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Run Together in Holiness (Heb 12:12-17)

Hebrews: Jesus is Better  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  51:01
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With confidence in Christ’s work and with comfort and courage in the Father’s love and plan, we can straighten our posture and right our paths to help one another run faith’s race well. To do that, we need to work peaceably with each other and prioritize holiness.

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Intro: Jungle trails and survey trips
In Hebrews our author is concerned for those who are tired and weary (and perhaps tempted to give up bc of fear and exhaustion, or stray bc of tiredness and lack of focus, or bc of persecution): So he’s trying to keep them focused, comforted, and motivated - Hebrews 12:3 and then our text for today:
Hebrews 12:3 ESV
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Hebrews 12:12–17 ESV
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
Because we risk growing weary, and because there is opposition to our race, we need to...

Straighten Up and Run Right (vv. 12-13)

Hebrews 12:12 NKJV
Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,
You picture the exhausted and disheartened runner… losing good running form (with hands/arms) and whose knees seem ready to give way. - What is it that is supposed to give them the inner encouragement and courage to keep running?
With What Motivation?
First, “Therefore” - Jesus, our perfect sacrifice and perfect priest (still interceding/mediating) - And a Father who proves his love for his children.
Hebrews 12:10–11 NKJV
For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Furthermore, our text in v. 12 is an allusion to...
Isaiah 35:3–4 ESV
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31) - If you are truly God’s runner (if you are his child by faith in Jesus Christ), who can take you out of the race? - We can become exhausted with sin’s affects on the world, disheartened by our own struggle with sin, paralyzed with fear of those who would do us harm…. So we have seen from this reference to Isaiah and with remembrance of the earlier verses… Here is our inner motivation to keep running faithfully:
Confident in Christ
Comfort in the Father’s love
Courage in God’s power & plan
Your confidence is Christ, your comfort is the Father’s love, and your courage is God’s power and plan.
Right Posture and Right Paths
And just like righting your posture, you also need to choose right paths for your feet:
Hebrews 12:13 ESV
and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
- allusion this time to… (Prov. 4:26)
Proverbs 4:25–27 ESV
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
If you’ve ever run any trail races as I have, you know that careful placement and sure-footedness is imperative.
Hebrews 12:13 ESV
and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
With confidence in Christ’s work and the Father’s love, we need to straighten our posture and paths… so that any member not functioning right (lame, crippled) won’t become dislocated but rather healed (restored, renewed).
Try to imagine the ugly risk of playing basketball or skiing on a knee with no ACL. - I have a reconstructed ACL.
I believe this to be the beginning reference to what clearly becomes collective discussion in the verses which follow. So while this could refer to us righting some weakness in ourselves, it likely refers to helping each other so that we don’t suffer a more serious injury to the Christian community. Together we must straighten our posture and run on straight paths for our feet so that any weakness in us might not become a more serious spiritual condition. - Thus the next exhortation is to pursue holiness together.

Strive After Peace & Holiness... Together (vv. 14-17)

Hebrews 12:14 ESV
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
First we are meant to feel a sense of urgency and intensity here with the idea of striving after (chasing, pursuing to catch something)… and added to the second pursuit (and the one most developed in subsequent verses) is the absolute necessity of possessing holiness—“without which no one will see the Lord.”
And what’s interesting (if not also perplexing) about telling us to chase after peace and holiness is that the context has already described those things as being accomplished through Christ and coming from God… by His grace. (They are divine gifts we receive through the gospel.)
What is ours positionally (Heb. 10:10 and Heb. 10:14) we must choose to walk in practically.
Hebrews 10:10 ESV
And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:14 ESV
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
- In fact, this positional sanctification that has practical evidence is a test of our Christian authenticity. (recall Heb. 12:10-11)
- So the sense here is most definitely the concept of sanctification, of growth in holiness.
Sanctification = growth in holiness
*A Daily Practice: (Heb.12:14)
We have peace issues with one another bc of sin’s persistence: envy, rivalry, deceit… and plain old pettiness
James 3:13–18 ESV
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Running the jungle trail in PQQ
So too in this spiritual struggle we need to grow in holiness
1 Peter 1:13–16 ESV
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Sanctification then is...
becoming more devoted to God to be more distinct and undiluted (morally pure)
- Now the need for holiness is not only individual but also communal/corporate.
Hebrews 12:15 ESV
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
- In our striving for peace & holiness we are to be “seeing to it” three things:
“Seeing to it”
that no one falls short of God’s grace
that no “root of bitterness” springs up to cause trouble (which taints the whole group)
and that no one is immoral and godless like Esau
Notice that this “seeing to it,” this oversight, this taking great care to be watchful and prudent, is the responsibility of each member in the body, not simply those who are the established leaders.
Team Vigilance - the race includes obstacles and even opposition —> so we strive for unified holiness, seeing to it that… (list again)
1. How does one fail to obtain, or fall short of, or miss out on God’s grace? We all have fallen short of his glory, but grace is a free gift, so how does one fail to obtain a free gift? There can only be one answer—by rejecting the gospel. Heb. 3:12-14
Hebrews 3:12–14 ESV
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
A free gift needs to be accepted
2. The “root of bitterness” is a reference to Deut. 29:18, dealing with idolatry and apostasy.
Deuteronomy 29:18 ESV
Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit,
The falsehood and straying hearts and disobedience of individuals in the community can’t be allowed to grow into a chronic trouble (annoyance/harassment) — bc by it a multitude become defiled (stained/contaminated). (which is the opposite of purity/holiness)
The root is underground, unseen, but it produces poisonous fruit. - The impact of our apostasy and unholy living on others...
[The third and final parallel thing that we are to be watchful for brings home the ultimate impact that apostasy has on the condition of the one who proves to be false.]
Hebrews 12:16 ESV
that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.
3. That no one is immoral or godless like Esau - while the first term referring to Esau here is literally a sexually immoral person—πόρνος (pornos)—there is no OT biblical reference to Esau being sexually immoral (although Jewish tradition taught that he was sexually immoral for marrying the two Hittite women). This is more likely being used, as the Bible often does, metaphorically of a person who is given to idolatry and thereby is abandoning, being unfaithful to the living God.
So too the adjective describing Esau is “unholy,” or worldly, godless; also profane, impure. - And then comes a specific instance from his life that explains how he was unfaithful and ungodly = when he traded his birthright (a double portion for the firstborn son) for stew. [Eat a banana and drink water before making any decisions based on hunger craving.] The illustration continues into v. 17 as a warning of judgment, explaining that he also therefore missed out on the blessing.
Hebrews 12:17 ESV
For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
Our author skips over the deceit by Jacob and his mother Rebekah. He just goes straight to the fact that when Esau sought to inherit the blessing, it was too late: he was regarded as unworthy.
Two Major implications for today:
Implications:
The time for repentance is now.
Growing in peace and holiness is the privilege of legitimate children.
1. The time for repentance is now. - It is right to fear God and his just judgment against sin:
Hebrews 10:26–27 ESV
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
This is what it means to know God: When we fear God rightly (based on who he truly is, on His terms), then we will trust him wholly (bc he is good), and we will love him dearly (bc he has freely loved us), and we will aim to obey him fully (bc he is worthy). - Now the means that God has given us (and it is the ONLY way) to be restored to God is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
The time for repentance is now. - Run from your sin into the arms of Jesus.
2. Growing in peace and holiness is the privilege of legitimate children. So too persistent waywardness and lack of growth should give us serious pause. And in both cases we should be working hard to comfort and challenge one another.
Hebrews 10:23–25 ESV
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
With confidence in Christ’s work and with comfort and courage in the Father’s love and plan, we can straighten our posture and right our paths to help one another run faith’s race well. To do that, we need to work peaceably with each other and prioritize holiness.
Back to Jason - It wasn’t wise, and he won’t do it again. But he made it. He didn’t die. He literally thought he was going to, and he was completely ready to give up. But he wasn’t alone. The team saved his bacon. They divided up the weight of his pack and carried it. And when Jamie and Mike went on ahead to reach the destination at the appointed time, Dad stayed behind to help Jason. Seriously, without that Christian brother, he was going to drop out. He was done. But he had someone comforting him, challenging him, cheering him on. (and I know my dad… I’m sure he never said a single mean or hurtful thing… i guarantee he remained helpful in spite of being exasperated with Jason.)
Church family, will you be there for each other like that to help one another grow in holiness? Will you be there to show others the path of life which God has so graciously placed you on and invite them to join you?
Discussion Questions:
Have you had any experiences where you were spiritually exhausted and a fellow believer really made a difference for you? (Explain.)
In fact, how many of you were led to the Lord by another Christian? (Tell the story.) And has God ever given you the privilege of being present and helping as He drew another person to repentance and faith?
There is a difference between just trying to be good and actually having been made spiritually alive. And there’s a difference between those who are made new and learning to live like it versus those who are false. How can we tell the difference?
How do we “strive after” holiness without becoming performance-oriented instead of relationship-oriented with God?
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