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Oct 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 4, 2020

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside ever weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us . . . . Hebrews 12:1

Intro: Do you know what I mean by “starting blocks”?

You would if you ran track in high school
– blocks are placed on a track provide stable brace for the runners’ feet
• Olympic athletes spend time at the blocks, testing and adjusting them
◦ because that first push-off is critical to a fast start
• part of their workout is practicing their starts
– the writer of Hebrews is not telling us to settle into the starting blocks
• instead, the race has already begun
• like a good coach, he is telling us how to run the race

What do we need to know going into this passage?
first, everything we covered in chapter 11 culminates here
• the writer has shown us example after example of biblical characters,
◦ and the repeated slogan for each one of them was by faith
• now he brings us to the ultimate example: Jesus
second, the big idea, that the writer practically shouts at us is,
• if we’re serious about following example of Jesus, we need:
◦ to streamline our lifestyle
◦ and increase our stamina

The chapter begins with the word Therefore

That tells us, the purpose of chapter 11 is brought to a point in chapter 12
– the next words, “we are” places him with us–we’re in this together
• in this chapter, he is going to explain to us our situation:
◦ our place in line behind the faith-heroes who came before us
◦ we are following Jesus
◦ we are learning the value of discipline
◦ and so on
• we have seen what others have done by faith
◦ now it’s our turn – we are next up at bat

we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
You’ve probably heard that these witnesses are sitting in the stands
– they have entered the stadium to watch us perform and to cheer us on
• meanwhile we are down in the arena, running the race
◦ but that is now how I read this
• it’s true that those people paraded before us in chapter 11 are witnesses,
◦ but that is because they have given their testimony
◦ they are witnesses and not mere spectators
– what we read of their lives, gives witness to their faith
• their witness has been recorded for our encouragement
• they have told us, faith works!
◦ and faith is rewarded
William Barclay, “. . . they are witnesses in a double sense, for they are those who have witnessed their confession to Christ and they are now those who witness our performance.”

The writer coaches us regarding the basics
let us also — like the cloud of witnesses, whose number we now join
lay aside every weight – runners wear little and light-weight clothing
◦ serious runners have conversations regarding the weight of shoes
◦ they won’t wear anything bulky, constricting, chafing, or likely to trip up
• notice that the writer does not say “the weight of sin,” but “and sin”
◦ not every weight we carry is a sin, yet some can still be a disadvantage
William Barclay, “If we travel far, we must travel light. There is in life an essential duty of discarding things. . . . Whatever holds us back must go; and often we will need the help of Christ to enable us to let it go.”
◦ if we’re walking with Jesus, we know the sins that cling closely
(this is not the writer’s last word regarding sin, because sin must be addressed)
let us run with endurance – this is a primary concern in Hebrews
• the writer already told them they’re in serious need of endurance (Heb. 10:36)
◦ this is a marathon, not a spring – being fastest is not our goal
◦ we simply want to reach the finish line – complete the journey
set before us – cross-country runners do not choose their course
◦ we don’t control every circumstance, we deal we deal it

What will help us endure?
. . . 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. Hebrews 12:2

Practice, of course, build endurance
– but what about those times when you think you’ve hit the wall?
• the whole book has been about Jesus – now, look to him
◦ notice we are given only his name — not Christ, or Lord, or Son of God
◦ we identify with the Jesus’ human name more than with his titles
founder and perfecter — combining two roles is typical of the writer
Jesus: apostle and high priest (Heb. 3:1)
God: designer and builder (Heb. 11:10)
◦ Jesus’ ministry isn’t limited to these roles – they are merely two of many
– founder – the person who is there from the start, a trail-blazer
• in the military a soldier who “takes point” goes ahead of the rest of the troop
◦ Jesus has taken point, going before us
perfecter – the idea of perfection has come up repeatedly in Hebrews
• Jesus was made perfect through suffering (Heb. 2:10)
And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9)
the Son . . . has been made perfect forever (Heb. 7:28)
by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14)
(there is no “our” in this verse, but it is simply “faith” that Jesus perfects. Faith is the whole race)

When we look to Jesus, what do we see?
who for the joy that was set before him . . .

Jesus is our example of endurance
– there are the situations we despise, and there is pain and shame
• but we live through it all and endure with joy

A friend who knows about a physical trial I’m going through currently (and has experienced it herself) sent me a text this week to remind me, “Attitude is 90 percent of the battle.” She said that “the act of smiling works in your brain to help with attitude adjustment.”

◦ Mother Teresa suffered greatly over the distance she felt from God
However, she made “a conscious choice . . . to ‘keep on smiling in spite of everything’ and ‘to give Our Lord always all with a cheerful smile.” She also instructed those who those who worked with her, “Keep smiling. Smile at Jesus in your suffering—for to be a real [Missionary of Charity] you must be a cheerful victim.”
• Jesus endured the cross – that was the finish line of his race
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God
• we run, not only for the sake of the race, but for the reward
• we cannot forget the cross, or that Jesus tells us to take up our own
Luke Johnson wrote that the writer believes they “need a deeper understanding of the essential link between their experience of suffering and shame, and the very process by which Jesus himself was brought to full perfection as son.”

Now that Jesus has our attention, consider him
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:3

We’ve been told before to consider Jesus, but here a different word is used
– from the Greek word used here, we get the English word analyze
• it is to break something down to its primary components
• think through something thoroughly, to ponder or contemplate
who endured from sinners such hostility
• because hostility is what we can expect from sinners

This past week, a woman I know, who is sensitive, loving, and caring, described how she was heartsick over a hate-filled post she read on a social media site. The person who posted it was someone she has known and loved for years. She found it difficult to accept the fact that someone who follows Jesus could be so profane and hostile.
The human nervous system is designed to respond to hostility immediately. Depending on our experiences in life, the response may be an instant retaliation, exchanging hostility for hostility (cf. Rom. 12:17). Or we may cringe or try to escape. Or we may freeze and hold our breath so we won’t be seen or heard. The point is, we want to discipline ourselves so that when exposed to the hostility of sinners, we respond as Jesus taught us.

Consider Jesus – consider his response to hostility
– he prayed, Father, forgive them
• this will help us not to grow weary or fainthearted
◦ psychological states that make us want to give up – on people, on the race
◦ look at Jesus, so that if you forgive and he smiles, you feel that all is well

How bad has it been for us so far?
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Hebrews 12:4

We have not yet spilled any of our own blood in our struggle to resist sin
Timothy Johnson says that the writer wrote this because the readers “need a sense of ‘proportion’ . . . .”
sin in this verse may refer to all the failures we’ve read about
• unbelief, disobedience, hardened hearts, drifting away, etcetera
– the phrase, “struggle against sin” does not define our Christian experience!
• it is a necessary discipline, but our main concern is running the race
• what defines our Christian experience is drawing near to God

Conclusion: I think if the only thing a person ever knew of Bible was this instruction regarding looking to Jesus, that would be enough to to develop a fully formed Christian life

If they look, they will be led to the gospels
– the only place where we can actually look at him
• looking is important – looking affects our brain, changes the activity in it
◦ looking at a photograph can make you weep, laugh, upset
• you can look at something repulsive and your face will express disgust
◦ it happens automatically – you don’t have to try
– looking at Jesus is important, because looking changes us
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18)

We look to Jesus,
and we consider Jesus,
because the more we look
and the more we consider,
the more we discover
The more we discover,
the more we realize what he can do for us;
we just have to surrender and let him do his work
You are not alone
You are not lost–
Jesus knows where you are
But we do not know this
unless we make the time
to look and to consider

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