Tuesday, August 29, 2017

“You Want to do Good? Here’s Your Checklist!”

“You Want to do Good? Here’s Your Checklist!”
2017 August 27

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Continue to love each other. Don’t forget to show hospitality to believers you don’t know. By doing this some believers have shown hospitality to angels without being aware of it.  Remember those in prison as if you were in prison with them. Remember those who are mistreated as if you were being mistreated.
Marriage is honorable in every way, so husbands and wives should be faithful to each other. God will judge those who commit sexual sins, especially those who commit adultery.
Don’t love money. Be happy with what you have because God has said, “I will never abandon you or leave you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid. What can mortals do to me?”
Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. Think about how their lives turned out, and imitate their faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Through Jesus we should always bring God a sacrifice of praise, that is, words that acknowledge him. Don’t forget to do good things for others and to share what you have with them. These are the kinds of sacrifices that please God.

Message:  “You Want to do Good? Here’s Your Checklist!”
Here is your list:
1. Be Hospitable to Strangers
2. Remember the Oppressed
3. Be Faithful Spouses
4. Don’t Love Money or Things
5. Be Content
6. Remember Your Leaders
7. Bring Your Sacrifices to God

In three of the gospels a young rich man asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. We gathered here today already know the answer to that: Believe in our heart that Jesus’ death removed our sins, and confess with our lips that Jesus, not us, is in charger of our lives.  However, we still wonder, “What do I need to do to be good?”

Listen as this Spiritual Song echoes what the Apostle was telling his readers in his letter to the Hebrew Christians.
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart

Stanza 1 is a prayer expressing the initial desire to become a Christian;
 the others are prayers for growth in Christian character:.

Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be more giving in my heart, in my heart.
Lord, I want to be more forgiving in my heart, in my heart.
Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart, in my heart.
And more verses akin to these

This African American spiritual could well have originated in Virginia in the 1750s
"A black slave asked Presbyterian preacher William Davies, 'I come to you, sir, that you may tell me some good things concerning Jesus Christ and my duty to God, for I am resolved not to live any more as I have done. . . Lord, I want to be a Christian.'

First, a little about this epistle:
Paul was most often credited with the letter. However, more recent evidence indicates that it was more likely to have been authored by Apollos and Barnabas.
Although the author of Hebrews is unknown to us, he was obviously well known to and well respected by his readers.

At the time of its writing the first century church was being severely persecuted and the writer sent this letter to those Jewish Christians who were considering abandoning the teaching of Jesus and lapsing back into strict Judaism. So, this portion of the letter gives a checklist of how to be a Christian.

The apostle recommends several excellent duties to them, as the proper fruits of faith
1. Be Hospitable to Strangers
2. Remember the Oppressed
3. Be Faithful Spouses
4. Don’t Love Money or Things
5. Be Content
6. Remember Your Leaders
7. Bring Your Sacrifices to God

Christ, in giving himself for us, was able to save to himself a special people who are enthusiastic to do good works. Now the apostle calls the believing Hebrews to carry out these good works as is expected of Christ’s followers.

1. Be hospitable to others.
Hospitality of this sort is made up of parts: 1. Brotherly love, 2 Charity

This is the brotherly love which is different than that love we show to all mankind.
It is also different than that shown to our relatives. 
This is that special and spiritual affection which ought to exist among the children of God.
It is important to remember that this letter is written specifically to the Jewish Christians.  Family connections were very important to the Jews.
It was how they identified themselves, first as Jews, then by tribe of the 12,
then by the larger family and finally by their own parentage.
So, it was assumed that this family form of brotherly love was ingrained in them.

That is why the writer clarifies and defines what he means by showing hospitality to believers by saying, hospitality to believers you don’t know.”

We can suppose that these early Christians had this love for one another because they had all things common. They sold their possessions and created a general fund in which all shared equally.
The spirit of Christianity is a spirit of love.
Faith works by love.
The true religion is the strongest bond of friendship.
·       However, this brotherly love was in danger of being lost during this time of persecution, when it would be needed most; it was in danger of being lost because of disputes among them concerning the ceremonies of the Mosaic law.                       Then, as now, disputes about religion too often produce a splits in the body of Christ; but this must be guarded against, and all proper means used to preserve brotherly love. Christians should always love and live as brethren, and the more they grow in devout affection to God their heavenly Father the more they will grow in love to one another for his sake.

We must add to brotherly kindness charity.
·       The duty required is to entertain strangers, both those that are strangers to Israel, and strangers to ourselves, especially those who are strangers here and are seeking another country, which is the case of the people of God. At this time the believing Jews were in a desperate and distressed condition. But he seems to speak of strangers in general. Though we do not know not who they are, nor from where they come, yet, seeing they are without a place to live, we should allow them room in our hearts and in our houses, as we have opportunity and ability.

·       The reward for this lifestyle is that some have entertained angels unawares. Abraham did so as we read in Genesis. 18,  The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oak trees belonging to Mamre as he was sitting at the entrance of his tent during the hottest part of the day. Abraham looked up, and suddenly he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran to meet them, and he bowed with his face touching the ground. “Please, sir,” Abraham said, “stop by to visit me for a while. Why don’t we let someone bring a little water? After you wash your feet, you can stretch out and rest under the tree. Let me bring some bread so that you can regain your strength. (later)Then the men got up to leave. As Abraham was walking with them to see them off, they looked toward SodomThe Lord said, “I shouldn’t hide what I am going to do from Abraham.  After all, Abraham is going to become a great and mighty nation and through him all the nations of the earth will be blessed.  I have chosen him so that he will direct his children and his family after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. In this way I, the Lord, will do what I have promised Abraham.” Not only was Abraham visited by three heavenly beings but the one announced himself to be the LORD.

Lot in Genesis. 19 also has an encounter with two of these angels and likewise shows them hospitality. 19 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gateway. When Lot saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed with his face touching the ground. 2 He said, “Please, gentlemen, why don’t you come to my home and spend the night? You can wash your feet there. Then early tomorrow morning you can continue your journey.”
“No,” they answered, “we’d rather spend the night in the city square.”
3 But he insisted so strongly that they came with him and went into his home. He prepared a special dinner for them, baked some unleavened bread, and they ate.

Though we can not assusme that we will ever entertain the Lord himself, yet what we do to strangers, in obedience to him, he will count it and reward it as if done to himself. In Matthew 25:34-40 we read, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

God has often bestowed honors and favors upon his hospitable servants without their being aware. I have told this before but, once I had done a kindness for a woman who thanked me by saying, “Thank you for being Jesus for me.” I replied, “No. You were Jesus for me.” It is why I do what I can and give what I can to those in need, because I do and give as if I were doing and giving to Jesus. If I do this, then the gift I have given is in the Lord’s care and I do not have to concern myself about what the other person or persons do with that gift. It is in God’s hands.

2. Remember the Oppressed
“Remember those in prison as if you were in prison with them.” Christian sympathy has several parts: remembrance and empathy. 
·       Remember those that are in bonds. This is the duty—to remember those that are in bonds and in adversity. They need not be in an actual prison of stone and steel. There are many ways in which people are imprisoned by the choices they have made, by physical or mental distress, by poverty, and more. It so happens  that while some Christians and churches are in adversity others enjoy peace and liberty. All are not called at the same to the same thing.
·       Empathy. Those that are at liberty must sympathize with those that are in bonds and adversity, as if they were bound with them in the same chains: they must alleviate the sufferings of their brothers. We must understand that our time of chains may come and think on how we would want to be treated by our brothers in Christ. It would be unnatural in Christians not to bear each other’s burdens.

3. Be Faithful Spouses
“Marriage is honorable in every way, so husbands and wives should be faithful to each other.” It is honorable, for God instituted it in paradise, knowing it was not good for man to be alone. He married and blessed the first couple. Christ honored marriage with his presence and first miracle. It is honorable as a means to prevent impurity and a defiled bed. It is honorable and happy, when persons come together pure affection, and preserve the marriage bed undefiled, not only from unlawful but lustful thoughts. Proverbs 23:7a reads, “for as he thinks within himself, so he is.”  And Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 “I say to you, anyone who stares at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

The writer also warns his readers that, “ God will judge those who commit sexual sins, especially those who commit adultery.”

4. Don’t love money.  1 Timothy 6:9-10 advises us, “But people who want to get rich keep toppling into temptation and are trapped by many stupid and harmful desires that plunge them into destruction and ruin. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, in their eagerness to get rich, have wandered away from the faith and caused themselves a lot of pain.” And Jesus warns us in Matthew 6:25, “No one can serve two masters, because either he will hate one and love the other, or be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches!”

5. Be Content
“Be happy with what you have.” Paul in his letter to the Philippians 4:11-13 wrote,  “I am not saying this because I am in any need, for I have learned to be content in whatever situation I am in. 12 I know how to be humble, and I know how to prosper. In each and every situation I have learned the secret of being full and of going hungry, of having too much and of having too little. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
And Christ in Matthew 6:25-30 said, “That’s why I’m telling you to stop worrying about your life—what you will eat or what you will drink—or about your body—what you will wear. Life is more than food, isn’t it, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t plant or harvest or gather food into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. You are more valuable than they are, aren’t you? 27 Can any of you add a single hour to the length of your life[b] by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Consider the lilies in the field and how they grow. They don’t work or spin yarn, 29 but I tell you that not even Solomon in all of his splendor was clothed like one of them.30 Now if that is the way God clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and thrown into an oven tomorrow, won’t he clothe you much better—you who have little faith?

6. Remember your leaders
It is clear from the contents of this letter that the author is not speaking of all of those who claim authority over us. He is speaking of those within the body of Christ who are our leaders and have shared the Word of God with us, for he later writes that these leaders must give an account to God.
Jesus in Matthew 23:2-3 tells the crowds that followed him, “The scribes and the Pharisees administer the authority of Moses, so do whatever they tell you and follow it, but stop doing what they do, because they don’t do what they say. This again indicates that we listen to and follow the truths that they share even as we witness their human weaknesses.

7. Bring God a sacrifice
Now what are the sacrifices which we must bring and offer on this altar? Not sacrifices for atonement for our sins. Christ has already made that great sacrifice which washed away our sins. We need only to offer our praise in acknowledgment on that sacrifice.
Our adoration and prayer, as well as our thanksgiving are the fruit of our lips. These must be offered only to God, not to angels, nor saints, nor any creature, but to the name of God alone, through Christ our savior.
The second part of our sacrifice is to do good deeds for and in the name of God’s Son. As God is well pleased; he will accept the offering with pleasure, and will accept and bless the offers through Christ.
Let me here recap:
1. Be Hospitable to Strangers
2. Remember the Oppressed
3. Be Faithful Spouses
4. Don’t Love Money or Things
5. Be Content
6. Remember Your Leaders
7. Bring Your Sacrifices to God

And all God’s people said, “Amen!”

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