We are nearing the end of our journey together through Hebrews. This morning we will begin looking at the final chapter of this great book, and next week we will finish this series. By this point, the writer has convincingly proven that Jesus is far better than any other. He has shown again and again in this letter that Jesus’ ways are much greater than any alternative. Those Hebrew Christians who were wavering in their faith and contemplating a return to Judaism should abandon such a foolish notion, and instead cling to Jesus no matter the cost.
Today’s message is titled, “A Better City”. It consists of several straightforward, easy to understand instructions that we as Christians should follow. Having realized the superiority of Christ over all else, we as His people should live in obedience to His commands. By following His directions, we as believers can live fuller and more meaningful lives.
I. PRACTICAL INSTRUCTIONS (v1-6)
Christians are called to love another as brothers and sisters - both those within the church and those without. The concept of “brotherly love” drives from the Greek word phileo or philadelphia. Christians should love others as though they were members of their own family and seek what is best for them. In addition, Christians should be hospitable toward others - especially strangers. Hospitality can be defined as “receiving and treating guests in a warm, friendly, and generous way”. The Bible commends those who lovingly welcome visitors into their homes, churches, and so forth.
Christians are encouraged to remember the prisoners. They are told to imagine themselves and prison also, so as to empathize with those who are confined. Many believers have been prosecuted and jailed for their faith in Christ. Those who are free should be mindful of them, constantly lifting them up in prayer. Furthermore, Christians should honor their marriages and be faithful to their spouse. Adultery, fornication, and other variations of sexual immorality do significant damage to individuals, families, and the church. Couples should uphold their wedding vows toward one another, just as they keep their commitments to God.
Christians should not be consumed with the desire for more money. Such greed leads to all sorts of sin. Rather, they should learn to be content and satisfied with the things that they have. This doesn’t mean they should lack ambition or any aspiration to be successful. Believers should strive to grow and excel in the things of God, not in earthly or temporal pursuits such as the accumulation of wealth. Also, Christians should not be afraid of man. They should rest in the ever-abiding presence of God who is always with them and watching over them. The LORD will never leave us nor forsake us (Joshua 1:5).
II. MORE PRACTICAL INSTRUCTIONS (v7-14)
Christians should remember those who led them and taught them the things of God. They should consider the conduct of their ancestors and try to imitate their faith. These righteous saints set an example to be followed, from which present-day believers can learn and become stronger. Jesus never changes - He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His character is consistent from one generation to the next and His love never wanes. Believers can be confident that His plans will not deviate, not will His promises be abandoned.
Christians should guard themselves, so as not to be led astray by strange and false doctrines. The truth of God does not change or evolve over time. It is absolute and timeless. What was sin centuries ago is still sin today! Believers should be careful not to entertain teachings and practices that are contrary to the clear declaration of Scripture. In addition, Christians should recognize that true strength comes from God’s grace. While food (in this case taken from the altar) may benefit those who hunger physically, it has no spiritual benefit. The redeemed children of God find strength and sustenance in Jesus Christ, who is an altar from which the lost “have no right to eat”.
According to the Law of Moses, whenever a sin offering was made the priest would take some of the blood of a bull into the Holy Place and sprinkle it on the altar. The body of the slain bull was to be taken outside of the camp and burned. In like manner, Jesus’ blood was shed as an offering for mans’ sin and He was crucified beyond the city’s gates at nearby Golgotha. Christians should go outside the camp, where the lost and rejected people are, in order to tell them about the love of Jesus. They should gladly endure the ridicule and reproach that often comes with leaving the city in order to serve poor and wretched outcasts. They should separate themselves from their former Jewish orthodoxy in the city and pursue Christ outside of it. Believers should not be charmed by the enticements of an earthly city, but instead seek longingly the heavenly city which is to come.
III. EVEN MORE PRACTICAL INSTRUCTIONS (v15-17)
Christians should continuously offer up praise to God. Praise can be described or defined as commending, admiring, and extolling the LORD. This can be done through spoken declarations, prayers of adoration, or in jubilant songs of joy. Those who have trusted in Christ should be thankful for the blessings they have received and those yet to come.
Christians should spend their time doing good deeds - not as a means of earning God’s favor, but rather in gratitude for having already received it. They should be generous and share with others. God is pleased by those who sacrificially give of themselves in order to bless others. Finally, Christians should obey and submit to their leaders. They should realize that leaders bear an additional accountability before God for those under their watch. As such, they should seek to be joyful followers who do not needlessly grieve or agitate their leaders. Such rebellion is not beneficial to anyone.
Over the course of this message, we’ve listed and discussed several practical behaviors that we as Christians should practice - things such as brotherly love, hospitality, fidelity, courage, discernment, contentment, gratitude, and good citizenship. But I want to close today’s sermon by considering “the city which is to come” mentioned in verse 14.
I recently read an article on the US News and World Report website titled “The 25 Best Places To Live In the United States in 2019”. It detailed the results of a survey that was taken among their subscribers. Apparently they do this every year. The respondents rank cities based upon many factors including job availability, crime rates, the quality of education, cost of living, recreation and entertainment, beauty and cleanliness, and so on. According to their research, the top 5 cities to live in for 2019 are Des Moines (IA), Fayetteville (AK), Colorado Springs (CO), Denver (CO), and Austin (TX). Well, if you say so… I have no desire to live in Austin!
Nevertheless, no matter how wonderful these earthly cities may be, Christians should expectantly look forward to a better city. In the last days, an eternal city - the New Jerusalem - will descend from Heaven to the earth. It will be adorned as a bride for her husband. The city will be glorious and brilliant, made from gold and precious stones. God Himself will illuminate the city and nothing unclean will ever enter into it. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will live there. Does that include you?