inside the camp (10-11)

Outside the camp (12-14)
An altar you can’t participate in

A better altar, Jesus, that we have full participation in

Animals were sacrificed that covered sin temporarily

A better sacrifice, Jesus’ death once for all, that makes people holy

False sense of safety and security in religion

True identity and security in a relationship with Christ

 

We can endure suffering because we have a lasting reward

The author concludes this section by stressing the importance of worship and praise. Our lips are to echo what we believe in our hearts (15). Worship through sacrifice and service is what pleases God (16).

Devote yourself to Jesus—Follow him, Worship him, Serve him.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 19, 2020. It is part of a series of expository sermons the on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Life in the Church – a preview of Hebrews 13:7-16

This Sunday at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, we will be unpacking Hebrews 13:7-16. Here’s video preview of the message.

 

Marriage & Money

When our enemy wants to defeat a church, he generally attacks in the area of doctrine or practice. Within the area of practice, he often zeros in on marriage and/or money. The author of the book of Hebrews prescribes a preventative defense in Hebrews 13. He addresses a number of specific issues of practice and lifestyle that are often the target of the enemy. In verses 4-6, he encourages us to have a high view of marriage and a right perspective of money. He encourages us to hold marriage in honor and to hold money loosely.

Hold marriage in honor (4). In the first century, marriage was dishonored through one of two ways. One approach was from those who believed it was more spiritual to stay single. The other position was held by those who saw marriage as irrelevant and pursued unbridled sexual fulfillment. In our culture, we have dishonored marriage by redefining it, making it easy to get out of, and rejecting it altogether.

We need to get back to having a high view of marriage. Marriage was established by God (Genesis 2:24-25). It is a covenant relationship between one man and one woman that should not be broken. Scripture indicates that there are two circumstances in which divorce is permissible after all attempts at reconciliation have been exhausted. First, an innocent person may divorce his/her partner if the latter has been guilty of sexual immorality (Matthew 5:31-32). Second, if an unbeliever refuses to remain in the marriage with a believer and chooses to desert the marriage, the believer is therefore free (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Only in these cases or after the death of a spouse (1 Corinthians 7:39) is remarriage allowed.

All Christians are called to maintain a radical moral purity. Any form and/or practice of sex outside the marriage covenant is sin and deserving of God’s judgment. God will bring judgment on those who violate this command. It might be in this life—physical, mental, relational, societal—or it might be in the final judgment. God’s judgment should not be taken lightly.

Commit yourself to a high view of marriage. If you are engaged or married, commit yourself to building and maintaining a strong marriage. Whether married or single, commit yourself to sexual purity. Commit yourself to living a holy life.

Hold Money Loosely (5-6). Since some of these believers had lost possessions due to persecution (10:32-34), they may have sought greater material security.

We need to have a right perspective about money. Money itself is not the problem. It is the love of money that is the problem. The lure of money has led many people astray.

We must cultivate a spirit of contentment. Contentment has nothing to do with amount. It has everything to do with attitude. Contentment is the ability to be satisfied with what God provides. Contentment comes from knowing that we have God and that he will never leave or abandon us. Knowing God’s promises, we can face the future with confidence, regardless of how much or how little we have.

Commit yourself to trusting in God’s presence and his provision. Commit yourself to being content with what God provides.

Hold marriage with honor. Hold money with an open palm.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 12, 2020. It is part of a series of expository sermons on the book of Hebrews. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

What do the Scriptures say about Marriage & Money?

This Sunday, January 12, we will be unpacking Hebrews 13:4-6 at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, to discover what the author of Hebrews says about marriage and money. Here’s video preview of the message.