Hebrews 13:1-6, Brotherly Advice.

[1]Let brotherly love continue.  [2]Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have unwittingly entertained angels.  [3]Remember the prisoners as if chained with them – those who are mistreated – since you yourselves are in the body also.
[4]Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
[5]Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you  have.  For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  [6]So we may boldly say:  “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”

The chapter break is unfortunate, as are many others, because it breaks up the writer’s thought.  It may not seem like it in what he’s been writing before this, but it’s really all about “brotherly love.”  Our culture has so distorted the idea of “love” that the Biblical viewpoint has totally been thrown out.

In our society, “love” is defined as “tolerance,” or “acceptance.”  Most ideas of saying that something is “wrong” are rejected out of hand, except maybe that it’s wrong to say something is wrong.  The exception seems to be when those who are in the wrong accuse those who differ with them of being wrong.  There’s an example of this in Exodus 2:11-14.  Note carefully who it was who said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?”  Nothing’s changed.

There’s an interesting instruction about this view of love in the OT.  In Leviticus 19:17, 18,  God said to Israel, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart.  You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.  You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD.”  The Israelite had a responsibility toward his neighbor.  Now, he wasn’t to be the “executioner” if one might have been needed, that wasn’t his place, but he was to say something to the neighbor about it.  Not other neighbors.  That neighbor.  Hear also our Lord in Matthew 18:15.  He does say a little more, but the basic idea is the same.  He also says something about our responsibility when someone has something against us, Matthew 5:22, 23.

Moses carried it a little farther:  to be silent was to bear sin.  “Tolerance” and “acceptance” of wrong is sin.  Not love.

How does all that tie in with our text in Hebrews?

The writer has been faithfully warning his readers against having a casual attitude toward the Word of God, an attitude which ultimately leads to rejection of it.  Indeed, in itself a casual attitude toward the Word is to reject it.

It’s true that the writer isn’t talking about wrong-doing.  He’s showing what it means to “love.”  In warning his readers, he’s been showing love to them.  Now he continues with some other examples.  We could probably write a post on each of them.

Entertain strangers.  In that day, they didn’t have motels and hotels.  Travelers were dependent on people they knew or the hospitality of strangers for overnight accommodations.  See, for example, Judges 19:15; Luke 10:4-7.  You never know who you might be helping, even “angels.”  Abraham did this, Genesis 18, although his hospitality extended to the LORD Himself.  After the Resurrection, some disciples extended hospitality to a stranger who turned out to be the Lord Jesus, Luke 24:13-35.  You never know whom the Lord might bring our way.

Remember the prisoners.  That is, believers who are being persecuted for their faith.  For some reasons, Christians are surprised when persecution comes to them or to others.  We’ve been spoiled in this country.  But church history is filled with stories of believers who did not love their lives to the death, as Revelation 12:11 describes some future believers.  If we can do nothing else, we’re to hold them up in prayer, that God would strengthen them and enable them to be faithful.  If we can help them otherwise, then we must.

Marriage is honorable.  There’s a lot we could say about this current and much-debated topic.  We’ll just leave it at this:  God has given clear instruction in His word about this topic, and those who deny, defy or distort His Word will be judged, and in the words of the last verse of ch. 12, our God is a consuming fire.

Be content.  The writer has given some instruction about love toward strangers, toward the persecuted, toward marital love.  Now he touches on the love of “things.”  He warns against “covetousness.”  We don’t think much of this in a day when, every few weeks, some product, like a phone, is “updated and improved.”  Last year’s car is just “last year”.  My own opinion is that “new” isn’t always “improved.”  An hour of TV has some 20 or more minutes of advertising, most of which is designed to make us discontent with what we have and wanting something else or something better.  In Luke 12:15, our Lord said, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things which he possesses.”  Indeed, covetousness means that things possess us.   In Colossians 3:5, Paul warned against some things in ourselves, even telling us to put them to death.  One of these things is covetousness, which is idolatry.

We don’t think of it like this.  But when we focus on things, we take our focus off of God.  Whatever thing we focus on other than God, that thing is an idol.  We are idolators.  That doesn’t mean that we have to go off to some monastery or other; it just means that we have to understand that even our very breath isn’t our own, let alone the things around us.  And verse 6 brings in the wrath of God.  He will not take second place, as much as the skeptic or unbeliever might dislike that idea.

I’m interested in history.  Recently, my wife and I have been watching some programs on British castles.  The ones we’ve seen so far, impressive as they are, are all ruins.  I think that’s a fair assessment of “things” in general.  They don’t last.  Some of the owners of those castles did terrible things to get or keep them, but they, too, didn’t last.

In v. 5, the writer tells us to be content with such things as we have.

One of the “things” we’re to be content with goes far beyond the dreams of the wildest imagination of covetousness.  This “thing” is eternal.  The writer continues, For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  This thing is the promise of God.

If you give a little child a choice between a bright penny and a $100 bill, he will probably choose the bright penny.  He has no understanding of “value,” but only that the penny is shiny.

It’s a shame we’re so often fooled by the bright penny of things.

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Acceptance

(This post was originally published April 24, 2013 under the title, “Accepted”.  Thought it might be time for a “summer rerun.”  I changed the title in order to distinguish the two posts though they are the same, except for some minor corrections.)

One of the “traumas” of later teen years is the ordeal of trying to get into college.  Applications are sent in and their answer is anxiously waited for.

Aspiring authors send their manuscripts in to publishers and anxiously await their answer.

The answer can be found in one word – the same word.

Even professing Christians sometimes or often struggle to find this same answer.

That answer, that word, is “accepted.”

Prospective college students are elated finally to receive that answer to their application.

Authors rejoice to get that answer about their manuscripts from a publisher.

Strangely, Christians are reluctant to receive that answer from God.

I wonder why this is.  Perhaps it’s because they don’t understand the basis of “acceptance.”

Let me tell you a story which may help.

When our firstborn son was still an infant, I was someplace where there was a crying baby (not him!)  He was having a fit about something, as babies know how to do!  I had never liked crying babies, but as I looked at this red-faced little fellow, somehow I saw my own son – and it was alright.

Too many professing Christians have been taught or believe that in order to be accepted by God, you have to do this or that, or don’t do this or that.    There’s a whole litany of things people think they have to do or not in order to win acceptance and the favor of God.

But there’s another word which comes into play here.

Grace.

A lot of people talk about grace, but have never really thought about it.

Grace isn’t something we deserve.  We can’t earn it.  We can’t merit it.  It’s not some kind of reward for what we do.  We can’t buy it.  And we can’t obligate God to give it to us.  It’s not a result of anything we do, or can do.

It is grace.

As I looked at that crying baby, my “acceptance” of him had nothing to do with him.  It was because of my own son.

Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV) says that God has made us accepted in the Beloved. He looks at our sorry selves, but He sees His Son – and it’s alright.  Not because of us, perish the thought, but because of Him.

Books could be written about this, and have been.  Very simply put, Jesus lived a perfect life – the only One Who ever did.   He died a death that paid for sins, though He had none of His own.  The only One Who ever did that, too.

That perfect life, that punitive death.

It is on the basis of these that God accepts those who come to Him through Jesus Christ.

Not the Church.  Not the sacraments.  Not through works.  Not the liturgy.  Not baptism.  Not the Catechism.  Not communion.  Not confirmation.

Through Christ.  Faith in Him, Who He was and what He did.

If you want acceptance with God, quit looking to or at yourself.  You’ll find nothing there but reasons for rejection.

The Psalmist rejoiced in the truth of acceptance, if not in those words:  Psalm 103:10, He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.

The reason for that is because He did deal with Christ according to them.

Our acceptance before God rests in the perfect life and complete payment for sins by the Lord Jesus Christ.

The whole section of Ephesians 1:3-14 deals with the Lord Jesus and the blessings, by grace, we have in Him.

How do we know this “acceptance” is ours?  Paul tells us in vs. 12, 13 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.  In Him you also trusted….

Oh, if you’re having trouble with this, look to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Trust Him.

Because

We are

accepted

in the Beloved.

Accepted

(I’d like to thank the author of the blog “lessonsbyheart” for her post “Who ‘defined’ you”, for the inspiration for this post.)

One of the “traumas” of later teen years is the ordeal of trying to get into college.  Applications are sent in and their answer is anxiously waited for.

Aspiring authors send their manuscripts in to publishers and anxious await their answer.

The answer can be found in one word – the same word.

Even professing Christians sometimes or often struggle to find this same answer.

That answer, that word, is “accepted.”

Prospective college students are elated finally to receive that answer to their application.

Authors rejoice to get that answer about their manuscript from a publisher.

Strangely, Christians are reluctant to receive that answer from God.

I wonder why this is.  Perhaps it is because they don’t understand the basis of “acceptance.”

Let me tell you a story which may help.

When our firstborn son was still an infant, I was someplace where there was a crying baby  (not him!).  He was having a fit about something, as babies know how to do!  I had never liked crying babies, but as I looked at this red-faced little fellow, somehow I saw my own son – and it was alright.

Too many professing Christians have been taught or believe that in order to be accepted by God, you have to do this or that, or don’t do this or that.  There’s a whole litany of things people think they have to do or not in order to win acceptance and the favor of God.

But there’s another word which comes into play here.

Grace.

A lot of people talk about grace, but have never really thought about it.

Grace isn’t something we deserve.  We can’t earn it.  We can’t merit it.  It’s not some kind of reward for what we do.  We can’t buy it.  And we can’t obligate God to give it to us.  It’s not a result of anything we do, or can do.

It is grace.

As I looked at that crying baby, my “acceptance” of him had nothing to do with him.  It was because of my own son.

Ephesians 1:6 (NKJV) says that God has made us accepted in the Beloved.  He looks at our sorry selves, but He sees His Son – and its alright.  Not because of us, perish the thought, but because of Him.

Books could be written about this, and have been.  Very simply put, Jesus lived a perfect life – the only One Who ever did.  He died a death that paid for sins, though He had none of His own.  The only One Who ever did that, too.

That perfect life, that punitive death.

It is on the basis of these that God accepts those who come to Him through Jesus Christ.

Not the church.  Not the sacraments.  Not through works.  Not the liturgy.  Not baptism.  Not the Catechism.  Not communion.  Not confirmation.

Through Christ.  Faith in Him, Who He was and what He did.

If you want acceptance with God, quit looking to or at yourself.  You’ll find nothing there, but reasons for rejection.

The Psalmist rejoiced in the truth of acceptance, if not in those words: Psalm 103:10, He has not dealt with us according to our iniquities, nor punished us according to our iniquities…

The reason for that is because He did deal with Christ according to them.

Our acceptance before God rests in the perfect life and complete payment for sins by the Lord Jesus Christ.

The whole section of Ephesians 1:3-14 deals with the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessings, by grace, we have in Him.

How do we know this “acceptance” is ours?  Paul tells us in v. 12, 13, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.  In Him you also trusted….

Oh, if you’re having trouble with this, look to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Trust Him.

Because…

We are…

accepted…

in the Beloved.