“Run the Race” (Hebrews 12:1-2


I. Introduction. A. Orientation. 1. Over the past couple of Lord’s Day evenings, we’ve considered two things that show us how great Christ’s love is towards believers. a. If you are a believer, He took your sins on Himself, He became a curse for you, and took God’s full wrath against you on Himself. b. And He did this that He might make you a new creature, with a new nature and a new perfect record, bound for a new home that is perfectly filled with God’s love. 2. In light of this love, it’s no wonder that the evidence that we are saved is that we love in return. a. The Lord out of His infinite love has purchased His Holy Spirit that He might know the love He has for us and that we might love Him with the same kind of love in return. b. His work not only makes us children of God in name, He makes us like Him in nature. B. Preview. 1. Understanding this love, our text this evening tells us what we are to do about it. a. We are not just to sit back and soak it in, as though that’s all there is to the Christian life. b. We are to let this love motivate us to run forward to the Giver of this love; to live the life He calls us to live with all our heart and strength so that we may live with Him forever in heaven. 2. This evening, let’s consider that Christ calls us to run a race towards heaven. We’ll look at four things: a. First, the exhortation to run the race. b. Second, what we must do to run this race. c. Third, the motivations He has given to help us run this race. d. Finally, the effort we are to put into this race. II. Sermon. A. First, let’s consider the exhortation: run the race. 1. This is obviously not a literal race. a. Otherwise, we’d all need to suit up, train and then compete. b. It’s not a literal foot race, but it is like a race. 2. The Holy Spirit is using this image to refer to the Christian life.

2 a. He is urging us to press forward in our obedience, in holiness, in Christlikeness - to put to death our sins and put on righteousness. b. He is calling us to be Christians in more than word only, but also in deed – to be what Christ calls us to be, and to do what He calls us to do. c. It’s like many other images He uses to represent the life Christ calls us to: (i) Like striving to enter the narrow gate. (ii) Or trying to take a city. (iii) It takes all our effort, energy, zeal. (iv) It’s like running a race that we are trying to win: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” (1 Cor. 9:24). (v) We are to run this race. B. Second, it’s like running a race in that there are certain things we need to do to win: namely, removing from our lives anything that stands in our way. 1. Every runner who wants to win the race has to do certain things. a. He has to get rid of things that slow him down – such as heavy clothing, stiff shoes, eating too much. He has to streamline. b. He also has to avoid things that will stop him from running the race altogether – sickness, sprained or broken limbs, injuries. 2. This is what we have to do in this spiritual race. a. We must lay aside every encumbrance, everything that will slow us down: (i) These things aren’t necessarily sinful, but they are things that can become sinful if they slow us down in the race. (a) Such as sports: they’re not necessarily sinful, but they can if our devotion to them becomes so consuming that we begin to neglect more important things. (b) Or alcohol: contrary to popular opinion in the church, alcoholic beverages aren’t sinful, but too much indulgence in them can lead to drunkenness and alcoholism, which is, and slow and down. (c) Or food: it’s obviously not a sin to eat, but addiction to food can lead to the sin of gluttony which can also slow us down. (d) Video games in moderation are alright – as long as you’re not playing games in which you do sinful things – but if you become so addicted to them that you neglect your responsibilities, then they become a source of sin and slow you down. (ii) These are the things you need to lay aside, the things that slow you down, that can take control of your life if you are to run this race. (iii) This is what Paul meant when he said, “Do not get drunk with wine . . . but filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). Don’t come under the sinful influence of these things, but be under the holy and wholesome influence of the Spirit.

3 b. It should go without saying that we also need to lay aside the sins that easily entangle us: (i) There are things we shouldn’t have anything to do with. (ii) These are more powerful temptations and addictions than encumbrances, that entangle us, cripple us, keep us from running at all, that we should have nothing to do with; these are the things that are always wrong, not just when they get out of control. (iii) Whatever sins we may be tempted to do or guilty of, we need to put them off, repent of them and leave them behind, especially any besetting sins, because they will stop us from running the race for however long we indulge in them, and as long as they cling to us and we to them, they will prevent us from reaching the finish line. (iv) John Bunyan, in his book Pilgrim’s Progress, represented both of these things as Vanity Fair. (a) “Then I saw in my dream, that when they were got out of the wilderness, they presently saw a town before them, and the name of that town is Vanity; and at the town there is a fair kept, called Vanity Fair. It is kept all the year long. It beareth the name of Vanity Fair, because the town where it is kept is lighter than vanity, Psa. 62:9; and also because all that is there sold, or that cometh thither, is vanity; as is the saying of the wise, ‘All that cometh is vanity.’ Eccl. 11:8; see also 1:2-14; 2:11-17; Isa. 40:17. (b) This fair is no new-erected business but a thing of ancient standing. I will show you the original of it. (c) Almost five thousand years ago there were pilgrims walking to the Celestial City, as these two honest persons are: and Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, with their companions, perceiving by the path that the pilgrims made, that their way to the city lay through this town of Vanity, they contrived here to set up a fair; a fair wherein should be sold all sorts of vanity, and that it should last all the year long. Therefore, at this fair are all such merchandise sold as houses, lands, trades, places, honors, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures; and delights of all sorts, as harlots, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not. (d) And moreover, at this fair there is at all times to be seen jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind. (e) Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of a blood-red color. (f) And, as in other fairs of less moment, there are the several rows and streets under their proper names, where such and such wares are vended; so here, likewise, you have the proper places, rows, streets, (namely, countries and kingdoms,) where the wares of this fair are soonest to be found. Here is the Britain Row, the French Row, the Italian Row, the Spanish Row, the German Row, where several sorts of

4 vanities are to be sold. But, as in other fairs, some one commodity is as the chief of all the fair; so the ware of Rome and her merchandise is greatly promoted in this fair; only our English nation, with some others, have taken a dislike thereat. (g) Now, as I said, the way to the Celestial City lies just through this town, where this lusty fair is kept; and he that will go to the city, and yet not go through this town, “must needs go out of the world.” 1 Cor. 4:10. The Prince of princes himself, when here, went through this town to his own country, and that upon a fair-day too; yea, and, as I think, it was Beelzebub, the chief lord of this fair, that invited him to buy of his vanities, yea, would have made him lord of the fair, would he but have done him reverence as he went through the town. Yea, because he was such a person of honor, Beelzebub had him from street to street, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a little time, that he might, if possible, allure that blessed One to cheapen and buy some of his vanities; but he had no mind to the merchandise, and therefore left the town, without laying out so much as one farthing upon these vanities. Matt. 4:8,9; Luke 4:5-7. This fair, therefore, is an ancient thing, of long standing, and a very great fair.” (h) It is the world we must give up: (v) As to the fact that we can’t hold onto our sins and expect to finish the race, Bunyan shows us in his book Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. (a) 53. About this time, the state and happiness of these poor people at Bedford was thus, in a dream or vision, represented to me. I saw, as if they were set on the sunny side of some high mountain, there refreshing themselves with the pleasant beams of the sun, while I was shivering and shrinking in the cold, afflicted with frost, snow, and dark clouds. Methought, also, betwixt me and them, I saw a wall that did compass about this mountain; now, through this wall my soul did greatly desire to pass; concluding, that if I could, I would go even into the very midst of them, and there also comfort myself with the heat of their sun. (b) 54. About this wall I thought myself, to go again and again, still prying as I went, to see if I could find some way or passage, by which I might enter therein; but none could I find for some time. At the last, I saw, as it were, a narrow gap, like a little doorway in the wall, through which I attempted to pass; but the passage being very strait and narrow, I made many efforts to get in, but all in vain, even until I was well-nigh quite beat out, by striving to get in; at last, with great striving, methought I at first did get in my head, and after that, by a sidling striving, my shoulders, and my whole body; then I was exceeding glad, and went and sat down in the midst of them, and so was comforted with the light and heat of their sun. (c) 55. Now, this mountain and wall, etc., was thus made out to me—the mountain signified the church of the living God; the sun that shone

5 thereon, the comfortable shining of His merciful face on them that were therein; the wall, I thought, was the Word, that did make separation between the Christians and the world; and the gap which was in this wall, I thought, was Jesus Christ, who is the way to God the Father (John 14.6; Matt. 7.14). But forasmuch as the passage was wonderful narrow, even so narrow, that I could not, but with great difficulty, enter in thereat, it showed me that none could enter into life, but those that were in downright earnest, and unless they left this wicked world behind them; for here was only room for body and soul, but not for body and soul, and sin.” (v) If we would win this race, we must put off the things that slow us down and stop us and run. C. Third, let’s consider the motivations He has given us: Jesus and His witnesses. 1. His love for us should motivate us. a. The fact that He became sin for us. b. The fact that through His work, He has made us new creatures, with a new heart, a new record, destined for a new and perfect home filled with His infinite love. c. We should fix our eyes on that love and let it move our hearts to run the race. 2. The fact that Jesus is the guarantee of our success: a. That He is the author of faith: (i) His work has earned the Spirit. (ii) And His Spirit creates faith. b. The fact that He is the perfecter of faith: (i) His Spirit changes us into His image. (ii) One day He will complete that work. c. We should fix our eyes on the certainty of our salvation and let it move our hearts to run the race. 3. His example: a. He ran this race before us. b. He set His eyes on the joy before Him: pleasing the Father, the reward of exaltation, the reward of receiving the people He redeemed. c. He endured the cross to receive these things: the physical suffering; the judicial wrath of God. d. And He received the reward: Honoring His Father/His exaltation/His church. He testifies to us that this is the best way. e. We should follow Christ’s example and run the race. 4. The cloud of witnesses: those whose testified by their lives that the life of faith is the best life (Hebrews 11).

6 a. Everyone of them had to endure hardship, some more than others. b. Everyone who lived that life of faith, who went through the difficulties that we have to face, who fought with their sins, with Satan, with the world, who held on, are now in heaven, and they testify to us that it was worth it. c. We should fix our eyes on them and run the race. D. Finally, the effort we are to put into this race: we must run with endurance. 1. We cannot slow down, stop or give up. a. We are to keep on running no matter what gets in our way. b. We need to keep moving forward or we will get off the path. (i) It takes force to stop an object in motion. (ii) It takes less force to move an object that is at rest. (iii) Whenever Pilgrim grew tired of the race, he was always tempted to leave the path, and when he did, he always got into trouble. (iv) As long as you are moving forward in the strength of the Holy Spirit, neither Satan, nor the world nor your flesh can stop you. (v) The key is you must run with endurance. 2. And so run the race set before you. a. Shake off the things that slow you down, let go of the things that tie you up, consider Jesus’ example and the example of the all the saints. b. Run the race with endurance and don’t stop, don’t ease up, until you cross the finish line at the end of your life. You will be so glad in the end that you did. Amen.

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