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TPC - CD 15(N026) - Surrounded By Witnesses

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Surrounded By Witnesses By Pastor Wickwire

Hebrews 12:1-29; John 17:19; Romans 13:12; Ephesians 4:22-23; Proverbs 3:11-12

May 6, 2020

 

 

Note

Last time we closed out the second half of Hebrews 11 with a sobering look at the many OT saints that suffered greatly for their faith. Unlike the faith-walkers listed before them in verse 4 through the first half of vs 35, those listed in the rest of the chapter didn’t receive a miracle deliverance or supernatural breakthrough. They endured their trial of much suffering and died in faith. We also learned that all the faith-walkers mentioned in the chapter were not made perfect until the coming of Jesus. 

 Now, chapter 12 picks right up where chapter 11 ended with a “therefore,” a word that connects what just came before it to what is about to be said. Chapter 12 will refer to the champions of chapter 11 as a “great cloud of witnesses.” 

 

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

1Therefore, 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,

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

He’s not telling us that the saints of chapter 1 are watching from heaven, but rather that the lasting witness of their walk of faith and patient endurance encourages us to press forward like they did. 

The writer says that we must “lay aside” two things in order to run our race well. First, every weight. A weight is not a sin, but an encumbrance. For instance, an Olympic track star would never wear heavy clothing that would slow down his maximum speed. Weights refer to fleshly distractions and unnecessary things that hinder our ability to move forward unencumbered. Weights can be involvement in tasks God hasn’t called us to, or worries about tomorrow, or allowing your time to be consumed by unnecessary trivialities and distractions that hamper spiritual progress.

In our day of TV, social media, twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and so forth, it is very easy to wile away all your time rather than focusing on Christ and spiritual growth. This is why Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God…” He didn’t forbid having other enjoyments and things that occupy our time, but He stressed putting the kingdom of God FIRST.

Then the second thing we must lay down is the sin that so easily beset us. The words “sin that so easily besets us” come from one single Greek word that means “easily encircling.” It refers to a serious hindrance that literally surrounds or “encircles” someone who desperately needs to advance. 

 So the writer is talking about a sin which readily or easily encircles and entangles the Christian runner, like a long, loose robe clinging to his legs hindering his speed. This could be talking about sin in general, or it could be referring to individual weaknesses, those sins that easily entangle each of us. It could be a former habit, or some door to sin that was opened in the past and has a stronger appeal for us than most others.

 Either way, we’re to “lay aside” or “cast off” encumbering weights and sins like we would take off a coat and lay it down, or cast off a garment we no longer want or need. This is one of Paul’s favorite phrases. In Romans 13:12 he writes, 

 

Bible Verse

Romans 13:12 (NIV)

12The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

To the Ephesian church he writes, “that, in reference to your former manner of life, 

 

Bible Verse

Ephesians 4:22-23 (NIV)

22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;

23to be made new in the attitude of your minds;

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

2fixing 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.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

The word looking or fixing our eyes means to look away from all else in order to fully focus on one thing. It implies “the concentration of the wandering gaze into a single direction.” 

The Christian is to keep his or her eyes on Jesus; He should be our first focus at the beginning of each day; our gaze should turn to Him in the hour of temptation, our heart should be ever turned toward Him. The writer assures us that, “He is the One that authored our faith, and He is the one that will perfect it!” Then next he turns our thoughts to what Jesus suffered:

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 12:3-4 (NIV)

3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

Very few if any of us in America have actually shed blood due to persecution for our faith. So consider the suffering Jesus endured and draw encouragement from that! Next, the writer segues into the whole subject of God’s discipline of His children:

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 12:5-6 (NIV)

5And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

6because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

This is a quote from Proverbs 3:11-12 where Solomon is writing as a father to a son. The writer asks, “Have you forgotten those verses?” 

 

Bible Verse

Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV)

11My son, do not despise the Lord ’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke,

12because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

He’s lovingly reminding them that afflictions are designed on the part of God to bring positive results in the lives of his people. We don’t like to hear it, but one of the signs of God’s genuine love is His discipline of us! He disciplines and scourges every son and daughter he receives! 

 Discipline if from the Greek word παιδεύω which is used of “strictly training up a child so they mature and realize their full potential.” So ask yourself, are the trials God has allowed into my life part of my divine training? If so, Am I resenting it? Kicking against it? Rebuking it? Or am I embracing it and learning the lessons He’s trying to teach me?

Then he adds, “And He scourges every son He received.” Another translation puts it, “For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and whips every son whom he receives.” Scourging is the most severe form of discipline. It will, figuratively speaking, draw blood. It is painful!

 

Illustration

School and the board. When discipline didn’t work, you got the board. So the writer urges us to, rather than fainting under prolonged trials, bear them patiently, knowing that God is working it for our good.

 Let’s read on, beginning with verse 7:

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 12:7-10 (NIV)

7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

8If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!

10They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

I like the word “afterwards” here, because it shows trials don’t last….there is an afterward. And this verse gives us a second key reason for God’s discipline—that we might produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness! One commentator says the peaceable fruit of righteousness is “A righteous compliance with the whole will of God, and a purging out of all sin; afterward filling the soul with joy and peace!” So God’s discipline cleanses and purifies the soul, and brings us to a place of greater dependence on Him!

 In light of this truth the writer next encourages us to:

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 12:12-13 (NIV)

12Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.

13“Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

You will recall that in verse 1 we are described as runners in a race. And as runners we’re to lay aside every weight and sin, and focus firmly on Jesus. Yet now in verse 12 the runner is about to faint. His hands and knees are weak. He can hardly walk, much less run due to discouragement over prolonged trials.

 So the Apostle’s advice for this Christian is to mark out a straight spiritual path of obedience to God. Listen—righteous, obedient living brings healing to the soul every time! And next he tells us why we’re to stand straight and walk straight—“lest that which is lame may not be put out of joint.” Now, that which is “lame” is not pointing to something in the life of this Christian. It’s about the struggling believers that are all around them watching them. 

 He’s literally saying, “Pull yourself up, be encouraged in God, and live a clean life so that those who are spiritually struggling, weak and lame around you will not lose hope.” Another version puts it like this: “Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (NLT)

 So in this way we ARE INDEED our brother’s keeper! We walk with Jesus, not just for ourselves, but also for the sake of others. 

Jesus said in His intercessory prayer that He did this very thing for the sake of His disciples:

 

Bible Verse

John 17:19 (NIV)

19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

Now, for time’s sake let’s read together through the rest of the chapter, and I’ll comment here and there as we go along:

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 12:14-17 (NIV)

14Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

15See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

16See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.

17Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

The word for “immoral” here is pornos—a fornicator, one involved in sexual sin. It will break your fellowship with God and Paul writes in Corinthians that it is a sin against your own body. 

Next, the apostle compares the OT mountain of FEAR (Sinai) and the NT mountain of JOY (Zion)…

 

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 12:18-24 (NIV)

18You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm;

19to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them,

20because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”

21The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

22But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,

23to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

24to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Note

Finally, we close with the writer speaking of the Kingdom that cannot be shaken:

 

Bible Verse

Hebrews 12:25-29 (NIV)

25See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?

26At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”

27The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,

29for our “God is a consuming fire.”

New International Version (NIV)

 

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

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