Monday, March 26, 2012

The Heavenward Side of the Communion Table

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, March 25, 2012

Romans 8:28-39, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:  “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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In just two short weeks, the Lord-willing, we will again celebrate the most significant events yet to occur in the history of this world.  We refer to those events, those special, sacred days as Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  On those days, in our minds’ eye we will witness the tragic and cruel death of Jesus of Nazareth, His burial in a borrowed tomb, and His stunning appearance after His resurrection from the dead.  And, we’ve been this way before, haven’t we?  I know for my family and me, it will be the twenty-first Good Friday and Resurrection Day in a row that we will celebrate here at Northwest Christian Church.  Yes, we’ve been this way before.  And, we can almost recite the flow events by heart, can’t we?  The betrayal by Judas in Gethsemane.  The 3-fold denial by Peter. The trials before the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate.  The statement Pilate placed above Jesus’ head, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”  The seven sayings of Jesus from the cross, the scoffers, the soldiers, the sight-seers, the saddened friends and family, and, yes, of course, the Savior. 

Yes, we’ve been this way before, some of us every year, for a lot more years than twenty-one in a row, and the Lord-willing, for a lot more years to come. 

But, listen, as we look forward to those special, sacred days, to those universe-altering events, and to our joyous celebration on them and of them, listen, let’s remember one very, very important thing: as Christians, we don’t rejoice in, we don’t celebrate and commemorate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus our Savior and King only once a year, and that’s all!  No!  At this Table, with the words of our Messiah and Lord engraved on the front for all to see, at this Table, we participate in, we reflect on, we thank God for every one of those events and all that they mean for us, each and every Lord’s Day!  Even if we didn’t do anything extra, anything special, like a Resurrection Day Sunrise Service, like a Resurrection Day breakfast, on that weekend, we’d still have this Table and this weekly time of communing with our Lord and Savior to take us back to Calvary. 

Someone has said that there are five ‘sides’ to the Communion Table, that when a Christian celebrates and participates in the Lord’s Supper with Jesus, he or she should look at the events of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday from at least five different vantage points.  First of all, there is the look BACK, the Historical perspective or vantage point we must keep in mind.  We examined this ‘side’ of the Communion Table last week, and we learned that as we look back, we have to return, we ought to go back in our mind’s eye, and through the avenue of Holy Scripture, not only to those sacred events which culminated Passion Week, but way back beyond that.  Remember? 

Where, when, did the Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday events, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ originate?  Remember what we learned?  In the mind of God, in the infinitely wise and powerful and gracious mind of almighty God, before the foundation of the world, before Genesis 1:1, God, in His mind planned for the events we will celebrate two weeks from today, and that we commemorate at this Table each Lord’s Day! 

And, then, there is the mouth of God, His words spoken to and through His holy prophets, people like Adam and Abraham, Moses and Samuel, Isaiah and Jeremiah, centuries, millennia BEFORE Calvary, before Easter morning, God spoke to these men and through these men and said, ‘This is what’s going to happen!  This is how I am going to carry out My plan to redeem sinful men and women and boys and girls.  Yes, the look back, the historical vantage point, this ‘side’ of the Communion Table, takes us back, way back to the Mind of God and to the mouth of God, but it also takes us back to the HANDS of God, His powerful, compassionate HANDS, step-by-step, carrying out His eternal plan of redemption, in the lives of, through His leading of men like Adam, and Abraham and Moses and David and Isaiah, God through His gracious and powerful HANDS orchestrated all the events and people of four thousand years of world history, to lead up to and culminate in the things we celebrate right here each week.   Wow! 

In a nutshell, that’s the Look Back, the Historical vantage point, the first ‘side’ of the Communion Table.  But, then, as we meet around this Table, as we commune with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, reflecting on all that has to do with these events and people of the past, that has to do with God’s mind and mouth and hands, what do we do?  What response does that look back elicit from us?  It prompts us to look UP, doesn’t it?  In humble gratitude, with joy-filled thanksgiving, a long and thorough look back, ought to cause us to joyfully and gratefully look UP. 

Yes, my Brothers and Sisters, look up, and, may I guide your eyes?  May I suggest to you, that, as you look up, as you examine the Lord’s Table and our time with the Lord from this HEAVEN-WARD perspective, may I suggest to you that you, first of all, focus your eyes, your attention, on the Source of our salvation.  Who is the Source of your salvation?  Many religions teach and believe – and the enemy of our souls, the Devil – would have us incorporate into our being, the thought that if there is such a thing as salvation, forgiveness of sins, a place called heaven and so forth, it won’t be God getting me there, but it will be ME getting me there!  That’s what many false religions, and many mistaken people you and I know and love, believe and teach.  But, what does this Book say?  Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.”  ‘Look!  Look!  I saved myself!’  Who IS the Source of your salvation? 

The Apostle Paul put it like this:
Romans 8:28-33, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”
My Loved Ones, if reading, studying, contemplating that passage doesn’t make it abundantly clear, then, allow me to clarify it for you with this simple statement: when you come to this Table, don’t look at yourself, at how consistent you’ve been in attending worship services, at how much you’ve placed in the offering plate, at how many lessons or sermons you’ve spoken or shared in, at whose son or daughter you are!  Don’t look at any of that.  Why?  Because none of that will save you!  No!  Don’t look at yourself, look up!  To the Source of your salvation, God the Father!  And, remember: if He isn’t for you, if He isn’t your salvation Source, my friend, you don’t have any salvation!  

Secondly, look up, when you come to this Table, and this special, sacred time of communing with Jesus, look up to SEAL of your salvation, fix your eyes on the Seal of your salvation.  Who is the SEAL of our salvation?  This is one aspect to the HEAVENLY vantage point of the Lord’s Table that you may not have considered before.  We didn’t read it earlier, but take a look at what the Apostle Paul tells us about the seal of our salvation:
Romans 8:9-17, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
Do you understand what it means to be SEALED, to have received the gift of God’s Spirit as a seal of your salvation?  The world seal, found in places like Ephesians 1:13-14, testifies to this one very powerful and incredibly meaningful fact: the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, when God gives Him to a genuinely repentant believer in Jesus Christ, when he or she is baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins, when God gives His Spirit to you, He seals you with this promise: ‘The inheritance I intend to give you, I will give you and My Spirit is my down-payment, my earnest money, my engagement ring for your finger, to say that one day very soon I’m going to complete the transaction, on day, I’m going to come for My Bride!’

My Loved Ones, this Table, and what we are all about at this Table, oh listen, it ought to cause us to look UP, to look up to the Source of our salvation, God the Father, and to the Seal of our salvation, God the Holy Spirit.  But then, last of all, look up, make full use of this heavenly vantage point, to gaze upon the SACRIFICE through Whom we have received salvation.  For centuries people have been enamored with Jesus, with His saying, His miracles, His compassion, His humility, His great moral example.  But, then they run up on His cross, and what His death there means, and what does Jesus’ death on Calvary’s cross mean?  It means that you and I have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  It means that the wages of sin is death, physical death and eternal death, it means that before an utterly holy God you and I are shut up under sin, under its guilt, under its condemnation and under its punishment.  And that there is no way out, no deliverance from this body of death!  None!  Not in the sayings of Jesus, not in the miracles of Jesus, not in the compassion of Jesus for the sick, the blind, the lame, none even in the humility of Jesus, serving the outcasts, ministering to the tax collectors and prostitutes, washing His disciples’ feet, in all of those things about Jesus with which people are enamored, so in love, there is no help, no hope, when it comes to dealing with our biggest problem, the problem of sin!  But listen, listen to these words: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are being justified freely by God’s grace THROUGH the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an atoning sacrifice.”  By His blood there is hope, help, at the cross.  Or, how about this: “for the wages of sin is death,” no hope or help there, right?  Oh, but keep looking, keep looking up, for the rest of the verse says, “but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  There is hope and help at the cross.

One more Romans 7:24ff: “O Wretched man that I am!  O miserable man that I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  Look up!  My friends, look up, to the Sacrifice provided for your salvation, “who will rescue me from this body of death?”  Here’s the answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

The five ‘sides’ to the Communion Table.  Looking back we see the mind of God, the mouth of God and, yes, even the HANDS of God, leading up to this point, the point that ought to cause all of us to look UP like Jesus did when HE blessed the Bread and distributed the Fruit of the Vine.  Yes, at this Table look up, to the Source who originated your salvation, the Seal who secures your salvation, and the Sacrifice, the precious sacrifice of His own dear Son, whom God did not spare, but gave Him up, so that you and I might experience salvation. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Historical Side of the Communion Table

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, March 18, 2012

1 Timothy 2:1-7, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”

As most of you know, this past week several members of my family and I had the opportunity to travel with my mother to Arkansas to assist my mom in sorting through her mother’s possessions.  There, in a little town in Northeast Arkansas, at my grandmother’s home, we had the opportunity to sort of go back in time, for me, to recall many happy memories of visits to her home, and for us, especially my daughters, to learn a great deal more about the roots of my mother’s family.  The Lord willing, we will be continuing that process with my mother over the next several months, and certainly, we covet your prayers as we do.

Image credit: Allenscottwalker
We live in a world that is almost obsessed with the future.  Whether it be the Monday through Friday, nine to five crowd living for payday or for Fri-day and the weekend, or whether it be the younger folks among us, on the edge of their seats, awaiting no just the announcement of some new gadget, the latest technological advancement that will supposedly enhance their lives, but biting their nails in anticipation of the arrival of that gadget or gizmo in the retail stores.  Rushing off to be the first in line to have in their hot little hands.  As I said, we live in a world, a culture, that is almost obsessed with the future, with what will be.  And certainly, there’s some good to that interest, that fixation on the future.  I mean, anybody ever try to drive your car on central expressway, looking only, ONLY in the rearview mirror, and never out the windshield in front of you?  We have to look ahead, don’t we?  We have to have at least a little bit of interest in and concern about the future, right? 

But, listen, before we, as followers of Jesus Christ become too caught up in the future only mindset, I think there is also a great deal of wisdom bound up in the statement that goes something like this: to know where you are going, to accurately discern the present and the future, you must be sure certain, well-acquainted with where you have been.  Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to our time at this Table each Lord’s Day.  As Christians, living not days, not weeks, not months or even years, but over two millennia, TWO THOUSAND years after the events we celebrate each Good Friday and Resurrection Day season, as Christians living that far removed from the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, it’s easy to forget that this Table, the Lord’s Table and what it stands for, what is represents to us as Christians has a history to it.  It has a ‘side’ to it that is visible to us ONLY as we look in the ‘rear view mirror’ of the Word of God.  Let me explain what I mean. Going back as we did last week, to my grandmother’s home in Northeast Arkansas, I did sort of relive many good memories from my past.  And that was a blessing.  But, listen, here’s what blows my mind: though, like you, I live in the present – you know, Sunday, March 18, 2012 – and though, my birth certificate tells me, my life in this world had a beginning on Father’s Day Sunday, June 18, 1961.  Listen, when you start uncovering, as we uncovered at my grandma’s home, your family roots, you realize that your life or what led to your being here today, goes back a lot further than that date listed on your birth certificate.  The same is true for us as Christians.  In our mind’s eye, we go back to the first Good Friday, and we see Jesus, our Savior carrying His cross, we see Him hanging on that cross, loaded down by our sins and our guilt and enduring our punishment, that we might receive the benefit of that incredible sacrifice of redeeming love.  And we’re humbled, and we praise God for what Christ did for us.  But, listen, have you thought about it?  Is that as far back, is 30 A.D. on a hill outside Jerusalem, as far back as the Saving plan of God, the redeeming work of Christ goes?  Is it? 

This ‘side’ of the Communion Table, the Look-Back, as some have called it – talk about blowing your mind!  Knowing what I know; what this Book helps me to know about what we celebrate each Lord’s Day at this Table, we realize or should realize, that the saving plan of God, the John 3:16-intention of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, goes back farther, way, way farther than you and I could ever dream!  Take a look with me, at this, will you? 

This side of the Communion Table, the ‘Look Back’, how far back do we have to go to find out about the ‘Roots’ of our Redemption?  Revelation 13:8 – What does the Scripture say there about the ‘history’ of the saving plan of God, in the mind of God?  It says simply, does it blow your mind, like it does mind?  It says simply that God’s plant to save lost sinners, in His mind, that plan goes back even further than Genesis one, one!  Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, in His Father’s mind, He was slain, crucified, put to death for us BEFORE the creation of the world!  Wow!  The apostle Paul, in our text we read a moment ago from 1 Timothy 2, tells us that the man, Jesus Christ, the One Mediator between God and men, gave Himself for a ransom for all, in due time (see Galatians 4:4ff), at the precise moment God the Father had planned going all the way back to before Genesis one, verse one.  Wow!

Before we move one, let me read for you from two other passages from Paul’s letters, to undermine this point. 

2 Timothy 1:8-10, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

Titus 1:1-3, “Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior.”

The ‘Look Back’, this first side, this first ‘view’ or ‘view-point’ pertaining to the Lord’s Table, and the discovery that in His mind, God’s grace was given to us, in Christ Jesus, BEFORE time began!    Wow!  Wow! 

But, then, we look further into this subject, and we find out that not only was what we celebrate, today, at this table, prepared before time began, in God’s mind.  Listen, through His mouth, through God’s mouth, God’s saving plant was proclaimed to and through His prophets centuries – millennia – BEFORE Christ came to live and die and rise again. 

What do you mean, preacher?  Here’s what I mean: take for example, God’s promises made to Abraham, two thousand years before the birth of Christ.  (See Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 24:7, etc. and Galatians 3:16).  Through His mouth, God spoke to His prophet, His servant, His human instrument, Abraham, and said, “In your Seed (through a Descendant of yours, Abraham) all the nations of the world will be blessed.”  Who is that ‘Seed’, that ‘Descendant’?  Jesus Christ!  He is the One all those dusty, old genealogies from the Old Testament were leading up to! 

2 Samuel 7:12 – The Covenant Promises of God, God putting His reputation on the line, this time the prophet, the servant of God, the human instrument is not Abraham, but a great, great, great, great… grandson of Abraham, a man by the name of David.  Again, spoken by the very mouth of God, the promise has to do with a future ‘Seed’ who would rule and reign.  Who is that future ‘Seed’?  Solomon?  I mean, he was tee one born, soon thereafter, to David.  No!  The ‘Seed’, the Promised Coming King of kings was not merely David’s son, but God’s Son, Jesus Christ (see Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 3:21-38). 

Or, how about Isaiah 53 - Through His mouth, and human mouth-piece Isaiah, more than 700 years ahead of time, God foretold the coming of a Servant, a Suffering Servant Savior, who would be despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  Who is that Suffering Servant Savior?  The nation of Israel?  Isaiah, the prophet? No!  Look again at His stretched out arms on that cruel tree, and you will see, the Suffering Servant Savior of Isaiah 53 is Jesus! 

What do you see when you look back from this Table sitting here in this room?  What do you see, what ought you to notice when you view this Table and what it stands for, from this ‘side’, this ‘camera angle’?  The mind of God, planning BEFORE He ever said, ‘Let there be light,’ planning for what we celebrated just a few moments ago.  The mouth of God, speaking to and through His prophets, His human instruments, about that plan, though it was still hundreds and hundreds of years before it came to pass. 

But, then, notice also, we see from this ‘side’ of the Lord’s Table, the movement of God, His mighty, hand at work in History!

Exodus chapters 14 and 15, the culmination of over 400 years of slavery in Egypt for God’s Old Testament people, the Israelites. The mighty hand of God MOVING, not only to persuade a stubborn ruler named Pharoah, to let His people go, but do you remember the account?  The record of that miraculous intervention of God at the Red Sea?  His people, Moses and the children of Israel, led safely THROUGH the Red Sea on dry land, but the Egyptians, the arrogant tool of the Arch Enemy of God, Satan himself – what happened to them?  No deliverance there, right?  No rescue and victory for the Egyptians there right?  No!  The same waters through which the Israelites safely passed God used to DESTROY the Egyptians!  Exodus 14 and 15 – What do we have here, my friends?  A mere glimpse into a highlight of ancient Israel’s past?  No!  No!  That watery deliverance, that incredible victory of God, for His people, what is it?  It is one of many, many pictures of the movement of God’s mighty hand in History, pointing forward to the ultimate victorious deliverance of God’s people at Calvary!  That’s what you see from this ‘Look Back’, this historical ‘side’ of the Communion Table. 

But, listen, there’s one more portrait or, we might say, THE focal point of this ‘portrait’ of the Lord’s Table, that we see or ought to see each time we partake of the bread and the fruit of the vine.  What is at the center of this ‘Look Back’ side?  The mind of God?  Well, yes…  The mouth of God?  Well, yes...  How about this?  At the center, the focal point of this ‘portrait’ of the Lord’s Table is not a WHAT, but a WHO!  1 Timothy 2:5-6, “For there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus who gave Himself a ransom for all…”  Whose Table is this? This is the Table of the Lord Jesus Christ!  Who’s supper is this?  The Host of this New Covenant Banquet is none other than our Savior, our Redeemer, our Mediator, the Son of God, the Man Christ Jesus.  The Man of men, Christ Jesus!

The author of the hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, states it this way in the second verse of the song: “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.  Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing!  You ask who that may be?  Christ Jesus it is He, Lord Sabaoth is His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle!”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Endurance: Is It Worth It?

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, March 11, 2012

Hebrews 12:1-3, “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.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”

The longer I live, the further along I am in this ‘race’ called the Christian life, the more I see people, Christian people, struggle from day to day, the more I am convinced that what I need more of is not speed, not agility, but endurance.  Endurance.  The word doesn’t have quite the ring to it that speed does, but that’s okay, because – you see – the Christian life is not a sprint, but a marathon. 

Endurance.  It’s a word that has to do with bearing up under difficulty, that implies or entails patience, steadfastness and even courage in the face of life’s storms, all of which seem to be in short supply these days.  Furthermore, endurance, for the Christian, has everything to do with, is all wrapped up in, our hope, the anchor for our souls, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Writing to a group of fellow Christians, who like so many believers in Jesus today, were undergoing great trials, the author of the Book of Hebrews offers three poignant and powerful reminders, all of which point ‘marathon runners’ in the direction of what they need, endurance, patient steadfastness.  Let’s examine these together this morning, shall we? 

One of the huge challenges that goes with running a marathon is the problem of losing sight of the goal, thinking that the finish line is never, ever going to come.  Any parent who’s ever packed his children in the back seat of the car for a 500 miles road trip knows the feeling…  Ten minutes down the road, ‘Mommy, are we there yet?’  Half an hour further, ‘Daddy, are we there yet?’  Little ones, who’ve never traveled those roads, who were too young to remember making that trip and how long and tiring it was, they have no concept of what it means to get in the car and sit there, buckled in, looking at the back of Daddy’s head for 8, 10, maybe 12 hours.  They can’t see the goal.  They’re not sure they will ever get to their destination.  Maybe Mommy and Daddy aren’t so sure, either.  But, they keep driving, because they realize, they remember that at the other end of that long highway is grandma’s house and all the good food she’s preparing.  Grandpa’s house, and that cozy spot next to him, out on the front porch. 

Brother and sisters, have you lost sight of the goal for your life as a Christian?  Before we go on, maybe we should ask, ‘What is the goal?’  ‘What is on the other end of that marathon track, awaiting all who endure?’

Before we examine the three reminders to endure, maybe we should search out whether or not it’s worth it.  What is awaiting those who don’t quit, who don’t lose heart, who don’t walk away when the going gets hard and long and grueling?  Hebrews 12:4-9 – We don’t have time to read that portion in its entirety, but you look it over, you examine it, and what will you find?  You will discover that more of God’s love, a greater understanding and confirmation of the fact that you are God’s child awaits you at the other end. 

Hebrews 12:5-7, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?”
Endurance.  Yes, patiently, steadfastly, bearing up on that long, long road.  It’s worth it.  Every child the Lord loves, must pass this way, must go through this process of chastening.  Speaking of chastening, correcting, disciplining, God’s long and difficult, purifying work in our lives.  We must endure it also.  Why?  That painful process is worth it also…  How come? 

Hebrews 12:10-11 – “God chastens us for our profit that we may be partakers of His holiness… [God allows hard, painful trials into our lives, not because He gets some sadistic thrill out of it!  No!  But because a harvest is in mind…]  [He intends for these thing to] yield [in us] the peaceable fruit of righteousness [as we allow Him to train us by them].” 

What is at the other end of the line?  The Bible talks a lot about enduring and endurance.  But what awaits us, if we do?  And, is it worth it? 

At the end of the 500 miles road trip my mother and dad, and sister and brother and I would take every summer when I was a kid, were the homes, and gardens and farms and food we would always enjoy at grandma and grandpa’s house in Arkansas, and in Kansas.  And though, my sister and brother and I, got tired of looking out the back window of the car, and surely, mom and dad got tired of answering our incessant ‘When are we going get there?’ questions – it was worth it!  Believe me, it was worth it! 

But, what about this life-long race, stretched out over decades that goes with being a Christian?  Is it worth it?  Is what awaits us worth the effort, the blood, the sweat, and even the tears?  The Israelites of Moses’ day, sad-to-say, almost all of them didn’t think it was worth it.  Remember the accounts over in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy?  ‘Moses, take us back!  We want to go back to Egypt, at least there we had plenty to eat and drink!’  Take a look at Hebrews 12:18-21.  The Israelites of Moses’ day, almost all of whom did not make it to the goal, never arrived in the promised-land, they couldn’t – maybe, more accurately, they wouldn’t – see past obstacles like the Red Sea, and 40 day lay-overs like Mount Sinai, and so, where did they end up?  It’s a hard lesson, a brutal realization that underscores the absolute importance of endurance.  Virtually all of those ancient Israelites, including Moses, ended up dead and buried, BEFORE they ever got to see the Jordan River, or cross over it into the Promised-Land. 

But, my loved ones, look what awaits us, look at what is at the other end of the race, just beyond the finish line!!  Hebrews 12:22ff – The real Mount Zion, the eternal, heavenly city of the living God, an innumerable company of angels, the general assembly and church of the first born made up of those who are registered in heaven’s book, the Book of Life, God, the Judge of all the spirits of righteous men and women made perfect.  And, best of all, look Who’s there to receive us:  verse 24 – Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and His sprinkled, shed blood that speaks better things, lasting, eternal things, than even the blood of righteous Abel. 

Endurance, laying aside hindering weights and besetting sins, endurance, resisting those who oppose the things of Christ AND resisting the temptation to listen to them and become weary, discouraged quitters.  What makes going through all of that worth it?  Can you help me?  All I can see is the trouble, the frustration and the pain!  Ever been to the cemetery, to lay a loved one to rest?  I made a trip there last week with Peggy B. and her family.  Ever stepped into an Intensive Care Unit, and walked up to the bedside of a dear one whose life was being sustained by tubes and pumps and ivies everywhere?  I’ve been there a bunch recently!  Ever been to a place like Joplin, Missouri was and is, after the terrible tornado that struck that city 10 months ago?

All three of those places, the cemetery, the I.C.U. unit, and the rubble of a tornado-ravaged city, all three of those places are a part of a kingdom, a domain that can be shaken!  A realm that can and will ultimately come tumbling down.  But what of those who patiently, steadfastly build their homes, their LIVES, not on shifting sand, but the Rock, the Lord Jesus Christ?  Is it worth it?  Remember Jesus’ parable in Matthew 7 and Luke 6?  Building on sand, just laying out your framework, putting up the walls, and the roof, setting in the doors and windows, without having to do all the slow and difficult dirt-work to lay a solid foundation.  Building on SAND, is so much easier!  And quicker!  But, what happens to your home, your life, set up on that sandy foundation, as it is, when a level 4 or 5 tornado hits it?!  Endurance, patiently, steadfastly, digging down-down-down, till you reach bed-rock, setting your forms, pouring your footers and piers, laying that solid-rock foundation.  It takes time, it takes effort, it takes sacrifice and sweat.  Is it worth it? 

Hebrews 12:28 – What kind of kingdom awaits those who endure?  A trip to the cemetery kind of kingdom?  A stay in the I.C.U. unit kind of kingdom?  A Joplin, Missouri tornado-rubble kind of kingdom? No!  Praise God, no!  Those who, by God’s grace and by God’s power, endure, all the way to the end, receive a kingdom, look at it!  They receive, we receive if we endure, a “kingdom that cannot be shaken…” 

Endurance – Is it worth it?  Hebrews 12:1-3, ask the winners…  Yes, ask the folks like Abel and Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses.  Ask them, that great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, cheering us on to the finish line, that group of Old Testament heroes listed in Hebrews 11, who themselves endured hardships and heart-aches as they ran the race and reached for the goal, ask them, “Is it worth it?”  Then, what?

Hebrews 12:2 – Then, ask Jesus.  Ask Him, “Is it worth it, WAS it worth it, what You endured for me, for us, at Calvary?”  Ask Jesus, and what will He tell you?  “I endured the cross, I despised the shame” of that ugly and cruel death, I did that, went through all of that – why?  “For the joy set before Me…”  “For the joy of sitting down at the right hand of God in heaven, knowing that I had done, completely, willingly and obediently, all that He sent Me to do…”  “For the joy of making the way by My shed blood for many other sons and daughters to sit down in My Father’s heavenly throne room with Me…”  “For the joy of defeating once and for all that dark, discouraging enemy of every runner’s soul.  “Ask Me,” Jesus says, “and I’ll tell, I’ll shout for you: ‘IT WAS WORTH IT to endure the cross!  It was!”

Look at the winners, look at Jesus.  Then what?  Look at yourself, look at what’s preventing you, hindering you, from enduring, running all the way to the end, compared to what awaits you, compared to all of that, wouldn’t it be worth it to lay aside everything, EVERY-THING that hinders you, and, especially the sinful habits that beset us, to run, to endure, to WIN? 

Would it be worth it?  “Therefore strengthen your hands, hanging down (so limp and lifeless) and strengthen your feeble knees, make straight paths for your feet…”  Yes, “Consider Jesus, think deeply, meditate long and hard on who He is and what He went through, so that you will not become weary and discouraged in your souls.”