Thursday 17 March 2011

I just can't stop loving you (Hebrews 13)

Keep on loving each other as brothers.
Hebrews 13:1

When Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, stands up and gives a presentation – when he gives his spiel – everyone is expecting something revolutionary – something that will change the world. Yet, every Apple fan knows, Steve saves the best for last.

That is when he says, “Oh... and one more thing!”

He did this with the iPod Touch. One more thing. The MacBook Air. Everyone knows that when Steve Jobs says, “one more thing,” he is talking about the main thing. The big thing.

Hebrews 13 is not like that “one more thing”.

It is the last chapter of this long letter. But Hebrews 13 is more like your mum nagging you on the phone, “One more thing: remember to eat your vegetables!” And you go, “I know, mummy. I’m a big boy!”

So you’ll find a lot of things in Hebrews 13 that you already know. They are not new. We’ve met them before the in the previous twelve chapters.

But like your mum, the author is reminding us of the things we know – that we need to know – but we often forget.

Verse 1: Keep on loving
Verse 2: Do not forget
Verse 3: Remember

It’s not cool. It’s not new. But it is very, very important.

I just can’t stop loving you

Keep on loving each other as brothers.
Hebrews 13:1

I like the latest NIV update which says to love your “brothers and sisters”, because the word is philadelphia (phileo = love; adelphos = brother). It is brotherly love and sisterly love. Yet he is saying more than just to love your brother and sister in Christ, which is good. Rather, he is reminding us to keep on loving your brother and sister in Christ.

In fact, you could translate verse 1, “The loving must go on”. The lovin’ must keep burnin’. Or as Celine Dion put it, “My heart must go on and on”.

Keep on loving one another. Jia you (Add oil!). Keep on doing this.

Do not forget to entertain strangers
Hebrews 13:2

But don’t just love your brothers. Also love the stranger. Philoxenia which means “loving the stranger” (phileo = love; xenos = stranger; which is by the way where we get Xena: Warrior Princess!), is a reminder not to limit our love. Love your brother, but also love the stranger.

You do this by entertaining them (definitely not by screening Xena: Warrior Princess) – by welcoming them into your lives. The example he gives is Father Abraham in Genesis 18 who “entertained angels without knowing it”. We read in Genesis how Abraham was chilling out in his tent watching Top Gear re-runs, when he saw three travellers nearby. He quickly urged them to come in, got his wife Sarah to put the kettle on and serve up the Jammie Dodgers; and ordered his servant to prepare the most expensive dish on the menu – roast duck! That is: Abraham didn’t spare any expense. He didn’t hesitate. He welcomed the strangers into his home, showed them hospitality and these strangers turned out to be angels; in fact one of them was God himself. And there in his tent, God gave Abraham the promise of a son. Because of Abraham’s generosity, God blessed Abraham abundantly!

Love your brother. Love the stranger. But thirdly, love those who are suffering.

Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners,
and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

Hebrews 13:3

Now when he says “as if” - as if you were in prison; as if you were suffering – he doesn’t mean Use your imagination. “Oh, what a poor thing! Let me pray for you.” Nope, he is reminding the Hebrew Christians of Chapter 10 verse 32 onwards.

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
Hebrews 10:32-34

These Christians didn’t have to go to the local prison to start a ministry to hardened criminals. They already knew brothers who had been thrown into prison – Timothy for example, in verse 23. He is saying, “you can’t have forgotten Timothy already, have you?” And they didn’t have to search the Internet for news of persecuted Christians around the world – though this is not in itself a bad thing – their own brothers and sisters were suffering and being mistreated.

He is saying: there are people in your midst who need help and comfort and love. They are in pain, don’t thing they aren’t there. They are in your church. Don’t let them fall through the cracks.

Yet at the same time, Hebrews 10 recalls “earlier days” when there were times of great suffering. Which implies that now, things are more stable. It’s not as bad as it used to be. Yet Chapter 12 speaks of those who are presently in prison, who are presently persecuted. In which case, he is saying: don’t take this time of peace for granted. Do pray for the people in Japan. Give you money and send help to those in need. Help rebuild the church in Haiti. Your present comfort is not an excuse to forget their present suffering.

Love your brother. Love the stranger. Love those who are suffering.

Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.
Hebrews 11:4

What is interesting here is the author is talking about marriage, but he isn’t talking just to married people. Elsewhere in Ephesians 5, Colossians 3 or 1 Peter 3, the bible will speak about marriage to the husbands and wives – Husbands love your wives; Wives submit to your husbands.

But here the author is speaking to everyone. Marriage should be honoured by all. The marriage bed should be kept pure for – and notice the reason why he says this – God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Now, it makes sense when talking about marriage that God will judge those who break up a marriage – the adulterers. But why does the author include the sexually immoral?

I think that here the bible is teaching us that the way we deal with sexual immorality and sexual temptation in the church is by teaching marriage. It is by teaching God’s high view of marriage. When you teach marriage, you teach God’s design for men and women. When you teach marriage you teach men and women to value their purity – by valuing the marriage commitment and promise. The purpose of sex is for marriage.

Which means if you are dating as a Christian couple, do sign up for the marriage preparation course in your church. It doesn’t mean you are getting married tomorrow. It does mean you don’t want to ignore the topic of marriage. Also if this sounds scary to you – especially the guys – it maybe isn’t entirely a bad fear to have. It means you are taking your relationship seriously by taking God seriously. If your church doesn’t have such a course, then get a book – a very good one is “God, Sex and Marriage” by The Good Book Company. Or download sermons on 1 Corinthians 7 where the bible speaks to both married couple as well as singles – Eden Baptist just ran series on this last year. I highly recommend them.

Marriage should be honoured by all.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

The author rounds off this section on love by warning us not to love. Do not love money. We had philadelphia - loving your brothers, philoxenia – loving the stranger; and here we have philarguria – loving money.

Notice he also says something practical. He isn’t saying, don’t make money or don’t have money. Neither does just say Don’t love money. But he says Keep your lives – literally your conduct or character (NASB) – free from the love of money.

You can tell from a person’s conduct whether he loves money. It is something you can see from the way he behaves. It is obvious from the way he spends his money.

So while it isn’t a sin to buy an iPad 2 – if you camp outside the Apple store all night in the rain to get your iPad 2 – if your brother says, “Whoa, cool! Let me have a go,” and you say, “No! It’s mine!” clutching it close to your chest; I am going to snatch that silly toy from you, pick my nose and play Angry Birds on it all day!

No. That’s not what I’m going to do (probably). Instead, I am going to remind you that you have something more precious and more permanent. You have God. Verse 5:

Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.

You are not alone

At this point, it is worth reminding ourselves how Chapter 12 ended. If you read the previous chapter, you will know that Chapter 12 ended on a rather serious note.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12:28

You are worshipping a holy and awesome God. Chapter 12 reminds us of the Israelites in Exodus 19 approaching God at Mount Sinai “burning with fire” (Hebrews 12:18). It was such a terrifying sight that even Moses said, “I am trembling with fear” (Hebrews 12:21).

However, the author stresses this is not the mountain we as Christians have come to – burning with fire and covered in smoke. Rather we come to Zion, the city of the living God. When you gather as the church, you join the heavenly gathering of angels in praise of God. Zion is the mountain of joy!

Having said that: God is still the same majestic awesome God, the judge of all men (Hebrews 12:22-23). The difference is we approach this same holy God through Jesus Christ, the mediator – or middleman – who makes us holy through his blood. But we still approach God “with reverence and awe for our God is a consuming fire.” (Verse 28)

What flows in Chapter 13 therefore is the worship of this awesome God. What does it mean to serve him acceptably, with reverence and with awe? It means love. Love your brother and the stranger. Identify with the suffering. Hold marriage in high regard. Keep your lives free from the love of money.

But the motivation for your love is the love of God. It is his presence amidst your worship. He will never leave you. God will never abandon you.

And verse 6 goes on to address the initial fearful prospect of serving such an awesome God that we saw back in Chapter 12. Verse 6 reads:

So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Hebrews 13:6

This awesome fearful God is your helper! He stands with you and equips you with everything good for doing his will. He leaves his Spirit in you. So instead of fear, your response ought to be confidence – So we say with confidence (verse 6).

In Christ, we can approach God with confidence and not fear. In Chapter 4, he is our high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses. Therefore:

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

In Chapter 10, Jesus opens the way into the very presence of God through his sacrificial death.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.
Hebrews 10:19

Losing my religion

The right context of Chapter 13 is therefore, worship – acceptable worship before a holy and awesome God – or another way of putting it, true worship. Because most of us go to contemporary church services on Sundays where we call the first bit of the meeting worship – with the worship leader standing up front, leading the worship team in “Blessed Be Your Name” and calling everyone to offer up their lives as a fragrant offering – our understanding of worship is coloured by music, atmosphere, participation, culture, raised hands and Don Moen (whom I love, by the way – God is good!).

For the readers of Hebrews 13, mention the word “worship” and their thoughts would have gone straight to the temple, the priest and the sacrifice.

Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. 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. We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
Hebrews 13:9-10

The ceremonial food, altar, tabernacle are all references to their Old Testament Jewish religion. For these Hebrew Christians, this was their religion. They grew up going to temple. They celebrated the Feasts of Unleavened Bread and remembered the Exodus. The learned the purpose of the sacrifice given once year, how only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place once year, and once a year the blood would be sprinkled to cleanse the sins of the people. This was their heritage. This was their religion. This was worship.

Verse 9 says these are strange.

Not because they are new. Not because they weren’t familiar. Because Jesus Christ has come as the perfect sacrifice. He is the temple – the meeting place between God and man. He is the High Priest who sits at the right hand of God. He enters the true tabernacle – Heaven itself – making true peace through his blood.

Or another way of putting it is this: Jesus Christ came to offer the only true worship acceptable to God.

Notice that religion is said to be of “no value” (verse 9). The ceremonial foods – referring not simply to the meal, but the system of offering and consuming these holy feasts (literally it says: the food in which you walk) – have no effect. These religious ceremonies do not good. They have “no value”. Religion is empty.

Seriously still, empty religion disqualifies you from true worship. We have an altar – the cross of Jesus Christ – where those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat (verse 10). Religion, though empty, is harmful when it draws you away from Jesus.

Now what does this have to do with us? We’re not Jewish. We didn’t grow up going to temple and offering sacrifices.

And yet the question is: What is true worship? How do you worship God acceptably? Do you have to go a special place – Henry Martyn Hall or New Word Alive? It is serving on the committee in your fellowship, playing in the music team, or raising your hands when you sing?

What we see in the next couple of verses is this: True worship is not something you do; true worship is first and foremost what Jesus did on the cross. He paid the price for our sin.

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. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.
Hebrews 13:11-12

We need to understand that what hinders us from coming to God is not simply his holiness and loftiness. It is our sin. Our sinfulness means we can only ever enter into God’s judgement, not his presence nor his service. We cannot worship God with sinful hearts and sinful hands.

The picture of sin in these verses is rejection. That’s why the bodies are burned outside the camp (verse 11). This is a reference again to the Exodus, the account of God rescuing his people from slavery in Egypt, leading them through the Red Sea, then into the desert to finally worship him on Mount Sinai. And there the Israelites set up camp – they lived in tents. However, as soon as they get there the Israelites commit idolatry in the famous incident involving the golden calf. What happens next is Moses takes the Tent of Meeting and pitches it outside the camp (Exodus 33:7), a sign of the people’s rejection of God and also God’s rejection of the people. Why? Because of their sin.

Sin means rejecting God. And God’s judgement over sin is his rejection of sinful human beings.

So when Jesus came, he was rejected, he was despised, “he suffered outside the city gate” (Verse 12). What he did was take our punishment for sin. On the cross, Jesus was rejected by his people and he was forsaken by God – He cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) The suffering he bore was not simply from the nails driven through his hands and feet. It was the judgement of God over the rejection of sinful man.

Friends, this is the picture the bible gives us for worship. It is what is acceptable before God; it is what makes us acceptable before God. Jesus suffered to make us “holy through his own blood”. His death makes us holy.

True worship is offered by Jesus Christ on the cross. But the next verses show us how we can offer up true worship. It is through Jesus Christ.

Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Hebrews 13:13-14

What does he mean when the author calls us to “go to him outside the camp”? You could make all kinds of connections with this verse. Maybe he is calling us to leave our present circumstances, go out of our comfort zones and serve Jesus. Perhaps he is saying: leave the old religious sacrificial system that is ineffective and incomplete. I think that’s certainly possible and compelling.

I think the simplest answer is: We must identify with Christ. The author calls us as Christians to follow in Jesus’ footsteps “bearing the disgrace he bore” (verse 13). It means there really isn’t such a thing as a popular Christian. Not if you really stand with Jesus. Not if people really knew what Jesus stands for. To be a Christian is to confess that we are sinners (the Book of Common Prayer has ”miserable sinners”). To be a Christian is to confess Jesus who died a shameful death for our sins. It isn’t something that appeals to pride. The cross is foolish to the wise. Jesus looks weak to the powerful.

But to us he is our Saviour, Lord and King. And that confession is the basis of our worship, according to the next few verses.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Hebrews 13:15-16

This is our offering and this is our sacrifice – our confession of his name. The angel tells Joseph, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). But to confess his name is to call him my Saviour. He died for my sins. This is how we praise God – for sending his Son to die for us. This is how we worship God – by giving glory and praise to Jesus Christ as our Lord.

The bit in our Sunday services where a little bag is passed down the aisle, and people put money into it – that is not the offering. We are always continually offering to God by living for Christ, and more importantly, by speaking for Christ. It is the fruit of lips that confess his name.

It doesn’t mean singing isn’t worship. It doesn’t mean you cannot worship just as well in your office as you do in church. In fact, what this means is that worship is 24/7. What makes worship true worship is the cross. Jesus paid for this through his blood. I am doing my homework for Jesus Christ. I am working at my desk in service to God.

Notice the next verse, “And do not forget to do good and share with others”. Verse 16 is recalling the good we are called to do right at the beginning of the chapter – by loving one another, loving the stranger, showing compassion to the suffering, holding marriage in the highest regard and keeping our lives from the love of money. But what he is doing here is putting all that good work, which are pleasing sacrifices before God, under the umbrella of the true worship of Christ. We do these good works in the name of Christ. We love because first he loved us.

This is rather important. You can help the poor – I urge you to do so. You can be loving and sacrificial – and that would be a wonderful thing. By all means, use your talents to serve the church. But what makes our efforts acceptable is not our sincerity, goodness or effort. Only Jesus Christ offers true worship through the cross.

It is very possible to do a great amount of good and shrink from confessing Christ. As we have seen, identifying with Christ is disgraceful. The only popular Christians are dead Christians. The world will accept your goodness; it will reject your God. You will always be tempted to keep the two separate, but in doing so you deny the rightful place of Jesus as Lord and the worth of his sacrifice.

Jesus Christ is the true worshipper. He offers the only acceptable worship before God. And we join him in worshipping the true God by identifying with Jesus at the cross and confessing Jesus to be our Lord. True worship is not something we do, but what God has done in sending his Son to die for our sins on the cross.

Stand by me

Finally, this passage gets us to think about our leaders in the church. First he reminds us of our past leaders.

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7

It is interesting that the word he uses for leaders here in verse 7 (and later in verses 17 and 24) is not elder or deacon or pastor. Instead, hegoumenoi is used in Acts 14 to refer to Barsabbas and Silas, leaders chosen by the elders – meaning they themselves may not have been elders. Which means the author may have in mind a broad definition of the Christian leader to include your bible study leader and your Sunday school teacher. These are leaders who “spoke the word of God to you”; meaning they told you about Jesus. They taught you the bible. They preached the gospel to you. These are the people, he says, whose lives you ought to consider and whose faith you should imitate – these leaders who led you to Christ!

That is the broad definition of the leaders. Yet, verse 7 may actually be referring to a specific group of individuals. For one, they may be past as in dead. The word “remember” is in the past tense, and the author calls us to consider the “outcome” of their lives – the end result of their lives.

Furthermore, these leaders are likely to be the very first ones who preached the gospel to these Christians and planted the church. We find them mentioned back in Hebrews 2:

This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.
Hebrews 2:3

These Christians were second-generation Christians. They weren’t first-hand eye-witnesses of Jesus when he was on earth. They didn’t see him perform miracles of healing the sick, or hear him preach the Sermon on the Mount. They weren’t there when Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples in the upper room.

But these leaders were. They were among “those who heard him” (Hebrews 2:3).

And friends, I hope you realise, we too, are second-generation Christians. We never met Jesus in the flesh. But we heard the gospel through the bible. These pages and these words spoke the truth of God sending his Son in the form of a man who walked the earth, lived a perfect life, preached the coming Kingdom of God, and died on the cross to take our sins and fulfil all the requirements of the Law. “Those who heard him” – people like Paul, Peter, James and John – are now long dead. But they recorded their testimony for us today through the gospels and New Testament letters. In doing so, they confirmed to us this salvation, first announced by our Lord Jesus.

Which is why it is so important to read the next verse 8 in this context:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

This one verse has been taught to mean all kinds of things. You find it in greeting cards, bumper stickers and huge posters outside churches. We say that his love is the same – yesterday, today and forever. His character is the same. Does that mean he has the same haircut? Will we all be eating broiled fish when he returns in glory – since Jesus ate broiled fish after the resurrection?

Linked with the previous verse 7, this powerful statement is meant to be an assurance of the reliability of the bible’s witness to Jesus. Remember, the first century eye-witness who confirmed the salvation announced by the Lord, are long gone. You weren’t there to witness the crucifixion or the resurrection. But the Jesus that you read about in the New Testament; the Jesus that you meet in these pages is the same Jesus they knew. And he is the same Jesus who will return in the second coming in glory. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. This is a statement of assurance for your faith based on the bible. You are not missing out. You can trust in the reliability, truthfulness and fullness of the bible.

Going back to verse 7 therefore, the call to “consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” is the call to take seriously claims of the bible. It isn’t talking about your founding pastor. He is talking about people like the apostle Paul who said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Who writes in Philippians 2:8, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” It is a call to trust in and live out the demands of the bible for the sake of Christ.

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Hebrews 13:17

Here we meet the present leaders who keep watch over us (literally “go sleepless” – a phrase which means to stay attentive; and is not a licence to post Facebook updates at 3am). The ESV says they are “keeping watch over your souls”. Leadership in a Christian community is a weighty responsibility. They are accountable ultimately not to you, though you may have elected them or pay their salary. They must give account to God. One day God will ask the leaders he has set over his church, “What about him? What about her? Have you loved them? Have you preached Christ? Have you told them the gospel?” Leadership is a weighty responsibility.

And he is basically saying, Don’t make it harder than it needs to be – “so that their work will be a joy, not a burden”. The word is actually “groaning” – so that it won’t be a groaning. “Aiyo! These fellas are such a headache!” Leadership in a church is hard, he has already made that fact crystal clear. His word to us is: Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

What can you do for your leaders? Love them. Obey them. Submit to them.

But if nothing else, pray for them.

Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honourably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
Hebrews 13:18-19

What we have here is the basic qualification for the Christian leader. What makes a good Christian leader? Is it giftedness or experience or character? Verse 18 tells us the most basic yet vitally essential requirement of the Christian leader is that he is Christian.

This ought to be common sense. Yet, I’m surprised how this isn’t always as clear as it ought to be. The Christian leader needs to be Christian.

“We are sure that we have a clear conscience,” the author says, which doesn’t mean he’s trying really, really hard, feels good about himself or has sincere motives. Back in Chapter 8, the author has already written extensively on the “conscience of the worshipper” (Hebrews 9:9); how it can never be cleared through religion or sacrifices. Only “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse(s) our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). Hebrews 9 is talking about salvation. And what the author is expressing is his confidence in his salvation through Jesus Christ.

Also, he desires to “live honourably in every way”. The word anestrepho is the same one used in verse 7, to describe the “way of live” of the past leaders. Previously he urged us to imitate the lives of these leaders. This present leader is simply doing the same. He is taking seriously the lives of the New Testament witness in proclaiming Christ and living for Christ.

In other words, this present Christian leader is expressing his assurance in Christ and his commitment to Christ. Isn’t this what all Christians ought to do?

The questions we should ask of our leaders are the same questions we ask of all who profess to be Christians. Have you been saved through the death of Jesus on the cross? Are you done with sin? Will you give you life in service to Christ in proclaiming the gospel?

The Christian leader must first and foremost be a Christian.

Finally, we see our true and ultimate leader in verse 20:

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21

Shepherd is where we get the word “pastor”. Jesus is the true Pastor. We are his flock. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). We are led by and cared for by Jesus himself.

Yet these verses also describe Jesus, not simply as our pastor, but as our true worship pastor. God works in us what is pleasing to him, though Jesus Christ. That word pleasing, is the same word we saw in 12:28, rendered “acceptable” – Let us worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, was the call at the end of Chapter 12. Here at the end of Chapter 13, God enables us to do just that. We give God our true worship, through our true worship leader, Jesus Christ. We do this by giving all glory to Jesus Christ. To him be glory for ever and ever.

True worship is offered up to God by Christ, through Christ and to Christ.

Do you remember the time?

Nothing here is new. You know all this, from having read Chapters 1 to 12. But Chapter 13 is here to remind you, Keep on trusting. Keep on keeping on in Jesus Christ!

Cambridge is a place that never changes. The people change. But this place never seems to change.

Many of my friends come back for precisely that reason. They left many years ago, after completing their degrees, but they always come back. To relive the good old days. To go punting down River Cam. To sip tea at Auntie’s Tea Shop.

It is an amazing experience to have studied and lived here in this city. I hope you treasure these years. For me, this is where I heard the gospel. Here in Cambridge I gave my life to Jesus. Many of my friends did the same.

I sometimes ask them, “When did you last meet God? When did you last hear his voice?”

It breaks my heart when I hear some of them say, “Ten years ago. Here in Cambridge. Here in this dusty hall called Henry Martyn Hall.” Ten years ago?

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Isn’t he?

The God you heard yesterday still speaks today. He speaks through his gospel. He speaks of his Son.

For some of you, this is your last year in Cambridge. If I see you in ten years time, I pray that we can say of each other, “Look how far he has brought us. God was good then. Jesus is just as good today.” You know, often it doesn’t mean recounting the big bangs and flashy highlights, as much as it is thanking God for signs of his faithfulness and his grace.

Keep on loving. Keep on trusting. Keep on keeping on in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

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