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Love

Hebrews 13:1-19
 

“Let brotherly love continue. [2] Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it. [3] Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily. [4] Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers. [5] Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. [6] Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? [7] Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. [8] Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. [9] Don’t be led astray by various kinds of strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be established by grace and not by foods, since those involved in them have not benefited. [10] We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle do not have a right to eat. [11] For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy of holies by the high priest as a sin offering are burned outside the camp. [12] Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the gate, so that He might sanctify the people by His own blood. [13] Let us then go to Him outside the camp, bearing His disgrace. [14] For here we do not have an enduring city; instead, we seek the one to come. [15] Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. [16] Don’t neglect to do good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices. [17] Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. [18] Pray for us; for we are convinced that we have a clear conscience, wanting to conduct ourselves honorably in everything. [19] And I especially urge you to pray that I may be restored to you very soon.” (HCSB)

 They say that all good things must come to an end.  It is with a great deal of personal sadness that I announce that this will be our last Sunday to study the book of Hebrews in this series.  I feel like we’ve gone way too fast and have skipped over some things that I wish we could have dealt with.  For instance, today we will only study the first five verses of the text I’ve just read to you.  I pray that listening to these messages have benefited you as much as studying for them has helped my personal journey with the Lord.

 This morning we’re zeroing in on the first part of this text to see what the writer of Hebrews wants to teach us about love.  In a recent interview, comedian/actor Jim Carrey was asked the question: "What do you still desire?" to which he responded: "Love." Even though he makes over $10 million per movie, and is one of the most popular actors in Hollywood, Jim Carrey can testify that money and fame can't buy happiness. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 The Apostle Paul wrote, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. [2] If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2, NASB)  Without love, he said, he is nothing.  If a person is nothing without love, would it also be correct to say they have nothing without love?  I think that is precisely what Jim Carrey was saying.  The Apostle Peter wrote, “Now you can have sincere love for each other as brothers and sisters because you were cleansed from your sins when you accepted the truth of the Good News. So see to it that you really do love each other intensely with all your hearts.”  (1 Peter 1:22 NLT)  And the Apostle John wrote, 1 John 4:7-8 “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. [8] But anyone who does not love does not know God—for God is love.” (NLT) The writer of Hebrews encouraged his readers to “Let brotherly love continue,” then he gave some specific examples.

 He encourages the people to exercise their love by showing HOSPITALITY.  When David Egner had the opportunity to travel to Belarus to speak at a regional conference for pastors, he says everything went right. His planes arrived and left on time, and there was no trouble getting through customs. David says the most memorable part of the trip was the hospitality of one family.

 David’s hosts the first night were his driver’s family. They were extremely gracious to the stranger from across the sea. When he was dropped off at the small apartment, the man’s wife and three of his children welcomed David. The oldest boy and the two younger sisters entertained David while their mother prepared a modest dinner that probably cost the family a couple of week’s food budget. When the oldest daughter came home from a drawing class, she showed David her portfolio and offered him a drawing.

 After the meal, the family gathered in a small room for music and singing. David says, “For a visitor from home, missing loved ones, and keeping a grueling schedule, the warmth of that family was very special.” (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 If you’ve ever been the recipient of this kind of hospitality, you know it is like jumping in a cool pool on a hot day.  In his book, Reimagining Spiritual Formation, Doug Pagitt writes, "At its core, hospitality is an act of faith.  It is faith in God and faith in people.  It is an open posture that views others not as threats, but as participants in the process of one another's redemption." (Reimagining Spiritual Formation, p. 97) Romans 12:13 says, “contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”  (NASB)

 Not only does he encourage his readers to show hospitality, but he tells them to MINISTER TO THE DISADVANTAGE. In verse three, he writes, “Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.”

 Our own Ross Seely does this literally.  For the past 15 years, he’s visited an inmate once a month to share Christ’s love with Him and to be a friend to him. 

 But lest you think the writer of Hebrews wants us to spread love to strangers and the disadvantaged exclusively, in verse 4 he reminds us that just as charity starts AT HOME, so does love.  “Marriage must be respected by all, and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge immoral people and adulterers.”

 The foundations of marital love are respect and fidelity.  Love is not a feeling, it is a choice—an action.  Unfortunately, feelings seduce too many people and are left devastated in the wake of a relationship built without a strong foundation. 

 One last thing, as the writer of Hebrews has stressed the way his readers are to love others; he reminds them of SOMETHING THEY ARE NOT TO LOVE.  Look with me into verse five, “Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.”

 We are to love people and use money; unfortunately, many people get that reversed and allow their love of money to cause them to use people.  Paul wrote, “For the love of money is a source of all kinds of evil. Some have been so eager to have it that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10 TEV)  G.H. Charnley, in The Skylark's Bargain, tells the story of a young skylark that discovered a man who would give him worms for a feather. He made a deal-one feather for two worms. The next day the lark was flying high in the sky with his father. The older bird said, "You know, son, we skylarks should be the happiest of all birds. See our brave wings! They lift us high in the air, nearer and nearer to God."

 But the young bird did not hear, for all he saw was an old man with worms. Down he flew, plucked two feathers from his wings and had a feast. Day after day this went on. Autumn came and it was time to fly south. But the young skylark couldn't do it. He had exchanged the power of his young wings for worms.

 That is our constant temptation in life-to exchange wings for worms, or to put it another way, to exchange relationships for things.

 But that doesn’t happen if we use money and love people.  The writer of Hebrews said, “Let brotherly love continue.”  Can we love the way we’ve been loved?
 

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