So, you may or may not be aware of this, but July first will be two years since I was made the interim pastor of Emmaus Christian Church. The time has flown by so fast, and In many ways, it seems like I have only been here a week, but at the same time, it can seem like I have always been here. God has been faithful through every week, and every day to lead me and guide me, strengthen me, and help me. Even when it is difficult, I know He has been there for these two years, and that Gives me hope for the next 38 years that I am hoping to be your pastor, as long as you keep me.
So as I often do, I have spent some time lately thinking about the future of this church, and the Lord has been working in my heart I believe to give me faith for where He may be calling us to in the future. Now, fist off I want to say that I don’t claim to know everything that god has planned for us to do in the future. I don’t have some master plan, or twelve steps for us to follow. I don’t have the desire for us to be a mega church, or really like any other church, except the ones who love Jesus, and follow where He leads them. My belief is that while we don’t know exactly how the next ten or twenty years of ministry are going to look, what we need to be doing is preparing our hearts to hear what our next step is towards Hid future for this body. I do know one thing though, our world is changing at a faster pace than ever. The way people communicate, the way that trends come and go has sped up because of the proliferation of the internet and social media. There have even been studies on how fast fads come and go in today’s culture. Here is the thing that concerns me with this. We have a message that is timeless and unchanging, that is an undeniable fact. there is no way to improve upon the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But whether you realize it or not, the way they we “Package” the message is out of date, and if we are going to reach out in an effective way to the lost people around us, we need to be mindful of the way that they relate to one another, and interact with the truth of the gospel. Now, I am not pushing for some type of major change in what we do here as a church, but what I want us all to do is be open to what God may ask us to do as a step of faith towards reaching the lost around us with the Gospel. Again, the truth of the message CANNOT be improved, but our presentation of it can be. I believe God may be calling us to examine what areas we can grow in our presentation of His timeless truth.
Last week we looked back at what God did in the lives of the saints listed in Hebrews 11. We looked back at God’s faithfulness to them as they stepped out in faith. I encouraged us to remember where we were 20 years ago, before ECC was even a church, and closed with the question, “where do you think we will be in 20 years?” Well, today, I want to as us the question, how do we get to where we will be in 20 years? Well, to kind of commemorate my two years of pastoring here at Emmaus, I am going to preach from the same passage that I preached the very first time I came to ECC. So, if you will, open your Bible’s to Hebrews 12. We are going to read verses 1-17, which is a little further than my first message here.
Run: So the first thing we need to do here is look at the therefore in this verse and remember that he just spent an entire chapter telling us of all that God did throughout eh faith of those who have gone before, and he calls them witnesses not exactly because they are watching us run, but because their lives bear witness to the fact that God is faithful. The next thing we see is that we need to Run! This is an imperative for us. When you respond to the call of Christ in faith, you are saved into a race, and what do you do in a race? You run! So look at how we run as Christians.
a: Run Light: Just like a runner wears clothes that are lightweight and non constrictive, as Christians, we need to throw off the types of things that will weigh us down and constrict our movements as we run. these things he calls sin, and also weight. So, there are two categories he mentions here, and we will see he unpacks later. A weight could be something that you are carrying around that may not be a sin, but it is holding you back in your relationship with the Lord. It could be the feeling that you have to be good enough to earn God’s favor. It could be a habit that is taking up too much of your thoughts or time. It could be the TV. I am growing more convinced that the TV is probably the biggest weight that holds us back as believers.
The second thing he mentions is Sin. We all have sins that entangle us as we try to run. I don’t know what it is for you, but I will tell you that there are several areas of sin that have entangled me at different times in my life. Sins like lust, pride, gluttony, anger, selfishness. All of those sins are ones that I struggle with on a consistent basis. I bet if you got to know me better, you could list some more off as well. All of those things though will hold us back from running the race that God has called us to run. The writer of Hebrews mentions some specific ones down in verse 14 and following that are common for us to day as they were back then. He says to strive for peace with everyone. I will say that a lack of peace with other believers will weigh you down like nothing else. Note here that he uses the word “strive” for peace, that means it is work, sometimes it means admitting you were wrong, or asking forgiveness, or it could mean lots of long, and difficult conversations, but we are called to do that, because they are weights. another weight he mentions, that can turn into a sin is a root of bitterness. Bitterness is what happens when you don’t strive for peace. Bitterness will eat you up on the inside, and entangle you as you run. Being bitter about something has been compared to drinking poison and hoping that the other person dies. It will ruin you. He goes on to say that bitterness will defile many, because bitterness usually leads to other sins, such as gossip, and slander. The next sin he mentions is in verse 16. He says sexually immoral. Well, we could have guessed that one right. Now, I will tell you, as someone who lived a sexually immoral life at one time, it is an incredibly entangling thing. Now, I know that most of the evangelical fervor concerning sexual immorality is focussed on homosexuality, I want to remind us of our own hearts on the matter. You see, when Jesus spoke of sexual immorality, do you know what he said about homosexuality? Nothing that was recorded. Now, to be sure, I believe the words of scripture to be inspired by the Holy spirit, and they are clear on the practice of homosexuality, so I am not denying that, but what I want to do is the same thing Jesus did in the sermon on the mount. You see when Jesus taught about adultery, He raised the bar on the sin meter. He says in Matt. 5:27 “you have heard it said, ‘you shall not commit adultery’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” SO, i want us to be in a place along with Jesus that when we hear the term “flee sexual immorality,” that we dont think about those people over there, but that we look upon our own hearts to the sexual immorality, and murder, and unrighteousness that lies within us.
SO, we need to run light, and untangled, next, we need to
2. Look to Jesus.
Now, this may be the most important part about running light, and untangled, if we are to throw off every weight and the sin that entangles, we MUST look to Jesus, You see, in your own power, you CANNOT untangle yourself. You see, as the author says here Jesus is the founder and the perfecter of your faith. You did not initiate your faith. you may have prayed a prayer, you may have walked an aisle, you may have signed a card, but you did not originate the work that saved you. If you did, this author would be saying with the rest of the culture around us, “look within, trust yourself, be true to youy because you are the author of your faith.” This is good news to me, because if I am honest with myself, the person who has consistently brought me the most pain, disappointment, agony in my life is ME! EVERY time I do what I think will make me happy in a particular moment, it makes me miserable, or someone else.
So, we need to look to Jesus, as we learned last night, it is only through His work of atonement on the cross, that we can be made right with Him. He saves us and justifies us. SO, real quick, there are two things you need to understand that are at play here. Jesus’ founding of your faith is your Justification. It is the moment you trust in Christ, you are declared righteous by God because you are trusting in Christ’s work on your behalf. His sinless life becomes yours, your sinner’s death becomes his, and his resurrections is the guarantee that you will be with Him forever. That is the founding of your faith. The perfecting of your faith is your sanctification. That is the process by which God is making you more and more into the likeness of Jesus. This is what he is talking about in verses 5-11. We have a God who not only saves us, and justifies us, He also disciplines us because He loves us and wants to put us in the game. Both of those activities are accomplished in us when we look to Jesus. We look to Him for his atoning work in our being justified, and we look to Him in his sanctifying work, of making us more like hIm. Both are accomplished by looking to Jesus. We don’t look to our works, we look to HIs work, we don’t look at the sin we have committed we look to His perfection that we have been given. Only through that exercise can we throw off the weight and sin.
Now, I know for a fact that there are many of you here whose literal running days are over. I understand that, it is ok, but I want you to hear something, your spiritual running days are not! If you are breathing, you can be a spiritual runner for Jesus. I will tell you right now, the most effective way you can be running spiritually is to be praying. You don’t even need a voice to pray, and there may be no more powerful thing you could do with all the might you have ever had in your body. Pray alone for your loved ones, pray with others at church, have people over to pray. The next best thing you can do is study the word, and help others study it. I say that to let you know I understand the physical limitations, but while you may have physical limits that keep you from running, your spirit has no limit to how fast it can run. in fact, if you ever watch a real race, the place where people have the most energy, and excitement, and get a burst of speed is at the finish line, where all those great cloud of witnesses are standing around cheering you on as you make it down the homestretch.
As we close today, I want to ask us to do something. There are two groups of people I want to talk to. Those who have trusted in Christ, and are running, and those who have never trusted in Christ, and are not running. I am going to give both of you the same instruction. Look To Jesus! Either for the first time, or the thousandth time, the response is the same, Look to Jesus. Give Him your life, give him your striving, your shame, your hurst, your sin, everything that weighs you down and entangles, give it to him. Look to Jesus. As we sing this next song, I want to ask you to do something. If you feel the Holy spirit nudging you, and speaking to your heart, I want you to come down here for prayer. There is nothing special about coming dow, other than you aren’t afraid to say that you need Jesus. don’t be afraid, He wasn’t afraid to say he loved you on the cross. If you want to trust in Christ today, please come down during this next song and ask for prayer.
Now, I want to talk to those members of ECC who are invested in this body, you call it home, you are members here. I want to issue us a challenge. We need to be in the race. We need to be running. We need to throw off the weight that holds us down, and the sin that entangles. If you have been convicted of actions, or attitudes that will hold this body down, confess them, and repent, and if they involve someone else, go, and confess to them. I say this because I love you, don’t for a second think that we are immune from this. If you are being prompted by the Holy Spirit, please come down and lay down your life before him now, as Him to make you new, and help you to run the race that has been marked out for you.