Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Non-series Sermons . Three looks that can make or break you

. Three looks that can make or break you

THREE LOOKS THAT CAN MAKE OR BREAK YOU

 

Hebrews 11:39-12:2 (ESV) 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

 

Introduction:

 

We are drawing close to the end of 2015, and I wonder how many of us can say with Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV) 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” at least as far as this year is concerned. Now, to be able to say this at the end of your life, you must be able to say it year after year. You cannot advance from year to year without fighting the fight and running the race according to the rules and simply on your death bed say ‘tadaa’; “I have fought the fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith….” Last week I said much about endurance, and this is exactly what is in mind here.

 

The Christian life is literally a life that is a race. It is a life of flight and a life of pursuit. We are constantly fleeing and we are constantly pursuing. 1 Timothy 6:11 (ESV) 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” Paul simply does not recognize a Christian that is not running a race and fighting a fight.

Nor does the author of the letter to the Hebrews. That's why the main point in this morning's text is the imperative of Hebrews 12:1 (ESV) 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,…” The situation seems to be that the Hebrew Christians had gotten tired. Much time had passed since they were first fired up for Jesus. Hebrews 10:32-33 (ESV) 32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.” These Christians should have been mature by now, but somewhere they stopped running. We read in Hebrews 5:12 (ESV) 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,…”

 

It looks like they have taken their salvation for granted, they have begun to coast and stand under the warning of Hebrews 2:3 (ESV) 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,…” It is so easy to coast as individuals, or as a church to simply fall into maintenance mode, or to get careless in spiritual vigilance, or to quench the Holy Spirit with passionless, dead, dutiful religious exercises. The book of Hebrews was written to keep it from happening. And so the writer says in Hebrews 3:12 (ESV) 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” The remedy for such a sickness is clearly seen in Hebrews 12:12-14 (ESV) 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” --there it is: Run the race! Fight the fight! Pursue peace! Pursue holiness!

 

Hebrews 12:1 admonishes us this morning to see our life as a race to be run with passion and zeal and energy and discipline. When he says in Hebrews 12:1 (ESV) “let us also lay aside every weight (everything that hinders), and sin which clings so closely,” (or so easily distracts)," the author of Hebrews meant "get serious about the race!"

 

So, tell me Christian, are you running or are you coasting? Two things:

Maybe you have fallen out of the race and need to get back in the race this morning. How? Verse one says by "laying aside every weight.” or “everything that hinders."

So, on the negative side that means getting things out of your life that make you more worldly-minded and putting things in your life that make you more heavenly-minded. It does not here refer only to sin, but anything that entangles us causing us to be hindered in our running. The Hebrew writer says: “every weight, and sin”. The issue here today is not what qualifies as sin or not, or what is really wrong with it, the real question is: does it help me RUN the race or does it hinder me?

On the positive side it means praying without ceasing, hiding God's word in your heart and meditating on it day and night, exhorting one another every day, taking up your cross daily, reckoning yourself dead to sin, putting to death the deeds of the body, presenting your bodies as living sacrifices, putting on the armour of God, resisting the devil, and taking every thought captive to obey Christ.

The great danger for every believer is that we might begin to coast instead of run and fiddle around instead of fight. To this the writer of Hebrews and God say to you this morning, there is a better way to come to the end of life, namely running the race and fighting the fight.

So what I want to do this morning is to point you to three motivations for this race. God does not call us to meaningless, exhausting drills like laps around a field that get us nowhere. You are not called to another New Year’s resolution for 2016 but motivation for living today. He calls us to a race that has a great goal and all kinds of powerful incentives along the way.

To complete this race you are required to be like a chameleon and to look into three directions at the same time, namely back, up and forward. We are called by the Hebrew writer to look back to witnesses, up to Jesus and forward to joy. Let's take them in that order.

Point 1. Looking back to witnesses.

What must we look back to? Hebrews 12:1 (ESV) 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,…”

As we run the race there is a big dense crowd of saints pressing in on the track. These saints are the people described in chapter 11 and all the other Christians since then that have finished the race before us. They finish the race and are now crowding along the route spurring us on. Now how is this supposed to motivate us? Two ways:

First, the point of calling all these saints from chapter 11 "witnesses" is not so much to say that they are watching us (they may well be in some limited way), but to say that they are near enough for us to watch them while we run. We are running the race and we look out into the crowd and realize that every one of them finished the race, and we feel, "It can be done. It can be done."

We look and we see examples of faith and perseverance under every imaginable circumstance: there's David who committed adultery and murder, and he finished; there's John the Baptist who had a weird personality, and he finished; there's John Mark the quitter, and he finished; and Mary the prostitute, and she finished; and William Carey, the plodder, and he finished; and Jonathan Edwards who got kicked out of his church, and he finished; and Job who suffered so much, and he finished; and Stephen who was hated and stoned, and he finished; and Paul and, and, and ……….. and then many of our loved ones, and they finished. Well, by the power and faith that got them through I'm going to finish too! That's the first way these witnesses motivate us.

The second way is found in the word ‘therefore’ in verse 1 that points back to Hebrews 11:39-40 (ESV)39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

This is the motivation--the "something better" that comes to us because the saints of old did NOT yet receive what was promised. And what is this something better"? What is better for us because they did not get what was promised? The answer is the last phrase of verse 40: “that only together with us would they be made perfect...” Look at verse 40: “since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

In other words, the final perfected salvation all of the saints who have gone before--the resurrection of the body, the reign of Jesus on the new earth, the restoration of all things--will not happen without all the runners finishing the race. It is like with a marathon. The winners have crossed the line and as time marches on more and more complete the race. They broke through the ribbon, crossed the finishing line and then they mingle around as a cloud of witnesses on the side-lines waiting for all those who qualify and then only they receive the gold coin and all the other rewards in store for them.

Because God says: no one gets the glory of final perfection until all have finished the race. They will not be made perfect without us. As with the Comrades marathon they have gathered along the sideliners of our race and they hold out their wounds and their joys and give us the best high-fives we ever got: "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!"

So be encouraged when you plan your run with Jesus. There are millions of saints 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." So run the race--fight to persevere in faith and love and obedience knowing that the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before will not be perfected until the church on earth finishes its appointed course and the sons of God will be revealed. When all the runners are across the line, then the joy of everyone will be even more because we will be glorified not one at a time but all together in one great consummation of the kingdom.

That's the first motivation: look back to the witnesses who have gone before: 1) they finished their course by faith, so you can too; 2) and all the saints wait with longing and excitement for you to finish the race. What lies ahead is an indescribable divine act of resurrection and restoration and glorification of all the saints when the last one crosses the finish line. So ‘lay aside the weights and sins and RUN!’

The second motivation to run is . . .

Point 2. Looking up to Jesus.

It might be very easy to hear the command, "Run the race! Fight the fight!" and conclude that obeying that command and finishing the race and making it to glory depends decisively on us. But that would be a great mistake. We are responsible to obey. But the writer wants to encourage us to look to Jesus.  Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith in at least three ways:

First, he has given a foundation of our faith from start to finish. He pioneered by enduring the cross and despising the shame; and he perfected it by sitting down triumphantly at the right hand of the throne of God. So, our redemption and the foundation of our faith is complete.

Second, he has given a perfect model for faith from start to finish. He trusted his father from beginning to end in his earthly race, and so should we.

Third, he is the giver and sustainer of our faith from start to finish. Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

We all know that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (11:6). So the God who began a good work in us is going to complete it through Jesus Christ, ‘the author and finisher of our faith’. So don't even begin to think that finishing this race will be for your glory as if it depended on your strength. No it all depends on Him. We run in the strength that God supplies so that in everything God may get the glory through Jesus Christ. Peter teaches us in 1 Peter 4:11 (ESV) 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

So look to Jesus, take heart, trust him, and run. We cannot end this point without quoting Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV) which I quoted a few times last week: 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

The final motivation here is . . .

Point 3. Looking forward to joy.

When we look to Jesus, one of the things we see (according to verse 2) is that his pioneering and perfecting work of redemption was sustained by the joy that was set before him. Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

What God wants us to do when we look to Jesus is to be like Him. He endured the cross for the joy set before him; we should endure the hardships of our marathon of faith for the joy set before us. Look at Hebrews 10:35-36 (ESV) 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”

That is why we need to press on with strength and courage and hope with our eyes fixed on the indescribable, unending joy at the end of the race. It is the joy of all the saints raised and glorified with us in one great consummation of the Kingdom. It is the joy of faith and holiness perfected by the work of Jesus. It is the joy of being with Jesus, the greatest person in the universe. So let us run the race, and fight the fight of faith, for God is faithful. He will finish his saving work in our lives.

I believe it is an insult to God if you read Hebrews 12:1 and 2 today and go away saying: "It can't happen, hindrances can't be removed, sins can't be laid aside."

Let us at Logos join hands and run this race together and let us fight the good fight with endurance so that at the end of this year we may once again look back and say. I have completed another leg of the race and it will add together with all the years of my life that is left so that together with the Saints who have gone before me I can say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: - 13 December 2015