The Powerful Life of Love

Introduction

Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our  ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right  hand of the majestic God in heaven. 

Hebrews 1:1-3

In our study of Hebrews we have noted that Jesus is our All in All. Jesus is our Trailblazer, placing before us a path of faith to follow. Jesus is our High Priest, opening up access to God by his death. Jesus is worthy of our faith, demonstrated by heroes of faith.

Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.

Hebrews 13:15

The Hebrews were being influenced to go back to a way of life without Jesus. But all through the letter to the Hebrews Jesus is on center-stage as the One we must have in our lives.  In the final chapter of Hebrews the writer spells out for readers in very  practical ways the power of a life with Jesus. And the life with Jesus is a life of love.  Jesus thought it was so important that he said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35) Hebrews ends with six powerful encouragements to live a life of love.

1. KEEP ON LOVING (13:1 Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.)

The Hebrews were encouraged to build relationships in the church. To keep their faith strong and not to consider turning away. To remind each other of the love and strength to be found in solidarity. To “keep on” loving – it’s not a new thing for them! It can be challenging, but it’s something worth doing. Regard one another as brother and sister – family relationships that are not torn by disagreement or disappointment. God is our Father and Jesus is our brother. If we are family, then we follow their lead – to live a life of love that unites, strengthens, empowers, and reaches out. 

2. ENTERTAIN THE ANGELS (13:2 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!)

From the beginning, Christianity was built around a love for strangers. Ancient Roman named Lucian called Christians gullible, charging that ever tramp could find food and housing by convincing them of his religion. (Fudge) In the first century, hospitality was a practical virtue because inns were both dangerous and immoral places. There were no Ramada Inns, Motel 6, or Best Western. Hospitality means “love for strangers”.

I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. -Matthew 25:35

This can be a challenging teaching. Hospitality can be expressed in many ways – but showing kindness to all in our community is our goal. Ray Stedman reminds us, “Certain Old Testament saints, because of their hospitable ways, had enjoyed extraordinary experiences with angelic visitors. Noteworthy among them would be Abraham (Gen 18), Gideon (Judg 6), and Manoah (Judg 13).” 

“Christianity was, and still should be, the religion of the open door.”

William Barclay

3. SEEK OUT THE STRUGGLERS (13:3, 16 Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies. … And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.)

In his Prison Fellowship newsletter, Chuck Colson tells of a minister who was putting the final touches on his sermon early one Sunday morning when he heard a knock on his study door. There stood three ragged boys who had received gifts from church members. Their home was ravaged by drugs and prostitution. They had never been in a church before and wanted to look around. So he gave them a quick “tour.” Fifteen minutes later they were back, asking what time the service started. “Can people come to your church if their socks don’t match?” asked the oldest. The minister assured them they could. “What if they don’t have any socks?” Again, the preacher reassured them. “That’s good,” said the boy, “because my socks don’t match, and my little brother doesn’t have any.” That morning those boys came to church and were warmly welcomed. Since then the church has helped the entire family. 

Lightfoot: The principle taught is that of the Golden Rule: they were to imagine themselves in prison and to treat their oppressed brothers as they would want to be treated (see Mt 7:12). 

Matthew 25:36 …I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.

4. START AT HOME (13:4 Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.)

Mohler: Christ’s people…ought to seen as a people who value marriage. Marriage isn’t an issue at the bottom of the priority list for Christians…it is high on the list. … Christians should give public, visible honor and private, personal honor to marriage as the monogamous union of a man and a woman.  

Lightfoot: The immoral and adulterous are mentioned separately because the Greek languages distinguishes between the two. Adultery denotes unfaithfulness on the part of married persons; immorality is more general in nature and includes all kinds of sexual vices and abnormalities.

Mohler: The Bible does not have a “yes” and “no” list when it comes to sexuality. There’s not “allowed” list or “prohibited” list. Instead, the Bible teaches that sexual morality – in all of its aspects and manifestations – comes down to one central thing: sex belongs in marriage and nowhere else. This is a radical statement to make in today’s world, but it’s deeply biblical.

5. LOVE LIFE IN CONTENTMENT. (13:5-6 Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear.   What can mere people do to me?”)

The problem with money and things is that we love them and that love sacrifices our contentment. 

Luke 12:15 … Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

1 Timothy 6:9,10 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

God will never fail you. That promise was first given to Jacob, then to Joshua, and again to Solomon and later to Israel. 

Murray: “The aiding, uninterrupted presence of God is our one great need in daily life.”

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13:14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

Because of this we can be content in God. Everything else can fail, but He will always be near.

6. LOVE THOSE WHO LEAD (13:7, 17 Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. …. 17 Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.)

Barclay offered four thoughts about leaders of the church:

*The real leader preaches Christ, and thereby brings men to Christ. 

*The real leader lives in the faith, and thereby he brings Christ to men. 

*The real leader, if need be, dies in loyalty…. his loyalty has no limit.

*The real leader leaves to those who come after two things – he leaves an example and an inspiration. 

He goes on to say, “If there is one thing more than another that the world needs and the church need in every generation, it is leadership like that.”

The writer says that sometimes we can give our leaders reason to lead with sorrow instead of joy.  

Loving our leaders is a way to maintain unity in the church as we serve together in joy. 

Conclusion

I read about a church in Illinois that was very excited about some brand new bells in their belfry above the sanctuary. When the church was built many years ago, they didn’t have the money to purchase bells. However, for its 25th anniversary they were able to raise the funds to hang hree bells in the vacant space. Even though they are stunning, there is one problem: the congregation will never hear the bells ring. Although they look real, they are artificial.

God is calling us to a life of love – and it can’t be artificial!  Love has the power to change our hearts when they need changing. Love has the power to motivate us to serve and care for those in need. Love has the power to create home environments that cultivate joy. Love has the power to bring contentment and peace. Love has the power to create a dynamic church environment of peace, unity, and service. We have a life of love when we give ourselves to the Lord of Love, Jesus Christ. 

Hebrews is all about how Jesus is our All in All! We can never leave Him, where else would we go! Your life can be filled with love if you allow the Lord to fill your heart.

Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him.   All glory to him forever and ever! Amen …  May God’s grace be with you all.

Hebrews 13:20-21, 25, NLT

LifeGroup Questions

1. How does this list of practical matters of the Christian life relate to the main message of the letter to the Hebrews?

2. What are some ways you can show “brotherly love” or love toward strangers through hospitality? What are some of the challenges of hospitality? In what ways have our notions of hospitality changed with the shifting of culture over  the years? 

3. List some practical ways to keep ourselves free from the love of money when we have a surplus of money. How can we keep the right perspective on money when we experience shortages? How can we fight against our culture’s constant enticements toward covetousness?

4. Loving our leaders cannot mean blind allegiance. How do we honor and love our church leaders with wisdom? Why do you think that we have this instruction? What are some ways we can make the work of our spiritual leaders a joy? How do we make it a burden? What are practical ways you can express love and appreciation for our leaders?

5. The doxology at the end of Hebrews 13 expresses that God is the God of peace. What are some ways God brings peace into our lives? How do we lean on God for peace when times of trouble come?

6. The doxology also contains three descriptions of Jesus. What are they? Which one is the most meaningful to you? ( The great shepherd of his sheep, The one who established the new covenant, The one who died.)

7. What did you see in this text you wanted to talk about that we might have not  mentioned?