Memphis Belle

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Hebrews 1:1-14
Hebrews 2:1-18
Hebrews 3:1-19 Hebrews 4:1-16
Hebrews 5:1-14
Hebrews 6:1-20 Hebrews 7:1-28 Hebrews 8:1-13
Hebrews 9:1-28 Hebrews 10:1-39 Hebrews 11:1-4 Hebrews 11:5-8
Hebrews 11:9-16 Hebrews 11:17-22 Hebrews 11:23-27 Hebrews 11:28-31
Hebrews 11:32-40 Hebrews 12:4-29 Hebrews 13:1-25 What is Faith ?

 

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Hebrews 12:3-29

 

"For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.  Ye have not resisted unto blood, striving against sin.  And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:  for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if he be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.  Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence:  shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.  Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous:  nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.  Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.  Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:  looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.  For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected:  for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.  For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of the trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:  (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:  and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) but ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem [cf. Revelation 21:1-23], and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.  See that ye refuse not him that speaketh.  For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:  whose voice then shook the earth:  but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.    And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.  Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:  for our God is a consuming fire."

 

"Hebrews chapter 12 goes on with an exhortation in light of this hall of faith in chapter 11, these many lives that were brought before us, of men and women who through faith accomplished great things.  And by the way through faith held on through very difficult circumstances, when it seemed like God was not listening, like times when the heavens seemed like they were brass, times when God didn't seem to be answering prayer, times when circumstances contradicted his love, and yet they held on.  In light of that, he says, 'seeing that we're surrounded with this cloud of witnesses, this great company of examples, that would encourage us by their example.'  Not that they're standing around watching, but are there before us, 'let us run with patience the race that is set before us, laying aside every sin that doth so easily beset us, ever looking off unto Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,' that there's this race now that we're in.  Now, particularly encouraging these 1st century Hebrew Christians, who needed to remember these things, because of the many difficulties they faced of being ostracized from their families and their businesses, their communities, but certainly also to all of us.  He says, verse 3, "For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself; lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."  Consider, think about Jesus.  "in your minds", your translation might say "in your souls."  'Ever looking off unto Jesus,' verse 2, remember, he's the author and the finisher of our faith.  And it says that we should consider him, and remember that he endured such contradiction of sinners against himself.  I mean to say that 'My relatives are picking on me, I don't know what they want, I'm just trying to do my best,' I mean, we've had folks in the church who get saved, and stopped going to Atlantic City, stop spending all of the family money in gambling and booze, and the wife or the husband flip out, 'What's wrong with you!?  I was happier when you were a drunk and a gambler, now you're a fanatic, why can't you go back to drinking and carousing and we can stay in love, I don't know what's wrong with you,' and you go through this, 'Man, I'm doing my best, my life has changed.'  Look, just remember, it says if you were perfect, they would crucify you.  It says it here.  "consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." (verse 3)  'and go on fainting in your minds, in your inner man, you just feel like giving up, throwing up your hands.'  Now remember Jesus, not just Jesus of the past, not just Jesus that's coming, remember Jesus this evening.  Remember him when you go home, if you're fainting, if you're struggling, remember him, because he's close.  Verse 25 says "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh."  This whole book is telling us that he's alive, that he speaks.  Remember him, when you're run down, you're frazzled, you're tired, you're exasperated, you feel like throwing up your hands, consider him.  "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." (verse 4)  Most of us probably will not be martyrs.  Now that's what I'm hoping for.  Ok?  I could be wrong.  I'd rather be raptured than martyred, is my philosophy on Christian life.  If I am martyred, I just hope it's quick.  I don't want a long torture, I just want it over with, you knowÉI don't think, I always wondered if you roll a little, hang on for a minute, I don't know.  But what the writer is going to say to us here is that we may not all be martyrs, but we will all be chastened.  That's what he's going to move into here. 

 

God's Chastening, What's It All About?

 

Chastening, we immediately have the idea of punishment.  This is not punitive, the word "chastening" in the Hebrew makes reference to the Old Testament, it means "discipline."  God doesn't punish, he disciplines.  It means "to discipline, to guide, and to instruct, to educate."  When the Hebrew word, when it speaks of father's chastening their children, it was [included] everything necessary for proper education.  And what he's going to go on to say here is, look, Christ strove to the point of shedding his blood, striving against sin.  Just remember that.  But you and I, we may not do that, but we will be chastened, God will deal with us.  And in the running of our race there are going to be times that are difficult, there are going to be times when we question.  And he's going to go on to say, 'in all of that, God is, in the final analysis, looking out for our best.'  And certainly, that is why we have to run the race by faith, because sometimes it doesn't seem that way.  "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:" (verse 5)  It doesn't just say 'My son,' put daughter in there please, gals, we don't mean to leave you out, we're not like that, we're not male chauvinists, you get whupped too, 'My child, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint if you are rebuked,' it doesn't say that.  It says "nor faint when thou art rebuked."  It's gonna happen, and I'm thankful that it does, 'when you are rebuked of him.'  Now I don't always like being rebuked of humans, and I get rebuked enough.  I say something from the pulpit, I say lots of things from the pulpit, you'll realize that from the next 40 minutes I guess.  But it seems I always offend somebody.  And sometimes I apologize.  If somebody writes me a really nasty letter, and there's no signature, I just shred it.  If they didn't have enough courage to put their name and phone number on it so we can talk, what's the sense?  But sometimes people say, "this is my phone number, and this is my name, and I think you stink, and you said this," so, sometimes I say 'Hey, I'm sorry,' and sometimes I say 'Obviously you mistook, I didn't mean what you thought I meant.'  But I don't always appreciate when it's a human being doing that to me.  But it says 'don't faint when we are rebuked of him,' and the Lord does do that.  He does it in my heart, does it in your heart.  There are times when all of a sudden we realize, 'Wow, Lord, I got things out of perspective, I've lost track, I haven't been a good steward, or haven't been demonstrating agape' here, I haven't been watching my mouth or my attitude,' and there's a rebuke of the Holy Spirit, the Lord can do that.  And that's part of guidance, instruction, discipline sometimes.  But he says 'don't faint when that happens.'  He loves us enough to take the time, the book [of Hebrews] is telling us that he speaks, that he stoops down to my life, and sometimes he rebukes me.  "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son he receiveth."  Now I love the "eth's" in the King James, because it tells us it's ongoing [i.e. "eth" = our "ing"].  'For whom the Lord is loving, he is chastening.'  'and scourging,' that's whipping, [he laughs] 'every son who he receives,' and the idea is 'receives and cherishes.'  So, obviously, he's not whipping us physically, the idea is, this idea of chastening, he's instructing, he's rebuking, he's guiding.  And he scourges us sometimes, he puts us in situations that are uncomfortable, that take us out of our comfort-zone, to make us look up, to us get on our knees.  It's not punitive.  He [God the Father] punished Christ on the cross for us 2,000 years ago.  He does not need to punish us, someone has already been punished to the full for our sin.  But he does instruct us, and he does deal with us.  When Jesus died on the cross, he said 'It is finished.'  We're not, it is, the payment of sin, and redemption, it's finished.  We're not, we're being conformed into the image and likeness of his Son, our destination is not just a place, it's an image. 

 

God's Working With Us As Sons And Daughters

 

So he's chipping away at us, he's working in our lives.  'Don't faint, don't despise the chastening of the Lord,' "make little of it" is the idea, "nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:  for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." (verses 5b-6) Now "ye", it's plural there, it means all of us, welcome to the club, "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (verse 7)  If you deal with that, you realize it, it says it's evidence that you're a son.  What parent doesn't deal with a child that they love?  Now there's a principle and a question here, by the way.  Parents, please, if you love your kids, deal with them.  Now Dr. Spock didn't know what he was saying, I think there's 12 or 13 verses in Proverbs that talk about disciplining your child, and out of the 13, 12 of them say "use the rod, save their soul from hell."  Not to break the spirit, but to bend the will, to give direction.  "If ye" plural, all of us, 'if we endure chastening, all right Lord, if we bend under it, then God is dealing with us as sons and daughters,' "for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?"  "But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." (verse 8)  Good old King James, "ye are bastards, and not sons" you're fatherless, you're illegal offspring, you don't belong to the family of God.  So, if you get busted, good, you're busted.  I hope you've noticed that since you got saved, you don't get away with anything.  You know, before you got saved, and you were a sneak and a scoundrel, you got away with stuff.  Isn't it interesting, after you get saved, you always get caught?  Somebody always dimes you out, somebody always sees you, we're God's kids now.  And because he loves us, we don't get away with anything.  And that's a blessing, really.  Everybody else might get away with it, but he loves you, and you ain't getting away with it.  Now, he's saying that's good news, God's dealing with us.  Consider all these people [mentioned in Hebrews 11] run the race by faith, and we're going to run our race, we're going to lay aside every sin, every weight that so easily besets us, we're going to run the race with endurance, we're going to keep our eyes on Jesus.  And remember what he endured, what he suffered at the hands of sinners.  We're not going to the point of shedding blood, but we're all going to be dealt with by God.  And when we run, we shouldn't get discouraged, we shouldn't faint when God takes us to task, 'Oh it's too hard, I can't be a Christian.'  You're right, you can't be, but he can make you one, by his grace and by the power of his Holy Spirit.  It's a drag trying to be a Christian, in your own strength, it's never going to happen.  That's like trying to get Raptured in your own strength.  You know, you may have a better vertical than I do, but it ain't good enough [not even Werner von Braun's great Saturn V could get you up to the Sea of Glass where all the resurrected saints will end up at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (cf. 1st Corinthians 15:49-54; Revelation 19:7-9)].  Now he's going to make a comparison between earthly parents and our heavenly Father.  And he's going to say there's a similarity, but there are great differences.  Take note of that, because, you know, many of us, when we talk about our fathers on earth, and we talk about the relationship between our dad, and then draw a correlation between our Father in heaven---you know, I had a great dad, my dad went home to be with the Lord this summer.  I had a great dad, and one thing I really had to learn, as I grew in Christ, and I read that God loves me more than my dad loved me.  That is something I had to grow towards.  When I became a father, and I realized the love of a father to his children, and then I thought again 'Lord, you love me more than I love these kids,' that was something I had to grow towards.  No doubt there are those of you here, when you hear God loves you more than your earthly father, you say 'Well he'd better, that ain't nothing to brag about.  My father abused me, he was drunk, he punched my face, he took advantage of me.'  So it's going to say this, it's going to draw some correlations and say 'as earthly fathers,'  but then it's going to say 'but this is where he differs more than any earthly father.'  So he does that.  Verse 9 he says, "Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence:  shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?" Here's the contrast, "For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasures; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." (verses 9-10)  They, our dads, chastened us according to their pleasure.  We've had earthly fathers, I had a good one.  His weapon of choice was the strap.  My mom would beat me with anything she could get her hands on, [laughter] a pot, a stick, it didn't matter, a bowling pin. But when my dad had to do that, he was consistent.  It was far and few between, but it was memorable.  Ah, I was watching Zorro the other week, with Antonio Banderas, the new one, I'm kind of a Zorro freak, ah, God's healing me.  But I think it was from when I was little, and Zorro came on, you know, I was little.  And I deceived myself into thinking that I was Zorro.  You can do that when you're 8-years-old, and I had put this big Z on my wall, in my bedroom, and the bedroom had just been wall-papered.  And I don't know why I did it.  I was insane, that's why I did it, because I thought I was Zorro, and I wanted everybody to know I was there.  But then you know you look at it and you think 'This is not good,' because I did it with a pen, and it was about this big.  And then I tried to erase it.  And that makes a big like bleaches smudge on your wall, big giant Z that looks worse than the, and my mom saw it, she looked at me, and she didn't say anything, she just walked down, and I could hear my dad coming, you know.  And he attempted to be merciful, the tone of his voice went up, and I was very afraid, 'That's it!'  because he had the strap, 'I can't believe you did that! Brand new wall-paper!' and I think he was so mad, he decided I was safer if he didn't give it to me right then.  He said 'You get in bed right now!' and he grabbed my cover and pulled it back, and saw the Big Z I had put on my sheet [loud laughter], and he looked at me and said, 'That's it, you're getting a Z on your rear-end!'  I said, 'Dad, I didn't do it, Zorro must have snuck in my room while I was in school.' [laughter]  Now I've adopted a little different philosophy from my parents, particularly my mom, who learned from my grandmother, and she was the Gestapo.  They called her that when they were little.  She was born and raised in Germany, you're in trouble already.  She was an immigrant, and she had my mom and her twin brother, and my aunt, three within 14 months, and I think that sent her over the edge.  So she decided when they were little, when something went wrong, she didn't want to know who did it, she just beat all three of them.  And my mom said, "I remember running around the dining room table, she had the wooden spoon, and we were screaming, and then after she beat all three of us, we would beat up the one who did it," and she figured that would stop all ills.  But that's godless and wrong, you know, that might be fun to watch on video, but.  So my mom was fast to whip out a solid object and let you have it.  But I got it a couple times just because I was out of my mind, I was a child.  But as I got saved and raised kids I realized you can't beat a kid for being crazy, because that's what they are.  You can beat them for disobedience.  You can't beat them because they're out of their mind, because they do things.  I remember the day we were moving into a brand new house, people moving stuff, and one of my kids stuck their head between the new railing to see if their head would fit between the bars on the railing.  It did, but it didn't fit out.  So the whole process was held, trying to get their head out of the railing, I finally had to bend the bars on a brand new railing, so.  Now, I didn't beat them, because I didn't have 'Thou shalt not put thy head between the bars on the railing' rule, they weren't disobedient, they were just out of their mind.  But then what that sets up is, 'Next time you put your head between the bars on the railing, or for that matter, any iron structure, and get it stuck there, you're going to get it.'  Disobedience is the problem, not just insanity.  Well, of course the problem is with us, when we're human, you have these rules, but you're imperfect too, we're all members of that support group, we're all adult children of sinning parents.  And there are just times, when my kids would just get my wife freaking out, and I was not going to have any peace, because they made her so miserable, and then you just come to the point where 'That's it!' and then the father-thing just clicks into gear and goes off, some big fatherly bellow, and somebody gets it.  And it says here, 'our earthly fathers chastened us sometimes for their own pleasure,' and in this situation there was no time for a rule, it's just 'Now it's time for you to get it, because you have made my life miserable with your insanity.'  Now that happens sometimes. 

 

Why Does God Chasten Us?

 

"For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but" here's the contrast with God, "he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." (verse 10) see, now when my dad would say 'This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you,' while I'm getting whupped I'm thinking 'Yea sure, how's it feel, does your hand hurt while holding the belt while you're whupping me?'  But it says 'He,' in contrast, 'really does chasten us for our profit,' he really does, "for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." (verse 10b) of his holiness.  God deals with us, in chastening.  That's instruction, it's guidance, and sometimes it's a discipline that he brings to our lives and it comes in different forms, and it's hard to categorize.  But he allows those things, it says, "for our profit," for our wellbeing.  He's the one who is, who was, and is to come, he's the one who can see next week, he's the one whose going to be waiting for us in the problem we're going to encounter a month from now.  And with that foresight, and with the great love he has for us, he really does chasten us, not for his pleasure, not because he's tired of us, not because we get him frustrated, but for our profit.  Why?  So "that we might be partakers of his holiness" his separateness, that there might be something about our lives that sets us aside from the course of this world, so that unsaved men and women would take notice, that we're different in some way.  Many times that difference is manifested under pressure.  It's not real hard to be different when everything's hunky-dory and everything's going well.  They really do notice the difference is us in the difficult situations of life, that we respond and handle those things in a different way.  God doing it, it says, for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.  Now, look how honest our author is here.  "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous," if you have a kid that enjoys getting spanked you're in trouble, I had one of thoseÉbut for the majority of us, "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous:"  nobody enjoys it, we're not sicko's, 'Oh boy, the Lord is dealing with me, this is wonderful!' you know, it says at the present it doesn't seem that way.  He's honest.  "nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." (verse 11)  Afterwards it yields, it gives up something, 'it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby,' that word "exercised" is where the Greeks got their word for "gymnasium."  I don't know if that's comforting or not.  At least it's not guillotine or gallows, it's gymnasium.  No chastening seems enjoyable for the present, when it's happening it's 'Oh Lord, please help me through this.'  It's when we look back, and we can say at some point, 'Lord, you were wise,' and it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness, and there's a time when we can praise God.  Now look, the difficult circumstances of life, you know, there's all of these books written on how to respond, you know, you praise God for everything.  I remember when Josh, my son Josh was almost dying, we got him transferred down to the trauma unit, and when we got down there, there was a kid next to him in emergency that, his neck was all bandaged up, he was about 13 years old, and he was sitting there, his mom was crying, and I said "What happened?"  His friend shot him with a crossbow, and the arrow went through his neck, it stuck through his neck, they brought him in with the arrow sticking out.  It went through his neck, without cutting his throat, without hitting an artery, didn't touch his carotid or anything, but it was sticking through  his neck, the point was sticking out one side, the feathers were sticking out the other side, I said, 'What?' he said, "My best friend."  I said "You don't need enemies with best friends like that."  And they had to cut the arrow, and they slid it out, and they were getting ready to take him up and admit him overnight to observe him, and they found out he hadn't had a measles vaccination, so they were getting the needle, and he started crying, "I don't want a measles shot,' 'Kid, if you can take a shot in the neck with a crossbow, this is going to be s cinch, don't worry about it, trust me.'  [loud laughter]  Just get the doctor to shoot it across the room and hit him with it, I guess.  [loud laughter]  You know, you don't tell somebody 'Now praise the Lord, you got an arrow through your neck.'  When I was framing and joycing on the West Coast, and I still have my rigging ax, 8 ounce rigging ax with the check head, and I still have my worm-drive, my skill saw with a sky-hook, and I still got my bloody nail bags, badge of honor, you know.  But there would be some days you'd be out there, and if you're using teeco nails, my comrades know what I'm talking about, or you're using 16-penny vinyl-coated sinkers with a check-head, and what you'd do is you'd get into a rhythm, you'd set it, and you'd drive it in with one swing, set it, drive it in.  And because you're retarded, you know, your rhythm goes good for awhile, but all of a sudden one time you forget that you didn't do the set, and you'd do that slam, and your finger's still there, and you'd just pop the end of your thumb open, like a grape, you know, it just splits, and blood flies out, you're nail goes off sometimes.  And you don't say, 'Thank you Lord, Praise you Lord,' you drop your nail bags and you go home.  But, look, you praise the Lord "in all things," not "for all things."  Because I could say 'Thank you, Lord, there are no carpentry jobs in heaven, thank you, when I get to heaven, everything's done, the mansion is complete, there's no construction, thank you Lord.'  'Thank you Lord in a difficult situation,' not 'for a difficult situation.'  There's a way to look to him in difficulty, and in that difficulty remember what's ahead of us.  He says, 'any chastening, any difficult situation, for the present, it doesn't seem joyous but grievous, but nevertheless, afterwards it does yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness,' and our problem, sometimes, is a lack of perception, 'unto them which are exercised thereby.'  "Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;" now here's an exhortation to all of us, the Old Testament says "strengthen the feeble knees", "and make straight the paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed." (verses 12-13) 

 

Follow Peace With All Men---A Warning

 

Verse 14 says, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."  Now yours might say "pursue," it can be translated "run swiftly", this is talking about our race.  It says, ok, we get into this, there is chastening, God dealt with Abraham, God dealt with Moses, God dealt with Sarah, God dealt with Jacob and Isaac, God dealt with Rahab, God dealt with Joshua, they were chastened, God worked in their lives, and disciplined them and instructed them and guided them.  But it wasn't to destroy them, it was for their profit, to make them partakers of his holiness.  So in this race, lift up the hands that are hanging down.  When we get discouraged, and we don't feel like going on, and maybe you're like that this evening, and the feeble knees, just tired, disheartened, make straight the paths for your feet, make it level, running the course, "lest that which is lame be turned out of the way;" go all the way out of joint is the idea, "rather let it be healed.  And follow after, run swiftly after, continue to follow after peace with all men," first of all, peace with all men, and that's a challenge for any of us.  "follow after peace with all men," and for you and I, that means in the church.  Let me tell you something, we live in a day, you know Paul, and Peter told us about the days that we would live in, that men would be lovers of pleasure and lovers of self, that these would be perilous times, people would be departing from the faith.  In fact it says in Matthew chapter 24, 'because iniquity shall about, shall be multiplied, the love of many shall grow cold,' and that's the only time Agape is used in Matthew in the noun form.  'In the last days, because iniquity shall abound, the love, agape, shall wax cold,' it has to be talking about believers.  'the love of many will grow cold, the agape of many will wax cold.  Be at peace with all men, run after that, pursue that,' it says.  That's difficult, it's difficult. 'Be at peace with all men, follow after, and follow after holiness, separated unto the Lord,'

 

A Warning About Bitterness And Falling From The Grace Of God

 

"without which no shall see the Lord:  looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;" so, 'be at peace with all men, don't let yourself get bitter, pursue holiness, look diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God,'  God's grace is there for us, in difficult times, in trials.  When we're failing, his grace is there for us.  Sunday we talked about it, when you're backslidden, God's beck and call is 'return to me, come back to me, I will heal you,' he calls, his grace is there.  'See that no one fails of his grace,' it says, and "lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you," some people get there, 'Why's this happening in my life?  Why doesn't anything work out?  Why does this have to be so hard? Why does that person get married and I'm still single [that's been my question for 16 years]?  Why does that person get divorced and I'm still married [count your blessings]?  Why does that person get to drive a sports car and I'm driving this junker?  Why does this happen, why does that happen?  Why doesn't it ever happen to me? or Why does this happen to me?' we get in these things.  What he's saying, 'Wait a minute, you need to get your eyes on the Lord,' because the thing that can happen is if you fail of God's grace, and his sustaining power, his care, his chastening, his instruction, there is a potential for a root of bitterness, and he uses this word "springing up", it grows like a weed, bitterness proceeds very quickly.  It's not a slow pathogen.  When we're infected with it, it moves quickly, it springs up, it says, a root of bitterness.  And it does two things, 'it troubles you, and by it many others can be defiled, bitterness.'  You know, it tells us in Proverbs, 'that you put out the scorner and contention will cease.'  You put out the critical spirit, and things settle down.  Because that's infectious.  And when we're bugged, we're mad, we love to say 'You know what they did?  Let me tell you what they did, promise not to tell anybody?' 'yea I promise,' which means only tell one person at a time, I promise.  'You know what they did?'  And look, the church, again, word travels in the church, I mean, we love each other, but we talk.  Don't we?  Don't sit there and look innocent.  We talk, I mean, the rumours that go around, I'm here every day, the rumours that go around here are staggering, unbelievable.  It's just amazing, it's amazing.  Of course, now see that's the downside, the great side is, as we're on fire for Christ, and the Lord's ministering to our hearts, the good news flows out at the same rate, so that's a good thing, it's just you don't want to get that turned in a wrong direction.  'And it troubles you,' it says, now bitterness will trouble you in two ways, it will trouble you physically.  I mean, there's all kinds of studies now, you don't believe me, you can go online and look at them, people talk about aggida, bitterness produces acid, it produces chemicals, it produces problems in your digestive system, it can produce illness, bitterness and anger.  There's whole studies now on laughter, it says 'laughter doeth good like a medicine.'  Now they found that when people laugh, they have cancer wards where they're now putting people in front of, showing Three Stooges movies, Marx Brother's movies, because the pumping of the diaphragm messages the connections between the lymph glands, and it actually produces healing.  [I think it's more than just moving the lymph glands, it think it also produces chemical changes that are beneficial within your body.]  People are laughing their way to health.  See, it's good for you, this is therapy here.  So it will trouble you, bitterness can effect you physically, it will wear you out, it will make you tired, and it frazzles you mentally.  You become a slave to it.  The person you're bitter at ends up conquering you, even though they may not be around anymore, they may have moved away.  Isn't it interesting, and the way we are, we're so crazy, you know, if I have something I don't want to lose, I don't want to forget, I put it somewhere special so I won't forget it, it's gone.  Did you ever hide a key, so that when you need a key, it's your extra key, you always loose your regular keys, so you hide your extra key, so that when you loose your regular key or your car key, you can't get into your house, you're out, you're locked out.  We forget what we want to remember, and we remember what we want to forget.  The person that's under your skin, try to forget them.  You want to forget them, and you can't forget them.  You want to remember where you hid your key, and you can't remember.  But if you want to forget somebody, you'll never forget them.  So when you let bitterness take hold of your life, it works on your mind.  You have to go to bed at night and say 'Lord, I would like to strangle this person, and I was thinking today that I might be able to get away with it, but Lord I know that's not right, Lord,' and pray for that person.  I guarantee you, if you begin to pray for the person that you're irked with and bitter at, you will start to develop a different attitude, and God will start to share his broken heart with you for that person.  Particularly if they're another believer, because they're blood-bought, they're precious to the Saviour, and they're made of the same stuff that you and I are made of.  Be careful that bitterness doesn't destroy you mentally, physically, and others become defiled by it, because we want a support-team when we're bitter, we want to let everybody know why we're bitter, why we're right for being bitter, why that other louse deserves to, you know, get lockjaw and nausea at the same time.  [Joe, there had to have been some people you thought about this way, to come up with one like that, hehe]  We want to justify ourselves, don't we?  It's a word-picture [laughter]. 

 

A Warning About Stepping Away From God

 

Look, "Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright." (verse 16)  Now this is talking about stepping away from the Lord, not being partakers of his grace, not bending under his chastening, "lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright."  He was so tired and worn out in Genesis, he says, 'What good will this do me, I'm about to die anyway,' and he sold his birthright.  Now look what it's saying here.  It's saying fornicator, or a profane, the Latin is profanum, it means "outside the threshold of the temple."  Inside the temple was supposed to be that which was sacred.  Outside the threshold of the temple was the common place.  Somebody that's a fornicator or somebody whose common, their life is not set aside, they're profane, they're outside of the sacred things of God.  And that's where Esau was, he put no value on his birthright.  His birthright, now God had promised it would go to Jacob.  But he put no value on the idea that he was the firstborn, and cared little about how that linked to the Messiah, is the idea.  And these Jewish readers were well aware of the situation.  In regards to running our race they're being warned now to consider, look, a fornicator, somebody who takes the gift of intimacy that God has given to be shared with in marriage and uses it to their own pleasure.  Girls, if some guy is trying to get you in bed, and he's telling you he loves you, he's a lying dog.  He loves himself, and he loves his own pleasure, and he loves what he's going to get out of it, and he don't care how empty you feel when you're done.  Now, of course we live in a world that's so sad, guys I could say the same thing to you, sadly.  But God says, he links that sexual immorality in the same category of that which is profane, outside of the sacred use.  Because there's a sacred use for that.  "For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected:  for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." (verse 17)  Now the blessing was different than the birthright, that was when his father Isaac was blind, and thought he was dying, he blessed Jacob, when he would have inherited the blessing which was relative to the land and the inheritance, he had already sold off his birthright in regards to the Messiah, he would have inherited the blessing, "he was rejected:  for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears."  It doesn't say Esau couldn't repent.  Repentance is available to all.  Esau could have got a lamb, built an altar, sacrificed it, got on his knees and said 'God forgive me,' and he would not have been lost, we'll see whether Esau's in heaven.  That's not what it's saying here.  It said he had so little regard for the things of God, that when he sold them off, and sought once again to take them back, that it was out of his reach.  And there's a warning here in regards to those things. 

 

The Second You Accepted Jesus Christ, Eternity Moved Into Your Heart

 

"For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest," tempest is a word that means "to be sucked up," no doubt probably speaking of a tornado, a whirlwind, "and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:  and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)" (verses 18-21)  He says to them, you're not come to Mount Sinai, you're not under the law again, that's not what this message is about, you're coming to Christ, whose better than Melchisedec, better than Aaron [Melchisedec was the pre-Incarnate Christ, so Pastor Joe is a bit confused here], he's a better High Priest, this is a better sacrifice, he's better in every way.  You're not coming back to the law, he said remember when the law was given, he said to Moses gather the people, tell them not to touch the mountain because even if a beast touches the mountain, it's going to be pierced through, it's going to be put to death with a javelin or a spear or stoned to death.  They can come near, but they can't even touch the mountain.  And it says God came down on the mountain, the mountain rumbled, it says the trumpet sounded long.  What was that like?  And the mountain was consumed with fire, and it said God spoke to them.  I know that when you saw the movie, Carleton Heston went up alone, and he was there on the side of the mountain, and that music came, Dun, dun, da, dunnnn,' and all of a sudden this fire, this cartoon fire, it was cinematography, but back then they didn't have special effects.  So the cartoon finger came out and carved those two tablets out, and burnt the first one in there, 'I AM THE LORD THY GOD, THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BUT ME,' and Moses is like, you know.  But what the Bible tells us what happened is God spoke that to the two and a half million Hebrews that were camped in front of Mount Sinai.  Imagine that.  There's a million and a half people in Philadelphia.  How big is this city?  Imagine an encampment that would encamp two and a half million people.  Some Bible commentators feel the camp of Israel was over 500 square miles.  Imagine God speaking out loud to the entire camp of Israel, saying, 'I AM THE LORD THY GOD,' what a PA system, 'THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.'  He gives the Ten Commandments, then they go to Moses and they say 'Moses, tell him from now on to talk to you, and whatever he tells you, you come to us, we'll listen.  Because if he gives us 11 commandments we're all dropping dead of heart-attacks.'  You read it, and it says they entreated here that the word should not be spoken to them any more [by God directly].  And it says not only that, the word that was spoken, the commandments that were given, they couldn't endure the commandments.  He's saying to them you're not coming to the Law, I'm not asking you to come back under the Law, no one can keep the Law, legalistic Christianity points you in the wrong direction.  And no one can keep the Law.  [and differing parts of the Body of Christ have different interpretations on this, about Law & Grace.  For a discussion on law and grace, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/whatisgrace/whatisgraceintro.htm.]  To even those who were there personally who had the impression of the presence of God, how awesome it was, even they afterwards couldn't keep the law they weren't able to endure that which was commanded [ because they didn't have the Holy Spirit to enable their obedience].  And if so much as a beast touched the mountain, it shall be stoned and thrust through with a dart.  "And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)" (verse 21) now the exhortation,  "But ye are come" now it says this, "you have come," not you're going to get there some day.  Tonight, for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life, not have some day, but have, but have when they believe, eternal life.  The second you accepted Jesus as your Saviour eternity moved into your heart, eternal Christ moved within.  We have eternity in our hearts (cf. John 14).  He says, "But ye are come" not will come or shall come, "you are come unto the mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels," (read Revelation 21 and 22, my dad's there, these things have become very precious to me, we're going to be there soon) the Jews were amazed because some angels were attested to in the giving of the Law, he says we're come to an innumerable company of angels, "to the general assembly" some translations say "the festive gathering," that's the idea, "and church of the firstborn," there's no definite article there in the Greek, it's 'church of firstborn,' "which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect," (verses 22-23)  Esau traded away his birthright, the birthright of the firstborn.  We are come to mount Sion, to the holy city the New Jerusalem [comment:  That doesn't happen until the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in Revelation 19:7-9, there's genuine doctrinal disagreement on how this is being interpreted in various parts of the Body of Christ]ÉWhat it's saying is we are all considered firstborn in the Kingdom.  We are all joint heirs with Jesus Christ, we're all sons and daughters, there are no grandchildren in heaven [the kingdom of heaven, wherever it ends up, cf. Revelation 21:1-23], only sons and daughters.  We are all inheritors, that's what we've come to.  "the general assembly of firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect," better translated, "which are written in heaven" this is what it says 'which have been written, which are being written, and which shall stand written,' it's in all three places.  We have come and our names "have been written, they are written, and they stand written" forever in heaven, for those of us who have come to Christ.  If you've come to Jesus Christ, your name has been written, it stands tonight, it is written, and it stands forever, it is written and shall be written forever.  Isn't that wonderful?  Man oh man, I remember in high school I got report cards I wish my name wasn't on.  But our name's on this scroll, has been and will not be removed.  "to the general assembly and church of firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect," 'to just men brought to completion,' you know, that's what we're gathered to, not to Mount Sinai, not where there's trembling, there's fear, where the Law is given, no, no, we're rather, we are brought to heaven, to Mount Sion [Zion], to the holy city Jerusalem [the New Jerusalem], "to the spirits of just men made perfect," 'to an innumerable company of angels, to a festive gathering in heaven, to God the Judge of all, and the spirits of just men made perfect,'

 

We've Come To Jesus, Whose Blood Speaks Better Things Than Abel's

 

and above all of that, "And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of the sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." (verse 24)  We've come to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and his blood speaks better than the things that Abel's blood spoke.  Abel's blood cried from the ground for vengeance, the blood of Jesus cries, 'it is finished,' the blood of Abel cried in regards to the Law before it was given, that there had to be vengeance, eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, it cried for vengeance, the blood of Jesus cries propitiation, the wrath of God is satisfied.  That's what we've come to, come to heaven, that's what we're looking forward to.  I don't know where heaven looms in your heart, looms in your life, it will become more real.  I mean, where are we headed?  Look at the country, look at the news [it's far worse now, than over ten years ago when Pastor Joe gave this sermon], I see this thing with the kids in the school in Russia [where the Chechnyan terrorists took them hostage, and a bunch were killed], how long before it happens here?  Our world is changing, our world is changing.  You know, I hope that until Jesus comes, my job will be to come and to teach you the Word of God, Jesus said, 'If you love me, feed my sheep,' I love to do that.  But before this is all over, and we come here, and I'll have to say 'Ok, everybody with radiation burns meet back in that corner, the doctors are back there.  Everybody whose out of their house, whose mortgage has collapsed, come up here, and everybody who has a house who can take a couple families in with you, come up here and meet us, everybody whose got some extra canned goods in their closet that they can help share some food, go over there.'  I don't know, where are we headed?  But we know beyond all of that, we're headed to the Holy City [and that will be at the time of the 1st resurrection to immortality, what Calvary Chapels refer to as the Rapture, and then we're on our way up to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb at the Sea of Glass in the New Jerusalem (cf. Revelation 19:7-9).  And then after that feast, we come back with Jesus Christ to put a stop to World War III and bring the Kingdom of God to earth, and peace with it (cf. Isaiah 11:1-11; Zechariah 14:1-15)].  We're headed to the Holy City.  Our names have been written, they stand written, and they will stay written, and they will never be removed. [applause]  And we're not getting there by the Law, we're getting there because we have not failed in the grace of God we have held on [which means not being a habitual sinner, and since sin is defined in the Bible as the transgression of the Law of God, Holy Spirit empowered obedience to God's laws has something to do with it, what he refers to as the grace of God]. 

 

Jesus Is Speaking To Us Right Now, Listen To Him

 

'And coming to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel,'   "See" or 'keeping seeing, keep looking to this,' "that ye refuse not him that speaketh.  For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:"  He's speaking to us.  Remember on the Mount of Transfiguration there with Moses, who represents the Law, and Elijah represents the Prophets, appeared there with Jesus, and then God speaks from heaven 'This is my beloved Son, hear ye him,' when they look up, the Law and the Prophets are gone.  Hear ye him, he's speaking, he's speaking to us tonight, the whole Book of Hebrews is telling us that he speaks.  The remarkable thing is God speaks, you know, you say to your unsaved relatives 'Well the Lord said to me,' or 'The Lord spoke to me,' of course they think you're out of your mind.  So what.  Is it important that they think you're out of you mind?  Or is it important that the Lord spoke to you?  That's an easy choice, that is an easy choice.  Now look, there is a wrong way to do that.  And there are people that do it the wrong way.  You know, you don't want to go to your family gathering at Thanksgiving and say 'Thus saith the Lord!  The Lord hath spoken to my heart, you sinners repent!  Or you'll all be cooked like that goose on the table!'  There's a wrong way to do that.  But there's a wonderful way to do it.  You know, my kids are able to say, 'My father spoke to me about this,' and all of us should be able to say 'My Father spoke to me about this.'  This can't just be objective, it's also subjective.  It has to be reality, there's theology, and yes we should all have our own systematic theology, we should develop that as we grow.  But there's relationship at the center of it, or none of it means anything.  'See that you refuse him not that's speaking.'  The God of the universe, willing to stoop down and talk to us tonight, and tell us, 'look at Abraham, look at all these, these were all imperfect people, and look by faith what was accomplished, and there were others that went through more difficult things, that trusted me through that.  Now you run the race, ever looking off unto Jesus.  And yes, there are times in life when things seem hard, there is chastening, there are difficult things, but even earthly fathers you know, they chasten the sons they love, they do it wrongly, they do it for their own pleasure, but I'm doing it for your profit, to make you partakers of my holiness, to make you into something you could never be without my grace, so don't lose hold of my grace, don't become bitter, consider those who became bitter and they turned away like Esau, and became profane, and what they lose out on.  I'm not asking you to come to me through the law, to be trembling and shaking, that I'm going to shoot down lightning bolts at your feet and giving you something unbearable, I'm bringing you to heaven, I'm bringing you to glory, I'm bringing you to a place where your names are already written in the Lamb's Book of Life, I'm bringing you to Jesus whose paid for you in his blood, see that you don't turn away when I'm speaking to you, see that you don't turn away when I'm speaking to you.'  "Whose voice then shook the earth:  but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also the heaven.  And this word, Yet once more signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain [cf. Revelation 21:1]." (verses 26-27)  He says, look, God's going to speak one more time, in the way he spoke in the Old Testament, and he said when he speaks again, it's going to shake not only the earth, not only Mount Sinai, it's going to shake the heavens and the earth, and everything's going to shake, everything except angels, the church of the firstborn, heaven, everything except that which cannot be shaken. What's that that cannot be shaken?---The holy city Jerusalem (the New Jerusalem), the innumerable company of angels and company of firstborn.  Everything else is going to be shaken, our policies, our government, our standards, our economy, our world, it's going to be shaken, it isn't permanent.  But there's that which is permanent that can't be shaken, it's not going to be shaken.  Everything that cannot be shaken will remain.  "Wherefore we receiving" that's tonight, we're in the process, "a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace," King James says "have grace" it's "let us hold fast on grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:" (verse 28)  How do we serve God?  Through grace [which means not sinning, which means obedience.  Law & Grace is a tough subject, where many parts of the Body of Christ cannot agree on, yet they all, the real parts of the Body, end up obeying God's laws, whether they say it's through grace or obedience, their walk is the same, even though their theological definitions are different.]  How could any of us touch the Kingdom without defiling it, except by the grace of God?  None of us serve because we're worthy.  It's pitiful when leaders become critical, because they have no more right to touch anything of the Kingdom than anyone else.  In fact, my philosophy should be 'If he lets me serve, everybody's in.'  If I get to be part of this, who could I begrudged anything to?  So he says, 'In light of all of these remarkable promises,' he says, 'see to it, as you're receiving this Kingdom that can't be moved, let us not fail, let us take hold of the grace whereby we can serve God acceptably, through grace.'  Paul said that when he wrote to Titus, 'The grace of God hath appeared bringing us to salvation, teaching us to deny ungodly lusts in this present world, and looking forward to the coming of the great God and Saviour,' he says grace saved us, grace keeps us, grace takes us home.  "let us have grace" hold onto that grace, "whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:"  here's the other option, "for our God is a consuming fire." (verses 28b-29) he is a consuming fire.  It seems like a no-brainer to me.  Do we want to meet the Lord as Saviour or as Judge?  Do we want to meet him as our Redeemer or do we want to meet him as fire?  Do we want to approach a holy God in grace or in Law?  And a great challenge, and look, it's different for you and I than it was for those Hebrew Christians, but still applicable.  [To read a good series of articles showing what the early Church was like in Jerusalem, Judea and Asia Minor (Peter's, Paul's and John's churches), see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch1.htm and read through that whole series.]  The important thing it says, 'see that you refuse not him that's speaking.'  He speaks to all of us, he speaks to all of us.  You know, someone lately just gave me an exhortation and it burns in my heart, and I don't know if they knew they were doing it.  But they said to me over and over, "Do it now, Joe, do it now, Joe, do it now," and I'm not sure exactly what they were saying, but the Lord has put that in my memory.  What a great, 'Do it now, tonight you're speaking to me, tonight Lord you give correction, you give direction, you give guidance, you give instruction, tonight your grace is available, tonight I can set aside bitterness, tonight I can take hold of your grace, tonight I can come into your presence, it's not by keeping the Law, but by the blood of Jesus that speaks better things than the blood of Abel.  Tonight I can hold onto your grace, knowing that the only other way to meet you is as a consuming fire.'  [transcript of a connective expositor sermon on Hebrews 12:3-29, given by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19116]

 

related links:

 

What was the early Church under Peter, Paul and John like in Jerusalem, Judea and Asia Minor?  See,

http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/earlychurch1.htm

 

What is the balance between law & grace?  See,

http://www.unityinchrist.com/whatisgrace/whatisgraceintro.htm

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