Our Relationship with Jesus Christ Matters!
Lord God, our blessed Savior, impress upon our minds and hearts this day the truths of Your precious Word. Move us, O Lord, having embraced those truths to apply them to our lives. Let us never be deceived by Satan or this world and so be drawn away from You. Rather keep us close as we enjoy Your means of grace and experience Your Spirit’s blessing. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Strive to live wisely in the Lord, for then you will experience His blessing. Do not envy the prosperity or worry about the plots of the wicked, for the Lord will deal with them according to His own just plan.
We are called to follow Jesus as His disciples. We cannot do it with half a heart or whenever we wish. Rather we are urged to follow faithfully, putting our hands to the plow and not looking back!
Text: Hebrews 13:1-9
Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them, and those who are mistreated, since you yourselves are in the body also. Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have. For He Himself 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 those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have no profited those who have been occupied with them.
In Christ Jesus, Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, dear fellow redeemed:
It was my privilege recently at a funeral here at Immanuel to sing a number of duets with Luann Friedrichs. One of the songs we sang was an old American folk hymn, "In the Garden." As is the case with many folk hymns, it does not express any deep theological doctrines, but its refrain does express a fundamental truth concerning a believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ. It speaks of Jesus walking with the believer and talking with the believer, and so gives musical expression to Jesus’ promise, “Lo, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), and to Jesus’ words, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
My dear friends, Jesus Christ is not a dead or distant entity about whom we talk, but with whom we have nothing to do on a daily basis. He is not like that friend to whom we write a family Christmas letter once a year, or that distant cousin with whom we talk occasionally by telephone. In our last Junior Youth Group devotion, we discussed how we might practice the presence of Jesus in our lives. We talked about what we might do to help us remember that Jesus truly is “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” and that He wants to be close to us in our lives now, so that we might be close to Him throughout eternity. Our text today speaks to the practical effect of our relationship with Jesus Christ. If nothing else, it demonstrates to us thatOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST MATTERS!
For, first of all, it directs our actions towards others! The writer to the Hebrews says, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them, and those who are mistreated, since you yourselves are in the body also. Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
Why is it that God in the Scriptures so frequently feels compelled to remind us to love one another? We are not even talking here about that deep "agape" love of which Scripture so often speaks, but rather of simply being nice to one another, being courteous and polite, being kind? The answer, of course, is that in view of our sinful nature we need those reminders. We so easily forget, do we not? We become so involved in our own lives and concerns—sometimes selfishly and sometimes selflessly, that we can so easily become irritated by others. We stop "putting the best construction on everything," and without thinking we snap at people. We can become so busy in our own little worlds, that we just do not have time to bother with others. Instead of building relationships, we begin to build walls—walls to protect ourselves, we think, but walls which begin to separate ourselves from other people and at the same time from our Savior as well!
My dear friends, “let brotherly love continue” for “strangers” and “prisoners”—those people we may not know but who need our help, and for our marital partner—the one we may well know the best and to whom we have pledged our help. The writer of these words alludes to the incident in Abraham’s life, when three men, two angels and the Lord Himself, appeared on the plains of Mamre en route to bring judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Genesis 18). Abraham invited them into his tent and prepared a meal for them, only to learn later from the Lord about His planned destruction of the cities. Abraham then prayed to the Lord to spare the life of his nephew Lot. He did so with dramatic results.
God has a purpose for each of us day by day with the people we meet and in the relationships we establish. The Scriptures are clear that “God…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4) and equally clear that He has chosen to accomplish that great goal by using us to share His message of love (cf. Romans 10:14). His great desire is that even as He has loved us and expressed that love for us in the gospel, so we are to love others and share with them messages, which will set them free. We cannot remove the chains of steel which bind their hands and feet, but we can certainly share with them a message which will remove the chains of Satan which bind their hearts and souls.
And, yes, we need to be reminded of God’s will regarding marriage, for it is honorable in His eyes and is to be honored among us. Let us be truly affectionate towards our husbands and wives, as Paul encourages us to be (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:3-4). Beware, dear Christians, of a world, which is filled with adulterers and fornicators who despise God’s commandments and assume that they can do as they wish without repercussion. “God will judge” such individuals, and His judgment will be final.
Without doubt, OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST MATTERS, for it directs our actions towards others, and it, secondly, directs our attitudes towards things! “Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have. For He Himself 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?’”
We teach our confirmation students that to "covet" means to want something we cannot and should not have. We cannot and should not have things for different reasons. Sometimes things belong to other people, and they do not want to part with them. To continue to want such things is to "covet." At other times, things may be out of our reach financially. To purchase them would cause us to sin against good stewardship and place ourselves in financial danger. To obsess over that expensive car, or that dream home, or even those chic items of clothing, which are beyond our means is to "covet."
Our Lord wants our “conduct”—our lives to be “without covetousness.” Rather He wants us to “be content with such things as you have.” The apostle Paul warns us that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” and that if our goal in life it to become rich, we will “fall into temptation” and being led by all sorts of “foolish and harmful lusts”—coveting, we will be harmed.
My dear friends, true happiness and contentment are not tied to the material possession we have. No amount of things will make us truly happy. Rather, true happiness is to be found in our relationship with our Savior. People can and do “leave” and “forsake” us. Possessions can be lost, stolen, or simply wear out, but our Savior will never leave us. He cannot and will not forsake us, for He is committed to us by His very blood—His death and resurrection. Let us, therefore, be content, for no matter what our material situation in life, “we may boldly say, ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”
Truly, OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST MATTERS, for it directs our attitudes towards things, and, finally, it directs our allegiance to biblical teaching! Our text concludes, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have no profited those who have been occupied with them.”
Our Lord here urges us to remember those apostles and prophets, through whom the Spirit of God revealed His word, and who having lived their faith died receiving the full grace and promises of God. Our Jesus walked and talked with the apostles Peter and Paul, James and John “yesterday.” He encouraged, uplifted, and enabled them in their respective ministries, and that same Jesus is here “today” to encourage, uplift, and enable us to fulfill our respective ministries in the home, on the job, and here as members of this Christian congregation. Rest assured, Jesus Christ is no "fair-weather" friend. He will abide us with and hold us in His hands now and forever (cf. John 10:28).
Consequently, let us listen to Him carefully as He speaks to us in His word, for that word likewise will “stand forever” (cf. Isaiah 40:8). Our text tells us, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.” That is particularly true during times of great emotion and stress, such as right now as our country pursues its war on terrorism. There is a great movement in our country to unite our citizenry in this fight. That is a good and necessary thing. However, it can also involve the promotion of false doctrine. I shared an editorial from World magazine with the Junior/Senior High School Religion class this past week. It was entitled, “Coalition, sure, but let’s not pretend that God and Allah are the same.” It cited a statement on the Public Broadcasting Service website, which offered this statement: “One should properly say that Muslims worship God, not Allah, which is simply the word for God (with a capital G) in the Arabic language. Giving a different name to the one God worshipped by the followers of Muhammad erroneously implies that their God is different from the one God worshipped by Jews or Christians.” My dear friends, the followers of Muhammad do worship a different god than the Christian, as do the Jews. Both the Muslims and the Jews reject Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our only Savior. If you reject Jesus Christ, if you fail to honor Him as you honor the Father, the Bible is very clear that you do not know God the Father, but rather are worshipping an idol—an idea you have created in your own mind (cf. John 5:23).
Let us, therefore, not be carried “about with various and strange doctrines,” but rather let us be “established by grace.” The key concept of Scripture, which governs God’s attitude towards us and our relationship with God, is “grace!” "Grace" is the undeserved love of God for us sinful human beings. We deserve His wrath and judgment in view of our sins. By nature we are in rebellion against Him. In His grace, He looked down with love and determined to save us, and so He sent His Son Jesus to be our substitute—to live for us a perfect life, so that He might bestow upon us, His believing followers, a righteousness that will stand the inspection of God. He then died for us, suffering the torments of hell we deserve, so that we might thereby be forgiven of our sins and receive the promise of eternal salvation in heaven. Now, He seeks to walk with us and to talk with us, so that thereby He might bestow upon us His continuous blessing. Are we aware of His presence? Are we listening to His voice? God grant that we are, for OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST MATTERS! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting