First of all, friends, I want to thank you for sticking with me. I’ve been writing this weekly blog for right at two years. The original intent was to promote and encourage hospitality among the membership of Chapel Hill Bible Church and to help us to know one another better in how we each are doing hospitality. This year obviously has been a challenge as hospitality certainly looks way different than it ever has before. For that reason I want to apologize to you if I appear to be wandering off mission.
Here’s what I have been doing: As I’ve been working through the Psalms most days this year, God has been graciously encouraging and teaching me through His Word. As I start to think about my weekly blog, I ask God to show me what He would like me to write about and to even help me share it. Most often God leads me to something that still is relevant to hospitality. This week’s blog is no different.
Earlier this week I came to Psalm 122. It begins: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that is built as a city that is firmly joined together…. the psalm then continues to speak of the significance that Jerusalem holds to the Jewish people who pilgrimaged there to worship God in the holy city. My initial thought as I read this passage was, “We are not Jewish. Jerusalem does not hold the significance for us, today, as believers, as it did when the psalm was written. Where is God’s temple today and where do we go to worship God together?” God almost immediately took me to a passage in Hebrews that answered my question.
In Hebrews 12:18-24 two mountains are being contrasted to show a distinction between Mt Sinai, where the Mosaic covenant of law was given to the Israelites, and Mt. Zion, where Christian believers have come to a heavenly Jerusalem on Mt. Zion through Jesus’ blood: “
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels [in festive gathering], and the the general assembly and assembly of the firstborn who are registered [as citizens] in heaven, and to God, who is Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous (the redeemed in heaven) who have been made perfect [bringing them to their final glory], and to Jesus, the Mediator of a new covenant [uniting God and man], and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks [of mercy], a better and nobler and more gracious message than the blood of Abel [which cried out for vengeance]. As I work down through the rest of chapter 12, I come to a ‘therefore’. In Hebrews 12:28 we are told, “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, and offer to God pleasing service and acceptable worship with reverence and awe, for our God is [indeed] a consuming fire.
Chapter 13 of Hebrews continues with specific instructions on pleasing service and acceptable worship with reverence and awe toward God. Here’s what we are told:
- Let love of your fellow believers continue. (Verse 1)
- Do not neglect to extend hospitality to strangers [especially among the family of believers – being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously] for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. (2)
- Remember those who are in prison, as if you were their fellow prisoner and those who are mistreated , since you also are in the body [and subject to physical suffering]. (3)
- Marriage is to be held in honor among all [that is, regarded as something of great value], and the marriage bed undefiled [by immorality or by any sexual sin]; for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (4)
- Let your character [your moral essence, your inner nature] be free from the love of money [shun greed – be financially ethical], being content with what you have; for He has said, ” I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax my hold on you [assuredly not]! (5)
- Remember your leaders [for it was they] who brought you the word of God; and consider the result of their conduct [the outcome of their godly lives], and imitate their faith [their conviction that God exists and is the Creator and Ruler of all things, the Provider of eternal salvation through Christ, and imitate their reliance on God with absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom and goodness]. (7)
- Do not be carried away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be established and strengthened by grace and not by foods [rules of diet and ritualistic meals], which bring no benefit or spiritual growth to those who observe them. (9)
- …. Therefore Jesus also suffered and died outside the [city] gate so that He might sanctify and set apart for God as holy the people [who believe] through [the shedding of] His own blood. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His contempt [the disgrace and shame that He had to suffer]. For here we have no lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. (12-14)
- Through Him, therefore, let us at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully confess and glorify His name. (15)
- Do not neglect to do good, to contribute [to the needy of the church as an expression of fellowship], for such sacrifices are always pleasing to God. (16)
- Obey your [spiritual leaders and submit to them [recognizing their authority over you], for they are keeping watch over your souls and continually guarding your spiritual welfare as those who will give an account [of their stewardship of you]. Let them do this with joy and not with grief and groans, for this would be of no benefit to you. (17)
This is a long blog. I hope you’ve been able to stick with me. It is encouraging to me to see how early Christians perceived their ‘Holy City citizenship to come’. May we persevere in this same manner!