In this episode we look at the dual themes of training and joy found in Chapter Twelve of The Book of Hebrews. Our existence is a balance between effort and celebration, stewardship and trust. The life of Jesus is like a pace-setting runner. Where He runs, we ought to follow. We also spend time in this episode talking about an interesting translation of charis (grace) and how it affects our lives.
We’ll be in Hebrews 12. I know chapter 11 is called the Hall of Faith, but you know chapters in the Bible are arbitrary. They’re not inspired. They’re just for us to reference.
And we do start here in chapter 12 with, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses—” So we have a turning point here. What witnesses are we surrounded by? All the people we just talked about, right?
So we’re going to have an application here, and we’re going to introduce the ultimate hero.
Last week we introduced the hopeful heroes being these people who actually ended up in the Hall of Faith. They were faithful. They were obedient. And they were also extremely flawed: A prostitute, a coward, a wimp. These guys are tremendously inspirational to me because it tells us anybody can step into God’s plan of instruction and say “I’ll do that,” and put you into this sonship, this inheritance to be trained.
That’s what we’re going to be talking about today: training and joy. Those are the two themes for today: training and joy.
Cloud of Witnesses
So let’s start with chapter 12 here, “Therefore we also, since we’re surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus—”
So we have all these great witnesses. We have Abel, and we have Noah.
You know, Noah built an ark. God said, the judgment is coming, and it’s going to be something you can’t even conceive of. The whole world is going to be destroyed. There was no precedent for that. There had been nothing like that that had ever happened before. And God said this is going to happen, so build an ark. And Noah said, okay. So a hundred years and he builds an ark.
And then God comes along and says to Abraham, hey, leave your home. You’re 75 years old, I know; but leave your home. I’ll take you to a place where I’ll make your name great, and I’ll build you a nation, and I’ll bless all the families of the earth through you. And Abraham says, okay.
So we’ve got these tremendous witnesses here who did what God asked them to do.
And so the conclusion there, the point is, therefore since you’ve got these witnesses, take all the encumbrances that you have and set them aside. And what are those encumbrances? What does he tell us? Sin. The sin that so easily ensnares us. So we’ve got all this weight.
Running the Race
So the picture is you’ve got the guys at the starting line of this marathon, and you look over, and there’s Travis, and he’s got on an 80-pound backpack, and he’s got his M1 in one hand. And you look at him, and what do you say? Fool! He’s not going to make it, right? So take that stuff off! Get rid of the weights, all this sin, it’s all weights. Lay it aside. And lay aside the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run.
Now, who’s ahead of you in the race? Jesus. Keep your eye on Jesus.
Let’s go back to Hebrews 2, and let’s just take Jesus clearing the path for us there, how that’s stated. So Jesus in chapter 2:10. “For it was fitting for him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory—” Now there’s the finish line. Many sons to glory.
The idea is, you’ve got this race, and Jesus is out in front, and we’re all behind. And what’s his goal for us? To bring us with him. He wants us to finish. To make the captain, the leader, the inaugurator of their salvation—remember this salvation here is from the sin that so easily ensnares us—so we can run the race. This whole book is written to believers.
So get to the end and make it perfect through sufferings. That’s the race. You just have to get through it, right? That’s the point of the race.
So it’s the picture that comes all the way through the scripture.
Who Get’s to Sit?
Let’s go back to Hebrews 12:2 now. “—who for the joy that was set before him—”
He had a joy that was set before him, and because of the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross. Now what was joy that was set before him? He despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Now this doesn’t seem to us like all that big of a deal. Now you were probably really happy to sit down after running that race. But just resting is not the point here. The point here is that he sat down where he sat down. It’s not that he got to sit down. It’s where he sat down. Where is he sitting down? The right hand of the throne of God.
In the very amusing and engaging story that Mark Twain wrote called the Prince and the Pauper, there are two young boys. One is a king and one is a street urchin. They happen to look identical. And they get switched. And the street urchin is picked up, and the court thinks he’s the king. He has no idea what’s going on. Can’t follow the protocol. Is acting completely beside himself.
So they all decide he’s gone nuts and has amnesia; so they all start covering for him. The prince, on the other hand, is now a street urchin, and he’s treating everyone like he’s the king: ordering people around and so forth. And they all think the kid’s nuts!
And this one young knight, this courageous young man who is a man of arms kind of takes pity on the poor boy who thinks he’s a king, and decides to kind of go along with him and keep him out of trouble. And he plays along with the gag.
So when the kid sits to eat, he makes this guy stand. Why does he make him stand? He’s in the presence of royalty. So the guy plays along, and he stands.
And one day, the kid’s in mortal danger, and he’s saved. The guy saves his life. That’s why he came along in the first place. And the young man says, “As your reward I will grant you whatever you want in my kingdom. What do you want in my kingdom?” And he says, “To sit in the king’s presence.” And he says, “It is granted.”
So at the end of story, the switch is discovered and the pauper is reinstated as the king, and this young knight realizes, oh my gosh, he really is the king! He’s not just nuts! And right there in the middle of all these people that are ceremoniously welcoming the king back, he pulls up a chair and sits down. And what happens in the crowd? Gasp!
Yes, they all gasp because they know what’s about to happen? What’s going to happen? He’s going to be drug off and his head chopped off. So the guards run over there to grab him, and the king says, “Stop! It’s his hereditary right.”
Because you don’t sit in the presence of a king. Only royalty. Only an inheritor sits in the presence of a king. Someone who’s in the line. That’s the only person who sits down.
Well, Jesus is the firstborn. He’s the first of the sons. He’s the one that’s gone in the race first. Because a son is someone who inherits.
The Time to Run is Now
And we’ve all already been granted this sonship. The question is: are we going to possess it?
We saw the example of the people who failed in the first part of Hebrews. They were given a possession: the land. And God said it’s yours; go take it. And they said it’s too hard. We can’t do it. We’re not going to obey.
God said okay, you lose it then. Wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Never mind.
[The people say] We’ll go in and get it.
[God says] Nope. It’s too late. It’s gone. You crossed the threshold.
Which is why all through Hebrews we’re told the time to run the race is when? Today. Today while you hear his voice do not disobey as they did in the wilderness.
The bad example.
And now we’re given the good examples. Do like these guys. Even the hopeful heroes. A prostitute! A coward! It’s never too late no matter what our backgrounds are.
He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.
Now focus in on that word joy. We’re going to look at this word joy real quick because it is one of our two themes today.
This word joy is the Greek word chara. So we’ve got two charas, and then we’ve got one charis, and they’re going to be a little bit different.
So we’ve got chara that is joy; we’ve got charis that is going to be translated grace, and I’m going to tell you that it’s favor.
So let’s just look at these three words, and I’ll show you why I think the third application is favor.
Because this is what we’re after, right? If we’re going to be running a race, we need to understand what the finish line is. So let’s look at the finish line, this “sitting down.”
By the way, the two themes for today are joy and training. And the three points are standing up, running, and sitting down.
So we’ve already talked about running. And we’ve talked about sitting down.
Interestingly enough this passage is going to have us standing up at the end. So for the joy set before him endured the cross. So looking out at the finish line and the joy set before us is to sit down. So the sitting down is at the end.
The next time joy comes up is verse 11.
“Now no [training] seems to be joyful for the present, but painful—” Anybody understand painful for training? It seems painful.
“—nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness—” So we get this benefit, joy, and we get righteousness because of the training.
The third time this word shows up, joy, is in verse 15. “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God—”
Now I’m going to set this up so when we read the whole passage, I think it will make complete sense to you. But this grace here, I think would be better translated favor. Let’s look at Luke 1:30, the first time this word shows up in the scripture.
Luke 1:30. “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God—” Or grace. Charis. We get our word charisma from this. Could be kindness as well. So favor with God, which is a good translation here. I think that’s what we’re talking about here: Don’t lose that which God looks on as favorable.
What was the initial point of Hebrews 11? Without faith it’s impossible to, what? Please God. This whole chapter is about pleasing God.
Let’s look at Luke 2:40. “And the child grew—” This is talking about Jesus. “—and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him.”
This is not saving grace is it?
One of the problems with the word grace is that we’ve been taught that the word grace means unmerited favor. Did Jesus have unmerited favor heaped upon him so he could not go to hell? See, it’s a contextual word. Sometimes it means that. When it’s grace applied to justification, that’s exactly what it means because it’s just given. But when its applied in a context where we’re doing something, it’s favor. And sometimes it’s deserved or not deserved.
Luke 2:52. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor—”charis“—with God and men.”
And just one more. Let’s beat on this dead horse a little bit. Luke 6:32. Jesus speaking. “But if you love those who love you, what [charis] is that for you?” It’s translated credit. What favor do you get from that? Is God going to approve that and say wow! That’s really amazing that you were nice to someone who was doing something for you. Well, no, not really. Anybody does that. That’s the point.
So let’s go back to Hebrews 12. And let me cover one other point and then we will stand up, run, and sit down.
Let me go through one more word. Can you look through here and see the word chastening. Just let your eye fall on the word. Do you see it? Does it pop out at you? Let me just show you.
Hebrews 12:5, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord…for whom the Lord loves, he chastens—”
Hebrews 12:7. “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as sons; for what son is there the father does not chasten?”
Hebrews 12:8. “But if you’re without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us—” Same word. “—And we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but he for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present—”
What do you think the main point of this is?
Let’s look at this word chastening? Does anybody know that this word is, by the way? It’s the Greek word paideia. Does that ring a bell with anyone? We get an English word from this word. What English word sounds like paideia? Pedagogy. It’s a word you probably use every day, huh?