June 2, 2021

June 2, 2021

Author: Pastor Gordon Cook
June 02, 2021

 "Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Hebrews 12:1, 2

There are 32 chapters in our London Baptist Confession of Faith or the 1689, and they deal with the major doctrines that shape our Christian worldview: creation, providence, justification, adoption, and eschatology. There is a doctrine devoted to the subject of perseverance of the saints. That is really what Hebrews 12 is about, setting before us the example of Jesus who persevered for all of us, he endured the cross. But it is also a call to perseverance. He wants us to have Jesus as our model and example, and also to persevere like he persevered.

In Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray he makes some strong arguments for the word perseverance. There has been a debate as to what is the best word to title the doctrine and he argues for perseverance. The reason is to stress the fact that the Christian life is not easy, it is difficult. Strenuous effort and labor is required when it comes to living the Christian life. He doesn’t want us to become slothful and lethargic when it comes to living the Christian life.

Over the years I would argue that it is better to use two words, preservation and perseverance, because preservation captures the divine side and perseverance captures the human side. We want to respect what God does divinely and what the saints do. The ultimate reason why any of us persevere is because God preserves. And yes, you can be assured, 100% guaranteed, God will preserve the saints, that should never be a question; but the saints must persevere. We believe in the certainty of divine preservation, but we never want to lose sight of the necessity and the duty of perseverance. The older we get we think more about perseverance, more about running the race and finishing well.

Dr. Piper says, “I want to finish this race well for the glory of God. I want to die well. But I have seen too much quitting, falling and failing to take anything for granted.”

You have probably seen some professing Christians who no longer are persevering, they no longer even say they believe in Jesus Christ. That is a real threat or danger. So the necessity, the urgency of persevering should weigh heavily on our hearts. Certainly one of the clearest illustrations of that is running the marathon. That is what has been emphasized for several weeks and in the Lord’s Day sermon on overcoming, running the race. That athletic figure pops up four to five times in scripture. 1 Corinthians 9, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run but only one receives the prize. So run that you may obtain it.” Then the back end of 2 Timothy 4 Paul picks up that image again, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” And again in Galatians 5, talking to the Galatians who were not running that well. He is concerned, he says, “You were running well, but what hindered you from obeying the truth?” Remember they pulled back from the gospel of Jesus Christ; they were beginning to imbibe a legalistic approach to the gospel.

And then you have the Hebrews 12 passage that I opened up last Sunday. I mentioned four strategies that comes to running the race:

    · Remembering. Remembering those who have run the race, the cloud of witnesses who have led godly lives and who have persevered to the end.

    · Avoiding. Laying aside every weight and anything that would slow you down, and the sin that so easily clings to us or besets us.

    · Focusing. Keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. That really is the master key for living the Christian life. We are told he is the author and perfecter of our faith. We need Christ every step of the way.

    · Hoping. God wants us to run this race with hopeful anticipatory joy. We are to follow Jesus and he ran this race with the joy set before him.

One cannot imagine anyone running the race with more horrible circumstances than the race he ran. One preacher put it this way, “There is nothing in the annuls of human history that equals the shameful treatment Jesus experienced.” He ran that race and it didn’t cancel, it didn’t negate or mitigate his joy. That is amazing. He ran that race with the joy set before him