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January 26, 2020, 9:09 PM

Come Holy Spirit!


There is a four-letter word we all hate. It makes us cringe every time. The word is WAIT. I’ve yet to meet the person who doesn’t just despise the idea of having to wait.

We ask two questions when we wait. What are we waiting for? And is it worth the wait? Answers, of course, may vary. If we are waiting at the doctor’s office, not so much. Or the license bureau, …oh my.

The disciples are in a time of waiting as we resume our study of the book of Acts. Ten days prior to this Jesus had ascended through the clouds. Their minds must have been spinning as they waited. The remembered what all had happened.

A violent arrest, a gruesome death.

Hearts filled with sorrow as they wonder what is happening next.

Sudden light. He is here!

Alive! What next. A sweet honeymoon period with the risen Lord.

Here one minute, gone the next but always alive!

Now He is gone. They are promised power and given a mission.

Waiting!

Luke tells the background in Acts 2:1

1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

Pentecost was an annual feast celebrated seven weeks (50 days) after Passover. So, this was fifty days after crucifixion and ten days after the ascension. This was one of three major festivals. Every Jewish male was required to attend. Unlike the religious drama of Passover, this was a joyous celebration of God’s provision. People waved the sheaves representing their first fruits of harvest.

Was the wait worth it? Lesson one: When the Spirit comes, He shows His power! Acts 2:2-3:0

2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

Suddenly! Not gradually or predictably. The Spirit always works suddenly. He comes on His own agenda and at his own time.

What did they hear? They heard a tornado, in the house! That sound described as 1,000 trains. It filled the place where they were.

What did they see? They saw tongues of fire. Note the language is specifically symbolic. It was what sounded like, what seemed like, etc. The tongues symbolized speech. Fire symbolized the presence of God. Fire cleanses. The Spirit cleanses. Sin can’t exist when the fire of the Spirit of God is burning. Fire brings warmth.

 

The Spirit of God showed up. We need His Spirit to show up today. We need His power on display.

Was the wait worth it? Lesson Two: When the Spirit comes, He fills the people. Acts 2:4:

4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

All the people were filled with the Spirit. When the Spirit arrives, people are filled with Him. He fills the empty spaces when we offer them to Him and ask Him to do so.

The people spoke in tongues. The word for tongues is glassais and is used to speak of intelligible human languages. The Spirit enabled them to speak in human languages.

There are inevitably some who will ask questions about this subject of tongues. What are they? Who speaks in tongues?

There are many questions raised around the issue of speaking in tongues. Scripture outlines three types of tongues. While not the focus of our study of Acts it is wise to spend a few moments outlining the types of tongues.

  • First: language tongues. The type of tongues as found in Acts 2 where a language was spoken so that the people could hear the message of the Gospel in their own tongue. Each people group represented at the Pentecost festival in Jerusalem were able to hear the message in their native tongue. Could God do the same today? Most certainly. We must merely believe that He is as able today to get His message out as needed.
  • Second: prophetic tongues. A message delivered to a congregation in an unknown tongue. This is the kind of tongue involving someone speaking a message in tongues and another individual immediately giving an interpretation. We dare not say that such a thing is impossible today. However, should this kind of tongue become a necessity spiritually, it MUST be done in accordance with Scriptural commands. Paul is very clear: this type of tongues has very restrictive use. Only two or three messages in tongues are permitted during a service and must be immediately followed by the interpretation. Any other use of tongues in the public worship service is outside of the Scriptural admonition.
  • Third: ecstatic utterance. That is, a prayer, language, coming out of the heart of the person praying. This is a very specific type of prayer between the individual and God. While many are uncomfortable with such a prayer. First Corinthians 12-14 outline the usage of this kind of tongue. Simply stated, Paul said that this type of tongue should NOT be done publicly.

 

With a proper understanding of the various uses of tongues scripturally, we can grasp that this experience was essential to enable the furtherance of the Gospel by allowing each group to hear the message.

This experience was a beautiful reversal of the curse laid on people at the Tower of Babel. After their sin language was used to divide them. Now the Spirit inspired them to speak in tongues so that language would bring them together.

 

The effects of the Spirit’s coming. Lesson Three: When the Spirit Comes the WORLD Takes Notice (Verses 5-11)

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”

The Spirit enabled each of these diverse groups to hear the language in their own tongue. They could understand the message of Jesus clearly. God determined that the message was so important that everyone had to hear it.

The result of the Spirit’s Work. Lesson Four: When the Spirit Comes People Make a DECISION (Verses 12-13)

12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

The Spirit’s work always demands and leads to a response. Some were amazed. Others were confused. Still others made a faulty accusation. People decide

OUR GREATEST NEED TODAY IS TO BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

We are simply not able to do what we need to do on our own. We cannot complete the mission assigned to us in our power. We cannot be the servants of God we must be in our strength. We are unable to be the spouses, parents, or children commanded with our feeble efforts. We simply must have the spirit filling us.

Paul spoke this message in Ephesians 5:18.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit

The command is simple. Paul compares drunkenness with the Spirit’s filling. Like drinking excessively when the Spirit fills us, we are not in our own control. Comparing the two is curious.

Focus on the simple command. It is an imperative command. YOU must be filled with the Spirit. It is a present tense word. You must be filled with the Spirit NOW. Right now. And in the morning, and tomorrow afternoon, and across your dinner table, and every moment of every day. Be filled NOW.

Being filled with the Spirit is the expected condition of every believer. To not be filled with the Spirit is to walk in intentional disobedience to God’s commands. You cannot be TOO filled with the Spirit, but you can certainly be TOO empty of Him.

You need the Spirit’s filling. The world needs the Spirit’s filling. No one can do what we must do without Him. Call out to Him now. Like the early church ask Him to fill you. Ask Him to fill your leaders (and certainly your spiritual leaders), ask Him to overflow the churches.




January 19, 2020, 9:24 PM

Making Decisions God's Way


Decisions, Decisions!

We face decisions every day. Big Decisions, little decisions, minute decisions. Whatever the choices facing you today you know this is truth, the decisions you make today will have consequences in your life.

Now it may be the consequences are not life changing. Whether you ate Taco Bell or Burger King for lunch likely didn’t make a life adjustment but the bigger the choice, the deeper the consequence.

How do you make choices? We see the fledgling church in today’s section of Acts. The Lord has commanded them to complete His mission and promised them the power of the Spirit. After He ascended the messengers commanded them to go back and wait.

 

Acts 1:12-14 gives the background to the passage.

12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

The place is listed. They are in Jerusalem. They gather in the upper room. This upper room has seen a lot in the last weeks. The disciples gathered with Jesus there for a celebration of the Passover. On that night He gave them what we now call the Lord’s Supper. He foretold His arrest and crucifixion, as well as their struggles both before and after the Resurrection. This was also the room into which Jesus walked first appearing to ten of the disciples and then again to the eleven.

What was the spirit like in that room? Can you imagine the excitement? The celebration? Remembering what Jesus said, what He did. They looked at the wall He walked through. With excitement they waited. But they did more than wait.

As they waited, Scripture tells us that they prayed. I’m sure not constantly 24 hours a day. But consistently through the days they prayed and talked. Prayed and waited. Prayed and anticipated. All in one spirit they waited.

Into this beautiful scene comes a word from Peter. While they waited Peter stood and told them that they had a bit of unfinished business.

First, he reviewed the history of Judas.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “ ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’

While this section is not fun to read, it does point out the outcome from this man. He failed and then faced tremendous guilt. We are reminded that none of these events came as a surprise to God. We learn our first life lesson here: Our choices always involve consequences for ourselves and others.

Peter recounts the story, not to be a reminder of Judas’ gruesome outcome. No, he tells the story to challenge them to understand that there is unfinished business. According to Scripture they needed to choose someone to replace Judas.

Our second life lesson really applies to the churches we are part of. There is always a need for new leaders. Our second life lesson is that there is a relentless need for more leaders. The growth of the church and the kingdom depends on finding the right leaders, the right way. Your church needs leaders right now. To move forward and grow the kingdom leaders will need to be enlisted.

The first thing Peter does is name the requirements of the leader. Acts 1:21-22 says:

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

Many people had followed the Lord throughout His ministry. The crowds swelled to thousands and dwindled to the twelve. In order to be considered for Judas’ replacement the person had to have walked with Jesus for the whole of his ministry. Why? Because they would be a witness of Jesus to the resurrection.

Next Luke tells us the decision process followed by the church. Acts 1:23=26 completes the passage:

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

The disciples spent a season of prayer before deciding. They asked for God’s leadership to be evident in the choice. Then by casting lots they made the choice. Matthias is chosen to fill the spot vacated by Judas.

Much could be discussed about their method. Before we criticize them, we must understand that they followed a common custom of their day. It was a system like drawing rocks. The key was that before doing so they would always pray and ask God to guide the process.

It is important to remember the timing of this decision. Jesus was gone. They have not yet received the Holy Spirit who would be their guide going forward. It is important to note that after the Spirit’s coming, they would no longer fall back to such archaic ways to discern God’s will.

The third life lesson is that way we choose the right leaders is crucial. Here are four guidelines for choosing leaders. Some of these will apply to any decisions we make. Others will apply to enlisting others. Guidelines for decision making:

  • The Foundation of Making Good Choices. Stand together with others, in one accord. (Verse 14)
  • Before Enlisting Others Carefully Define the Role. We cannot ask someone to serve in any way without giving them clear understanding of what they are being asked to do. (Verse 20) To do otherwise is to invite failure and lead to frustration.
  • When Deciding, Carefully List the Qualifications (Verse 21-22) Know in advance what you are looking for.
  • Finally, Rely on God’s Wisdom. (Verses 23-26) To do otherwise, is to rely on our own wisdom. Would your rathe base your choice on your own wisdom, or on the wisdom He provides? God will lead if you are ready



January 12, 2020, 8:56 PM

Winning for God in 2020


Your family gets a new game for Christmas. You sit down with it and open the box. What is the first thing you see? Instructions. From those you want to know two things: how to play and…how to win.

 

Truly some of you may not be all that concerned with winning. Many of you, and you know who you are, admit to skipping reading the instructions right to the end. You want to know how to win.

 

The study of Acts, that I start today and will be working through this year, will be your guide as you seek to understand both of those objectives. Through God’s Word we will see how we are to “play the game,” that is how we are to do this business of serving God and reaching our world. We will also learn how to “win,” that is how to complete the “game” we are playing successfully.


Acts 1:8-11

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

 

Our Audacious Mission

What are we to do? We are to be witnesses. Witnessing sounds like a scary word but it is not as difficult as we make it. We witness to that which we know, telling what we have experienced. Jesus commanded them and us to share what we know from our own experience. Jesus said be witnesses, “unto me.” That’s it, really. Just tell what you know about Jesus.

 

How are we to do it? We have a promise that if we do what we are supposed to do we will have power. How do you know if an outlet has power? Plug into it. You will never know how much power you have available until you plug into it. The Holy Spirit is the sources of our spiritual power. Do what you are commanded, and you will know that power flowing through you. He will be like dynamite empowering us

 

Where are we to do it? For those early disciples the place was Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then the uttermost parts of the earth. Our modern parallel is our city, then the region around us, those places around us where the people are like us.

 

The mission then reaches out to Samaria. For them it was an area where the people are different, they are unlike us. To be honest we may not even like them very much. But they need Jesus and we must take the message to them.

 

The message then goes to the “others.” These are the people outside of our natural realm. Tell them. They need to hear. How will they hear if we don’t tell them? Again, it is not about preaching a message or giving a long theological treatise. It is simply telling them what we know, sharing what we have experienced.

 

The Necessary Ascension

As Jesus spoke these last words to the disciples He was taken up through the clouds. Lifted right before their eyes. This event is called the ascension and it is a hugely important part of our story for two reasons.

 

The ascension is important because of where Jesus went. He went into heaven. He is there right now. While He is spiritually present everywhere, His physical presence is right in heaven. He is seated beside the Father, where He has been every day since that day.


The ascension is also vital because of what He does. He currently sitting beside the Father acting as our Great High Priest. While the subject is broader than this space will allow, we know that one of His ministries is praying for us. He is right now seated there praying for you. He always lives there to bring your needs to the Father.

 

The Understandable Reaction

Like a calf looking at a new gate, the disciples stood gazing at the sky. Their reaction is not difficult to understand. They were grasping at one last glimpse of their Savior. Long after He is gone, they stare for one last look.

 

The Gentle Challenge and Rebuke

As they stood there gazing at the sky, two messengers come to them. There is much debate about who they are. Are they angels? Are they men who serve as messengers? The language is ambiguous. Either way the message is the same.

 

They issue a gentle rebuke. “Why are you staring up at the sky?” It is a waste of time to spend all our days looking up. The messengers tell them it is time to stop looking up and start looking out. There are too many people living in yesterday and waiting for tomorrow. Today people around us are dying without a knowledge of Jesus. Today we must tell them that Jesus is able to save them.

 

They issue a promise. This same Jesus is coming back. This same Jesus! He is coming back. He will come back through the clouds. He will come again to earth to receive all of us to ourselves. He is coming back for us.

 

Finally, they issue a challenge. Time to stop gazing and start going. We can trust His presence as we go. We can rely on His promise as we go. Most significant to us is that we must go.




January 5, 2020, 7:46 PM

Will You Accept the Mission? Challenges for 2020


State Farm company has a slogan on their advertisements today. In different settings a person is confronted with someone doing just enough to get by. In one it is a surgeon who will do a surgery, “ok.” In another a tax preparer promises to do an “OK” job on a person’s taxes after dealing with his audit.


The slogan in all these commercials is the same. “Just OK is not OK” What a great expression. Doing something merely ok is not enough. We must strive for excellence.

 

In our world some are quite satisfied with doing something in way far from excellent. Charles Swindoll writes:

    • Excellence is reduced to acceptable.
    • Acceptable doesn’t seem worth the sweat if you can get by with adequate.
    • Once we accept adequate mediocrity is only a breath away!
    • It’s human nature to just get by.
    • Either the standard is maintained at top quality or you can forget it!

 

Today I addressed our church family in what has become an annual traditional message called, “The State of the Church Address.” It is a chance to look back at the year just completed and to embrace the challenge to move forward into the next year. Even if you are not part of the church family at Calvary feel free to read along as the spiritual challenge confronting each of you who would read this is the same as that faced by the church family.

 

Celebrating God’s blessings in 2019

Calvary celebrated three works of God this morning.

  • Sustained Growth. We praise the Lord for a period of prolonged, sustained growth. This growth has been evident in our worship services and our mid-week children/youth ministry. We don’t focus on numbers but do recognize God’s blessings in our place. More significant for us is the evidence of continued spiritual growth. We participated in our first mission projects in 2019 and stepped forward to do ministry in our community.
  • Strong Fellowship. Calvary is enjoying a tremendous sense of genuine fellowship in the body. There is a sense every week of God’s presence in the assembled family. Every single Sunday God does something in our midst to show us He is at work, drawing us closer to Him and to each other.
  • Standing Committed to Moving Forward. Our church family has made a very prayerful decision to invest time and resources in our future. Several of our projects are completed while others are in process.

SPIRITUAL CHALLENGES FOR 2020

With these successes in the past year in mind I challenge you to look forward to the next year. Specifically, I issue two challenges from Scripture.

 

First, I challenge you to fulfill Hebrews 10:23-24.

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,

God’s word commands us to look around and find someone around you who may be struggling and consider a way to spur them on. This year I issue you a challenge to take a careful look around you. Prayerfully look beyond the surface. Find that person who is struggling and do something to encourage them.

Spur them on. It may be a cup of coffee (or Diet Coke!), a dinner, a phone call, or a simple note. But do something. Don’t just say, “It seems like they are struggling.” Don’t just utter a pray. Encourage them. Help them move forward.

 

Preview of Our Study of Acts

The second challenges I will address come from our first study in the book of Acts. This will be our text throughout much of 2020. Allow me to give an abbreviated introduction to the book and the first eight verses.

Consider the passage:

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” [1]

 

  • The Book (Verses 1-2) These are the questions we always ask when we start studying a new book in the Bible.
    • Who? Luke is the author of this book. While he doesn’t identify himself by name his introduction mirrors that of the Gospel of Luke in which he does identify himself. He makes it clear that he is writing this second book.
    • What? What is he doing? Luke tells us in verses 1-2 that he is writing what Jesus begins to do. A very curious and telling choice of words. Luke begins and ends his second writing by talking about what Jesus starts to do. STARTS to do meaning the work is not yet finished. We continue to complete the works of Jesus in our generation and beyond.
    • When? While scholars disagree about the dating of the verse, most assume a date in the mid 60’s. If that is the case it is truly astounding. From the mid 30’s when Jesus ascended the gospel spread over much of the known world. It begs the question, what could God do through our church, and that of those who read this blog, if we surrendered ourselves to Him and followed His lead?
    • Where? This book is written not to a destination but to Theophilus. Two options exist when we seek to understand who this is. On the one hand it could very well be written to a specific person. On the other hand, the words making up this name are formed from the name of God: Theos and the word for friend. He could have written this book to all those who call themselves friends of God.
    • Why? He identifies his why in this passage. He tells the story of Jesus. His secondary purposes doubtless include revealing a: History, Gospel, Defense, and Theology.
    • How? Luke is the consummate historian. He tells the story accurately and carefully. At times he is even walking with Paul along the journey.
  • The Background (Verse 3) Jesus spends time with them making sure to reveal Himself in such a way that there can be no doubt about His resurrection. He proves Himself to them.
  • The Promise Confirmed (Verses 4-7) Jesus reminds them of the promise that He would baptize them with the Spirit. In this intimate setting they ask Him the wrong question about restoring the kingdom of Israel. They reveal that they still have the wrong focus. The power of the Spirit’s coming is evident in this book. Jesus fulfilled His word.
  • The Mission (Verse 8) We have the mission of taking the message of Jesus to the world. The mission includes the four challenges I’d like to issue to all who read this based on the book of Acts.

 

Our second 2020 challenge it to fulfill our mission. Acts 1:8 gives us the challenge. Four parts of our mission arise from this book. Adopt the challenge to:

  • Grow. God challenges you to grow. This is only possible as you make a commitment to personal discipleship. He wants you to grow as a follower.

 

If you are in the Perryville area you would be welcome to share with us in an upcoming study “Feasting on the Word: Learning to Study the Bible for Yourself” on Sunday mornings at 9. We also have a community Bible Study on Tuesday nights starting January 14th called, “The Guide: How to know the Will and Purpose of God for Our Lives.” Details can be found on our web site.

 

Whether these studies are interesting or accessible to you or not it is imperative that you find a way to grow. You won’t grow if you don’t make a specific plan to do so. How will you grow?

 

  • Build. Building on the foundation of those who went before us. We are challenged to build the kingdom. This is NOT a focus on building Calvary in our church or any other individual church. It IS a call to invest our lives, our time, our resources, and our hearts to build the kingdom of God. How will you build the Kingdom of God in 2020?

 

  • Reach (Proclaim). People must know Jesus. They simply need to have a personal relationship with Him. We must tell them the story. It is an eternal question and an enduring need. Who will you share Jesus with in 2020?

 

  • Protect (Maintain). It is our mission to guard the fellowship of the church. There is a constant threat to the harmony and unity of the church. Wherever people come together we have the tendency to go apart. We must fight against that tendency. If there is a problem Jesus Himself told us to go to them. If they have a problem with us the command is the same. Talk to them alone. Doing so will guard the fellowship at Calvary and will guard the unity of each church represented by you, my readers. Will you commit to maintaining unity in 2020?

 

May you embrace both charges. Encourage those around you and together reach out to complete the mission Jesus started. Push forward to excellence in our efforts. May God bless each one of you who have read this blog. Make 2020 a year in which the Kingdom is advanced through your life.

 

[1] The New International Version. (2011). (Ac 1:1–8). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.




December 29, 2019, 9:48 PM

Remember and Run: 2019 Service of Remembrance


A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
but the putting out of the lamp
because the dawn has come. (Hebrew Proverb)

 

When you were born,
you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life so that when you die,
the world cries and you rejoice. (Cherokee Saying)

Today our church family, like every individual and family who lost someone in 2019, stopped and remembered those who left this year. We paused and remembered those folks to honor their lives. The service allows us to look back and remember as well as challenged us to run the race set before us.

 

There is a simple truth: you are not done yet. How do you know? Simple. Are you alive? If you are then you are not done yet. Those folks we remember today are done but we are not. We have a challenge from God’s word in Hebrews 12:1-3.

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

What should we be doing?

We should run. This is a word that demands intense effort. The word is agon. It speaks of running the race is an effort that involves peril and strain.


The passage is more specific. We should run the race set out for us. That is. It is a race specific to us. You have a course laid out for you by God. You have a challenge. Run that race. You don’t have to run the race someone else runs. Run your race. Run hard.

This cannot be a casual jog or a leisurely walk. It is an agonizing, grueling race. It is demanding, requiring discipline, determination and perseverance. Run this marathon of a race. It’s your race.

Why should we run?

Why should you run? Because of the encouragement that comes from looking at the cloud of witnesses. This chapter begins with the word, therefore. As has often been mentioned, “When you see the word therefore, you need to find out what the “Therefore” is there for.

The author references back to chapter 11 which is a great hall of faith. Those individuals who walked before us, who built on the foundation of Jesus, our Great Cornerstone. It is upon there work that we continue to build in the kingdom.

This passage challenges us to understand that they are a cloud of witnesses. There is some debate about the meaning of these witnesses. Many believe that those who have gone before us are somehow looking down on us, cheering us on. While that is a comforting thought the Bible does not say that is the case.

Such a thought while at times consoling to us in our grief is inconsistent with what we know of heaven and would result in a great burden on us. It is inconsistent with heaven in that those who go before us would be burdened with the pain inevitable when we hurt. Would our loved ones not ache with us when we grieve? How would that fit with our view of home?

Not only would the heavenly crowd watching us not fit the vision of heaven, it would also place such a burden on us as we walk. Can you imagine preaching if Paul were listening in as you tried to unpack Romans? No thank you.

So, what does this passage say about the witnesses. Rather than they are looking down on us we are challenged to look up at them. See their lives as reflected in Hebrews. Hear their stories. Copy their examples of living for God.

These witnesses are the winners. They show us how to do it. Imperfect as they are, they show us how to stand. Are you not glad that Scripture paints them flaws and all? We don’t have to have it all together just keep running.

 

How Should We Run?

Several pieces of advice are contained in this passage.

First, we run by throwing off everything that hinders us. Runners may enter the stadium with their sweat suits on. They may carry their bags with them. But when it is time to run, they must take all that off. They run with only the necessities.

While I am not advocating doing so, the ancient Olympians would often run without clothing at all. They simply didn’t want anything to slow them down. This passage challenges us to run with that much determination.

May I ask you the hard question? What is slowing you down in your race this year? Pride? Laziness? Anger? Bitterness? Unforgiveness? Is there some attitude or practice weighing you down? It’s time to put those things down. They won’t allow you to run your race.

Run light this year. But run!

Second, we are to throw off the sin. The first category may not be something that we have done sinfully. They may be even done to us. This category, however, is not morally neutral. These are things we have done wrong of our own will.

The warning is that these sins entangle us. They trip us up. They will wrap you up and keep you from following God. They are debilitating for an effective run.

Third we run with endurance. Our challenge is to run with diligence and perseverance. It is agonizingly hard to run this race. You cannot grow weary and faint. You cannot relax and collapse.

At times we get tired and feel that we cannot run one more lap. In that moment our Savior encourages us. He will give you the strength to continue. Run one more lap. Take a few more steps. Keep going. You can’t quit.

Finally, we are encouraged to keep our eyes on Jesus. The call is to fix our eyes. Dead set focus. Solely on Jesus. Consider all that He did. Of course, the race analogy is an easy one here.

In the short sprints in the Olympics the runners dare not take a moment to even look around to see how their competitors are running. They set their eyes on the tape and run with everything they have. Looking only ahead they run forward.

Our vision should be set only on Jesus. He is our focus. The author says to consider him. That is an analytical look. Examine carefully who He is and what He has done for us.

Why should we look at Jesus?

The author gives us several statements that encourage us to look at Jesus. This is part of His command to consider Jesus. When we look at these statements how do we not keep our eyes on Jesus.

First, we look at Jesus because He is the author of our faith. He started your faith, founding it. The moment you became a believer it was the completion of a plan in place since before you were in your mother’s womb. He knew you all the time. He planned for you to come to faith in Him. Oh, you still had to choose, but He knew you.

Jesus wrote your story. Allow that to sink in for a moment. He authored the details necessary for you to come to faith. Why would you look anywhere else?

Second, our gaze should be fixed on Jesus because He is the perfecter of our faith. He is the one who completes it. He brings you to the finish line.

The events of your life may seem out of control, but they are far from it. He not only started your story but completes it. He finishes what He started.

Third, because He sat down at the right hand of the Father. Jesus finished His race and sat down. He is there beside the Father working as our intercessor, praying on our behalf. He ran the race set out before Him and prays for us to be able to complete our race.


Finally, we focus our eyes on Jesus because of the great sacrifice He made for us. He endured the shame of the cross. Here the author uses the same language speaking about our endurance He sustained the load He was to carry and asks only that we endure our race.

Of course, Jesus’ load was so much heavier. He sustained all our adversities, persecutions, and sinfulness. His suffering was intense, aggravated, agonizing.

So, as we move to a new year, I challenge you to run. Take the baton of faith from those we remember. It is your turn to run. How many laps you have left no one knows, but run just one more, and then one more, and one more after that. Run. Endure. Consider Jesus. Keep your eyes firmly on Him. But Run, friends, run.

When the day comes, and your race is done. When you hand the baton to those who follow you know that you ran until the end of your race. You finished what God called you to. Run!


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