Using the correct elements in the Lord’s Supper with a biblical understanding of them is important. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper at his last meal with his disciples as part of the Jewish Passover (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:14-20).
Unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine were part of the meal. Jesus indicated that the bread was symbolic of his body and the fruit of the vine symbolic of his blood. The unleavened bread symbolizes the purity of Christ, for he was without sin (Hebrews 4:15) and thus his body was an unblemished sacrifice for our sins. The juice from crushed grapes symbolizes the blood that Christ shed for us.
In partaking of the bread and the cup, as Christ’s disciples we are to remember his sacrifice on the cross of Calvary as he gave his body and shed his blood for our sins.
it is an opportunity to obey a command of Christ and to recall his sacrifice for us, his presence with us and his certain return (1 Corinthians 11:24-28).
What is the significance of the Lord’s Supper?
1. It is an act of fellowship and intimacy with God.In the same way that eating with someone is an act of fellowship and intimacy, so is taking the Lord’s Supper. In the Old Testament, there were various instances and opportunities to eat in the presence of God. For example, after God made a covenant with Israel in Exodus, Moses and seventy elders went up Mount Sinai, beheld God, and ate before him. Exodus 24:9-11 says:
Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear like the sky itself. But he did not lay a hand on the leaders of the Israelites, so they saw God, and they ate and they drank.
In addition, there were ceremonies instituted in Israel, as part of God’s law, where the offeror would eat in the presence of God at the tabernacle and later the temple, such as with the giving of the tithe and the fellowship offering. Deuteronomy 14:23 and 26 says this about the tithe:
In the presence of the Lord your God you must eat from the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the place he chooses to locate his name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always… Then you may spend the money however you wish for cattle, sheep, wine, beer, or whatever you desire. You and your household may eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and enjoy it.
Leviticus 19:5-6 says this about the fellowship offerings:
When you sacrifice a peace offering sacrifice to the Lord, you must sacrifice it so that it is accepted for you. It must be eaten on the day of your sacrifice and on the following day, but what is left over until the third day must be burned up.
Similarly, in the New Covenant, though we don’t offer sacrifices or eat our tithes before the Lord, God has given us the Lord’s Supper as a fellowship meal that we eat in his presence. In Luke 22:19, the Supper was something Christ ate with his disciples, and as we eat it, the Lord is, no doubt, present with us as Scripture promises (cf. 1 Cor 3:16). In Matthew 18:20, Christ said this: “For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.”
2. It is an act of unity and fellowship among believers.In 1 Corinthians 10:17, Paul says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all share the one bread.” The bread represents Christ’s body which was broken for believers, but the bread also represents the unity of believers, since believers are Christ’s body (Col 1:18). Therefore, the Lord’s Supper is a fellowship meal amongst believers.
3. It is a proclamation of the New Covenant and our participation in its benefits.Luke 22:20 says, “And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” The word covenant means “to cut.” Typically, when people made covenants with one another in ancient times, they would kill an animal to declare the solemnness of their agreement and their need to fulfill the requirements of it. Similarly, Christ made a covenant with us through his blood. He covenanted to forgive our sins, fill us with his Spirit, write his laws on our hearts, and empower us to obey them (cf. Ez 31:31-34, 36:26-27). Our covenant was initiated and cut through the body of Christ on the cross, fulfilled by him, and now we are in a covenant relationship with him.
4. It is a remembering of Christ’s death.First Corinthians 11:26 says, “For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Taking of the elements is like a memorial, where we frequently remember Christ’s death for our sins. This is important, because we’re so prone to forget the great cost of our salvation and its benefits.
5. It is an act of faith declaring that God has forgiven us and that we will not bear his wrath for our sins.When Christ ate the Last Supper with his disciples before his death, it was also a celebration of the Jewish Passover meal; however, Christ imbued it with rich new meaning. At Israel’s original Passover, they were slaves in Egypt and were instructed to put the blood of a lamb over their doorposts, so their first born would not be killed by God when he passed over Egypt. The New Testament teaches that the original Passover lambs always foreshadowed Christ. In 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul said, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Therefore, in the Lord’s Supper, we are declaring by faith that we will not bear God’s wrath, because our Lamb already died for us and his blood protects us.
6. It is a looking forward to Christ’s second coming.Again 1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” In the Lord’s Supper, believers not only look back at Christ’s death but look forward to his return. This is important because we are so prone to become consumed with life as it is and not be zealous for the coming of Christ. When we take the supper, we declare with other believers, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).
7. It looks forward to the time we will eat with God and other believers in heaven.Wayne Grudem said it this way:
Yet even the Lord’s Supper looks forward to a more wonderful fellowship meal in God’s presence in the future, when the fellowship of Eden will be restored and there will be even greater joy, because those who eat in God’s presence will be forgiven sinners now confirmed in righteousness, never able to sin again. That future time of great rejoicing and eating in the presence of God is hinted at by Jesus when he says, “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29).
We are told more explicitly in Revelation about the marriage supper of the Lamb: “And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb’” (Rev. 19:9). This will be a time of great rejoicing in the presence of the Lord, as well as a time of reverence and awe before him.
As we look forward to partaking in communion together the last Sunday each month, let us examine our hearts in preparation as Scripture instructs us to so we can partake together in harmony and in fellowship with the Lord and each other.
Christmas Day Service at Lagoonside Church in Knysna will be held at 9:30am, all welcome
Be sure not to miss our Carol Sing at the Knysna Mall outside Dischem, on the evening of the 16th December. Bring your family along
How to Have a Daily Quiet TimeIf you think about your day, what do you spend seven minutes doing:
Find out what seven minutes with God could look like and how to develop this easy habit.
Most Christians firmly believe in the importance of spending daily time in God’s Word and in prayer, yet, so many of us struggle to do either consistently. Perhaps it’s because for us to consider them successful, we think every time with God needs to leave us feeling 100% peaceful or sure that we’ve received crystal clear messages from the Lord. That’s not what happens every time, and that’s okay.
In the book of Psalms, David, who is called “the one after God’s own heart,” (1 Samuel 13:14) experiences the full spectrum of emotions as he prays fervently to God. He didn’t hold back from pouring his authentic, messy heart out to the Lord, and we don’t need to either. In fact, God welcomes it.
If you begin the spiritual discipline of spending seven minutes with God each day, you will soon find that it’s impossible to stop there. An amazing thing happens—seven minutes become 20, and it’s not long before you’re spending 30 precious minutes with Him daily.
Do it for the right reason. Do not become devoted to the habit, but to the Saviour. Spend time in the Word and prayer not because other people are doing it, not as a spiritless duty every morning, not merely as an end in itself, but because God has granted us the priceless privilege of fellowship with Him.
4 Steps to a Daily Quiet Time
Firstly find a spot and time with minimal distraction
Preparing Your Heart (½ minute)Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.”
Listening to God – Scripture Reading (4 minutes)Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author! (Not sure where to start reading, we can help guide you wit ha reading plan, just ask).
Talking to God – Prayer (2½ minutes)After God has spoken through His Word, then speak to Him in prayer. One helpful method is to incorporate four areas of prayer that you can remember with the word ACTS.
Perhaps keep a journal of what you get out of your reading time and record of your prayer requests and answers.
2 Kings 2
Throughout history, the transfer of leadership has been a tenuous moment. Even today, some nations around the world teeter on the brink of civil war when one leader dies and another comes to power.
With such shifts in leadership often comes the question: What will the future hold? A similar question underlies today’s passage as we read about the end of the prophet Elijah’s ministry in Israel. His impending end was seemingly known by all, and Scripture builds our suspense for ten verses before we learn his (and Israel’s) fate. When Elijah was finally taken up in miraculous fashion, Elisha’s words summarized the sentiment of the moment: “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” (v. 14).
The answer is found in the details of the text. Just as Elisha accompanied Elijah from Bethel to Jericho to the Jordan, so now starting in verse 14, Elisha retraced those steps, moving from the Jordan to Jericho to Bethel, performing notably miraculous actions. He parted the Jordan, healed deathly water, and cursed opponents of God. Where is God? He is right here, just as He had been for generations. Circumstances change and leaders come and go, but God and His powerful word remain the same.
Our passage illustrates God’s enduring presence in a two-fold manner.
First, we see God’s restorative power (vv. 19–22). Through Elisha, God’s grace healed the tainted waters of the cursed land (cf. Josh. 6:26). Just as Moses healed the bitter waters of Marah (cf. Ex. 15:22–26), so now God’s restorative power continued. Isn’t this the ultimate message of the gospel, that God can reverse a once cursed and fallen land and bring about blessing and life?
Second, we see God’s power in judgment (vv. 23–25). As the youths of Bethel (a hot-bed of idolatry; see 1 Kings 12:25– 33) maliciously rejected God and His prophet, the consequence were consistent with the warnings of judgment in Leviticus 26:21–22. God’s powerful word brings either blessing or curse, depending on how we receive that word. The real question is not, Where is God?, but How will you respond to His enduring presence?
Do you ever wonder where God is as you consider the future? Do you doubt His presence, His power, and His care, wondering if He can ever restore the brokenness of your own life? Be encouraged by God’s enduring power and presence in our lives. Perhaps you can make a list of the anxieties in your own life, then bring them before the Lord asking Him to instill you with confidence in His enduring word that can heal even those most broken aspects of our lives.
Verse to ponder...
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:8
2 Kings 1
In the ancient world, writing of any length was done not in books, but on scrolls, so authors limited their writing to the space available. If an author had more to say, a second scroll was used. It is important to remember that 2 Kings is really a continuation of the Israelite history recorded in 1 Kings. This book begins by recounting that Ahaziah now reigns. We know from 1 Kings 22:51–53 that Ahaziah “did evil in the eyes of the Lord”; he served Baal and provoked God to anger. Now in 2 Kings 1, Ahaziah has injured himself severely enough to wonder about his life. Instead of seeking God, he consults a foreign god. His request is a telling one. Now at the end of his life Ahaziah implies that either the God of Israel does not exist, or He is irrelevant to his needs! Perhaps the most important in today’s message is revealed in God’s severe opposition to idolatrous disobedience. On three separate occasions God’s message to Ahaziah is repeated: “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub . . . You will certainly die!” (vv. 3–4, 6, 16). In the end, God proved true and Ahaziah died “according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken” (v. 17). On two other occasions, fire came down from heaven to consume the king’s troops who arrogantly tried to seize Elijah and silence God’s word. God reigns over Baal, and the fire underscores that message (vv. 9–12; see 1 Kings 18). Yet there is another message here as well: an offer of mercy for those who will take it. Consider the third captain: he humbled himself, begged for mercy (vv. 13–15), and he was spared. God’s message to Ahaziah may seem like a harsh rebuke of disobedience, but viewed another way, it was also an offer of hope. We can repent and turn back to God. He has not forgotten us and he calls us to obedience once again. If only Ahaziah would have listened to that word!
Today’s passage reminds us of the seriousness of idolatry, but also of the offer of mercy in God’s word. Have you, like Ahaziah, treated God as nonexistent or irrelevant in your own life? Find a moment today to reflect on the ways you may be turning from God to rely upon something else for comfort. Then take today’s word as a challenge for repentance and an offer of mercy from a faithful God who does not give up on His people (even in their unfaithfulness).
Verse for thought...
“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:29
from "Today In The Word" by Moody
Why Do Christians Say "Church Family"?
Being part of the body of Christ can oftentimes feel like being part of a family. The Bible even uses family language when talking about fellow believers. The apostle Paul often used family terms when he wrote to churches and individuals about being the body of Christ.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, Eph 2:19
Believers, therefore, are members of God’s household, or God’s family. The phrase “church family” captures the depth of life that people share when they attend the same church. Believers who go to the same church do not just sit in the same building on Sunday mornings; church members go through life together much like a family. They experience joys and sorrows together, have the same desire to live as Jesus lived, and through the ups and downs of it all, become a family.
We say “church family” because it conveys how important our relationships are with other believers, and that a congregation is supposed to provide support and connection similar to that of a family.
What Is a Church Family?
A church family is a community of people that attend a local assembly together. More than that, a church family shares in the fullness of faith and life together. A church family provides support during the hardships of life, like when someone faces the loss of a loved one or loses their job. A church family celebrates life’s greatest milestones, too, such as a new baby, or marriage, or baptism.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, Heb 10:24
A church family also disciples and shepherds one another, inviting deeper faith and closeness to God. This unique and special community helps spur each other toward Christlike love and good deeds that reflect the work of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life. One’s church family shows the compassion, kindness, and love that followers of Jesus are called to demonstrate.
Does the Bible Describe the Church as a Family?
There are many places in the Bible where believers are described using family language. This is exactly how early Christians acted as they spent a lot of time dwelling together and living out their faith like a family. They ate together, they worshipped together, and they spent time with one another in fellowship.
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Rom 12:10
As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Gal 6:10
Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. 1Ti 5:1 -2
Scripture provides guidance on how to treat other believers. We should treat them like our family – showing love and honour, doing good toward one another, and inspiring each other in faith. These verses about church family are just a few of the references which communicate that believers are more than just friends or people who go to the same church. There is a deep bond and connection between Christians. We are united by Christ as a family. We are to consider and treat one another like mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, because we are all part of the family of God.
Why Is the Church Like Our Family?
The Bible teaches that being a disciple of Jesus Christ makes all believers part of Abraham’s offspring, and therefore, part of the family of God. We are connected to one another not physically, but through God’s fulfilled promise to Abraham.
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Mat 12:49-50
Jesus conveyed a powerful teaching that His disciples are a family. The familial bond of believers goes beyond blood relation. Jesus taught that anyone who does the will of the Father is His family. The Apostle Paul continued teaching the same concept that Christians are all offspring of Abraham and part of God’s household.
“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29).
The same is true for believers today. Christians are family through Jesus. God established believers to be connected in a powerful way as a family. To say that we are a church family implies the significant spiritual bond between believers, and the way we walk with one another through life, encouraging, supporting, and loving each other.
What Should We Do When Our Church Feels Like a Dysfunctional Family?
At one point or another, most Christians will feel let down by their church family. They may be hurt, disappointed, or confused about situations that happen. Sometimes, churches can be dysfunctional. One’s church may not seem much like a family at all. Scripture gives guidance on how these common problems can be remedied.
The reason churches face these issues is because people are sinful and broken, but God has given wisdom on how to navigate difficult situations within the church family.
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Col 3:13
When issues arise, Christians can speak the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15) to their church family and forgive because God has forgiven them. The enemy tries to divide the body of Christ, but with forgiveness and love, Christians can begin to feel like a family and deal with any dysfunction within.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
To create a healthy church family, believers are to encourage each other, build each other up and not tear each other down, and be there for each other, just as a family should be. Scripture gives helpful direction on how to treat fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).
Ultimately, when a church family does not feel quite like family, or is struggling through difficult circumstances and seasons, Christians can aim for restoration among themselves. Believers can seek peace with each other through the power of the Holy Spirit. Through prayer, loving steps of reconciliation, and God’s help, a church family can find their way to healthy functioning and peace.
How Can I Help My Church Body Feel More Like a Family?
When it comes to helping a congregation to feel more like a family, we can look to the command that Jesus gave as an important foundation, which is to love one another just as Jesus loves.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:14-15).
With love for one another comes mutual respect, giving one another the benefit of the doubt, trust, and seeing one another as God sees. The power of love binds the body of Christ together. Scripture also emphasises an important task that Christians have in being the body of Christ, which is to help other believers live in a way marked by love and good works.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
A church family will feel more like a church family when they keep God at the centre of it all. Christians are to help one another love better and to do good works for the kingdom of God. When those values are kept at the centre, the church family will feel closer to each other on mission for God’s purposes.
A wonderful advantage of being a Christian is that we get to be part of a church family when we commit to a congregation through the ups and downs of life. The body of Christ is there to show love, compassion, and support to one another. Scripture not only refers to believers as a family and the household of God, but we should view one another in that way, too. Together, we can encourage righteousness, love, and furthering God’s kingdom as a church family. The term “church family” is used because it captures the fullness of fellowship and relationship between Christians.
(Adapted from the article by Palmer)
What is Water Baptism?
Water baptism is not a personal choice, but a command for believers. Jesus established water baptism as an ordinance when He gave the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16). Baptism is a public, outward testimony that indicates a personal, inward faith. It gives evidence of the inner change that has already occurred in the believer’s life when he or she was “born again” through faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism identifies the believer with the message of the gospel, the person of Jesus Christ, and other believers. It associates the believer’s death to the old life and his or her resurrection as a new creation in Christ (Romans 6:1-8, Colossians 2:12).
Who Should Be Baptized?
All born-again believers in Jesus Christ-and only believers-should be baptized. (Mark 16:15-16, Acts 8:12, 36-38, 16:31-33, 18:8)
Should Infants and Children Be Baptized?
After Peter spoke at Pentecost, “those who gladly received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). In the New Testament, every instance in which a person was baptized and his or her identity was given, that person was an adult. In light of the Scripture, infant baptism must be ruled out, because infants cannot receive the Word of God and understand it. However, infants are to be dedicated to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:26-28). Children may be baptized if they d understand God’s Word and receive Christ as Saviour.
Is Water Baptism Necessary for Salvation?
The Bible clearly teaches that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and according to God’s mercy (Titus 3:5). The thief on the cross next to Jesus had no time to be baptized; yet Jesus promised that he would be with Him in Paradise that day (Luke 23:43). The Bible contains no record of Jesus baptizing anyone - a strange omission if baptism were essential for salvation. The Apostle Paul declared, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…” (1 Corinthians 1:17). This clearly indicates that salvation is a response of faith to the gospel-not the act of baptism. Therefore, water baptism is not an act of salvation, but an act of obedience.
When participating in water baptism with Lagoonside Church:
Please bring a swim suit, a towel, a dark colored t-shirt and shorts to wear over your swim suit.
(Scripture Portion: Luke 15: 3-24)
Anyone who has any doubts as to the importance of the doctrine of repentance needs only to read the solemn words of our Lord Jesus Christ recorded in Luke 13:3. The Bible is full of this subject, and the word is used over one hundred times – fifty-eight times in the New Testament alone. Yet, someone has rightly said of repentance that it is “the missing note in modern evangelism.” It was the key-note of New Testament preaching: John the Baptist began his ministry with a call to repentance (Matthew 3:2); our Lord’s first word was “Repent…” (Matthew 4:17); those whom He commissioned were commanded to preach repentance (Mark 6:12 and Luke 24:47); there is joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10); Peter preached repentance (Acts 2:37-38); Paul preached repentance (Acts 17:30-31); and repentance leading to faith is everywhere laid down in the Bible as the condition of salvation (Acts 20:21).
1. WHAT REPENTANCE IS NOT
Repentance is to leave
The sins I loved before;
And show that I in earnest grieve
By doing so no more.
3. HOW REPENTANCE IS BROUGHT ABOUT
4. WHEN IS THE TIME TO REPENT?NOW – Acts 17:30-31. Look up what is one of the best verses in the Bible – 2 Peter 3:9 –
“The Lord is…patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Endurance Running with the Witnesses
The book of Hebrews was written to a church that was over time settling into the world and losing its wartime mentality, starting to drift through life without focus, without vigilance, and without energy. Their hands were growing weak, their knees were feeble. It was just easier to meander in the crowd of life than to run the marathon.
In Hebrews 2:1 and 3, the writer says that “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. . . . How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” So into the church has crept the disease of drifting and neglecting. People are growing careless, spiritually lazy, and negligent.
Take Care Then, in Hebrews 3:12–13, he warns again:
Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
He has heard that some are no longer “taking care.” They have begun to have a kind of lazy sense of security. A false notion that nothing really huge is at stake in their small group meetings or whether they meditate on the Bible or take time alone to pray or fight sin. They assume all will be well. Hebrews is written to teach them otherwise.
In Hebrews 5:12, the writer says,
"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,"
They made a profession of faith and went into a passive, coasting mode. This is utterly wrong. God means every saint to be moving forward to new gains of strength and wisdom and holiness and courage and joy — from getters to givers, from being taught to teaching.
One more illustration: in Hebrews 12:12-13 the writer says,
Heb 12:12 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."
He is talking in images here of their spiritual condition: weak hands, feeble knees, crooked paths.
Lay Aside Every Encumbrance, "... Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, .” This command does not come out of the blue.
“Fight the fight of faith on the basis of Christ’s spectacular death and resurrection.” This is the point of the whole book. Endure, persevere, run, fight, be alert, be strengthened, don’t drift, don’t neglect, don’t be sluggish, don’t take your eternal security for granted. Fight the fight of faith on the basis of Christ’s spectacular death and resurrection. And show your faith the way the saints of Hebrews 11 did, not by coasting through life, but by counting reproach for Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt (Hebrews 11:26).
So the main point of this text is the one imperative: run! (Hebrews 12:1). Everything else supports this — explains it or gives motivation for it. Run the race set before you! Don’t stroll, don’t meander, don’t wander about aimlessly. Run as in a race with a finish line and with everything hanging on it.
To this end, verse 1 says, “lay aside every weight, and sin which so easily entangles us.” I remember the effect this verse had on me as a boy when I heard someone explain that we must lay aside not only entangling sins, but “every encumbrance,” that is, every weight or obstacle — things that in themselves may not be sins.
This was revolutionary. What it did (and I hope it does the same for you) was show me that the fight of faith — the race of the Christian life — is not fought well or run well by asking, “what’s wrong with this or that?” but by asking, “Is it in the way of greater faith and greater love and greater purity and greater courage and greater humility and greater patience and greater self-control?” Not, “Is it a sin?” but, “Does it help me run? Is it in the way?”
Don’t ask about your music, your movies, your parties, your habits: What’s wrong with it? Ask: Does it help me run the race? Does it help me run for Jesus?
Hebrews 12:1 is a command to look at your life, think hard about what you are doing, and get ruthless about what stays and what goes.
“But That’s Just the Way I Am” One of the criticisms I have of some forms of psychology (not all) is the tendency to neutralize texts like this by labeling people with personality types that have no value judgments attached. For example, if a person tends to be passive you give them one label, and if they tend to be aggressive, you give them another label. No type is better than another type.
Then along comes a text like this which says that passivity and coasting and drifting are mortally dangerous. The race might not be finished if we don’t become vigilant and lay aside not only sins, but also weights and hindrances. If we are not careful, we can be so psychologically fatalistic that we read over a text like this and say, “Oh that’s not for me, that’s for type A people, or INTJs.” That would be a tragic mistake.
I know that there are personality differences, some more passive and some more aggressive. Each has its weaknesses and strengths. The passive people are in danger of coasting and neglecting and drifting and the many enslavements that result. The aggressive people are in danger of impatience and self-reliance and judgmentalism. And there are strengths: the passive people are less prone to murmur, complain, and retaliate. And the aggressive people are more given to bring about needed change.
But when it comes to the book of Hebrews, and Hebrews 12:1 in particular, it is a great mistake for any of us to say: this command to run is not for me. This command to lay aside entangling sins is not for me. Or this command to lay aside weights and encumbrances is just not the way I am wired.
Rather, all of us should listen and obey. Here’s what I would suggest. Between now and Heritage Day, pick a day or a half day and get away by yourself — away from the house, the phone, the beeper, the TV, the radio, and all other people. Take a Bible and a pad of paper and plan your Spring run with the Lord Jesus.
On that pad of paper, note the entangling sins. Note the seemingly innocent weights and encumbrances that are not explicitly condemned in the Bible, but which you know are holding you back in the race for faith and love and strength and holiness and courage and freedom. Note the ways you subtly make provision for these hindrances (Romans 13:14): the computer games, Social Media, the hidden alcohol or sweets, the television, the DVD's, the magazines, the novels. In addition, note the people that weaken you. Note the times that are wasted, thrown away.
God has not spoken his commands for nothing! When you have made all these notes, pray your way through to a resolve and a pattern of dismantling these encumbrances, and resisting these sins, and breaking old, old habits. And don’t rise up against the Bible at this point and say, “I can’t change.” It is an assault on God if you read Hebrews 12:1 and go away saying: “It can’t happen. Hindrances can’t be removed. Sins can’t be laid aside.” God has not spoken this command for nothing. And this entire book is written to undergird these practical commands.
So go back and read the book of Hebrews and ask God to take all the glorious truth that is here — about the superiority of Christ, and the power of his death and resurrection, and the effectiveness of his intercession for you — and make this truth explosive with life-changing power. Carry some of the story to your study group or Christian friends and get them to pray for you or with you. Find someone you trust and ask them to check in with you and support you. That is what Hebrews 3:12–13 says we should do. Don’t drift from this moment. Before this day is over choose a day or a half-day and get away to plan your Spring run with the Lord Jesus.
Motivations to Run
Now, what about motivation? That’s what the rest of this text is. First, let’s look back and then forward from this command to run.
1. A cloud of witnesses surrounds us.
Verse 1 says, “Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us . . . run.” So the first motivation I want us to see is this cloud of witnesses. Who are they and what does their witnessing mean? They are the saints that have lived and died so valiantly by faith in chapter 11. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and all those who suffered and died, “of whom the world was not worthy.”
But what does their “witnessing” refer to? Does it refer to their watching us from heaven? Or does it refer their witnessing to us by their lives? The word “witness” can have either meaning: the act of seeing something, or the act of telling something. Which is it here? I think it is the act of telling. The verb form of this word “witness” (martureo) is used five times in Hebrews 11 (in verses 2, 4 [twice], 5, 39) and always refers to the giving of a (confirming) testimony rather than the mere watching of an event.
So I take the witnesses of Hebrews 12:1 to be the saints who have run the race before us, and have gathered, as it were, along the marathon route to say, through the testimony of their lives, “By faith I finished, you can too!”
The best way to illustrate this, I think, is with Hebrews 11:4, where the writer speaks of Abel and says, “Through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.” So Abel is in the cloud of witnesses, and he is witnessing to us by his life through the Scriptures. This is the way all the witnesses of Hebrews 11 are helping us. They have gathered along the sidelines of our race and they hold out their wounds and their joys and give us the best high-fives we ever got: “Go for it! You can do it. By faith, you can finish. You can lay the weights down and the sins. By faith, by the assurance of better things hoped for, you can do it. I did it. And I know it can be done. Run. Run!”
So be encouraged when you plan your Spring run with the Lord. There are dozens and hundreds and thousands of those who have gone before and who have finished the race by faith and surround us like a great cloud of witnesses who say: “It can be done! By faith, it can be done.”
2. History is waiting for you.
Then there is another motivation in verses 39–40. It says,
"Heb 11:39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect."
This is followed in 12:1 by “Therefore . . . run.” The “therefore” means that verses 39–40 are a motivation for our running. Since this is true, run! How is it a motivation?
“We all come into the fullness of our inheritance together.” I take verse 39 to mean that when the believers in the Old Testament died, their spirits were made whole and perfect (as Hebrews 12:23 says), but that they do not receive the full blessing of God’s promise, which is resurrection with new bodies in a glorious new age with all God’s enemies removed and righteousness holding sway and the earth filled with the glory of God. They did not receive that promise yet.
Why not? Why must the saints wait, without their new resurrection bodies? The answer is given in verse 40: “Because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” In other words, God’s purpose is that all his people — all the redeemed — be gathered in before any of them enjoys the fullness of his promise. His purpose is that we all come into the fullness of our inheritance together.
So the motivation is this: when you go away to plan your Spring run with the Lord, think on the fact that your life counts to God and to them. Your finishing the race is what history is waiting for. The entire consummation of the plan of the universe waits until every single one of God’s elect are gathered in. All history waits and all those who have lived by faith crowd the marathon route to urge you on, because they will not be perfected without you. Nor you without them.
3. Jesus creates and perfects our faith.
Perhaps two more very brief motivations from Hebrews 12:2. The first is that the fight of faith is not done in our own strength. When you go away to plan your fall run with Jesus, verse 2 says, “Look to Jesus the author and perfecter of your faith.” Don’t look to your own resources and say, “I’ve tried before. It won’t work.” Fix your eyes on him. The battle is a battle of faith: will you believe that the things he promises are better than the bad habits that you use to cover your sadness?
But more than that, Jesus doesn’t just respond to faith with his help. He works to author faith and perfect faith. He works to begin it and he works to complete it. Faith lays hold on Jesus for help, because Jesus laid hold on the heart for faith. Hebrews 13:21 says that God works in us what is pleasing in his sight through Jesus. He is the author and the perfecter of our faith and we should sit with our Bible and our tablet in the park overwhelmed with the stunning truth that, behind every good resolve and plan of attack for this fall, God is at work in us to will and to do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12–13) — to sustain and perfect our faith.
4. We will experience the joy of triumph at the end.
Finally, this writer wants us to be motivated to endure in our run with Jesus this fall the same way Jesus was sustained in his painful run. Continue in verse 2: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” It is not a morally defective thing to be sustained in the marathon of life by the joy of triumph at the end. The reward of seeing God and being free from all sin is the greatest incentive of all.
“The reward of seeing God is the greatest incentive of all.”
So if it seems that there are going to be some temporary losses when you run this race with Jesus, you are right. That is why Jesus said to count the cost (Luke 14:25–33) before you sign on. But the marathon of the Christian life is not mainly loss. It is mainly gain. “For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross.” It is only a matter of timing. If you see things with the eyes of God, there is a vapor’s breath of loss and pain, and then everlasting joy (2 Corinthians 4:17).
When you take your day away, with Bible and tablet, to plan your fall run with Jesus, think on this, think on this: “the sufferings of this present age are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to the children of God” (Romans 8:18).
So, let us lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin, which so easily entangles us, and let us run with Jesus.
The Lord has been using willing men and women to take the Gospel all over the globe.
Here at Lagoonside we are very blessed to have the Golson family for a number of years already and they have accomplished so much. To learn more about them, here is a brief testimony time of their Story.
You can view their story here