Sunday, November 01, 2015

The Object of Faith

Looking to Jesus
Original photograph by Sandy Chase, via Wikimedia Commons

Hebrews 12:2
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

In our last considerations from these verses, we discussed the Excellency of faith – Hebrews 11:1-3; The Demands of Faith- Hebrews 12:1. This verse, Hebrews 12:2 is very closely related to verse one.

In Hebrews 12:1 – we see all the negative things to lay aside lest they hinder us and weigh us down. It is a case of negative before the positive and this order is emphasized all through the Scripture. There must be turning from the world, before there can be a real turning unto the Lord (Isaiah 55:7); self denial before we can follow Christ (Matthew 16:24); there must be a putting off of the old man, before there can be any true putting on of a new man (Ephesians 4:22-24). There has to be a denying of ungodliness and worldly lusts before we can live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 3:14); there has to be a cleansing of ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit before there can be any perfecting holiness in the fear of God (Romans 12:2-3) the principle goes on.

Before the plants and flowers will flourish in the garden, weeds must be rooted up, otherwise all the labours of the gardener will come to naught. As the Lord taught so plainly in the parable of the Sower, where the thorns are permitted to thrive, the good Seed , the Word, is choked (Matthew 13:22). Christ defined the thorns as the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches, the lust of other things and the pleasures of this life. If these things fill and rule our hearts, our relish for spiritual things will be quenched, our strength to perform Christian duties will be sapped, our lives will be fruitless, and we shall be like weeds.

“Let us lay aside every weight”

This is why the first call in Hebrews 12:1 is “Let us lay aside every weight”. Inordinate care for the present life, and fondness for it, is a dead weight for the soul that pulls it down when it should ascend upwards, and pulls it back when it should press forward.

It is the practical duty of mortification that is emphasized, the abstaining from fleshly lusts which war against the soul (First Peter 2:11). Undue concern over temporal affairs, inordinate affection for the things of this life, the intemperate use of any material blessing, undue familiarity with the ungodly, are weights which prevent progress in godliness.

“And let us run with patience the race that is set before us”

For this, two things are needed: speed and strength- we should rejoice like a strong man to run a race (Psalm 19:5). These are the prime requisites: strength in grace, diligence in exercise. Speed is included in the word ‘run’. How do we obtain strength? The race calls for both the doing and suffering for Christ, the pressing forward towards the mark set before us, the progressing from one degree of strength to another, the putting forth of our utmost efforts- the enduring to the end. I guess that is why in chapter eleven we are reminded of the cloud of witnesses – those who have preceded us, and their faith is recorded for our instruction, their victory, for our encouragement. Yes, their cases give us the motive for running in the race, but not the power and strength. Hence the next part:

“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 sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

The cloud of witnesses is not the object on which our heart is fixed. They testify of faith, and we cherish their memory with gratitude, and walk with a firmer step because of the music of their lives. (Compare it to the cheering of the crowd- the supporters’ club). Our eye, however, is fixed, not on many, but on One, not on the army, but the Leader, not on the servants, but the Lord. We see Jesus only, and from Him we derive our true strength, even as He is our life and light.

Jesus is the supreme Example for all people in the race. He is not here presented as one of those in the race; He is the Object of their faith. He is the One, who Himself began and completed the whole course of faith. He is the One perfect Example of Faith and witness of what Faith really is. It was for the joy that was set before Him that He ran the race; His enduring the Cross was the most complete trial and most perfect exemplification of faith. In consequence he is now seated at the right hand of God, as both the Pattern and Object of faith. He has given us one promise “to him that overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me in My throne even as I also overcame, and AM sat down with My Father in His throne” (Revelation 3:21). In this verse, the Saviour is represented as the Leader of all the long procession of those who had lived by faith, as the great Pattern for us to imitate.

Living a life of Faith

Yes, the life which Jesus lived here upon earth was a life of faith. By faith, He walked, looking always unto the Father, and speaking and acting in complete dependence on the Father. By faith, He looked away from all discouragements, difficulties, and oppositions, committing His cause to God who had sent Him; to the Father, whose will He had come to fulfill. By faith, He resisted and overcame all temptation, whether it came from Satan, or from the false Messianic expectations of Israel, or from His own disciples. By faith, He performed the signs and wonders, in which the power and love of God’s salvation were symbolized. Before He raised Lazarus from the grave, He, in the energy of faith, thanked God who heard Him always. And here we are taught the nature of all His miracles: He trusted in God. He gave the command, “Have faith in God” out of the fullness of His own experience.

This same Jesus is the One we are being enjoined now to look to for direction, strength and power we need to run the race before us. The race that is before us is a race that can only be run in faith. What actually are we being asked to do? It is to live a life of faith. What does this entail?

A life of faith is a life lived in complete dependence on God. 

King Solomon put it this way: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Never did any so entirely, so unreservedly, so perfectly cast Himself upon God as did the Man Christ Jesus; never was another so completely yielded to God’s will. His summary of His life is “I live by the Father” (John 6:57) When tempted to turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger, He replied; “man shall not live by bread alone”. So sure was He of God’s love and care for Him that He held fast to His trust and waited for Him. So patent to all was His absolute dependence upon God, that the very scorners around the Cross turned it into a bitter taunt – “He trusted in the Lord that He would deliver Him, let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him” (Psalm 22:8)

A life of faith is a life lived in communion with God. 

And never did another live in such a deep and constant realization of the Divine presence as did the Man Christ Jesus. “I have set the Lord always before Me” (Psalm 16:8) was His own avowal. He that sent Me is with Me (John 8:29) was ever a present fact to His consciousness. Again we read Him say; “I was cast upon You from the womb; You are My God from My mother’s belly” (Psalm 22:10) One characteristic of His life is revealed by Mark in this way “And in the morning, rising a great while before day, He went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” (Mark 1:35) from Bethlehem to Calvary He enjoyed unbroken and unclouded fellowship with the Father; and after the three hours of awful darkness was over, He cried “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit”

A life of Faith is a life lived in obedience to God. 

Faith works by love (Galatians 5:6), and love delights to please its object. Faith has respect not only to the promises of God, but to His precepts as well. Faith not only trusts God for the future, but it also produces present subjection to His will. Supremely was this fact exemplified in the Man Christ Jesus: “I always do those things which please Him” (John 8:29) and His declaration. “I must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49) characterized the whole of His earthly life. He lived by every word of God. At the close of His earthly life, He said: “I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)

A life of Faith is a life of assured confidence in the unseen future. 

It is looking away from the things of time and sense, a rising above the shows and delusions of this world, and having the affections set upon things above. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1), enabling its possessor to live now in the power and enjoyment of that which is to come. That which enchains the ungodly has no power over the perfect man.  “I have overcome the world” (John 16:3). When the devil offered Him all its kingdoms, He promptly answered, “Get you hence, Satan.” So vivid was Jesus’ realization of the unseen, that, in the midst of earthly engagements, He called Himself “The Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13)
And so dear brethren, this Jesus , in the absoluteness of His dependence upon the Father, in the completeness of His trust in Him, in the submission of His will to that Supreme Command, in the unbroken communion, which He held with God, in the vividness with which the Unseen ever burned before Him, and dwarfed and extinguished all the lights of the present and in the respect which He had, unto the recompense of the reward; nerving Him for all pain and shame; has set before us all the example of a life of faith, and is our Pattern as in everything, in this too.

It is worth considering in the light of the life of faith as shown in the Man Christ Jesus, if there is any real Christianity in the world today. Christianity consists in being conformed into the image of God’s Son; “Looking unto Jesus” constantly, trustingly, submissively, lovingly; the heart occupied with the mind stayed on Him – that is the whole secret of practical Christianity.

My realization of the ideal He has set before me is in proportion to my occupation with the example which He has left me, and as I am living upon Him and drawing from His fullness. In Him is the power, and the strength to run with patience or steadfast perseverance, the race that is set before me. Genuine Christianity is a life lived in communion with Christ, a life lived by faith, as His was. “For me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21); “Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” (Galatians 2:20). Christ living in me and through me

What are the things which hinder us running? An active Devil, an evil world, indwelling sin, mysterious trials, fierce opposition, afflictions which almost make us doubt the love of the Father? Then call to mind the great cloud of witnesses. They were men of like passions with us; they encountered the same difficulties and discouragements, they met with the same hindrances and obstacles, but they ran with patience, they overcame; they won the victors’ crown. How? By looking unto Jesus “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of this world; for He looked to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:26) But more; look away from difficulties, “and not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead, since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waiver at the promise of God, through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what he had promised He was also able to perform.” (Romans 4:19-21) Look away from self, from fellow racers; but look to Him who has left us an example to follow, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, so that He is able to succour the tempted, strengthen the weak, guide the perplexed, supply our every need. Let the heart be centred in and the mind stayed upon Him.

The more we are looking unto Jesus, the easier will it be to lay aside every weight. It is at this point that so many fail. If the Christian denies self of different things without an adequate motive for Christ’s sake, he will still secretly hanker after the things relinquished, or before long return to them, or become proud of his little sacrifices and become self righteous. The most effective way of getting a child to drop any duty or injurious object is to proffer him something better. The best way to make a tired horse move more quickly is not to use the whip, but to turn his head towards home. So, if our hearts be occupied with the sacrificial love of Christ for us, we shall be constrained thereby to drop all that which displeases Him; and the more we dwell upon the joy set before us, the more strength we shall have to run with patience the race that is set before us.

God bless you all

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