Faithlife Sermons

Forward In Faith

Legacies of Genuine Faith  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Christianity is not a cult of hero worship. It is centered on Jesus Christ and exists because of his death and resurrection. This great cloud of witnesses encourages and inspires us, but the One who keeps us in the race is Christ alone.

Notes
Transcript
Reflection: Psalm 8
Psalm 8 ESV
To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David. 1 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 9 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Sermon Text: Hebrews 12:1-2
Hebrews 12:1–2 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, 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.
INTRO / TRANSITION
Over these past several weeks, we have spent a great deal of time focusing on faith. There are suggestions everywhere for where to place your faith. I’ve been encouraged of late to “trust the experts”…the challenge with that - as you have seen - is that there are a myriad of experts with differing views on just about any matter before you. What experts are you tempted to have faith in? Let me caution you…get into the Word of God, so the Word can get into you!
So that’s what we have endeavored to do over these many weeks…to keep building one another up in our most holy faith as we look into the mirror of God’s Word and ask His precious Holy Spirit to bring fruit in our lives…so others might be drawn to Jesus.
We entered our “Legacies of Genuine Faith” series through Hebrews 10:32-39 with the declaration, “WE ARE OF THE FAITH” on February 2…with no idea that our individual and collective faith would be put to the test through this global experience with the Coronavirus threat.
Today, we exit this series with a glimpse of the opening verses of Hebrews 12.
We need to be reminded that Christianity is not a cult of hero worship. We may need that reminder regularly in this age of competing internet one-upsmanship services) It is centered on Jesus Christ and exists because of his death and resurrection.  This great cloud of witnesses that we have walked with over recently encourages and inspires us, but the One who keeps us in the race is JESUS alone.
TRANSITION:
With that in mind…with our goal of moving forward and not getting deterred or drifting, let’s look at God’s recipe for our faithfulness:
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,
Our Author/Preacher of Hebrews is clearly using athletic metaphor. This clues us in to the fact that he was probably writing to a congregation of Hellenized Christians in one of the great cities of the empire.
Athletic metaphors would make the most sense where the games were most prominent, in a city like Alexandria, for instance. The great race would have been run in a stadium…but THIS truly “amazing” race is one that takes place in a stadium filled with the enduring saints who have already finished running - not just spectators. I posted a video produced by Logos on our website that gives some great insight into the athletic imagery used in the New Testament if you want to “nerd out” on such things.
Write down the word, “strip”.

1. STRIP!

- HINDRANCES

Every Weight/Impediment (onkos)
A hindrance is something, otherwise good, that weighs you down spiritually. It could be a friendship, an association, an event, a place, a habit, a pleasure, an entertainment, an honor. But if this otherwise good thing drags you down, you must strip it away.
“Unloaded, we shall find the race taxing all our powers; weighted, we shall be doomed to failure.” (CHS)
Psalm 1:1–2 ESV
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

- SIN

and Sin which clings so closely” (euperistatos)
this word evokes images of an ambush or being encircled by an enemy.
Pet sins must go first: these, as they are most loved, will have the most power to hinder.
Psalm 19:13–14 ESV
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
“Oh, Pastor Chad…that’s it? Just get rid of sin and distractions....sounds easy!”
No, the easy thing is to stay stuck where you are. To exhaust yourself on a treadmill at your own pace. To keep doing what you’re doing…that’s not moving you forward.
We, who are “of the faith” do not shrink back! Blood, sweat, and tears are sometimes required. We set ourselves up to move forward…or we can’t complain about being stuck, isolated, lonely, not hearing from God.
QUESTION: (Serious) What are the hindrances and pet sins that are clinging closely in your life?
I’ll give you a moment to write down (or make a mental note of) one or two.
(Pause)
We’ll come back to that later.
Jesus would say to his young disciples who were starting to walk in obedience...
Matthew 11:28–30 ESV
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
TRANSITION:
After we strip off the weights that slow us down and untangle from the sins that cling too tightly to us and TRIP US UP, it’s time to RUN!
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,

2. RUN!

Run the right way!

- with endurance

We have some avid runners in our church family. The Doanes are even competing against each other right now for in A couple of years ago, Ashlie and I ran a couple 5Ks. It was a great accomplishment for us - we aren’t runners. I learned early on that the way I stretched, and what I ate made a huge difference in my pace and endurance.
WE endure because faith is an assurance of things hoped for. This is not a corruptible crown.
Like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph we also have a faith with an expectation of a future blessing!
1 Corinthians 9:24–27 ESV
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

- the race before us!

We’ve all seen it before, right? Maybe on America’s Funniest Videos or a YouTube montage - the kid who takes off in the wrong direction at the little league game. Everyone yells…the kid is confused. We know something isn’t right!
This isn’t a “find your own path” kind of spirituality. I know (for those of us who are watching locally) our American skin crawls when our individuality is threatened in any way. But no athlete can compete without discipline…and no Christian can succeed without it either.
Philippians 3:12–14 ESV
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
1. After we STRIP off the weights that slow us down and untangle from the sins that cling too tightly to us and TRIP US UP,
2. We RUN with endurance the race set before us.
Spurgeon writes,
“If every weight of care must be laid aside, and every rag of sin, who is sufficient for these things? How can we poor limping mortals run in such a race as this? Even the starting is beyond us; how much more must perseverance in it outreach our strength!“
He continues...
”The race that has been set before us most clearly reveals our helplessness and hopelessness apart from divine grace. The race of holiness and patience, while it demands our vigor, displays our weakness. We are compelled, even before we take a step in the running, to bow the knee and cry unto the strong for strength. We do not dare to retreat from the contest, but how can we begin a struggle for which we are so unfit? Who will help us? To whom shall we look? Does not all this very admirably introduce the next verse—“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the originator and perfecter of faith”?
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.

3. FOCUS

“Cloud of witnesses” (12:1). The Christian life is like a relay race. Persons of faith who have run before us (chap. 11) have passed the baton to us and now watch us carry on. BUT THEY ARE NOT OUR FOCUS!
You, run the race” We are the subject…it’s implicit. BUT WE ARE NOT THE FOCUS!
JESUS IS THE “founder and perfecter” (12:2). As we run we can look back and see how Jesus ran His race. When we look ahead we can see His exaltation. He is our example as starter and finisher. JESUS IS OUR FOCUS!
Hebrews 2:6–10 ESV
6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
1 Peter 1:20–21 ESV
20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Acts 2:33 ESV
33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
I can weakly identify with Paul here...
Colossians 1:28–29 ESV
28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Can I touch the next 2 verses since they lie in context so beautifully here.
Hebrews 12:3–4 ESV
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
Consider Jesus (12:3). The word analogisasthe means to “take account of.” To “weary and lose heart” were descriptions in classical Gk. of persons who relax or collapse along the way.
When we take account of how much Jesus endured we’ll realize that suffering and hardships are no excuse for our giving up and dropping by the way.
That determination, unhasting and unresting, unhurrying and yet undelaying, which goes steadily on, and which refuses to be deflected. Obstacles will not daunt it; delays will not depress it; discouragements will not take its hope away. It will halt neither for discouragement from within nor for opposition from without. (William Barclay)
STRIP! RUN! FOCUS!
Don’t miss the superb wisdom of this passage. You need to be filled with the Spirit to run this race…you need to be totally absorbed with Jesus. In order to consciously focus and meditate on Jesus, you’ll need to turn away from the things that distract you.
This is why we must read and re-read the Gospels.
This is why our worship must be Christocentric.
This is why we sing and cry, In Christ Alone.
Let’s pray.
Earlier, I asked you, “What are the hindrances and pet sins that are clinging closely in your life?” During the moments ahead, I’m going to ask you to repent of those things. Take them to God. Ask him to help you hate them as much as he does…anything that muddies your affection for Christ needs to be cast down. Anything that you can’t stop thinking about, or do without IS AN IDOL. You can’t run the right way with all that baggage.
This great cloud of witnesses is cheering us on. These flawed, afflicted, imperfect men and women are pointing us to Christ…HE IS OUR REWARD!
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