With all the current events these past few weeks it’s not hard to become discouraged, scared and even a little angry with the present world system of things. Especially with the latest news in Iraq and the devastation that is still going on over there. With the militant group ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] slaughtering moderate Muslims and Christians, especially in these past few weeks, has caused my heart to be stirred through prayer for these poor people. Jay Sekulow of ACLJ [American Center For law And Justice] Chief Counsel said this week “As ISIS still controls vast areas, and they are stepping up their killings – murdering Christians every single day. Our allies are still outgunned.” ACLJ says “It is believed that over 400,000 Christians have been displaced from their homes. ISIS militants gave them an ultimatum: leave or face “death by the sword.” The international Christian ministry “Open Doors” has called it the “worst genocide since Rwanda.” I’ve had preacher friends send me information and videos of some of those tragic events and some of them I couldn’t bear to watch the slaughter and the evil that has overcome man to do such a terrible act. I can’t and I won’t even describe to you what I saw these past weeks, but it has caused a stir in my heart for our brothers and sisters and lost souls on a way to a Christ-less eternity.
For the past few weeks I’ve been following this tragedy in Iraq and its really hit home and got me thinking about the persecuted church and the Christian life. I know I’ve mentioned persecution quite a bit in the past, but I think this is something that we can’t and shouldn't ignore, for the sake of our North American comfort. These are trying times and call for all Christians, young and old, to stand together with our brother and sisters around the globe who face things that we can only imagine this side of the globe. We need to start examining our friendship with this world [meaning the world system]. Again this is not our home and we need to realize that and embrace that now; more than ever in our present anti-God ….anti-prayer and anti-Christian society. And these past few weeks have reminded me what the Hebrew writer said to the believers from the early church. Jesus has commanded us and He has commissioned us as well, to go into this fallen world and proclaim the good news of the gospel. Sometimes we ignore that command with our self-righteous desires and so-called religion. But as David Platt said “are we going to die in our religion or are we going to die in our devotion?” This is an important question to ask ourselves this morning! Especially in light of what happening around the globe and even in our own country. I ask myself this question this past week! Have we [I] retreated or have we [I] pressed forward for the gospel and the glory of God? Better yet! Are we standing on the front line as David did when he faced Goliath or have we retreated into the mountains as the nation did when the Palestinian giants came for battle? Please turn with me to the book of Hebrews. The last chapter where we read these challenging words in Heb 13:10-16 “We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” What a powerful portion of scripture that really speaks and clarifies the truth that the church of North America really needs to hear this morning. There are two commands that I want us to look at this morning…commands that I think get overlooked as we continue a pilgrimage home.
FIRST COMMAND IS FOUND IN……….
(v13) “…let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach..” Why by what we read in (v12) Jesus demonstrated to us the single greatest thing for all of humanity by dying on the cross, not on the altar of sacrifice but by going outside the camp to show His merciful love to sinners. See, the Old Covenant understanding of the sacrifice for the Day of Atonement was contrasted to the better one found in the New Covenant through the blood of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament the Levites were never allowed to eat the sin offering. The bodies of the animals used for this sacrifice were to be taken outside the camp and burned. The truth for us is that we as the Lord was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem, so we are to be spiritually outside the walls of sinning people.
- Refraining from doing the things of this world.
- Walking a different walk to the culture.
- Behaving and showing hospitality and kindness to all people.
- Sharing [speaking the good news] and demonstrating the gospel in our lives to those around us.
Now! This doesn’t mean……... we go looking for trouble…by hopping on a plane to the Gaza Strip or walk into a Hindu temple in India and scream out heresy. This also doesn’t mean we be monastic and keep our religion to ourselves in closed buildings and private homes or that were “Holier than Thou people”. We are in this world, but we must not be of this world. Think about it! What happened after the nation built a “golden calf”? What did Moses do? According to Exodus 33:7 it says “Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the LORD went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp.” Why? Because Israel at the time was mostly siding with the world and began to truly reject God. Remember what Paul wrote to Timothy “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” 2 Tim 2:4. The practical truth to this command is that we as New Testament believers must be willing to go out from the world system and face, bear the rejection from men as Christ did. The mandate is that we as a body of believers are to do as Jesus did, because this present world system doesn’t recognize or joyfully embrace the truth that has been granted to us through the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Paul said “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Tim 3:12. As John MacArthur said “the reason why more Christians are not persecuted is simply because so few are truly. Godly, truly living outside the camp……and it’s easy to be distinguished in the eyes of the world if we compromise godly living.” See to go outside the camp might mean you become…..Ostracized by friends, family and co-workers. An alien to own country, who might turn on you, by labeling you a trader. To associate with Christ is to reject this world system, and to love this world is to reject Christ and the finished work found in the gospel. To go outside is to go to the dirty places. The despised places where blasphemous, haters of God, go to die outside the camp. In Leviticus 13:45-46 says “Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!' He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.
Jesus went to the dirty places for you and me! To die on a cursed tree, a death only reserved for the vilest of criminals. The sinless spotless Lamb of God died for you and me outside the walls of Jerusalem because the religious despised Him and hated Him. See, Jesus is calling all of us to go to those hard places with the precious gospel. Do you realize there are over a billion people who still haven’t heard the good news of the gospel? And what’s amazing, even though that statistic is large! Jesus is and always has been at work in the dirty places. I remember when I did jail ministry [which I miss by the way] ministering to men and women who were drunkards, thieves, drug addicts and the occasional murderer…..telling them of the grace that is given for sinners if they repent and put their trust in Him alone. The blessings that came to those who went outside the camp to minister to so-called lepers of our day. Society would classify them as “outcasts” or “the scum of the earth” But remember Christ came to save sinners…..even sinners who kill and behead Christians….even you who was once an outcast, outside His grace. This was made possible only because He went outside the camp to demonstrate His love to the world. By that demonstration of love, the disciples and the early church turned the world upside down.
See in the early church to trust in Christ cost them everything……all because they went outside the camp. They were willing to die in their devotion over their religion. Why? Their hearts are fixed on Christ and His returning in all His glory. We are to go outside the camp and seek the city that is to come and stop loving the one that is going to self-destruct. (v14). A City that is not built by men, but by God and His promise of a new Heaven and a New Earth. As 2 Peter 3:10-14 says “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;” As we look forward to this city! But there is something else outside the camp God has commanded us to do? TO PRAISE HIS SOVEREIGN NAME.
SECOND COMMAND IS FOUND IN ………
(v15) “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” While we walk with Christ outside the camp, we seek the city that is not yet come. We are in the meantime to offer up our praise to Him and goodness as we walk this narrow, bumpy road. See sacrifice was very important to the Jews….because it was God’s provision for cleansing of sin under the Old Covenant. But by Christ offering Himself, we have an everlasting sacrifice that covers all our sin. And through that we should praise His name continually for the greatest sacrifice ever offered to God on behalf of sinful man. This sacrifice should cause us daily to sing praises to His name. As the Psalmist sang “Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” Psalm 150:1-6. By praising Him we are to offer this continually with is our reasonable service to Him. This is not to be some fair-weathered offering, but an offering of thanksgiving for every circumstance that He allows into our lives. Not only are we to praise from our lips and heart we are to do good to one another, sharing the blessing that has been given to us. See worship involves action that honors God for His goodness by demonstrating that towards those outside the camp. Isaiah said it best “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?” Isa 58:6-7. Praising God with our lips and demonstrating that to a world that hasn’t tasted His grace are inseparable. They go hand in hand. See the only acceptable sacrifice we can offer with our hands is to God to one another, share with one another, minister to one another, to love one another with the truth that has been revealed tom our hearts. As John penned “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
I came across an old story that happened in the 80’s about the Beirut Bombing! It is said to be one of the most “tragic events during the Reagan Presidency.” It happened on a Sunday morning when terrorist bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut, in which hundreds of Americans were killed or wounded as they slept. The article when on to say “Many of us can still recall the terrible scenes as the dazed survivors worked to dig out their trapped brothers from beneath the rubble. A few days after the tragedy, I recall coming across an extraordinary story. Marine Corps Commandant Paul Kelly, visited some of the wounded survivors then in a Frankfurt, Germany, hospital. Among them was Corporal Jeffrey Lee Nashton, severely wounded in the incident. Nashton had so many tubes running in and out of his body that a witness said he looked more like a machine than a man; yet he survived. As Kelly neared him, Nashton, struggling to move and racked with pain, motioned for a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote a brief note and passed it back to the Commandant. On the slip of paper were but two words—“Semper Fi” the Latin motto of the Marines meaning “forever faithful.” With those two simple words Nashton spoke for the millions of soldiers American and Canadians who have sacrificed body and limb and their lives for their country……….those who have remained faithful. Can that be said of each and everyone us here this morning? Listen to the words of the late great J.C. Ryle who wrote "If we desire to do good, let us never be ashamed of walking in the steps of our Lord Jesus Christ. Press others to consider their ways. Compel them with holy violence to come in, to lay down their arms and to yield themselves to God……..Entreat men to repent and come to Christ — but bid them at the same time to count the cost!" Have we counted the cost? Have we gone outside the camp to be where Christ was and is? We know how to praise God really good on Sunday, but is that all He asks of us? No…..Not just that! He has called us to go and praise His name among the world because the home we’re waiting for is not here yet. As the Hebrew writer said “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.” The one that He is preparing and sanctifying by the finished work He did outside the camp for sinners like us. Some of you may be wondering what the symbol means behind me this morning? This is the Arabic letter "N" this is the first letter of the word "Nasrani," or "Nazarene," which is used to describe Christians because they follow Jesus of Nazareth. But, this is also what ISIS is putting on the houses of Christians to mark for their death. Have we retreated? Or are we willing to stand on the front lines with our brothers and sisters around the globe? Because as one missionary said “the motto of every missionary, whether preacher, printer, or schoolmaster, ought to be “Devoted for life.” Jesus is calling us to go outside the camp to the dirty places and claim our true identity…..which is found in the merciful and gracious Savior. So! Let’s go outside the camp with Jesus for the glory of God to prepare the way for the His Kingdom of God.