We continue in Chapter Thirteen of The Book of Hebrews. We are exhorted to follow the path that will make us complete in every good work. Hebrews helps show us how by giving us a list of ways to live wisely and steward our place in God’s Kingdom. For example, we look at the value of sexual unity and its importance in establishing healthy relationship practices. Embedded in the list of things to do in Hebrews is a surprising vision of greatness…an unexpected measure of success.
Introduction and Review
Well, let’s turn to Hebrews 13.
We’re going through a list of things to do. And anytime we go through a list, I think we’re prone to be ported back into our traditional understanding of lists, that will basically be legalistic. So legalism, of course, is something we all learned from multiple venues. If you’re like the vast majority of people, you got a list from your parents of what it meant to be a good son or daughter, and then you pass it on to your children. It’s just human nature to take a list and start saying, “OK now how can I do the minimal effort to comply with this list and make it go away.” That’s just kind of what we do with lists.
But let’s just look at where we’re at in terms of what the start and the finish of this section is. Let’s look at the very end here. Hebrews 13:18. “Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably. But I especially urge you to do this, that I might be restored to you the sooner.”
So here we are. We’ve got Paul, and remember, he’s giving this message to some very dear friends who have lost their possessions and were glad because they’re so faithful and so diligent, but they have a problem that they’ve become hard of hearing, and Paul is writing to exhort them, and he’s saying I want to be restored to you the sooner. They’re dear friends.
13:20. “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do his good will, working in you what is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. And I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the word of exhortation, for I have written to you in a few words.”
So this is the point of the book. The point of the book is to be exhorted to follow this path that will make us complete in every good work.
Now this word complete, I expected this was going to be teleiosi; but it’s not. It’s a different word. It’s katartizo. And I want to show you two places in Hebrews where katartizo takes place. I think it’s kind of interesting.
Hebrews 10:5. “Therefore, when he came into the world—” This is Jesus. This is the backwards Christmas verse. I love this verse. This is what Jesus said when he came into the world. “—when he came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for me.” Prepared. That’s katartizo.
So there’s this body, and God has prepared this body. Why did he prepare a body for Jesus? So he could come into the world! You need this vehicle to come into the world. You can’t get where you want to go unless you have a body. You can’t come into the world without a body.
So let’s look at 11:3. “By faith we understand the worlds were framed by the word of God—” Framed. Katartizo. Prepared. Put together.
Why did God make the worlds? So we could live here. It’s a place for all this to happen. So you get this idea, katartizo—
Let’s go back and reread 13:20. “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete—” Make you prepared. Make you ready. Ready for what? What’s he making you ready for? Yes, he’s making you ready for good works. Why? So then you can do his will. Why do you want to do that? It’s pleasing. Yes. That’s what he likes. That’s what he wants. It’s pleasing to his will.
Now let’s go back to the top slice of bread on this sandwich here. Let’s look at 12:1. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great cloud of witnesses—” This is coming out of Hebrews 11 where we had all these great examples of faith. Since we are surrounded by all these great examples of faith, let us do what we need to do. “—lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith—” The A and the Z. The beginning and the end. The one who started it, the one who’s going to finish it.
“—who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus had a body prepared for him, not because he was not already God. He was already God. But because he had this work to do and he needed a body to do it.
And he grew up, and he lived this life completely in the will of God and followed that obedience all the way to the end.
And the reason he despised the shame and instead looked to the joy was because he had something he wanted to do. And what he wanted to do was please God. And the reward for pleasing God was to be raised to this position of being at the right hand of the throne of God.
He learned obedience even to death on the cross and because of that he was given a name above every name.
So this is not just a list that we want to get rid of. This is not just a list to say, “If I do these things, Mom will leave me alone.” This is a list of what it looks like to fulfill an amazing incredible destiny, to be prepared to do the same thing Jesus has done, which is go down this path of obedience and be exalted.
We were made, remember, back in Hebrews 2, we were made to reign and rule with Christ in a perfect harmonious world. That’s what we’re made for. That’s what our soul longs for. And it’s not happening right now. The world is a fractious, dark place in many respects.
But we’re being prepared if we follow this path, we’re being prepared to be elevated to that spot in the new earth. And as we do it in this world, through faith, we’re bringing heaven into our little sphere of influence.
So that’s why we have this list.
This “despising the shame,” has to do with the opinions of other people. And I went into great lengths about the massive influence the opinions of other people has on us. We’ll talk a little more about that as we go through this list.
So last week, we started the list. Going to 13:1. Remember we just came out of this comparison between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion, these two mountains.
Mount Sinai was this place that scared people very, very badly. I mean, they were really frightened. And they said, “Don’t let God speak anymore. We’ll die!” And Paul says here, “That was scary, but not really. Not compared to Mount Zion. No, they went Sinai; you’re going to Mount Zion.”
The first time God spoke, the earth shook; the next time he speaks, the whole universe is going to blow up.
12:25. “See that you do not refuse him who speaks.” Do you really want to ignore the voice of someone who can blow up the whole heaven and earth and then speak a new world into existence? You don’t think so.
And then he ends with 12:28, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”
Not only do we have this amazing destiny to go toward, this unbelievable path we can follow to actually do what Jesus did and to be elevated like Jesus was, but we also have this massive loss, despair and destruction that can take place if we don’t, because God is a consuming fire.
This is sort of like the peso and the bullet. Do you know this story? These drug lords go into the office of the government official, and he puts a bullet and a peso on there, and he says, “You get the pic, senior.” Which would you like? You can either go on my payroll and become corrupt, or you can die. That’s your choice.
Well, obviously that’s a very twisted version.
But this is sort of similar. It’s two very stark choices we have choose between.
We’ve got this scary God who is going to have things the way he’s going to have them, and when we go in a path that’s opposite to his way, we’re going to reap the consequences of that, and it’s not going to be good.
Or we can walk in obedience and get this unbelievable, amazing reward for it. And much of this has to do with whether we’re going to follow the opinions of people or whether we’re going to follow the opinion of God.
So chapter 13, “Let brotherly love continue.” Teamwork is a big thing to God, and we talked about this last week. Care about your teammates.
Don’t forget to entertain strangers as people on other teams that we ought to share our space and our time with.
And remember the prisoners as if chained with you. There are people on our team who are not in our sight, not in our locker room; and we should care about those people even though they’re not in our sight.
And each one of these things is really about being mission focused rather than self focused.
So then, the next thing on the list—and all this is—these are the things how you become great. Notice the things that aren’t on this list as we go through. Most of the legalistic things that you get from church will not make it on this list, which tells us something important.
13:4 “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
So part of this path of greatness is to have a great marriage. Now this is like your inner team. Your spouse.
It’s an interesting contrast he puts here: The bed is undefiled. This is really not going to be on most church lists. What this means is you need to have a really good sex life with your spouse. This is part of this path to greatness. You’re standing before Mount Sinai, and if you don’t have a great sex life with your wife, if you don’t have a great sex life with your husband, you need to be concerned about that. God’s not going to be happy. You’re going to be standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and he’s going to say, “Tell me about your sex life.”
It’s an honorable thing to have a lasting and good marriage; and sex is a big part of that.
You know, this next part, I think, is really the key; and I’ll come back to the first four things on the list from it.
13:5 “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with things as you have. For he himself—” God “—has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”
Remember, we said Jesus despised the shame. To despise means to give no particular value to. He had a lot of shame. I mean, he went through a lot. And it hurt. He cried. He hurt. He cried out for deliverance. But compared to this joy set before him, he didn’t give it much value.
And this is the key, really, isn’t it? The nature of covetousness is to not be content with the things we have and to make life about us and having things conform to whatever we want.
We went to dinner with two of our sons last night, and the five grandkids; and one of the granddaughters said she wanted something with chicken and noodles. So her mom ordered her a chicken and noodle dish; and she pouted through most of the meal. And, apparently, it was because it didn’t look like she expected it to.
How many things in your life do you pout about because it didn’t look like you expected it to?
Look at the contrast back in the marriage. “The bed’s undefiled, but fornicators and adulterers, God will judge.”
These two words are interesting. One of them is porneo or pornos. We get our word pornography from it. I did a little bit of looking at it. It’s kind of interesting. It means a male prostitute. Fornication’s a—porneo, male prostitution, adultery is adultery. And it has the idea of giving yourself into an immoral situation or bringing someone else into an immoral situation.
For men, one of our big struggles in this world is pornography. Pornography is having a relationship with an imaginary woman. Now the reality is that the attraction of an imaginary woman is that imaginary women will never reject you.
I’ve gone through this in some length of detail, but it’s worth repeating: Men are deathly afraid of female rejection. Women, you have amazing power to encourage and enable your spouses because they cannot stand the idea of being rejected by you.
Men, to go to pornography instead of developing intimacy with our wives, even if it means that we’re going to have to swallow hard and say, “I really need you to do this with me” is a way of cowardice. Pornography is cowardice in large part.
And I know there are all sort of endomorphin things that happen when we look at pictures and that sort of thing, and there’s a temporary reward. But that’s the way all sin is. All sin gives some sort of immediate pleasure that brings long-term destruction.
Our society celebrates adultery. But what is adultery? Is there any love in adultery? Are we thinking about the best interest of the other person? Are we thinking about our own spouse? It’s completely self centered. It is this covetousness of not being content with what I have.
It’s the same basic attitude that materialism is. Materialism is the philosophy that says happiness is based on what I don’t have. We obtain what we don’t have; that makes us happy. Well just think about that. If you’re going to base happiness on obtaining what you don’t have, then once you have something, what do you have to do? Get something else, right? You can’t be happy with what you do have.
And it can be this way with women, with men, with relationships.
Women, you have your own version of pornography: It’s romance fantasies. These romance books fly off the shelf. They’re all the same story, different names. You like to live it over and over again. There is no white knight in shining armor that’s going to come make you happy. Just like there’s not a dress that’s going to make you happy. Or a car. Or a house.
Happiness comes when we learn to be content with what we have. Being content with your own spouse is a good place to start.
The marriage bed is undefiled. Let’s become really expert practitioners of our own marriage bed. This is a way to please God. This is a path to greatness.
Women, I know that you have 16 other things on your mind, and when your husband says, “Hey, I’m interested,” the first thing that comes into your mind is, “How can I make this go away, so I can have these 16 things that I’ve got on my mind continue to be on my mind?”
And, men, you’ve got to understand that if we haven’t engaged with our wives with words, we haven’t worked our way into her field of vision. She doesn’t work like us. It’s not a visual stimulation sort of a thing.
And so there’s this understanding. You know this working on sex and having a mutual desire for sex actually causes you to talk about your relationship and work on it, and say, “Hey, how can we do this?” You’re bringing intimacy, and that is something that is a path to greatness.
Now we tend to think of a path to greatness when we talk about scripture, godly things, as Billy Graham. You know, do a great crusade, and thousands of people come to Christ. Or a mission field. You go on a mission field and five people came to Christ.
You’re not going to see witnessing on this list. Are you surprised? You’re not going to see church attendance on this list, although it’s presumed.
But you do see having a great sex life on this list. I think we need to be really focused on that.
You do see caring about people who are not in your field of vision who are suffering on this list. Fellow believers. Which we have all over the world. Now we’re able to connect all over the world.
You do see sharing your space, sharing your time.
And you do see connecting with other believers.
And all of this comes back to our conduct, being content with what we have.