Presentation on theme: "Presentation 17. Introduction In Ch.12 the writer begins to exhort his readership to persevere. In doing so he encourages them to think of themselves."— Presentation transcript:
Introduction In Ch.12 the writer begins to exhort his readership to persevere. In doing so he encourages them to think of themselves as athletes competing in the “Olympics” or an equivalent. The idea of the Christian life as a race is one often employed by Paul cf. 1 Cor. 9v24-27, Phil. 1v29ff., 1 Tim 6v12 and 2Tim 4v6-8. Who are the cloud of witnesses referred to in v1? The saints who have run ahead of us and reached the finishing tape. Cf. Rev. 12v11. The author is referring back to those mentioned in the hall of fame listed in Ch. 11!
Presentation 17 The Spectators The presence of these witnesses should inspire all Christian athletes, including the current readership, because their faith has triumphed over adversity. Their example should be an encouragement to us to keep on going. Their presence is saying, “The race is not impossible press on, press on!” When competing in a race it is important to be correctly dressed otherwise your running will be impeded. Two different categories of impediment are identified at this point.
Presentation 17 Preparation a. ‘things which hinder’. A reference to unnecessary clothing which requires to be stripped off. You don’t expect to see anyone running a race in a fur coat, a suit or high heels! Greek athletes were required to strip naked for the games and this analogy would not be lost o the readers. Christian athletes are to strip off from their lives anything that would impede their progress: not necessarily only sinful things. There are legitimate things to which we can give too much time and attention. Think of the parable of the soils which speaks of ‘the cares of this world...’ many of which would be considered legitimate cares.
Presentation 17 b. ‘sin that entangles’. Sin can slow the Christian down sometimes to a snails pace in the Christian race. Picture a rope tangled around an athlete’s legs or their trying to run with their shoelaces tied together or with a ball and chain manacled to your legs. Sin will always impede our progress. This is why it needs to be dealt with so radically. We need to become untangled cf. Gal. 5v Rom. 7v Pause to think of things from either category which might impede your own progress? Preparation
Presentation 17 The Distance The writer clearly does not see this race as a sprint. That is not the race that God has set out for his people. Rather it is a life-long marathon. Such a race has its own particular difficulties. Marathon runners talk of the ‘pain barrier’ which they have to run through! Therefore, one of the most important qualities for such an athlete is perseverance! And so dealing not only with the sin that entangles but with the legitimate things that hinder our spiritual progress is the key to perseverance.
Presentation 17 The Momentum The Hebrew Christians had made a good start as 10v32-34 made clear but their pace had since slackened and their effort has been decreasing cf. 2v1. In addition, sin has been holding them back 3v17-4v1. They needed to recover their intensity of purpose 4v11 and shake off the sluggish mood into which they had fallen 6v11ff. in order to regain their confidence 10v35,39 and their competitive spirit 12v12. It was said of Mallory, who disappeared in his Everest expedition, that when he was last seen he was, still climbing!
Presentation 17 Their Goal The fact that the readers were performing in the presence of veterans of the faith should have reminded them both of the seriousness of the contest and of its goal which is not fixed in time but in eternity. Sprinters are often encouraged to keep their eyes on the finishing tape; to refuse to be distracted by anything else. In distance events the runner is encouraged to look out for his coach, the one who has trained him and planned the race strategy with him. Do you see the significance of their being asked to keep our eyes on Jesus the AUTHOR and PERFECTER of their faith?
Presentation 17 Jesus is not simply a coach who understands racing theory but someone who has himself actually triumphed in this race. Only he has run the perfect race and indeed he was the first one to reach the finishing line in the race to glory through the suffering of death. He is the one best equipped to guide other athletes to the tape. There is a beautiful example of this in Acts 7.55ff. when Stephen was about to be martyred. Jesus is both the goal and the prize of the Christian athlete. cf. Phil. 3v8 and Heb. 11v26. Jesus is presented as the one who stimulates faith. He is the author of our faith because he is the pioneer of our salvation Heb.2v10. In addition he prays that our faith will not fail Lk. 22v31. Their Goal
Presentation 17 Their Example But more than this, by looking to Jesus they would be looking to the One who was the supreme exemplar of their faith. No one knows what it means to persevere under trial more than Jesus. The words ‘he endured the cross and despised the shame’, would unpack themselves in the minds of these readers. His was a unique and solitary struggle; great loneliness marked his race in a way that it will never mark ours. Jesus runs our race alongside us. We are assured of his presence. We will never experience, “The loneliness of a long distance runner”. Can you think of the encouragement this should minister to our hearts?
Presentation 17 What helped Jesus to keep going. He knew the importance of fixing his eyes on the goal ahead, and so, ‘the joy that was set before him’. For Jesus the cross was the gateway to joy and of being seated as the God-man at the right hand of the Father. The cross is also our gateway to joy. As we endure the suffering and persecution that comes our way for Christ’s sake then we enter into his sufferings. And to enter into his sufferings also means to enter into his joy. The two are inextricably bound together. The Example
Presentation 17 In v3 the writers argument moves from the “greater” to the “lesser”. From Jesus’ perseverance under suffering to his people’s perseverance under suffering. The writer is saying, ‘If you are tempted to throw in the towel then consider all that he endured for you. The endurance to which you are called is trivial by comparison’. The struggle of the Hebrew readership had not only been less demanding than that of Jesus but also of the many of the martyrs who had gone before. These people had so far not been tested to the point of laying down their lives. Matt. 10v28. The Example
Presentation 17 Wavering Commitment It was of course the prospect of what might happen to them - potential suffering - that was causing some to waver in their commitment to Christ. But even if they should experience the realisation of their worst fears, the laying down of their lives for Jesus, that in itself is a small thing in comparison with what he had suffered for their sake! Clearly, dropping out of the race was not the solution to their problem. Indeed, that would simply serve to heighten their problem.
Presentation 17 How would dropping out exacerbate their problem? Well to disassociate themselves from Jesus, as the only Saviour from sin, would be to turn their backs upon what was the only entrance into the Father’s glory. “There is no reason for us to seek our discharge from the Lord whatever service we have performed because Christ does not have any discharged soldiers except those who have conquered death itself.” John Calvin Wavering Commitment