Hebrews 12:14 [W]ithout holiness no one will see the Lord.
In a survey given to college students, eighty-nine percent wanted to be rich, eleven percent wanted to be famous, and no one wanted to be holy. In truth, no one wants to be holy unless God gives them that desire through faith in Jesus Christ. Then he graciously gives them what they desire.
[We have] been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:10), says Hebrews. Now we are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), wrote Paul. So live holy and godly lives (2 Peter 3:11), wrote Peter. The moment we come to faith in Jesus Christ, God declares us holy, gives us the Holy Spirit, and helps us to live a holy life.
Some families are tall, others are musical, and others are athletic. God’s children are different from each other in many ways, but one quality they all have in common is holiness—without which, no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:28 [W]orship God acceptably with reverence and awe.
The New Testament provides little direction for public worship, and this allows for many styles. Some churches are formal, others are informal. Some use many musical instruments, others use no musical instruments. Some use written prayers, others use spontaneous prayers. But every church should worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.
For many years, I belonged to a wonderful church that offered coffee and donuts before the service. One Sunday we were receiving the Lord’s Supper, and I saw a dear lady walking up the center aisle with her coffee in one hand, and a donut in the other. When the pastor tried to give her the emblems, she had to juggle her refreshments to receive them. It made me wonder if our worship service had become a little too informal. Regardless, every church ought to worship God acceptably with reference and awe.
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
The changelessness of God is a necessary result of his perfection. Since God is a perfect being, any change would make him less than perfect. [Y]ou remain the same, and your years will never end (Psalm 102:27), wrote the Psalmist. I the Lord do not change (Malachi 3:6), said God. And, [God] does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17), wrote James.
God’s changelessness is also important because the world is changing more rapidly than ever. Culture is changing. Technology is changing. Work is changing. Even the church is changing. All this change can make us feel unsettled.
When a man became seasick, the captain told him to gaze at a tall building on the shore. Several minutes later, the man recovered his equilibrium. Likewise, whenever we feel unsettled, we should focus on the one who never changes. He is the only constant in the universe, and can settle our hearts when everything else seems to be moving.
Hebrews 13:9 It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods.
Jesus put an end to the dietary restrictions of the Old Testament when he declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19). But after years of following these restrictions, some Jewish believers felt guilty for breaking them. As a remedy, the writer wanted them to be strengthened by grace. They were not accepted by God because of their diet, but because of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
A young man grew up in a terrible home, and when he was twelve, both his parents died. Then he was adopted into a wonderful home, but his behavior was still rough. Due to the support of his new parents, however, he slowly began to change. He did not become good in order to be accepted; he became good because he was accepted.
Jesus did not recruit good people because they were good. He recruited bad people who became better because they were accepted by him. We are accepted by God, not because we are good, but because of Jesus Christ. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace.
Hebrews 13:15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
Jewish Christians were not to offer sacrifices at the temple anymore because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice offered once for all (Hebrews 9:12), says Hebrews. Instead of offering sacrificial animals, they were to offer a sacrifice of praise.
Praise is easy when everything is going well, but it becomes a sacrifice when things are going badly. It is good to say, I praise you God that I have food; and I praise you God that I have shoes; and I praise you God that I have a home. But when we can say, I praise you God though I have no food; and I praise you God though I have no shoes; and I praise you God though I have no home—that is a sacrifice of praise.
A young pastor was having a difficult time in his first church. He was up to his eyes in student loans, his ministry was going badly, and he did not know if he would make it. But when his wife and child died in a car accident, he thought he would go insane.
Late one night he drove out of town, to a lonely place, where there was no one around for miles. He got out of his car and walked along the road, praising God at the top of his lungs. This went on for some time, until God and the gospel came back into focus. His problems seemed less overwhelming, and his mental health was restored. Praising God can be a sacrifice, but it also does us good.
Reflection and Review
- Why don’t most people want to be holy?
- How can we worship God with reverence and awe?
- Why should we praise God when things go wrong?