Friday, July 22, 2016

Running the Race - Heb. 11:39-12:2

The book of Hebrews was written to a church that had already paid a high price for following Jesus and was settling into the world and losing its wartime mentality and starting to drift through life without focus, without vigilance, and without energy.   They were starting to think that there could be something better out there than following Jesus.  Thoughts that God could be served apart from faith in Jesus Christ had crept in.  Their hands were growing weak, their knees were feeble.  It was just easier to meander in the crowd of life than to run the marathon of life.

I.             The Holy Spirit throughout the Book Warns Them not to Grow Cold to Jesus Christ.

Heb. 2:1, 3 – Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away…. [H]ow shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him….

A.  So into the church has crept the disease of drifting and neglecting.

B.   People are growing careless, spiritually lazy, and negligent.

Heb. 3:12-13 – Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today,"lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

1.   The author has heard that some are no longer "being aware."

2.   They have begun to have a kind of lazy sense of security – a false notion that nothing really huge is at stake whether they meditate on the Bible or take time alone to pray or fight sin.

3.   They assume all will be well.

Heb. 5:12 – For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

a.    They made a profession of faith and went into a passive, coasting mode.

b.   However, God means every saint to be moving forward to new gains of strength, wisdom, holiness, courage, and joy.

c.    He wants us to be moving from getters to givers, from being taught to teaching.

C.  He talks about the church in images of her spiritual condition: weak hands, feeble knees, crooked paths.

Heb. 12:12-13 – Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

D.  These exhortations were giving to Christians who were meandering through life.

E.   The Holy Spirit does not want us to meander – he wants us to run through life.

II.          Run by Laying Aside Every Encumbrance, 12:1.

A.  This is the point of the whole book: endure, persevere, run, fight, be alert, be strengthened, don't drift, don't neglect, don't be sluggish, don't take your eternal security for granted; fight the fight of faith on the basis of Christ's death and resurrection.

B.   Show your faith the way the saints of Hebrews 11 did – not by coasting through life, but by counting reproach for Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, 11:26.

C.  So the main point of this text is the one imperative: RUN! 12:1.

1.   Everything else supports this – explains it or gives motivation for it.

2.   Run the race set before you!

a.    Don't stroll, don't meander, don't wander about aimlessly.

b.   Run as in a race with a finish line and with everything hanging on it.

D.  To this end lay aside every weight that clings to us.

1.   These are things that in themselves may not be sins.

2.   The race of the Christian life is not fought well or run well by asking, "what's wrong with this or that?" but by asking, "is it in the way of greater faith and greater love and greater purity and greater courage and greater humility and greater patience and greater self-control?"

3.   Not: "Is it a sin?" But: "Does it help me run!  Is it in the way?"

a.    Don't ask about your music, your movies, your parties, your habits: What's wrong with it?

b.   Ask: Does it help me RUN the race?  Does it help me RUN to Jesus?

E.   Hebrews 12:1 is a command to look at your life, think hard about what you are doing, and get ruthless about what stays and what goes.

III.       Plan Your Run with Jesus – Here's What I Would Suggest for You to Do:

A.  In the near future, pick a day where you can have an hour or so by yourself away from the house responsibilities, the phone, the TV, the radio, and other people.

B.   Take a Bible and a pad of paper and plan your run with Jesus.

1.   On that pad of paper note the entangling sins.

2.   Note the seemingly innocent weights and encumbrances that are not condemned explicitly in the Bible, but which you know are holding you back in the race for faith and love and strength and holiness and courage and freedom.

3.   Note the ways you subtly make provision for these hindrances.

Rom. 13:14 – … put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

4.   In addition, note the people that weaken you.

5.   Note the times that are wasted, thrown away.

C.  When you have made all these notations, pray your way through to a resolve and a pattern of dismantling these burdens, and resisting these sins, and breaking old habits.

D.  And don't rise up against the Bible at this point and say, "I can't change."

E.   It is an assault on God if you read Hebrews 12:1 and go away saying:

1.   "It can't happen.  Burdens can't be removed.  Sins can't be laid aside."

2.   God hasn't spoken this command for nothing.

F.   This entire book is written to undergird these practical commands.

1.   So go back and read the book and ask God to take all the glorious truth that is here (about the superiority of Christ, and the power of his death and resurrection, and the effectiveness of his intercession for you) and make this truth explosive with life-changing power.

2.   Find someone you trust and ask them to check in with you and support you.

3.   That is what Hebrews 3:12-13 says we should do.

Heb. 3:12-13 – Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today,"lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

IV.        Four Motivations:

A.  A Cloud of witnesses

1.   The first motivation I want us to see is this cloud of witnesses: who are they and what does their witnessing mean?

a.    They are the saints that have lived and died so valiantly by faith in chapter 11.

b.   Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Sarah and Moses and all those who suffered and died, "of whom the world was not worthy."

2.   But what does their "witnessing" refer to?  Does it refer to their watching us from heaven?  Or does it refer their witnessing to us by their lives?

a.    I take the witnesses of Hebrews 12:1 to be the saints who have run the race before us, and have gathered, as it were, along the marathon route to say, through the testimony of their lives, "By faith I finished, you can too!"

b.   The best way to illustrate this is with Hebrews 11:4, where the writer speaks of Abel and says, "Through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks."

1)   So Abel is in the cloud of witnesses, and he is witnessing to us by his life through the Scriptures.

2)   This is the way all the witnesses of Hebrews 11 are helping us.

3)   They have gathered along the sidelines of our race and they hold out their wounds and their joys and give us the best high-fives we ever got: (The Iron Man Triathlon winner)

"Go for it!  You can do it.  By faith you can finish.  You can lay the weights down and the sins.  By faith, by the assurance of better things hoped for, you can do it.  I did it.  And I know it can be done.  Run. RUN!"

4)   And the best thing is that they were people just like we are; look at them!

c.    So be encouraged when you plan your run with Jesus.

d.   There are dozens and hundreds and thousands of those who have gone before and who have finished the race by faith and surround us like a great cloud of witnesses who say: "It can be done!  By faith it can be done."

B.   History is waiting for you to finish your race, 11:39-40.

1.   This is followed in 12:1 by "Therefore ... run."

a.    The "therefore" means that verses 39-40 are a motivation for our running.

b.   Since this is true, run!

c.    How is it a motivation?

2.   In 11:39 we see that when the believers in the Old Testament died, their spirits were made whole and perfect, but they do not receive the full blessing of God's promise, which is resurrection with new bodies in a glorious new age with all God's enemies removed and righteousness holding sway and the earth filled with the glory of God.

3.   They did not receive that promise yet.

4.   Why not? Why must the saints wait, without their new resurrection bodies? The answer is given in verse 40.

a.    God's purpose is that all his people – all the redeemed – be gathered in before any of them enjoys the fullness of his promise.

b.   His purpose is that we all come into the fullness of our inheritance together.

5.   So the motivation is this: when you go away to plan your run with Jesus, think on the fact that your life counts to God and to them.

a.    Your finishing the race is what history is waiting for.

b.   The entire consummation of the plan of the universe waits until every single one of God's elect is gathered in.

c.    All history waits and all those who have lived by faith crowd the marathon route to urge you on, because they will not be perfected without you.

C.  Jesus creates and perfects our faith, 12:2

1.   The fight of faith is not done in our own strength.

a.    As you run, don't look to your own resources and say, "I've tried before.  It won't work."

b.   Fix your eyes on him.

c.    The battle is a battle of faith: will you believe that the things he promises are better than the bad habits that you use to cover your sadness?

2.   But more than that, Jesus doesn't just respond to faith with his help.

a.    He works to author faith and perfect faith.

b.   He works to begin it and he works to complete it.

c.    Faith lays hold on Jesus for help, because Jesus laid hold on the heart for faith.

d.   Hebrews 13:21 says that God works in us what is pleasing in his sight through Jesus.

e.    He is the author and the perfecter of our faith and we should sit with our Bible and our tablet overwhelmed with the stunning truth that, behind every good resolve and plan of attack for this year, God is at work in us to will and to do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13) – to sustain and perfect our faith.

"To die by crucifixion was to plumb the lowest depths of disgrace; it was a punishment reserved for those who were deemed of all men most unfit to live, a punishment for sub-men.  From so degrading a death Roman citizens were exempt by ancient statute; the dignity of the Roman name would not be besmirched by being brought into association with anything so vile as the cross.  For slaves, and criminals of low degree, it was regarded as a suitable means of execution, and a grim deterrent to others.  But this disgrace Jesus disregarded, as something not worthy to be taken into account when it was a question of His obedience to the will of God.  So He brought faith to perfection by His endurance of the cross…"  F.F. Bruce

D.  The joy of the triumph at the end, 12:2.

1.   Finally, this writer wants us to be motivated to endure in our run with Jesus in the same way Jesus was sustained his painful run, 12:2.

2.   It is not a morally defective thing to be sustained in the marathon of life by the joy of triumph at the end.

3.   The reward of seeing God and being free from all sin is the greatest incentive of all.

a.    So, if it seems that there are going to be some temporary losses when you run this race with Jesus, you are right.

b.   That is why Jesus said to count the cost before you sign on.

Lk. 14:25-33 – Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.  And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'  Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.  So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple."

c.    But the marathon of the Christian life is not mainly loss

d.    It is mainly gain – "For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross."

e.    It is only a matter of timing.

f.     If you see things with the eyes of God, there is but a vapor's breath of loss and pain, and then everlasting joy

2 Cor. 4:17 – For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…


When you take your day away, with Bible and tablet, to plan your run with Jesus, think on this: the sufferings of this present age are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to the children of God (Romans 8:18).  So let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with Jesus, looking to him.


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Monday, July 18, 2016

UPCOMING EVENTS: This Week's Announcement (7/17/16)

Upcoming Events / Announcements

July 18 - 20 - Vacation Bible School (9am-11:40am)
July 20 - VBS Closing Ceremonies (7pm) 
August 4 - 9 - General Synod at Grace Bible Presbyterian Church (Sharonville, Ohio)
August 13 - Picnic and inner tubing at Shaefer County Park (10am)
September 10 - Mother/Daughter Banquet
September 23 - Marriage Tune-Up #2
Last Updated 7/17/2016

Our Regular Ministries

     9:45 AM - Adult Bible Study & Sunday School for all ages
     11:00 AM - Morning Worship Service
     12:15 PM - Fellowship Luncheon - All are welcome
     1:30 PM - Afternoon Service (1st and 3rd Sundays)

     1:45 PM - Rest Home Service (2nd and 4th Sundays)

Wednesday Evening
     7:00 PM - Bible Study & Prayer
     7:00 PM - Youth Group (ages 12-18 years old)
     7:00 PM - Kids Klub (ages 4-11 years old)

     6:30 PM - Ladies' Fellowship (2nd Monday of each month)


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