Hebrews 12:1-3Amplified Bible
Jesus, the Example
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of [a]witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, 2 [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, [b]disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].
3 Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The Word of God for the Children of God.
Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.
Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.
My parents did what they could to provide a “religious experience” for me.
The thing that they didn’t really do was provide a spiritual experience.
The religious experience that I had was a mixed one where I participated in some of the traditions of the Catholic Church, the Sunday School of the Church of the Brethren and finally Saturdays in the Synagogue and Hebrew School.
Most of the time, being as child like as I was I didn’t know why I did what I did; I just did it because a whole bunch of adults in authority over me had told me to.
The bulk of the participation was confined to Saturday mornings, and twice a week Hebrew School for which it was forbidden of me to speak about to friends.
It didn’t really matter what happened during the other other days.
There was my Bar Mitzvah in 1974 which mattered very deeply to me.
We celebrated The High Holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Passover and growing up celebrating the eight days of Chanukah over the one day of Xmas.
However, being that I was not “born” of the Jewish Faith, I was never really taught how to take the teachings of the “faith” and develop a set of spiritual principles that should have become my life’s value system as I grew older.
20/20 hindsight, I can say that I never really believed I matured spiritually.
It was mostly a collection of “disjointed” “disconnected” teachings from some a whole series very well educated, very well intentioned people – My Rabbi is someone who I remember with the utmost fondness for his great compassion.
But there was never really anything anybody taught me, book wise, experience wise, which gave me the necessary foundation to “seek God first and foremost.”
For most of my teenage years and well into my adulthood, God was virtually nothing to me, as my Father, as my Creator, my help in my troubles, my friend or my redeemer, prayer partner, sustainer, maintainer, or even my Savior.
I had little experience or knowledge of Jesus whose name was not mentioned in our household because a whole lot of people told me Jews did not believe in him.
No one ever “invited me” – Isaiah 55:1-3 – to turn to God and freedom in Him. So consequently, I learned overmuch how to turn to me and my survival skills.
Turning unto God for anything was simply the furthest thought from my mind.
I simply did not know how and there were precious few people I would listen to.
I always sensed that there was something inside me which kept me on a path of sound morals and ethics – knowing right from wrong, my personal convictions.
Something inside me which told me to weigh out the pro and con of my choices.
Though I would never dare to assign them to God or His Son or the Holy Spirit.
I guess that God was always somewhere in the very deepest recesses of my soul.
Just never allowed to get close enough to the forefront to be even minimally acknowledged or permitted any measure of relevance to my day to day living.
Hebrews 12:1-3Easy-to-Read Version
We Also Should Follow Jesus’ Example
12 We have all these great people around us as examples. Their lives tell us what faith means. So we, too, should run the race that is before us and never quit. We should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fall. 2 We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne. 3 Think about Jesus. He patiently endured the angry insults that sinful people were shouting at him. Think about him so that you won’t get discouraged and stop trying.
There were no “great people” around me to show me the ways of the faithful.
There were no “great clouds of witnesses” lingering anywhere nearby or even in the heavens above – just rain clouds and thunder storms flooding my cellar.
I never knew to look for Jesus, at Jesus, towards Jesus – never heard his name.
Consequently, I never spent any measure of time thinking or believing on Jesus.
Over time, things changed …. I literally had to almost die to call out unto God.
I can say now people will usually turn to God for help when their foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God, through Christ, who is shaking them.
Sometimes God needs to do things to us to get our attention.
The spiritually mature person does not have to turn to God when things get tough, because they believe God is standing right next to them.
They do not scream Oh God, when they are fearful of suddenly losing their life, they only have to “whisper” and they have the faith that He hears their words.
Why do some people have this ability to be at peace even in the face of greatest adversity, and tragedy?
By experience, I don’t believe spiritual maturity is something that just happens.
A person does not wake up one morning and find themselves with a renewed outlook on life.
It is definitely something that has to be cultivated from the bottom up.
The roots have to be developed and then a person will begin to see the flowers.
In my case I did not start this process until I was 40 years old.
From the time I was 14 years old I never could figure out what I believed in.
I believed there was a “God,” but I didn’t have a value system or a commitment to any one source helping me to connect, inspire, or uplift me on a regular basis.
Whenever a wave of life hit me I would reach into the chambers of my soul and discover there wasn’t anything I could use to help me deal with life’s problems.
I never made the connection between spiritual maturity and overall maturity as a person of faith.
A spiritually mature person knows how to take the spiritual dimension and apply the principles of their belief system to their life on a daily basis.
I have always enjoyed The Serenity Prayer.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
In order for me to accept things I could not change and to develop wisdom I needed to plug into a daily source to draw from and to gain daily inspiration.
With a discipline born from years, I found the daily reading of the scriptures helped me gain insights into the battles of life and offered answers to questions that I otherwise never would have been able to come up with on my own device.
Working to establish a discipline of reading, I would discover verses in scripture that I would meditate on and make them part of my prayer and thought life.
From such a discipline, God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit, has born much spiritual fruit with in me – as I daily read, study, pray and write these devotions.
The evangelist Martin Luther once said, “I have so much to do today, that I will have to spend two hours praying instead of one.”
Scripture reading and prayer and writing these devotions have become for me a necessary source of Jehovah God for me to draw energy from, to attain wisdom from, to get the daily emotional strength I need to prayerfully manage my day.
Many people gain energy and insights from other areas.
Inspirational literature, walks in the park, or even melodious music can inspire some.
A fundamental belief system that gives a person a path to follow and that can make them almost unflappable and have inner peace is very private and very different for each person – each of us needs to resolve to find God in Scripture.
There are core principles spiritually immature people need to work on to make them their own, which spiritually mature people have adopted as a part of life.
These essential principles are already resting deep inside the silent chambers of a person’s heart, placed by God, and I believe they are universal to everyone.
When the ground starts to quake a person who has a strong core understands the reason for the earth quake and has the confidence that there is a way out.
The Christian life is not a series of a few special performances; it is steady persistence for a lifetime.
Many of us can produce a burst of enthusiasm now and then.
That’s not particularly difficult.
The real challenge is to stay the course over the long haul—not a flash in the pan but steady, stable, and persevering in the essentials of maturing faith.
I believe that Reading, Studying, Praying, through the second half of Hebrews 12 presents us all with a “beginning” to-do list of sorts for the Christian life.
It’s not by any means any quick-fix, three-easy-steps-to-success kind of list, but it does offer us six important ways to walk in enduring Christian maturity.
Hebrews 12:12-13 Easy-to-Read Version
Be Careful How You Live
12 You have become weak, so make yourselves strong again. 13 Live in the right way so that you will be saved and your weakness will not cause you to be lost.
Keep Strong and Straight
Despondency is one of the great avenues of attack from the Evil One.
Our disconnections, our discouragements are his delight, and he can uses them to great effect, for Christians in daily living, even for those involved in ministry.
To serve Christ is not to walk around in blissful unawareness of life’s realities.
The Christian life involves serious struggle.
this call to step forward—in “the strength that God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11), as it were—must not only ring in our ears but quake and reverberate in our hearts.
Those who seek to follow Christ must be prepared to declare, I absolutely refuse to gratify the devil by staying downhearted.
He would love nothing more than to see our arms enfeebled, our quaking knees buckling under his devices, and our paths veering off the course of obedience.
Pursue Harmony and Holiness
Hebrews 12:14Easy-to-Read Version
14 Try to live in peace with everyone. And try to keep your lives free from sin. Anyone whose life is not holy will never see the Lord.
“Strive” is probably a more appropriate translation for the imperative here.
It communicates concentrated, vigorous effort.
The author is saying,
I want you to pursue this with the passion of a hound pursuing a fox.
And the fox we are to pursue is the twofold goal of harmony and holiness.
Maintaining peace requires serious striving.
Christ purchased peace, and “he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).
Discord is inevitable in our fractured age, even in the church—but this is no reason to ever consider giving up!
We strive to grow in harmony and to shed the burdens and sins that hold us back from it.
Jesus Himself told us, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
We won’t have perfect harmony before Christ returns, but in reliance on the Holy Spirit, we can each strive to be a small taste of heavenly community.
And how do we foster such harmony?
Well, holiness provides the steady framework, the fertile soil, for the harmony that we enjoy.
As we grow in holiness together from the shared wellspring of the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts, we will also grow in harmony with one another, with God.
Neither harmony nor holiness is an optional extra – they come from the work of Christ’s Spirit in us and within us thus are evidence we all really belong to Him.
Grow in God’s Grace Not in Humanity’s Bitterness
Hebrews 12:15Easy-to-Read Version
15 Be careful that no one fails to get God’s grace. Be careful that no one loses their faith and becomes like a bitter weed growing among you. Someone like that can ruin your whole group.
How can we miss the grace of God?
We may be surprised how easy it is to do so!
When the Scriptures are taught, when the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism are practiced, when the church fellowships together, it is still possible for us to sit around, wipe the dust off our bibles, sit with our fingers in our ears.
The phrases “bitter weed” “root of bitterness” in this verse draws its language from Deuteronomy 29, in which Moses warns Israel about their hearts:
“Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit” (verse 18).
This is someone “who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart’” (v. 19, emphasis added).
James echoes this warning with the command to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22, emphasis added).
When we hear without really listening, then we end up having all the trappings of Christianity while worldliness is still rooted in our hearts.
Envy, bitterness, anger, rage, and despondency begin to make our souls numb, impervious to what God really wants for us.
We must pull these destructive weeds up by the root and instead let the grace of God fill our hearts so that we can be disciplined hearers and doers of His Word.
Reject Immorality and Godlessness
Hebrews 12:15-17Easy-to-Read Version
15 Be careful that no one fails to get God’s grace. Be careful that no one loses their faith and becomes like a bitter weed growing among you. Someone like that can ruin your whole group. 16 Be careful that no one commits sexual sin. And be careful that no one is like Esau and never thinks about God. As the oldest son, Esau would have inherited everything from his father. But he sold all that for a single meal. 17 You remember that after Esau did this, he wanted to get his father’s blessing. He wanted that blessing so much that he cried. But his father refused to give him the blessing, because Esau could find no way to change what he had done.
The original hearers of the Epistle to the Hebrews lived in an overwhelmingly pagan society—perhaps an not unlike our own, in which promiscuity outpaces modesty nearly everywhere they walked and talked and we, today, now look.
In such a sexually charged setting, it is imperative God’s people demonstrate how we are both set apart to God and set apart from sin.
As the apostle Paul commends, we must “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
How does Esau fit in?
His story serves as a parable of an outsized physical appetite.
In the heat of the moment, he exchanged his heritage and home for something quick and easy and potentially appealing and probably appetizing and cheap.
Like him, you can build your life for decades, throw it away in five minutes in a fit of unchecked lust—or rage, pride, or greed, or cheapened, for that matter.
We must not sell out to sin.
The tradeoff is simply never worth it, never going to be worth it, no matter what we self actualize, rationalize or temptation promises in the moment.
Discipline Yourselves to Listen Only to God
Hebrews 12:25-26Easy-to-Read Version
25 Be careful and don’t refuse to listen when God speaks. Those people refused to listen to him when he warned them on earth. And they did not escape. Now God is speaking from heaven. So now it will be worse for those who refuse to listen to him. 26 When he spoke before, his voice shook the earth. But now he has promised, “Once again I will shake the earth, but I will also shake heaven.”[a]
By reading, studying and praying through the OT, time and again, God sent prophets to warn His people—and all too often, the people refused to listen.
Their willful ignorance eventually resulted in 70 years of exile.
If God did that to people who refused His earthly prophets, then we surely should think twice before we refuse the word of His very Son from heaven.
Luke 16:19-31New Living Translation
Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.
22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet.[a] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and he went to the place of the dead.[b] There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.
24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’
25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’
27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’
29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’
30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’
31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
From this Parable in Luke, we certainly can learn to point to specific steps of obedience for clarity’s sake, but generally speaking, we always return to this foundation of the faith: hearing what GOD says and putting it into practice.
It’s profoundly simple, and simply profound: do not dismiss God who speaks.
Worship God and God alone with Reverence and Awe
Hebrews 12:28-29Easy-to-Read Version
28 So we should be thankful because we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. And because we are thankful, we should worship God in a way that will please him. We should do this with respect and fear, 29 because our God is like a fire that can destroy us.
The final essential of Hebrews 12 is to worship God acceptably and properly, “with reverence and awe.”
We ought to set aside superficial and trivial controversies about worship style to experience and declare the glory of God with His people.
And beyond our corporate gatherings, our very lives should be becoming a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).
Our God, a great and “consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24), is absolutely worthy to have our entire lives devoted to Him.
To give our whole selves to God and practice these six essentials isn’t a responsibility to be carried out grudgingly.
It is our privilege and pleasure to live as God intends us to.
He has written the whole of His story, of His glory across time and space, and—wonder upon wonder!—all who confess Christ Jesus as Lord and will Savior find themselves an abundant, essential, critically important part of His master plan.
When we live and act in accord with what He sets forth and pursue obedience over a lifetime, He will use us to His Abundance to keep writing His story and to keep inviting and to keep drawing others into His kingdom on Earth.
Are these essentials our duty?
Sure they are.
They are also our delight as we “Coram Deo” live to display Christ’s greatness.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Lord of Power, Lord of my Life, sometimes I feel weak and crushed. I feel like I am trying to run a race with sprained or broken ankles. I do not know how I can go on like this. Please, make haste to bring strength to my legs so that despite the pain of this life, I can keep moving forward. Give me hope, wisdom and faith, keeping my eyes on the prize and looking forward to eternal life in Your heavenly kingdom.
Adeste Fidelis! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.
Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.