Text: Heb 5:11-14; 6:1-2; 10:32-34; 12:12-14
Summary: We need endurance to run our race. We need to endure God’s discipline. We need to endure the reproach of this world. We need to endure with discernment. We need to endure for the joy set before us.
Father, we ask that you would be present with us as we’re beginning to wrap up the book of Hebrews. You’ve taught us so many things and now you’re encouraging us to endure. Teach us how to endure. Give us the grace to endure. Speak now, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen
Let me start by saying that we need endurance to run this race. It’s one thing that you and I start this race, but more importantly, to finish this race, we need endurance. This message actually doesn’t apply to everybody. It doesn’t apply if you’re not Christian because you first have to be born again and saved–then you start your race and later on you endure. This message also doesn’t apply if you’re a baby Christian. There’s a very specific audience that the author of Hebrews has in mind. Let me just highlight a few of the verses to indicate who he’s writing to.
11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God…
So it’s very clear who the author of Hebrews is talking to. He’s not talking to non Christians. He’s not talking to baby Christians. He’s talking to people who by this time should be mature. By this time, you should be eating solid food. By this time, you should be pressing on toward perfection or maturity. By this time, you should be skilled in the word of righteousness and explaining how to be approved or right before God. The word of righteousness–that is a more advanced teaching. And he’s saying, by now you should be teachers. All of you should be teachers.
And when I read this, I feel the Lord saying specifically to me–by now, I should be a teacher who can explain how to be righteous before God in every way, not just externally, but in our thoughts and our emotions, in terms of our tongue, the purity of our spirit, how to be single-minded and pure in our motives. I should be skilled by now to teach all of these things to you, but I cannot teach what I have not experienced yet.
And the author of Hebrews knows the audience quite well. He he’s walked with them. He says, by now, you should be here. Why are you way back there? And I wonder for Christians today, how many of us are where we ought to be by now? We should be maturing and instead of maturing, we’re still sucking the bottle. We can’t eat solid food yet. It’s okay if you’re Lilianna age, but already Micah can digest solid food. It does not take long to mature past the infant stage of milk only. The author is basically asking the audience, why haven’t you matured more?
32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
It seems like at some point in their past, the audience to whom the author is writing had this kind of faith that was fearless. They were courageous. They could endure reproach, ridicule and insults. They had compassion on those in prison. And some of them were thrown in prison. You see, they were the real deal. It is hard to know in America who is the real deal because how many of us had to go through these kinds of tests to prove the authenticity of our faith? We just say through our words, yes, I believe. We understand things doctrinally. We can teach the Bible. But how many of us have gone through what the audience of Hebrews went through?
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
And at the beginning of their journey, they grew from infancy. They moved past milk. They started eating solid food. They were well on their way to becoming teachers who are skilled in the word of righteousness. They were getting thrown into prison. They were losing property, saying, it’s okay. It doesn’t matter if I lose my property. I’m not living for this world. They had this kind of maturity. They were running the race well and then somewhere along the way, their knees got out of joint.
I mean, he’s giving a physical metaphor for what is happening spiritually. They were out of joint. And can you run a race when you’re limping and you have knee pains? Can you run the race when your hands are drooping? When there’s no strength in your limbs? Can you run this race? The author is calling the people to run their race with endurance.
Years ago, you were faithful and you were maturing, but now you’re stuck. Now you’re stalled. Now you’re out of joint. Now you’re limping. And if you are limping, you will never make it in this marathon of Christian life. We need to endure to run a race.
10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
When the Father disciplines you, it is unpleasant. But do you know that when the Father disciplines you, do you know that it’s for your good? Do you know it is because there’s an area of your life that is out of joint, an area that is not pleasing, that is unrighteous? And He’s trying to move you past that issue toward holiness.
Have you ever been under a period when you feel the hand of God over you and things are heavy. And you’re not going to be laughing, you’re not going to be joyous. There’s a heaviness over your life due to the Lord’s discipline. And it is unpleasant.
Children, if you had a good parent, you know what discipline is. It is unpleasant. It is unpleasant for the parent. It is unpleasant for the child. And as earthly parents who are who are sinful and evil, we discipline our kids. But God as our Heavenly Father who is perfect and who has our best interests in mind, when He disciplines, it is for good.
We need to endure God’s discipline in order to become holy. We also have to endure the reproach of this world, and specifically, the reproach that comes from religious people.
And to what extent do we have to endure the reproach? To the extent that Jesus endured when Jesus was under false accusation and hostility and reproach and shame? How far did he go in his endurance? He resisted to the point of shedding His blood. That is what it says in Hebrews 12. And we, too, must endure the reproach of this world, and specifically, the religious system.
4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
When I read the verse about struggling against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood, I did not understand the context. And when you read a verse like this, you think, okay this is talking about my personal sin, that can be such a paralyzing thing. Like how seriously do I have to take this sin of lust or this sin of anger or this sin of gossip and my tongue? How seriously, to the point of shedding my blood? This is like masochism. I have to beat myself and punish myself, and I have to go through penance. And is that what he’s saying here?
Now you read the verses prior to this, to look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, the mockery and ridicule. And who was the source of this mockery and ridicule? It was the religious system.
And when it says in verse 3 to consider Him, consider fully Jesus, who endured such hostility against Himself. The word hostility connotes somebody who is so fixated on a conclusion, and it doesn’t matter that his argument is filled with contradictions. He is so hostile that it doesn’t matter. He is so convinced of his point of view, that he will piece together all these contradictions.
That’s what the word hostility means. And the religious leaders who crucified Jesus, they knew they were lying, but they were so blinded by their hostility that they pieced together fake evidence and fake news just to get to their conclusion. And this one, I think, is endurance against the reproach of the world and specifically the reproach of the religious system. I think many have never experienced this. But if you follow Jesus, I guarantee you’ll feel this. You will feel it.
11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
If you follow Jesus, I guarantee that you will have to live out these verses. And so if you’re Christian and you think I can have Jesus and I can still have this world, you do not understand the path in the future that is before you. If you’re going to follow Jesus, everybody will turn on you. And they will think that you are a fool for following this Person.
If you tell anybody, even in churches that I’m waiting upon Jesus, they will look at you funny. And you just have to live your life. You have to make decisions and you’ll experience a reproach that comes from the religious system. Because your way of life and their way of life is at odds and they don’t feel comfortable when they see you. And so how do they respond? They will respond with hostility? Because they think, I could just go to church and live my life and be comfortable and rich and famous and popular and have all the praise of men.
But Jesus went outside the gate. He was not welcome in the city walls. He was marginalized. And as followers of Jesus, we follow Him outside and we bear the reproach. And to what extent do we bear their reproach? To the point of shedding blood.
Also, we need to endure with discernment. And this is a new thing that the Lord showed me through this passage, Hebrews 12:14.
14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
There are two Old Testament figures that are mentioned in Hebrews 12. The first is Esau and then in v24, to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. So Abel and Cain, and Esau are the Old Testament figures that are mentioned in this chapter, and it’s very for a very specific reason.
It says in Hebrews 12:14 to strive for peace with everyone. So as Christians, we don’t want to make enemies. We want to be at peace. We’re not trying to pick a fight. We’re not trying to push the gospel down people’s throats. We’re being very respectful even to unfair bosses. We’re striving for peace with everybody.
At the same time, we’re to watch out for Esau’s in our midst. I used to read that “root of bitterness” as a personal issue of bitterness. But what the Lord showed me this week is that, No, it’s not a personal issue of bitterness that is being talked about here. It is talking about a person who is the source of bitterness to those around him, and that source defiles many. And this kind of bitterness always comes from religious people.
Did you know Cain was a religious person? He is the epitome of what a religious person is. He comes with the best that he has to offer. Hebrews 11 says, only Abel had faith when he offered the sacrifice. This means Cain gave his best without faith. Cain thought, I gave God my best. He should receive it, but because there is no faith, is God pleased to receive anything done unto Him without faith? No.
So Cain is an example of a religious person who gives his best, and when God does not accept it, he gets so angry. Religious people are often very angry. They’re very committed. They’re the first to to show up at church, the last person to leave. They will show up at every meeting, but there’s no faith, and there’s a rising anger. Esau is another person, religious person. He’s the son of Isaac, in the line of Abraham, Jacob’s brother. He grew up with true religion. He grew up in a home of faith.
What do you see in Esau’s life? He despises the birthright. He thinks lowly of the birthright. It means nothing to him. So he’s hungry and Jacob has a bowl of lentil stew, and he says, I’d rather have that than this birthright. Later on, he tries to repent, but God does not receive His repentance, meaning there is no faith in his repentance.
He just cares about the material things that he’s lost because the birthright was a right of the first born, and they received an extra portion of money with it, with the idea that you’re going to be responsible with this money and you’re going to take care of the family. That’s why they got the most as the first born. And that’s all that he still cares about. He just cares about the money. He doesn’t care about the spiritual blessing, which is what God is after, someone who wants the spiritual blessing.
But Esau just cares about this stuff, the money. How do we know that he is such a religious person who just does not care at all about God and has zero faith? He marries pagan women. If you’re a brother or sister and you’re even entertaining the thought of marrying a non-Christian, I don’t know what I can say to you. You’re just like Esau and you’re basically slapping your parents in the face and saying, I don’t believe in your God. I’m going to do it my way. That is a religious person. And you know what? It’s an interesting detail. Just to hammer in this point, let’s read from Deuteronomy 29.
18 Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, 19 one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.’ This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. 20 The Lord will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven.
24 all the nations will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land? What caused the heat of this great anger?’ 25 Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt, 26 and went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they had not known and whom he had not allotted to them. 27 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, bringing upon it all the curses written in this book, 28 and the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger and fury and great wrath, and cast them into another land, as they are this day.’ 29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
And so you see that the root is talking about a person and this person leads to bitter fruit, not in the person. The person is already a source of evil, a source of apostasy, a source of falling away. He’s already on a wrong path. He is not enduring. This person is evil. And what does the presence of this evil person do? It causes poisonous, bitter fruit to those around. And what happens if you do not deal with this? This bitter fruit that is caused when you see this person, when you interact with this person, there’s bitterness in you. The result is that the whole nation was lost. One bitter root spread and infected an entire nation. The nation was lost.
We see this principle playing out in Esau’s life.
34 When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, 35 and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.
You see how Esau is a source of bitterness. He married nonChristian wives, and those wives interacted with the parents, and Isaac and Rebecca suffered. They became embittered because of the foolish choices of their son Esau. And just to seal it, let’s look at Genesis 27.
46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?”
You see what strong bitterness Esau caused upon his parents.
6 Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. 8 So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, 9 Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.
Do you see how wicked Esau is? He sees the buttons and his parents. He hears the counsel that Isaac gives to Jacob and he sees this is important. Isaac says, do not marry a woman from Canaan. And what does he do? Just to spite his father, he goes and marries another woman. Esau is a source of bitterness.
Going back to Hebrews 12:14. We are to have peace with everybody, but we also need discernment. There are people in your life, in churches, even in your own family, that if you stay close to them, they will cause you to become bitter. Because they, knowingly or unknowingly, are a root or a source of bitterness. And if you stay around them, you will be defiled. Some Christians that I meet do not understand this principle. And they think, I need to be good with everybody. I need to be everybody’s friend. We need to be best friends. We need to be close.
It’s very humanistic. I just want to feel good about myself that I’m a likable person. And if you do not read these verses and take it to heart, you’ll defile yourself through the sins of other people. And through your response to their presence in your life, you need to distance yourself from certain people in order to preserve your purity. Did you know that God forcibly removed Cain from the family? He was banished out of Eden. He had to go east.
Imagine Cain staying close by to his parents, what bitterness would have been caused by just his presence? Just being reminded of the murder that was committed, how much the parents would have suffered with the presence of this type of a child. And we know that this just epitomizes a religious person. There are religious people in and around your life you need to distance yourself from because they will defile you and you will be embittered.
What about Esau? Esau caused much bitterness when he was close to the family. But God, in his wisdom, allowed Esau to flourish and Jacob was flourishing and they could reconcile. But did they live close together? Did they fellowship? Did they have weekly meals together? No, they were both flourishing. And there’s so much livestock that Jacob had on his side and Esau had on his side and this success made it impossible for them to share the same land. And it was God’s way of creating space for Jacob so that he would not become embittered by Esau the way that his parents were embittered by Esau.
So we need endurance to run this race. We need to endure God’s discipline in order to become holy. We need to endure the reproach of this world, especially coming from religious people. We need to endure, but with discernment. And not put ourselves in situations and near people where we will become embittered and bear bitter fruit because of the presence of people who are the source of bitterness in our lives, even our closest family members.
And what is the motivation for all of this endurance? It’s Jesus Christ.
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
The motivation to endure is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Founder of our faith. He is also the Finisher of our faith. And we look at the 33.5 years that Jesus walked this earth, Him learned obedience for 30 years, Him saying I did not come to do My will, but I came to do the Father’s will. Jesus had a will, but He crucified it. He did it for 30 years of waiting and then for another 3.5 years of ministry. He is pouring out. Just 10% of his life was ministry. Everything else was preparation. Just 10%.
And then the last moments of His life, He endured reproach, shame, hostility. And Jesus is basically laying out–here is your path of faith. Here is the faith that I founded. Now follow me. Jesus endured the cross and He obeyed to the point of death, for the joy that was set before him. The joy of the Body of Christ being birthed, the Church. Having siblings in Christ. For the joy of being reunited with God and sitting at the right hand of God in heaven.
And that’s how this chapter ends. With two mountains. One is a mountain, Mount Sinai. The law. Where you’re afraid to even touch the edge of the mountain because you will be destroyed. It was a mountain of of the law, of fear, of punishment. But is that where we’re moving toward? No, we’re moving toward Mt. Zion. A mountain of God. And described here is a mountain of joy.
And so we endure, considering Jesus. We endure with joy. It is difficult. It requires a lot of dying. You will be ostracized by even your own family members. You’ll bear the reproach, the shame, the ridicule. But it’s all worth it because at the end, when you cross the finish line, there is unspeakable joy. That is the goal. Jesus did it for the joy that was set before Him. We do all of this endurance considering Jesus and for the joy that is set before us.
Father, thank you for sending Jesus, who ran His race well with much endurance. He learned obedience for 30 years through suffering. He had a will, but He surrendered His will daily. He waited for you, He endured, and then He ministered, and at the end of His ministry, during the final days of His life, He endured such hostility, such shame, such reproach. He was crucified outside the gate, outside the camp, and He was considered by the religious people, the scum of the earth.
But we know that you are the Son of God, the Holy One, and we want to follow you, Lord Jesus. We pray that we would have endurance to run this race. We pray that if there are any joints that are injured, we pray for your healing. If there is any weakness in our drooping hands and our weak knees, we pray that you will lift us up and give us strength. We can’t run this race while we’re limping, while we’re damaged, while we have things in our past that are still enslaving us. We pray that you set us free and heal us from everything that has happened in our past.
Hebrews is a letter that speaks to the brothers and sisters here who by now should be teachers, who by now should be eating solid food, who by now should be so skillful in teaching the word of righteousness. We confess that we’re still drinking the bottle. We have not matured as much as we should have matured by now. So you’re disciplining us, and it is painful, but we desire to endure your discipline. It is for the sake of our holiness.
You’re trying to make us holy in our bodies so that we’re not carnal Christians. You’re trying to sanctify us in our soul, our mind, will, and emotions so that we’re not soulish Christians. You’re sanctifying us even in our spirit so that we can worship you in spirit and in truth. There is so much sanctification to go. That is why you shed your blood, for us to be sanctified body, soul, spirit, mind, will, emotions. Cover us, Lord, with the blood of Jesus.
We asked for courage to endure the reproach of this world. Many of us have not counted the cost in this area. We do not understand that we will be the object of scorn and ridicule and we will have to bear the reproach of this world. We will have to bear their reproach of the religious system that calls us fools for following Jesus because we’re losing out materially. We’re losing out in our career. We’re losing out in so many visible ways. Even other Christians will call us fools.
We’re willing, Lord, to follow you outside the camp because that’s where you were crucified. And we want to resist sin even to the point of shedding blood. If that’s the cost of being ridiculed and following Jesus, we are willing to shed our blood, if need be. Help us to be willing to say, yes, Lord, I am willing to die at the hands of a religious system that hates you the same way that Esau, a religious person, hated Abel, and was a source of bitterness to his family.
Father, we want to be sons and daughters, followers of Jesus who can bear the reproach with joy. For the joy that is set before us, we want to consider Jesus fully. How He lived his 33.5 years. That is the faith that He founded for us. That is the manner in which we are to run this journey. Thank you, Lord.
We pray that you be with us as we come to Your Table. We pray that this Bread and this Cup that symbolizes your Body broken and your Blood shed. Remind us of the reproach, the shame the hostility that you endured. And by partaking in this covenant, we’re saying, Lord, we also are willing to bear this reproach and carry our cross. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen