The Courageous Church: God’s Presence
“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” vs. 5
Some families attend church together and at some point some families even seem to be the whole church. Take this one church for example who seem to be the main attenders. In their family and church there was:
-Dic Tate, who insists on running everything in church
-His brother Ro Tate wants to change everything
-There was Aunt Agi Tate has a knack for stirring up trouble
-Her husband, Irri Tate, who no one wants to be around
-There was also Hesi Tate who had a difficult time getting going on projects
-His wife, Vege Tate, would just sit around and do nothing
-Also, Aunt Imi Tate who wanted to do what every other church was doing
-And, Devas Tate would always announce that the church was constantly doomed
Although most of these are somewhat funny, there is some truth that we all bring our personalities and temperaments to our church. Part of what makes these funny is that we know people who fit these descriptions. Today we are going to continue our study about what it takes to be a courageous church. Today we will focus on Hebrews 13:1-6. If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word.
Read Passage – Hebrews 13:1-6
“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. 4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” 6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
The Caring Church
What do people see when they come into our church? What vibe do they get? How do they perceive us? Recently I was asked about our church what I believe the tone and personality of the church is. I was also asked what I bring to the church. Interesting question I am not sure I had ever been asked before. One thing I know I want is for anyone who walks through those doors to know that they are loved and cared for because God loves them and cares for them. I think it’s God desire that we being a caring community and a caring church.
We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that salvation only comes though acceptance of his free gift that he provided by dying on the cross and rising again from the dead. He showed that death is not the victor and that we can have eternal with God because of his sacrifice. But…he did go to be with the Father and that provided for us an incredible gift, the Holy Spirit. Jesus even explained this to the disciples and us in John 14:16-17; that he must go so the Holy Spirit can come and live in us:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” John 14:16-17
This is a great promise: we receive the Holy Spirit when we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. So we have part of the Living God in us. That means wherever we go, whatever we do, we have God with us and we bring God into those situations of our lives. Part of the reality of that is that God purposefully set-up for us to be together. His desire is for us to be that place where people see the love of God in action in us.
Caution: We live in a consumer society. A society that changes our allegiance to things very quickly. We change phones and phone companies, we change the products we use, we change the places we buy our food, our cars, etc. Our allegiances are now more determined by money than loyalty to a person or product. The same is true from churches. We change churches because we don’t get along, because we don’t like the worship style, we don’t like the color of the carpet and we it doesn’t fit our preferences. Church reflects society.
When that happens, we don’t seem to be the caring community God has called us to be. It’s hard to be close and to reflect God’s love and God’s presence s in our lives when we don’t spend time together and we are not committed to each other. It’s actually a little bit more than that. It’s the idea that we bring God with us wherever we go and in every situation and relationship in our lives. So how can we better reflect God’s presence in our lives in our actions and in the way we live? Hebrews 13:1-6 helps us understand what that looks like.
Keys To Bringing God’s Presence To Our World
This passage shows us 4 keys to bringing God’s presence to our world; four keys to living courageously because we have the living God in our hearts and spirits.
• Commit To Love
The first key to being a caring community and to being a caring person is to commit to love. Verse 1 reads:
“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.” vs. 1
The first most obvious thing that stands out is that it says to “keep on loving” meaning that you are doing that and to make sure you continue on in that action. But the writer does make an interesting distinction and that is to love one another as brothers and sisters. He uses “family” language here. We don’t get to choose our family. We get to choose our friends but usually not family. When we choose friends we choose those we like, those we have things in common with and those we like to hang out with. Not so with family. I didn’t get to choose my parents, my brothers , my sister, my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Family isn’t always easy to love. Family can be more difficult because you have to love deeper. It takes more of a commitment. I have had “friends” who I don’t have any more because our relationship has somehow broken down. With family we are challenged but also sharpened and pushed to love beyond the norm. There are times when it is tough to love family but you push through that because you are family.
You have chosen to worship here at ACC and we call ourselves a family. That can be tough but it can also be extremely rewarding. We may not always get along, we may not always see eye-to-eye, but we commit to love. This love comes from God and when we struggle to move past our differences we are showing God’s love to each other; and to the world. 1 John 4:12 says:
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” I John 4:12
A key to being a courageous church and caring for one another is to commit to love and to let the world see that love goes beyond emotions; it’s commitment.
Ex. The number of couple in our church married over 50 years
• Enlarge Your Circle of Influence
A second key to being a courageous church and caring for one another is to enlarge your circle of influence. Verse 2 says:
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” vs. 2
It’s amazing to me how simple little things in life can make such a huge difference in people’s lives. I know when people use the word hospitality they think about hosting a dinner or something like that but make it more simple. What about just acknowledging someone, saying “hi” when you walk by, etc. Hospitality has more to do with how you treat someone and being cordial and welcoming than with the idea of hosting them for a meal or inviting them to your home.
Ex. Last weeks sermon where Claudia had you greet one another.
Ex. Saying hello to people as you walk down the street. Sometimes this seems hard and uncomfortable but this is having an open spirit and looking beyond yourself.
You may question why this is so important in l ife and I think the verse gives us a key to that. The first part encourages not to forget to show hospitality and that is because we get so busy and so guarded in life that we forget to do that. But the second part shows us the deeper side of why; we could miss an angel. In other words, we could be missing the blessing; the blessing we can give to others and the blessing we can get from being with others, even angels.
• Demonstrate Real Commitment
The third key to being a caring church and person is to demonstrate real commitment. Many preachers use this passage to preach on marriage and these same traits can really help a marriage but they can apply to the larger part of our life as well. It seems that marriage is the illustration the author uses to help us see what it these keys look like in a practical way. Verse 4 says:
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” vs. 4
I think the idea of marriage is use here to lead us to a deeper level. In a sense, there should be no deeper love and commitment that we make with another human than in marriage. This is more about the heart of who we are not following the law. It’s interesting to note that that he uses the word “honor” here. You honor not out of obligation but from the heart. You honor out of respect and awe and a deep sense of loyalty. When someone takes that marriage vow they are committing to be one. That’s not just one in some areas but in all areas; finances, plans, dreams, desires, sex, emotional love and support, etc.
Now get this; part of the reason that we are called to be monogamous is that we are to be monogamous to God as well and he is monogamous to us. He loves us warts and all and is committed to his love for us. Let’s face it, relationship have ups and down. They are times where you feel the deep love and times you don’t. A caring community and person will work through the struggles and honor the commitments they make.
• Live In Contentment
Finally, the 4th key to being a caring community and person is to live in contentment. The illustration used in verse 5 is money and things:
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” vs. 5
This key challenges our sense of dependency. Think about this question for just a moment:
What do you depend on for contentment?
It could be money, it could be a job, it could be a relationship, it could be power, it could be control, etc. Whatever it is, we have the tendency to put that in the place of God. God wants us to be dependent on him and unfortunately many of us don’t understand that until we have lost something or been through some type of difficulty. Now I am not saying God caused those difficulties but he uses them to challenge us and to consider what we are counting on for our contentment.
One key to understanding this is money. There is a tendency to think money will give us contentment. But consider this. Money can bring us a temporary happiness. Maybe we get some money and we buy something and for the moment things seem good. But soon afterward we become complacent, used to the thing that brought us happiness, and it then becomes every day, and then it hits, we want something else or something more and we are no longer content.
Ex. Apple iphones. Buy one and the next one is coming out. I have an iphone 3. Ohhh! (Sad voice) I start thinking about what it doesn’t have not what I do have. I become less content.
Now I know this verse is one of the more famous verses in the Bible because it says “Never will I leave you or forsake you.” That is a great promise but it’s also the challenge to let God be our contentment. You can be all you can be with God on your side and whe God is with you.
Living With Confidence
And that leads us to the final verse in our passage today which lets us morve ahead and live in confidence, verse 6:
“So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” vs. 6
We live in confidence because God is with us and He is our helper and we are dependent on Him.
Notice how aptly this ties into our lives as we move into communion. These four keys will build into our lives to be a more caring community And to be more caring people but they are also everything Jesus did for us as well.
Commit to love – Jesus committed to love us, even die for us
Enlarge your circle of influence – He died for all and desires that none should perish but that all are included
Demonstrates real Commitment – Willing to give his life and go through the pasin and agony of death so that we might live
Live in contentment –
Let’s honor God and express our appreciation for Jesu Christ and all he has done for us by celebrating communion this morning.