ANGELIC INSPIRATIONS - In Your presence is fullness of joy...Ps. 16: 11
FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT LOVE
Heb. 13: 1-6
 
The key theme of Hebrews:  “Jesus Christ is better; therefore, we can put our trust in him”. 
 
1.  The Hebrew writer spoke to those who were at risk of quitting and turning back to Judaism.  The writer had to convince and encourage them that Christ was better so they must not quit!  I don’t know of an encouraging word that is more relevant for our culture today as so many people are choosing to just give up.  We live in a society where people are becoming increasingly hopeless.  The church is compromising its belief and values. It is using the worldly standards as a model, rather than uplifting the Bible and the truth we are to live by.  We must live in this world, but we must not succumb to standards or practice.  Many in the faith are giving up on their families and giving in to the desires of their flesh.  They are being seduced by the persuasions of their worldly gain or just their fleshly passion.  If the divorce rate in the Christian arena is similar to that of the world, why choose Christ?   The enemy is the ruler of this world and has many on a downward spiral in our culture, but Jesus Christ is better and we must put our trust in Him.
 
2. Chapters 11-12 specifically provide illustrations of men and women who have trusted God during the most difficult times in their lives.  This is an indicator and encouragement to all believers that we also can trust God during the most trying times in our lives.  James 1:3, 4 says that the testing of our faith produces patience, so let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. In other words, testing brings us closer to the Lord while developing our character and maturing our relationship with Him. I'm sure you can think of some who lived a life worthy of God's call and you have been encouraged by their lives.  We must persevere through our trials so that God can continue to perfect our character. 
 
Once we have understood that Jesus Christ is better and that God rewards those who diligently seek him, there must be an outward demonstration of our inner faith.   One must manifest certain behaviors if he/she is to live the Christian life as God intended. That is the purpose of Hebrews the 13th chapter.  The writer calls out specific of our faith. Hebrews 13:1-6 focuses on our conduct with others in the body as well as within our communities.
 
WE MUST EXTEND:
 
I.  Love to our brothers/sisters  (vs. 1)
Love is the greatest evidence of our faith.  "They will know we are Christians by our love.”  Vs. 1 says: Let brotherly love continue…Brotherly love is the basis for spiritual fellowship. “The Jewish people were rejected by their friends and families, but the writer reminds them that the deepest kind of fellowship is not based on race or family relationships; it is based on the spiritual life we have in Christ.  A church fellowship based on anything other than love for Christ and for one another simply will not last.”  As we increase our fellowship with God, our love toward our brothers/sisters in Christ will mature.  We will begin to see them from God's perspective, not by our flawed vision.  Many believers are home on Sunday mornings because they have been let down by the church. Although they are apart of the body, we must take into consideration that many saints have not been and are easily led astray and some are just cast down.   Rom. 12:10 says: Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.   The moment we entertain a weakness in our brothers/sisters we must pray for them and trust God that He is at work in his/her life.  Yes, we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good work!  As we await the coming of our Lord, the church is becoming increasingly apathetic.  We are making a mockery of God.  We are bringing the worldly system into the church as if we have no manual or guidelines for standards. We have taken on appearances of stern demeanors with no joy whatsoever in our hearts.  We speak sweet hellos from our mouths but inside, our hearts are burning with fire.  Our pulpits consist of those who are dictators rather than those who are submitting to God’s authority.  We are losing our perspective in the church and God is not pleased with the foolishness.  People have turned the church into a legalistic, cult-like society and it’s pitiful.  We are becoming slowly ensnared by the enemy’s tactics and being drawn further away from the truth of the Word.  We distort truth and faith with logic, what’s popular, and old wives’ tale.  Hebrews 13:1 reminds us that only who is alive and at work in our lives can transform our thinking and produce in love. Cor. 13: 4-8 list several characteristics of brotherly love, but the last phrase in the chapter is that “love never fails”. God’s love never fails us so why should we fail to love our sisters/brothers in Christ. Godly love is consistent, tolerant, and is not conditional.  Once the Word is revealed to us, we have a responsibility and that responsibility is to love our sisters and brothers in Christ.  Not by our standards, but we must deny ourselves and accept our sisters and brothers under God's standards. Love is what we have that will draw the world to us.  Someone wrote; “No one wants to know how much you unless he/she first how much you care.”  When the body of Christ is united in Love, the love of God expressed throughout the church will be powerful and will increase in depth and number.  The Word has the ability to harmonize and not divide and It brings about change.  God's love will transform our communities as we walk in obedience to His will and love through His eyes.  Psalms 133:1 says; Oh how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.  We must be on one accord with each other in order for our witness to be powerful and effective. 
Question:  What are some reasons the church is not expressing brotherly love?  
 
II.  Love to strangers. (13:2)
“This was an important ministry in the early church because persecution drove many believers away from their homes.  Also, there were traveling ministers who needed places to stay (3 John 5-8).  Many poor saints could not afford to stay in an inn and since the churches met in homes (Rom. 16:5) it was natural for a visitor to just stay with his host.  According to Warren Wiersbe, pastors to be lovers of hospitality (Titus 1:8), but all saints should be “given to hospitality”  (Rom. 12:13).  In Gen. 18, Moses tells how Abraham was hospitable to Jesus Christ and two of His angels.  Although Abraham did not know who they were, he welcomed them and discovered later who they were.  Although it’s possible to entertain angels literally, any stranger can turn out to be a messenger of blessing to us.  The word angel means messenger.  This text is literally implying that it is our duty to entertain strangers; We must move beyond our fears and entertain those who come in the name of the Lord.  Matthew 25:35-40 says:  “for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?  And the King will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me."  The Kingdom is not comprised of fear; there is nothing to fear when we are walking in obedience to God's will.
Question:  How can we be more hospitable today in the church? 
 
III.  Love to prisoners:  (13:3)
In the first century, people were placed in prison for their faith; We in the U.S. have the freedom to express our faith, but others around the world are experiencing persecution that we cannot imagine for the same faith that we have.  There are Christians in prison today who are experiencing physical pain and hardship.  It’s not about why they were convicted, but it’s knowing that the same God who forgives us of our have forgiven and wiped their slant just as clean.  In obedience to the Lord, we must keep up with the prisoners so that they aren’t discouraged in the faith.  The only thing many of them have to hold on to is the church, those on the outside praying for them.  Their families have turned their backs and many have absolutely nothing.  It is our duty to come as brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage and support them.  We must empathize with them, but we also must remind them that we identify and share a common bond in Christ Jesus.  
Question:  What kind of preparation is needed in the church in order to accommodate those being released from prison?  
 
IV.  Love to our spouses:  (13: 4)
A Christian home begins with a Christian marriage in the will of God.  This type of home is comprised of loyalty and purity.  David was forgiven, but he suffered the consequences of his adultery for years to come, and He suffered in the most difficult way; through his own children.  God highly honors marriage; the statistics of divorce are horrific in the church…We are leaving the world up to no choice...if the God we serve can't change our situations, who can? 
The dilemma in the early church was that when the “Hebrews were in Rome or in some of the more notorious cities of the Mediterranean East, they were in a society in which chastity and honor in marriage were commonly disregarded.  On the other hand, some religious sects or groups taught celibacy and asceticism above marriage.”  A Godly marriage is more sacred than inner struggles.  “Chastity in the bonds of marriage constitutes a strong Christian witness.”  Therefore, in obedience to the will of God and to bring glory to Him, we must commit ourselves to purity within our marriages so that the world may desire what we have.
Question:  What are some ways we can avoid confusion in our homes? 
 
V. Love God, rather than money (13: 5)
Covetousness means “love of money”, but it applies to for more of anything.  It is the desire for more, whether we need it or not.  MacArthur writes; Lusting after material riches is “a root of all kinds of evil” for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness.  Luke 12:15 says “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.  In Christ, we have everything we need.  Paul says in Phil. 4: 11; Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.  In other words, this is an understanding that I know who I am in Christ and I don’t need the material possessions of the world to satisfy me.  I am satisfied with the God of my salvation and I desire nothing more.  Wiersbe writes; those who are content, are people with priorities, and material things are not high on their priority list.
Question:  Aside from money, what are other things we tend to covet? 
 
VI.  We must display confidence and courage (13: 6)
Boldly is another word for confidence and courage.  It is with confidence and courage that we proclaim Ps. 118: 6, a messianic psalm that says; The Lord is on my side; I will not fear, what can man do to me?  This psalm is fulfilled in Jesus Christ so that we may claim this promise for ourselves.  It was a source of great peace to the early Christians to know that they were safe from the fear of men, for no man could do anything to them apart from God’s will.”  Because of our adversary; who comes to still, kill and destroy, we must claim these promises on a daily basis so that we do not feel defeated in our walk or fall prey to his tactics.  The enemy will use anyone to break us down and discourage us.  We must be confident that the God we serve has for our lives. 
 
Lord, may we continue to serve you with gladness and boldly proclaim your word.  May we walk with confidence in obedience to your will.  May we express brotherly love, be hospitable to those we come in contact with, pray without ceasing, empathize and identify with those who suffer pain and hardship.  I pray for marriages throughout this world that they will not be entangled with the yoke of bondage and that those who do not know you will find life in Jesus Christ.  I pray that we as believers will fix our eyes on Jesus and pray for our spouses instead of allowing the little foxes to spoil the vine.  I pray that we will be satisfied with the God of our salvation because Jesus Christ is better and He is truly all we need...In Jesus' we pray AMEN.
 
Encourage and Be Encouraged!
Resources used:  Bible Knowledge Commentary, "Be Confident", Teacher's Critical Commentary