Things That Accompany Salvation (Hebrews Sermon 23 of 74)
March 27, 2011 | Andrew Davis
Walk by Faith, Perseverance, Justice of God
The Most Important Question
For me, one of the most powerful moments in redemptive history and in the Bible, one of the most powerful moments in the New Testament, was that moment when the Philippian jailer fell down trembling in front of Paul and Silas and asked this question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" It's a powerful question and it's asked in a variety of different ways in the Scriptures. We see it again and again, the rich young ruler asking Jesus, "What good work must I do to inherit eternal life." Nicodemus, I'm sure, had it in his mind as he was coming to talk to Jesus, and Jesus went immediately to the statement, "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."
Perhaps it was in the mind of the Samaritan woman at the well, although she maybe had lost hope that she could even be welcomed into eternal life, but it wasn't long before a couple of comments from Jesus and a couple of thoughts and the strength of desire flared up inside her and she started talking about her Samaritan theology, and they got into that discussion very quickly. In John 6, when they come back after Jesus fed the 5,000 and they're there again, and Jesus is standing in front of them and they want another meal, I think. But at a deeper level, they ask, "What must we do to work the works of God?" We yearn to be in a right relationship with God as Augustine put it, "The heart of man is restless until it finds its rest in you. Why? Because you have made us for yourself oh Lord, that's why."
And so, we're yearning and there is that deep question, and it comes on us by grace as we sing an Amazing Grace. "It was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace those fears relieved." Well, it's by grace that we ask the question of the Philippian jailer, "What must I do to be saved?" The answer has always been the same. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. This is the work of God, to believe in the one he has sent. This is the answer of Scripture. But what happens after you feel you've done that? Trusted in Jesus, lived many years since that time, those years have been of a mixed nature. In some ways serving God, in some ways serving the flesh. Sometimes obedient, sometimes not.
I. Two Christians Described
And as we come to Hebrew 6, and we start to understand that the author to Hebrews believes that any average, any local assembly of Christians, is a mixture and that there could very well be some people that are receiving lavishly the blessings of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the Word of God, but they're not Christians; not genuinely Christians.
This happens all over the world every Sunday. A mixed assembly gathers and we're aware that there are people who outwardly look like believers, they talk the talk. They seem to walk the walk, but they really aren't believers. And so when we look at the uneven, the mixed nature of our own lives then we start to ask a similar but different question. How can I know that I'm saved? How can I test the validity of what happened? Have I been justified by faith? Has the Holy Spirit entered my life or am I one of those impostors? Those Gospel hypocrites; How can I know? And so we come to Hebrew 6:9-12 and we come to this phrase, "Things that accompany salvation." We want to know what they are. What are those things, those marks, whereby we can know that we have been saved, that we see the work of grace in our lives?
And it's very poignant as we look. We've already seen in Hebrew 6, a category of people who have "once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age," but who have subsequently fallen away. These people had had their minds illuminated by the ministry of the Word of God. They seemed to have a positive reaction to that. They had, in some way, a taste of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, through His spiritual gifts and miracles, supernatural evidences, in that apostolic era of the presence of God. But at some point they'd fallen away from Christ, even into aggressive blasphemy; blaspheming His name, trampling the Son of God underfoot. They had received the soaking rain of blessing through the ongoing ministry of the Word and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. But they were not bringing forth good fruit, but only spiritually, thorns and thistles.
And so last time we discussed the absolute necessity that every true believer in Christ bring forth the harvest of good fruit, we talked about that. Truly regenerate people, bring forth good fruit, for the Glory of God. And so there are two different kinds of Christians, so to speak, those that are genuinely disciples of Jesus Christ through faith and those that are impostors. And so the topic is one of the gravest seriousness for every churchgoer. See if you are genuinely in Christ, examine your own heart, examine your life. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says "Examine yourselves to see whether you're in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you, unless of course, you fail the test." So, that's what's in front of us and has been in front of us now for a number of weeks.
III. Words of Pastoral Assurance
But as we come to Hebrews 6:9-12, we come at last to, I think, a bit of a turn in the epistle in which this author to Hebrews is desiring, yearning to minister pastoral assurance to these dear people.
What a contrast from some of the dark words that we've already heard. We've been talking about this deep darkness, this pit of apostasy, from which it seems there's no escape. It's impossible to renew them again to repentance. We've used the direst terms, that they have fallen away, they're crucifying the Son of God all over again, subjecting him to public disgrace, talking about land that produces thorns and thistles, saying that land is worthless, in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. These phrases should send a shiver down the spine of every true believer. We know well, very well, the seeds of our own spiritual destruction are within our own sin nature. We carry our own bitterest enemies with us at every moment, the internal drives and lust that we have that wage war against our soul. And we wonder, "Could it be that I might end up one of those apostates?" We know that we are quite capable of denying Jesus, as Peter did, given the circumstances.
At the last supper, Jesus when he was sitting there with all of His apostles, His 12 apostles, He said, He became very troubled in spirit and He said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me." And every one of them, not just Judas, I don't know what was going on in his heart, but all of the other 11 were deeply troubled, and asked, "Is it I Lord?" Could it be me. Could I be the one? I can see why it might be me. So, true disciples have a sense of their own frailty, and words of warning like this are very sobering. How delightful then when this shepherd of souls, this pastor, the author of the Book of Hebrews, has the spiritual sensitivity now to turn and to encourage and build the true disciples up so that they will not be overwhelmed with sorrow and despair, but rather in every way encouraged. And you see this turn in this phrase, "But beloved" in one of the translations or, "Dear friends" and the word 'but' implies we're going in a different direction now. These sharp words of rebuke in Hebrews 5:11-14 when he says. "You're sluggish in your listening," and all that. That's done now. And he wants them to be built up. He's not seeking to be unkind to them. He's not trying to hurt them, but to help them.
And so, the hard words that we've seen from Hebrews 5:11 up until 6:8 have been out of love, and we see that this pastoral love seeks the highest good for the people of God and is willing to inflict pain from time to time through warnings and rebukes or corrections. But when the time comes, a godly pastor knows to turn and comfort and bring consolation as well. This is a lesson, not only to pastors, but to parents as well. There's just a wise blending of the serious warnings that come with being a parent to also the encouragement and the lavish displays of love. And so we see God doing that through the author to Hebrews. And so, What does he do to encourage these true believers? Well, he expresses his good will toward them and he declares his judgment concerning their spiritual state, and then he gives the ground on which that judgment is based; why it is he's convinced of better things in their case, things that accompany salvation. And I think the author's purpose here is to make the best use of the warnings.
He's not saying, "I think you may be apostates." He's not saying that. He's basically speaking indirectly about land and people who do these things and those who are like that. But then he addresses them again, "Now you, in your case, I have better things to say." So he's laid out the warning more indirectly, in the third person and now he's addressing them again directly. So not so much, "I think you may be apostates, but I actually do not think you are, but you need to know what apostasy looks like and what warning should be attached to it." So, the true Christians, I think, learn to take the warnings of Scripture seriously, in a healthy way. They don't damage you. They do you good and you drink it in, like the medicine it's meant to be and it gives you strength. It gives you the right fear of the Lord that is not only the beginning of wisdom but carries right straight through and enables you to walk wisely. And so as you see here, these warnings, then you neither make light of them, blow them off, nor are you crushed by them. But you take them in seriously.
And so, they stimulate us as true Christians to greater perseverance and zeal in personal holiness and lives of active service to the Lord. So the author says in verse 9, "Even though we speak like this, beloved, we are persuaded of better things in your case; things that accompany salvation." He uses the word, persuaded or convinced or I feel certain of it, etcetera. This is not an infallible statement, infallible certainty, something like that, but a strong confidence of their case based on good grounds. The grounds of this confidence is clear from the rest of the passage. And we hear this kind of thing a number of times in Scripture in Romans 15 and verse 14. Paul says, "I myself am convinced my brothers that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to counsel one another." So, he's persuaded about them in the church at Rome. And then Paul, in the same way is persuaded about Timothy, He says, "I've been reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois, and in your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded now lives in you also." The same kind of language.
And so what are the grounds for the author's pastoral confidence of good things concerning these Hebrew Christians? Well, the rest of the things in the passage. These Hebrew Christians it seems have been willing to put their faith on the line to help God's people. I'll speak more about that later but this gives him strong evidence that God was at work in their lives. They're not the rocky ground hearers who initially received the Word with joy and quickly, quickly grow up in some shallow sort of way, but when trouble or persecution comes because of the word and now they quickly fall away. They're not like that. They've already been tested and tried. They've already gone through some hard times and they've stood firm. So they should be encouraged. And I think for me, as a pastor, it shows the need that every pastor has to genuinely know his flock. Proverbs 27:23 says, "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks. Give careful attention to your herds." Without such knowledge this kind of language would be mere flattery. If I went to somebody I hardly knew at all and said, "I'm convinced of better things in your case." On what grounds would that confidence come?
I couldn't really say that, but if I watch someone's life over a period of time, get to know how they talk, how they live, what's on their heart, the way they live, the sacrifices that they make, and then they're going through some struggles and troubles, and I can say to them, "I'm convinced of better things than that in your case." How sweet is that and how encouraging? Without such knowledge then I think a pastor, or even a Christian friend, would be like a physician that tries to give a prescription without any knowledge of the case. Do you think that would ever happen? You could phone in and a doctor will phone in a prescription for you, just give your social security number and what pharmacy. "I need a steroid, a specific steroid." "What pharmacy would you like me to send that to you?" Do you think that would ever happen? "I think I need an antibiotic." "Really, that's fine. How much are you going to need?" "I have no idea. What would you recommend?" "I have no idea. Let's guess at such and such." It's impossible. A good physician's going to know the condition of the patient so he can give the right prescription, and in this case he wants to encourage them.
III. Things That Accompany Salvation
So what then are these things that accompany salvation that he sees in the lives of these Hebrew Christians? And what can we take from this sermon? Transferable concept to say, "All right, when the next time I'm doubting my own salvation, what should I look for to know whether I'm in Christ or not? It says in 2 Corinthians 13, I'm supposed to see if I'm in the faith. I'm supposed to examine myself. I can't be just looking at Jesus and His finished work at the cross. There has to be a connection to me in my life. Some things have to be happening with me. I have to believe." So what are the things that accompany salvation? Well, we know that they are not among the list recorded in Verse 4 and 5. It's not enough to be once enlightened, taste in the heavenly gift, sharing in the Holy Spirit, tasting the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, I consider it to be an inadequate list, not enough to have that. There have to be other things besides. So how can I know whether I'm regenerate? How can I know whether I am born again? Maybe it's not just a matter for you, but you may be called on to give that kind of counsel to someone else that's troubled.
And as I have read Scripture, as I look across Scripture, there are a number that just start to float to the surface. For example, a deep and abiding sorrow over sin. Sin grieves you, not merely the penalty of sins or the consequences of sin, but you are deeply grieved over sin itself. You see it to be evil, and you want it out, not just of your own life, but of the universe entirely. It's just an evil thing, and you grow to hate it. The flip side is, you love righteousness and you yearn for it. You hunger and thirst for it in your own life and you want to see it in your church. You want to see it in your pastor. You definitely want to see it in your spouse, the sooner the better. You want to see it everywhere you can, righteousness, you're hungry and thirsty for it, and you would love to live in a place called the home of righteousness. You'd love to live in a place where righteousness is clearly obviously there.
The Marks of Salvation
Along with these come, I think, humility and self-denial. You know yourself to be a sinner. You're humble about that. You're broken about it. You know the truth about yourself, therefore you accept rebukes and corrections more easily than you would have if Jesus weren't at work in your life. And you deny yourself and take up your cross, Jesus said, there's a sense in which you know that your self, your own fleshly desires and lusts after pleasure and comfort and praise, are leading in the wrong direction, and you're willing to have a life of suffering for Jesus. Also the peace of God comforts your conscience. God speaks words of peace to you through the Holy Spirit. Through faith in Christ you know that God's at peace with you and you're able to bring comfort and consolation to your own heart through the promises of God. The peace of God is at work in your heart. And you see a consistent pattern of spirit-led obedience to the commands of God. The commands of God are the matrix and structure of your life patterns. You're seeking by the spirit to obey what God has commanded you.
There are also evidences of perseverance in the means of grace. You're persevering generally in the Christian life. You continue to come to church year after year. You continue to come to the Lord supper. You continue day after day to take in the Word of God, read the Bible, pray, confess your sins, these means of grace, and you persevere in them, not just for a little while, but over your life. You have a genuine love for the brothers and sisters in Christ. You have an affection for them. And we're going to go and talk more about that based on Hebrews 6. But there's an affection that you have for the brothers and sisters in Christ. You want them to thrive. You are looking forward to spending eternity with them, especially once they are glorified, and anything that would hinder that fellowship is gone. But you know the real truth is that you're more the problem than they are. But you're just looking forward to being with the people of God. And there is inside your heart a joyful expectation that someday you will be conformed to Jesus Christ. You have a hope of this, a sense of certainty, that someday God's eternal electing purpose will come true in your life. You will be conformed to Jesus.
And you're confident about that and not by your own works. And along with all of these, you have a willingness to suffer earthly difficulties to follow Christ. The life of the Christian is not easy. And you've learned that already and you haven't given up. And finally, you're running with endurance the race marked out for you, specifically in battling sins. You're laying aside every hindrance, you're running this race. And though it may wear you out, you have within you a renewing sense of energy that just keeps coming day by day. You are immensely frustrating Satan. He thought he had you down, and behold, you live. And you just keep popping back up and fighting him again the next day.
So those are 10 marks. You could come up with others besides, but these are evidences, these are things that accompany salvation.
The Book of 1 John: An Entire Book Devoted to Assurance
I think the whole book of First John is given to kind of answer this question. It's a book of assurance. This is how we know etcetera. This is the way we can assure ourselves in His presence, this is how we can have confidence when He comes. That's what the book is for, so I will commend that whole book to you. But John boils it down to three basic things. There's a doctrinal test. You can know that you're Christian if you believe the right things about Jesus, that He is God in the flesh. He has come in the flesh. And there is the horizontal love test that as you love the brothers and sisters in Christ, you're showing love for God. Even sacrificial love gives evidence of love for God. And then there is that obedience test, the moral test. You're living a life of purity. You're walking in the light as He is in the light, and you love and obey God's commands.
Alright, so those are different things. Now, we all know, I could give you this list again or you could look at it, and you could say, sometimes... You look at each one of those and say, sometimes, sometimes I feel that way. That is the Roman 7 struggle we're all in. But these things are together sufficient to mark out the Christians, and the Holy Spirit uses them to testify in your hearts that you're a child of God.
What does the author give us here? Look at verses 10-12. "God is not unjust,.." he says. Talk more about that in a moment, but "God is not unjust. He will not forget your work, and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people, and continue to help them. We want each of you to show the same diligence to the very end in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."
Well, these verses, I think, give a clear sense of the evidence of the conversion of these Hebrew Christians. There is a display of their faith in verse 10. He talks about the love you have shown or displayed. They have put their faith in and love for God on display by their lifestyle, and there's been a clear pattern of evidence of their saving faith in Christ as a result.
The Faith, Hope, and Love Trio
We have also kind of woven in, in these verses 10-12, the glorious trio that we see in multiple other times of faith, hope and love. You see those again and again in the epistles, and we see it here. Faith, hope, and love. For example, 1 Corinthians 13:13, "And now these three remain: Faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love."
Colossians 1:4 and 5, "We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the saints, the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven." Faith, hope and love. 1 Thessalonians 1:3, "We continue to remember before our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope." Faith, hope, and love resulting in a certain kind of life. Well, we have them here as well. Look at verse 12. "We want you to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." Back up, in verse 11. We have hope, "We want each of you to show the same diligence to the very end in order to make your hope sure." And then again, love in verse 10. "God is not unjust. He will not forget your work and the love you have shown him," et cetera.
So these three character traits, faith, hope, and love, result in a kind of life, a life of persevering, holiness and service to God and His people. Now, let's zero in on service to God's people because that really is the primary evidence the author gives here that they're born again. The author, specifically, singles out the love that they have shown to God by ministering horizontally to God's people. In verse 10, he mentions their love and labor on behalf of God's people. This is an incredibly huge issue to Jesus. He cares intensely what you do with His people while you're on earth. It matters a lot to him. We already saw that when we were preaching through Matthew in Matthew 25.
Remember the Judgement Day, in which Jesus assembles everyone and he separates them, one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And the thing that distinguishes, at least there in that passage, the sheep from the goats, is how you treated God's people, how you treated Jesus. He says to them, "'I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick and in prison and go to help you? And then the King will answer, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you've done it to me.'"
Very positive there, and He takes it incredibly kindly to put it weakly, actually, very kindly if you treat His people well. Conversely, He does not take it well if you beat up His people on earth. And so Saul of Tarsus, there in Acts 9, breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples, is how it's written, he's ready to beat them up some more. He deserved to die, and so did we all. He deserved to die, but instead Jesus showed him immense grace, knocked him to the ground, brilliant lights, resurrection glory. "'Saul, Saul,' he says, 'Why are you persecuting me?' 'Who are you, Lord,' said Saul. 'I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.'" I don't think he thought he was persecuting Jesus. I think he thought he was persecuting some Jewish, as far as he was concerned, Jewish heretics. But no, Jesus said, You're beating me up. You're persecuting me. And he doesn't take it kindly. Thankfully, he converted him. Amen?
And then what happened, the rest of Paul's life, the rest of his life is he lavished blessings on Jesus's people. And so this is the evidence that these Hebrew professors of faith in Christ are genuine Christians, how they have treated each other, what they have done for each other. Hebrews 10:32-34, go ahead and turn there. Just maybe one or two pages over. It's going to be months before we get there from this pulpit, but you can just flip there easily in your Bible. Just skip all those other things that we'll get to in due time at this stately pace. But in Hebrews 10:32-34, it says, "Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering, sometimes you were publicly exposed to insults and persecution. At other times," listen, "you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property because you knew that you had better and lasting possessions."
So what is the author talking about there? You can go back to Hebrews 6, but what he's talking about, a great contest of faith, tremendous earthly sufferings, the sufferings of various sorts, insults, persecutions, or standing side-by-side with people who are themselves going through hard times, giving them encouragement, standing with them so they're not alone, visiting them in prison if you actually didn't happen to be arrested at that point. Bringing them blankets, bringing them food, bringing them simply a word of encouragement. We're praying for you. You're not alone. We care about you. A lifeline of hope and encouragement.
So this is evidence. And so if I can just pause and say, friends, let's just do that for each other, shall we? Let's just love on each other more than we ever have before. It's a direct route to heaven. Jesus sees what you're doing. Every sermon I preach, I'm thinking I am loving Jesus by loving His people. Every word of encouragement, whether in counseling or just in the hall informally, anything, I'm thinking, Jesus, I want to help you by helping your people. I want to love you by loving your people. I want to minister to your members who are here on earth. That's what I want to do. And it greatly increases the harvest of righteousness when you think like that, because Jesus will not forget anything that you've done in ministering to his people.
The Most Certain Mark: Perseverance to the Very End
And so the mark of this is not just doing it, but persevering right to the end in that kind of life. That's what He's giving here. "God is not unjust," He says. "He will not forget your work, and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people, and continue to help them. We want each of you to show the same diligence to the very end in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." So this is of all things, I think, the most certain proof of salvation. Perseverance to the end in this kind of a life. He who stands firm to the end will be saved. You persevere right to the end. So, the author is urging them to keep on trusting, to keep on suffering, keep on believing, keep on standing firm in the time of testing. Look at verse 10, As you continue to help God's people, verse 11, "we want each of you," not just some of you, but "each of you to show this same diligence to the very end in order to make your hope sure."
Verse 12, "We do not want you to become lazy," he says. Verse 12, again, "but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." So the words here speak of a hard-working way to get to heaven, friends, Not that your works are going to justify you. That's impossible. But the life, the Christian life, is not an easy comfortable life. It's a hard life. It requires diligence, and it fights against laziness. The slothful sluggard ways that we already talked about in Hebrews 5:11 where there were lazy listeners. Christian life is hard, and Satan is always trying to get active fruitful Christians to rest on their laurels. He's trying to hand you your laurels every day. "You've done enough, haven't you? I mean, you done enough? You've been really, really, really good recently. Why don't you take a break? Why don't you take a day off?"
I mean, just think, when you're being tempted really to take an extended break and all that, if it's more likely to be the Holy Spirit or Satan wanting you to take a break from those good works you've been doing to build the Kingdom? But he's just constantly trying to hand you your laurels and say, "Rest. You've done enough. Coast." But the Book of Hebrews doesn't do that. Instead, we're supposed to imitate heroes of the faith, Who by faith and patience inherit what has been promised. These heroes are listed for us beautifully in Hebrews 11. Talks about the lifestyle of suffering and persecution that they endured.
So do pages of church history. Friends, that's why I love church history. I love to find out those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. I'm teaching now a class on John Calvin. He had horrendous physical problems, ailments beyond calculation. Physically in pain every day. At one point as he was working on one of the editions of the institutes, he thought that he was about to die and pushed hard to get it done before his death. Turned out that God extended his life by a number of years, but he thought he was going to die. His answer is work harder, work faster. I don't have much time. And that's the way he thought right to the end. As a matter of fact, his last sermon he was spitting up blood. They had to carry him down from the pulpit, Carried him to his death bed. Or David Brainerd, who had the same thing, tuberculosis, and serving God faithfully and dying very hard. Spitting up blood as well, coughing, and being faithful to Jesus right to the end. Right to the end.
Or George Whitefield probably the best right to the end story you'll ever hear. This is a man who poured himself out, day after day, preaching the Gospel, the Evangelist of the Great Awakening. Thousands upon thousands of people hearing and believing the message of truth. Comes to Newburyport, Massachusetts, near my hometown, and he preached, and it was all he could give just to stand there on the platform and preach. Took him a while just to get the strength to open his mouth, then he preached for almost two hours. They carried him in a cart to a house that was taking him in just to rest. As he's going up the stairs, there's a crowd gathering in streets, want to hear him preach again, one more time. And he did, holding a candle there as it burned lower and lower. He preached and then the candle burned down. He preached, and there's almost like a symbol right there of the end of his life. When the candle was gone, he closed, goes upstairs and dies. He was faithful right to the end. Lottie Moon who in effect starved herself because the people she was trying to reach we're starving and she was in solidarity with them in ministering to them. Adoniram Judson lost two wives, buried children for the church in Burma. Again, died very hard. He said this, "How few there are who suffer such torment, who die so hard." This is Adoniram Judson. A very, very hard death he had out at sea. And yet he kept his faith strong right to the end. Said he believed the pain and suffering were getting him ready and fitting him for heaven.
I've seen similar things in this church. A woman who cared for her husband was dying with Parkinson. She cared for him for 10 years. Sweet spirit, this lady cared for her husband right to the end and then she died as well. Another godly couple who you know well travelled that same road even recently. And with great faith and great tenderness, husband's finished his race. She finished her race of caring for him and now is finishing up her own race of faith in Jesus. We just see that right acted out in front of us. Another godly couple, man who is 80 years old, ministering as energetically as ever, putting me to shame on any given average week. Alright, we have examples of this right in front of us in this church of those who by faith and patience inherit what has been promised. And we have to go right to the very end. "Okay, well, when's that going to be?" you may say. "When is the end? I just need to pace myself, okay?" You ever had that thought? "I need to know. Is it going to be decades? Then I'm going to cut it back a bit. I'm going to pace myself here."
Well, we know this, in Psalm 139, "All the days ordained for us are written in God's book before one of them came to be," so that number is set. He just isn't telling you. It reminds me of my days my freshman year in high school, and I was running indoor track. And we had one of those masochistic track coaches. It's the guy who takes out his frustrations on his athletes. And so he had that stop watch and clipboard, and I was a distance runner. And we had to run. It was winter track, it was unbelievably cold up there in Massachusetts. We had to run around the big field of our high school where was the soccer field, the football field and the baseball field. It was about a half a mile around. And we knew we were going to run at least five of those under the clock, and then after that it got really interesting, dicey. He was deciding how many more you would run by how you were doing. And so you'd cross the finish line of that half mile thing. You think you've given everything you have, and you look with hope and fear to the coach and he says, "Get to the line." I'm like, "Ugh."
So you get to the line, but you can't pace yourself because if you do, you're going to run another one. So you got to run it hard. And so you cross and you think you've given everything and you look at him again. "So and so, you can go. So and so... You, back to the line." And he starts to weed them out. And I'm thinking, "Ugh." It was tough. It was tough, and that's the way it is when we don't know when the finish line is. And this text is telling us to run hard 'til God decides it's time to take you home. We want each of you to show the same diligence to the very end. Not to get lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience.
IV. The Justice of God: Encouragement for the True Christian
And what kind of encouragement do we have as we go? Well, He gives us amazingly, the justice of God. Look at it, verse 10. "God is not unjust. He will not forget the love you have shown Him as you help his people." This is incredible what amazing changes the cross of Jesus Christ worked for us. And more than anything in God Himself as He deals with us, ordinarily, dear friends, the justice of God would stand as our most foreboding enemy, both over our souls and our life works.
Our souls, unjust and therefore condemned. Our life works, none of them done by faith, worthless and therefore burned up and disappeared. But now that the cross of Christ is come, and now that the promise of God has been fulfilled in Jesus, the justice of God is your greatest ally of all. First for your personal salvation. "If you confess your sin," he says, "he is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness." God's justice is his absolute commitment to do what is right according to His character and His standards, and He would be unjust to not forgive you as a Christian confessing your sins. And so also in this text, it says He would be unjust to forget all the labors you've done. That boggles my mind. It would be unjust for God to forget it. It would be unjust, the implication here is, for God not to reward us? Yes, because He has promised to do it.
And so, God is not unjust. He will not forget any act of kindness you've ever shown to His people. Even a cup of cold water, you will never lose your reward. If you stand with those who suffer and you suffer too, Jesus said, "Rejoice and be glad because great is your award in heaven." God is not unjust he's not going to renege on that. God's promise to reward sacrificial giving, when you give alms to the poor and needy, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so you're giving may be in secret and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." He's not unjust. He's going to reward everything done by faith in Jesus, everything. When you go into your room and close the door and pray to your Father who's unseen, He's not unjust. He'll remember every word of your prayers, and He will reward you. So what application can we take from this?
Well, learn the things that accompany salvation, test yourself to see if you're in the faith. If you are not in the faith, if you just know you're here, and you know you're not a Christian, you actually may even not even make a claim to be a Christian. Can I warn you most tenderly, you don't know how much longer you have to live on earth either. And may I plead with you to repent and trust in Christ. God sent Jesus into the world to die in our place on the cross, and He poured out His wrath and judgment on Jesus and not on those who have faith in Him. He took their place. So just trust in Jesus. I'm pleading with you while there's time. And if you, as Christians, you hear this week after week, go say those kinds of things to some co-worker, please, this week. Take that message and go warn them and plead with them that they would come to Christ and faithfully serve God by serving his people. Just do as many cups of cold water as you can this week. Jesus will reward every one of them do them all by faith and don't get lazy in the Christian life. Don't rest on your laurels. Work harder than ever at growing in grace. In the knowledge of Christ.