God Is Faithful! Let Us Strive to Be Faithful Too!
O Lord God, my dear heavenly Father, as I approach You this day in worship, fill my heart with joy as I hear and consider the truths of Your Word. Give me greater understanding of those truths and help me to apply them faithfully in my life, so that I might honor Your saving name and encourage my brethren with all of my words and through all of my actions. It is in Jesus’ name that I pray. Amen.
The Psalmist proclaims the Word of God intended for every generation. As he and his generation had heard God’s Word from their fathers, so he urges his generation to share those same truths with their children, so that they too might “set their hope in God!
God’s kingdom is not an external kingdom like those of this world. Rather, God’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom and includes His powerful work on behalf and within the hearts of all who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord!
Text: Hebrews 10:23-25
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
In Christ Jesus, our faithful Savior upon whose promises our faith rests, dear fellow redeemed:
One of the most simple, yet profound doctrinal statements summarizing our Christian faith is found in the apostle John’s 1st Epistle: “We love Him because He first loved us!” (1 John 4:19) The focal point of God’s plan for our salvation is His love for us sinners, while the heart of Christian sanctification is the fact that the Holy Spirit enables us to love God in return. All the forces of sin, Satan, and hell oppose these simple truths. Our spiritual enemies want us to doubt God’s love so that they can strip us of our certainty, and thereby seek to replace our love for God with abject fear of God. God’s goal has always been to restore our broken relationship with Him, but how can any type of good relationship survive, much less thrive in an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear?
The Epistle to the Hebrews was addressed to Jewish Christians in the 1st Century whose hearts were filled with uncertainty and fear. As time passed the Roman government was taking a different attitude…a more hostile attitude towards Christianity. Initially the Roman government viewed Christianity as merely a sect of Judaism—a legal religion within the empire. Consequently, when the Jews complained about Christians, as in the case of Paul in Corinth, the Roman authorities viewed it as an internal religious squabble and wanted nothing to do with it (cf. Acts 18:12-17). But as Christianity grew and it became apparent that it was a separate religion, Roman authorities began to view Christianity with suspicion. They declared Christianity to be illegal and persecuted its members by casting them into prison and not infrequently taking their lives (cf. Acts 12:1-3; Acts16:20-24). Satan used these circumstances to cause many of these Jewish Christians to question God’s gracious intentions towards them. Doubts arose while friends and relatives of these Jewish Christians urged them to return to Judaism and so avoid such persecution.
In our text the writer to the Hebrews reminded his fellow Jewish Christians that in spite of any and all outward circumstances GOD IS FAITHFUL! HE WILL KEEP HIS PROMISES! He then urged them: LET US STRIVE TO BE FAITHFUL TOO—faithful to God by holding fast to the confession of our hope, and faithful to each other by encouraging one another with our words, actions, and presence! Let us consider these thoughts especially in view of the increasing hostility within our own society today over against our Christian faith.
It is no secret that our society’s view of Christianity, especially biblical Christianity, has changed significantly over the past sixty years and most remarkably over the past twenty years. The percentage of people in America who believe that the Bible is God’s inspired and inerrant Word has dropped significantly. Speaking up in favor of biblical morality, which was the commonly accepted standard of conduct within our society not too long ago, is now frequently labeled as “hate speech.”
These changes really ought not to surprise us, nor should society’s rejection of Bible-based morality. We are not the first generation of Christians to experience such changes or such opposition. The apostle Paul warned the young Timothy already in the 1st Century: “The time will come when they (referring to people in general, but to professing Christians in particular) will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). He also informed him: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). Can we expect things to be different today? I believe not!
How then ought we to react to these changes and these charges? Our text tells us: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”The answer proposed is that in view of God’s absolute and unchanging faithfulness to us, we ought to be faithful to Him by holding fast to the confession of truth found within the Bible and to do so in view of the hope that we have been given by God through those truths.
What is that hope? The writer to the Hebrews outlined that hope earlier in his epistle. He pointed out that God sent one Savior—His Son, Jesus Christ, through whose word He now speaks—to rescue us lost sinners (Hebrews 1:1-4). He declared Jesus to be superior to all angels, for He has been given an everlasting kingdom and far better than all merely-human priests, for instead of offering the blood of animals He offered His own blood once upon the cross for the sins of all (Hebrews 1:5, 8-9; Hebrews 9:28) . He reminded them that by His death Jesus had destroyed the power of Satan to use death to hold us captive with fear(Hebrews 2:14-15). He stated that Jesus is now at God’s right handwatching over us (Hebrews 10:12), and that in view of everything that He has done for us, we can now come boldly into God’s presence with our prayers (Hebrews10:19-20). Our hope is based upon a complete redemption of our souls, leading to an absolute reconciliation with our God, and resulting in certain deliverance unto eternal life! That is true hope and something worth holding fast to without wavering!
But how can we do that given all the pressures Satan and this world place upon us? The Bible informs us over and over that the key to faithfulness is holding fast to our confession of faith. The apostle Paul tells us: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). We need to immerse ourselves in God’s Word. Then we will both do and be prepared to do what the apostle Peter encourages us to do: “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Pet. 3:15 NIV)
In the most recent issue of “Answers Update,” the monthly newsletter prepared by the group Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham, the President of AIG-USA, offers an example of how we might answer respectfully those who disagree with what the Bible says about homosexuality and “gay” marriage. This is a timely subject, because the U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on the constitutionality of “gay” marriage. In response to someone who would object to defining marriage as being composed of one man and one woman, Mr. Ham wrote:
“Let me tell you why I believe what I do. Then let me know why you believe what you do. It helps take out the emotionalism (of this subject).
“I start with God’s Word. Now you might say you don’t believe it, and I understand that. But I do believe in one man, one woman marriage because I start with God’s Word. And I do believe Genesis, even if you think it’s just myth…. But just understand where I am coming from, and because of that, that’s why I believe marriage is a man and a woman. And that’s why I would say homosexual behavior is wrong.
“…my challenge to you is: why do you believe what you do…? And what do you think is wrong with the Bible? Can we talk at that level? It really comes down to this: we have different starting points” (1:1 Answers Update, The Supreme Court and Marriage, Ken Ham, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp. 1-2).
My dear friends, the days may well be coming when our religious liberty is restricted in ways that we could not have imagined only a few years ago. We may face fines, or we could face imprisonment for simply following the word and will of our Savior. But short of that we are already being challenged and criticized for upholding biblical principles. Let us not be filled with uncertainty or fear! GOD IS FAITHFUL! HE WILL KEEP HIS PROMISES! LET US STRIVE TO BE FAITHFUL TOO—faithful to God by holding fast to the confession of our hope!
Let us also strive to be faithful to each other by encouraging one another with our words, actions, and presence! Our text concludes: “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The author’s encouragement addresses and intertwines three different aspects of our Christian witness and consequently our faithfulness to Jesus Christ—our words, our actions, and our presence. First of all, we are to “consider one another” and then “exhort one another.” The idea is that we are constantly to have each other on our minds, thinking about ways that we can encourage each other to live faithful Christian lives. We are then to urge one another to live such lives. This is a tall order, for quite frankly all of our lives are busy and it is difficult just dealing with the complications of our own lives. Yet our God wants us regularly to be thinking about our fellow believers, praying for them, and encouraging them with God’s Word along life’s way.
This can be done with great joy and in any number of ways. The apostle Paul writes: “Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). Recently I began receiving each morning an e-mail posting from a young man here in Minnesota. Each e-mail cites a single Bible passage. Those passages center on Jesus Christ together with His will for us. I cannot tell you how many times the particular passage chosen has had direct application for my life on that particular day. I now find myself looking forward with expectation to his next e-mail and wondering how I might find a ready application for the verse cited. Let us strive to be faithful to each other encouraging one another with our words!
We ought also do so with our actions. The writer says we are to “stir up love and good works!” Jesus told His disciples on Maundy Thursday evening: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:34-35). Genuine Christian love expends itself in service to others and in order to meet the needs of others. The apostle James puts it rather bluntly when he asks the question: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can (such a) faith save him?” (Jam. 2:14) If we want people to listen to our confession of faith and consider what we have to say about the love of God in Christ Jesus, then let us show them that our confession of faith makes a difference in our lives. Let our lives be filled with love and good works!
The concluding section of the sermon text speaks of our presence together in worship: Let us “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some.” This is the “go to church” passage that we memorize as confirmation students. However, it is not a bare command, but is connected to the calls for faithful confession and loving encouragement that precede it. God wants us here in His house to hear His Word and so to be encouraged in our faith and life, but He also wants us here because He knows how much we need each other. We need the mutual encouragement that comes from hearing our fellow believers confess the creed together. We need to know that as fellow sinners, we are all forgiven. We need to hear hymns of praise ringing through the rafters. All of those things provide much needed fellowship in the midst of an increasingly hostile world!
My dear friends, may we never be uncertain of God’s love or become fearful! GOD IS FAITHFUL! HE WILL KEEP HIS PROMISES! LET US in turn STRIVE TO BE FAITHFUL TOO—faithful to God by holding fast to the confession of our hope, and faithful to each other by encouraging one another with our words, actions, and presence! Amen.