This is the time of year when the minds of people begin to think about the worship of Jesus. The arrival of Jesus into this world meant for the world to worship him. The wise men come with gifts and worship him. We have the tendency to think of worship merely as attending a church, sitting in a pew, singing some songs, and listening to a sermon. If we have done these things, then we have worshiped God. But worshiping Jesus is far more than simply coming to a building and watching or participating in some of the things that are going on in the building. Listen to how Paul described our worship of Jesus in Romans 12.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 ESV)
While offering our praise to Jesus by coming together is certainly an aspect of our worship, the apostle Paul speaks of our whole lives being given as a living sacrifice. We are to give our lives to Jesus in a way that is holy and acceptable to God. So as we gather today we are going to talk about what our worship of Jesus is supposed to look like beyond what we do during this hour gathering. Jesus wants our worship of him to continue even when we leave these four walls. So what does that daily worship of Jesus look like? Turn to Hebrews 13.
Hebrews 12 described our need for an enduring faith in suffering. The writer of Hebrews ended that thought with these words, “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (12:28-29). It is easy to think that Hebrews 13 is just a bunch of quick, random teachings. However, Hebrews 13 reveals what acceptable worship to the Lord in our daily lives looks like.
True Love (13:1-6)
Worshiping Jesus begins with expressing true love. These first six verses are saturated with pictures of expressing true love. First, we must love each other. We simply cannot worship Jesus if we are not loving one another. Love for each other is to be a defining characteristic of God’s people (John 13:34-35). We are absolutely false worshipers of God if we are not loving one another. This is something that the world does see. They see the hypocrisy of claiming to love the Lord and then showing all kinds of hurtful behavior to others. Not only are we to love others, but we are to love strangers too (13:2). We could use much more of this in our world today. Do not just love the people you know. Love the people you do not know either. Keep your eyes up. Say hi and show kindness. Do good by others. Do not simply think of ourselves. The passage reminds us of instances where the stranger was actually a messenger of the Lord, like in the case of Abraham. Not only this, we are to show love and kindness to Christians who are suffering for the Lord’s sake (13:3).
Then he tells us to love our marriages. Marriage are to be held in honor. It is shameful how much denigration marriages have endured. I do not simply mean by the world. I mean how we ourselves look at our own marriages. The apostle Paul described love as being kind, patient, not rude, not resentful, and does not insist on its own way. Please think about how often this is not true in marriage. We must not publicly criticize each other, say mean things, or even reveal personal information that would be embarrassing or insulting. Honor your marriage. Never speak evil of your spouse. Further, the marriage bed is to be remain undefiled. It does not matter what the world says sexual immorality is wrong. Sexual relations are to only be between a married man and woman. The warning is given in verse 4. God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. One of the ways we love a person is by keeping ourselves sexually pure for their person. Sexual immorality simply devastates marriages as we are witnessing in the world today. The unrestrained sexual appetites are destroying marriages on a daily basis.
Finally, stop loving money and start loving Jesus. We need to hear this message in verse 5. Be content with what you have. Notice how God encourages our contentment. We can be content with what we have because God has made a promise to us: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Because of this promise we do not have to worry about anything. We do not need to love money. We do not need more stuff. We do not need to excessively accumulate. God will not leave us. What a precious promise from our Lord! The Lord is our helper. He will not leave us. We do not need to fear. These first six verses are simply saturated with a call to love. Love each other. Love strangers. Love Christians who are suffering. Love your marriage. Love your spouse. Love God. Do not love money.
True Teachings (13:7-19)
With the first picture of worship given, the author of Hebrews gives a second picture of worship. Worshiping Jesus means holding to true teachings. Cling to stable spiritual teachings. Remember those who taught the word of God to you. Look at the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Spiritual teachers are not simply supposed to say what God says but are to also live what God said. This is important because there are many who want to talk about the word of God but do not live what it says. They expect others to do what God says but do not expect themselves to do what God says. Look at your spiritual teachers and follow their faith as you look at their way of life. Jesus has not changed and his teachings have not changed. Follow what your spiritual teachers say, imitate their faith, and do not be led away by various kinds of strange teachings. Jesus has not changed. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Please think about why this is so important. We cannot come along today and say that things have changed with Jesus. We cannot change what God says about sexuality or immorality. Jesus has not changed. What he taught 2000 years ago still hold true for us to follow today. So many new and strange teachings come along that have never been historically true, but we are told that we should listen and follow them. Jesus has not changed. We need to change ourselves to the true teachings of Jesus, not change Jesus to what we want to do today. It seems this audience is being led astray about food (13:9). But the big deal is that there are always going to be people who are going to teach false things. It is staggering how much that goes on. Trust the word of God. Jesus does not change. Follow the example of those who have taught you the truth. Do not look for people to tell you what you want to hear because that is how you will find false teaching. Worshiping Jesus means seeking him and seeking what he wants us to do.
This is the picture that we see in verses 10-14. It can be a confusing illustration to us. Under the Law of Moses, the sin offering was made in the Most Holy Place by the high priest. But the body of the animal was taken outside the camp. The author of Hebrews uses this as an analogy for us. Jesus also suffered outside of the city gate to make us holy through his own blood. Crucifixion in the first century happened outside the city walls of Jerusalem because the Jews considered it such a defiling act. Jesus came for the very purpose of giving his life so that we could be made holy. He suffered disgrace, shame, and was executed outside the city. Look at verse 13. We are to follow the example of Jesus. If we are worshipers of Jesus, then we must follow the example of Jesus. We must follow him outside the city and bear the disgrace he endured.
Worshiping Jesus is not a feel good story. Worshiping Jesus is not about listening to a story about a baby and thinking that we can now go on our merry way for another year. Worshipers of Jesus go outside the city and suffer the shame that comes from doing so. What does that mean? That means that we do not act like this culture. We do not look like this world. We do not think like it. Following Jesus means we are carrying our cross, going outside the city, and suffering the disgrace as we go. This is what worship of Jesus looks like. Worship is not being accepted by the world, but being like Jesus, who accepted disgrace and shame to accomplish our holiness. When we look like this world, then we are no longer worshiping Jesus.
Notice what this looks like in verses 14-15. This world does not possess our lasting city. Our hope is not in this world and our hope is not in this life. We seek the city that is to come. We are looking forward to a world with God, not this world without God. Our hope is not having accolades and notoriety in this world. We will take the disgrace of this world because the praise we want is the praise of Jesus. This is why Jesus came. So what does our worship look like? Let us never stop offering a sacrifice of praise to God, which are lips that openly confess Jesus’ name. Worship means that we are not ashamed of Jesus. Worship means that we offer praise to Jesus and we do it openly.
Worshiping Jesus is also doing good and sharing with others. This is a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord (13:16). We must do good. This brings us back to how this chapter started. We need to love each other, love strangers, love those who are suffering, love our marriages, and love God. Love is not merely a feeling. Love does good. Love cares. Love helps. Love shares.
Further, we are worshiping Jesus when we submit to our spiritual leaders. The writer of Hebrews says that they are watching out for your souls. I can tell you when Dan and Emil were the shepherds here, and I sat in on all of those meetings, and now that it is Dan and myself: everything that we ask of this group, every decision we make, every phone call or email we make, and every word we say is with the intention of doing good for your spiritual life. We are watching over your souls. We know we will give an account for your souls. We care about every person who enters these doors, no matter if this is your first time or if you have been here all your life. But the only authority we have is the scriptures. We can tell you from the scriptures and our own experiences what you should do in regards to your life worship. But we cannot make any of you do anything. We are not to lord anything over the flock or rule over you. So we tell you the way you should go. So the writer of Hebrews says that it is in the flock’s best interest to listen and submit. Look at the rest of verse 17. Make the work of the shepherds be a work that they can do with joy, not with grief and groaning. It is not beneficial to you. What we do is for your good. That is the shepherds’ work. So it is your best interest to do what you are advised, rather than doing the opposite or disregarding the counsel. We are working for you so do not work against us.
True Transformation (13:20-25)
The final picture of our worship of Jesus is seen in verses 20-21, which is a prayer on behalf of these people. This prayer is a perfect summary of what our worship of Jesus must be. May the God of peace equip you with everything good for doing his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus. God is attempting to change you. God is equipping you for every good work. God is working in you what is pleasing in his sight. Will we surrender to the change we need to make or will we resist what God is doing in our lives? True worship of Jesus means truly transforming our lives to be pleasing to him. True worship does not transform our lives to be what is pleasing to ourselves. No, true worship means being a living sacrifice so that we will be what is pleasing to the Lord. If we do not see that God is working in us and transforming us to be pleasing to him, then there is something wrong.
The picture of true worship is powerful. Jesus tells us what he wants our worship to look like. Worshiping Jesus means that we have true love for all people. Worshiping Jesus means that we will hold on to the true teachings of God. God has not changed and we must seek the truth and hold on to it. Finally, worshiping Jesus means that we will have a true transformation. Jesus loves you where you are but is working to change us. Let Jesus transform your life. You will be a completely different person and will look forward to the eternal city that awaits those who love him.