************ Sermon on Hebrews 13:20-21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 31, 2017
"God Equips Us"
Old Year's 2017
We have listened to the author of Hebrews for 13 chapters. We have heard 77 sermons on this wonderful book; tonight makes it 78. Yet, notice the author says he has written "only a short letter." He calls it a "word of exhortation." A "word." So there is lots more he could say. There is lots more he wants to say. But he is going to wait until he is with the Hebrew Christians again (Heb 13:19).
I All About Jesus
We have heard all about Jesus. We have heard Jesus is better. Remember that the word "better" is one of the keys to understanding Hebrews? Jesus is better than the angels. Jesus is better than Moses. The Sabbath-rest Jesus brings is better than that which Israel experienced. Jesus is a better high priest than Aaron and his line because He is of the line of Melchizedek. The blood and sacrifice offered by Jesus is better than the blood and sacrifice offered by the Old Testament priests. Jesus is a better priest because He serves at the right hand of God. The worship in the new Temple is better than the worship in the old Temple. Jesus brings us to a mountain that is better than Sinai.
Everything about Jesus is better. Remember why? Because Jesus' sacrifice is once for all. Remember that the phrase "once for all" is another of the keys to understanding Hebrews? Jesus' sacrifice is "once for all." Once for all men, once for all sin, once for all time. No more sacrifice is needed. No more need for an altar. No more need for blood to be shed. In Christ we have everything we need for salvation. In Jesus we have everything we need to be in the presence of God.
On this last night of 2017 let's stand and sing about Jesus and what He has done ... "Nothing but the Blood" (TCH #337).
II Faith in Jesus
Over and over again the author of Hebrews keeps talking about Jesus. Why? Because he is worried about something. Because he is worried more of the Hebrew Christians will leave the faith. Remember how some have already left? They left Jesus and returned to Moses; they left the Christian faith and returned to the Jewish faith. They left because of persecution. They left because in the Roman Empire it is easier to be a Jew than to be a Christian.
So over and over again the author of Hebrews exhorts his audience to stay with Jesus. Over and over again he encourages his audience to stick to Jesus:
-Pay careful attention; do not drift away (2:1)
-Fix your thoughts on Jesus (3:1)
-Do not harden your hearts (3:8)
-Be careful not to fall short of entering His rest (4:1)
-Hold firmly to the faith we profess (4:14)
-Be mature in the faith (5:12ff)
-Remember those earlier days when you stood your ground (10:32)
-Do not throw away your confidence (10:35)
This exhortation reaches its climax in chapter 11 where the author of Hebrews tells his audience to have faith. He tells his audience to have the faith of the Old Testament saints.
In 22 sermons we went through the people of faith one-by-one: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham (three sermons), Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses' parents, Moses (a couple of sermons), Joshua and Caleb, the people of Israel who marched around Jericho, Rahab. We looked at the faith of people like Gideon, Samson, David, and Daniel and his friends who conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. We looked at the faith of women who received back their dead, raised to life again. We looked at the faith of others who were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 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; they wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
These Old Testament saints all lived by faith though none of them received what had been promised. On this last night of 2017 I want to tell you, again, to be people of faith, to imitate their faith.
To remind you and to remind one another let's stand and sing about this ... "By Faith" (Hand-out).
III The Christian Life
We are to be people of faith. But faith is more than just a set of beliefs. Faith is more than knowing about Jesus and believing in Jesus. Faith is also a lifestyle. Faith is also a way of life. So let me remind you of what Hebrews has said to us in chapters 12 & 13:
-Run the race (12:1)
-Endure hardship (12:7)
-Live in peace with all men and be holy (12:14)
-Worship God acceptable (12:28)
-Love each other (13:1)
-Show hospitality (13:2-3)
-Honor marriage (13:4)
-Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content (13:5)
-Don't be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings (13:9)
-Offer to God a sacrifice of praise (13:15)
-Obey your leaders and pray for them (13:17-18)
Let us stand and sing about this as well ... "Take Time to Be Holy" (TCH #656).
IV God Equips Us
A Now, our text is a benediction. A blessing. It calls to mind all the major themes of Hebrews. Which is why I just reviewed them with you.
(Heb 13:20) 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,
Who is God? He is the "God of Peace." The angels announced that peace on Christmas Day:
(Lk 2:14) "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
What is this peace? Christmas cards and Miss America contestants talks about "peace on earth." By this they mean peace among men. By this they mean the end of war and violence and bloodshed. By this they mean the end to conflict among nations. But this is not what the angels mean by peace. This is not what our text means by peace. This view of "peace" is too limiting. Let me put it a bit more strongly and say this view of "peace" is pathetic.
Peace is what the triune God brings at the end of the age. Peace is the result of the finished work of Jesus Christ: work that starts from eternity with the sovereign will of God, moves to the manger, goes to Golgotha, empties the tomb, continues at the right hand of God, and reaches its climax with Christ's return and the creation of a new heaven and new earth.
The Greek word for "peace" is a translation of the Hebrew word "shalom." God is the God of Peace. God is the God of Shalom. So what does it mean?
Peace. Shalom. Both words speak of the fullness of salvation. You know we already have peace. You know we already have shalom. But what we have today is just a foretaste.
A couple of months ago someone was cooking sausages. He cut off an end and gave me a bite. You know what that was? It wasn't the whole meal. It was a foretaste of the meal.What we have in this life is just the beginning of eternal joy. It is just a foretaste, it is just a beginning, because in this life and on this earth and in this body we also experience sin, suffering, heart-ache, disease, cancer, death, mourning, crying, pain. But when Jesus returns the God of Peace will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. When Jesus returns from the right hand of God, then we get salvation in all its fullness.
B Note also the title used for Jesus: He is "that great Shepherd of the sheep." I just love this title. It makes me think of other instances where Jesus is described as Shepherd. In John 10, Jesus is the Good Shepherd Who died for the sheep (Jn 10:11). In 1 Peter, Jesus is the Chief Shepherd Who will come for the sheep at His return (1 Pet 5:4). And, in our text from Hebrews, He is the Great Shepherd Who looks after the sheep from heaven.
Earlier in Hebrews Jesus is known as the "Great High Priest" (Heb 4:14). As Great High Priest He offered Himself. As Great High Priest He ascended to heaven and brought the offering of His own blood into the very presence of God. Our Great High Priest has now become our Great Shepherd. Which means He cares for us, watches over us, defends us.
C Now, remember, we are told to be people of faith. And we are told to live out the faith. In our text Hebrews is telling us from where we get the energy, the power, the force to be and to live as people of faith. We get it from the God of Peace. We get it from the Great Shepherd.
Look at the benediction again. Listen to it. What does Hebrews say about God?
(Heb 13:20) 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,Do you know what we have here? We have the greatest display of power in the history of the universe. What God accomplished in the death and resurrection of Christ is the greatest display of divine power in the history of the universe.
Now, how is this power, this vast power, this divine power, used? It is used on you and me. Keep this in mind as I read the next verse of the benediction:
(Heb 13:21) 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.
Why did you have faith in 2017? Why will you have faith in 2018? How did you live out your faith in 2017? How will you live out your faith in 2018? How did you grow in the faith in 2017? How will you grow in the faith in 2018? Guess what? It has nothing to do with your own power. On your own, by the power of your own flesh, you will never do it. You can't do it. It is simply impossible. Left to your own devices, you will simply slip away as happened with some of the Hebrew Christians.
Earlier, I read the list of baptisms, professions, weddings, funerals. What about the names I did not read? We have 135 families. We have 353 confessing members. We have 179 baptized members. We have 532 total members. How do any of them, any of us, continue in the faith and live out the faith? On our own, by the power of our own flesh, none of us can ever do it.
D This is where the power of God comes in. This is where the vast power of the God of Peace comes in. This is where the resurrection power of the Great Shepherd comes in. What does this power do? It works in us to make us mature and to bring us to perfection.
"May the God of peace ... equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him." The word "equip" was familiar to the people who received this letter. To doctors it meant "to set a broken bone." To fishermen it meant "to mend a broken net" (Mt 4:21). To sailors it meant "to outfit a ship for a voyage." To soldiers it meant "to equip an army for battle."
Our Savior in heaven, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, wants to equip us for life on earth. Tenderly, He wants to set the "broken bones" in our lives so that we might walk straight and run the race of faith successfully. He wants to repair the breaks in the nets so that we might catch fish and win souls. He wants to equip us for battle and outfit us so that we will not be battered in the storms of life. His goal is to make us mature and steadfast in the faith so that He can work in us and through us that which pleases Him and accomplishes His will.
How does He equip us? He uses the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17) and prayer (1 Thess 3:10) in the fellowship of the local church (Eph 4:11-12). He uses other believers to equip us and mend us (Gal 6:1). And, He uses suffering to perfect His children (1 Pet 5:10).
As we end 2017 and start 2018, I want to challenge you to do something. I want to challenge you to make the benediction in front of us into a personal prayer each day:
"Lord Almighty, equip me today with everything good for doing You will, and may You work in me what is pleasing to You, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
As we end our study of Hebrews, I ask "How can I stand firm in a world that is shaking all around me?" The answer: Know Him Who is better, the Lord Jesus Christ. Trust His sacrifice which is once-for-all. Live by faith. Depend on Him to work in you with His almighty power.
Is this how you stood firm in 2017? Is this how you will stand firm in 2018?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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