Pentecost 11

SERMON                                             PENTECOST                                        August 20, 2017

Text  Hebrews, 12:1b-3.   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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

                “The good that I would do, I do not do; the evil I would not do, I do.”  That is what St. Paul confesses in Romans 7. We have to admit the same thing. St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians, Chapter 5, says that we are in a war. This war involves the works of the flesh against the life we have in the Holy Spirit. The works of the flesh are all manner of sins. But sin kills, it can kill us. But you have a new life in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit has given you this new life in Jesus through faith. This new spirit led life doesn’t want to sin. So there is war. Our very thoughts that pop into our mind are sin laden, sexual immorality, idolatry, hate, coveting, anger, and so on; but the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, and much more. St. Paul in Chapter 5 says two things regarding this daily battle we fight, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”  “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  The writer to the Hebrews writes regarding this same battle. But he pictures our daily life as a race, Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” His point is that you can’t run the race of your life with all kinds of hindrances. And he points out that sin is our biggest obstacle or hindrance to posting a winning time.

Now, all this is great advice. But how can fight and win the battle if our enemy is our own flesh? How can we run unencumbered if we daily sin much? Our text answers these legitimate questions with this answer, “Fix Your Eyes on Jesus, Author and Perfecter of Faith.” Jesus is a winner. He fought the same battle as you do but without sinning. He is the One in whom you are to trust. He is the One you are to imitate. He is the One who can and will sustain you.  

                Our text says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” Jesus fixed his eyes on a goal. It was the joy that he would have and experience if he carried out his Father’s good will. Jesus suffered terribly on the cross, what joy could get him through that? These joys, he would please his Father, he would obtain salvation for us, he would sit down at the right hand of the Father to rule over heaven and earth.  Let us look at each of these more closely.

                The Father said at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and again near the end of it, “This is my beloved Son who pleases me.”  Jesus loved to please his Father. In his marvelous prayer in the Garden he said this, “Glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you.” He continued, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:1,4). Within hours of these words, Jesus would be crucified and die. Why did he have to do this? To be the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. He suffered and died to make his Father’s promises true. Jesus himself said, “God gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus’ death is the fulfillment of the promise first made to Adam and Eve; it was extended to all human beings.

Jesus glorified his Father, that gave him great joy. It is a joy beyond description in human words.

                God is faithful! That is the lesson we are to take from this. It is to inspire us. We fight against powers greater than ours. The devil’s temptations are not just endless, but sly and cunning. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus. The world will threaten to take all your belongings; even greater it can put you to death if you don’t go along with what it wants. Fix your eyes on Jesus. The only way you can you overcome your own flesh, is by fixing your eyes on Jesus.  When you fill your mind with him and his words, there is no room for our hearts to spit forth all kinds of evil wicked thoughts and words.

                Next, also fix your eyes on Jesus for he is the “author” and “perfecter” of your faith. Jesus loved his disciples, he loves you. Here are some more words from that same prayer in the garden. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” (17) “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (19) Jesus endured the cross for he found joy in obtaining forgiveness for all us human beings. ---Jesus spent three years with his disciples. He developed a tight bond with them. We see his love for them in his patience with them. His spiritual concern for them is both heard and seen in his words and actions. This love of Jesus for them would be unending. “I go to prepare place for you; I will come again, so that where I am you also may be.” The place he went to prepare a place was the cross. With that death he took away all our sins which were the barrier to heaven.

            Jesus’ death and resurrection are what give birth to your hope and trust. They are factual, they are real.  They have produced the forgiveness of your sins. You trust, don’t you, that you can use money to buy something at the store. Similarly, we trust that in Jesus we have forgiveness. He does exactly what the Bible says. His being trustworthy gives birth to your faith in him.  Also, if you fix your eyes on Jesus as you run to your heavenly goal, you will reach it. You will remain in the faith so you will enter heaven where all will be perfect. He is thus the Perfecter of your faith. From the beginning to the end, Jesus is the One on whom you are to rely.  And rightly so, for Jesus prays for you in that same prayer, “ I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.” (V11-12) A moment later Jesus added, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (V15-16).  Jesus prays these same words for you and me. See how you have all you need in HIM? Fix your eyes on him!

            Finally, Jesus found joy even while suffering for he fixed his eyes on his goal. “He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Just as you and I look forward to life in heaven, so did Jesus. He loved his Father and would do his will; he loved you and me and would suffer and die to save us; but he looked forward to the time he would return home. More than that, he knew that his Father would shower his love and blessings on him, his beloved Son. He would make him ruler of heaven and earth. We can understand his excitement. How? Because we also look forwarded to unspeakable joys, joys beyond our wildest expectations. Just as Jesus looked forward to sitting next to his Father, we look forward to seeing our Lord face to face.

            Finally then, above all else, fix your eyes on Jesus. The Holy Spirit through the Word has shown you how he has loved you with an everlasting love. He found joy even while on the cross because you would have the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life. That is a gift that only he can give you. Pray as Jesus did in the garden. Lord, keep us in you!  Amen

 

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