Hebrews 13:13 one simple little verse that you are all familiar with. “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” This book of Hebrews is a wonderful book, and it has some wonderful truths and wonderful teachings still for us today. We are a long way removed from that day but what was written to them still applies to us. Some of the simple little messages that seemed to come to me from this book are these: don’t doubt, don’t drift, don’t draw back, don’t drop out, don’t disobey, don’t disregard so great a salvation. These people were Jews. Unto them had been given the law and the prophets and the covenants and the promises, and it was to them originally that Christ came. They had a tremendous advantage. There were those who did not take advantage of their advantage, but these people had received Christ. They embraced this wonderful salvation; they had left behind the shadows of the Old Testament, which had only pointed to Christ. But the passing of time and the reproach of their unsaved fellow Jews who were still worshiping in the temple had caused them to have second thoughts about the choice they had made and their profession. The temple in Jerusalem was still standing at this time, and you can picture its glory and its splendor. Jesus had prophesied that the time would come when no stone would not be left upon another. That time did come, but when the writer wrote the wonderful truths in this letter the temple was still standing, the high priest was still going about his duties with his glorious garments, and the lamb was still being offered every morning and evening. It was all so glorious and splendid, and there was a lot of reproach to God’s true people who had embraced Christ. Where was their high priest? Where was their temple? And what did they really have? It all seemed so insignificant and obscure to the practicing Jews of that day. So the writer was writing to help them understand what a wonderful heritage they had and what they had really found in Christ. It was the most wonderful and most valuable thing in the world. Don’t drift, don’t disobey, don’t draw back, don’t doubt, and don’t let go of these things. Really there were just two possibilities; on to perfection, or back to perdition. He was so concerned because some of them were going back; they were drawing back, they were losing their faith, they were doubting. That could even be our portion because we are surrounded by so many people who are reproaching us for the way we worship and what we believe.
Chapter 1 opens with an affirmation of the fact that God has spoken in His son. We don’t need to be in doubt about this. Later on, in chapter 8, the words are found, “see that you make all things according to the pattern.” Perhaps this is one of the keys to this book of Hebrews. Everything according to the pattern. God is a pattern-minded God. There is a pattern ministry, there is a pattern way of worship, there is a pattern for righteous living. See that we do everything according to the pattern. As the writer opens, we are reminded that in times past God spoke in bits and pieces and fragments, little by little, and now, everything God wants to say He has said in Jesus. We don’t need to have any doubt about that; don’t doubt. What we have in Jesus is God’s great and final revelation. All that He could possibly have to say and want to say He said to us in Jesus. It’s not temporary; it’s permanent, and we’re thankful we have that settled. We’re grateful we have the Bible, and we’re grateful for Jesus who is our guide.
It fell my portion one time while we were in Athens to visit Mars Hill and the adjoining area called the Acropolis. Although many of the buildings, like the Parthenon, were in ruins, the glory and the history of ancient Greece were still very much in evidence. There were two of us standing in line. We were going to purchase a guidebook so we would know what to visit and we would know about the history of the glorious past that was once ancient Greece. As we stood there in line, I kept hearing the salesman who was selling the guidebooks, which were available in every language under heaven say, “English Finnish. English Finnish.” I didn’t understand why he was advertising the fact that there were both English and Finnish guidebooks available. It didn’t dawn on me what he meant. I heard him say that over and over again. Finally, when it came my turn, I took out some Greek money and confidently said, “English.” With distress and disgust he said, “English finished!” And then I understood. In his limited English he was trying to tell me that English had all sold out, and there was no more. English was finished. And so we didn’t have a guidebook. Can you imagine trying to see and read about the glory of ancient Greece there and the Acropolis without a guidebook? We felt lost, but we did have another option; we could hire a guide. But we considered the cost too great. And so we wandered around the roads of that ancient city without a guidebook and without a guide. And friends, looking back, we missed so much. In fact, we just about missed everything. We’re grateful we have the guidebook and we’re grateful we have the guide. We are going to miss it all unless we pay attention to what the guidebook says and unless we follow the guide.
I’m reminded of a husband who sent his wife to Europe to buy some art treasures. She found what she thought they wanted, and wrote back that it cost $80,000, and what she should do. “Should I buy this?” she asked in the telegram. He said, “No. Price too great.” And when she came home with the art he said, “Why did you buy it? I sent you a telegram!” She said, “The telegram reached me, and it said, ‘No price too great!'” And so she bought that art treasure and brought it home. Now the point is friends, for you and for me, there is no price too great to possess what we have in the guidebook and in the guide. No price is too great. And if we don’t pay the price, we are going to miss everything!
In Chapter 2, it says, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” These people were in danger of drifting away from those wonderful, unchanging truths that they’d received in Christ. We can’t afford to drift. Drifting is part of a process in which one is almost unconscious. You’re just out there in the water and, without realizing it, you may be drifting towards the rocks. We can’t afford to drift. We must give the more earnest heed to the things, which we have heard. We cannot afford to drift away from them.
Chapter 3:1 says: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” We need to consider Jesus. We need to think about Him, we need to look upon him. Looking unto Jesus. Considering him doesn’t mean a casual glance. It means spending time with him, getting into his presence. And when life becomes difficult, if we really look unto him and upon him, it will help us to remain steady and firm and steadfast in our profession. And it will keep us from drifting. I wish we could learn better how to appreciate him. There are a lot of things we don’t appreciate. Someone once went to an art gallery, which displayed a few of the famous master painters. As they walked along, they said to someone, “So these are the great paintings of the masters. I don’t see anything in them.” And the answer was, “These paintings aren’t on trial. You are the one that’s on trial.” You don’t see anything great in them, well, it’s too bad you don’t appreciate them, but these are the masterpieces of all time.
Maybe we don’t appreciate fine music. There was a college student once who learned he could go into the School of Music auditorium and listen to the symphony orchestra rehearsing. He didn’t appreciate classical music, but he went because there was a quiet place in an upper balcony where he could study unmolested. Little by little he realized that this music is marvelous, it’s wonderful. And he lost his appetite for any other kind of music because this music was so wonderful. If we could just spend time with the Lord, in His presence, and see the beauty of His life and His spirit and the fruit of the spirit in His life. If we can just consider Him, we won’t want anything else or anyone else. This is all we’ll want; it will be so wonderful. And we’ll give our whole life to him. Jesus said, “Learn of me”. Not just learn about me but He’s the teacher, the master teacher, and we learn from him. He’s our apostle, the official messenger from heaven. He’s our high priest. In Latin the word priest means a bridge builder. He built the bridge between earth and heaven for you and for me.
We don’t want to drift, we don’t want to doubt, and we don’t want to go back to perdition; we want to go on to perfection. There was a problem with these Hebrew Christians because their fellow Jews would say, “Where is your high priest?” Well, they didn’t have a visible high priest. They saw the Jewish high priest officiating at the Temple with all of his duties. The high priest offered sacrifices to God on behalf of man. The practicing Jews had that, and they had the altar. “Where is your high priest, where is your altar?” They saw the lamb, their sacrifice for sin, being offered twice a day on the altar stones. “Where is your high priest, and where is your altar?” Their sacrifice for sin was offered over and over again, but our sacrifice and theirs had been offered once and for all at Calvary. It never had to be done again. That was the altar. That’s where the sacrifice was made. Our high priest doesn’t have to keep on making sacrifices like the Jewish high priest day by day and year by year. The reason you don’t see him is because he has passed on to the heavens and He’s sitting at the right hand of God. And they could say to those who questioned them, “We do have a high priest, and we do have an altar, and everything we have is far, far better than we ever had under the law.” The law, it tells us here, was just a shadow of good things to come. Just a shadow. The shadow of a bed doesn’t bring us rest. The shadow of a plate full of wonderful food doesn’t feed our bodies. The shadow of a bridge doesn’t take us from here to there. The shadow of Calvary doesn’t forgive our sins. Just a shadow. You can pile shadow upon shadow, and what do you have? There’s still no substance. The writer was distressed because these people were under the reproach of living for Christ and believing in Jesus because they were surrounded by relatives and neighbors who still believed in the temple worship. They were in danger of going back to what they had left behind. The writer was so concerned about these people and wanted to help them realize that we have everything in Christ and if we go back we have nothing; we lose it all.
ABC’s over and over again, the Old Testament truths that are the foundation of what we believe, the shadows; we have the real thing in Christ. Don’t go back to the shadow, we have the real thing, and we’re going to go on with God’s blessing to something far better.
Chapter 6:19 speaks about the anchor. Don’t drift. They were in danger of drifting. Don’t drift from these truths. We have the anchor in Christ and it’s within the veil. One time in a troubled storm, the captain threw over the anchor, and the vessel kept on drifting. Do you know why? It’s because the anchor was two feet too short. It didn’t reach down to bedrock. Well, what we have is not too short. The world is drifting, they’re drifting in every way, and they are drifting doctrinally from the pattern. This is really one of the key verses in this epistle, “See that you make all things according to the pattern.” The world has drifted away from the pattern, from the foundation truths that we have in Christ, but we have an anchor that is sure and steadfast, something we can put our confidence and our faith in.
We are making all things according to the pattern. We’re reminded of those words, which Paul wrote to Timothy, “A workman which needeth not to be ashamed.” The pattern. If we drift away from the pattern, if we lay it aside, we will have cause on that day to be ashamed. I went to school in Eugene, and I remember a woodshop class. We were assigned the task of building a little wooden chest. Nothing very big, I don’t remember the dimensions, but we had a blueprint and we knew how we were to make it. Finally the time came to affix the lid to the rest of the chest, which was done with little brass hinges, and I watched another lad on my bench.. He was not a very careful boy, and his workmanship was not something you could be proud of. He didn’t seem to care, and he didn’t seem to think it mattered. I watched him take those little brass screws and position them on his little box that would attach the lid to the box chest, and he screwed one in, and then I saw him take the other and move it a little to the left and then to the right. Presently, using his eye, he was satisfied that it looked good enough and he screwed it in, and then something happened. He saw the shop instructor was coming through the shop class to each bench to grade the work, and he had a little rule with him. One of the things he did was to just put that rule on those brass hinges. My partner at the shop bench; all his work was in vain. It didn’t pass. He just put his rule on. It looked almost good enough; I couldn’t tell the difference; that boy couldn’t tell the difference. He thought it looked perfect with his eye, but the ruler showed that it wasn’t according to the pattern. And all his work was in vain.
We don’t want to be a workman that is ashamed of our work, and we want to build according to the pattern. There was another shop class where the assignment was to build a wooden trestle according to the pattern and dimensions given. But there was a catch to it. You were given just one block of wood. There was just enough wood, if you cut it properly, to build the wooden trestle to scale according to the pattern. It wasn’t long before some of the boys made a wrong cut. They spoiled their block of wood. What were they going to do now? They didn’t have enough wood to complete the project and they couldn’t have any more. Just that one block. Have you ever felt that way? You come to convention like this, and you hear about the wonderful standard of righteousness and right living that we have in Christ, and you feel you’ve made such a muddle of things. We almost feel like it’s hopeless; have you ever felt that way? I feel that way almost all the time. But I’ll tell you something. The boys in that shop class – I think in those days there weren’t any girls in woodshop class – the boys were told they couldn’t have any more wood. But they could scale down the dimensions of the trestle using the wood they had left, and if they did they’d still get a passing grade. Some spoiled their wood over and over again, and they had to keep starting over with the little wood that was left. But if they did the right calculations and came up with the right scale, and built a wooden trestle according to the pattern even though it was a much smaller scale, they learned when the time came that they didn’t only get a passing grade, they got a good grade. Just use what you have left. Your life may be mostly over and you may have made a lot of mistakes, but we still have the pattern. You still have what’s left of your life. Just use what is left and build according to the pattern. Don’t go back, go on to perfection. And the Lord can help us in that. We have the pattern. He’s a pattern-minded God, and we want to work from here on so we won’t be ashamed.
Chapter 11 is that wonderful chapter which gives us the record of so many noble men and women who lived by faith. They went on, they didn’t go back. There were difficulties and circumstances in their life that weren’t so easy for them in their service to God, but they went on. Chapter 12 says, “Wherefore seeing we also are canvassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Now this cloud of witnesses is referring, I believe, to those in chapter 11, those faithful noble men and women. The word witness here doesn’t mean spectator. It means someone who testifies by their words and their life, by the record they’ve left behind, of what really can be accomplished through faith. We’ve had a wonderful convention here and I don’t see how you could improve upon it. Would it be better if those who are mentioned in Hebrews 11 came up on this platform? Suppose that Abel could come up on this platform in person, suppose that Enoch would come up next, suppose that Noah would come up, and they would be witnesses and testify to what they experienced in their life and the faith that moved them to obey. Faith really isn’t faith, it isn’t saving faith, it’s a very shallow faith, unless it moves us to obey. It moved these people to obey. It moved Noah for approximately 120 years. He just believed, and even though he didn’t see any evidence of what was going to happen, he kept on building. And if the men and women in this chapter came up here, they would just tell us: keep on living by faith, keep on obeying, keep on doing the Lord’s will. Don’t draw back, don’t drift, don’t doubt, don’t be discouraged, and don’t go back to perdition; just go on to perfection.
Chapter 12 says, in view of all these people and their testimony as witnesses to the truth, “lay aside every weight, and the sin, which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” This just suggests keep on running, don’t drop out, keep on running and lay aside the things that hinder. There is a difference between weights and sin. Some things really aren’t sin, but they are weights, and they weigh us down. They retard our progress. Often the question is asked, “Well, what’s wrong with it?” What’s wrong with this and what’s wrong with that? And the answer would have to be: there’s nothing wrong with it, unless you want to finish in the race. If you want to finish in the race then you need to lay it aside. It’s a weight. We could get involved in so much in this world and some of it wouldn’t be wrong in some respects, but it will weigh us down. You could get all taken up with sports. Just a weight that could keep you from finishing in the race. You could get all involved in computers; a lot of people have. They have a place but if you abuse it and make it fill your life, you misuse it. What is your life? Paul said, “For me to live is Christ.” Some would have to say, for me to live is sports. For me to live is music, for me to live is computers, for me to live is shopping at the mall. It could be a whole list of things. But what is our life? If our life is Christ, then it will help us to lay aside every weight and every sin that besets us and go on and run the race with patience, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. There is so much in the world that would take our vision off the goal and off the finish of the race. There is so much that we could get taken up with that we’d miss finishing the race all together.
Many years ago, a morning dawned bright and crisp in the Great Lakes area. It was the day of the annual dog sled Derby. A child’s race; you could have your sled and as many sled dogs as you wanted. They started off when the whistle blew across the frozen lake. There was one little boy; he almost looked pathetic. Just one skinny little boy and a little sled and one dog, and he was soon far in the rear. Some of the others were bigger boys with several dogs. But presently the two lead sleds had a little collision, and the dogs began fighting and the children began fighting too. As each succeeding sled and team of dogs came, they couldn’t seem to avoid this tremendous upheaval and controversy. And they all got involved, and there was barking and shouting and fighting and upset sleds. But this little boy was far enough behind that he got the picture. He just began steering his one little dog far around all that was taking place, and he avoided it altogether. He got completely around and back on course, and before the others got untangled he’d finished and won the race. That’s beautiful, isn’t it? We don’t have to have any great ability or any great skill or any great strength, but we do have to have some discernment and some vision and a purpose. And we do have to lay aside weights, the things that would hinder, and our sin. We have to lay those things aside. It may not be easy, but remember: no price is too great. No price is too great to serve the Lord and have his approval and fit into His purpose and into His plan.
Keep on running, and fight the battle. I learned when I was over in Greece about the Battle of Marathon. The Persians – we were hearing about the Persians the other day – they wanted to sweep clear across Europe but there was this battle there in the plains of Marathon. It’s 26 miles from Athens. Everyone in Athens, the statesmen, the government officials, everyone was concerned about the outcome of the battle. The Greeks defeated the Persians, and the messenger started running. He had a message to share. Victory. According to tradition, his name was Pheidippides. He couldn’t wait to tell the good news that the Persians had been defeated. Greece was the victor. He ran for all he was worth. He entered Athens, he gained entrance to the place where the officials were, he gave the word that victory was theirs. And then he fell down dead at their feet. That’s where our Marathon race comes from. A little over 26 miles. That’s the history of it. Grueling. And so intense that it might end in death. But you know, it’s the death to self every day that enables us to keep on running the race so we can be victorious at the end. That’s our objective, that’s our purpose, isn’t it. That’s what we’re aiming for.
These people had everything to gain by going on, and they had everything to lose by going back. It was not easy for them because they were outside the camp.
The verse we read says, “Let us go forth therefore unto him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.” It was a tremendous reproach they were bearing when fellow Jews looked upon them with scorn and asked, “Where is your high priest? Where is your temple? Where is your altar?” But they were following the pattern. They were outside of all the organized religion at that time, and today you and I are outside of it all. It’s our privilege to be outside of it all, and to go forth unto him without the camp. We’re outside the camp of organized religion because we’re following the pattern. The pattern for the ministry, the pattern for true worship in the church, the pattern for right living. The pattern we have in Christ. He gave himself an atonement for our sin that we might be a redeemed people, a purchased people, a people living for him and him alone. And we’re keeping our eye on the goal. We’re laying aside the weights and the sin, and we’re prepared for the reproach and we’re going forth unto him without the camp. And that’s where we are going to stay because we love this. We love it. We love the truth, and it is the truth.
One time a grandfather moved to a new home and his little grandson was not very old, but finally the time came when he visited his grandfather in his new home. The grandfather took him throughout the home, every part of the house, every floor, every room. And finally the little boy just said, “Grandpa, I love you, and I love your house.” Well, this epistle speaks about us being the house; “whose house are we.” We are the household of faith, the household of God. And the more we see of the people of God and the truth of God and the Son of God in all his glory and perfection, the more we love him, and the more we love his house. And friends, to me the message of this letter is so simple and so clear: God has spoken in his Son. We don’t question that. Don’t doubt, don’t drift, don’t draw back, don’t drop out, don’t be discouraged, don’t despair; go on to perfection.
Many years ago, in the days of the steamboats that went up and down the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, there was this little boy. He was standing on a little homemade dock that jutted out just a little bit into the river, and he was waving a little flag, a white flag. There was a man there that couldn’t figure out what he was doing, so he came over to him and said, “Son, what are you doing anyway?” And the little boy says, “Can’t you see? I’m waving down that ferry.” And the man says, “Son, that ferry’s not going to stop for you on this poor little homemade dock.” And he said, “She’ll stop, mister, she’ll stop.” The man said, “Sonny, you’re a big fool if you think that ferry boat out in the middle of the river is going to pull in here and stop for you at this little dock. You’re a big fool if you think that.” And just then the whistle blew, and the ferry changed its course, and it came right into that little handmade dock. The gangplank was cast overboard onto the dock, and the little boy scampered up on it. And when he got up on top deck, he turned around to face his detractor and putting his hands on his hips, he said, “I ain’t neither no big fool, mister, because the captain of this here steamboat is my daddy.” And we’ll leave you with that story because the world might look upon you and upon me and the way we worship and the way we serve and the way we live and the standard we uphold. They might look upon us as fools, big fools. But friends, we’re not fools. Our Father is the captain, and he’ll lead us through life on a safe journey unto a saved eternity.