************ Sermon on Hebrews 12:2-3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 13, 2017
"Let Us Fix Our Eyes on Jesus"
Run the race. Run the race of faith. So far we have learned the race is the "agon" -- meaning it includes agony and pain; it is a fight to be fought, a war to be waged, a cross to carry. The race requires perseverance -- meaning we don't have the option of quitting; the race is a lifelong marathon and not a hundred yard dash. The race involves the providence of God Who has marked out the course for us -- meaning He knows and gives us the grace and strength we need to complete the course.
Run the race. Run the race of faith. How are we to run? Hebrews holds a number of verbs before us. The first is "listen." We are to listen to the heroes of faith of Hebrews 11: Daniel, Moses, Abraham, Rahab, and so on. Listen as they tell us to run by faith. Listen as they tell us about the city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. Listen as they tell us about the promises of God. The second verb is "throw off." Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Throw off everything and everyone who keeps you from God and the Kingdom. Today we look at a third verb: "fix." Let us fix our eyes on Jesus. Jesus is to be our focus as we run the race of faith.
The question we all need to ask ourselves: Do I run the race of faith? Do I listen? Do I throw off? Do I focus on Jesus?
I Fix Our Eyes on Jesus
A "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus." In the Greek the word "fix" depends on a main verb. The main verb is run. So run. Run, fixing your eyes on Jesus. Every moment you are running, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
Fix. Riveted. A steady gaze. A never ending gaze. An obsessive gaze. Like a grandma with her grandchildren. She doesn't look anywhere else when the kiddos are around. That's the way we are supposed to be when we run the race of faith. Our attention, our focus, is on Christ.
B As we run the race, let us fix our eyes on Jesus. In the Greek Olympics, the successful runner does not look at the crowd. He does not look at the other runners. He does not look at himself. His focus is the finish line. He focuses on the finish line and runs straight for it. For the Christian, the finish line is Jesus.
Run the race, fixing your eyes on Jesus. You don't focus on the agon, the pain, the agony: Woe is me; look at how hard I have it; look at how miserable my life is; look at how lonely I am; look at all my distress and affliction. Fixing your eyes on this is disastrous for running the race of faith.
Run the race, fixing your eyes on Jesus. You don't focus on the other runners: he is behind me and will never catch up; surely I am better than her so why is she so far in front of me; she looks completely out of shape; look at the funny stride he has.
Run the race, fixing your eyes on Jesus. You don't focus on yourself: I wonder what I look like to the crowd and to the other runners; do they like my stride; are they impressed with my speed; does my outfit look good on me.
Run the race, fixing your eyes on Jesus. That's the message of the great cloud of witnesses even though none of them received what had been promised.
II The Author and Perfecter of our Faith
A Run the race, fixing your eyes on Jesus.
When I played hockey in college I focused on the Great One -- Wayne Gretzky. I watched replays of his goals and his assists and how he stood behind the net and directed the play. I hoped to become a better player by doing this. A couple of weeks ago on vacation I got up early every morning and watched Le Tour de France. I especially focused on Chris Froome as he won for the fourth time. When the broadcast was done I got on my bike and tried to cycle like him as I went up the coastal mountains. To get better at anything you watch those who are the best. As we run the race of faith marked out for us by God we must focus our attention on Jesus, the greatest of all runners.
For eight months we have been looking at how the Old Testament heroes of faith ran the race of faith. We listened to their stories. We were encouraged and strengthened and inspired in our faith. Yet, they all had their flaws. Abraham lied about his relationship to Sarah. Moses had a temper. David knew the sin that entangled. Gideon tested God. Not one of them ran perfectly.
Run the race, fixing your eyes on Jesus. Why? Because Jesus alone ran the race perfectly.
B "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus." Jesus. This is His name. This is His name as a man. This is the name He was given after He was born. Hebrews wants to emphasize that Jesus ran as a man, as a human. As someone with our flesh and blood. As someone Who has been tempted in every way, just as we are. As someone Who knows what it means to be tired and hungry and thirsty. As someone Who experienced grief and pain and illness and anger. As someone Who learned to read and write. As someone Who learned a skill. As someone Whose patience was tested more than once.
Run the race, fixing your eyes on Jesus. Because as a man, in the flesh, Jesus perfectly ran the race of faith.
C Run the race, fixing your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Jesus is called the author of our faith. We need to understand this rightly. Hebrews is not talking about Jesus as the giver of faith. Hebrews is not talking about Jesus as the cause of our faith. Hebrews is not talking about Jesus as the source of faith. Rather, Hebrews is talking about Jesus as the leader in the race of faith. He is the trailblazer. He is the pioneer. He is the scout Who leads the way. Implying that behind Him, following Him, imitating Him, are a host of others. To run the race of faith, follow Jesus, imitate Jesus, be like Jesus. Because in Jesus we see what real faith is.
Jesus is also called the perfecter of faith. He is not just one person of faith among many others of faith. He is not a man of faith like the Old Testament heroes of faith. When it comes to faith, He is greater than all others, more than all others, and surpasses all others. That is why Hebrews mentions Him after the list of all the men and women of faith highlighted in Hebrews 11. Jesus is the man of faith above all others. His earthly life and ministry displays perfect faith.
Run the race, fixing your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He is the greatest of all runners. To run the race marked out by the Father we must focus on Him, follow Him, be like Him.
D Hebrews emphasizes what Jesus did as He ran the race of faith: He endured the cross, scorning its shame. Death on the cross means to be cursed by God. Jesus was cursed with the sin and guilt of all God's people; He bore their punishment. And, He scorned, He disregarded, He counted as nothing the shame of such a dreadful death.
He did this by faith. By faith He perfectly ran the course marked out for Him from eternity by the Father: the way to Jerusalem, the way to the cross, the way to the grave.
And look where He is now. He is at the finish line. He rose from the grave, He ascended into heaven, and He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. This is what Hebrews means by the "joy set before him." Jesus knew what awaited Him after the cross and the grave. Jesus knew that the course marked out for Him by God included the resurrection, the ascension, and the seating at God's right hand. He has run the race. He has fought the good fight, He has finished the race, He has kept the faith. He has received the crown of righteousness.
Do you see Him? Do you see Him at the finish line? Do you see Him Who perfectly ran the race looking back at you and me? Do you see Him beckoning us? Do you see Him waving us on? Do you see Him encouraging us to run to Him? Do you hear Him calling you to live and run by faith?
How do we run the agon? How do we persevere as we face trouble and pain and hardship and persecution? How do we run the course marked out for us by God? How do we throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles -- especially the things and the sin that we love? Here is the answer: Run the race, fixing your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
The strength of your faith, my dear friends, is in direct proportion to your preoccupation with Jesus. The strength of your faith is tied to your focus on Jesus. When the goal of your life is the things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, you will find yourself running the race of faith. When Jesus is the focus of your songs, your prayers, your worship, your devotions, your life, you will find yourself running the race of faith.
As a church, as parents, as grandparents, we want to set Jesus before our children and youth. We want them to see Him. We want them to focus on Him. We want them to follow Him in running the race.
III He Endured Opposition
A Run the race, fixing your eyes on Jesus. The first reason: He is the author and perfecter our faith. The second reason:
(Heb 12:3) Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews uses another image from the Greek Olympics. Think of a runner who collapses from utter exhaustion as he crosses the finish line. Hebrews brings up this image because there are Christians who collapse before they cross the finish line, before the race is finished.
Jesus endured such opposition from sinful men. But He did not collapse. He kept on running. He endured all sorts of opposition but still He kept on running.
Consider Him, says Hebrews. Consider. It means to think about. It means to compare. Compare what is going on in your life with what happened in His. Compare the hostility He faced with the hostility you face. Compare His opposition to yours. Jesus willingly left the glories of heaven, the glories that were rightfully His as the eternal Son of God, to endure opposition and pain and suffering.
Consider Him. The point being that since Jesus endured for you the race marked out for Him, then certainly you can endure the race God has marked out for you. He met opposition as Lord; you are called to endure opposition as one of His servants. He was tested as Teacher; you are called to endure as one of His disciples. He was despised and rejected as the Son of God; you are called to persevere as one of God's adopted children.
Jesus ran the race of faith against the greatest and most violent of opposition.
B Let me remind you of the opposition He faced and endured. It started already at His birth with the plots of King Herod. His character was attacked as a glutton and drunkard. He was accused of blasphemy. His opponents tried to trap Him with sly questions. He was betrayed. He was denied. He was whipped. He was crucified. He was mocked and taunted. He endured the greatest hostility, the greatest injuries, the greatest punishment, the greatest hatred.
This is what He endured as He ran the race. And, how did He respond? He stood firm to the end. He endured. He submitted to the plan of God. He kept silent before the accusations of men. He ran the race.
C Consider Him. Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men. Why? Here is the reason: "so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
As you run the race, my brothers and sisters, consider His opposition. As you run the race, consider what He faced. As you run the race, consider the enmity and hatred thrown down upon Him. As you run the race, consider what He endured and what He gave up for you. Consider what He endured and what He gave up so you can be saved. When I contemplate what He endured I am encouraged to stay in the race. When I contemplate what He endured how can I grow weary and lose heart?
(Heb 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. (2) 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. (3) Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
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