Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 14 Unification of Logos & Houtkruis . Running with endurance in 2017

. Running with endurance in 2017

RUNNING WITH ENDURANCE IN 2017

Image result for HEBREWS 12:1-2Hebrews 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 have just begun a new year, and another one has bitten the dust. When you look back at 2016 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 last 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 and simply on your death bed say ‘tadaa’; “I have fought the fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…”. In last week’s sermon, we saw that the church of Ephesus is challenged to get back to first love. In a real sense, they are challenged to get back in the race.

 

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 and he does not recognize a Christian that is not fleeing and not pursuing.

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 (Flee), and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Pursue),…” 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! Strive for peace! Strive for 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?

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 2017 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 of all 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. 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!" And together we will climb on to the podium to receive our reward.

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."

That's the first motivation: look back to the witnesses who have gone before, they finished their course by faith, so you can too, and all the saints wait with longing and excitement for you to finish the race.  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 the Alpha and Omega is the author and perfecter of our faith, He is the beginning and the end of our faith, and He is it 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. That is why Paul says in Ephesians 5:1 that we must be imitators of Christ as dearly beloved children.

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 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, I just cannot do it." Then the real answer is that “I do not want to do it.”

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 2017 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: - 15 January 2017