Jesus Is…!

Jesus Is…!
Hebrews 12:1-5
September 24, 2017

Have you ever exercised wearing weights? It sounds kind of strange, but people do this. In fact, we have a weighted vest we bought to use to workout. The vest weighs 20 pounds. On the one hand, it may not sound that bad, but do 20 push ups wearing the vest, and after a few it begins to feel like more than 20 pounds.

If you’ve been jogging, maybe you wore ankle weights to force your legs to work harder. Throw a medicine ball in the air a few times, then throw a basketball in the air and it feels lighter than it normally does.

When I swam, believe it or not, firstly be glad I didn’t come out in my speedo! We used to wear panty hose after we shaved our legs. It made our legs work harder, and when we took them off, we felt our legs were as light as a feather.

That’s kind of our theme for today, but it’s not to hold onto the weights, it’s to get rid of the weights. The goal is to lighten the load, not make it heavier and heavier and harder and more difficult as we move down the road. So, that’s what we’re looking at today. And as we move along, I’ll talk about some of the different weights we hold onto which truly weigh us down. And the one main hindrance according to Hebrews 12.

We’re now on week 17 of our journey through the book of Hebrews! Personally, I have found it enriching and invigorating to move through this book. I’ve come to appreciate the book of Hebrews all the more. Again, our quest has been to learn more about who Jesus is in our lives and how we can utilize this great high priest to aid us in our journey through this world.

Let’s look again at the first verses of Hebrews 12 ~
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.

3 Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. – Hebrews 12:1-3

Now, I don’t want to repeat last weeks message, but I do want to give a quick review so we can move forward.

We only looked at verse 1a and 1c ~
In short the writer told us we are surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses. These witnesses are more than your loved ones who are in heaven, who are your cheerleaders. These are the saints of the OT. They are people like Moses, Aaron, Abraham, Sarah, Rahab, Jacob, Jeremiah, Hosea, Deborah and 1,000’s of faithful servants for God.

They’re encouraging and cheering you on through the difficulties of life. The beauty and the power is the fact that not one of these Bible characters were perfect. They all had faults, they all needed Jesus, YET none of them ever attained the glory of meeting Jesus in this world – – – yet they never gave up on their faith, they still trusted, believed, and had faith that the God who called them was not going to abandon them.

The 3rd part of verse 1 tells us we should run with endurance the race which God has set out before us. Remember the Greek word for race is our English word AGONY. It means conflict and struggle. It means that race which is life is going to be filled with difficulties and struggles. God never promised us that life would be clean and easy. Instead, it can be dirty and difficult. Yet, God calls us to stay on the path He’s set out for us.

And we run that race with endurance. We don’t give up, we don’t give in, we don’t say this hurts, so it must not be God’s will. It might not be . . . but it may also be part of God’s plan. Remember so many of those in the stands cheering you on lived lives filled with struggle and pain and suffering. We are no different than these saints. And I look around this room at so many of our beloved saints and I see the struggles, I see the concerns, I see the hurt . . . YET at the very same time, I see the hope, and the grace and the mercy and the power of the risen Christ in your eyes and hearts. And that my friends gives me tremendous hope!!

OK ~ That’s our recap from last week. So, I want to move into the middle of verse 1, what we would call verse 1b. Let’s read the passage ~

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,

OK, so let’s focus on what the writer means when he tells us ~
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,

Remember the writer of Hebrews is using athletic imagery. In this athletic imagery, he’s talking about weights like runners use or the medicine ball that basketball players use. When you warm up with the big medicine ball, it can be a little heavy. Then when you get the real basketball out, it’s light as a feather. If you’re a runner, you run in track shoes that are weighted. When the weights go off, you feel like your legs are super light and you can run forever.

It’s important in this passage to understand a couple of definitions. The first comes in the word WEIGHT – it means a burden or something which weighs you down. That kind of makes sense. But the next word doesn’t seem to make as much sense. It’s the PHRASE we have in the ESV – CLINGS SO CLOSELY. In the KJV it’s EASILY ENSNARES. And the NIV states EASILY ENTANGLES.

So, what does that really mean? Literally – that phrase means – – – a serious hindrance that “encircles” (hampers) someone who desperately needs to advance.

The best pictures I could come up with were rugby scrums and being tackled in football. Try moving forward during one of those scrums. It’s going to be pretty difficult. When you get hammered in a football game, like these guys, you go down. You have people who are desperately trying to stop your progress. You have nowhere to go.

You cannot run the long distance race if you are always impeded by any kind of weight that holds you back. It becomes exhausting. You have to get rid of those things which weigh you down. You may train in ankle weights, when you come to the track meet, you don’t have your weights on. You run with nothing hindering your progress.

Can you imagine an athlete at a track meet walking up to the starting line and wearing their ankle weights? The coach yells out to you “Did you forgot to take off your ankle weights!” And you say, “No! I’ve grown accustomed to them. I like them. I’m going to run with them today!” No one in their right mind would run with weights! You can’t do that, and you shouldn’t do that.

You wouldn’t do that . . . would you? Of course, I know what you’re going to say . . . NO WAY!! I would never do that. Yet we do!

Why is it I see so many of you carrying in bulging backpacks of bitterness? You plop them down in the seat beside you. Some of you were carrying vests filled with anger. Your bag was checked at the door, but you’ll pick it up on the way out. Some of you were bent over from so many years of carrying around a big old trunk full of all kinds of weight that’s holding you back as a Christian. It’s so heavy it wouldn’t even fit between the pews. When you sat down you had to sit on the end and plop it down in the aisle.

Some of you are carrying around heavy bags of resentment, there’s selfishness, arrogance, self-loathing, idolatry, greed, critical spirit . . . .and that list can go on and on and on.

We carry those sins with us. We find a few minutes of relief in worship . . . as long as we can put that critical spirit away, then we pick up our struggles as we walk out the door. Do you ever feel that way? I know I’ve been there too many times.

Our aisles and pews are filled with handbags and backpacks and trunks of all kinds of weights that spiritual athletes, you and I, have brought into this building. Why would we do that? We can’t succeed in the Christian life that way. We must do as the Bible tells us . . . . to LAY ASIDE EVERY WEIGHT / BURDEN. This means to “lay aside or renounce” anything that would hinder you.

In the first century, when runners came to the Olympic Games, they would wear long, flowing, colorful robes. And at the last minute, before the race began, they would take them off. In fact, many runners in that time ran naked. They didn’t want to be impeded in any way in their race.

The writer of Hebrews tells us we must discard not only the weights, but our sin as well. While I believe we carry a lot of sin into church – – and there’s really no better place to bring our sin, but we can’t take it back when we leave. I believe the author is not just talking about all of our sins, but he’s more specifically telling us to remove the weights of the sin which so easily grabs ahold of us and that sin is faithlessness.

Remember, he’s just listed great men and women who by faith won the victory. That’s the reference here; the sin that so easily entangles is the lack of such faith.

Our lives in Christ begins with faith in Jesus. It’s when we proclaim Jesus is Lord and Savior. But it doesn’t stop there. We must live every day by faith. In fact, at the end of chapter 10 leading into 11, the author quoted Habakkuk 2:4, “The just shall live by faith.” That’s the focus leading up to this passage.

But some of us don’t like to live by faith; we want to live by sight. We want to get the calculator out and figure out how everything works. It’s not easy to live by faith. Most of us don’t like to live by faith. I don’t! I want to know what’s going to happen. It goes against our nature. Yet, we must live by faith.

So, the author tells us if we can lay aside every weight which holds us back, then we can run with endurance the race which has been set before us. You see that little phrase “with endurance?” The focus is on endurance. Remember, life is not a speed event, it’s an endurance super marathon event.

Have you ever noticed when you drive a long distance, sometimes you don’t really remember turning on your street or getting off the highway at the right exit? Has that ever happened to you? I know it has to me. It’s like I was day dreaming or thinking about 101 other things than driving. That’s not how we are supposed to approach this race.

As we are running this race, the writer tells us – we run – –
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

While we have all these witnesses, these great saints cheering for us and encouraging us, and we have our family or church family encouraging us . . . ultimately we are to look only at Jesus.

Have you ever watched someone run backwards and they don’t run in a straight line? Or they do backstroke and have no idea where in the pool they are? That’s not how we run the race of life.

You see, I must be looking at Jesus. He’s the focus of my attention. Jesus will never let us down. If you look at others, somehow they will let you down, we can become discouraged and depressed, but when we fix our eyes upon Jesus, He promises not to abandon you, but to be with you throughout your entire journey.

Have you ever been frustrated with someone because they seem to have blinders on? They can only see one thing, they don’t see the big picture. In a strange way that’s what the word LOOKING means. The implication is that we fix our eyes on Jesus and in a sense wear blinders so that all other distractions are moved out of our way. Isn’t that true in life? We allow so many distractions get in our way. Wasn’t that the problem Martha was having with Mary? Our focus must be on Jesus and only Jesus. If our focus is not on Jesus, then we are going to lose our way and we will get way off track.

So I am to fix my eyes on Jesus, the author, the first, the pioneer of my faith. The One who perfects our faith – –
who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross,

Now I know why I am to look to Jesus. He also ran the spiritual marathon. He came into this world in the incarnation. He took on human flesh. He became what we are. He remained who He is — God — but He became who we are — man: Jesus became the God-man. And He lived in our world, living a sinless life. He is the One we are to look towards.

Notice the Bible says, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” It’s not easy to see joy and cross in the same sentence. It’s almost like an oxymoron.

I believe this is a reference to the completion of the will of God for His life, knowing that God’s will was that He might suffer and die for our sins. So, Jesus did this with joy as the obedient Son of the Father. It wasn’t fun, it was painful and terrible suffering was involved, but His closeness to the Father is what brought to Jesus. The fact that He was reconciling you and me to the Father brought Jesus joy.

Jesus fulfilled the will of the Father. But He also knew the cross was not going to be the end of the story. He knew there was a resurrection and an ascension to come as well. He knew without a doubt what was coming. So Jesus endured the cross – –
despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus is enthroned there. As Hebrews 6:19-20 remind us ~
19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,

20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus is the anchor for my soul, He has destroyed the bonds that satan has over me. He has destroyed the what weighs me down. Now I use Jesus as my anchor, so that I will not move in the wrong direction. He is my north star, my spiritual compass. Whatever phrase you want to use, that’s Jesus. He endured the Cross; he despised the shame; he suffered all of that! And then He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Nothing can ever remove him, because he endured to the end for us.

Finally, verse 3 tells us ~
3 Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. – Hebrews 12:1-3

We’ve really had applications throughout this passage. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus. We are to take those weights off, get rid of the sin which so easily entangles us, with endurance we are to run the race.

We are to consider Him (JESUS) who endured. Did you notice the word endurance is in all 3 verses. This is part of our focus. Because Jesus has endured, “consider Him who has endured such hostility from sinners against Himself.” This of everything Jesus went through.

The rejection, the temptation, the disavowal by His family, desertion, the lies, the betrayal, the misunderstanding, the beating, the mocking, the spitting, the nails, the shouts! Yet, Jesus endured!

When we consider all that Jesus went through . . . what He went through for you and me . . . it should encourage and strengthen us to continue to run with endurance that race which God has set before us . . . because Jesus also endured. He knows what it’s like to be in your shoes.

In the end we do not grow weary or fainthearted because Jesus has already paid the price for you and I.

Therefore, the author of Hebrews says, “With endurance let us run the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God. For consider him — focus on Him, mediate on Him, live the rest of your life looking to Him — who endured such hostility from sinners (WHY?) So that you may not grow weary or fainthearted! AMEN?

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