Don’t give up! That’s the message, that’s the moral indicative of the Epistle to Hebrews. Don’t give up. Here’s the theological imperative, here’s the good news Hebrews is telling us. Christ is better. Christ is better. He is better than the angels, He’s better than Moses, He’s better than the Levitical priesthood, He’s better than any high priest, and His covenant is better. It is a better covenant that we have entered into. And therefore, don’t give up. You’re on the edge of something beautiful, like that song said. You are on the edge of something beautiful.

And Hebrews 10:19-39 is a word of really strong encouragement and really strong warning. And so we’ll be looking at Hebrews 10:19-39.

“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us through the veil that is His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as is in the manner of some, but exhorting one another and so much more as we see the day approaching.

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you suppose will He be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace. For we know Him who said, vengeance is mine and I will repay, says the Lord. And again, the Lord will judge His people. It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But recall the former days in which you were illuminated and endured a great struggle with sufferings, partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated.

For you had compassion on me in my change, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore, do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward, for you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. For a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith, but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”

19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated;

34For you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. 35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:34-39, NKJV)

“And God, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight. O Lord, our rock, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen.”

All right, this is a call to hope and a warning, which is consistent with Hebrews. Hebrews is a call to hope to a group of Christians, a group of Jewish Christians who were being persecuted for their faith, and it’s a call to hang in there, to keep going, to not quit. There is great reward, but it’s also a warning about what happens if you do draw back, if you do, not if you slip up, not if you mess up, but if you apostatize, if you end up just deliberately rejecting this thing and walking away from it.

And so it’s both an encouragement to those who remain in the faith, and a warning not to abandon the faith. What kind of person would it be who, after running 25 and a half miles of the marathon, quit? Yeah, I guess. But I mean, I just, I think I would crawl over that line if I had made 25 and a half miles. You know, just you’re that close to the finish line, dear ones, and that’s what he’s saying here. You’re that close to the finish line. Some of us, perhaps by our age, though no one knows, but some of us by our age closer than others.

I think I’m the oldest person in the room, so, you know, I might beat you all there. I’m winning, I’m ahead of you in the race. So, but we’ll see, we’ll see. But he starts with this. He says, enter in. Remember, in Hebrews 4, he talks about Jesus, our high priest, who is like us in every way but without sin, and therefore He can take us into the very throne room, the very sanctuary of the Father, where we find grace and mercy for this and every time of need.

14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16, NKJV)

And so he says, because of this, because Jesus is better than, because of His great high priesthood, because of His great sacrifice, because of His great covenant, because of who He is and what He has done, we can enter in with confidence in our prayers before God. Charles Wesley writes, “Bold I approach the eternal throne and claim the crown through Christ my own.” We can come to God with boldness, not because of our righteousness, not because, you know, hey God, I’ve been a really, really good person, so you owe me some, you owe me some solids here, but because of Christ.

We come in in the name of Jesus and we’re told that we find grace and mercy there. And so we can approach boldly in prayer. That’s what it means to pray in Jesus’ name. What it means, it’s not a magic formula that if you tack on to the end of your prayers, you’ll get everything you ask for. What it means to pray in Jesus’ name is we are in the throne room of heaven, we are before Almighty God, laying our petitions before Him, and King Jesus, our elder brother, is right there with us as our perfect priest, ushering us into that place. And so we come boldly.

You don’t always have to pray, “God, if it be thy will,” or “God, I know I’m not much of a man,” and, you know, we can come in the name of Jesus. Now when we come in the name of Jesus, it’s in humility. We come in boldness, but we come in humility because we know it’s only by His favor, only by His grace, only by what He has done for us that we approach. And that leads to the second thing. We enter with gratitude.

We have an incredible privilege. Dear ones, look at yourself, all right? If you’re like me, you look at yourself and think, you know, I guess, I think my high school yearbook, I think they voted me most likely to be mediocre. You know, there’s nothing outstanding about me. There’s nothing, you know, just off the charts, intelligence, athletic ability, you know, maybe good looks, I don’t know, but, you know, there’s nothing, there’s nothing, no, there’s nothing that special out there.

And yet, God says, I’m His Son. God says, you’re His daughter, you’re His Son. Thank you, God, for making that possible. Thank you for a great salvation. Thank you for forgiving my sins. Thank you for putting your Spirit within me. Thank you for bringing me into the throne room of God. Thank you for the privilege of asking for things and receiving grace and mercy in time of need. Thank you, God. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

If you’re like me, your default position, fallen human beings, our default position is to complain. All right, the weather’s turning cold, but, you know, today I was driving, I was driving here and the weather, the weather’s getting dark and it’s getting rainy and, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s cold, you know, no more 80 degree days. And then I looked at all the trees changing color and I thought, “Isn’t this beautiful? Isn’t this awesome?” I’ll tell you what, we’re about to enter into the next two weeks of the prettiest time of the year every year in the Pacific Northwest. Take a drive. Take a drive where the maples are all just turning bright yellow and just give God thanks for His beauty and nature.

Count your blessings, the Bible says, one by one. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me. Praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all His benefits. He forgives all your iniquities. He heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the pit and He crowns you with love and compassion. He renews your youth like the eagles and He satisfies you with good things. Praise the Lord, O my soul.

And so we enter with gratitude. When we come into that throne room, we turn to King Jesus and say, “Thank you.” And we look at the Father and say, “Thank you.” And the Holy Spirit who’s living inside of us, “Thank you.” And we come with a grateful heart. We come with a grateful heart.

And then we come with sincerity. We enter in with sincerity. We are people, listen, this is real. What does sincerity mean? It means we take it sincerely. We take it as real.

All right. There’s, there’s, we use the word love in different ways. Okay. I love garlic bread. It’s my kryptonite. Can’t stop eating garlic bread. Love garlic bread. Garlic bread’s the best. All right. I love Jill. Now, I just got to tell you, I really, really do like garlic bread. But there’s no comparison. All right. We use the same word, but there is a sincerity and a depth and a history that I have with my wife that I just don’t have with garlic bread.

And so when we say we love God, what do we mean by that? Well, here’s what it means. He’s real. Listen, nothing is stupider than coming to this place week after week if this isn’t real. This is a monumental waste of time if Jesus Christ did not raise from the dead. If God is not a living God and if God is not there to have a personal relationship with you, if He did not die for your sins and put you on track to be His eternal Son and daughter, nothing makes less sense than singing a bunch of love songs to somebody who doesn’t exist, eating a little piece of bread and drinking juice that has no meaning, and listen to a guy go on and on for a half an hour about stuff that doesn’t mean anything to you. Go home. Watch TV.

But if this is real, then there’s no priority in your life more important than reorienting your life around the truth of the resurrected Son of God. And so we enter in with sincerity. We enter in with belief. When we go to pray, when we enter into His presence, we’re not rubbing a lucky rabbit’s foot. We’re talking to the creator of the universe. And this book says that He is deeply committed to us as His children.

Hold fast. He says, hold fast therefore to your confession. Don’t give up your confession. Most of you made a confession. Are you baptized? Baptized? You made a confession. I remember, Karen. You made a confession. I ask questions. I usually ask, “Do you renounce the devil in all his ways, all his works, in all his ways? Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you believe the Old and New Testament to be the word of God and the final authority on all matters of faith and truth? Will you be a faithful member or will you be the church by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, and your service? Do you repent of your sins? Do you desire to be baptized in this faith? Do you believe?”

“Yes, I believe.” It’s my confession. And you’re washed. You’re washed and you’re made clean. And you come up a new person, a new creation. Hold fast to your confession. Don’t stop believing.

Most people, when they stop believing, they do not stop believing because they become intellectually convinced of what they previously were convinced of. There are times in all of our lives where the reality of Jesus, the Son of God, raised from the dead, seems so blatantly obvious to us that we think, “How could anybody not believe?” But then there are other days where it seems like, and we don’t feel His presence near, and we’re having a rough day, and blah, blah, blah. And it seems like, well, you know. But none of that has to do with your confession. That simply has to do with how you feel on a particular day.

Did any of the facts change from the day you believed to the day you weren’t feeling all on fire with your faith? None of the facts changed, right? Everything that convinced you in the first place is still there. It’s still true. And so a lot of faith is holding on to what you believe to be true when it doesn’t feel like it.

My wife has this category for things. And it just befuddles me because it’s based, it seems to be, it’s based on her, I don’t know what it’s based on. She just says, “It seems like.” Like we’re driving in a neighborhood and the speed limit’s 35. And she’ll just go, “It seems like it should be 45 here.”I say, “What is that based on? It seems like.” Or the opposite is true. One time, I was driving down this country road, and it was 60 miles an hour, and the speed limit said 60 miles an hour. It was kind of windy, and I was going 60 miles an hour. And she goes, “you’re going too fast.” I said, “The speed limit said 60 miles an hour. The weather’s good, there’s no traffic.” She goes, “No, it seems like it should be 50. Slow down.” It seems like. But nothing changes with the “seems like.” Which is my comment to her. It’s like, just because it seems like doesn’t mean it’s so.

“It seems like, I don’t feel this very, I’m not feeling this right now.” Well, what about when you did feel it? Has anything changed? Then hold fast to your confession. Let me tell you why people walk away from the faith in my experience. They don’t get argued away from it. They will come with arguments. I’ve heard people who were Christians, and then I present them with the evidence for the resurrection, and they say things like, “Well, there are other explanations for that.” And I’ll press them, “Well, what are they?” And there aren’t any really good ones except there’s one good argument against the resurrection. And I grant this is a very powerful argument. Dead people don’t rise. In my experience, dead people don’t rise.

I got you. Now, let’s say there is an omnipotent real God. Let’s bring that into the equation, and miracles are possible. Then look at the resurrection again, and the evidence is overwhelming. So it just matters on your presupposition. If resurrection absolutely can’t happen because it’s ruled out at the beginning as impossible, then of course you’re not going to believe in the resurrection. But once you admit the possibility of it, the evidence is overwhelming.

Now, you can argue that with somebody who believed at one time and now doesn’t believe. And even if you convince him of a fact, oftentimes that won’t change their belief because their unbelief was never intellectual. You follow me? Their unbelief, the intellectual side of their unbelief is an excuse. It’s something they’ve built up. The real unbelief came because I wanted to keep smoking dope and sleep with my girlfriend. And God didn’t want me to do that, and so one of those things had to give, and I made a choice. I’m telling you, that’s where it comes from.

You say, “Well, most scientists don’t believe, so there must be an intellectual reason not to believe.” No, most scientists don’t believe because of the sin of pride. I want to be smarter than God. It is always, and I’ll say it again, I believe this, it is always a matter of the heart, not the head. If the heart wants to believe, the head will find reasons that it’s sufficient. And if the heart doesn’t want to believe, the head will find reasons that it’s insufficient. And therefore, hold fast to your confession.

And one of the ways we do that is here. We encourage one another. It takes courage to believe. It takes courage to live. It takes courage to hang in there. And we encourage one another. And I want to tell you simply this, all you have to do to encourage me, you can do more than this if you want, I’ll welcome it, but all you have to do to encourage me is show up. Man, that does the trick for me. That does the trick. I am not alone. Look at, I mean, the Johnsons, they’re smart, reasonable people, you know. They believe. The Kagawas, I mean, they’re smart, reasonable people. They believe. The Millers, they’re smart, reasonable people. They believe. These are all, these are good people. They raise good families. They hold fast. I’m not alone.

Now, if I were alone, God would still say believe. There are people who believe in very lonely places, but that’s not God’s plan, right? God always, John Wesley said, the New Testament knows nothing of solitary Christianity. And if you read the New Testament, one of the great studies you can do in the New Testament is look at all the “one another’s.” Just constant phrase that appears time and time again in the New Testament, “one another.” And here it says, “Do not forsake meeting together, but encourage one another. Encourage one another to love. Encourage one another to good works. Encourage one another to hang in there. Don’t forsake the assembly, as some have become in the habit of doing.”

Do you hear that, Pacific Northwest? Do you hear that, cave-dwelling Christians? Do you hear that, people who have gotten used to believing that church is something you can do online? Do you hear that? You need community. You need people. If you have, if you’re going to church online, at least have a Bible study that you’re going to, face-to-face. Do not forsake assembling together. Keep meeting together.

I had a drug problem as a kid. I was drugged to church. We went to church every Sunday, and I didn’t want to go to church every Sunday. I don’t want to go to church every Sunday now. My wife says I have to because I’m the pastor. I’m like, “Dang.” But here’s one of the things I’ve experienced. Often, the Sundays I want to go to the least are the Sundays where the blessing is the biggest. You’ve had that experience, right? I don’t want to go to church. I’m tired. I’m grumpy. I don’t want to be there. And you go, and the preacher’s reading your emails and speaking directly to you.

Or, here’s something else, and I really believe this. Encourage one another. So if you don’t come, what if the Lord was going to, what if there was somebody there who was just desperate, in need, broken, and the Lord was going to use you to speak that word that got them through the next week? But you’re like, nah, not tonight. I’m tired.

Or, what if God had a life-transforming word for you, either through the sermon or some prophetic word or some word of knowledge or just some encouragement, and had a life-transforming word for you, and you stayed home that night? You see, that’s what Paul says the body, we interact with prophetic words, with encouragement. He says, earnestly desire spiritual gifts, especially that you might prophesy. Why? To exhort, encourage, and comfort the body. You need comfort. There’s comfort here. You need encouragement. There’s encouragement here. You need a kick in the rear to get going. Exhort. There’s exhorting here. It’s part of presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice.

Old Baptist preacher in Oakdale, California, and we’d finished with a ministerial association meeting, and my great grandmother, who I never knew, never met, took my mother, who I knew quite well, to church every Sunday as a little girl, to the Baptist Church in Van Nuys, California. And this Baptist preacher was there. We got out of the meeting. I said, Daryl, my great-grandmother took my mother to Baptist Church in Van Nuys every Sunday when she was a girl. Daryl looked back at me and said, didn’t hurt her none either, did it? It’s like, Daryl, it did not. There was a foundation of love and goodness that was laid in my mother during those times.

My father never missed church. There was a foundation of justice and goodness that was placed in him during those times. And so, we hold fast. All right, remember those, now comes the warning. Remember those who have fallen away. In the Old Testament and those around who have fallen away, it says they have rejected God’s truth. They have rejected God’s truth, all right? You’re living a lie if you don’t follow Jesus. You’ve rejected God’s truth, and living a lie will never work. You can’t live out of context with the universe as it was created and expect a good outcome.

You were born, created, and redeemed to have relationship with God. Life is 100% about relationships. We are broken and apart from God. We can’t have those relationships. We will die alone. We will be eternally alone. But God says, no, come back into fellowship with me. I’ll put love back in your life and you will be restored to my purpose that was there in Edom with Adam and Eve. You’ll be restored to your destiny and your purpose and you will live forever.

And to live any other way outside of that is to reject God’s truth, to reject Jesus, to reject the truth. That doesn’t mean there isn’t truth in other systems. I was a religious studies major at California State University, Chico, the Harvard of the West Coast. And at Chico State, I was a religious studies major and there was a lot of truth in other religions. I took, I studied Hinduism, I studied Buddhism, I studied Islam. There are a lot of truth in other religions, but they’re not the truth. Jesus is the truth. And to live out of fellowship with Jesus is to reject God’s truth. It’s to spurn God’s Son. It’s to spurn the one who said He loved you.

Okay, I love you. That circle has to be completed by I love you too. My grandson, they came over, they spent the night and I just tell my grandsons all the time, I love you. And they say, I love you too, Grandpa. And my two other grandsons in Denver, I tell them, they’re a little younger, I say, I love you bigger than the sky. And as boys, they have to one-up that. So it’s like, I love you bigger than the universe. And the other one has to one-up that and says, I love you bigger than infinity. And then the other one comes back and I says, I love you as much as he does, plus one. And it just keeps going.

But I remember when Jill and I were dating and we fell in love and we really fell in love. I mean, we had one of those, it wasn’t one of those, I’m wondering if this is the right one for me. We were just gaga in love with each other. We were sickening. And it was great. I loved it. I loved it. I loved being in love with her and I loved her being in love with me. That felt so good. And so we’re dating and we’re in love. But I also, I was pretty smart for a teenager. I was. Because I realized that kids my age use those three words very casually based on how their hormones were firing off. And you know, three dates in, I love you, I love you, I love you. It’s like, no, you don’t. You know? And so I never said those words, even though for two, two and a half years we dated. I did not say those words until the night I asked her to marry me. And she said yes. Then, I did a 180. I made a commitment that night. I didn’t tell her this, but in my heart, I made a commitment that I wouldn’t let another day go by as long as she lived without her hearing those words. I haven’t batted a thousand on that, but she’s heard them a lot. At least once a day, I just try to tell her, “I love you.”

Just leaving the house or whatever, I say, “I love you.” And what I always want to hear when I say that is, “I love you too.” I don’t want to hear, “Yeah, well, score a few more points and I may love you too. Get those dishes knocked out and I might love you. Fix your temper a little bit and I might love you. Lose a little weight and I might love you.” No, just complete the circle, dear. And she does. “I love you too.” Sometimes she initiates it. “I love you.” And I always say, “Good call.” No, I say, “I love you too.”

On the cross, the Prince of Heaven stretched out His arms right to the whole world and said, like a little child, like you’d say to a little child, “I love you this much. I love you this much. I love you enough to take nails, to bleed and to die, to bear your sin so that I can be with you forever and you can be with me. We can be with my Father. I love you.” And when we reject that, we spurn the love of God. We despise His Spirit. We reject what He’s doing in the world and we blaspheme the Spirit when there’s evidence for God.

When people say, “If God exists, show me miracles.” At no other time in the history of Christianity can we do that so easily as we can now. The amount, the overwhelming amount of documented, medically attested miracles now, it’s not like, “Well, you know, I know that Aunt Susie’s second cousin’s boyfriend’s mother-in-law’s cousin, you know, got healed. Her hip got healed the other day.” No, it’s not that. Seventy-five percent of American doctors believe in miracles. Why? They’ve seen them. They’ve now seen them. They call them things like spontaneous remission, right? Yeah, spontaneous remission. In other words, a miracle happened and we have to give it a scientific sounding name.

I don’t know how many people I’ve prayed for, and these aren’t documented as miracles because it’s the second, because they’re going in for the second test to confirm whether or not they have cancer. The first test, you always get, right, there’s a spot. We see something. There’s a mass. Then they’re going in for the biopsy. They’re going in to take that thing out and search it. We pray. In between, there’s a spot and the word cancer comes into the equation as a diagnosis. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve prayed for people and they come back and I say, “Well, what?” And here’s, I’ve heard this, I guess, maybe a dozen to two dozen times, which is a lot. “Well, they say the first scan must have been, the screen must have been dirty or there’s something, you know. In other words, there’s no more mass. There’s no more spot. I don’t know if the person got healed of cancer. All I know is there was something there that was serious enough to biopsy. We prayed and now it’s gone. Ovarian cyst shrunk and gone. Heart disease, gone.

Just in this room, there are miracles. And I know in this room, there are times we prayed for things and we didn’t get a miracle. I get that. But let me tell you something. If you don’t get a miracle, that doesn’t prove God doesn’t exist. If you get just one, the naturalist case is done. Just one. And naturalism falls to the ground. And there are thousands, there are thousands throughout church history, but now we have the ability to record and to verify and it just, read Craig Keener’s book. I mean, it’s just, it is overwhelming. And yet, when we reject that, we despise, we blaspheme the Holy Spirit. God is doing His stuff all around us. And we’re saying, “Nope, doesn’t happen. Doesn’t happen.”

Again, heart, right? If you want to believe, it’s there. If you don’t want to believe, you can close your eyes tight. But here’s what He says. If you have experienced that, if you have been enlightened, and now you’ve rejected God’s truth, and now you’ve spurned God’s Son, and now you have despised God’s Spirit, what more can… He says this in chapter six. We went over this in chapter six. We’re not talking about backsliding. What does He say? When a person commits deliberate sin, that doesn’t mean you messed up. What that means is you deliberately reject, you deliberately step back out of it and say, “What I once had, I don’t want anymore.” And there is a word there of strong judgment. If a person was judged under the Mosaic law, under the testimony of two or three witnesses, how much more, if you spurn and reject the Son of God, if you reject God’s truth and despise His Spirit, and it says this, people, this is in the Bible. I’m not trying to scare anybody. I’m not a hellfire and brimstone preacher, but here’s what it says. It’s a fearful thing to reject. God, and to fall into His hands at judgment. If I could preach without those messages, I would, but they’re in the book. I’d love to preach the nice, happy, clappy, flying unicorn gospel that, you know, everybody makes it – universalism. Everybody makes it in the end, but it’s not what the book says.

And therefore, back to the last word, hold fast, come to church, don’t give up. There will be hard times. In fact, He ends with that. He says, listen, you’ve already endured hard times, but there is fruit to endurance. He says, look it, you were enlightened and you endured hardship. You were mocked. You lost your property. You were imprisoned. All these things happen. Listen, the Bible is blunt. The Bible is not, again, the Bible is not the flying unicorn book. The Bible is blunt about these things. If you follow Jesus in this world, there will be a price. There will be a cost. You’re not going to get everybody’s approval.

It drives me nuts how much Christians get mocked in our culture and how many lies and how many stereotypes. And what really drives me nuts is when Christians reinforce those. And I know people in church aren’t perfect and I know you’ve probably been hurt in church and some people have legitimately been traumatized by horrible acts. But a lot of folks whine because we live in a whiny culture and they didn’t sing my three favorite songs and the preacher preached five minutes too long. And that church wasn’t perfect and they weren’t nice to me. And somebody with ADHD blew me off because they were in a big crowd and they can’t follow anybody when they’re in a big crowd. And I got my little feelings hurt. Well, you know what? This is a school of love. People forgive them and go on.

No, I’m going to go find a better church. All right? Keep looking for the perfect one, but don’t go because you’ll ruin it. Ouch, pastor. No, the society mocks us. Let’s encourage one another. Let’s not mock and pick on one another. It’s not holy to be a fault finder. Now there are things that require correction and criticism and there’s biblical instructions how to do that. And the biblical instructions always talk about first going to the person in private. I will go to them in private after I post it on Facebook and Twitter. Stop. And if they don’t receive it in private, then take some elders with you and bring people to correction gently and kindly.

Mockery. The world mocks us. We don’t need to be mocking one another. We need to stand up for one another. Somebody was telling me about some television preacher who’s rich and they said, can you believe this guy? Can you believe how big of a mansion he has? I said, I’ve never seen his mansion. Do you know how much money he gives the poor? They said, no. I said, neither do I. So why are we having this conversation? I don’t care how big his mansion is. If he’s sinning in having that big mansion, then God can deal with that. It’s not my job to go around with a tape measure and start measuring the size of pastors’ houses.

So what’s the fruit of endurance? I’m sorry. Loss of property. We’re mocked. We lose property. It doesn’t come to that much in the United States. It has for some. Some people have lost property. Some people have been in prison for their stand for Christ. It happens even in our culture, rarely. In other cultures, it happens quite frequently. It’s happened for 2,000 years. And the author of Hebrews is saying, look it, you’ve endured these things. You’ve ran 25 miles. Don’t quit in the last mile. And there’s fruit from enduring these things. There’s fruit from all this.

You have deepened fellowship, right? Suffering actually knits us together. When we go through something together, we’re tighter. We get tighter. I mean, I just watch athletics, all right? And sports is hard work. I don’t know if you know this, but if you play competitive sports, right? There’s this thing called training. It’s not all gold medals and Super Bowl trophies, right? There are two-a-days in July. And there’s sweat, and there’s puke, and there’s coaches yelling at you. And what happens on that team? You bond, right? You hear athletes talking about this all the time. When they retire, what do they say? They say, I miss the locker room. I miss the fellowship. I miss the brotherhood, the sisterhood. I miss the bonding that we had.

Church, we bond. We go through stuff together, and we bond. Johnson’s, we’ve been hanging out doing church for what? Since Sophia was in diapers. That was like two or three years ago. Long time, right? We’ve got a history now. We’ve got a history at the Firehouse Church, and prayed good times and bad. I remember Jill and I hearing diagnosis coming out of Hawaii and praying and saying, oh, Lord, this is not going to happen. We don’t want this to happen. And we get united in those things. We live together, and it develops fellowship. It develops compassion. We have increased compassion. Suffering always gives us increased compassion. Nothing worse, all right? I was guilty. Jill and I, freshly married, haven’t had kids yet. A bunch of friends who are freshly married, they start having kids. We observe their parenting. We don’t have any kids. We observe their parenting. And we don’t bring it to them, because we know it probably wouldn’t be received well. But we talk amongst ourselves about, oh, I would never do that. I know we wouldn’t. We’re going to raise our kids different.

I remember this couple arguing about who was going to change the smelly diaper. And we were driving home and said, you know what? We’ll never do that. If you smell it, change it, right? You don’t leave it for your spouse. If you smell it, change it. And we made a commitment that if we smelled it, we would change it. And I kept that commitment. But I did something. After I had a daughter and I changed enough diapers, she would walk by me and I would hold my breath. Because the agreement was, if you smelt it, change it. So I just hold my breath. Go see your mother. Go over there, right? So there you go.

And then all of a sudden, you have kids. And all those people who had kids before you, all of a sudden, all that judgment, all those remarks, they go out the window. Because now you have the deer in headlight look. Like, what am I supposed to do with this thing? How do I raise this thing? And you have compassion. You have compassion. Suffering creates compassion. It creates fellowship. It creates joy in all circumstances.

Because we realize in the midst, that’s what Paul says, right? I’ve realized that my joy is being with you Philippians, not in my possessions. He says, I’ve learned to live with plenty. I’ve learned to live without plenty. But in all things, it is Christ who gives me strength. And so we realize we can have joy in all our circumstances. And what the world counts as joy, we can consider loss, because we have the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord and being a part of His forever family.

And finally, it sharpens our priorities. It sharpens our priorities. When I was in the United Methodist Church, they were arguing over issues of sexual ethics, of sexual identity, and whether homosexual relationships were allowed in the Christian church, and all that kind of stuff. And I was all caught up in that argument. And I was thinking about how discouraged I was that the church I was a part of was so liberal and was losing its mooring on issues of marriage and righteousness and sexual integrity and all these things.

And then I went into a conservative church, a conservative denomination. I thought, oh man, this is better. This is so much better. I just was in the office of this church. And I picked up their quarterly news magazine, their magazine for that denomination. And the denomination was having a serious discussion on whether beards or no beards on men better represented living out the simplicity of the gospel. And I thought, oh my gosh, they’re stupid too. Right? Who cares?

I’ll tell you what, if you’re a Muslim in the Middle East and you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re not asking that question. You’re saying, how do I live for the glory of God until I’m martyred? How do I raise my family in this hostile environment? To love Jesus for eternal life and survive on this planet, your priorities, what? They get sharpened. They get focused.

So I don’t want us to suffer. But I’ll tell you, endurance has great fruit. So dear ones, press on. Press on. Don’t quit. This is a long distance race, but it has a great reward. All right? You don’t just get a medal. You get eternal life. You get eternal joy. You get an everlasting part of God’s forever family. Every pain washed away. Every tear wiped away. There will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more suffering, no more struggle. We will be refined like silver. And we will be like Jesus, co-heirs with Christ in the eternity of God.

This is the prize of all prizes. He is the prize of all prizes. And therefore, if you’ve got to crawl across the finish line, crawl across the finish line. And as the church, we will be right there with you. We will crawl with you. We will go with you. We will not let you fall behind. The only person who can quit in this is you. The devil can’t take it away from you. Other people can’t take it away from you. Time can’t take it away from you. Nothing can take it away from you unless you just choose to quit.

Have faith until the end. Don’t shrink back. And what does He say? He says, we’re not of that make. We’re not of the ones who are going to shrink back. All right? No quitters here. And by the way, grace and mercy every time you need it. So anytime you feel like quitting, there’s grace not to. There’s grace not to. When life is hard for you, if we don’t know it, say something. And when life is hard for the person next to you, you help carry the bag. That’s what church is.

And then finally, encourage one another. Look, listen. Again, we naturally complain. I’m not an aggressive driver. I’m not a road rager. But I get mad at other drivers because they don’t behave how I want them to. Two things that make me most, my two pet peeves, tailgating, especially if I’m going over the speed limit already. It’s like, I am not obligated to be in your hurry. Back off, Jack. And I’m a little passive-aggressive. I always want to slow down when they tailgate. Oh, you think 68 in a 60 is not fast enough for you? See how you feel about 63.

I don’t do it because I don’t want to incite road rage. I just kind of grumble. And when I can pull over, I pull over and let them speed by. And I keep my hands down. Don’t do anything that a good Christian, let alone a pastor, shouldn’t be doing. So I’m all good.

And the other thing that drives me nuts is speed changers. You know what a speed changer is? Somebody who hasn’t realized that cruise control is the eighth wonder of the world. And so they’re going 53, and you’re going 58. And you pull out to go past them at 58, and they’re going 53, and then they start to go 59. And so you go, OK. You pull in behind them, and they start to go 53 again. It’s like speed changers.

But here’s something the Lord has shown me, and it’s very clear. And it hasn’t cured me of being annoyed with people, but it’s very clear. When I’m annoyed about somebody else’s driving, that says 100% to me about my sin and 0% about theirs. That is 100% my problem. It’s not that, I mean, they may be a bad driver, but it’s, you know, you know what I’m saying? Just recognize that and go, oh, God, you’re not done with me yet if I get annoyed with a complete stranger because they’re not behaving exactly as I want them to on the road.

Why did I even say that? What point does that make? Don’t shrink back? I don’t know. Be faithful to the end. Be a better driver. All right. Somebody say, help Him, Jesus. Help Him in this sermon better. All right, Ats edit the whole last three minutes.

Dear ones, let’s, oh, now I know. I got there. The rabbit came home. It’s easy to find fault. Here, I want you to look for the gold in other people. I don’t want you to flatter. I don’t want you to tell a bad prayer. They’re a good prayer. But if you know somebody to be a good prayer, encourage them in that. If you know somebody to be a good evangelist, encourage them in that. If you know somebody to be a good joy sharer, encourage them. A good teacher, encourage them.

Look for the gold in people because people often, they don’t realize that they’re actually having a positive impact on somebody else’s life. So if somebody in this room has had a positive impact on you in some way, just go to them and say, you know what? God used you to bless my life, so don’t quit. All right? That’s what I wanted to say. Don’t be critical. Be an encourager.

Now, the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. Go in at peace to love and serve the Lord. Amen? Amen. All right.