Summary: Our relationship with Jesus transforms us from being in love with ourselves to loving ourselves and others.
Hebrews 12:1-3 “Transformation”
Transformation happens all around us. A caterpillar morphs into a butterfly. Dieting and exercise can transform out-of-shape flab into a lean, mean muscle machine. A shy, gangly teenager grows up to be a competent professional, an astronaut, or president of the United States. The question before us is not, “Does transformation take place?” but rather, “How does transformation take place?”
The text for today, Hebrews 12:1-3 describes how transformation happens. A modern day, secular illustration of this passage is the movie, “The Miracle.” In the ‘70’s, the United States was in the doldrums and mired in self-doubt. We had lost the war in Viet Nam and questioned why we had ever entered that war. That war and President Nixon had birth distrust of our government officials. The cold war was alive and well. We were burdened by staggering inflation and struggling with a lousy economy. Into this milieu steps a raucous group of teenagers who came together and formed the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team. This bunch of individuals was transformed into a team that accomplished one of the greatest athletic feats in history—they womped the World Champion Russian Hockey Team. Perhaps some of you remember this scene: (the video)
Imagine yourself on the playing field with thousands of fans cheering you on to victory. That’s the picture that the writer of Hebrews gives us in the opening verse of this chapter. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who are watching us play the game of Christian discipleship—love and service. They are not passive spectators either, but rather loudly cheering fans.
We all know how hard it is to make changes in our lives alone. Sometimes we need to support and instruction of counselors. We also need the support and encouragement from family and friends. We are much more likely to succeed if we make our changes toward transformation within a community.
God has given himself to us in the person of the Holy Spirit to empower us in the changes that we make. Prayer is also an important tool in the process of transformation for Christians.
The Lord has also given us the community of believers—us—to listen, support, and encourage us. We share victories and grieve over failures. Sharing the process and the pain, we are transformed into a team, like that of the 1980 Olympics, who is able to be victorious over the greatest of opponents and challenges.
If you are going to play any game successfully, you need to be focused. You can be worrying about you tax bill for the extra income from winning the Super Bowl. Nor can you imagine savoring a Snickers bar while playing at Wimbledon. It is much the same in the Christian life.
The writer of Hebrews encourages his readers to lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely. We know what the weight is—all those cares and concerns that occupy our minds, keep us awake at night, but diminish our enthusiasm for mission and ministry. And our sinfulness is all too apparent. Trying to get rid of side is similar to trying to throw fly paper away. Just when we think that we are free from it, we discover it clinging to another part of our hands or fingers. The exhortation of the author is not impossible to achieve. God has promised to be our protector and provider. We can rest in him and have peace instead of anxiety. Through the cross of Christ, we have been set free from sin—we are no longer enslaved to it.
Make no mistake about it, though, the writer to the book of Hebrews is not encouraging his readers to adopt a balanced life. To keep one’s life in balance is an impossible task and one that seems to go against the realities of life. We are encouraged, though, to live a centered life—a life that has a single purpose and goal expressed in all the parts and expressions of life. For the Christian, that goal and purpose is Jesus. Our focus transforms us.
A runner doesn’t run very well if he doesn’t keep his eye on the finish line. Hockey players and football players are not going to have a successful season if they don’t concentrate on the goal. As Christians, we look to Jesus.
Jesus is the reason for participating in the game. As God’s people; the body of Christ, we live in order to love God and serve others. This purpose transforms our lives.
Jesus is the model of our lives. We see in his ministry and also in his death and resurrection a pattern for our lives. We are not called to stay in the holy places and look good. We are inspired by Jesus’ love and grace, his acceptance and his inclusiveness. We are called and sent out to love and to serve. Our lives become greater than ourselves, as we live beyond ourselves. This lifestyle is transforming.