After another pumping time of worship, PJ was given the opportunity to share what has happened this past year. He explained that he has been told he is in remission from his cancer. It was an emotional moment as it was quite literally this time last year that we all heard of the diagnosis. He explained that he is currently feeling very well, and the only lasting effects are tiredness (he needs 10 hours sleep a night) and some damage to his leg after a DVT. He is praying for healing for that, but said that someone had told him it is good to lead with a limp.
Terry Virgo then, before preaching, recommended Dave Devenish’s book Fathering Leaders (which is one of the books I am able to offer a few free copies of this month). He explained our belief that apostles were not merely Scripture writers. Rather, there is a role that the church needs in every generation. He said, “I have never seen such a thorough biblical approach to the role of the apostle.”
It was not pre-planned that Hebrews would be a theme this week, but Terry and Scott felt led separately to preach on these two chapters. You can listen to this talk or read my notes here.
World mission is tough. It’s not a game. It’s the biggest battle in world history. Hebrews 11 has a succinct definition of faith, but the best way to demonstrate this is to put it on display. The phenomenal things that people did by faith. Chapter 12 is a turning point with the world “therefore.” What about a response. Romans 12:1 is another example of this turning point, where he says, in view of the previous 11 chapters. We come in after what God has done. We are not initiators we are responders to this phenomenal kindness that God has done for us.
We are surrounded by a cloud, a thick large crowd. It is watching what they have done that speaks to us. The Bible is not a philosophical book, nor a systematic theology. It is a book that tells the story of people who had a relationship with him. Here is God in life. Even for example, the God who sees is revealed to a woman who had been thrown out. There is story after story, and the testimony comes, believe him. The Bible stories aim to stimulate faith. God wants us to be affected by them.
It is not that they are watching us. It is that we are watching them. Witness in the Bible tends to mean “bearing witness.” They are telling. It is the same word as “martyr.” We are not the center. Those who have gone before have someone else they would rather be looking at! But it is as though they are telling us “we were stuck, and guess what the sea opened!” Moses is shouting at us “He is faithful!” Joshua is saying “when we shouted, the walls fell down.” They are telling us we are not alone. We are not the first to prove God! There is a huge number who are telling us to keep going!
As we run this race, it’s not a hundred yard dash. It is more like a marathon. A contest that lies before you. In preparation lay aside the weights. As the NIV puts it, “everything that hinders.” Get free from anything that entangles you. What stops me? What holds me back?
Paul asks in Gal 5:7, “who hindered you?” When Paul finished, the legalists came behind. False brothers spy out our freedom. Legalism stops you racing. It can hinder whole groups of churches. Shake it off.
There can also be a misapplication of grace. You can take the idea that you don’t have to get browny points with God. I can lie in bed instead of praying. There is a danger that laziness actually stops us running. Its as though you are entangled with your liberty. Everything is permissible, but not all things are profitable. We mustn’t be enslaved by anything. The new way of measuring things is will it help me in the race. There needs to be a ruthlessness. We must be overwhelmed by the grace of God. But we have another value system that effects us.
All kinds of things can trip you up. Even good things, like “honour your father and mother.” Jesus says to someone who wants to follow him but bury his father first. Jesus says “let the dead bury their dead. Follow me.” You might say “I am going” but then the family say “what about us?” Sometimes there are costs for families. Sometimes people then say, “we can’t go.” Hudson Taylor laid aside a Christian girlfriend who loved the Lord but not China. Rub shoulders with giants of the faith like that and let something of them rub off on you.
We are authentically together on a mission and it takes some commitment. We come in after the others who have gone before and we are in a family.
Lay aside the sin that can entangle you.
Hebrews does not say we are sinners. Paul says in his epistles that we are saints. We are now light. We are slaves of righteousness. We have changed our identity. Old has passed away. All has become new. God has done a phenomenal job on us. And yet, sin can so easily entangle us. It is not our world but it can take us out of the race. We live in a world that is against God. The world bombards us with it’s value system. We need to glory in the cross so the world is crucified to me. Don’t be like Demas who loved this present age. The flesh will tug at us. We have yet to be given new bodies. Don’t let sin reign. Don’t give it power. Put aside the works of the flesh. We can do it now! When we know what God has done for us, we can stop sinning. We have the authority to lay it aside. It is not too powerful for you! The power of sin has been broken.
Don’t get taken out of the race. Be careful. We want to run to the end. I want to win.
There is one sin that the writer to the Hebrews is fighting against: unbelief. He describes it as an “evil heart of unbelief.”
Heb 3:10 says he was furious, 4:10 says “they will never go in.” Joshua took out 31 kings. The people in the land were terrified of them. God was angry with them when they refused to go forward. It is our faith that overcomes. God is not pleased with a false humility that says “we cant do anything for God.”
“Don’t draw back!” Lets believe God for nation after nation and city after city. God has called and commissioned us. Don’t be tripped up. Run the race. NIV says “race marked out for you.” There is a course determined for you. Every one of them has a different task. Noah built an ark, Moses crossed a sea. It is different for everyone. “God delights to deal singerly with us as though there was no one else to love.” R.T, Kendle.
Don’t say “its easier for him” he has a different race! Persevere do not slip into passive mode. Patience is not “OK, God will work it out at some time.” There is a delay. I thought it would happen quicker than this.
Don’t be sluggish. Be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Creation is straining to see the revelation of the sons of God. Its not “I guess God will do it one day.” Its not resignation God is looking for. Joseph kept believing, he didn’t let go of the promise. Keep your mind bright.
Elijah was able to say to the king, it wont rain till I say so. Then he tells the king it is coming, but has to pray it in. Had to pray five times. He kept believing. Every time he sent the boy he expected the cloud. Keep your spirit alive.
Looking away to Jesus. Don’t get besotted with the things in your face. Look to the human Jesus who was the pioneer and pefector. Focus on him. He brings faith to its conclusion. He walked into death. He was not spared by his Father. Jesus was handed over to brutal Roman soldiers who brutally crucified him. He perfected faith. It was shameful. Jesus went through all that. The loss of fellowship with the Father. He is on his own. He knows that God will not let his body stay in the grave. God cursed him. He took our curse. He despised the shame. He felt it was not worth thinking about. Jesus was looking forward to something. Isaiah 53-55 tells us there is a joy behind the black day. He had come for a glorious bride. He had set his eye on the prize. The prize was millions of believers reconciled to God. There is a new heavens and new earth coming. Everything will praise him. Redeemed will be there. The whole earth is like the temple in the OT. Nothing unclean will enter in. The worldly system has gone. The flesh has been replaced with new bodies, which do not tug you any more. The Devil? He is in the fire. A multitude of believers that no man can number. God knows all of us by name and knows our story. We are not a number to him! He will dwell with us. God among us. Jesus enthroned for ever with no election coming! He reigns for ever. HE didn’t regard the cross. We cannot conceive what he has in store for us. We cant imagine what it will be.
“The greatest labour of love that ever happened was possible because Jesus pursued the greatest imaginable joy, namely the joy of being exalted at God’s right hand in the fellowship of believers.”
There is too much at stake. Make the choices you need to do. We want there to be the glory of God filling the world. We want to see conferences like this all over the world. Keep your eye on Jesus. Consider what he did. Lets run this race, lets glorify him, lets be to him a praise and a joy.
What we do in our current lives is of eternal importance. As Newfrontiers we are just at the end of the beginning. We have barely started. We want to keep our eyes on him and glorify his name.