Summary: We have all been influenced by saints who have gone before us. What kind of legacy have they left for you?
May 29, 2011
Text: Hebrews 12:1-3
Subject: Memorial Day
Title: A Great Cloud of Witnesses - Who Has Made a Way for You?
We celebrate Memorial Day tomorrow. As I was preparing my sermon I started thinking about what Memorial Day really means, and I wondered how many really understand what it is about – especially our younger generation. Memorial day is the day we set aside to recognize all of our military personnel who have given their lives for their country. How many of us can say that we know someone – a friend or family member that gave their lives for their country? What a privilege it is to be able to say that. Unfortunately there are many whose names we will never know who have given their lives for us. The number of Americans who have lost their lives due to war since the founding of our great country is about 1,350,000. The total wounded comes to about 1,500,000. I like to take it even a step further. Every man or woman who has ever served in service to our country has faced the possibility that they could become one of those who have fallen. So in light of that thought I would like to ask everyone here who has ever served to stand. We thank you for putting your lives on the line for our freedom. We are so thankful that you didn’t become a statistic of war during your time in serving. You all are heroes. Thank you! We live in a nation that is worth fighting for, Amen? Are we great because we are a great people? No! We are great because this nation was ordained by a great God. And contrary to the rhetoric espoused by our president we are still a Christian nation. In 2007 70 – 80% of Americans considered themselves Christians. That doesn’t mean that they actually are Christians, but at least they align themselves with Christianity. The lives of those who fought for our country and paid the ultimate sacrifice still live on as a testimony to the greatness of our country.
Moving on in that line of thought I want to take you to Hebrews chapter 11. You know that this is the great faith chapter. There is much to be learned about faith by seeing the faith of those who came before us in action. Hebrews 11 is the story of God’s army in action. The things that this army accomplished they accomplished under the direction of their commander in chief. They didn’t try to figure out the battle plan – they simply accepted His word by faith. The word “faith” is used 27 times in Hebrews 11. Twenty-two different people are given as examples of faith. Add to that one nation – Israel (verse 29)– and another group of people – the prophets (verse 32) – And the number rises dramatically. On top of that there are at least twenty-five prophetic acts that accompanied those people. Finally, we see a list of the things that happened to those who lived by faith. Thirteen different forms of persecution are mentioned from verses 35-38. The chapter ends with these great verses. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Like those who have fought and died to make this country what it is, we also can celebrate those of like faith who have stood their ground and paved a way for us to receive what God has planned for those who put their faith in Him.
Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Lord, open my eyes to see and my ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church…
Today I want you to consider who it is that has made a way for you and determine what you can do to make a way for others.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…
I. EXAMINE YOUR OWN LIFE IN THE LIGHT OF THOSE WITNESSES… I suppose that we all have someone that we really hold up as an example to us. Many of you in this church testify to Alice Nelson’s life as an example that you would like to follow. Let’s look at part of verse 1. … let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles… The word translated “hinders” carries with it the idea of a burden or a mass that has you bent over by the weight. That is what sin does. The word translated “entangles” speaks of a runner that is surrounded on all sides by obstacles that would keep him from reaching the finish line. Those things are not just surrounding but are harassing you as well. There is no peace. The enemy is coming at you from every direction. You don’t know how you are ever going to survive. Listen to me… God doesn’t want you to just be a survivor. Survivors are just hanging on. But God has made you “More than Conquerors…” The story is told that Andrew Jackson's boyhood friends just couldn't understand how he became a famous general and then the President of the United States. They knew of other men who had greater talent but who never succeeded. One of Jackson's friends said, "Why, Jim Brown, who lived right down the pike from Jackson, was not only smarter but he could throw Andy three times out of four in a wrestling match. But look where Andy is now." Another friend responded, "How did there happen to be a fourth time? Didn't they usually say three times and out?" "Sure, they were supposed to, but not Andy. He would never admit he was beat -- he would never stay 'throwed.' Jim Brown would get tired, and on the fourth try Andrew Jackson would throw him and be the winner." Picking up on that idea, someone has said, "The thing that counts is not how many times you are 'throwed,' but whether you are willing to stay 'throwed'." We may face setbacks, but we must take courage and go forward in faith. Then, through the Holy Spirit's power we can be the eventual victor over sin and the world. The battle is the Lord's, so there is no excuse for us to stay "throwed"! Our Daily Bread. … let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles… Let’s get real here. It is your responsibility. No one else can do it for you. And in order for you to “throw off” you have to know that there is something there that is a burden to you. You know, “everything that hinders” may not be sin. It may be 1) a lack of faith. Hebrews 11:6, And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Reality check… What kind of faith do you have? 2) a lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:6, my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Turn with me if you would to Isaiah 10:27. We’re talking about getting rid of everything that hinders… In this passage we find a promise to the people of Israel that I must believe is a general promise for all believers. It is a promise that God will deal with all our enemies, our distracters, and our oppressors if we will trust Him to do so. Let’s read from the KJV Isaiah 10:27, And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing. What are we trying to throw off? Everything that hinders. Two things to look at in verse 27. First – the yoke. The word “yoke” is used three different ways in the bible. 1. in a literal sense. A piece of farm equipment that pairs two animals together for work. 2. Figuratively. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul writes, Do not be yoked together with unbelievers… Not referring to actually being connected by a piece of wood, but by being connected by like practice. 3. finally “yoke” is used in a symbolic sense referring to anything that burdens or oppresses. let us throw off everything that hinders… OK, are you with me so far? The second word we need to look at is “anointing”. In the Old Testament people or things were anointed for service to God. Kings were anointed. Priests were anointed. The vessels in the temple were anointed… Oil was poured over them to consecrate them for God’s purpose. That anointing in the Old Testament was a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Now look at what Jesus said about the anointing in Luke 4. 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Are you getting this? let us throw off everything that hinders… Go back to Isaiah 10:27, …the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing… We talked about a lack of faith and a lack of knowledge. Sometimes knowledge must increase before faith can increase. NKJV, Romans 10:17, 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 3) “everything that hinders” is connected to the sin that so easily entangles… Romans 8;1-2, 1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. You are not just set free from the Law. You are set free from the law of sin and death. The law of sin and death is what happens when you try to become righteous before God by what you do. The law of sin and death is trying to remove the oppression – everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles - on your own. But it is the Law of the Spirit – the anointing – that has set you free from sin. Once you are freed from the entanglement of sin, once you throw off everything that hinders then it says at the end of verse 1…and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.