Jack Graham - A Christian Lifestyle
Take your Bible and open them to Hebrews chapter 13. This is our study in the book of Hebrews, the letter to the Hebrew Christians. The theme has been perseverance. That is, we are to go the distance, not just start the Christian life, but run well and finish with a flourish and burst into the arms of Jesus! That is the call for everyone of us. It's the compelling desire of the believer's heart not just to become a Christian, but to be a Christian. That's why I am calling this message "A Christian Lifestyle". A lifestyle is the life that you live, the life that you lead. And this lifestyle of a Christian is unique and different from any other walk in life. It is the follow-ship, it is the fellowship that we have with Jesus Christ.
We are worshiping, we are serving a risen, reigning Redeemer! We are resurrection people! The living Lord is in us; alive, alive, alive in us! And because we are followers of Jesus, we want others to know our Savior as well. We want others to know Christ. And Jesus called every one of us to be His witnesses. He said, "I will fill you with the Holy Spirit and you will be My witnesses". And as we walk as spirit-filled believers, we share our faith and we show people what it means to live for Christ, to honor Christ, to obey Christ, to be Christians. You know, the Bible tells us that in Antioch people were first called Christians there. They didn't have a name the church organization. They were simply known as little Christs, followers of Christ. You are the only Gospel that some people may read. You are the only Bible that some people may read.
So, God uses you, your life filled with the Holy Spirit to testify of who Christ is and what it means to follow Him. The German philosopher Nietzsche was reported to have said, "If you Christians expect us to follow Christ, then the redeemed are going to have to act a little more redeemed". Well We are redeemed, and we accept that challenge in order that we might bring many to faith in Christ. That's what this passage is about. It is about our Christian lifestyle. Now let me remind you that really Hebrews was a message. It was a sermon first delivered, and like any good sermon it has application. And the application here is at the close of this passage, telling us exactly how now we are to live out this muscular faith. So, beginning at verse 1, we're going to read today the first 3 verses, then we're going to take our time through Hebrews 13, the rest of the way. But look at verse 1 of Hebrews 13, "Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body".
What is a Christian lifestyle? It is a lifestyle of love. It is the love of Jesus Christ. And that's why verse one says: "Let brotherly love continue". Don't stop loving one another. He's talking to Christian brothers and sisters. In fact, the word that is used here for love is phileo. Or Philadelphia, we have a city named Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. It's a word which actually means from the same womb. That is, we have a fraternal, we have a personal, familial relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ and the Church. Because the Church is not an organization that we join; it is a family that we share together. God is our Father, Jesus our elder brother, and we are family. That's who we are! Therefore, we are to keep loving one another. Love one another! And that means to keep on loving one another because it's not always easy to keep loving one another.
It doesn't mean you'd necessarily want to spend the next three weeks on vacation with that person next to you, but it does mean that God gives you by His Spirit the ability to love people as He has loved people. And it starts in the church. It starts within. We're to love God, and we're to love one another. And that's the bottom line. That's what God has commanded us 55 times in the New Testament, to love one another, and to keep on doing it. When Jesus took His disciples into the upper room before the cross, in the last hours of His life, He gave them what virtually is His last will and testament. When you read John 13, 14, 15, 16 and the prayer that's in chapter 17, this is the legacy of our Lord. The last words that Jesus gave to His disciples in preparing them for the future. And what do you suppose the message was? The message of love.
In fact, turn in your Bibles to John's Gospel, chapter 13 and you can see it there. As Jesus said in verses 34 and 35: "A new commandment I give to you", alright, something new! What is it? "That you love one another", not just that you love one another but, "just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another". And watch this, verse 35, "By this all people will know that you're My disciples if you have love for one another". He repeated it again in the upper room, John 15, verse 12: "This is My commandment; that you love one another as I have loved you". Again, in verse 17, John 15: "These things I command you". Love is not an emotion; love is not superficial; it is not sentimental; it is a choice that we make! Therefore, God enables us. "These things I command you so that you will love one another". Get the message? Keep on loving one another. We need each other. We are called together, chosen together, in Christ together. We believe together, we belong together. We are the family of God. And because of that we are to love one another as Jesus has loved us.
That's what's new about this commandment. There were commandments before in the Old Testament about loving one another, about loving God and loving people. But now Jesus is saying this is a different kind of love; this is a love lifestyle. It is the Lord's lifestyle. If Jesus has shown kindness to us, we should show kindness to others. If Jesus has forgiven you, you should love and forgive others. If Jesus loves you enough to welcome you and to receive you, then you should love people as Jesus loves people and welcome them and receive them, and on and on. We are to love like the Lord! But who can do that? I can't! I can't love like Jesus loves! Impossible! Have you made the discovery that the Christian life is not hard; it's impossible! In your own strength. I mean, when you read these commands and this challenge to love everyone, who can do that? No one but God because God is love! That's what the Bible says. God is love.
So how do we love? The love of God is poured out in our hearts. Look at Romans chapter 5 and verse 5. It's a great verse that you should mark and memorize. "That the love of God is poured out in our hearts by or through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us". The fruit of the Spirit is love. Jesus promised a Helper who would come along side of us. He's been named the other Jesus, the third person of the Holy, Holy, Holy Trinity. This is Jesus in us; Christ in you, God in you, the Holy Spirit, He is the Helper, the Completer. He is the one who enables us and empowers us to live the Christian life. Have you made the discovery, the wonderful discovery of the Spirit-filled, love-filled life of Jesus in you?
I'm grateful that the end of this passage in Hebrews 13 when it talks about all of these lifestyle callings of the Christian; how we are to live our lives, how we're to obey God, it says: "The Lord is my Helper". Because I can't do this but God in me can. The love of Jesus can fill us and flow through us. That's why we need to pray, and we need to ask God to fill us each day and use us, and then just spend the day spilling out His love and grace on other people's lives. You say, "How can I do that"? By obeying His commandment. It's right here in God's Word, "Let brotherly love continue". Don't stop loving people! Starting with your church. Love your church. Here's what John also said, the apostle known as the apostle of love in verse 14 of 1 John chapter 3: "We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers".
How do you know you're a Christian? How do you know? Well, one way that you know is because you now have a love for other Christians, you care about Christians, your brothers and sisters in Christ. But notice the follow up: First John 3:14: "Whoever does not love abides in death". If your heart is headquarters for hate, if you don't have a love for other Christians, you're not saved! It's repeated in 1 John 4:11. "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us". How are people going to know that God loves them? Well, one of the big ways is because you love them. Because they see the love of God in you. They see God's love in God's church, among God's people.
That's why, the reason, one of the big reasons that God has blessed this congregation, Prestonwood people over the years, is because we have loved one another. We have stayed connected. We have stayed unified. We have stayed together through thick and thin. We're a family, that's what families do. Whoever says, "I think I want to walk into a church fight"! Says no one ever! And yet so many churches that fill with division and strife and brokenness; no love, no life. What keeps a church like ours vibrant and healthy is our love life, our love for one another. That's why you ought to love your church and love the people in it. We're not all that lovable. It's like, you know, your family's not perfect. Everybody's got that crazy cousin and that weird uncle in your family. And if you don't know who the weird uncle in your family is, it may be you!
So, I mean we're all a little bit quirky. But you know, when God put His love in our hearts, when He saved us, we thought, you know, before you became a Christian maybe you were thinking, "The last thing I want to do is hang out with Christians! That's the last thing I want to do is go to church, waste a good Sunday morning going to church". And then you met Christ, He changed your life. Gave you a new love and now you can't wait to get here. Because you want to be where the love of God is poured out. It's exciting, isn't it? And again, 1 John 4:7, "Beloved, let us love one another for love is from God. But whoever loves has been born of God and knows God". If you have been born again... Now, you see, not every person is a child of God. You say, "I thought every person is a child of God". No, every person has been created by God and has the potential and the promise to become a child of God, but here's what Jesus says, here's what the Bible says.
You know when I speak, it's fallible. But when I speak God's Word, that's infallible. It's a powerful thing. That's why we so often quote God's Word. That's why we preach the Word. It's not that important what I say; what does God say? Alright, what does God say about who's a Christian; who is a child of God? John's Gospel 1:12: "As many as received Him to them gave He the privilege to be called the children of God". Jesus said, "You must be born again". You're not born a Christian. You are born again when you believe, when you receive, when you respond and invite Christ into your life. That's when you are born again. And when you are born again, the love of God now fills your life. You have something brand new which is the love of Jesus. And so God is love. And God will enable you to love others like Jesus loves others. Love your church. You know we live in a world with a lot of critics and a lot of cynics today.
Just listen to political radio, sports-talk radio. There's just a lot of free-flowing criticism, anger, all the rest. And sometimes I see it among Christians. People getting online criticizing their church. I've seen it regarding Prestonwood. How do you get online if you're a Christian and criticize your church for the world to see? You got problems there are ways to resolve those problems. But you want to go online, you want to go on your Facebook, you want to go on twitter and criticize your church? Criticize people in the church? No! The lifestyle of a Christian is to love God's people.
You say, "What's the church"? The church is God's people. It's not these buildings. It's not the meeting place. We are the people of God and we are to love one another. Listen to 1 Peter 1:22-23: "Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, (Not fake love, not phony love, but sincere brotherly love) love one another earnestly (that is, like an athlete. It's an athletic word. You can smell the gridiron here). Love one another earnestly (work at it!) from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;" Work at it, because the way you show love is to give love. It's not, as I said, a sentiment or an emotion. It's not something we feel but we actively pursue. We choose to do what God has called us to do. And that starts with loving Him and loving others.
Choose to love. It is a divine duty. And as 1 Corinthians 13:1 says, "Even if I speak with the tongue of men and angels, if I don't have love, I'm but a clanging cymbal, a sounding gong". Life minus love equals zero. And it's impossible to love people apart from the love of God. So how do we do that? Well, he tells us here how to do it. He says start by loving each other and then love and show hospitality to the stranger. Now he goes outside the church. We've been talking about inside the church. Loving one another. But the church is not a club! A closed organization. The church is to welcome, to show hospitality to people not just on the inside because we like each other, but people on the outside who may not think like us or believe like us or look like us or vote like us! People who are, as the Scripture calls, strangers. You don't know them yet. You haven't met these folks yet. But God is bringing people into our lives always that we don't know and yet we are to love them and to show how are we to love them? By showing hospitality.
Do you hear the word hospital in that word hospitality? I do. Hospitality. The church is not a museum for super saints; it is a hospital for sinners and strangers who don't yet know the Lord. Unfortunately, again we live in a culture where we are closed off and we're all into ourselves instead of others. I've been reading about people taking selfies and getting killed in the process. Two hundred and fifty-seven people have died taking selfies. Do you believe that? Fall off a mountain, get hit by a car, whatever, all into ourselves. See, when you turn the world inside to you, and it's all about you. Nothing, now if you want to take a selfie, fine, just be careful! But don't be all into you. This is a selfie world, and yet people are so disconnected from real life and real relationships. Life is about relationships and the rest is just details. But we don't know one another. We don't meet new people. We're not open-hearted.
For the Christian, what makes us different where people will say "what is that about you that's different"? What makes us different is we show hospitality. We are open-handed, open-hearted. We even open our homes to people we don't know. Now in the days of the Hebrew Christians here, the inns, the hostels, the hotels, if you will, were fairly dangerous places. Many of them were brothels and thieves and others surrounded them. I mean, it was not a good time to go to a hotel. There was no Omni, no resort, no place to stay. So, what often took place among believers and everyone really, was to stay in peoples' homes. And so, in that day it was a Christian lifestyle to welcome people into your home. Even churches started in houses. Now I understand the need for privacy and to have your own place, and I get that. But God has given us a wonderful pulpit and that is our own house, our own apartment in our own neighborhood. Are you using your hospitality so well?
You say, "Well, my house is not that great". You're not there to impress people, you're there to influence them for Christ. Are you using your place of residence? Are you using your office? Are you using your neighborhood as an opportunity to show hospitality? I pray that when people come to our church, they meet hospitable people. Wholehearted, open-hearted people. I believe that's the secret to our church, is just the love and the openness and welcoming that our church has, and that includes people that are not all like us. Our community is changing, and so be it. We want to reach every person in our community. And not only do we want to welcome them when they come, we want to go to them and show hospitality, and hold out our hand, and say, "Come and go with me as we follow Christ". To show hospitality! You know in our country I can't help but think about the crisis we have in our nation over the immigration issue. And, of course, the politicians are debating it, and it is a problem. It's a big problem. It's a legal problem for our country and it's also a big people problem, a humanitarian crisis.
I had the opportunity about three weeks ago to go to El Paso with a group of Christian friends and we were taken by the border patrol folks down right to the wall where people are coming through, right into the tents where people stay for 24, 36, 48 hours as they are moving into the country. Sometimes 150-200 a day. Just a flood of people coming into the country. And it's the government's responsibility to fix this situation and truly is, and we need a Congress that will get their act together and approve reasonable, rational reliable immigration policy that show love and compassion, but at the same time protect our country. We need that today! Now in the process of that what is the church? Okay, but with that what is the church to do? What are we as Christians to do? We're to show love to people who show up here. We're to show love to people who need the love of Jesus.
I walked all the way back into people fresh across the border and spoke with them. Spoke Spanish, I had an interpreter. I needed Gilberto. But I had a good interpreter and I spoke with them. And these were, you know, it was a dad and seven-year-old child. It was a dad and an eight-year-old child. And, yes, there are criminals coming through and there are drugs coming through, and there's a lot of other things that, again, it's a legal problem that needs to be controlled. So what the government does is one thing, but what God's people are to do is to simply do what we as a church are endeavoring to do with Prestonwood Espanol and other immigrant groups that are coming into our country and that is to provide a welcome and a hope and a hospitality for the purpose of leading them to hope in Jesus Christ. Prestonwood Espanol is doing that.
Nineteen countries, represented every Sunday. And preaching the Gospel around the world. But right here, and right around you in this mission field. Not only do we have Espanol, but we have a Farsi group. These are Iranian people, and I know the Iranian government, that's an enemy, a confessed enemy against the United States. And yet so many of the Iranian people are loving and caring people and they're running from their own country to find freedom. And some are landing here and we are showing love and mercy. What are we to do? Are we to close our doors? Are we to say no to people who walk in or people who are around us? A thousand times no! We are to do what Jesus would do, and that is to show kindness and to show mercy and to show love and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to people who so desperately need hope in Christ. That's what we're to do, and that's what we're doing.