A List to Live By

A good list is a good list and can help us in many ways. I think I am coming to the place where I need lists more than ever. It is because I can allow myself to absorb way, way, way too much information and even a large capacity memory center like mine can get overloaded. I have lately taken to using the reminder function on my smarter-than-me phone to help me remember things I can tend to ignore, such as the speed camera that sits near a busy intersection on my route to church.

I see Hebrews 13 as a really good list of spiritual guiding points that the writer of this letter leaves with his readers. There are several of these kinds of lists throughout the New Testament epistles. Paul gives a great one at the close of 1 Thessalonians that goes like this:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22).

Love, Care, Marriage and Sex

Here, in the list from Hebrews, the first order of attention is love. “Let brotherly love continue” (Hebrews 13:1). Jesus told the disciples that others would recognize the power of the Gospel by the love shown by believers to each other and to everyone else as well (see John 13:34-35).

This love should express itself in hospitality; simply, our arms and doors should be wide open even toward strangers. These strangers could be more than we realize. The writer in Hebrews 13:2 says some have encountered angels just through extending kindness and help.

Think of the experience of the two brothers running from Jerusalem to Emmaus after hearing about the Resurrection of Jesus. They were frightened and confused. The Savior came alongside them on the road, and they didn’t know who He really was until He broke the bread at the supper they invited Him to (see Luke 24).

Then Hebrews 13 speaks of remembering the persecuted, think of those imprisoned for their faith and pray. As members of the Body of Christ, we are to view ourselves as being one with those held in bondage and under pressure to deny their faith.

Christian persecution today remains a constant threat for believers in a wide variety of places. The message of the Gospel can still stir agitation and violence as it did in the earliest days of the church and throughout human history.

Next the writer addresses our homes and bodies:  “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). This clear statement defines how the Lord sees things related to relationships and sex.

Where does sex belong? In the context of marriage and in that context it should be viewed as right and precious and beautiful. The writer likely felt a need to address the issue because there was an ascetic movement that dismissed the treasure that is marriage and the bed associated with it. A strict, austere lifestyle was rated as more sacred by some. The writer labeled this idea as legalistic nonsense.

Contentment

This leads to the conclusion of the list.  The finishing touches here in Hebrews 13 are among the most remarkable promises made to us by the Lord.

Stay free from covetousness. So begins the exhortation in Hebrews 13:5; it is an indirect reference to the last of the Ten Commandments. We can lose sight of God and reduce ourselves to wanting through a love of money and things.

Be content with what you have. That’s the secret.

Contentment, remember, has a real link with content. When I am filled with the Spirit and have the Word of God as my resource, then I can be content. I am fulfilled, which is better than being satisfied. To my eyes, the word “satisfaction” has within it the sense of temporal gratification – a “faction” indicates a splitting or a separation from the whole, a dissension rooted in self-seeking.

It was Lucifer who summoned the will to introduce faction to God’s Creation. Iniquity was found in this bright and beautiful and smart being. He purposed to pursue a measure of glory for himself. He lusted after status that would set him as the Most High, as we read about it in Isaiah 28. He entered into self exaltation and spread this pattern of thinking among the angels. A third of these beings entertained and swallowed Lucifer’s suggestion and joined with him in rebellion.

And so began the spiritual warfare that exists in our midst to this day. Every battle we face comes down to our sense of who we are by the grace of God. Really, the devil must admit that even he exists by grace; all that he has was afforded him according the designs of the Lord. Satan is nothing and can do nothing apart from the authority of the Most High.

Never, Never, Never Forsaken

Do you have hard time with feelings of discontent? This line from Hebrews 13:5 should be a great help to you:  “He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

In the original Greek text, the structure of these words is most emphatic. There’s a triple compound declaration that is best translated this way:  “I will never, no never, no never leave you nor forsake you.”

Let this reality rule your heart. You are His. You belong to Him and always will. He bought you out of the bondage of sin. He paid a terrifically great price at the Cross. We are forgiven and free in Him.

Never, never, never shall you be lost to the Savior. Think on these words over and over and over. Do this and there shall come such a confidence. Click To Tweet

Never, never, never shall you be lost to the Savior. Think on these words over and over and over. Do this and there shall come such a confidence. A song will ring out in the heart:  “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).

To help us mind these truths and put them into practice, the Lord has given gifts. We do not have to walk alone. These gifts are the men and women whose faith and care move us and direct us. When we are wandering, these ones can point us back to a list like this one in Hebrews 13.

Watch what they do and purpose to do as they do:  “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).

Ultimately, our run of faith comes down to Him, to the Son, to our Savior and Lord, to our Advocate and Intercessor. As He was with the Apostles, so is He now with us. His goodness and mercy follow us. We are in Him and He lives in us.

This is the eternal truth.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

 

Steve Andrulonis
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