9Don't be fooled by any kind of strange teachings. It is better to receive strength from God's gift of undeserved grace than to depend on certain foods. After all, these foods don't really help the people who eat them. 10But we have an altar where even the priests who serve in the place of worship have no right to eat.
11 After the high priest offers the blood of animals as a sin offering, the bodies of those animals are burned outside the camp. 12Jesus himself suffered outside the city gate, so his blood would make people holy. 13This is why we should go outside the camp to Jesus and share in his disgrace. 14On this earth we don't have a city that lasts forever, but we are waiting for such a city.
15Our sacrifice is to keep offering praise to God in the name of Jesus. 16But don't forget to help others and to share your possessions with them. This too is like offering a sacrifice that pleases God.
17Obey your leaders and do what they say. They are watching over you, and they must answer to God. So don't make them sad as they do their work. Make them happy. Otherwise, they won't be able to help you at all.
Have you ever listened to a commencement speech wondering if it had a coherent message or was it more of a random list of impossible attainments for a well-lived life? Maybe it was the one you heard when you graduated from university. This next section of chapter 13 appears to be a list of disjointed thoughts. Or is it? What is God saying to us?
The Westminster Catechism of 1646 is a set of questions and answers, as applicable for us today as it was the day it was written: “What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy him forever”. Glorifying or worshipping God is the essence of who we are. It is our center. However, it is not just worshipping God, but also enjoying him! This means taking an active pleasure in our relationship with him. So, why don’t we do it? What gets in our way?
The continuation of Hebrews 13 helps answer these questions. It seems all sorts of things can get in the way of us focusing our lives on Jesus and enjoying him. Things like “strange teachings” (v 9). Today, they might be syncretism (an attempt to blend different beliefs), or getting sucked into a way of thinking which sets our behaviour above the grace and sacrifice of God in our lives. This thinking has a way of transforming our salvation into what we do (like for example, suffering for Jesus), rather than what he did for us.
How can we guard against these things? By continually “offering praise to God in the name of Jesus” (v 15). It’s worship with our mouths. Another way is to worship with our lives, by sharing with others who are in distress and need help (v 16). These two ways of worship help us keep our focus on God and others, and off ourselves.
Worshipping God and delighting in him is at the core of who we are. Today, with his help, let’s step into it.
Loving Father, I desire to worship you with my mind, body, soul, and strength. As I do, help me to delight in you. I want to love you, honour you, and live my life in response to your sacrifice and grace in my life. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.