************ Sermon on Hebrews 13:1-3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 9, 2017
"They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love"
The Hebrew Christians have heard about the grace of God for twelve chapters. They have heard that Christ is better that Moses. They have heard that the new covenant is better than the old covenant. They have heard that the promises are better, the priesthood is better, the sacrifices are better, the temple is better, the Sabbath-rest is better. Everything about Christ is better.
Now what? What does God expect from those who have everything better? What does God expect from the Hebrew Christians? And, what does God expect from you and me? Let there be no mistake about it: God does expect something from those who have been saved by the blood of the Lamb.
You need to also realize that Christians are on display. We are on display before the world.
Everyone recognizes that President Trump lives in a glass house. By that we mean that all that he does and says is on display for his critics to tear apart. Pastors live in a glass house too. In fact, all public figures live in a glass house. And so do Christians. We all live in a glass house on display before the world and unbelievers. Don't ever forget, dear friends, that the world is watching so it can criticize us and accuse us and throw stones at us.
Hebrews 13 is instruction to Christians on how to live in glass houses. Hebrews 13 is instruction to Christians on how to live before a hostile and unbelieving world. The goal is not just pure and holy lives. The goal is also and especially the glory of God. The goal is to be like Daniel. Those who hated Daniel could find no corruption in him. So finally the only means of attack was his religion. When the world looks at us they should find no corruption in us and their only means of attack is our faith, our religion, and the good that we do. My brothers and sisters, if you claim to be a Christian you have the obligation and the privilege to live for the glory of God and to shut the mouths of the critics.
So how are we to live? Now, before I begin let me lay before you the presupposition of Hebrews. The presupposition is that you have already met Christ. You are part of the new covenant. You understand the difference between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. You stand on the mount of grace. Therefore, how are you to live? Here is the first answer (and we will be hearing other answers in the weeks to come): you are to show love and you are to show compassion. To quote the song we will be singing: They'll know we are Christians by our love.
I Christians Show Love
A First, we Christians are called to love: "Keep on loving each other as brothers" (Heb 13:1).
In the Greek, "brother" and "love" are combined into one word. Together, they make the word "philadelphia." The Ancient World had a city by that name; the Eastern U.S. does too: Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. "Philadelphia," says Hebrews. Meaning what? Brotherly love. Literally, Hebrews is calling for great affection for those who come from the same womb. Philadelphia.
B Now, who are those who came from the same womb? In mind are those whom the Hebrew Christians left behind when they came to know Christ -- namely, the Jews. The Jews, don't forget, are from the same womb. Physically, they are all children of Abraham just like the Hebrew Christians are children of Abraham. Have brotherly love, have great affection, for the Jews. Even though they hassle you and persecute you and argue with you and threaten you. Think of Paul praying and crying that the Jews may be saved. What an attitude to have towards those who hate and oppose you. Did you know that many of the Muslims in the Middle East are also descendants of Abraham? We don't demonize them. Instead, like Paul we are to love them and to pray for their salvation. Philadelphia.
Especially, though, it is fellow believers, brothers and sisters in Christ, who also come from the same womb. They may be of different races, tribes, languages, and people but they come from the same womb. How? In what way? As we learned this morning, every believer has been born-again of the Spirit. Have brotherly love, have great affection, for your fellow believers. Philadelphia.
C Pay attention to the first phrase or word of our Bible reading: "Keep on loving each other as brothers." "Keep on." "Continue." Hebrews doesn't call the Hebrew Christians to invent brotherly love, to start brotherly love, to generate brotherly love, to find brotherly love. It says, "Continue, Keep on." In other words, the brotherly love is already there. It is already there and keep on doing it and showing it and having it. You already have brotherly love so keep having it, keep showing it, keep exercising it. Philadelphia.
"Keep on loving each other as brothers." The first thing a new believer usually does is find other believers to be with. They enjoy the love and need the love and seek out the love of fellow believers. Philadelphia.
"Keep on loving each other as brothers." It is something they already have. It is something they have already done. So the question can be asked, where does it come from? Listen to what Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica:
(1 Th 4:9) Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.There you have it: God has taught us to love each other. When? Where? Love for the brothers was one of the main teachings of Christ. Over and over again Jesus commanded His disciples to love. And, this was not just words on the part of Jesus. This was something He showed. This was something He lived out. Especially in the Last Supper and at the cross and grave. If there is anyone who showed brotherly love, it is Christ Jesus. And, when you believe in Jesus, when you accept the doctrine of Christ taught in the book of Hebrews, then this love of Jesus fills you. It fills you and flows out of you to others. It starts with Jesus. You don't have brotherly love, you can't have brotherly love, unless the love of Jesus is in your heart.
D "Keep on loving each other as brothers." So, how do we show this love? How does it come to expression in our lives?
Well, let's start with the opposite. Think of what happened in Vegas this past week. We still don't know what triggered the crazy man who shot down at the crowd so 489 were injured and 58 were killed. The 58 range in age from 20 to 67. They were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, grandparents and grandchildren. They worked in hospitals, police stations, schools, day cares, restaurants, and fishing boats. They were at the Country & Western concert to celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and a shared love of music. Obviously, the shooter did not show love or have love. Equally obvious, the love of Jesus must not have been in his heart.
"Keep on loving each other as brothers." So, how do we show this love? How does it come to expression in our lives? Let me list seven things I found in Scripture.
First, practice self-denial (Phil 2:1-11). Brotherly love denies oneself and puts the other person first. It's not that we think so little of ourselves, but that we feel so warmly toward our brothers and sisters in Christ that we are happy to lay aside our own interests and desires for their sakes.
Two, seek the good of our brother and sister (1 Thess 5:15). Love does more than put someone else first. Love seeks their good, their betterment, their advancement. We want to help our brother to succeed. We want to serve our sister so that she prospers in faith and life.
Three, ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness (Col 3:13). If you love your fellow saints then you will ask for their forgiveness when you sin against them, and you will freely forgive them when they sin against you.
Four, show hospitality (1 Pet 4:9). Listen to what verse 2 says about this:
(Heb 13:2) Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.Hebrews is thinking of Abraham here. He offered hospitality to three men and later discovered it was God and two angels. Hospitality means you, like Abraham, welcome others into your life and home. Brotherly love includes; it draws near to others and invites them in. It offers them a place at the table. Brotherly love looks around, sees the lonely, and extends the hand of fellowship. In the Ancient World there were inns or hotels. But "good people" did not stay in them because most of the inns were brothels -- filthy, expensive places of ill-repute. So where did good people stay when they traveled? Where did the apostles and missionaries stay as they were preaching and teaching throughout the Roman Empire? They stayed with people who showed the gift of hospitality by opening their home.
Five, be generous (2 Cor 9:11). Be generous with your money. Be generous with your time. Be generous with your talents. Brotherly love seeks to give, and gives big. Many today have an easier time parting with their money than their time. They would rather be generous with their wallet than their calendar. Real generosity means giving of yourself. Someone was recently described to me as a person who is willing to help anyone, anywhere, and at anytime. That is showing brotherly love.
Six, encourage (1 Thess 5:11). So many are discouraged by life and events and circumstances. There are so many trials and problems in life: broken relationships, unemployment, depression, sickness, addictions, disabilities, financial loss. Brotherly love points people to Christ and the Gospel promises. It encourages them to look beyond their life and their circumstances to what Christ has in store for them.
Seven, pray (James 5:16). If you love your brothers and sisters you will pray for them. Too many times people promise to pray but never once approach God in prayer for their brother and sister. "I will pray for you," they say. But they don't. How sad is that? Even sadder is that those who need the prayer are willing to settle for the false promise of prayer. Brotherly love prays. It asks God to intervene in another's life.
There are many other ways in which we can be loving one another in the church. We can do this because we have come to know the love of God in Christ. As people saved by love, we want to show love.
E "Keep on loving each other as brothers." Philadelphia. Why? I already mentioned one reason: They'll know we are Christians by our love. The world doesn't show love. The world cannot show love. But the Christian does. Love identifies Christians to a world that is watching.
"Keep on loving each other as brothers." Philadelphia. Here is another reason: God delights in brotherly love. Remember what God says in Psalm 133? "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" God is happy and delighted when we show brotherly love.
Tragically, we have to admit that in the church brotherly love isn't always what it ought to be. We all fall short. We all can do better. We all, by the Spirit's power, need to strive harder to be like Christ.
II Christians Show Compassion
A Remember, we live in a glass house. The world is watching. The world is watching for proof that we really are Christian. The world is hoping to see us fall and fail. So, how do we live in a glass house? Here is the second answer according to Hebrews: we are to show compassion. Listen to verse 3:
(Heb 13:3) Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
At the time Hebrews was written, Christians got thrown into prison on account of their faith. Remember what we studied in Hebrews 10:
(Heb 10:33-34) Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. (34) You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property ...In Hebrews 11 we learned this was nothing new. The Old Testament heroes of faith faced something similar:
(Heb 11:35-37) Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. (36) Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. (37) They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated ...
Christians who were not in prison remembered those who were. They visited. The brought food and blankets and clothes and medicine. They prayed. They encouraged. They showed compassion.
B One of the most unChrist-like attitudes anyone can ever have is the attitude which says, "I have enough problems of my own to get involved in anyone else's." What a terrible, callous, selfish attitude of indifference. This is the opposite of what true Christianity is all about. This cannot and must not be the attitude of someone who lives in a glass house.
You know what needs to be done if you have this attitude? Replace your self-pity with compassion for others. And do you know the best way to get rid of your problems? Work at getting rid of other people's problems. People who are preoccupied with their own problems, preoccupied with self-pity, are not compassionate. They cannot be compassionate because they are all about ME.
People who live in glass houses show compassion. One of the reasons they do this is because the world is watching. Aristodes, the heathen orator, was one of those who watched. He said this about the Christians he saw:
If they hear that any one of their number is in prison or in distress for the sake of their Christ's name, they all render aid in his necessity, and if they can, they redeem him, to set him free.In other words, if a believer is in jail, they pay the price to get him out.
Here is the most amazing part: Christians in the early church actually sold themselves into slavery to get the money to free somebody else. That is compassion!
How does the world know you are a Christian? They'll know we are Christians by our love. They'll know we are Christians by our compassion. Does the world know you are a Christian?
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