Thursday
Jul242014

The Keeps to the Kingdom (Part 4)

So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?”  — Hebrews 13:6

The Book of Hebrews is essentially a thirteen-chapter letter—written to challenge a group of First-Century Jewish believers to stay the course with Jesus, as opposed to forsaking Him and returning to Judaism. But for a 21st-Century Gentile believer, it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying, “This letter isn’t about me, because I’ve never been Jewish—it would be rather silly to think that I would ever be tempted to go back to something I never was in the first place.”

But returning to a former religion isn’t the only way we can fall out of line with Jesus. Other things that can frame a willful abandonment of Jesus, regardless of your ethnicity. Jesus gave us the “Keys to the Kingdom” but, in his closing remarks, the writer of Hebrews gives us the “Keeps to the Kingdom,” seven ways to keep focused in your walk with Jesus.  Here’s the fourth and fifth Keeps.

4. Be content with what you have.

Hebrews 13:5, Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”   

The last Keep was all about being content with your spouse—he or she has flaws, to be sure—but then again, everyone does. This Keep is similar in intent—be content with your income and stop coveting what others have. Your income cannot buy everything you’d like to have—but then again, nobody’s can. The point is, discontentment will eventually get you in trouble—whether the object of your discontentment is a relationship or a bank statement.

1 Timothy 6:10, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

You say, “I would never abandon Jesus!”  But when you think too highly of earthly things, you already are.

5. Keep respecting your leaders.

Hebrews 13:7, Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

First of all, we’re talking about leaders who teach the Word of God as the Word of God, not people who twist it around to pursue a selfish agenda. But a simple way to describe the strategy of verse 7 is this—when you meet people who are where you want to be, try to figure out how they got there! Okay, that doesn’t sound so simple—but read it again, one phrase at a time! First, identify the people in your life who are a few steps ahead of you, whether it be chronological age or life phase—the people who have become what you want to become; the people whose marriages are examples to the church; the people whose kids have become Jesus-following adults, the people whose reputations in the community are above reproach—those people! And once you’ve identified them, ask them what life disciplines they’ve employed and then follow the path they chose. They may not hold any official office(s) in the church, but their character gives them respect within the church family and the writer says that we should recognize the power of that example. It’s about letting people lead you into a blessed future. But that same principle also applies to the world of official church leadership.

Hebrews 13:17, Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Whenever we submit to people who have spiritual authority over us, we are not responsible for their decisions—they’re the ones who must give an account for those decisions. Actually, when you minister under authority, you’re in a can’t-lose situation—whether or not the decisions they make on your behalf are best, you will be rewarded for your obedient submission to their authority. 

We (in leadership) don’t always make the right calls, but your support motivates your leaders to want to pursue excellence. On the other hand, your criticism and resistance not only discourages your leaders (which further frustrates the mission), it ruins any reward you otherwise would have had for submitting. So you go from a can’t-lose situation to a lose-lose situation—and the last time I checked, a lose-lose was bad-bad!

You say, “I would never abandon Jesus!” But when you abandon your spiritual mentors or abandon a cooperative approach with the people He’s given spiritual authority over you, you already have.