Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.
Ultimately we are alone with our hearts. Even now, as you read this, sadness or joy that only you know lies in your heart. The closer we are to others, the more open our hearts; but even in the most intimate relationship, the other person cannot see, and more to the point, cannot feel all our emotions. Nor can he/she know the motives and feelings of our hearts except what we reveal. We may laugh when we are distraught. We may feign sorrow when really we are happy. We may feign reverence and love for God when in truth we have no feeling for him at all.
But it is God from whom we cannot hide our hearts. We may even hide our hearts from ourselves, denying what truly lies within us. But God knows the heart and Christ reveals the heart, i.e. by our response to him and to the gospel. And it is the Spirit who changes the heart through rebirth and sanctification.
Be uneasy if you are trying to hide sin in your heart. God knows the sin. But then, turn to Christ’s mercy and grace. And take hope in the Holy Spirit who will turn your heart of stone into a heart of flesh, and who will continue the work of sanctification in you. How wonderful it is to know that the very one from whom you cannot hide your heart is the same one who can truly transform that heart. God knows what you are feeling now. If it is joy, then give thanks to him for your joy. If it is sadness or anxiety or bitterness, then pray to him for help now. He will not be shocked by what you reveal, though you may be when you realize what is in you. For God’s desire is to bless, to transform you that your heart may know the peace and joy of Jesus Christ.
Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 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.”[a]
6 So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”[b]
7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.
11 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. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
Benediction and Final Greetings
20 Now 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, 21 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.
22 Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.
23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you.
24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings.
25 Grace be with you all.