Hebrews 13:7-21 – Keep On Doing Good

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.

The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so, Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (New International Version)

I once rode a horse named “Old Glue.” The tired old horse got his name because he stuck to the ground like glue. I can testify firsthand that it took a furious amount of kicking to get that the old guy to move at all. 

I think about Old Glue every time I look at the final chapter of Hebrews. It feels like the author is firing off exhortation after exhortation trying to kick some life into a group of people who have lost their enthusiasm for Jesus:

  • Don’t forget about your spiritual leaders who faithfully keep watch over you and model how to live the Christian life
  • Don’t be fooled by a bunch of unfamiliar and strange gobbledygook teachings
  • Share in the disgrace of Christ by sharing in his sufferings
  • Keep offering praise to God in the name of Jesus
  • Don’t forget to help others through benevolence and generosity
  • Live a sacrificial life
  • Pray for your spiritual fathers and mothers
  • Be generous
  • Do good!

All these exhortations come kicking one after the other in a short amount of space. The reason why we ought to pay attention to them is that we were bought at the price of Christ’s blood. God has redeemed us with the ultimate price.

Let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up or quit.

Galatians 6:9, MSG

We need to work at becoming holy and to serving with genuine Christian love as if this was the last day of our lives. 

We are to run like wild stallions for Jesus, instead of being stuck to the ground like Old Glue. 

Don’t be hateful to people, just because they are hateful to you. Rather, be good to each other and to everyone else. (1 Thessalonians 5:15, CEV)

There is no advantage to only moving when there is something in it for “me.” There is no benefit in griping and complaining. Yet there is eternal advantage in trotting along for the Savior. There’s life in following the trail outside the camp and meeting Jesus at the place of humility, disgrace, and suffering. 

After all, if it is God’s will, it’s better to suffer for doing good than for doing wrong. (1 Peter 3:17, GW)

There is no advantage to being stubborn and having to constantly be prodded into moving. However, there is joy awaiting the believer who learns to move with the unforced rhythms of grace.

Don’t be like Old Glue.

Keeping going. Keep doing good.

May Jesus help you do what pleases God. To Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever! Amen.

1 Timothy 6:11-12 – How to Fight the Good Fight

But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so, run from all these evil things [the love of money]. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. (New Living Translation)

Today’s New Testament lesson is a pertinent message for contemporary Christians. These verses come as the conclusion to the Apostle Paul’s letter to a young pastor in Ephesus, Timothy. The epistle is filled with encouragements, exhortations, and warnings of how to go about conducting ministry. 

Paul left Timothy with some pointed instruction to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness. These are the qualities which ought to inform every practice in the church and the Christian life. 

The Apostle gave Timothy a sacred trust, to hold tightly and guard the message of faith in Christ given to him. This good news of forgiveness and grace leading to eternal life through Jesus must be continually upheld. Because there will always be other individuals and groups distorting and diluting this wondrous salvation.

Two Exhortations

These two exhortations – pursuit of a godly life and grabbing hold of Christian good news – needs to be always held together. To only pursue virtuous practices apart from grasping the message will cause slow erosion and compromise the faith entrusted to us. To only embrace the gospel without trying our best to live a virtuous life will lead to ornery and combative attitudes, as well as behavior which undermines the very gospel we seek to uphold.

So, then, competing in the arena of spiritual warfare is useless without knowing why we are in that arena to begin with. We are striving for the hearts, minds, and souls of people who need the life-giving message of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. We are to carefully apply the poultice of grace to the incredible need of the world’s people, using all the virtues of righteousness and godliness at our disposal. 

Badgering, bullying, and bludgeoning people with the truth are unbiblical because it ignores the virtuous practices integral to our faith. On the other hand, loving others without careful proclamation of the gospel misses a central thrust of Paul’s letter to Timothy.

Ensure you are putting your energy into the right things. Uphold the faith delivered to us through sacred Scripture. Use love and gentleness in everything said and done. Seek after righteousness and godliness. Clutch eternal life and hold it tightly. With both hands, uphold the sanctity of the Christian message through the sacredness of holy living. We are to pursue the following:

Righteousness and Godliness

Being right with God comes through the justifying work of Jesus. This right standing then is to work out itself in practical daily living. We are to strive toward having right relationships with others.

Once you’re convinced that Christ is right and righteous, you’ll recognize that all who practice righteousness are God’s true children. (1 John 2:29, MSG)

Desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. (Matthew 6:33, CEB)

Like righteousness, godliness is given to us so that we are viewed as godly. Yet, living a godly life is a skill which requires much training. Since God is One and Love, so we are to work at unity and loving others with the divine power given to us.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:3, NLT)

Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8, NRSV)

Faith and Love

Faith is also a gift of God. Once given, we are to hold onto it, lean into it, and rely on it throughout our lives. We pursue our faith through being above board on all things and listening to our inward conscience, even and especially when outward circumstances are troublesome.

Love is the actionable means of meeting another’s needs. Armed with a robust faith in God, we are to confidently love the world, knowing the Lord has our back.

Cling to your faith in Christ and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. (1 Timothy 1:19, NLT)

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. (2 Timothy 1:13-14, NIV)

Perseverance and Gentleness

We contend for the faith delivered to us by having the long view of Christianity and the Christian life. A daily walk of faith is rarely glamourous. The growth of our spirits and the construction of our souls is tedious and patient work. It requires a great deal of endurance.

Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”

And “But my righteous one will live by faith. (Hebrews 10:35-38, NIV)

The practical working of perseverance in one’s life is marked by gentleness. When we take the long view, we can be gentle, not rushing or hurrying people to be godly beyond their own personal growth capacity.

Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5, CEB)

Holding tight to the gospel message is a very practical affair. It isn’t an abstract doctrinal or dogmatic defense but a righteous, godly, believing, loving, enduring, and gentle application of truth in daily life.

King Jesus, Lord of all, help me to keep your commandments in ways consistent with the gospel of grace so that your church is encouraged, and your world is blessed with both the message and the medium. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22


            According to the secular calendar it is Black Friday.  The worship of consumerism is in full swing at the cathedral mall with accompanying liturgies of parking, finding great deals, and standing in long lines waiting to confess to larger credit card debt.  Yep, I know that sounds cynical.  There is nothing wrong with a crazy good bargain and thinking of gifting others, but, at the same time, we need to acknowledge that the whole shopping experience mirrors religious movements much more than we might want to admit.
             The Christian Year, with its annual rhythm centered round the life of Christ, offers an alternative way of keeping time and living life.  Today is the last Friday in the Church Calendar.  Sunday is a new year, beginning with Advent, and we again journey with Jesus throughout the seasons.  Today’s New Testament lesson contains several staccato-like exhortations from the Apostle Paul at the end of his letter.  Just as Paul wanted to get some quick instruction before the end, so we need to hear these biblical imperatives at the end of the Christian Year, as well as keeping them in mind in order to avoid the orgy of shopping within this next month.
             The compact list of commands is almost overwhelming:  admonish the idle; encourage the fainthearted; help the weak; be patient with everyone; do not repay evil for evil; seek to do good to everyone; rejoice always; pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances; do not quench the Spirit; don’t despise prophecies (exhortation of other believers); test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.  
             Rather than having our eyes glaze over wondering how we can hold all these imperatives together in our lives, let’s focus on one.  It is better to begin with one command and be diligent with it than it is to walk away and do none of them at all.  One suggestion is to list all these exhortations and ask the Spirit to show you which one to work on in this holiday season.  Keep in mind that one command in each decision you make and every conversation you have with others in the next several weeks.  See if it becomes a habit for you.  Observe how it changes your life and those around you, especially at the mall….
             Patient God, your steadfast love sticks with me day in and day out.  Help me to weave your commands so thoroughly into the fabric of my life that it transforms the way I interact with others.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

1 Timothy 6:11-21

            Today’s New Testament lesson could not more pertinent for contemporary Christians.  These verses come as the conclusion to the Apostle Paul’s letter to a young pastor in Ephesus, Timothy.  The epistle is filled with encouragements, exhortations, and warnings of how to go about conducting ministry.  Paul left Timothy with some pointed instruction to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness.  These are the qualities that ought to inform every practice in the church and the Christian life.  Paul also goes on to say that he entrusted Timothy with a sacred trust, to guard the message of faith in Christ given to him.  This good news of forgiveness and grace through Jesus must be continually upheld because there will always be others distorting and diluting this wondrous salvation.
 
            These two exhortations, to both pursue and to guard need to be held together at all times.  To only pursue virtuous practices apart from guarding the message will cause slow erosion and compromise of the faith entrusted to us – to only guard the gospel without any attention to the pursuit of godly virtues will lead to ornery and combative attitudes and behavior that completely undermines the very gospel we seek to uphold.
 
            So, then, we must fight the good fight of the faith keeping in mind what and why we are fighting.  We are battling for the hearts, minds, and souls of people who need the life-giving message of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.  We are to carefully apply the poultice of grace to the incredible need of the world’s people, using all the virtues of righteousness and godliness at our disposal.  Badgering, bullying, and bludgeoning people with the truth are unbiblical because it ignores the virtuous practices that are integral to faith.  On the other hand, love without careful gospel proclamation misses a central thrust of Paul’s letter to Timothy.
 
            We are to make sure we are fighting for the right things, through always upholding the faith delivered to us through sacred Scripture, and through always using love and gentleness in everything we say and do.  Pursue and guard; think about both words today as you interact with a variety of people, and see what God does in and through you.
 

 

            King Jesus, Lord of all, help me to keep your commandments in ways that are consistent with the gospel of grace so that your church is encouraged and your world is blessed with both the message and the medium.  Amen.