Morning Musing: Hebrews 13:14-16

“For we do not have an enduring city here; instead, we seek the one to come. Therefore, through him let us continually offer upt o God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

What is the end of the things we are doing? Are they for some end in this world, or do they extend beyond that? When we worship, are we doing it for something in this world, or something more? The object of our aim has a great impact on the nature of what we do. As we get near to the end of the letter, let’s talk about our worship and how we should do it if our goal is a world beyond this one.

These couple of verses are part of a larger section that I thought about keeping all together, but ultimately decided that smaller bits would be easier to tackle and give them the attention each part deserves. Trying to cut it up into bite-sized pieces was tricky, though, because each part flowed pretty smoothly into the next. Let’s put this in context first, and then we’ll talk about it directly.

The fuller context of this passage goes back to v. 10, which we talked about last Thursday. The author then was setting up a final contrast between the old covenant and the new with an eye toward the exclusivity of each. The old covenant was open only to Jews. The new covenant is open to everyone, but only if they are willing to go to it through Jesus. He is the only way into it. As long as we are giving some of our effort and attention to getting right with God by other means, we aren’t fully following Him. And if we aren’t fully following Him, we aren’t going to benefit from the covenant He offers us.

In these verses, the author is explaining why giving ourselves so fully to Jesus is worthwhile, and then goes on to talk about how we actually worship at the altar of Christ.

Giving ourselves to Jesus makes sense only if this life is not all there is. If there is not more to this world than what we can see and hear and touch, then the claims and commands of Jesus are not only foolish to follow, but they run up against the line of evil. Sacrificing what we can have today in favor of some tomorrow that might never come is silly. Giving up what is ours so that someone else can have what they need without expecting any sort of a response in kind is a waste. Benevolence generally has no real foundation in reality.

But if there is more, everything He called us to is worth it. This is why we see affirmations of the future we have in Christ all over the New Testament. Even in the Old Testament we see regular reminds to Israel that God is planning on a future for them beyond even the bounds of this life that are intended to motivate present obedience. Our enduring future is not in this world. We are living and planning for a future that is beyond this life. It is eternally beyond this life.

Given that this is the case, the ways we worship our God and the kinds of sacrifices we bring to Him are different. If we are planning for a future that is only in this life, we will worship with things that are physical and temporally limited. Because our enduring city is not here, we worship best with sacrifices that are not limited like this. And what are these sacrifices? We do things that are storing up treasures in heaven as Jesus directed us. We give praise to the Lord. This praise comes on our lips, yes, but also in our thoughts and actions. We give to Him the gift of minds and hearts that are clean, free from the ideological pollution of this world. We give to Him actions that are righteous and good. We practice radical generosity and kindness. We commit ourselves to obedience to His commands. We live out our belief that He is Lord. If our enduring city is not of this world, then we live in such a way that we are preparing actively for the next. How can you be doing that today?

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