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Yesterday and Today and Forever September 1, 2013

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Hebrews 13:1-17

Proper 15 Year C

August 31-September 1, 2013


Focus: God never leaves us, He never forsakes us.

Function: That the hearers.

Structure: This is the problem…this is the response of the gospel…these are the implications.


Yesterday and Today and Forever


            How does sin work in our lives?  How does Satan work among us?  Just how is it that he’s been so successful for so long?  The band Casting Crowns wrote a song that describes it pretty well.  The band leader and songwriter is a youth pastor and the song is very powerful.  It’s called Slow Fade.  And the refrain goes like this:

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray 
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade


            It’s the way that temptation and sin work among us.  Satan knows from 6000 years of experience that he can’t just take some random sin and force us to do it.  He has to beat us down first.  He has to wear us out.  It’s only after working at it for some time, with perseverance and consistency, that he gets through to us.

            Entertainment is a prime example today.  Satan has used his tricks to break us down.  How many times have you heard your parents or your grandparents complain about what’s on TV these days?  And if you’re one of the older generations, how many times have you caught yourself grumbling about the lack of quality shows and movies?  The days of Little House on the Prairie or The Andy Griffith Show are long gone.

            But they didn’t disappear overnight.  The industry, like Satan, has slowly worked to desensitize us to what we’re watching, and what we allow our kids to watch.  Social media has been a firestorm this week reacting to Miley Cyrus’ performance.   But what else do you expect on MTV?

            Movies of yesteryear that were rated R likely wouldn’t be today.  Many would be rated PG-13 if not PG.  The industry is constantly changing.  They admit to it themselves.  From the Motion Pictures Association of America’s website:

            “Furthermore, to ensure our rating system reflects the current sentiment of parents, CARA’s system is constantly evolving. As American parents’ sensitivities change, so too does the rating system. Elements such as violence, language, drug use, and sexuality are continually re-evaluated through surveys and focus groups to mirror contemporary concern and to better assist parents in making the right family viewing choices.”


            Did you catch that?  As American parents’ sensitivities change…they put the blame on us.  And well they should.  We’ve been desensitized to what we’re taking in.  And it’s a vicious cycle.  Hollywood is a business, they’re part of our society of capitalism.  Every time you buy movie ticket, a CD, or turn on your TV, you’re casting a vote; you’re paying them for a product and telling them that’s what you want more of.

            This November, a movie will be released called “God’s Not Dead.”  It focuses on the story that has been happening to our youth for a generation…and will continue to happen to them.  They go off to college, and academia attacks.  Their Christian faith is hit with a firestorm of worldly ideas, philosophies, and challenges.  The star of the movie is that kid.  And in the first class of his first semester, the professor asks them all to take out a piece of paper and write these three words: God is dead.  That’s the message of the world around us.  That’s the message our youth are being told every day.  The young man in this movie responds to that challenge.  It should be interesting to see how he holds up as his professor, Kevin Sorbo, is better known for his role as Hercules.

            But when that movie launches, where will it be in the box office ratings?  How will it stack up against the R-rated films, or the Hunger Games sequel, the sequel for Thor, or the corrupt comedies like Delivery man, which focuses on a sperm donor who has 533 children.  Where will you cast your vote?  Where will your dollars fall?  It’s an endless cycle.  We’ve been desensitized.  It didn’t happen overnight; it’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray.

            This is how Satan works in our lives.  He places the seeds of temptation before our very eyes.  He sows the seeds of doubt in our hearts.  It doesn’t work the first time, or likely the twentieth time; but, he just doesn’t let up.  Like the newlywed who doesn’t have a thought of lust on his mind falters after seeing thousands of images of scantily dressed women all around him in our culture, so Satan attacks our faith each and every moment of each and every day.

            It’s just the opposite of God and how He works.  We read in Hebrews today that we are to confidently say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”  And that’s what makes the lyrics of Slow Fade so true.  Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid, when you give yourself away.  That’s how this works.  Man can’t harm us, temptation can’t take us away from God; Satan can’t pry us out of the Father’s hand.  But we can give ourselves away.

            “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Our God is never changing.  He always is who He is.  And He’s always there for us.  He has told us so, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  We know this.  We might forget it from time to time, but we know this.

            We know what it means that God is there for us.  “So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through His own blood.”  He sacrificed Himself, gave up His own life, hanging there, bloody and dying upon that cross, not so we could enjoy temptation, but to forgive and to restore us for the times we’ve failed and given in to temptation.

            We read that same thought last week also from Hebrews, that the blood of Jesus is better than the blood Abel.  When Cain sinned by spilling his brother Abel’s blood upon the ground, the ground was cursed.  But when Christ died and His blood poured out onto the ground, that ground was healed.  The brokenness of creation, the brokenness of man, is healed through the blood of Jesus Christ.

            Perhaps this is why the author chose to speak of our response as a sacrifice.  Temptation wouldn’t be as effective if Satan hadn’t already weakened us to the point where we find it fun and entertaining.   So we are called upon to make that sacrifice.  And we’re not talking about putting animals on our altar.  Christ’s blood already did that for us.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

“Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”


            Those are our sacrifices.  We praise the Lord with the words of our lips.  We do good to all those around us and we share of the many blessings that God has given to us. 

All three of our Scripture readings are filled with lists, lists of things that God has called us to do.  And there’s a reason why it is that way.  The song lyrics get it right again:

Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

            Satan has pulled a blanket over our heads and blinded us to reality.  We’re Americans, we’re individuals.  Keep telling yourself that, go right ahead, because even Satan knows it’s not the truth.  We were and are and always will be a community.  That’s how God made us to be.  You’re family, friends, neighbors and children, they’re your community and they see what you do.  And even though we don’t always realize it, we learn from each other. 

Think about all the things that go with being a community.  Traditions, why else would you follow the Vikings?  Accents, how do you think all those people sound so strange, and yet we sound strange to them.  Faith…we share and pass it on to our children and our children’s children.  Sin…permeates every part of our society.

            That’s why the list is there.  God is teaching us how to live.  He is teaching us, readying us, so that we can stand in the face of Satan’s temptations.  If we could only learn to be content, how many problems would that solve?  How much temptation would that remove?  If we could only train up our children to be strong in the faith, reading their Bible daily, praying together, doing devotions regularly, going to church and Bible class.  If only we could teach them how to stand in the face of temptation, how to answer the challenges that barrage their heart and their mind seeking to destroy their faith.  If only…people never crumble in a day.

            It’s also why Hebrews reminds us to look to our leaders.  You need to see faith demonstrated?  Look to Paul!  See the chains he wears for Christ!  You need to see it?  Look to Timothy!  See the faith that he lives out; see the faith that was passed on to him by his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois.  It’s why he reminds us to look to our leaders now.  I’ll be the first to admit, as Paul before me, that I’m not perfect.  And I know Pastor Fritsch would say the same of himself.  But we are here for you.  We strive to be examples, so that you can come to us in the midst of your temptations, so that you can see the faith that we have.  But even if, when, we fail, God doesn’t.  God stands firm in the face of our slow fade.  Live in Him, read His Word, know Him for who He is.  Fight off temptation with perseverance and consistency.  Learn what He expects of us as His children and live it in your lives, not just for you, but for the little feet that are sure to follow.  For the blood of Jesus Christ has healed us so that we can stand in the face of temptation.  He is the same yesterday and today and forever.  And He will never leave us nor forsake us.