Three Keys To Remaining True to Jesus
Topic: Perseverance of the Saints Passage: Hebrews 13:7–13:9
There are people in the church, who are like a rock. They’re not perfect, but they are faithful to Christ and to his church. Through the ups and downs of life, they hold firmly to God. Their hearts are focused on drawing near to God through Jesus. They consider this access to God’s presence their greatest blessing in life.
And sadly, there are those in the church who seem to be doing just fine. Then something comes up, and just like that, they are gone. They no longer have much of an appetite for God. They let go of their confidence in God. Something other than Christ becomes their focus. Instead of drawing near to God, they drift away. They neglect meeting with other Christians. The blessings we have in Jesus don’t seem to mean that much to them anymore.
Several years ago Cindy handed me a picture, of 7 or 8 men who attended a men’s retreat we called “Men’s Day at the Lake” about 12 years ago. She said to me “if you want to know why ministry is hard, take a look at this picture”. It took me only a few seconds to see what she meant. Within only a few years of when that picture was taken, everyone of those men were gone. And except for Denny DeGroote who had passed away, every other guy in the picture had drifted away from God.
One had been unfaithful to his wife. One had gone back to a dark and sinful past. One had massive family problems but stopped going to church did not turn to God for answers. Another man’s wife was unfaithful to him, and when I met with him, his faith was crushed and broken, he moved away and I don’t know what happened after that. There were other men at that retreat who are still around and still faithful to Christ. But all but one, in that photo, had turned back in some degree or another from following Christ. I will never forget the profound sense of sorrow I felt for those men, as I looked at the picture.
This very real problem of departure from the faith, is what the book of Hebrews addresses: It is a book of strong warnings about drifting away from Christ. It is a book urging us to hold fast our confidence firm to the end! In this closing chapter we are given three powerful exhortations to make us stable and strong, to help us remain true to the Lord and to finish our race.
*First: Imitate the faith of people who have walked faithfully with God. Verse 7 “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”
These leaders are probably those who helped establish many of these Jewish Christians in their faith in Christ. They were people who had run their race, and held their faith, firm to the end. He is telling the Hebrews to be LIKE them (in their faith)!
He said, the outcome of their way of life should motivate you to do that!
Everyone’s life has an “outcome”. And you can see it! Many people live in a way that does not turn out very well. They do not hold fast to God, they withdraw from other believers. They become enamored with the world or sin, or fall for some other scheme of the devil. And the outcome of their lives is a kind of spiritual shipwreck. Don’t imitate that kind of faith! Imitate those who led you to God. Imitate those who have spoken God’s word to you. Imitate those who have the proven results of a life lived by faith!
Paul wrote to Timothy, “You, however, KNOW all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance”. Timothy knew all about the outcome of Paul’s life because he had watched it and considered it.
The kinds of things Timothy saw in Paul are the kinds of things you see in people who walk faithfully with God. You see purpose, sound teaching, love, patience, endurance. You look at their personal lives, and you see peace, stability, joy and contentment in God. They sow the word of God into other’s lives! As verse 8 says, “They led you and spoke the word of God to you”. JC Ryle “The measure of a man’s greatness is his usefulness to souls”. People who walk with God want to be useful to other people’s souls. These are the kind of leaders the author of Hebrews said to remember and imitate.
If you imitate the faith of these kind of people, you will be stronger in your faith AND it will guard you from falling into the kind of spiritual lethargy the writer of Hebrews talks about. It really does matter what kind of people you set before you eyes. There’s an old saying, “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are”. Warren Buffet said something similar, "If you tell me who your heroes are, I'll tell you how you're gonna turn out. It's really important in life to have the right heroes”. Who are the people you look to? Who your heroes? Don’t be deceived. People who go on with God pay attention to men and women of faith, from the Bible and from history and from the present day!
*Second: Don’t fall for new or strange spiritual ideas, because Jesus never changes. Verse 8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings...”. Jesus doesn’t change, therefore the message about him will not change either. (Yes Jesus became a man but his character and purpose never change).
The Jesus who was in the beginning with the Father is the same Jesus who came into the world. Jesus, today, is the same Jesus we read about in Matthew Mark Luke and John. You often hear people in an unhappy marriage say, “He is not the same person I married”. (Or she is not the same....) No one will ever be able to say that about Jesus! Jesus won’t ever become a different person.
Jesus will never stop loving you. (The only thing that will change about his love, is your power to grasp it! Paul said, “I pray that you may have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge”.)
He was committed to your salvation yesterday, and he is committed to saving you today, and forever. He will never stop interceding for you. He will never stop being your advocate before the Father. Jesus won’t ever change his mind about choosing you! Jesus will never decide to leave you! “He himself has said, I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you”. His words, his message, his commandments will never change. The revelation that he gave to his apostles and the writers of scripture never needs updating, or revising, or corrected.
And since Jesus will never change... Do not be carried away by “diverse” and strange teaching. Strange teaching is teaching that is not found in the scripture. It is teaching that you will not find taught by the apostles. When a teaching does not sound like anything Paul or Peter or James or John or Jesus taught, watch out! Strange teaching is any teaching that carries you away from Christ.
The author says there are “diverse” teachings meaning various kinds of teachings that will carry you away from Christ. These Jewish Christians were tempted to go back to Jewish laws about foods, or to the Jewish sacrifices. But there are many other teachings that will pull our attention AWAY from Christ as the basic solution to our sin and brokenness. These teaching always direct people TO something OTHER THAN JESUS.
The unmistakable error in all new and strange teaching is that Jesus is not enough! Jesus is not enough to heal your soul, not enough to forgive your sins, not enough to release you from your sins, not enough to give you joy, not enough to free you from anxiety, fear or addictions, not enough to bring you the full experience of God. You need to know this new concept or new teaching to get you the help you really need. And without realizing it you are carried away from Christ.
Sometimes these teachings have to do with a new way of experiencing God or reaching God. If you pray using a certain method, or follow certain spiritual practices you can enter a higher level of spirituality. But Hebrews tells us God has done everything for us to come directly and boldly into his presence through Jesus. Hebrews 10:22 says, “Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” NLT
You don’t need anything else to contribute to your status with God. Jesus has done it all. He has opened heaven to us. We have access right to the throne of God for grace and mercy to help, through him!
A lot of strange teaching comes into the church from the world. Our culture exerts enormous pressure on us to accept it’s ideas and values! The news media and Hollywood and our schools DEMAND allegiance to their belief system. And sadly many Christians are carried away from Christ by these doctrines of the world.
Many Christians have been deceived into believing that the world has the answers to the big issues in people’s lives. They believe Christ may be able to get you to heaven someday, but science, medicine, psychology, or politics have the real answers to human problems and the needs of the human soul. So, for some, the wisdom of the world becomes their real authority and god. And they are carried away from Christ.
**This second key to lifelong faithfulness is keeping yourself in the faith that was delivered to us through the apostles of Jesus and not falling for strange teaching.
*Third: Nourish your heart on grace, not on the false promise of external religion or foods, or the false promises of the world.
Verse 9 “...it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.’
It is knowing God’s grace, delighting in it, feeding on God’s grace and being strengthened by God’s grace that keeps you strong to the end!!! God designed your heart to be strengthened by his grace and goodness. Inward strength, happiness, courage, hope and joy, all come from grace. God’s answer to all the needs of your heart is grace.
Eating certain foods my help you live longer but they have no spiritual value. Rules about food or drink, or any external regulation, NEVER helped anyone have a closer walk with God. 1 Corinthians 8:8 says, “Food does not bring us closer to God: We are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.” That seems obvious! But Christians fall for this delusion all the time!
What is this grace that we are to strengthen our heart with?
*Grace is the way God deals with us or treats us. Someone defined it this way, “Grace is God choosing to bless us rather than curse us as our sin deserves.” (GotQuestions)
*The essence of grace is that it is a gift. Grace is God’s extravagant gift of love and mercy to undeserving sinners. Paul said, We are saved by grace - it is a gift of God! Grace, encompasses everything God has freely given us through Jesus Christ. God saved us from the coming wrath, he brought us salvation, and life, and healing for our souls, by grace.
The New Covenant is a covenant of grace! “You are not under law but under grace!”. God promised to never again remember our sins. God gave us new hearts with desire and ability to please him. He has written his laws on our hearts. God has promised to be OUR God, and that WE are his people. God gave us the special capacity in our hearts to know him, to have direct personal acquaintance with him. These are all gifts of grace.
Grace is God’s approval and acceptance of us through Christ. We have peace with God through Jesus. We are made the children of God. We have access right into God’s presence. All this privilege and status and experience with God is FREELY ours through Jesus!
Grace is also the power of God given to us through the Holy Spirit. Sam Storms “Grace is something God imparts or bestows or infuses into us to equip and empower us to live in accordance with his will”. Paul said, “God is able to make all GRACE abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” Grace enables us to do good work! So we can ask God, “Give us grace to do this thing we need to do”.
Paul said, “I am what I am by the grace of God”, and “I was made a minister according to the gift of grace”. Grace gives us capacity to to do things. Jesus said, when you are weak, “My grace is sufficient for you”. For my power is perfected in your weakness.” Clearly Jesus communicated that his grace was synonymous with power!
*Grace HAS been lavished upon us in the past, yet we receive more grace when we need it today. There is grace for you today. And there will be grace for you tomorrow! John Piper wrote a book “Future Grace”. His basic idea is that there will never come a day, you will never be in a situation, you will never face temptation or loss, or death, or anything ever in life when God’s grace is not there for you. Piper said, “Grace is being given to me fresh and new for every new future challenge and need.” Hebrews communicates this same thing about grace. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
This present work of grace is expressed in the frequent new testament blessing, “Grace be with you all”, or “Grace be with your spirit”. This is a blessing pronounced over you for the present imparting of God’s grace to your heart. IE grace is available to you now!!
So...When your heart is weak, or discouraged, or overwhelmed, strengthen your heart on grace. Remind yourself of all you have in Jesus: forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us! The love of God poured into your heart. The Holy Spirit to be with you and in you forever. A place in heaven reserved for you…. Then go right to his throne to receive more grace to help you in your present need!
When you feel ashamed or guilty or condemned, feed your heart on grace. When you wake up at night or in the morning and feel alone, or empty, nourish your heart on the grace of God. When you are fearful or anxious or depressed, strengthen your heart on grace. Don’t turn to some kind of outward ritual, or legalistic practice. Don’t turn to the world to help your heart. Feed your heart the grace of God.
Those who finish strong are those who who love God’s grace and delight in grace and feed themselves continually on grace.