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101. Hebrews 12: “A Better Faith”

Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 4/18/2019

and

South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, NJ –Men’s Evening Chapel on 4/21/2019 (Easter Sunday)

(edited January 2022)

 

Before we proceed into Hebrews chapter 12, I think it would make sense to back up to at least verse 35 in Hebrews chapter 11. Hebrews 11 is sometimes referred to as the “Heroes of the Faith” chapter. It’s hard to argue with that title when you read about these Old Testament believers:

Hebrews 11: 35-40

Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:  They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”

Now, let’s begin our study of Hebrews 12 as Paul continues to make his point:

 

Verse 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, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,”

 

New Testament believers have, I believe, two very heavy weights pressing upon them today: the very bad weight of sin and distraction that holds us back from serving the Lord as we should, AND the very good weight of the foundational faith and encouragement we can receive from the example that some of the Old Testament saints provide for us!

 

Therefore today, if you trust in Christ, you may find yourself inspired, but also very tired! Do you know what I mean? And if some of the Old Testament folks did such heroic deeds in faith and in service to God, how can we, how can little old imperfect me, ever attain a more perfect faith than they? We don’t have to wait long for Paul’s answer:

 

Verses 2-4: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”

 

What do we have that they lacked? It’s nothing that comes from us. It’s Jesus. Christ is our “New” Example, Captain, Teacher, and Inspiration. He leads us in a more perfect way than the law of Moses could lead even those heroes and heroines of the Old Testament. Can we stumble and fall today? Sure! I know I have. We can fail God, but we have far less excuse than they. It wasn’t always easy for them to obey God, and won’t always be easy for you, beloved!

 

Verses 5-10: “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.”

 

We who believe are, through faith, full brothers and sisters of Jesus. But along with that we must accept the Parenthood of God over us. Under the law they were promised earthly prosperity for their obedience to the law. We, for the faith we receive from Him, are promised HOLINESS. Are their benefits to being a Child of God. Certainly! I used to have to do major battle with depression almost daily before I accepted Jesus. Now, only infrequently. Only God knows how much that meant to me. O, I could on and on about the merits of being a Christian. Could you?

 

But we know it won’t always be fun and games for us. Not on this earth. How do we know that? Because Jesus is our example. And even big Brother Jesus had a Cross to bear. And so do we! In fact, the perfection of the faith will call us, at times, down a hard road. And the Lord may not always turn that way from a hard to easy. But in the end, we will see that he has turned ALL our hard roads into the BEST WAY! It’s the Way of the Cross. Sooner or later every Christian will not just believe it, but know it for certain that our Heavenly Father has changed all our defeats and failures into a Glorious final victory. Didn’t He change the death of Jesus Christ, His Son, into a Perfect and Eternal Life at Easter! And He’s promised to do no less for each of us who trust in Christ. If somebody doesn’t say “A-men” soon, I will!

 

Verses 11-17: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”

 

We must press on. We must never break off our relationship with God. We mustn’t allow earthly pains or pleasures to woo us into disdain our eternal “birthright.” Therefore, the essence of our faith cannot be found in doctrines or laws, or in temples of wood and stone, but in our hearts where we need to nurture and cling to our relationship with the Lord. That is a Higher Covenant than the one Moses and Ancient Israel experienced. They were, to be truthful about it, routinely terrorized by close exposer to God. Listen:

 

Verses 18-21: “For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:  And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)

 

I shared with some of you two months ago about how, just perhaps, it was actually God Who needed protecting from man in the Old Covenant. At any rate, Paul makes it very clear why the New Covenant is so superior. Listen:

 

Verses 22-24: “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”

 

We are not perfect, not yet. None of us are. But we have a perfect Covenant with God! Jesus has fulfilled the law and perfected the ancient faith. It’s all between you and Him, now. There will be no further offers from God, no “new” New Testament. This is it:

 

Verse 25: See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:”

 

Even the heroes of the Old Testament, even King David who wrote so many of the Psalms, all of them remained focused on physical deliverance and prosperity in a way that is just plain NOT open to us. Christ makes our calling higher than that. Don’t get me wrong, now, some of them suffered greatly and still continued to faithfully believe in God. David did that. Job too, and many others. Some are even listed for us by name back Hebrews 11. But the object of our faith is Jesus. And in the shadow of His Cross we must, and we can, seek deep and true peace with God even in the midst of suffering and loss. I’m not saying it’s easy. But, in Christ, it is quite possible. Ancient Israel tended to have peace with God only in prosperous times. The Church needs to have peace with Him at all times! And, yes, even to the point of having NO fear of seeing Him, face to face, at the final Judgement. Listen to how Paul closes this chapter by reminding us that the Lord’s return and the dissolution of everything we can see around us should inspire us, not terrorize us:   

 

Verses 22-24: “Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”

 

We who believe today have received the promise of a Heavenly Kingdom, either when we are taken from this Earth or it is taken from us in what is sometimes called the Apocalypse. And we have received a Savior Who loves each of us daily, right here and now. Nothing in the Old Testament, or anywhere else, can match these promises. So, in closing, I say to you that despite all the problems and troubles we face, we are a People exceedingly blessed of God! Let’s remember that, and let’s pray.

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