Motivation for Godly Living

Hebrews, Judgment, Heaven, commitment, Obedience

If you find that “special someone” in life; if you find that person who is in sync with you and with whom you know a joy unlike that which you experience with anyone else; you would want to marry that person and spend the rest of your life with them.

Once you were married, would you then ignore the person you found? That would be absurd. Instead, you would want to cherish and enjoy them. Would you go chasing after other partners? That too would be a foolish thing to do. If you have found that special someone; if you found the person of your dreams; why would you look anywhere else?

Throughout the book of Hebrews we have been instructed about the superiority of Christ over even the best the world has to offer (Angels, Moses, the Temple, the Sacrificial System and the entire Jewish system of thought). Jesus, we have been shown, is the fulfillment of all that has come before Him. He is the perfect sacrifice and the High Priest we all have been looking for. He alone is the One who can bring us forgiveness.

We are now in the section of Hebrews that says in essence, “Now that you have found that Savior that you have longed for; now that you have found the One who is superior to all others; why would you ignore Him? Why would you chase after others when you have found the source of life itself?

Last week we looked at some preliminary instructions. We were urged to

  • Enter boldly into His presence
  • Draw near to Him with true faith and sincere hearts
  • Hold tight to the truth on which we build our lives (guard it against false teaching)
  • Work to motivate your brothers and sisters in Christ
  • Make corporate worship (gathering together with other believers in church) a priority so that we can grow and encourage others.

And we are to urgently pursue these things because we know that the Lord will one day (perhaps very soon) return to the earth.

Unfortunately, we have all known people who have a good thing in their marriage. When we look at them we can’t help but envy them and then we are shocked by rumors that one of the parties was unfaithful to their spouse. We are even more shocked when we discover the rumors are true. It doesn’t make any sense. Why would someone walk away from something so wonderful? Good question.

Here is where I am going with this: even though Jesus is the perfect Savior, there are some who take it for granted. Some even go so far as to become unfaithful to this One who gave His life for them. In our text in Hebrews 10: 26-39 the Holy Spirit offers us some motivation. Since different people are motivated in different ways so we see before us a negative and a positive motivation for pursuing the Holiness which God calls us to pursue.

Negative Motivation

Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. 27 There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. 28 For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. 30 For we know the one who said,

“I will take revenge.

I will pay them back.”*

He also said,

“The Lord will judge his own people.”*

31 It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

It is important that we think carefully about what this text is teaching. We are not being told that those who continue to struggle in their faith (which would be all of us) will go to Hell. If we have learned anything from the study of the Word of God we should know this: We cannot, even if every day was like our best day, ever hope to earn salvation. We are saved by God’s grace through the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.

This text is not saying that Jesus saves us and then we have to make sure that we “keep ourselves saved!” The Bible acknowledges that we are in a battle. We will have good days and we will have bad days. All of them are covered by the blood of Jesus! Thanks be to God!

The key phrase is “if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received the knowledge of truth”. In other words, if we know what the gospel teaches. If we have spent time with God’s people; If we have attended Bible Study and Sunday School; and yet never put our faith into practice . . . we are in deep trouble.

In John 8 we read these words,

Then many who heard him say these things believed in him. Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:30-32)

A group of people “believed in Jesus”, they were attracted to Him and felt He was a great teacher to whom it was worth devoting themselves. However, Jesus makes a distinction. Only those who walk with Him are really “saved”. Those who are selective about obedience show they are only selective believers. They believe some of what Jesus teaches but not everything.

I love this illustration from Ravi Zacharias,

Watching a young bride and groom make their pledge to each other is not love. It is the promise of love and hope. Watching an elderly couple walk through a botanical garden hand in hand is love—the promise has been kept and the honor expressed. It is the same with God. Love is not when we first trust Him. Love is when through the vicissitudes of life we still trust Him, because we know God has kept His word to sustain us, come what may.[1]

We should learn a lesson from the Old Testament. When the children of Israel ignored the Law of God there were consequences! When they ran after idols they incurred the wrath of God. Israel was captured by foreign armies; plagues destroyed large segments of the population; God withheld His blessing which resulted in famine and drought. God offered Israel His love and His protection. They basically spit in His face!

So, here’s the argument: If God took the transgression of His Law (in the Old Testament) this seriously, how much more seriously will He take the offense of spitting in the face of Jesus? After all the Lord has done, how should He respond to those who turn their back on His mercy and grace?

People dismiss these words and say, “I believe in a God of love”. I do too. However, love demands action. Love defends that which is good. A person who is passionate about love will also be passionate when that love is spurned. God is passionate about you and me.

We are living at a time of the superficial believer. Everyone talks about their belief in God. They call themselves “spiritual” people. However, these are just cultural buzz words. We are surrounded by those who are bathing in non-commitment. They play the part but their hearts are far from the Lord. They know what is right but continue to ignore it so they can squeeze whatever enjoyment possible out of the sin which is so readily available.

God does not view our rebellion with a shrug. He will not pat us on the head, smile, and say “creatures will be creatures”. Listen to the words used, “v. 27 “there is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies.” In verse 31 we read “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

The Lord is not messing around here. He is holy, He is loving, and He is just. Those who spurn His love and His holiness will be judged. Our Lord does not expect us to be perfect. He doesn’t require that we do anything to earn His love and grace. However, believing in Him is a matter of surrendering to Him. It is about saying, “I recognize that you are my only hope and the source of my life. I ask you to cleanse me and make me new. I follow you because you alone are worth following.”

If you have found the One you have been looking for all your life, then you ought to devote yourself to Him. If you don’t, the consequences will be significant. You will have spurned the grace of God and you will lose that relationship. Count the cost as you make your decisions.

Positive Motivation

Different people are motivated by different things. In the first part of our text the motivation is negative: don’t turn away from the Lord because those who do will face fierce judgment. Now we turn to the positive motivation for genuine discipleship.

32 Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. 33 Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. 34 You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever.

35 So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! 36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

37 “For in just a little while,

the Coming One will come and not delay.

38 And my righteous ones will live by faith.

But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.”

39 But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.

There are several motivating phrases here. First, we should remain diligent because of what we have already invested.  These people had been faithful. They had endured trying times. They had made too substantial an investment to walk away now. There is the sense that they were close to victory and overcoming in their faith . . . to walk away would make it all a waste of time.

If you talk to a person who is a financial investor one of the things they will tell you is that you cannot panic when the market goes down. You cannot stop investing. You have to keep investing. When the market is bad you will be buying stock low and when the market rises that will bring a rich dividend.

By the same token the message here is not to turn away because things get hard. There is a great deal at stake. When times are bad you actually can have a more powerful witness to those around you than when times are good. Keep investing in the Lord. Keep making deposits in eternity.

The second positive motivation is found in verse 36: “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” We should be motivated by what is ahead.

At the end of his life the Apostle Paul wrote these words,

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

Paul understood that the ultimate benefit of serving the Lord faithfully was “the crown of righteousness”. Lots of people have wondered what we are going to do with crowns in Heaven. I believe this is a word picture. We aren’t going to receive real crowns.

The blessing every one of us should be looking forward to is standing before the Lord and hearing Him say, “Welcome home my child!” There is absolutely nothing that would be better than standing before the Lord completely forgiven and fully loved. I can think of no greater joy than to stand (or kneel) before the Lord who gave His life for me and possibly hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”. To have Him put His arms around me in love. . . nothing could ever be better than that. This picture should drive us forward. The hope of seeing Him face to face . . . that moment and the days that follow will be worth any and every sacrifice.

W will face difficult days in the course of our lives. There will be times when we wonder if the struggle to follow is really worth the effort. However, the key is to remember what we fighting for. Or better yet, WHO we are fighting for.

Men and women who served in a time of war understand this better than most of us. There were times during World War II that the conditions were terrible and the casualties were high. However, those men and women knew they were fighting for freedom. They were fighting for their families. They were fighting so the world would not be taken over by tyrants.

During Operation Enduring Freedom after 9/11 soldiers constantly reminded themselves of the images of the attack on our country. They only had to remember the collapse of the World Trade Towers and all the innocent lives that were lost. That idea of gaining justice and protecting the freedom of our country kept them going.

We should be driven by an even greater image: the image of evil being purged completely and finally. We should be motivated by thought of the day when tears of pain will give way to tears of joy; where aches and pains will give way to healing and wholeness; where wrong will be fully and finally dealt with and good will triumph; we should be driven on by the idea of that day when we will finally be free of the plague of sin and will know a wholeness that defies the imagination.

Conclusions

Growing in Holiness is a battle. We will face the opposition of Satan who wants nothing more than to discredit our testimony. We will face opposition from the culture that exalts man as the highest authority. Truth is negotiable. Evil is called good.

If we go back to 2 Timothy listen to these words of encouragement as he neared the end of his life:

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.  [2 Timothy 4:5]

That’s pretty good counsel.

  • Don’t freak out in times of suffering . . . remember where we are headed. Keep your eye on the goal. Keep investing.
  • Tell others about Jesus at every opportunity. If we understand these words we realize that all of eternity hangs in the balance. Blessing or Punishment; Heaven or Hell; Life or Misery will be determined by how a person responds to Jesus. We cannot say we love someone; we cannot say we even care about someone if we are unwilling to talk to them about the most vital decision of their lives. Tell people about Jesus everywhere you go.
  • Do what you can do. Carry out the role God has given you. Don’t worry about the other guy . . . we must do our jobs. We must do what God has called us to do. We are sometimes guilty of pushing the things of God to the side so we can play our games and pursue our hobbies and pleasures. We act like the things of God are of secondary (or lower) importance. It is a tragic mistake.

W have found the One we have been looking for all our lives. We have found the One who loves us completely. We have found our Savior and King. We have found the One whose wisdom is perfect. We should spend the rest of our lives enjoying and serving Him. When you find what you have been looking for, you need to grab hold, cherish what you have, and make sure you never take it for granted and drift away.

[1] Ravi Zacharias Why Suffering? Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense  2014 p.38

Scripture:

Hebrews 10:26-39