Hebrews 12:1-2 Making the Race Enjoyable The writer of the book of Hebrews was winding down his very technical and deep theological book. 1. He had taken us through intricate details of the Old Testament law and into the majesty of the yet unseen tabernacle in the heavens. 2. He has masterfully argued, from the Old Testament Scriptures, for the deity of Christ and for a salvation by grace for all saints—New and Old Testament. 3. He has summoned us to the Hill of Faith to see the giants that have walked before us and now cheer us on. Now, he is concluding by encouraging us in our race of faith. The very analogy of a race and the Christian life teaches us some lessons: 1. The Christian life, like a race, involves making right choices every day. 2. The Christian life, like a race, demands sacrifice and intensive work. 3. The Christian life, like a race, has a finish line. (The day will come when we will have done our last, and I hope our best, for Christ.) 4. The Christian life, like a race, earns rewards. (Both have a prize just beyond the finish line.) However, it is not these lessons of the analogy that I want to speak on this evening but how to make the race more enjoyable. 1. There is labor in living for Jesus. 2. It is work and sacrifice. 3. There are victories, but there are also defeats. 4. The Christian life can be lonely. 5. It will be consuming. 6. It must be our priority. 7. Oh, but it can be enjoyable! On February 10th, Mercedes will have its annual marathon race. I understand 3,000 to 4,000 people, from all over the world, will run all or part of a 26 miles up and down Birmingham. 1. First response - Why would anyone want to do that? 2. Second response - How could anyone do that? The answers are: 1. They do it because they enjoyed it. 2. They do it by training. Let’s see if we can do as much. I. \\#1\\ Lay aside the weights of sin that beset you. Heb 11:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us…. A. If you are a Christian, there will be no joy in your life if you are abiding in sin. 1. It is not possible. 2. The writer compares this condition to a runner in a race carrying extra weights. a. If the goal is to complete in the race, you don’t want extra weight. b. Christian, if we are going to have joy in the Christian life, we cannot carry sin. 3. Let me give you some reminders about sin: a. Sin is all around us. b. Sin crepes in upon us. c. All sin are wrong. d. All sin hinders the Christian life. e. All sin steals the Christian joy. f. All sins will cost us before Christ. B. The writer, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, commands us to cut lose all our sins. 1. We must assume full responsibility when it comes to personal sin. a. I can do very little about national sin, political sin, various sins of the individual states, even the sins of my family members or neighbors b. But I am solely responsible for my sin. 2. I must identify my sins. a. It is no one else’s job to identify my sins. b. That is not the same as saying my sin is no one else’s business—because my sin is everyone’s business, especially those who it is going to hurt. c. But it is my job to identify my sins. d. Sins are like chameleons, they blend it well and are sometimes difficult to see. e. It might help us to categorize sins. Here are a few categories: (1) Ignorant sins - The sins we have not yet figured out are sinful. (2) Habitual sins (a) Anything that addicts us is sinful, even if what we are doing is not in itself sinful. 1 Corinthians 6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (b) Christians should certainly be alert to known addictions: tobacco, drugs, alcohol; but even television, food, soft drinks have to be monitored. (3) Tempting sins (a) Sins that we have a weakness (or a lust) to commit. (b) \\#James 1:14-16\\ discusses this kind of sin and its extreme danger as Satan will exploit it. (4) Willing sins - Sins we don’t mind having. (5) Secret sins (a) Sins we commit when we are alone because we know they are wrong and we don’t want anyone to see us committing them. (b) Jesus Himself warned us about this kind of sin. Luke 8:17 For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. 3. But not only must we identify our sins, we must separate from them. a. Sins may hide like the cute chameleon, but they kill like the deadly Inland Taipan snake. (1) The Inland Taipan has been dubbed the world’s most venomous snake. (2) One bite from this snake contains enough poison to kill 100 grown men. b. In dealing with something so deadly, each person must be responsible for himself. (1) We must be harsh with our sin——harsher than any other would ever be. 1Cor 14:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (2) Don’t be too quick to cut yourself slack when you sin. (a) Spend some time beating yourself up. (b) It might just save your life down the road. (c) But even if it only slows down your return to sin, it will add joy to your race. II. \\#1\\ Run your race with patience. Heb 11:1 …and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, A. Here the emphasis is not on completing the race but how we complete the race. 1. If you are a Christian, you are going to finish your race. a. The finish line is death or the rapture. b. You can’t not finish. 2. The question for Christians is not in finishing the race but in how far you go before you finish and how well you carry yourself while running. a. We should want to be as much like Jesus as we can before we cross the finish line. b. We should want to carry ourselves the best we can while we run the race. B. The writer tells us to run with patience. 1. Patience is the absence of anxiety and frustration. a. Sin and Satan will deal to us as many blows as possible in life. b. You and I must: (1) Keep running for Jesus. (2) Keep a positive attitude while we are running. (3) Not get flustered, anxious, or angry. c. That is running the race with patience. 2. Nothing steals the joy of an event as much as impatience. a. I read the other day where two "grown up," I believe woman, had an altercation at a gasoline station in Bessemer. b. Video surveillance showed them entering into a heated exchange very rapidly—although it did not reveal why. It appeared one got into their car and dared the other to run into it. Which the other promptly did. The bumper cars proceeded into the highway where one of the cars ended up flipped upside down on the roadway. c. The release did not say what caused that particular incident but did say that the most common causes of road rage are people not using their blinker, drivers cutting off others drivers, and riding slowly in the passing lane. d. You can count it how you wish but a lot of that is impatience. e. Deal with life’s difficulties in a positive way without getting flustered, frustrated, or angry. III. Keep your eyes and mind on Jesus. A. This thought comes from two verses: Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…. Heb 12:3 For consider him…. B. The Christian is always able to keep their eyes on Jesus because He is always going to be out front leading them. Hebrews 2:10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 1. When I first read that, I thought that Jesus’ rank was too low. a. I figured Jesus should be the five-star General and the Commander-in-Chief. b. But then I realized that its often the Captain that leads the troops into battle. (1) General sit on the hillsides and call the shots. (2) The Commander-in-Chief sits in the office and gets reports. (3) But the Captain is on the field leading the troops. 2. God picked that position out for His Son on purpose. It better describes Jesus. a. Jesus will always be on the field. b. Jesus will always be in front. c. Jesus will always be visible. d. Jesus will always be leading. C. If we want joy in the Christian race, we must keep our eyes and mind on Jesus, IV. \\#5\\ Don’t Despise or Quit When God Chastens Heb 11:5 …My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: A. All of us are human. 1. All of us are going to fail. 2. And if we are Christians, all of us are going to be chastened. B. Chastening can come in a myriad of ways and it can be very personal and very painful. 1. If all you experience when you sin is God’s Holy Spirit taking your joy, peace, and purpose; then repent quickly and rejoice. 2. God can do much worse. 1 Corinthians 11:30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 3. David lost his throne for a time, his harem, and four children for his sin. a. God is merciful and we rest in God’s mercy, but the penalty for every sin is the same: death. b. Don’t commit a sin and then complain about the cost God exacts. C. The writer’s point here is that we need to understand that God will do whatever He determines is right and just not only to get us back on the right path but to keep us there. 1. Too few are the preachers today who preach that we need to fear the Lord God. 2. One of the things that has kept me from doing some very foolish things is that I do fear what God might do—not to me, but to the people I love to get my attention. 3. I think it is better to heed to God than to fight Him. D. \\#6\\ By the way, to be spanked by God—no matter how hard He spanks—is a privilege reserved for His children. Heb 11:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 1. God only spanks His own. 2. God only spanks His loved. V. \\#12\\ Stay encouraged. Heb 12:12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; A. Lift your hands, strengthen your legs! 1. A shoulder-slouching, foot-dragger demeanor is demeanor of the discouraged. 2. Arch your back, pick up your shoulders, lift your feet and rejoice. B. Rejoicing is a choice for the saved. 1. The lost may have nothing to rejoice in, but the saved always do. 2. We cannot always pick our battles, we cannot always pick our circumstances, we cannot always pick our victories, but we can always pick our attitudes. VI. \\#14\\ Seek after peace with men and holiness with God Heb 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: A. Seek a peaceful life with others. 1. Christians do not have to be argumentative, demanding, judgmental, demeaning, harsh, or even unkind. 2. Even Jesus, the holy Son of God, was kind and gracious most of the time; and when He wasn’t, it was because He could see their hearts. You and I never can. 3. As Christians, we should be as nice as we can even when telling the truth; then when trouble comes, we will know we didn’t cause it. B. Seek after holiness. 1. Holiness is the lost doctrine of our day. 2. Holiness demands two things: a. We must abstain from sin. That is what a good portion of this chapter is about. b. We must seek after the Lord. 3. The writer says that without holiness we will never see the Lord. a. If there is no desire to be changed by the power of Christ, you are likely unsaved. b. It should be the desire of God’s children to avoid sin, not to excuse it. c. This is part of the finish line in the Christian race, to get as far down the road as we can in becoming like Jesus.
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