Sunday, November 10, 2013

Look To Jesus - Hebrews 12

Jesus, of course, is the ultimate example of faithfulness and endurance. He endured humiliation. The scribes and elders spat in his face, struck him and slapped him. They mocked him. (Matthew 26:67) Peter denied knowing him. (Matthew 26:70) He was bound like a criminal. (Matthew 27:2) He was rejected for release in favor of Barabbas, a robber. (Matthew 27:15-23; John 18:40) He was tortured by the Romans, being stripped, mocked, spit upon, beaten. (Matthew 27:27-31) He was crucified. (Matthew 27:36) The wrath of God was laid upon him for our sin. (Isaiah 53:6)He endured it all. Verse 2 of Hebrews 12 says he endured the cross “for the joy that was set before him”. What was the joy set before him? The joy was his exaltation to the Father’s right hand. In John 17:5, Jesus prayed “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that had with you before the world existed.” Jesus had glory in heaven. But he gave that up, clothing himself in human form, and was obedient to death on the cross, according to Philippians 2:8. But, then, God highly exalted him, or restored his glory by resurrecting him to his right hand. (Philippians 2:9-10) In a sense, Jesus endured by faith. He believed the Father would raise him from the dead and exalt him to his right hand. He endured horrible suffering because he kept his eye on the prize, salvation for those who believe and exaltation to the right hand of the Father. His suffering was greater than any other, for he not only bore the terrific physical abuse, he suffered the wrath of God for the sin of the world. He did not even care about the shame of it because he was focused on the joy to be accomplished. Crucifixion was not only painful, but shameful. Jesus was stripped. Now Jew would allow himself to be seen without his robe. He suffered in front of a jeering crowd, not exerting his power and glory, but suffering and dying in front of his fellow Jews, seemingly helpless and alone. He endured the hostility of sinners. They jeered at him and spat upon him. Imagine, being the son of God and being mocked by unbelieving Jews and Romans. Yet, he willingly did this. If he suffered so much for us, surely we can endure some suffering or opposition without giving up. (5) Endure Discipline 12:4-12 The writer takes a turn here with regard to suffering. He casts it in regard to God’s discipline. Discipline is to rid us of sin. Verse 4 points out that they had not resisted sin to the point of shedding blood. So, the writer says, unlike Jesus, you have not resisted sin to the point of shedding your blood. Remember the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26. He clearly understood how bad his suffering would be. He was sorrowful and troubled. (26:37) He said “my soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” (26:38) He asked the disciples to watch with him, to be with him and support him. He prayed that the Father would give him another way to do the task, yet surrendered to the Father’s will. Luke records that Jesus was in such great agony and he prayed so earnestly that his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:44) An angel even came to strengthen him because he was in so much agony. I have never prayed so hard I broke out in a sweat, much less sweat like great drops of blood. And neither had the Hebrews that read this letter. I have never struggled to resist sin to the point of shedding blood, and neither had the Hebrews. This is a tie in to his earlier admonition to throw off every weight, including sin that clings to us, so that we can run the race set before us. (12:1) Sin detracts us from our race. It also diverts our focus away from Jesus. We see here that the writer equates at least some of our suffering with discipline. God sometimes sends suffering to discipline us. In verses 5 and 6, he quotes a proverb, specifically Proverbs 3:11-12. This proverb teaches us that the Lord disciplines his children. Every one of the ones he receives, he disciplines. And we are not to regard it lightly nor be weary. You’ll never build a TV ministry selling this truth, but it is truth. Why does God do it? Because his goal is to make you like Christ. James 1:2-4 tells us that trials produce steadfastness, which will make us perfect and complete, lacking nothing. Have you suffered disappointment in not getting something you really wanted? God disciplined you to see that Christ, and not earthly things, should fulfill you. Has someone hurt your feelings? God disciplined you to show that Christlikeness includes suffering the disdain or mistreatment from others and still glorifying God. These are just two examples. Of course, sometimes God really brings tough discipline to us to strengthen our faith or to make us give up a sin that is hurting our spiritual life. Sometimes God takes things away from us so that we will take our focus away from those things and focus on Him. We should never take his discipline lightly, but should always try to grow in our sanctification through our suffering. The writer makes the point in verses 7 and 8 that discipline means God is treating us as his children. He compares this to earthly fathers who discipline their children for their benefit. My father did not think his parents loved him because they never disciplined him. He ran wild and they did not care. The fruit of discipline, set out in verse 11, is the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hopefully, by the time we are old, we are at peace with God’s will and we exhibit righteousness in our behavior and thinking. If not, God has more work to do. Verse 12 tells us that, having considered that suffering is often enduring discipline, we should strengthen ourselves and keep walking with the Lord. Here in Texas we might say “Cowboy up and get back to it”.

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