In this episode we look at one more “better statement”, the seventh in The Book of Hebrews, as well as a pivotal and important verse. We explore what it means to despise shame and how to apply it to the life we steward. The author of Hebrews wants us to strive to look more like Jesus. There is joy set before us. We are called to pursue that joy, talk about it with one another, and ponder it often. There is, after all, a prize at the end of the race.
What we’re going to do is delve in Hebrews a bit to a verse that we have covered but didn’t stop and dwell on that has, I think, some really astonishing ramifications.
Let me just remind you of the basic outline getting up to Hebrews chapter 12. We’ve had six “betters” and a word mixed with faith that is the seventh “better,” which is a better way.
The six betters are: A better priest, with a better sacrifice, under a better covenant, a better system, and that’s Jesus as Melchizedek, a priest of a higher order than the Levitical priest, a sacrifice of himself that unlike the sacrifices of the Levitical system which have to be offered over and over again, and unlike the sacrifice of Abel, actually is once and for all.
And the new covenant is a better way of living, not toppling the law, because the law was good and right, but it was ineffective. But the new covenant is the law written on our hearts. So now we’re living from the inside out. A new and better priesthood with a better priest.
Not only is it a better priest with a better sacrifice under a better covenant for us, we also are asked to participate in this ministry. As we enter the Holy of Holies in heaven through the grace of God and the veil that is the body of Christ, we actually enter the temple of God to find grace to help in time of need through prayer and through faith of entering into a personal relationship with God. And actually intercede for our own conscience and for the benefit of others.
Three betters that is a better priesthood.
Then the other three “betters” is a better king, a better leader, a better captain with a better administration that’s going to give us a better world.
Jesus came as king of the Jews. He was rejected as king of the Jews. He came to restore the kingdom of Israel in a physical and tangible way. When that was rejected, his kingdom was divided. And he told Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it was my subjects would fight for me. But as it is, my kingdom is not of this world.”
So we have a divided kingdom for a time.
And this new king has a different approach than earthly kings we’re familiar with. This new king came to serve, not to be served. And he came to give his life that we might prosper. And he’s established this way as a new and better way. And the administration that he wants to have of people helping him serve is us as believers.
And this is a restoration of really staggering proportions because as we saw in Hebrews 2, delving into Psalm 8, our original purpose and design was to rule and reign over the earth in perfect harmony with God and in perfect harmony with one another and in perfect harmony with all creation, with nature. That was our original purpose. Even though we’re made a little lower than the angels.
But that’s not what’s happening right now, Hebrews 2 told us. We don’t see that.
But we do see Jesus who for the suffering of death was crowned with glory and honor. And part of this opportunity we have to join this administration is to be part of making a better world.
We make it a better world now just by serving. Serving is not going to eliminate death, and it’s not going to eliminate evil; but it’s going to substantially make the world a better place. It’s going to reduce death. It’s going to reduce evil. And we’re preparing ourselves through the walk of faith with Jesus to actually participate with him in the new earth in that manner, and that’s the greatest reward we can have for a faithful life.
A Better Way
So that gets us through the seventh “better,” which is a better way to live in this life which is based on a word mixed with faith. If we believe that Jesus is Melchizedek in this higher priesthood, and we believe that Jesus is the king in this new administration in a new and better way, we believe the law written on our hearts, we follow the Spirit that’s leading, we enter the holy place to have our hearts cleansed with the blood of Jesus and our conscience cleansed so we can do good works. We believe that serving and loving is a better way, and it’s actually bringing life to the earth, and we live that by faith.
None of this is tangibly guaranteed. It’s all guaranteed through the word of God.
Then we are actually following the path that Jesus blazed.
In Hebrews 11, Paul gives us a significant number of Old Testament saints who believed God and were rewarded for that belief. The point of chapter 11 is if you believe, you’ll get your reward, but not necessarily now.
So then we get to chapter 12, and we begin to culminate the illustration of what it looks like to live a life of faith.
Let’s just look at 11:1 to get the context of 12 because 12 is going to give us the premiere example of what it looks like to live with faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” So we’ve got evidence that’s invisible. That’s why it requires faith.
11:2 “For by it—” faith “—the elders obtained a good testimony.” And that’s what he’s going to give here in chapter 11, the testimony.
11:3 “By faith we understand the worlds—” or the ages “—were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen—” tangible world, history as it’s happening. “—were not made of things which are visible.” And we know from Genesis that actually these things were spoken into existence, which goes back to the word mixed with faith.
And then he starts the illustrations: 11:4 “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain—” Not as good as Jesus. “—through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it, he being dead still speaks.”
11:5. “By faith Enoch was taken away so he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’, for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” And this is the real goal of this walk mixed with faith.
11:6 “But without faith it’s impossible to please him—” This is how we please God. Believing what he says and doing it. “—for he who comes to God must believe—” two things: One: “—He is—“
Now one of the major problems we have as humans is substituting what we want God to be in place of who he actually is. And a big part of what we’re doing here in Hebrews is coming to know the heart of God.
So the first thing you’ve got to believe is that he is. He is who he says he is. He is who he is, not who we desire him to be.
Two: “—and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” We all pursue what we perceive to be in our self interests. Hebrews is telling us that laying down our lives, serving others, laying aside our sinful desires, and instead approaching the throne of grace to find help in time of need in getting a cleansed conscience is in our best interest. And he’s going and proving it here.
So we get to the end of 11, and the ultimate example is Jesus.
12:1 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses—” Abel, Enoch, Moses, all these people. “—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, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Look at Jesus
Now we’ve talked about this verse before, and let’s just summarize what it says, and then we’re going to really dig into what this despising the shame really means and how we might personalize it for our own life.
So we’re surrounded by all these great witnesses, these great examples, and the desire for Paul here is for us to do the same thing Jesus did.
Remember from the early part of Hebrews, he’s the captain or the leader of our salvation. And this salvation is not just to be born again. It’s also to live and to be restored to what the original design was, which was to rule and reign with God in perfect harmony with creation. And the way we get there is through this walk of faith in service.
So the appropriate thing for us to do is to lay aside these weights and sins.
Sin, of course, is basically just doing life in a way that opposes our own best interest. That’s all it is. And God is telling us, look, Tim, this is what is in your best interest.
And my tendency is to say, “No, I’ve got a better way.”
I think, maybe, in child-rearing terms, I might have made it to be about seven years old now. I think I’ve gotten past the two- or three-year-old time frame where the parent goes to the child and says, “I really want you to start pooping on the potty.”
And the child is “Nah, I got a better way.”
Well, you know, this really stinks. People really don’t want to be around you. It creates diaper rash, which is really painful for yourself. And it’s really just not the best way.
“Yeah but I have to stop playing. I have to interrupt what I happen to be doing right now, and it’s scary sitting way up on that big, high thing.”
Well eventually, of course, we all get to the point where we realize, you know, this is just not going to work for me to be dumping in my pants. But for a while there, you just have to trust your parent that this is the right thing to do. And the parent might even create little sticks and carrots to help you along the way.
And I think I’ve gotten to the point where I realize that’s really not in my best interest. But I still just don’t understand the full scope of it. Not even close. And the scripture tells us this is really beyond your ability to comprehend. What God has in store for those who love him, who do what he asks them to do.
But he’s telling us: look at Jesus. If you’ll just look at Jesus and follow what he does, you’ll get to the right spot. He’s the author and the finisher. He’s the one who made it, and he’s the one who has finished it. It’s already complete. If we’ll just walk this path, he has already blazed the trail for us and won the battles. And we can gain all that he gained if we follow him. He’s already done it for us.
“Who for the joy set before him—” So we’re talking about running a race here.
I’ve never run a marathon. I have no inclination to do so. But I can only imagine that there is a very enduring desire on the part of a marathon runner to get to that finish line. And the goal is completion. You got there. And there are people congratulating you. Or perhaps you won the race. And in order to do so, you’ve got to lay aside hindrances in order to be able to accomplish that.
What was it that he was after? To be able to sit down at the right hand of the throne of God.
As we’ve discussed, man was appointed, in spite of the fact that angels are higher than us, man was appointed to rule the earth. And yet when sin entered the world, and death, that just didn’t happen the way it was supposed to. Death entered the world and so division took place, and we had violence. The earth filled with violence.
But Jesus by virtue of his perfect life, his perfect sacrifice, his new and better way actually overcame that and now has sat down. He has been given a name that is above every name.
Along the way, though, he had to endure some really horrific things. He had to despise the shame.
Now let’s look at this phrase because if we’re going to walk this path, we’re going to have to do this same thing.
It’s great for us to talk about the joy set before us. Actually, it’s vital for us to do so because that’s our end goal. Begin with the end in mind. That’s one of the habits of effective people. And this is our end. If we’re not going to reach it, typically if we don’t know, we’re trying to gain it.
But right now what we’re doing is enduring a lot of shame.
Despising the Shame
So let’s look at this word despise. The Greek word is kataphroneo. The definition that Strong’s gives is “to think little or nothing of.”
Let me go to Matthew 6, and let’s just go through some of these usages of kataphroneo so you can get a feel for this word, despise.
Matthew 6:24. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be loyal to the one and despise the other—”
Do you see the point? If you have two different things, you’re going to care about one and not the other. If you care about A, you can’t also care about B. You have to focus on one and not the other. You’re going to give one a lot of attention and care a lot about that master and what that master thinks of you and what pleases that master, and despise the other. Not care about what the other thinks. Or vice versa. You can’t care about what both think. It’s not possible.
So you can see here, not care about what it thinks.
Let’s go over to Matthew 18:10. “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones—” He’s talking about children. “—for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.”
So you’ve got children in the midst, and it’s easy to not pay much attention or give any value to a child. After all, what can they do for you? And Jesus is saying if you have a child, somebody who can’t do much for you, you really need to care a lot for them and pay a lot of attention to them because their angels are in the presence of God. They’re important. There’s no such thing as little people.
Let’s go to Romans 2:4. We’re talking about the judgment of God. “Or do you despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” In other words, God is good. He’s really patient, passes over all kinds of problems that we have so that we can grow up. He has this tremendous patience, and he’s leading us to repentance. Are you going to give that no value? Are you just going to say, “Yeah, I know all that but I don’t care.”
See, it’s this idea of valuing. Not giving any value to.
Let’s look at I Corinthians 11:22. He’s talking about a situation here where people are coming together at church for the Lord’s supper, and apparently there was some sort of a competition taking place where one person was having supper ahead of the other ones, and some people didn’t have any food, and the others were gorging themselves, or something to that effect.
And he says, “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?”
So what he’s saying there is when you eat in the presence of people that have little, what you’re doing is just giving no value to them. Don’t you understand where they are in life? Don’t you give them any credence? Don’t you give them any value? You’re just giving no value to that.
Let’s look at 1 Timothy 4:12. “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
In other word, he’s talking to Timothy here, who’s a pastor and young man. I don’t know how old he was. I suspect he was probably 40 or something. In the Jewish culture, I don’t think you really had any respect until you were about 55. But whatever it is, it was young in that culture’s context. And he say don’t let anyone give you no value and not pay attention to you just because you’re young. Show them by your life example that you’re somebody who needs to be followed.
I think you get the point here. Despise means—it’s not that that is something that I hate, it’s not something that I can’t stand. It’s something that I give no value to. It’s something that I just don’t care that much about.
So let’s go back to Hebrews 12 with this word in mind, this word of despising, kataphroneo; and let’s just see what it is that Jesus is despising. He’s despising the shame.
Let’s think about the “two masters” comment again. We’ve got the two masters, and you’re either going to pay a whole lot of attention to and despise the other or vice versa.
So here’s Jesus—and this is just like our lives. We’ve got people trying to heap shame on us. Now why do people try to heap shame on you? Let’s just talk about it for a second.
Culture, by definition, our culture is the consensus around what is shameful and what is honorable. In the American culture, one of the most shameful things you can do, absolutely intolerable, is cut in line. The principle of “first come, first served” is something our culture just has absolute consensus about. And there is no law in the books. There is no policeman policing this. But if you go to the grocery store and you cut in line, you’ll get shamed for it. And that’s how the principle is enforced.