Looking Unto Jesus
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. Hebrews 12:2
“The key to joy”, we’re looking at today’s text which I believe is another key to our endeavours to live a life of faith…JOYFULLY
Today’s text not only encapsulates crucial elements of our faith but also so much of what it should mean to be a believer.
In chapter 11 [and I’m so glad pastor touched on that last week], we saw an extensive list of those who lived by faith [and received a good report] and yet (as we read) received not the promise, yet looked unto a city whose builder and maker was God
This automatically begs the question:
WHAT WAS THE PROMISE?
As believers, we’ve been promised 3 things in regards to our faith:
The promise of a Saviour
The promise of eternal life and a heavenly home
The promise of the Holy Spirit: “Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession…” (Ephesians 1:14)
It’s this last promise that is most pertinent to today’s message.
Remember from our series on our doctrinal statement:
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:” (John 15:26)
For the purpose of our study, it pays to keep in mind:
*The Holy Spirit testifies of Christ and therefore reveals Christ to us
*He is the Spirit of truth and leads us into all truth; especially in matters of faith and confirming the word of God to us.
*He is the Comforter and therefore helps us to endure hardship
The promise of the Holy Spirit is confirmed in several places in the book of Acts:
“And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” (Acts 1:4-5)
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
“Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” (Acts 2:33)
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Act 2:38-39)
Now, in light of these exemplary figures in chapter 11 and the witness of their lives…[remember, they received not the promise]
In Hebrews 12:1 we’re exhorted to put off sin in order to live a faith filled life…
LOOKING UNTO JESUS
Remember: we’ve received the promise and consequently the advantage that these in chapter 11 did not. This leaves us with very little excuse.
It’s worth reading this again:
“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, 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.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
The focus of our message today is verse 2
Our 4 points today:
Jesus:The Epicentre of Our Faith
Jesus: The Establishment of Our Faith
Jesus: The Enjoyment and Endurance of Our Faith
Jesus: The Elevation of Our Faith
Jesus: The Epicentre of Our Faith:
“Looking unto Jesus…”
In the opening words of our text today we’re exhorted…exhorted to look to Christ in regards to living a life of faith and overcoming our sin.
It’s in looking to Christ that we find everything that we need…
If we look at Paul’s own struggle with sin:
Paul didn’t sit down and have a philosophical debate with regards to this struggle.
No he pleaded with the Lord:
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…” (2Corinthians 12:7-9)
Paul was more than conscious of his struggle with sin. We saw this in last week’s message when we looked at Romans chapter 7. Who is it that is able to deliver us from our sin?
Paul’s response is: “…I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord”
So when our text states “Looking unto Jesus…” Be assured we’re not following after some vain philosophy or an idea:
Neither are we looking to ourselves for the solutions to life’s troubles.
Remember last week we established that there is no good thing in us save the Holy Spirit which indwells us. None is good but God!!!
We don’t say that in any self-effacing way…but it’s a reality. I’m not good…but God is…and in that we have every reason to rejoice.
It was only when I came to the end of myself that I turned to Christ for salvation. Prior to this, life was darkness and despair. And I’m sure that is the experience of most of us here.
WE’RE FOLLOWING AFTER A PERSON: THE LORD JESUS CHRIST:
Who is able to address every possible need we have in life…if only we would ask.
Is the reason you HAVE not…because you ASK not?
I don’t know if I have to remind you who Christ is:
“…the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;”
Jesus is:“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:” (Ephesians 1:21)
“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Act 4:12)
In Acts chapter 8:
When Philip encountered the Ethiopian eunuch:
“And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” (Act 8:34-35)
HE PREACHED UNTO HIM JESUS…
Not some 12 step program
Hopefully you’re getting the impression that Christ holds immense importance in your life. The scriptures don’t present the preeminence of Christ for nought.
Of course it’s very easy to take our eyes off Christ in the midst of our struggles and crises of faith [remember Peter began to sink when he looked at the waves instead of Jesus]
If Jesus isn’t the focus of our faith then we ARE going to sink.
Remember the church of Ephesus: This is the church who had left their “first love” and were admonished to do “the first things”
If we ever hope to find Christ it will be in the pages of the bible and on our knees.
Jesus: The Establishment of Our Faith:
“…the author and finisher of our faith;…”
Again we are reminded of who Christ is with regards to our faith: He is “the author and finisher of our faith”
Or put simply: THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF OUR FAITH
Which is appropriate since he is given this title:
“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”
When we think about the word “author”: The written word should immediately come to mind. Again this is appropriate since “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” If it wasn’t for the scriptures, there wouldn’t be any faith available to us.
We know that:
JESUS IS THE WORD
And it’s in the word of God that we discover so much about our faith:
We discover that:
Our names are: “….written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8, Revelation 17:8)
What does this tell us? It tells us that even before Adam sinned, Christ had already made a way back to God by paying the penalty for our sin.
Similarly here we see in Ephesians 1:4
“…he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world…”
Not only was Jesus slain from the foundation of the world, but here we see that were chosen in Christ BEFORE the foundation of the world.
In as much as it is hard to get your head around things like ETERNITY, PREDESTINATION, the sovereignty of God versus the free will of man…the thing that is really clear is that:
We are loved with an everlasting love [Jeremiah 31:3]
Our names are written in a book
And therefore Jesus is without doubt the author of our faith.
Of course our own personal faith journey begins at the cross and I particularly like a quote from Chuck Misler who said words to the effect:
“It is a love story written in blood on a wooden cross in Judaea some 2,000+ years ago”
It stands to reason then that if Jesus is the source of our faith…he is also able to increase our faith. And we find the perfect example in the gospels:
In the gospel of Mark we see the account of Jesus healing a boy with an unclean spirit. After the disciples fail to cast out the devil, Jesus intervenes:
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24)
There’s going to be times when we struggle with our faith, but here we see that asking the Lord to increase our faith is not only permissible but is also profitable.
Is it because you ASK not that you HAVE not. When we do ask we ought to believe that we receive it…
That passage concludes by saying that a double-minded person is unstable in ALL his ways [not just some of them]
If there’s one other verse which highlights the nature of our faith and the degree to which we can live our lives BY FAITH it’s this verse:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
It is by virtue of the fact that Christ lives IN US that he imparts faith TO US…
We don’t live according to our own faith but his…this happens most effectively as:
We read his word
We crucify the flesh
And walk in step with the Spirit.
Our passage today also states that Jesus is the finisher of our faith.
If there’s one verse in the entire bible which should encourage us in our struggles it’s this one. It’s certainly been an encouragement to me:
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6)
The wonderful thing is that if you’re born again, the Lord hasn’t finished with you and will continue to do that good work right up to the point of our departure from this life [or the rapture…which ever comes first]
WE CAN BE CONFIDENT OF THIS VERY THING!!!
In regards to our own personal faith:
There’s 2 things that we tend to do as Christians
FIRSTLY: We give up too easily…we don’t avail ourselves of God’s grace which he says is sufficient for us. And we don’t allow God to strengthen us:
HIS STRENGTH IS MADE PERFECT IN OUR WEAKNESS.
SECONDLY: We put conditions and limits on our faith:
In Genesis we see a perfect illustration of this.
In the account of Jacob’s ladder, where he encounters God for the first time.
Jacob vows a vow: “…saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” (Genesis 28:20-22)
Basically, he says that if the Lord will protect and provide for him…then he’ll trust and honour him FULLY…and even tithe
I don’t know what that is…but it surely isn’t faith.
AS FOR MYSELF:
In case you haven’t noticed: I’m not a particularly gifted speaker. I could easily have said to the Lord, “If you make me the greatest orator the world has ever seen…then I’ll preach”
I can tell you, I’m just as terrified now as I was the first time. Yet as long as the Lord continues to put breathe in my lungs and inspire me to write, I’ll continue to make myself available.
In theological terms, the process whereby we are transformed, is called sanctification. This process very much involves the Spirit of God in conjunction with the word of God.
SPIRITUAL GROWTH OR MATURITY RESULTS IN AN INCREASE OF FAITH AND HOLINESS
The end goal of our faith is to be conformed to the image of Christ.
I think that we sometimes forget that. And therefore our perception of the Christian life is just to be “good”…more good than bad.
We’ve already established that “none is good” except God.
The only other option available to us then is for the Lord to do the work in us.
You’re going to struggle
You’re going to be faithless
You’re going to be joyless
If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt in my 28 years of being a believer is that the Lord is faithful, he will never leave you nor forsake you AND he will complete that good work which he began in you:
Paul’s prayer to the Thessalonians is our prayer:
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (1Thessalonians 5:23-24)
The Lord works in a couple of ways [and we know this already]:
Last week we spoke about renewing the mind and we can’t emphasize more strongly, the importance of reading our bibles.
It’s the word of God that throughly furnishes us unto all good works..
[2 Timothy 3:17]
This transformation is both COGNITIVE and SPIRITUAL; it changes both the mind and the heart.
The Lord also uses life itself to transform us:
Again this next verse isn’t foreign to us
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:28-29)
From this text we understand that the Lord uses ALL THINGS not just some to transform us into the image of Christ. And that includes suffering.
Speaking of Christ:
“Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;” (Hebrews 5:7-9)
It’s hard to get your head around this…
The amazing thing about this verse is that we learn that Christ [who is God and thus perfect] learnt obedience and was perfected through suffering…
This leads perfectly to our next point.
Jesus: The Enjoyment and Endurance of Our Faith:
“…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,…”
Without joy and a sense of purpose, it is impossible to endure hardship for any length of time.
This being the case, let’s just think for a while. What was it that brought a sense of joy to our Lord and enabled him to endure such suffering? Think on that for a moment…
As his time drew near, Jesus knew how much he would suffer.
As we read in the gospel of Matthew:
“Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:38-39)
We know that his suffering included:
Mocking and humiliation, being spat on, being beaten and scourged…and worst of all being forsaken by God.
“…his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:” (Isaiah 52:14)
And yet in submitting to the will of God, we’re told that he endured the cross joyfully…
I think it’s safe to say that he joy that was set before him was knowing that innumerable souls would be saved because of his death on the cross.
The book of Colossians paints an incredible picture of what Christ actually achieved on the cross…
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:13-15)
There seems to be a process here and an example to follow as we take up our own crosses and follow Christ. Admittedly, no hardship can ever match what Christ suffered and no act of obedience can ever match what was achieved on the cross.
Nevertheless scripture tells us that: “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…” (2Timothy 2:12)
We need that forward thinking
Being conscious of God’s will and the end result of our decision to follow the will of God provides every reason for us to be joyful despite the temporal experience…
WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT INVOLVE SUFFERING
I think on most occasions, the most we suffer or are prepared to suffer is a little inconvenience.
And yet the apostle Paul says he suffered the loss of all things and counted them as dung, in order to win Christ…
The question that we should be asking ourselves is:
WHAT AM I PREPARED TO SUFFER THE LOSS OF IN ORDER TO WIN CHRIST…and is he worth it?
The ULTIMATE outcome of every decision to OBEY the will of God is that Christ is glorified and we get to experience that joy for all eternity. Just as Christ had an eternal perspective, so ought we.
The parable of the talents illustrates this:
“And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matthew 25:20-21)
ENTER THOU INTO THE JOY OF THE LORD!!!
Interestingly, the servants don’t get to keep the profits on their investment BUT they do get to enjoy the knowledge that they served their master well
Everyone wants to hear the words well done GOOD and FAITHFUL
Nobody wants to hear the words UNPROFITABLE
We spoke about mindsets last week and I think that it pays to be conscious of our eternal reward and the works which have been foreordained
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
…not for our own glory but for his.
As we’ve seen in previous messages within this series…the problem is that we give in to the flesh to easily.
Remember [in our reading today] that sin so easily besets us and hinders us from running the race set out for us…hinders us from fulfilling the works which the Lord has ordained for us. Sin manifests in so many different ways and is beyond the scope of this message. Bottom line is that we should desire to fulfill the will of God in our lives.
While the world continually pursues happiness, the believer OUGHT to be seeking God.
Which leads to our next point…
Jesus: The Elevation of Our Faith:
“…and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
In the first and the second points we saw WHO Christ is…
Now in the last point we see WHERE HE IS…
Our text tells us that he is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
The question we need to ask ourselves or possibly be reminded of is:
WHAT IS HE DOING THERE?
“Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:33-34)
We also see in 1 John:
“… if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” (1John 2:1)
The simple answer is that he both intercedes and advocates on our behalf.
We know that Jesus has dealt with our sin once and for all.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1)
And yet the question is STILL asked: “Who is he that condemneth?” The implied answer is “nobody” There are no charges that can successfully be laid against the believer. We have received a full pardon which extends to all our sins: past present and future.
But that doesn’t quite answer the question of why we need an advocate in heaven as we previously read in 1 John.
Fact is we have an accuser…the accuser of the brethren aka Satan.
Whilst we might not fully understand this, it has to be a blessing to know that Jesus advocates on our behalf and reminds the devil that our sins have been paid in full.
There’s a second implication in connection with Christ’s position at the right hand of the throne of God:
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)
Looking unto Jesus and knowing that he sits on the right hand of God SHOULD automatically dictate our priorities and affections. It should give us an heavenly perspective.
BY VIRTUE OF CHRIST’S POSITION IN HEAVEN WE ALSO HAVE A CONNECTION TO HEAVEN
Look at Philippians 3:20
“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 3:20)
We are actually citizens of heaven and not this world…
If you remember in chapter 11…these faith heroes were looking for another city
WHOSE BUILDER AND MAKER WAS GOD
Then in the fulness of time heaven sent its king…to broker a peace deal [so to speak] And when he had finished sealing that treaty with his own blood, he ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit…to reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness and judgement.
We live in a fallen world and the bible makes a clear distinction between heavenly and holy affections and desires…and worldly base desires. We really need to discern the difference and distinguish [and extinguish] those things which are contrary to the life of God…because in reality we are dead and we need to reckon ourselves dead.
INDULGING IN WORLDLINESS DEPRIVES US OF ENJOYING THAT HEAVENLY CONNECTION…
Unless of course you think that there is more enjoyment in indulging the world…
If you thought the previous discussion was profound, the next is even more profound.
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (Ephesians 2:5-6)
According to this verse, we are already seated in heavenly places with Christ…this is a permanent position for the believer and is underpinned by our eternal security in Christ.
Really…there’s nothing that Christ hasn’t done for us.
There’s a third blessing knowing that Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Christ is not only seated in heaven making intercession for us…but we also have someone and somewhere to direct our prayers….
Whilst it might seem cliché, we’re often encouraged to “look up” and much of our faith is indeed directed skyward. But regardless of the physical dimension alluded to, the reality is that it CHRIST who dwells in the metaphysical realm that is being referred to in all these examples.
THIS IS WHERE WE COME BOLDLY TO OBTAIN MERCY AND FIND GRACE IN TIME OF NEED
The wonderful thing is that Christ is available 24/7…no appointment needed.
Unlike earthly kings…
The example that comes to mind is Ahasuerus and Queen Esther who waited for an invitation and the golden sceptre to be held out before the king would see her.
Of course, we know that she had entreated her heavenly king with prayer and fasting before taking that step of faith to approach the earthly king.
As we read the gospels, one of the important things to consider is the example that the Lord Jesus gave us in regards to:
Obedience and a life of faith, service and submission to the Father…and the joy derived from living such a life. There is much to be joyful about.
HE HAD FAITH, JOY AND PURPOSE
For this reason we truly need to be looking unto Jesus
We look to who he is: He is the Lord of all
What he has done and why he did: He loved us and gave himself for us
How he did it: For the joy that was set before him
When he did it: Whilst we were yet sinners
Where is he now: We have an advocate in heaven
In view of these:
We ought to be fully mindful of the reality of Christ in our lives
We ought to realise that we can fully trust the Lord in everything.
We ought to be committed to growing in our faith and our witness as ambassadors of the heavenly city
If I was to give this message an extended title it would be:
Looking Unto Jesus: An Eternal Perspective on Faith and Joy
Remember: We walk by faith and not by sight and it’s the invisible things which indeed ARE eternal.
Let us continue to look unto to that city whose builder and maker is God…and to its king