Hebrews 13:7-8 “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
The original recipients of the Book of Hebrews were being persecuted for their faith in Christ. Within the Book itself we learn that their faith in Christ was leading to imprisonment and loss of personal property. Now, in the verses above, we see that the persecution didn’t stop there. The Christians were suffering in a way you may not have expected.
When these verses were written the Christian Community who received them had suffered the loss of some of their most skilled and faithful leaders. Men like Peter, James, Timothy, and Paul had ministered the Gospel of the Grace of God to congregations all over the Roman Empire. They had planted Churches and appointed Elders within those Churches. Now they were being imprisoned and even put to death.
By the time Hebrews was written the Church at large had experienced serious losses in terms of leadership and were on the brink of losing even more. Peter was dead, James was dead, and perhaps Paul was on the very brink of death. Others were imprisoned. The letter of Hebrews itself tells us Timothy had just been let go from prison when it was written. It is important to remember that these men who are mentioned by name in the Scriptures are representative of many others who went unmentioned but suffered the same fate.
The Jews wanted the Church of Jesus to disappear. The Romans were now joining in that effort. One of their methods of destroying the Church was to go after the leadership. If you remove the leaders the followers will fade away. So they removed the leaders – systematically and with a vengeance.
There was something the Jews and the Romans weren’t counting on though. There was a flaw in their plan. This flaw is why they Church is still alive, victorious, and vibrant today. Verse 7 above tells the Hebrews to remember their leaders and consider how they ended their lives faithful unto death. Then verse 8 tells us something wonderful: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever.” The rulers of the Jews and Romans could take away the leaders of the Church but they couldn’t take away The Leader of the Church.
Peter, James, John, Paul and all the other pillars of the early Church were sorely missed by the infant congregations they left behind but Jesus who called these pillars is Himself the foundation which cannot be removed nor shaken. The Churches had to face hard times. Some had to follow their leaders into suffering. But none of them were left alone because of their living relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
The Church is united across the ages in our Living Head – the Lord Jesus Christ. The same Jesus that lived in the Apostles lives in us. The same God that turned the world upside down through their preaching of the good news can turn the world upside down through our preaching of the good news.
I have to say that I have seen a dangerous and pervasive pessimism throughout my Church experience. The general persuasion seems to be: “Let’s just hunker down and wait for the end to come.” I believe Jesus desires more for us than that.
Now is not the time to quit, retreat, or hunker down. Now is the time to charge. Let’s take the good news of Jesus Christ straight into the darkness of the world around us and watch Him say “Let there be light.” Jesus cannot be defeated. Jesus will not desert us. That means that no matter what our experience, no matter what our suffering, no matter what our trial we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
Now is the time to charge but not in our own strength. Letting Jesus live and speak through us is the only way to victory. We don’t have to be strong for the Lord. We are called to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might. Total trust is the way to victory in the plan of God. Let the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through the persistent, consistent, and Spirit empowered preaching of the good news of what Jesus had done for us all.
There have been times in history when people have allowed Jesus to make Himself know through them. When they have the world has been turned upside down. Let’s allow Him to turn it upside down again. How? John 3:30 “He must increase, I must decrease.” Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.