Pentecost 15
September 13, 1998
Hebrews 13:1-8
"Guidelines for Good Living"

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Introduction:  As you and face the future of living in this world we need to have some basic and essential guidelines by which we order our lives. We need a clear indication of where our lives are headed. Is there any order in our lives today?  Today we are living in what many have sensed to be a time of confusion.

This sense of chaos and confusion has been seen in a breakdown in moral standards and a collapse in principles once held by the majority of most of the people in our society.   Things once abhorred are done today as a seemingly normal way of life. People today can become calloused to what they see   and hear around them.  Our children search for true and genuine heroes, while we as adults either grow significantly cynical or in exasperation throw up our hands in surrender. What are Christians to do?  Do we resist, or do we go along with the "new morality"?  Our text for this morning gives us several basic guidelines for our behavior. This morning let us consider what the writer of the Hebrews tells us is the right way to live.

[1] First, the writer of the Hebrews would suggest that we demonstrate hospitality. Listen to v.1 

"So you must keep on loving one another as brothers" [Hebrews 13:1]

The first century believers we commended for their hospitality and their genuine caring for each other. Their enemies exclaimed "See how they love one another!"  

True, the truth of the Gospel is to be taught, but it is also to be "caught".  In other words, we are to demonstrate with our lives what we profess with our lips. We are to mirror by our behavior what we believe in our hearts. To do less then otherwise is to be living an untruth.  The right way for us as Christians to live is for us to put our faith into action. Live the faith!  Practice hospitality! Or, as the Scriptures remind us; "We love others because He first loved us"

Transition: Living our faith with respect toward God is one way in which we live the faith, but there are other ways in which the writer to the Hebrews would suggest for us today. Not only do we exhibit hospitality we also demonstrate that love for God towards others less fortunate then ourselves.

[2]     A Second guideline for good living is for us to help the unfortunate.  Listen to v.3

"Remember those who are in prison, as if you were in prison with them, and remember those who are suffering as if it was your body that's feeling the pain" [Hebrews 13:3]

"Remember those who are in prison as if you were there in that prison with him"  "Remember those who are suffering as if it was your body that was feeling the pain" Christians of the first century demonstrated their love for each other as they suffered with each other and shared in their joys and sorrows, their tears and their laughter.  Likewise we demonstrate the right way to live when we help those less fortunate then themselves.

Mother Theresa whose death the world remembered this past week served as an excellent role model for the church today. She went where none else would go. She associated with those whom the world had turned their backs upon. She demonstrated hospitality by showing the compassion and sympathy that none else could give.  Are we empathetic toward those in distress? By doing so we demonstrate the love for Jesus Christ.

Transition:  We demonstrate Godly living by the way in which we conduct our public lives. Likewise, we demonstrate the faith by our private lives as well.  Moving from the public to the private our writer tells us how to conduct the most private and personal areas of our lives.

[3]     The right way for us to live is for al to honor marriage.  Listen to verse 4 of Julian Anderson's translation of the New Testament.

"You must think of marriage as something of great value, and husbands and wives must be faithful to each other. For you know that God will punish those who are sexually unclean, and those who have sex with anyone except their own husband or wife."

          How do we define "fulfillment" today?   By the world's standards individuality is the standard for fulfillment. It is diametrically opposed to how God sees things.  In marriage, for example, we give of ourselves for something better, to create significance in our lives. The two become one to create family; two strands are intertwined to make one.

Notice however, what the world does. Secular culture moves humanity into the center of the universe. Human nature's perception of "fulfillment" finally centers on the individual and what the self wants in life.  Because man wants to place himself at the center of everything, this modern thrust for individualism undermines relationships with God and with others.

Should we not be surprised then at the end result? When the self is at the center, when I becomes the center of my entire world, then marriage no longer become a permanent bond...it's only one of many relationships that really are not necessary. The big "I" seeks gratification in new and expanding relationships.  Trust and stability are practical only as they serve "me".

Illustration:  Remember how John the Baptist lost his head?  Herod had had John arrested and put in prison because John had been preaching against him and the affair that he was having with Herodias, his sister - in - law, who was married to Philip his brother. In a drunken stupor Herod promised Herodias' daughter "up to half his kingdom" after she had danced for him, and after consulting with her mother, she requested the head of the Baptist on a silver platter. This is only one illustration relating to only one area of life. But the principle remains; People can not be fulfilled by promiscuity!  It only becomes a way of life that further frustrates and leaves them even more unfulfilled!   Unfulfillment becomes their fulfillment!

Transition:  Greed, and the desire for even more leads people to all sorts of unpleasant torments. That is why for us to live the right way we must find that peace which only Jesus Christ can give. Notice the fourth word of advice that the writer to the Hebrews gives us this morning.

[4]     The right way to live is to be content with your possessions.  Listen to verse 5 of our text.

"You must also keep your lives free from the love of money, and never feel that you need any more than you have, for God has said, "I will never desert you and I will never leave you"

Notice that we have two, count them, two commandments dealing with coveting. Greed, lust, an unwholesome desire are all wrapped up in this one word called coveting.  We are to keep ourselves free from the love of money. And how do we know that we are keeping ourselves free from this forbidden love?

 Do we feel content with what we have, or do we need to strive for even more? That is the sure good answer to that important question!  We find our contentment in Jesus Christ. He is the One who will never leave us and never forsake us. He has promised to guide and direct us. He has promised that He will supply all of our needs. If He has provide for us in forgiving us our sins at the cross how much more will He care for our temporal and temporary concerns?

Conclusion: How do we live right before God? In our private and in our public living. We live right when we are content with God and cease striving after the things of this world. May you find today that peace which only the Savior can give and may He guard and keep you in His peace now and forever.   In Jesus Holy Name We Pray. Amen.

           +  Soli Deo Gloria  +