The race is on
Strip down for the race1Take a hard look at this crowd. They’re watching us. We’ve got a race to run. Let’s strip down and get going. Take off everything that slows you. Peel away every sin that distracts you. This is a marathon, so get ready for the long run.
2Focus on Jesus. He wrote the book on faith. He’s the one who will refine our faith to perfection. He willingly suffered on the cross. He didn’t care about the shame of it. He knew he was racing toward joy. He’s sitting now beside God’s throne, in the seat of greatest honor. 3When you start to feel overwhelmed and you’re tempted to give up, think about Jesus. Remember what his enemies and other sinners put him through. He never gave up.
Buckle up for God’s discipline4You’ve battled sin, but it didn’t kill you. 5Did you forget what God said to encourage you? He spoke to you as Father to child.
“My child, when the Lord corrects you
don’t ignore it.
When he disciplines you,
don’t get discouraged
He disciplines every child of his when they need it.” 7As you suffer through hard times, think of it as discipline from your heavenly Father. God is treating you as his child; think of it that way. Every child with a father gets disciplined by the father. 8If you’re not getting the discipline that all children are supposed to get from their father, then you’re not God’s children. Pardon my Greek, but you’re bastards.
9After all, our dads on earth discipline the dickens out of us. We respect them for it. If we want to live forever, shouldn’t we be even more willing to respectfully submit to the Father of our spirits? 10Our dads on earth disciplined us for just a few years. They did what seemed best to them. But the Lord does what is really best for us. His discipline helps shape our character until we start to resemble our Father. 11All discipline stinks at the time. It hurts, too. But later, it produces something good in us, for those of us who learn from it.
Work your spiritual body12Tighten your grip. Work those knees. 13Eyeball that path ahead. You’re already limping, so you don’t step off the trail and dislocate something. You need to be healed.
Stay on track for the holy life14Live in peace with people, as best you can. And stay devoted to the Lord, which you’ve got to do if you ever want to see him. 15Make sure no one misses out on God’s kindness. And don’t let anyone’s meanness blow up into a messy fight that can hurt a lot of you believers.
16Don’t let anyone get by with living an immoral life and ignoring God, like Esau did. He gave up his inheritance rights as the oldest son by trading them for one measly meal. 17He tried to get those rights back, crying as he begged. Too late. His father turned him down.
This ain’t Mount Sinai18You’re not standing in the stormy darkness at the foot of a burning mountain. 19You’re not terrified by the blast of a trumpet and the sound of a voice so powerful that you beg it to stop. 20Our ancestors couldn’t take it when they heard, “If anything touches this mountain—even if it’s just an animal—stone it to death.”
21In the spectacle of those moments, Moses said, “I’m terrified and trembling.” 22No, you’ve come to a different mountain. It’s Mount Zion, heaven’s Jerusalem, the city of the living God. There are more angels than you can count. And they’re happy. 23This is a whopper of a church meeting—a General Assembly of all God’s dearly loved children, good spirits who are perfect now. God’s here, too, as everyone’s judge. 24Jesus is here, as well, the mediator who delivered God’s new agreement. His sprinkled blood speaks even louder than the blood of Abel that had called to God.
Don’t play with fire25A word of warning: don’t ignore the God who’s talking to you. Others did. They ignored heaven’s warning. We know what happened to them. If we do what they did, we’ll get what they got. 26In those ancient times, God’s voice shook the earth. But now, as he promised, “I’m going to shake the earth again, and the heavens with it.”
27When God talks about shaking things up, he’s talking about destroying everything that will shake, rattle, and roll. Every element of creation. All that remains is the unshakable. 28That means we’re inheriting an unshakable world. Let’s be grateful for that, and give God the respect and the worship he deserves. 29God is a consuming fire. Don’t forget it.
More literally, “work for holiness,” which some translate as sanctification or as living free of sin. “Devotion to the Lord” comes from the Greek word hagiasmos, often translated as holiness or sanctification. Worship utensils such as lampstands were considered holy because they were reserved for sacred use, devoted to God. People, too, were considered holy when they devoted themselves to God.
God told Cain, who had murdered Abel, “Your brother is crying out to me—through his blood in the ground” (Genesis 4:10).
React to this: “As you suffer through hard times, think of it as discipline from your heavenly Father. God is treating you as his child; think of it that way. Every child with a father gets disciplined by the father” (12:7). Pick one reaction or add one.
- That stinks.
- So, Christians are suffering because God is punishing them?
- God isn’t punishing them. This is just a mind game to help the people accept their suffering.
- Not all discipline is punitive. Some is educational.
- The further we get into this letter, the more confused I get.
The writer gives a fair number of one-liner snippets of advice in Hebrews 12. Which one seems most compelling to you?
What’s the point of Hebrews 12:18-24, comparing Mount Sinai in Egypt to Mount Zion in Jerusalem?
LIFE APPLICATION. The writer of Hebrews says faith is a marathon race. “Let’s strip down and get going. Take off everything that slows you. Peel away every sin that distracts you” (12:1). If we made a list of the things we would need to strip off, what would we put on that list?
LIFE APPLICATION. “When you start to feel overwhelmed and are tempted to give up, think about Jesus. Remember what his enemies and other sinners put him through. He never gave up” (12:3). That was the writer’s advice for Jewish Christians of his day. Do you think that advice works for us today?
LIFE APPLICATION. “All discipline stinks at the time. It hurts, too. But later, it produces something good in us, for those of us who learn from it” (12:11). Got any examples of this? Maybe it’s not discipline from God, but it’s some discipline you had to practice—something you had to do that you didn’t want to do.
LIFE APPLICATION. The writer warns his readers, “Don’t ignore the God who’s talking to you” (12:25). Many people say it’s hard, if not impossible, to distinguish God’s voice from our own thoughts. When is a time you felt God talked to you?