Final Words for Strength • Hebrews 13:20-25

Turn with me as we close the epistle of Hebrews, the sermon that is this morning, to chapter 13 as we look at the final words for strength. So many different things to share, you know, with the church. I do want to encourage you that last gospel church planning offering that we took last Sunday and we were told there's going to be more people who are going to give it is around $12,000. And so we rejoice for that. And that will go to the planting of churches and unreached people groups and so we rejoice and thank God for your gifts in that regard. As Pastor Alex mentioned, we were going to be worshipping over the next month the Advent season which will culminate with a look at the New Heavens and the new earth on New Year's Eve Sunday morning and then the first Sunday in January of 2018. We're going to be for that particular Sunday. And you could bring your lost friends as you're trying to identify the gospel to them what is saving faith. What is the faith that saves? And then of course we're going to be entering into 2018. For this particular text and the book itself we know, to try to get us to a culmination point in simplicity, that Hebrews is about Jesus is better and for that reason the exhortation is given by the pastor writer for believers to endure. For them to follow after Christ because there were many or some we should say at least, to some degree, that had attached themselves ultimately, I would say it was through family relationships, that had what we would call an apostate type faith as we've seen. They discontinued following Jesus. That is they turned away. That's what apostate faith is. It is not real. It turns itself away in a life from Jesus all together. And so he is encouraging which undoubtedly may have been, as we saw last week, he may have been an even imprisoned the pastor writer himself because we know that there were several in the congregation and probably the reason why some did walk away was for their persecution that they had received and even imprisonment or the seizing of their own property from Hebrews 10:32-34. 

So this is kind of the summation point. And he draws their attention to give them words in a final way to strengthen what is a persecuted church. Any churches and all churches that are the Lord's undergo great struggles. Practically speaking we know that ministry requires effort. It requires determination and patience. If it's going to be spiritual ministry. And yet while that goes on on our own part as it does as we endure and follow after Jesus on our own, we must never forget that as these efforts go on we need God's grace and strength and that God mysteriously works as we trust him to those efforts in ends. His grace and strength fuel our efforts and our determinations in patience. You might wonder how, well look at the last verse. Grace be with you all. And you know what grace is, it's an undeserved benefit or an unmerited favor. 

To live the Christian life for faithful ministry to go out to any church we need desperately. All of us, God's grace. And apart from grace we would all fail but because God gives us grace we persevere. Don't we? We keep following after Jesus. Though life may have dealt you some very severe blows. Perhaps over your own sin. Perhaps just sharpening measures as a trial and tribulation and existence of life or even a suffering of persecution for the name of Christ. We need grace, don't we? We need grace. And the text here reveals a grace as to how God's grace is at work in Jesus, in and through his people and for his people. And I want to give you those five things because I don't want to be a teaser right up front and then we're going to move through this final text. 

We're going to see Christ's peace, Christ's promise, Christ's care. Christ's, then because of those truths, equipping and Christ enabling. And dear friends, church, that all is a part of the measure of God's grace to his people. Notice the benediction as these closing words unfold in verse 20. And then he makes one final appeal. That was a part of my introduction, follow after Jesus. Though it may bring you great pain and some of that could be inner turmoil for those who have walked away. Undoubtedly it did, for perhaps for some of us who have family members. Though you follow after Jesus you receive a ridicule because they don't. And there's a true sense of loss and hurt in pain in your life. That's part of this instruction. You should know that our brother Timothy has been released for with whom I shall see if he comes. He's giving some final instructions and a desire to come, greet all your leaders and all the saints and those who come from Middle East send your greetings and then those this seemingly innocent phrase that we see often in Scripture and perhaps underestimate the grace be with all of you. You can't imagine or think of your life apart from God's grace. Well here in these closing words for strength, he lets them know that the peace, Christ's peace, can be theirs. The scripture says in verse 20. Now may the God of peace, the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the Eternal Covenant equip you with every good, that it would equip you with everything good that you may do his will. Working in that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ to whom be glory for ever and ever amen. 

Christ is the God of Peace. Peace is intrinsic to his nature. He is called The God of Peace. God is referred to as the God of peace five times in the New Testament. I just want to call your attention to a couple of them. Turn back to Romans chapter 15. What a blessed truth this is for God's people. That Christ is the God of peace. Verse 33 of Chapter 15. Dealing with an important problem that was in the church of two groups pitted against one on the other, he sums up this statement. Verse 33 May the God of Peace be with you all. Amen. Chapter 16 of Romans. There's another good one. The verse 20, the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Now that was true, right? Satan was defeated at the cross but he gives them the hope future that the God of peace will ultimately bring to an end part of the torment of our own trials perhaps that we deal with and certainly as it as it attacked the Church. He will soon crush Satan under your feet. Jesus will and has brought all his enemies under his footstool. They will submit to him. Obviously that ends in the final judgment. In a total way where you and I will enjoy this God of peace forever. 

Now what is God's peace for us that Christ offers us? Well it's more than an absence of conflict because that's kind of how we think of it. I know oftentimes in my life that's how I thought of it. You know I just don't want any conflict. But it has this type of definition it refers to a completeness and a soundness, a welfare, a well-being, a wholeness. That is the God of peace offers our souls and our minds a sense of peace inside of all the chaos that that may be going on in the world or maybe going on in your life. I love what Martin Luther said in his commentary on the book of Galatians. This has stuck with me and I hope this will stick with you as a help.  "Grace in salvation releases the guilt of sin." All of us prior to coming into a relationship with Christ we were suffering with the guilt of sin, weren't we? And along with that what God provides, the God of peace, peace comes to comfort your soul. Where initially now your life's commitment has been altered you've been transformed by the grace of God. God gives you a sense of peace were no longer don't have to fear death. For the Christian we not need fear death. Oh it's not like we're, you know, just waiting to die like right on the edge of our seat. But God Himself through His grace of Jesus, because he suffered for our sin. He has remedied that. He comforts us with a type of peace. 

So for us it doesn't matter what the trial is because we know, for us, God has plans for our well-being that even extend past this life. His peace, we would want to know this, is for all his children and that's why Jesus to the disciples in the upper room in John 14, 15, 16, and 17. He tells them that I need to go. You need to leave for the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, will come which will comfort your soul amidst all sorts of trial. Imagine what our lives would be like apart from the peace of God where no matter the circumstance we can rest in the Gospel. We can rest in Christ himself though we may not see an out in our particular circumstance. The pastor writer here, I want you to get this, he's well aware of their circumstance and that their church was under strain. It was under duress and great difficulty. They were being harassed all for their faith in Christ and yet under that difficult circumstance, the God of peace gives his peace to his people. What's beautiful about that and what's sweet about that. That is without exception. As the God of Peace was for these people the God of peace, your Savior, gives you peace. He provides you a rest. He allows your heart to be comforted. No matter the trial of life. In any given circumstance we rest together in the God of peace who gives us a type of what the Old Testament calls a Shalom in our souls and in our minds.

Secondly along with this not only does Christ offer himself in peace, he offers himself in his promise. In what Titus calls the God who cannot lie. Promised before the world began. Now some of us as we travel through the Old Testament we look at the language of the Covenant and we may get a little confused because in a different covenant there will be a number of attachments to it. I want to kind of give you something this morning that will hopefully help you that will kind of stream it down so that you understand what's being said when the covenant is offered. Because here he says, "Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ the Great Shepherd of the sheep by the blood of the Eternal Covenant." The Eternal Covenant. In all the covenants, God gives a divine promise that only he himself can keep. So when you read the word "covenant" it always has attached in it a divine promise from God. And here's what I want you to know about that divine promise, that divine promise centers on the Messiah. It centers on Jesus. So first we want to see what he's talking about in the text because this particular group of people, as the early church being strongly Jewish for the most part as God was saving the Gentiles as well, it had a great grasp of the Old Testament that being really the only word of God. And we have walked through this sermon where the pastor writer skillfully, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, takes them to Old Covenant promises to point them to the New Covenant promise of Jesus as being the Divine Promise. He calls it here the blood of the Enteral Covenant. The blood of the Eternal Covenant which Jesus shed on our behalf. Specifically that's our foundation that you and I have been made a part of the Eternal Covenant. Really are at the very highest of all of our dreams as Christians. God has promised and as he has promised in his covenant he has given us the divine promise of Jesus. 

And so this language here that we see by the blood of the Eternal Covenant, their ears go back to Jeremiah. Where in Jeremiah chapter 31 God promises that he's going to bring a new mind and a new heart. So that they may know the Lord, all of that being fulfilled in Christ. And we've seen this before in the book of Hebrews. Look back to chapter 8. This divine promise that was given of the new and eternal and final Covenant from Jeremiah chapter 31 in Hebrews Chapter 8: 8 - 12. I just want to show this to you in verse 10. This word covenant, "For this is the covenant that I will make with the House of Israel after those days declares the Lord. That was the prophecy given to Jeremiah. I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts and I will be their God and they shall be my people." God's divine promise in Jesus. I want to know what you think of this in this light. As a Christian. This is an identifiable witness to you. You can't go by a day with not contemplation of Jesus.  If you know him. Why? Because he lodges there. He's put his law. He's put himself into your mind and into your heart and perhaps even if you're sinning against God and you're in a bad spot, he still brings that thought to you about how you're disobeying Christ. One of the great comforts that you and I have is that we have the divine promise that you and I have been made of the eternal final covenant with God. It's all completed and ended all the previous covenants find their fulfillment in Christ. God has saved us. He has renewed your heart where prior to Christ you didn't think about Christ very often. But now you think about Christ often. Why? Because you're in a relationship with him. Because God has made a part of the new final covenant that you would be in relationship through his divine promise. You have a personal relationship with God, that the old covenant didn't understand completely not like we do, because Christ has accomplished everything necessary to the varied types and symbols and shadows that we've seen throughout this book. Now how is that? The blood of the eternal covenant. Because when Jesus shed his blood, you and I found our sin forgiven. Jesus shed his blood. Now I want you to understand what that means. It wasn't that he had a sword and ,he cut his forearm and the blood is precious but the blood represents that Jesus gave his life. Jesus needed to die so that the eternal covenant could come into existence. So you and I could have the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus' shed blood represents his death. And that for all of us is the gospel offer. It is the gospel offer to you that presently are here that don't know Jesus. That in Christ there is an atoning final work. That Jesus can reside in you and in the Spirit himself. He can be yours if you come to God on His terms and you hear his voice. The impulse of your heart as it receives its conviction. You repent. You find and apprehend the mercy of God because you know you are guilty in your sin before God. And it's only Christ alone that can pay for your sin. What's beautiful about this, and for the church for our church well, is that his promise is an eternal covenant and that eternal covenant, friends, is going to be the essence of how we spend eternity with Jesus. God gave a divine promise and that divine promise was fulfilled in the God man because we would have failed it and do fail it. 

Jesus is our eternal covenant. He will never be replaced. Jesus is our Savior who fulfills all the previous Covenants, as I've just shared, in the symbols and in the shadows and the types. Jesus is the great high priest. Jesus is, as he confounded those in unbelief, he is the true temple. He is the sacrifice. All of these things cease in Jesus because Jesus is the eternal covenant established by himself. His death which takes away your sin and my sin fully and completely. For them to hear these words. Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ the great shepherd of the sheep by the Eternal Covenant. What they were hearing friends and what we should hear is that God has promised you life. And so we're going through struggles. You may be going through a certain type of struggle in your life. God gives us his peace in Christ. God gives us his promise in Christ. 

Thirdly to this in Jesus gives us his care. There is for us here a word that is used that was significant to the New Testament culture. Jesus is called the Great Shepherd of the sheep. The Great Shepherd of the sheep and it emphasis there as it always in other context it has to do with Christ's care. Christ cares for you. Christ cares for your well-being. And when he sees his well-being, he's seeing it in light of eternity not temporal things. Jesus cares for us and it is essential that he does as our Great Shepherd care for us as sheep. Because here's what we know about sheep, all sheep, are dumb. Sheep are dirty and sheep are defenseless. If the sheep did not have the shepherd in this culture they would die to the wolf or the lion or to the bear or whomever because sheep will wander away. Sheep are dirty in the sense as we're dirty, we're sinful people. We've all been saved, even in the redeemed state. We've all been saved by the grace of God. We're sinful people and that our salvation is defenseless. If it must be kept on our own, friends, our care of our salvation is kept in the Great Shepherd. Jesus protects us as being dumb and dirty and defenseless. And without the shepherd, he's letting them know, the sheep die. So for them the shepherd metaphor was the deepest. Sheep in that culture actually knew their shepherds voice distinctly for the one who was caring for them. And as that shepherd would give them names they would come as they would hear their names. Our shepherd Jesus knows your name. The one who was raised from the dead. Jesus gives his compassion and his protection and he is our shepherd mediating in heaven above as he reigns with the Saints. He mediates over the New Covenant of God. He mediates to us and for us from the throne of heaven. All other shepherds pale in significance. You have a great shepherd over your soul. There is none like the great shepherd. Jesus gave His life for us. He tends to us. His compassion and his care and his protection of our salvation is eternally secure in Christ. 

Jesus would say this in John 10: 14 - 15 and you understand this if you're in relationship with the Great Shepherd, "I am the Good Shepherd." Listen to these words Jesus speaking. "I know my sheep and my sheep know me just as the Father knows me and I know him. I lay down my life for the sheep. The sheep hear my voice and they follow me." That's what brought you to church today, church. You want to follow Jesus. You have a great shepherd and that shepherd, there is none like Jesus. There is none who offers you greater compassion and care and protection. And that my friends is never going to end, never. We will enjoy life with the great shepherd for eternity. Man, what security do we get from that! What type of satisfaction that gets us through the trials and the difficulties and the persecution that may come our way, and does come our way, to strengthen our faith. As the church. we enjoy Christ's peace, Christ's promise and Christ care. And because these things are true, it still isn't, "Well you're on your own now. You just got to make it through." No. 

As a result of those things being true, number one Christ equips us. Verse 21 what a what a phrase this is. Verse 21, "Equip you with every everything good that you may do his will." Christ provides for us for everything to do his will. Even in the obedience to be saved by faith he equips us. This is truly beautiful. You might be sitting there this morning you thought often times about your Christian life, "You know what I'm just not smart enough. I don't understand all of the doctrines." You might sit there and think, "You know what? I'm not talented enough. I just see my life and I don't see how I can bring enough to benefit others." You might be sitting there and you say, "You know, I'm not gifted enough." And yet God has uniquely gifted you the way he has that word equip. There is so beautiful because it means this: to make good, to mend. God takes our broken lives and he puts us together as a new creation in Christ Jesus so that we have a sense of security. We have a sense of confidence that in and through Jesus Christ we may do his will. So we're not left alone. That word equip means: Jesus makes us useful. He makes us useful.  And then the pastor writer says God is so pleased. God is so good to do so. He makes you and I, no matter how we see ourselves, useful for himself so that we will in turn say the words of this to God to Jesus Christ alone be the glory for what he's doing in my life. God is so pleased. Christ equips us. 

Secondly in this, it is Christ who enables us. Again verse 21, "Equip you with everything good that you may do his will. Working in us that which is pleasing in his sight. Through Jesus Christ our Lord to whom be glory forever and ever." Turn to me to Philippians Chapter 1. We will use this to close. You and I as the church we enjoy Christ's peace, we enjoy the security of Christ promised, we have his high priestly care, we know that it is he who equips us. He's the one that has taken our broken lives and has made them useful to obey his will. And how beautiful is this. He's at work in you. Christ himself is at work in you. That's what it means there when it says he's working in us that which is pleasing in his sight. Your right given desires to obey him, to please God, are coming from Christ himself. He doesn't he does it leave us alone. He cares for us so earnestly. He's going to fulfill his promise. He's going to provide his peace through the difficult circumstances of life because he lived under all of that and yet he mediates for us and he enables us by working in us and we don't have time to do this. But let me give you this. The discussion of being in Christ is a hundred and sixty nine times used in the New Testament. And there are many truths one in particular that I've used with you this morning is your consciousness of Christ in a day to day way is coming from his personal relationship with you. He is enabling you. He is at work in you because God has made you a brand new creation in Christ Jesus. You and I have been made the righteousness of God in him. The Bible calls it this. We are spiritually in him and that he is in us and so it only follows because this is true. We can live in such a way that pleases him because he is at work in us. 

Well when did this begin? You're trying to find out how God wants to use you in your life. Look at verse 5 of Philippians chapter 1. Paul writes it in this fashion in this context because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now. I talked about the relationship they had together. As for him as a missionary because they supplied this well balanced well developed church that Philippi and he says this I am sure of this. I am confident of this. This is a biblical valid true promise that he that is God who began a good work. That's the work of salvation in you and your life. He will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. So as you sit here this morning and as you'll go about on your Monday,, in your way as you're living to please God with this new heart this new mind, prior to Christ, this new relationship. What is this? This is Christ enabling you. He is at work in you by His power for his pleasure so that we will ultimately enjoy Jesus for ever. These are the words that strengthen his people that the pastor writer gives us. I trust this morning that you and I are enjoying Christ's peace, his promise, his care that we know we're not left alone for ministry sake but through our working in our efforts and our determination and our patience, Christ gives us His grace to equip us and to enable us because he is at work with his people by his power for his pleasure. 

Let's pray.