Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Hebrews_12:1-3“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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” ( Hebrews 12:1-3 )

No matter what circumstances life brings, this passage of scripture is the remedy. Whatever trials come your way, this is the key to success in the middle of it. We even have an entire chapter of faith examples preceding this to encourage us. So whatever comes, if we fix our eyes on Jesus and consider what He endured while here on Earth, we will never lose heart.

Every time I read this, I picture countless men and women lining the streets of heaven cheering for the saints still in the race. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witness who have borne testimony to the truth and have finished their course in this world. Learning from their examples, the writer encourages us to run with patient endurance the race marked for us.

He mentions two things to get rid of, so we can run well. First, he says to strip off and throw aside everything that weighs us down, hinders or encumbers us. This could be fear, this could be excuses, it could be a lot of things. This is unnecessary weight and we are to throw it aside and leave it. Secondly, we are also to remove sin that so readily entangles us. The Greek word here is hamartia, in which the first definition means ‘to be without a share in’ as well as ‘to miss the mark, to err, to be mistaken’. Given the context of faith examples in this passage the writer is talking about unbelief. We are to get rid of any unbelief as it clings and entangles and it hinders us from running well. Remember, faith pleases God ( Hebrews 11:6 ) and it is impossible to do the things of God without faith. So to run our race, we need to get rid of unbelief so we can run with patient endurance, steadily and consistently making progress.

In the middle of life, it is easy to get distracted and off course. So we must always look to Jesus and focus on Him. The Amplified Bible paints a wonderful picture of this, “Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God” ( Hebrews 12:2 AMP ). We have an amazing example in Jesus, who endured the unimaginable to obtain the prize of redemption. He looked forward with joy to the cross because he knew it meant restoration for mankind. He disregarded the shame of dying a criminal's death because the outcome far surpassed it. We are to consider this in comparison to our trials so that we do not grow weary, become exhausted or lose heart.

When we focus on the example set by Jesus and fix our eyes steadfastly on him, then we will have great encouragement to faithfully continue moving forward with our mission in life, the race that is set before us, until we run through the glorious finish line. We must consider Jesus who endured such opposition and bitter hostility and yet finished what He was called to do so that we too will continue moving forward with great joy and steadfastness.

Endure Hardship as Discipline; God is Treating You As Sons (Hebrews 12:4-9)

Hebrews 12:4-9‘In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, 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 our spirits and live! ” ( Hebrews 12:4-9 )

At one point in my life I was struggling with a situation at work. I felt that I had been treated unfairly. Everything I had worked for was taken away, renamed and given to another who had joined our team under interesting circumstances. To make matters worse, I felt that no one understood my position or validated the feelings of betrayal I had toward the company, toward this individual and toward my boss. It was a tumultuous time in my life both personally and professionally. I greatly struggled over the whole ordeal and after months, things did not get better, only worse.

One day, I went for a walk. While I walked I listened to scripture, it was Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The words spoken were as relevant that day as they day He gave them. As I walked, His words burned holes in my chest. Each sentence spoken seemed to weigh a thousand pounds. At the end I was crying and I knew what I had to do. The Lord spoke into my heart that I needed to seek forgiveness from my boss, even though to me, I was the one who had been wronged. The Lord dealt very sternly with me, but as I responded in obedience He gave me the grace to go to my boss, ask forgiveness and then healing began.

After humbling myself, both my professional and personal life got better and I learned an important lesson. The Lord desires the finished product to be pure and refined. Although trials and the circumstances of life do not mean that the Lord causes them, He can and does use them to perfect us. Just as the writer notes in this passage in Hebrews, we should view hardship as discipline which validates our status as God’s sons and daughters.

God will speak truth to us in the midst of all circumstances in life. Sometimes, it is painful to hear but the outcome far outweighs the stretching and pain we experience in the midst. As in my example the primary way God corrects us is through His word. Paul said, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” ( II Timothy 3:16-17 ). David observed something similar in Psalm 94, “Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD, the man you teach from your law” ( Psalm 94:12 ).

The word is the tool He uses to break the power of sin, pull down strongholds, correct us and train us in the way we should go. Just as our earthly fathers disciplined us in our youth so that we would turn out as good responsible adults, God also disciplines and refines us so that we are fully equipped and trained in righteousness. This is the perspective we need in the midst of all of life's circumstances.

Discipline Produces Holiness, Righteousness and Peace (Hebrews 12:10-13)

Hebrews 12:10-13“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No 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. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. ( Hebrews 12:10-13 )

Christ’s goal is to present His glorious Church to God, pure, holy and blameless. In every sense of the word this was accomplished on the cross. However humanity, being made up of a spirit, a soul and a body ( I Thessalonians 5:23 ), and still being one-third flesh in our soulish realm, will struggle in life and need correction. Just as a father disciplines his children, God will discipline us so that we will share in His holiness.

A few verses before, the writer said to endure hardship as discipline ( Hebrews 12:7 ). Although painful, the results of correction far outweigh the process of discipline. On the other side we come through refined, purified, tried and tested. The goal is to train us in righteousness, peace and holiness.

Since this process is expected and proves our sonship, it is important to understand how God will discipline. Paul told Timothy that the Word is useful for correcting and training, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” ( II Timothy 3:16-17 ). God speaks and trains us through His word. Everything needed for life and godliness comes through the knowledge of Him ( II Peter 1:3-4 ), so it only makes sense that this knowledge, through the Word, will train and correct us in the way we should go.

Paul confirmed this to the church at Ephesus, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” ( Ephesians 5:25-27 ).

Keeping this perspective in mind should allow us to be sensitive to the Lord’s leading in all things. Our responsibility is to heed His word and repent, which just means turning and going the other way. When this happens we allow righteousness, peace and holiness to dictate our lives which is the desired outcome of discipline. Just as He told the church of Laodicea, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ( Revelation 3:19-22 ).

Holiness is the Byproduct of Relationship (Hebrews 12:14)

Hebrews 12:14“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” ( Hebrews 12:14 )

In following the example set forth by the Lord Jesus we are to toss off everything that hinders us looking to Him as our example of perseverance and faith ( Hebrews 12:1-3 ). One way to accomplish this is to live at peace with others and to pursue holiness.

Holiness can be defined in two ways. First holiness means consecration and purification, it is the result of being set apart to God ( I Corinthians 1:30, II Thessalonians 2:13, I Peter 1:2 ). This happens when we enter into a relationship with God by faith in Jesus ( Acts 26:18, I Corinthians 6:11 ).

Paul said in Romans, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” ( Romans 6:22 ). Holiness is a byproduct of our union with Christ, it is the reward of that union. It is not through natural means that we possess this. Sanctification comes only through Christ Jesus as a gift.

Secondly, holiness is also the effect of being consecrated or being set apart. It is sanctification of our heart and what becomes evident in our daily lives through union with God. It is the outgrowth of leaving behind old desires and pursuing the things of God. Sanctification is a process for the believer ( I Thessalonians 4:3-4, 7, Romans 6:19, 22, I Timothy 2:15, Hebrews 12:14 ).

In the New Testament, the process of sanctification or holiness can be understood in these ways, first it is God’s will for the believer ( I Thessalonians 4:3 ). Secondly, it is learned by God and taught by His Word ( John 17:17-19, Psalm 17:4, 119:9 ). Next, the Holy Spirit is the agent in sanctification ( Romans 15:16, II Thessalonians 2:13; I Peter 1:2, I Corinthians 6:11 ). And lastly, holiness must be pursued by the believer ( Hebrews 12:14 ). We are to be built up by obedience to the Word following the example of Christ Jesus according to the Holy Spirit who enables this change to happen.

Relationship with Christ and attention to His Word will birth holiness into the natural realm. He has already provided this by faith in Him as you were given everything needed to live as Christ in this world ( I John 4:17, Galatians 5:22-25 ). This is why, as believers, we must pursue holiness; letting His truth and life-giving Spirit change us from the inside out. Letting what is on the inside of us match what the world sees, a life set apart, sanctified and holy. Without it, others will not see the Lord working in us.

This is an amazing truth! God has sanctified us and set us apart. He has given us everything we need to live a holy life. We respond by pursuing holiness in every aspect of our walk with Him. By His Word and by His Spirit we are changed and everyone around will experience the result of our sanctification!

Cutting Down the Bitter Root With Grace (Hebrews 12:15)

Hebrews 12 15See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” ( Hebrews 12:15 )

Grace does not stop being extended to mankind once they are born again. The opposite is actually true; through Jesus we receive grace upon grace ( John 1:16 ). God’s grace is continually influencing us as believers. His grace is the anchor that keeps us turned and focused on Christ, growing in faith, growing in the knowledge of God and it is what continually strengthens us in His love. Remaining steadfast in that grace protects us from harm.

One of the admonishments from the writer of Hebrews is to be on the lookout for one another; encouraging each other to remain secure in the state of grace, God’s unmerited favor and spiritual blessing. Grace protects our heart from allowing bitterness from situations and experiences to creep in and wreak havoc. The attitude of bitterness is likened to a bitter root that grows and produces fruit of its kind.

It is interesting that bitterness will not only affect your own life but this verse explains that when it grows it will cause trouble by defiling many. By definition defilement means to stain, to soil, to sully or to contaminate. Bitterness can overflow and take root in others very easily when unchecked and released. This is why we must pay attention to the grace of God. His grace covers a multitude of sins. His grace has the power to wash over resentment, hurt and misunderstandings so bitterness has no place to grow. His grace can replace hurt with healing, which is exactly what it will do when we let it.

In the previous verse, we are encouraged to live at peace and be holy, this verse provides a practical way in which to do this; we are to remain steadfast in God’s grace allowing it to dictate our reaction to all situations. God’s grace is what transforms us continually into the men and women He has called us to be. What an amazing truth!

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Juli Camarin

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