Looking Unto Jesus – A Christmas Plea

looking-unto-jesus

Hebrews 12:1-2 (KJV)  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,  [2]  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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I love this time of year. I love the Christmas Carols, the Parade, the cooler air, the trees. But I particularly like Advent and Christmas itself. Not because of presents, but because it reminds us of what Jesus Christ did for us. Christmas is a reminder. December is a reminder. Look unto Jesus and see what He did for us.

I just read another news story today about another young teen, imperfect, shy and overweight, but nonetheless created in God”s image. Bullied by those in her school several arrogant and evil young people went to social media, mocked her, made her life miserable. This young girl killed herself in front of her parents. Why wasn’t she told about Jesus? Why didn’t those in her family tell her how much God wanted to be in her life?

1 We Are Compassed About With So Great A Cloud Of Witnesses. In our text today God gives us a picture of the Olympic Games. In the ancient world you didn’t have television, nor radio, nor I-Pads, Smart Phones or Social Media. That was probably better, in my opinion, than the silly stuff we fill our minds with. As a matter off fact the common man had no access to books or Libraries as the Printing Press was not invented and all books were copied by Scribes. If you wanted entertainment you didn’t stay home or go to your bedroom. For entertainment you went to the Coliseum or the Theater. You got together with a crowd of people – and got there early if you wanted a good seat. It was a great cloud of witnesses – spectators – and you were part of that crowd if you wanted to be entertained.

God now takes the image of the Coliseum and the Olympic Games and inserts those who are His Children into the picture. WE are compassed about – surrounded – with a great cloud of witnesses. We who believe in Christ. We who are saved by Him.

God saved us by His Grace, but after salvation left us on this earth to live for Him.
And we are being watched.
Who is watching us?

a Those Elders Who Have Gone Before Are Watching Us. I have often been asked if those in Heaven can see what we are doing on earth. I used to think “Probably not”. My response was based not on what Scripture said but on what I thought. I thought “This world is a veil of tears. To see earth in its sinful misery would surely bring sadness to Heaven”. But I think now I’m wrong. I think that Heaven’s Citizens could see us, and I don’t think what they see diminishes the glory of Heaven. You see, in Heaven you see Jesus Christ ruling, sitting on the right hand of God. You hear His Voice, and you are privy to the oversight that God has on everything. Most of what brings us sadness in this life is that we do not understand, and only see tragic things from the side of tragedy. But in Heaven the Bible says:

Revelation 21:4 (ESV) {Jesus} will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

The “former things” that frightened and hurt us are passed away in Heaven because we have direct contact with God’s hands. If we see tragedy on earth (such as we saw when a school bus was mishandled and six children died in the accident) we often say “I don’t understand that, and this hurts”. But if something like this happened and we ask why, and Jesus immediately says “Rest, my Beloved, I have a purpose even in this”, then the sadness is gone. When God is that close to us we can say with Job:

Job 13:15 (KJV) Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him …

I now believe that it is possible that those who have gone before us can see what we do on this earth. Why? Because of what the Lord tells us in this beautiful letter. Look at verse 1:

Hebrews 12:1 (KJV)  WHEREFORE seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses …

Do you see that word WHEREFORE. When you see a WHEREFORE ask yourself “What is it THERE FOR?” This is the Greek τοιγαροῦν toigaroun, and means “Consequently” or “For this reason”. Chapter 12 is tied to Chapter 11 by this word, just as two train cars are hitched together. In Chapter 11 we saw faith defined –

Hebrews 11:1-2 (KJV)  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  [2]  For by it the elders obtained a good report.

Last week we saw how the elders pleased God. These elders were listed:

Abel … Enoch … Noah … Abraham
Sarah … Isaac … Jacob … Joseph … Moses
Rahab … Gideon … Sampson
David … Jephthae … Samuel

The Lord wrote Hebrews 11:33-40 (KJV)  Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,  [34]  Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.  [35]  Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:  [36]  And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:  [37]  They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;  [38]  (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.  [39]  And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:  [40]  God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

These “elders” suffered on this earth, but are now in a better place. The “Wherefore” of this chapter tells us that they are part of this “mighty cloud of witnesses”.

The Saints in Chapter 11 who have proceeded before us into Heaven are watching us. Could this also mean that a Beloved Grandmother or Grandfather who prayed for your salvation is watching from Heaven, and cheering you on? It is possible. Since Chapter 12 tells us there is a mighty cloud of witnesses and Chapter 11 lists elders who have gone on before us I see no reason why this could not be true.

The Evangelist Billy Graham wrote:

The Bible doesn’t clearly tell us if people in heaven are able to observe what happens on earth – although THERE ARE SOME HINTS THAT THEY DO. In the book of Hebrews, for example, the writer recalls the great men and woman of faith who have gone before us and are now in heaven. Then he adds, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses … let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). Like spectators in an arena, he seems to suggest, they are watching and cheering us on as we seek to follow Christ.”

The Elders watch us as we run our race for Christ. If they watch, let us run looking unto Jesus.

b The Lost Watch Us As We Run Our Race. We are DAILY surrounded by a mighty cloud of witnesses who watch what we do. When Jesus walked this earth those who observed Him the closest were the lost Pharisees and Scribes. Jesus told us:

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV) You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE BEFORE OTHERS, SO THAT THEY MAY SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS AND GIVE GLORY TO YOUR FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN.

People watch what we do more than listen to what we say. Our life is to be a witness to the reality of our faith in Christ. Peter told the Church:

1 Peter 2:12 (ESV) Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Pastor Greg Laurie wrote:

So, how do I know if you are a Christian? How do you know if I’m one? There must be evidence. Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). If someone examined your life, would they find any spiritual fruit—hard evidence to prove that you are a true follower of Jesus Christ? Or, let me put it another way: If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? By “evidence,” I don’t mean how many Bibles you own, or how many bumper stickers you might have on your car with Christian sayings on them. I mean hard evidence. If your family members, neighbors, and coworkers were interviewed and asked the question, “Is (your name here), in your opinion, a real Christian?” we might not be happy with the response. The only way others can tell whether you are a Christian is by your works. WHILE ALL THE GOOD WORKS IN THE WORLD WON’T SAVE A PERSON (TITUS 3:5), THEY ARE REASONABLE EVIDENCE THAT SOMEONE IS SAVED.”

The unbelieving world watches what we are doing.

I have heard unbelievers say that they went to Church but found it to be an unfriendly place where no one spoke to them. Some would reply:

Well, they are just looking for a reason to not go to Church.

Perhaps. But

they had to come to Church to be repelled from Church!

I can tell you from experience that Churches can be very unfriendly places for strangers. I recently went to a Church as an invited guest. While there, no one spoke to me but the ones who invited me. I went to several people and tried to speak to them but was coldly received. I went up to one older gentleman, put out my hand, and embarrassed, had to drop it a minute later as he ignored it.

I have preached revivals in Churches, and on the first Sunday went to Sunday School. No one showed me where to go until I chased someone down and asked “Where do I go?” When I went to class it was very chilly until I told the Teacher I was their Evangelist for the week. At that point EVERYONE got very friendly.

Now you may say “Our Church is not like this”. That may be true. But let me meddle for a minute. If we are friendly why, when we have visitors, people come up to ME and ask “What was that person’s name?” Why don’t YOU ask them their name?

When visitors come to Church they are not coming because some Law made them come. They are coming because they are lonely, or bullied, or frightened. God sent them to us. They are witnesses to us. We don’t need to judge them, we need to reach out to them. Jesus said:

John 13:34-35 (ESV) 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. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Just as Jesus loved, we are to love. As our text says …

Hebrews 12:1-2 (KJV)  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, …. let us run with patience the race that is set before us,  [2]  LOOKING UNTO JESUS

Jesus is walking home one day and a crowd is following Him. He stops at the base of a Sycamore Tree, looks up, and sees a hated Tax Collector called Zacchaeus sitting in that tree.

Luke 19:5-10 (ESV) … Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

What did Zacchaeus want? He wanted love. On another day Jesus was going from Judea to Galilee He met a Samaritan woman at a well. This woman wanted love. As Jesus told her, “You have had five husbands, and the man you are with now is not your husband” (John 4:18). Like the old song says, she was looking for love in all the wrong places. Most unbelievers are going through the same thing. But Jesus loved her. He reached out to her and explained that He is the Living Water of God. This unnamed woman left that place changed because she met the Savior and was loved. People need love.

2 As We Run, Let Us Keep Looking Unto Jesus.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (KJV)  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,  [2]  Looking unto Jesus …

Running is not optional. We run because we are saved. We run to please the Lord! God tells us that we were left on this earth to run with patience the race that is set before us. We were not saved to sit, to be in the stands, but to run. The Elders are in the stands – they are not in this race with us, but they watch us. The unbelievers are in the stands, watching how we run.

We Are Called By God To RUN, Not To WATCH, SIT, or SLEEP. Running is not easy. I don’t like to run. When you run you get out of breath. You get tired. Your muscles hurt.

We are called to RUN for Jesus as we are looking unto Jesus

How did Jesus run His race? When He came to this earth:

He was born of a virgin as the Father directed (Luke 1:34-35).
He was born unwanted – there was no room at the Inn (Luke 2:7).
He had no Baby Shower – only Shepherds visited Him.
Wise Men from Babylon later came to see Him,
which caused a hateful Herod to try and kill Him,
murdering many of the babies in Bethlehem.
Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt to protect the toddler Jesus.
He later grew up in Nazareth, the stepson of a common man,
a Carpenter, a blue collar worker.
Jesus was rejected in His hometown and even His own family did not believe Him,
Causing the adult Jesus to move to from Nazareth to Galilee.
Jesus was despised and rejected by the religious leaders
who watched and accused Him His entire ministry.
Jesus found friends in sinners, tax collectors, and fishermen who followed Him.
Jesus did good everywhere He went, offering life to all,
but ended up rejected by all, abandoned and betrayed by His few friends.
Jesus died on a Cross between two murdering thieves,
one of which mocked Him as He struggled to breath, dying for our sins.
The Father turned His back on Jesus as He paid for our sin,
Causing Him to cry out, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me.
Jesus was laid to rest in a borrowed tomb,
and is despised and rejected by most of mankind today (Isaiah 53:3).

We are to run with patience the race set before us. Jesus ran with patience His race. He never gave up, but looked beyond the moment to what would one day be a reality.

Hebrews 12:2 (KJV)  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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus kept going for the joy that was set before Him. What was that joy? It was your salvation. Jesus went through all that He went through not for Himself, but for you and I.

He endured the Cross.
He did not give up through the pain.
He could have cried out, and I am sure ten thousand angels would have come.
But He despised the shame.
And is set down on the right hand of the Throne of God.
Jesus sits, but His race is over. Ours continues.
And Jesus is watching us.

Hebrews 12:3-4 (KJV)  For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.  [4]  Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

Consider what Jesus went through for you, for me, for the whole world. We have not resisted unto blood striving against sin. Jesus did, but we do not. Yes, we struggle. But not as Jesus struggled. We suffer, but not as Jesus suffered.

So we run. We run patient. We do not give up, but run knowing that one day we will receive a prize. Run, blessed Children of God. Keep running while you are here, for in Heaven there is no running!

May God touch your hearts with His Word!

About bibleteacherorg

A searching pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. I am looking for the Church. Most of what I see today is not the Church, but clubs, where members sit in padded pews and drink deeply of self. I am looking for a people willing to be righteous not self righteous, serving not served, In short, I am looking and praying for a people who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. I hope I find this people before it's too late.
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