Summary: #27 in series on Hebrews. How a church member should respond to godly leadership.
A Study of Hebrews
“Jesus Is Better”
Sermon # 27
“A Proper Response To Leadership”
Today’s text is one of those that a pastor comes to with some reluctance. The reason for this reluctance is the fear of being accused of using the text as a pretext for self-promotion. Anytime the pastor must speak on pastoral responsibility it is with the certain knowledge that some will think he is trying to prove something or reprimand someone.
The truth is that this is a difficult time to be a pastor in America. Every pastor is constantly compared to the greatest Preachers in our country. Because of Christian radio every Christian in this country has the opportunity to listen to a top handful of Christian preachers and teachers giving their best stuff, edited and packaged with artistically interspersed background music. As Kent Hughes points out, “When they come to church on Sunday they find the fare to be …dull in comparison. So at the door the pastor hears things like; ‘That was interesting pastor…Eh…I have a terrific tape by Dr [So and So] that is along the same lines, I think you should listen to it, In fact here it is. The pastor smiles and says. ‘Thank You.’ He gets the message but also senses a reduction of his esteem and authority.” [R. Kent Hughes. Hebrews (Chicago: Moody) p. 234]
There are four action verbs in the closing portion of the letter to the Hebrews that I want us to consider today. They are Remember, Follow, Obey and Submit.
First, Remember Your Leaders. (v. 7)
“Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.” When verse seven calls us to remember it is not just calling us to reminisce, it is calling us to action!
On a personal note, in the time I have been pastor here we have gone through good time and bad times together we have worked, cried, rejoiced, prayed and loved as a family of believers. For most of that time we have enjoyed an extraordinary measure of unity. There have been disappointments as well as victories.
Second, Imitate Their Faith. (v. 7)
“…who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.
The remembrances of those who have been mentors to us in the faith, is not to simply put us in a nostalgic mood. Instead, that remembrance should have the focus of “considering the outcome of their conduct.” The word translated “follow” is “mimeomai” from which we get our word “mimic.” So we are to mimic or imitate the lives of those we have seen live lives of constant faithfulness. He says, think of those who have provided spiritual leadership in you life, look at the way they live and follow their example of faith.
Verses nine through twelve are directed against the tendency of many to Christians then and now who seek God’s approval by what they do and do not do – in this case by what they eat. Verse nine says, “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.”
The once held Catholic practice of eating fish on Friday would be a case in point. The dietary laws of the Old Testament still impressed some people as imparting spirituality, but they were only the shadows of the reality we have in Christ. This brings to mind Paul’s words to the Colossians (2:23) “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (NIV)
How Then Is Real Faith Manifested? The answer to that question is found in verses fifteen and sixteen. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (16) But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Real faith is shown through the two-fold sacrifice of worship- genuine praise and work - compassionate sharing with others in need. The sacrifice of praise from our lips, coming from our hearts is a beautiful gift to our loving Heavenly Father. The second spiritual sacrifice, “of good work of sharing,” is proof of the reality of our faith.
Third, Obey Your Leaders. (v. 17)
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”