Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hebrews 13 – Christian Code of Conduct

Christian code of conduct - Hebrews 13:1-6

To get us back in context I want to pull a verse from Hebrews 12 verse 5 which is quoting Proverbs 3:11-12

" My son, do not despise the
chastening of the LORD,
      Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
whom the LORD loves He chastens,
      And scourges every son whom He receives."

Why is this important? One place where modern Christians often fail is in respecting the sovereignty of God. God knows what is best for us to accomplish his purpose! We read Romans 8:28 "All things work together for good to them that love God, who are called according to his purpose" and we use that to encourage anyone facing a struggle in life. But 8:28 makes no sense without 8:29 which tells us God's purpose that God has predestined or predetermined that we are to be conformed to the image of His Son. So the chastening of Hebrews 12 has a purpose, to sanctify us, to constantly refine us to be conformed to the image of His Son. Hebrews 13 I read as parental instruction to God's children. Think of Dad going on a trip, lining up his children saying these are the rules, this is how I want you to behave while I'm gone.

1 Let brotherly love continue.

Jesus said to His disciples in John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you loved one another; as I have love you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another". Love for the brethren is a test of true faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle John said in his first epistle, "He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him" (I John 2:9&10 NKJV). Then later on in I John 3:14 we are told, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren" (KJV). Those who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ constitute the largest "blended family" in the world! As with all "blended families", we often face difficulties trying to love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We all come from different backgrounds. In fact, sometimes our only common ground is the ground we occupy at the foot of the cross. So, we must always be reminded of that common ground and the common grace that we've all experienced in Jesus Christ. The "ties that bind" in the family of God are eternal.

2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

We are not only called to love the saints but also complete strangers.
"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels."

This was literally true in the life of Abraham and Lot they sheltered and fed Angels. Jesus will say when He judges the nations, "'…for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see You a STRANGER and take you in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say unto them, 'Assuredly I say unto you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me'" (Matt. 25:35-41 NKJV).

Isn't it amazing that God places such value on ministering to people's basic needs? Compassion goes hand and hand with brotherly love as a "sign" of regeneration. So we ask ourselves: When was the last time I prepared a meal for someone? When was the last time I visited someone who was sick or in prison. When was the last time I provided water for one who was thirsty or clothing for someone who was without? God is glorified by this! Hospitality opens the door to uncommon community!

3 Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.

We are admonished in verse three to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are suffering for the Savior. They are a part of us. When they suffer, we suffer. "The Voice of the Martyrs" is one ministry informing the privileged church in America about the persecuted church in the world ( We must pray for those who are suffering for the Savior as if they were are family…because they ARE. The next time you feel ostracized from others because of your faith, consider our brothers and sisters around the world who have lost their possessions, their freedom, and in many cases their lives for that same faith!

4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

If you thought the marriage conference was last week so it was safe to come back to church this week; surprise! Marriage is under satanic attack, and far too many of us are not fighting to defend it. To turn the negative into a positive command I would say "Honor your marriage". Esau was said to despise his birthright because he sold it cheap, for the temporary satisfaction of a bowl of bean soup; and so today many marriages are sold cheap for temporary pleasure.

"Experimentation without reservation" is the marketing message that streams from our televisions, computers, billboards, magazines, radios, and even our "smart" phones. Marriage is no longer considered a covenant before God, but a non-binding contract of convenience. When either of the party's feels that their needs are not being met, they simply dissolve the contract and begin looking for a new deal.

God's Word, however, has not changed. Marriage was His idea; and when we depart from His design, judgment awaits,
"Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge."

We know what adultery is, but people try to hide behind technical definitions like they're Bill Clinton. Fornication to me is a catch all term, derived from the Greek term "pornea" the root of our word pornography, and it refers to prostitution, sex for money. Satan has to love being able to combine lust and greed into one highly successful sin.

Terrible consequences await those who abandon God's standards of sexual purity. Disease, guilt, depression, and even suicide can result from breaking God's rules for relationship. For a professing believer to indulge in wrongful sexual activity is to invite the wrath of God upon his/her life. King David is an example of this truth. Because of his seduction of Bathsheba, David's life was subject to physical dangers, emotional pain, and spiritual sorrows that he could have never imagined. And though God removed the guilt of David's sin, He never removed the consequences of it.

5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Live without coveting anyone else's stuff (job, car, home, wife, kids, boat or big screen TV), because you have Jesus who is worth more to us than any stuff, and in fact our love of stuff will diminish our love for Jesus. It is what the Bible calls idolatry, taking something that can be good and enjoyable, and desiring it enough that we are willing to get it our own way, without regard for the will of God. Live without covetousness.

Most of us would not say that they are "rich". In fact, most of us would say that if we could have "just a little more" income life would be easier. Roughly 98% of all Americans consider themselves "not rich". But when you consider what the rest of the world lives on compared to the average American it becomes clear that we're VERY rich! In fact, more than half of the world lives on less money than most Americans pay for cable!

Do you realize that only 3 to 5 percent of people in the world own (or finance) their own car! Yet, some of us are so rich that we have two cars; and we even have a house for our cars to live in (garage) so that they can be safe from the elements! You know what else we do in America? We get in our cars and drive past twenty or more restaurants where (because we're so rich) we pay people to make our food for us and serve it to us! Some of us rich people then eat so much food in all these restaurants that we have to go to a gym and pay people to help us exercise! That's how rich we are! Yet, we can never get enough.

So, we're rich but we don't feel rich. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, "Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income". The University of Warwick in the UK recently completed a study they called "Money and Happiness: Rank of Income, Not Income, Affects Life Satisfaction". As the study's title suggests, their research concluded that for most people, to feel happy about how much money they have, it has to be MORE THAN what their friends and colleagues have. This turned out to be true no matter how much money someone makes. As long as they know a neighbor, friend or co-worker with more, they are never satisfied that they are really well off. If they make 50k per. year but their friend makes 75k they're discontent. If they make 6 million per. year but their neighbor knocks down 8 million per. year they're discontent.

This truth translates into the life of the believer if we're not careful. We begin living for the things of this world and before you know it "contentment" is no longer even a part of our vocabulary, let alone the way we live our lives. So, if "rich" is a moving target, then how much is enough? The apostle Paul answers that question for us in, 1 Timothy 6:6, "Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing in to this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. AND HAVING FOOD AND CLOTHING, WITH THESE WE SHALL BE CONTENT" (NKJV). The Christian finds contentment not only in the basest condition (food and clothing) but also from the fact that Christ Himself is present in his life! If you are ever tempted to create a list of the material things you don't have, instead, make a list of the miraculous things you do have in Christ! If your mind is concentrated on coveting you will never be content; but if your mind is concentrated on Jesus you will be content in Him with just food and clothing.

6 So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 118:6)

Fear Not!
These Hebrew believers were facing persecution from their families, friends, and foes to the Christian church. God sometimes uses persecution to separate those who possessed genuine faith from those who are merely professing faith in Christ. Persecution is a refining fire.

Following Christ is not a social club, or an added responsibility to one's schedule. Following Christ is a surrendered life. Jesus is our Savior AND LORD. This means that what He says, we will do; and where He sends, we will go. Christ is our Priority, Christ is our Passion, and Christ is our Purpose in life. He assures us of His very presence in our lives! This truth should encourage all genuine believers; wherever we go, HE GOES WITH US; whatever we do, HE DOES WITH US! The presence of Christ in our lives should prompt us to live for His glory.

In the military you have "orders" that tell you where to go and what to do; but they also have the "Uniform code of military justice" that tells you the right or just way carry out those orders, and the chastening or correction that will enforce the code.

For Christians "The Great Commission" represents our orders, to go into all the world and make disciples; and Hebrews 13 gives us our "Uniform code" of how to conduct ourselves as we fulfill the great commission.

  • Love one another
  • Be compassionate to strangers
  • Remember the persecuted
  • Honor your marriage
  • Live without coveting
  • Fear not what man can do to you

This is the code of conduct our sovereign God has chosen for those whom Jesus has redeemed. As we seek to spread the gospel, God is seeking to mold us to the image of his Son, using this code of conduct as our guide. And he has promised to chasten or correct us as needed, whenever we forget to be like Jesus.

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