Hebrews 13:7-17 – We’re following the Leader!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 3, 2013 AM
In the Walt Disney cartoon “Peter Pan”, the Lost Boys sing a song entitled “Following the Leader.” The lyrics are “Following the leader, the leader, the leader; we’re following the leader wherever he may go! Tee dum, tee dee, A teedle ee do tee day. Tee dum, tee dee; It’s part of the game we play! Tee dum, tee dee, The words are easy to say. Just a teedle ee dum a teedle ee do tee day!” It continues by relating, “We’re one for all and all of us out for fun! We march in line and follow the other one! With a teedle ee do a teedle ee di tee dum!” And sadly, this can be the mantra of far too many in our day and age as they blindly follow politicians, the media, and superstars. We want to be very careful when we blindly follow earthly leaders.
Hebrews is ending his sermon and desires to leave his listeners with some advice they won’t soon forget. With all the voices trying to gain their attention concerning their spirituality, he did not want them to be lead astray. Cultic teachings were also creeping into Christianity. Mysticism, Gnosticism, and even some Hinduism was beginning to make their inroads into vying for precedence. Just like today, folks back then wrongly thought that any spirituality was just as valid as the next. This simply is a bogus notion. Our song of life should be, “We’re following the Leader!” Let’s discover why…
Far too often, folks treat their churches and its leadership like an umpire in a baseball game, when a call does not go the way they want, they cry, “Throw the Bum out!” or they find a new team to cheer on. Hebrews reminds us that…
I. We are to remember the example of godly leadership! (Vv. 7, 17)
1. Imitation is not necessarily a bad thing if the person who you are imitating is a godly individual. Here the pastor writes, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.” He did not mean just any leader, but those who had spoken the word of God. Evidently, they were neglecting those who diligently taught them the word of truth. In our day and age, whereby we think there are no absolutes, it is kind of archaic for us to hear this kind of command. Clarke writes that the wording is literally, “Remember your guides, who have spoken unto you the doctrine of God.” This then becomes more significant. This notion will become even more evident as we move further into what Hebrews is teaching. There has been a heresy that teaching doctrine is divisive and thereby destructive to the fellowship of the church of God. This in of itself is heresy. What you believe and why is extremely important because there are absolutes. This is why we are to “Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Nothing speaks louder than words than one’s own consistent life in the Lord. We forget that there is sacredness in following those who are called of God. When we place ourselves under their tutelage, we become responsible for what we have learned. This is why he writes, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.” We, as sinful folk, have a problem with obedience. We may say we “follow Jesus” but we often do not. And, if we follow Jesus then we will obey those He has called. The reason for the writer was obvious, “They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” Paul wrote that all believers “will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12), and that we “must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1 NIV) Therefore, “Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Far too often we either wrongly idolize our godly leaders or we disdain them when we do not like what they are trying to teach us. When we do, we forget we’re following the Leader and we are to remember the example of godly leadership!
EXAMPLE: Examine the words of Psalm 86, and you will discover that you are reading the reflections of a godly leader. King David prayed, “Hear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” (v.1). Then the king of Israel prays, “Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you.” Here was the man God had chosen to lead His people, pleading for God’s help! As we consider the role of leaders, it’s crucial that we understand what godly leadership means. Max De Pree, businessman and author, whose leadership moved his company into the Fortune 500, relates, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.” “Servant and debtor” describe David’s view of himself as he asked God for help during his time of leadership. The “poor and needy” servant-leader who trusts God is the one who, in the end, can say as David did, “for you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me” (v.17). We are to remember the example of godly leadership!
Faith is not about us feeling good about ourselves; it is about what we place our trust in for eternity. We cannot keep one foot in the grave dirt of the world and expect to live holy lives fit for heaven. Hebrews teaches us that…
II. We are to follow godly leaders outside of what the world teaches! (Vv. 9-14)
1. We are not to allow ourselves as believers to be “carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.” Sadly, there are those who when they read the latest fad of faith, begin to immediately adhere to it. The idea here in Hebrews is to not be whirled away or blown off course by the latest spiritual teaching. He reminds us, “It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them.” Evidently, there were those who adhered to some “strange teachings” concerning ceremonial foods. They were worthless. There are always those who espouse, “Getting in touch with ones’ self,” yet we are reminded, “We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.” Odd individuals with strange ideas concerning our faith in Christ have no right to eat at the same heavenly table as we do. The Christian altar is the Christian sacrifice, which is Christ Jesus, with all the benefits of his death and resurrection. Hebrews reminds his listeners, “The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp.” When the blood was sprinkled before the holy place to make atonement for sin, the skins, flesh, entrails, and everything else was carried outside the camp, and there entirely consumed by fire. It was considered unclean. However, “Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.” He made that which was unclean, clean by His ultimate sacrifice! We are to leave ungodly teaching behind us immediately and adhere to what we learned from godly mentors. “Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.” This, therefore, is the journey we must take and this is the decision we must make. “For here,” in this world, in this life, and in this existence, “we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come!” We are to follow godly leaders outside of what the world teaches!
EXAMPLE: Follow me!” That was the invitation given by Marshall Applewhite, self-appointed leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult. He promised to those who would become his disciples that he would teach them how they could move on to a higher level of life in a new world. Sincere but gullible men and women left families, friends, homes, and jobs to live and work together and to obey their leader’s teachings. In fact, 38 disciples followed him even when he told them to commit suicide. He said they would be liberated from terrestrial bondage and enter into an exalted state of being. Many in our world ask us to “Follow me!” Whether it is cult leaders like Applewhite, educators, friends, or others who ask us to blithely follow them, we need to be aware of where they will ultimately lead us. The apostle John wrote, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17 NIV) We are to follow godly leaders outside of what the world teaches!
Humans, like blue jays, crows, and camp robbers, can be attracted to shiny objects. Why is that? Perhaps it is because we equate shininess with purity or cleanliness. Maybe this is why we are so eager to follow someone new, who has a shiny new idea. Hebrews reminds us that…
III. The Ultimate Leader we follow is Jesus Christ! (Vv. 8, 15-16)
1. When we begin to have our ears tickled by the latest fad of faith, we forget the fact that there is no other way to the holiest of holies than through the blood of Christ. We live in such a day and age when we look for the easy answer. Paul would warn, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV) Our “myths” are the latest booklet on how to. We must never forget that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!” While we may try to change Him or His teaching, He remains the same. “To the conclusion of time, He will be the way, the truth, and the life, none coming to the Father but through Him; and throughout eternity!” – Clarke. The author of Hebrews relates, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.” Jesus is the ultimate leader we owe our allegiance! For the Jew, the fruit of the lips was to be transferred to the actions of the person! If one praised God with their mouths, they would honor God with their lives. It is the same idea Paul conveyed when he wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV) This is also why when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was, He replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NIV) We “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise” when we do “not forget to do good” and when we “share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Micah told us, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NIV) The Ultimate Leader we follow is Jesus Christ!
EXAMPLE: David McCasland writes, “While visiting the campus of Purdue University on a frigid winter day, I came upon two young men chipping away thick ice on the sidewalk next to a fraternity house. Thinking they must be underclassmen who had been assigned the tough job by older fraternity brothers, I said, ‘They didn’t tell you about this when you joined, did they?’ One looked up with a smile and said, ‘Well, we’re both upperclassmen. I’m the fraternity vice-president and my friend here is the president.’ I thanked them for their hard work and went on my way having been reminded that serving others is the mark of a true leader. When two of Jesus’ disciples asked Him for positions of honor in His coming kingdom, the Lord gathered His twelve closest followers and told them, ‘Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all’ (Mark 10:43-44 NIV). If there was any doubt about what Jesus meant, He reminded them that He had not come to be served but to serve others and to give His life to ransom them from the power of sin (v.45). The mark of true, godly leadership is not power and privilege, but humble service.” The Ultimate Leader we follow is Jesus Christ!
We are to remember the example of godly leadership! We are to follow godly leaders outside of what the world teaches! The Ultimate Leader we follow is Jesus Christ!
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.