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"A Charge to Keep" Part 1 Hebrews 13:15-21 Pastor Allan Wooters, D.Min.

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When it comes to what I want to say before I retire, there are so many things. What matters is the church. I have dedicated my life, as has my wife Sue, to this congregation. That is what we knew God wanted us to do.

But what do I say now? I have said a lot over 33 years, a whole lot. At times, too much I’m sure! So, I was confronted as to what to say in light of my retirement. The logical text is where Paul says to Timothy that he as fought the good fight and finished his course. But Paul was looking to die when he said that! News flash! I’m not ready to die! Well, I am just not yet. But I am ready for a change. What all that will entail as it relates to my service to God remains to be seen given the present pandemic. But God has His will for me, for Sue, and for Living Water Church. This I know for sure.

Thus, wanting something better than Paul’s funeral-like words, “I have finished my course,” I wondered what to do. Then it struck me that there are places in the New Testament where the writer signs off in his letter to a church and leaves with words of exhortation and encouragement. I thought what could be better for me to do than to take one such passage and relate it to situation. So that is what I am doing. Hebrew 13:15 – 21 my text.

The letter’s theme is the superiority of Christ to all others. Whether the others are Moses, Abraham, the angels, whoever or whatever, Jesus reigns supreme. Over and over the writer demonstrates the glory of Jesus and the blessing that comes to those who embrace Him and life with Him.

In our text stands a series of exhortations that if followed will bring blessing to you personally and to Living Water for the immediate and distant future. So here is my word, through God’s word to you. First, continue to display a spirit of sacrifice.

Continue to Display a Spirit of Sacrifice, vs.15 – 16

How well so many of you over the years have done the will of God to this end. Nursey workers, S.S. teachers, Elders, musicians, worship leaders, prayer leaders, drama teams, those who worked on the massive remodel of our facilities. Trustees, tech folks, fellowship leaders, kitchen help, funeral dinners, Lord Supper preparers, youth leaders, camp leaders, VBS, AWANA! So many leaders! So much time and effort given. I know I am leaving out some of you, but it’s been one of amazing teamwork!

Let me add to this fact of your sacrifice your faithfulness in giving! It’s no secret that I never liked speaking about money. My focus has been on discipleship and overall church health. With that focus the giving has come as a natural result. When we dedicate ourselves completely to Christ, giving comes naturally. No begging needed! Just announce a need and God, through His people provides.

So, don’t stop giving now. Don’t stop giving thinking the church does not need as much money now. We don’t give for that reason. We give our tithe as a gift to God, as obedience to Him. Giving does something in us and for us.  Be careful, then, to guard this spirit of sacrifice.  

Maintain a Spirit of Submission, v17.

These sounds like dangerous words. They can be if the leaders are unworthy. Note the good leaders are like good shepherds. “They keep watch over your souls.” They know “they will give an account.”

“Let them do this with joy and not grief for this would be unprofitable for you.” Over the years we have had our share of painful times. Very early on in my ministry I sensed something was wrong in the church. We had deacons at the time, and I shared my concern with them. I asked if anyone knew anything at all that was wrong or if some were unhappy. Silence. Then a short time later trouble flared led by two deacons. We fought the battle and the families left but what a tragedy. These men who clearly were unhappy didn’t come and talk with me ever. What I learned quickly is that folks can build a self-centered, and self-serving spirit and agenda that they think must be done in the church. There is no spirit of humility, of seeking what is best for the church and settling any matters in a God-honoring way. They are willing to destroy an entire church to get their way.

By God’s grace such a spirit has been met at various times and defeated. Now, today, we have a great church with real unity. God led us through the fiery trial and strengthened the church by it. Now today, I am convinced that the main reason that we have been largely problem free or able to quickly settle any matter is because people here trust the leadership. Keep it! If the leaders are godly individuals, then under God if they lead out follow them. Of course, you can ask questions and discuss matters with them. But if you don’t like something settle it as a Christian. Do not start gossiping and drawing up sides. Seek always to find comprise in love and humility. Any other spirit is simply not of God, period.

When the new pastor comes give him time! He will not do things just as I do. As a pastor I have always heard that when going to a new church that you must build trust. That is true. But it goes the other way around as well. The new pastor must learn that he can trust you. He doesn’t need his every move questioned. He doesn’t have to defend in detail every idea he has. Let him grow on you! Pray for him. Encourage him. In all your dealings with him, have the mind of Christ and then you and he and the entire church will be blessed. This is so needed but the exhortations continue. Next, cultivate a spirit of supplication.

Enlarge Your Spirit of Supplication, v.18

Just an aside here. Notice the spirit of the writer. He has a “good conscience.” He seeks to “conduct [himself] honorably in all things.” If a church has leaders like that, and we have had, then nothing is impossible!

But the writer, some say Paul others Apollos, desires prayer. In supplication we ask God to supply the needs of others and ourselves. You must, must, must pray for your leaders. Right now, especially pray for the search committee.

Pray they and you be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit.

Pray they are not targeted for gossip or mistrust.

Pray that they experience unity and joy and the thrill of being part of what God is doing with this church.

To do this brings a fullness of blessing that cannot be imagined. And we see this exact truth given in vs.20 – 21.

Notice we are blessed with knowing “the God of peace.”

We are blessed in being led by the “great Shepherd of the sheep.” You might think the Elders, or the pastor are the leaders. They are but only in a secondary role. The real leader is Christ the Good Shepherd. This is why it is vital to keep growing in your knowledge and sensitivity to Jesus’ presence in your life. Since Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and since He will lead us even “through the valley of the shadow of death,” He will certainly lead us through lesser challenges.

We are blessed by the faithfulness of Christ. “Through the blood of the eternal covenant.” This reminds us that God can always be counted on. Jesus’ faithfulness means so much to us personally, but it applies to the church as well. Remember, Jesus established the church. He loves the church likening her to His bride. Paul writes that Jesus “loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25).

We are blessed by getting in on God’s work, v.21. God has equipped you to do His will. That’s all of you, not just designated leaders. Our service is always at the calling and direction of the Holy Spirit. God calls us to faith in Christ, equips us with abilities to serve Him in the church, and then empowers us to serve. What a joy! What a stunning act of grace we have in serving. 

Let me add here that this means we never downplay any ministry in this church. For example, I know of preachers in years past who referred to the music prior to the message as “the preliminaries.” The idea was that music was not all that important. The real big deal was their sermon. Never discount the absolute and crucial importance of our worship team! We are commanded to “speak to one another in hymns, psalms and spiritual songs….” Worship teams make that happen. Worship teams, along with the preaching of the word, make for a full worship experience. We never downplay a ministry God has set in a church. It may not be your thing, but it is God’s thing and it deserves respect, honor, and support.

Well, I have more to say which is why this is message is part one only. More next time. But let me be clear that all I have mentioned in this message is set to honor Jesus. “To whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Our little lives, our church set on this hill reverberates with the chorus of heaven. “Worthy is the Lamb!” You and I get to live and serve and pray in a way that makes others think great things about Jesus. That’s what our lives and this church must always be about.

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