By Jane Grivjack
Our ultimate example of endurance in the face of opposition
Introduction: What we have learned from the Book of Hebrews so far is that the author was gravely concerned that his readers were in danger of departing from the faith in the face of opposition and the fear of future persecution. They were considering going back to the old religious system because it would be easier for them to survive the unrest that had been precipitated by the immergence of the “new sect” of Christianity that had taken hold in the ancient world. The author lays out a series of convincing arguments, that are painstakingly articulated in order to get them back on track. The first argument lays out the case that Jesus, the center of this new religious sect, is better than the trappings of the old:
Better than Angels
Better than Moses
Better than Aaron
Better than Melchizedek
Mediator of a Better Covenant
Established by a Better Sacrifice in a Better Sanctuary
Throughout the book we also find warnings intermixed with the line of reasoning of a Better Way that are used to further convince the readers to keep the faith, no matter what kind of opposition they might be facing.
**The writer warned that the readers were not taking seriously the things they had heard and were in danger of drifting away from the faith (Ch 2).
**He warned them about the sin of unbelief and disobedience that would keep them from entering rest (Ch 4).
**He cautioned them that their lack of maturity would keep them from discerning good and evil (Ch 5).
**He then warns them of the ultimate fate of those that turn back to their old lifestyles after tasting the heavenly gift of salvation (Ch 6).
**The author expands on this warning in chapter 10:
Heb 10:26-28 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
As believers, we should take these warnings very seriously. I see no where in these passages that the belief, “once saved, always saved” is a valid one!! Jesus promised that no one can take us out of His hand, but we can certainly pick ourselves up and take ourselves out of His hand!! They all speak of the perilous path that any of us might find ourselves on if we don’t heed them. These warnings draw a picture of the slow drift that takes place if we are not devoted tohearing and reverencing God’s word.
In the Parable of the Sower:
Matt 13:23 (We need to be like this) But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."
James 1:25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not aforgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
Pastor Robert Jeffress: “We read not to increase in knowledge, but to increase in obedience.”
This will grow our faith and bring the maturity that leads to an obedient life. Those that ignore the warnings are in danger of a hardened heart, of falling away, of drawing back to perdition…in other words…abandoning the faith. We all know people who have slowly drifted away from the faith…. We need to be watchful that we don’t end up like them.
2Thessalonians 2 warns that the Day of the Lord will be preceded by apostacy!!
What is often overlooked in the Book of Hebrews is the reminder of the Hope of a Better Future that awaits those who finish the race. This is another argument the author uses to encourage his readers not to lose heart.
**We are told that we will be companions (participants with Christ) in His coming kingdom
**The writer quotes Psalms 8 in chapter 2, which states that the future for the redeemed will be one in which they will be crowned with glory and honor and will be given jurisdiction over the works of His hands.
**The writer asks his readers to recollect that they once endured reproaches and tribulations in the past by keeping in mind that they had a better and enduring possession for themselves awaiting them in heaven (Ch 10).
And in chapter 12 he concludes with this exhortation and encouragement:
Heb 12:25-29 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven." 27 Now this, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.
The author makes of compelling case thus far, but to make sure that his readers do not lose heart, he compels them to forge ahead by making an appeal for FAITH!! They must have faith in order to endure to the end because the reward was still future and the road ahead was going to be rough.
Heb 11:1-2 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it (faith) the elders obtained a good testimony.
(We will be looking in depth at these heroes of the faith in the New Year.)
Hebrews 11 is a recounting of the good testimony of those who had gone before them that had kept the faith!! Can you see the crescendo building here?? He lists the names and recounts the stories…. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and others…all part of the great cloud of witnesses that all obtained a good testimony through faith EVEN THOUGH they never received the promise of BETTER THINGS IN CHRIST!! The author puts the final nail in the proverbial coffin: “If all those who have gone before you didn’t turn back despite the fact that the promise of Messiah was yet future, how can you turn back when the promise has arrived and with it all the benefits that accompany salvation??”
The case being made, the author now seeks to get them back in the race for the faith and points them to Jesus, the author and finisher of the faith as the ultimate example of endurance in the face of opposition!
Read Hebrews 12:1-4
Now we are going to look at the testimony of Jesus…specifically, we are going to contemplatethe “hostility of sinners against Himself.” In Hebrews 4, the author states that Jesus was, “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” By looking at these examples, we can get a much better idea of what we should expect to face because we are followers of Christ. Often times, we lose heart because we don’t understand or know the cost that we all called to pay for identifying with Jesus, especially in this dark world we are living in.
John 15:18-20 "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
The world hated Jesus!! So much so that they crucified the Lord of Glory. In His short three years of ministry, He took many a blow for the sake of the Gospel AND YET He endured it all AND is now seated in glory awaiting the time in which His enemies will be made His footstool.
Those of us who still have our journey to complete need to remember, consider, contemplatewhat Jesus went through so we can be prepared to meet the attacks and be victorious.
Remember, as the world descends further into darkness, our lights will shine brighter. This will make us targets for attack!!
Let’s go through some of the examples and as we do, consider whether any of these things have happened to you because of your faith:
Matthew 2:16 Herod sought to kill Jesus as a child because He threatened his throne
Luke 4:14-30 He was rejected by the people in His own town, so much so that they sought to throw Him off a cliff.
Mark 3:6-12 He had to be careful where He went and who He associated with for fear of His life
Matthew 22:15 The Pharisees sent spies to watch Him to see if they could entrap Him in His words
Mark 2:23-27 The Pharisees watched Him in order to catch Him breaking the Sabbath
Matthew 9:1-7 When Jesus did good works in their midst, it only made their evil hearts grow with hatred towards Him
Matthew 12:24 The Pharisees impugned or took issued with His motives, saying that He was of the devil for casting out a demon
Matthew 11:6-19 He was rejected by His generation
Matthew 13:54-58 His wisdom was despised because of His lack of “worldly prestige”
Matthew 15:12 People took offense to His words
**Often Christians are silenced because people say we are unloving by speaking the truth. Don’t be intimidated by this tactic. Yes, we are to speak the truth in love but even when we do, there will be pushback. Jesus noticed this too. I address this in my previous study “Counter Cultural Freaks”
Matt 11:16-17 "But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions,
17 and saying:
'We played the flute for you,
And you did not dance;
We mourned to you,
And you did not lament.'
Mark 3:20, 21 His own people thought He was out of His mind
Mark 8:21 Even His closest companions misunderstood Him
Mark 5:40 He often experienced ridicule
Matthew 27:18 Because of envy, His enemies sought to put Him to death
Mark 15:11-15 His enemies used propaganda to incite the crowd to choose to free a murderer in His place
**Later in this study I will be talking about the “Soft Totalitarianism” that has spread throughout our culture through the help of social media companies. I urge all of you to watch the documentary “The Social Dilemma” in order for you all to understand the manipulation that is taking place under our very noses.
Mark 14:50 All of His disciples forsook Him at the time of His greatest need
Keep in mind that this is what He was hated for:
Matt 9:35-37 Jesus went around visiting all the towns and villages. He taught in the synagogues, preached the Good News about the Kingdom, and healed people with every kind of disease and sickness. 36 As he saw the crowds, his heart was filled with pity for them, because they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
And with all these good deeds, this was the reaction from the crowds:
John 10:31-32 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, "Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?"
These examples are minor compared to what He suffered on the cross. All that would befall Him there, He knew of well in advance:
Mark 10:33-34 "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; 34 and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again."
Jesus is truly our example of resisting to bloodshed (verse 4). And as the author and finisher of our faith, how was He able to endure?
Heb 5:7-9 (Jesus) who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered; through the ridicule, rejection, isolation,mocking, hostility, opposition, disdain, contempt and death threats. These were just the exercises He needed to go through to get strong enough to endure what was coming. We should expect to be put through the school of suffering if we are to be strong enough to endure to the end.
Read Hebrews 12:5-13
Remember, Jesus was a Son and you are also a son (daughter) of the King.
Let’s re-read verse 11: Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Warren Wiersbe- “Whatever we experience, we can be sure that His chastening is controlled by His loving heart.
God knows what lies ahead for each of us and I suspect that He has us in training even now
Do you consider yourself to be in training? Do you see evidences of good training in your life?
Are you growing stronger or weaker? What kind of disciplinary exercises is He putting you through right now? NO PAIN, NO GAIN!! ARE YOU IN IT TO WIN IT!!
What is ahead for us?? Let me read a few quotes (in italics) from a book I’ve been reading called, LIVE NOT BY LIES by Ron Dreher. He considers his book to be a wake-up call for Christians to prepare for a long resistance against, what he calls, Soft Totalitarianism. Soft Totalitarianism exploits decadent modern man’s preference for personal pleasure over principles (truth), including political liberties. Traditional Christianity has been replaced with, what some of his colleagues’ call, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, which consists of the general belief that God exists, and wants nothing more from us than to be nice and happy. (This) spirit of the therapeutic has conquered the churches as well---even those populated by Christians who identify as conservative. Relatively few contemporary Christians are prepared to suffer for the faith, because the therapeutic society (if it makes you happy, it can’t be bad) that has formed them denies the purpose of suffering in the first place, and the idea of bearing pain for the sake of truth seems ridiculous.
Those in our Christian communities that hold to this new form of religion that rejects the claim that truth is worth suffering for will capitulate (surrender) to the culture as soon as there is any hint of pushback.
Why is it so important that we stand for truth? Let share an explanation for the importance of truth from Congressman and historian Bob McEwan.
Truth is important because:
We are called to be light bearers in this dark world!!
What kind of pushback should we expect here in America when standing for truth? In our “woke” society we may be expected to affirm gay marriage, confess that black lives matter, say that men have periods, affirm that there are more than two genders, confess that we have white privilege, and the list goes on. Dreher goes on…today in our society, dissenters from the woke party line find their businesses, careers, and reputations destroyed. They are pushed out of the public square, stigmatized, canceled, and demonized as racists, sexists, homophobes, and the like. And they are afraid to resist, because they are confident that no one will defend them or join them.
Sadly, some of us may succumb to the tactics of the enemy and hide our lights under a basket.
Matt 5:14-15 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Light restrains darkness. We, as believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit, are the firewall!!
When you know what the truth is, never waver, regardless of the consequences!!
This is our battlefield. This is our training ground. We need to submit ourselves to the Father in order to get us fit to stand for truth in the public square.
Heb 12:12-13 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.
We need to ask ourselves if we are strong enough to meet the challenges ahead. Can we stand for truth when no one else stands with us?
Matt 10:34-39 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
Standing with Christ takes courage, fortitude and strength of character. If we submit to the disciplines that our Heavenly Father sees fit to put us through, we will be up to the task!
Let me leave you with a poem from our dear sister Gwen Hanson:
O Lord, I am tired and weary
My flesh says, “Just give up the fight:
You deserve more than now you are getting;
What’s happening just isn’t right!”
But NO! There’s a reason for all things
I will not abandon my post!
I’ll call upon Jesus, My Savior
Who helps me and loves me the most
So, I’ll tell the old tempter, “Be silent!
Get behind me, you liar and fraud
I’m in Christ, who o’er you is the victor
I BELIEVE AND TRUST IN MY GOD!”
May we all say with confidence, “BRING IT ON!!”
Live Not By Lies—Ron DreherThe Gulag Archipelago—Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Bonhoffer—Eric MetaxisJesus Freaks—DC Talk
The books of Nehemiah, Habakkuk, Esther, 1-2Thessalonians
Counter Cultural Freaks—Jane Grivjack