God's Work In Us To Please Him

July 26, 2020 Speaker: Reid Strahan Series: Jesus is Better - The Book of Hebrews

Topic: Sanctification Passage: Hebrews 13:20–21

Hebrews 13:20,21 has been called the most complete and most powerful blessing in all of scripture!  This blessing is meant as a deep encouragement for us.  It is also a prayer.  What great comfort I have received, praying this, when I’ve been burdened about being a more effective elder, or felt a deep desire to do more for God, and felt inadequate to do that.  “God, equip me!  Work in me everything that would please you!”  That prayer gets my eyes on God and his power, and brings such encouragement! This verse is also a promise!  It is a statement of factual reality for all who know Christ!  God himself IS working inside of us, empowering us to please him and to do his will, in everything! 

This is an absolutely astonishing truth!  For anyone who truly wants to do God’s will, this is glorious news!  For any who keenly feels their own lack of goodness and power and holiness, this is the best news ever!  It is because of this divine power working in us that John says “His commandments are not burdensome”.   

Everyone of us is called to a life that is so loving, so selfless, so good and holy, that it REQUIRES the supernatural power of God at work in our hearts. Let me read for you just a few commands for Christians in the NT.

Love your enemies!  Pray for those who persecute you.  Forgive those who sin against you.  Go and make disciples of all nations.  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

These are GOOD commands. But if the gospel consisted ONLY of commands, the Christian life would be an unbearable burden of laws.  It would be an impossible life to live.  

Unfortunately many people grow up in churches where the main thing they hear is: do more, give more, pray more, witness more, read more, sacrifice more, work harder.  And they hear the same thing Sunday after Sunday. But it is law, without life!  It is simply preaching a very high standard of morality.  There is little emphasis on the safe and happy and peaceful status we have with God through Jesus.  And there is EVEN LESS emphasis on the inward power of God, working, renewing, prompting and empowering us to live for him!  

But the gospel of Jesus is not merely commands.  The gospel begins with life!  John 21:31 “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE IN HIS NAME”.  Laws and commands, cannot replace our need for the life of Jesus dwelling in us.  Charles Simeon said, “In addition to holy principles instilled into our minds, there must be powerful energies imparted to our souls”.  Thank God there is!

Through faith in Christ, before we DO anything, our sins are forgiven, we have peace with God, we are made sons of God, we are given access to the throne of God, and the Spirit of God is poured out into our hearts!  All this we are given, not by working, not by keeping any command or law, but by faith in Jesus name.  As Paul said, “This is the only thing I want to find out from you did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?”  The obvious answer is that the Holy Spirit was freely given before any WORK was done. 

Then because of new life IN us, we are strengthened and enabled by God to gladly do the things scripture tells us to do. 

Adolf Saphire said, “The cup of cold water given to a disciple, the gift of gratitude and kindness sent to someone, the word spoken to the afflicted, the affection and training given to our children, our disciplined walk at home and in the world, faithfulness and diligence in our daily work– all is begun in us and carried out by the grace of God, by the Holy Spirit, and it is well pleasing to HIM.”  With God equipping us and working in us, it is not only possible to live a God-pleasing life, it is the way we want to live and have the capacity to live and must live.   

If we are born of God, we never should say I cannot love, I cannot forgive, I cannot trust God.  I cannot stop worrying, I cannot be strong.  I cannot give generously. I cannot devote myself to the family of God. I cannot be faithful. I cannot stop doing this harmful and sinful habit.  That is anti-gospel talk. It is an offense to the grace of God, an offense to the Holy Spirit in us, to talk this way.  Peter said, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness”.  

We came into this world with a bent towards going our own way, instead of God’s way.  We were flawed, fallen, and broken. We have all experienced the miserable effects of being dead in our trespasses and sins.  But God himself is the full answer to all that is wrong with us, to all that is sinful, and broken about us.  Through Jesus, our sins are removed from us as far as the east is from the west, AND then we are given a new heart to love God and gladly obey him.  

God is moving inside us, giving us new impulses and abilities, changing our ambitions, our motives, our affections, to please and glorify him. 

FB Meyer said, "God working in you" is a marvelous expression! We know how steam works mightily within the cylinder, forcing up and down the (massive) piston. We know how sap works mightily within the branches, forcing itself out in bud and leaf and blossom. We read of men and women so possessed of devils that they spoke and acted as the inward promptings led them.  (These are only poor examples of the truth of this text, which towers infinitely beyond.) But have we not all been conscious of some of these workings? We have known them when the breath of holy resolution has swept through our hearts; or we have conceived some noble purpose; or have been compelled to some deed of self-sacrifice for others. Every sigh for the better life, every strong and earnest resolution, every determination to leave the nets and fishing-boats to follow Jesus, every appetite for fellowship, every aspiration for heavenly things-all these are the result of God's working in us. How careful we should be to gather up every divine impulse, and translate it into action! 

Notice that although God equips us, WE are the ones who do his will. God doesn’t go to serve in the Sunday School.  At least not directly.  He moves and works in your heart and gives you a love for the souls of our kids and stirs you up to serve.  God doesn’t dial the phone to make that call you need to make. He works by placing love and concern in YOU to make that call.  He stirs up generosity in your heart, you write the check to the church or to the person in need.  God doesn’t change the channel on the TV or shut off the TV for you.  He moves you to hate uncleanness and evil, and you operate the remote. 

He equips us “in every good thing to do his will”!  Peter said, “Be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace”. We emphasize so much sometimes that we will never be perfect till Christ comes that we disregard the high calling of God for this life!

Charles Simeon said, “He would have us engage “in every good work,” of whatever kind it be; without regarding either the difficulty of performing it, or the danger to which the performance of it may expose us.”  

*Verse 21 says God works in us and equips us THROUGH Jesus.  It is through this life-giving connection with Jesus, that fruit is produced in our lives, and we begin to love God and love people.  We begin to lay down our lives for others; we put away sin and complaining and develop hearts overflowing with gratitude and praise, all this is being worked in us through Jesus!  In verse 20 he is called the Great Shepherd of the Sheep. Peter calls him the Shepherd of our souls.  Jesus is active in shepherding our hearts, our innermost being toward pleasing God!  


Now I want to go back to the beginning of this verse and what we are told about the God who is working in us.

*He is..The God of peace. In the Bible he is also called the God of hope, the God of love, the God of all comfort, the God of endurance and encouragement.  He is the source and giver of these qualities. He is able to impart these qualities to us!  2 Thessalonians 3:16 “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.”

God brings us into peace with himself through Jesus.  God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. He took us from a state of enmity or hostility and has welcomed us as his friends.

God also gives us INWARD peace.  He is not the God of anxiety or fear or insecurity or chaos.  He is working peace into your heart and your life. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you, plans for peace and not for evil”.  Many versions say “plans for welfare”.  The word is shalom, which means peace, but also means wholeness, and includes welfare or well-being, or prosperity of soul. 

John Brown said  “peace in biblical thought is something far more than serenity; it denotes the (entire) quality of salvation God is able to give to his people.”  God is working peace into your soul, even through family problems, work problems, even through experiences of mistreatment and misunderstanding.  He is the God of peace!

*He is the life-giving God!  He brought up from the dead the Great Shepherd of the Sheep.  This assures us that his amazing power is available to give life to us! Romans 8:11 “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you”.  Trust him every day to raise you up by his Spirit to equip for the day ahead!

Your besetting sin, or stubborn habits are not too great him.  Nothing is too difficult for God!   He has power to change the addict, the depressed, the disobedient, the proud, the selfish, the angry and bitter...There is no sin, no darkness, no habit, no thought pattern from your past that God is NOT able to transform.  

The answer to our sin and struggles is ultimately not in digging into our past or our parents faults or all the pain in our lives.  Those things are real and they really hurt, but the wholeness and freedom and transformation we desperately need, is found in the mighty working of God.  Paul said, “I pray that you may understand, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” Ephesians 1:19,20 THAT is the power you need to solve your life, and I need to solve my life!

*He is the God who has committed himself to us forever, through the blood of Jesus.  Or, “By the blood of the eternal covenant”.  We are reminded of this every time we partake of the Lord’s supper.  Jesus said, “this cup is the new covenant in my blood”.   The Old covenant was temporary. The new covenant is eternal.  God has committed himself to you, in an eternal loving bond, through the blood of Jesus!  This is the God who is working in you! 

*Verse 21 concludes with an outburst of praise!  To Jesus be all glory forever and ever!  The blessing we have just read demands a response of praise!  If we are not praising, somehow we are not letting these truths reach our heart.

Revelation 1:5,6 says, “To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood-- and has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father-- to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 

If we are born of God, we say “amen!” to this!  If our lives have been touched by his love and we have known the release of our sins, if we understand our status as priests to God, if the Holy Spirit has been poured our hearts, then the deepest desire of our hearts is that all glory be given to Jesus Christ in heaven and on earth, for ever and ever!!   May God give us a burning desire for his glory! 


The book of Hebrews ends with this final admonishment: “I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation…”

The writer senses the danger that people will not tolerate or put up with the teaching we have received in this book of Hebrews.  Teaching such as: “Do not neglect your salvation.   We do not want you to become sluggish, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.  Let us go on to maturity.  Let us not shrink back.  Let us draw near to God with a true heart and full assurance of faith.  Hold fast your confidence firm to the end. Do not forsake assembling together. Let us run with endurance the race set before us. Let us go to Jesus outside the city gate bearing his reproach.  Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God.  Are you embracing these exhortations? 

Our scripture this morning gives even greater reason to embrace these exhortations, and to be encouraged that we can keep them, BECAUSE these are things that God himself is working in us!  

4 words to remember for application:

*BELIEVE.  Believe God actually is working in you! Before Jesus healed two blind men, he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  Do you believe that I am able to make you well?  “Be it done to you according to your faith.”  The power of God is loosed in our lives AS WE BELIEVE!

*EXPECT.  Expect to experience the activity of God inside of you!  Paul said, “It is my eager expectation and hope that Christ will be honored in my body.  Expect God to exalt Christ in you! 

*SEE or BECOME AWARE. Become aware of his working in you!  God does not make us robots, we have to look and listen and become aware of his touch on our hearts. 

*RESPOND. Respond to him working in you! As FB Meyer said, “How careful we should be to gather up every divine impulse, and translate it into action!”  The old spiritual says, “Every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart I will pray”.  

He moves us to pray and to much more!  RESPOND. 

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