Hebrews 12.1-3



1.   Turn in your Bible to Hebrews 12.1-3.  When you find that passage, please stand so we can read our text from God’s Word together: 

1       Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

2       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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3       For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. 

2.   Last Sunday night we recognized our Church’s high school and college graduates, and I pointed out that although major decisions are being contemplated by you young people who are relatively untested and untried in the fine art of decision making, you will yet arrive at decisions that will have a profound impact on your life and on the lives of others.  I urge you to be careful. 

3.   As well, we took note, last week, that you are witnessed by a whole gallery of onlookers, most of whom you pay no attention to, while at the same time you tend toward giving serious weight to the opinions of those witnesses who are least important to you.  But this is as it is with most people, not just the young. 

4.   Do you remember who those various categories of witnesses to you are?  Of those human beings who witness your life and behavior there are three categories. 

5.   There are, first, those human beings who oppose you, who do not have your best interests in mind, who would give little thought to doing you harm, and who are on the other side of the conversion experience from you who are genuinely born again Christians.  

6.   Amazingly, there are professing Christians who seek to be like these enemies of the cross of Christ, who want to look like and who try to act like these spiritual dullards.  Yet these are the least important of all those who watch you and who are aware of you. 

7.   Next, there are those who are on your side, brothers and sisters in Christ who watch you, who perhaps learn from you, who are perhaps to some degree led by you and influenced by you.  These are the brothers you are supposed to keep, and you discharge your obligation to them, in large part, by the kind of Christian life you live in service to God. 

8.   Then, of course, there is you.  You, quite naturally, witness your own life.  You watch yourself, listen to yourself, think about yourself, examine your own appearance, and draw conclusions about what kind of person you are.  

9.   And the things you think about and the things you do have a tremendous impact on the kind of person you will become.  You witness whether or not you read God’s Word, whether or not you pray, whether or not you attempt to bring sinners to Church.  And what you see when you see you has a great impact on what kind of you you will someday be. 

10. Then there are the supernatural created beings who watch you.  Among them are the fallen angels, the demons, of which Satan is their prince.  They watch you to look for weaknesses, to look for flaws that they can exploit and take advantage of to do you and the cause of Christ harm.  They not only seek to bring you down by tempting you, but also by influencing you through false teachers they have subverted in an attempt to lure you into false beliefs and incorrect doctrines.  Turn to First Timothy 4.1 and read that verse with me:  “But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.” 

11. This is how the entire unconverted academic and scientific community, with few exceptions, has come to adopt atheistic humanism and its false science counterpart called evolution.  Among those less well educated the effort to subvert mankind focuses, in my opinion, on such things as UFOs, New Age religions and clairvoyance, or fortune telling and predicting the future. 

12. Of course, the holy angels are the untarnished and undefiled counterparts of these foul spirits.  The holy angels are the ones who did not follow Lucifer in his rebellion against God, therefore they were not cast out of heaven and will not be consigned to the lake of fire that was prepared for those who rebelled as a place of eternal punishment for their crimes against the most high God. 

13. Your observation by holy angels is more a matter of interest in God’s workings than anything else, since they are not generally allowed to involve themselves in the affairs of Christians, with one exception.  Hebrews 1.14 suggests that holy angels are the so-called guardian angels of those who are the elect of God and who will someday come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.  Read along with me:  “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?”  So, angels kept you safe until you got converted, explaining why some of us are still, much to our own amazement, alive and still in good health. 

14. But the most important witnesses of the life you live are neither human nor supernatural created beings, either sinful or holy.  The most important witnesses are the three divine persons of the triune Godhead, the Father, the risen Savior Who sits now at the Father’s right hand, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the indwelling Spirit of God, Who lives in each believer as Christ’s earnest gift of our inheritance until our redemption and glorification. 

15. When you live and breathe and do the things that you do, do you consider your witnesses?  Do you think about what those who watch you will think about you?  Typically, a lost person thinks more about the observations and opinions of other lost people than he does anyone else.  Yet this is so foolish as to be laughable, since unsaved people are the least important of all those who watch them.  Most important, of course, are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

16. If you want your prayers answered by the Father, if you want rewards at the judgment seat of Christ, and if you want peace in your heart that passes all understanding, then you will rightly live your life with a mind to these who witness not only your every word spoken and deed performed, but also what is on your mind and heart. 

17. Tonight I want to move on from those who witness you to what they will witness.  Life is a hard thing.  Harder than most people realize, even after they have lived it for a long time, because most people don’t live life correctly. 

18. Too many people live their lives haphazardly, loosely, foolishly, and with little thought.  Sadly, one of the characteristics of a seasoned pastor is his own awareness of flaws, mistakes, folly and weaknesses.  Thus, I think I am approach a level of expertise on the living of life that I wished I did not have. 

19. But God has reasons for allowing things to happen.  I can only hope that some of the lessons my own shortcomings have enabled me to learn from will benefit you. 

2A.   Tonight I Would Like You To CONSIDER YOUR CHALLENGES 

Someone once said that the unexamined life is a life not worth living.  I can’t remember who said it.  But if it wasn’t said by someone then it should have been said, because it’s a valuable insight.  Some people just run willy nilly through life like a chicken with its head cut off, giving not thought nor attention to the life they are living, to the preparation that should go into living life, or the considerable dangers and pot holes that will be encountered along the way.  So, let’s look at the life that you will live as a series of challenges, challenges that cannot be avoided, but must be dealt with. 

As we look at these various kinds of challenges I am sure that you will be able to apply what I am saying to that portion of your life that you’ve already lived, looking back on past events and opportunities in a  new light.  But my goal is not anything other than preparing you for the future.  It does you no good to look back if all you are going to do is beat yourself up and sink into a depression.  But if you can learn some lessons from looking back, lessons that will help you negotiate the path that lies ahead, then there is benefit from looking back at  your past. 

1B.    First, There Are Challenges That Result From Folly 

1C.   Proverbs 22.15 begins with the words, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child.”  So, every child comes into this world foolish.  Of course, God gave parents so that they could deal with the foolishness of their children by inflicting pain on them to drive out the foolishness.  The rest of Proverbs 22.15 reads, “but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” 

2C.   Foolishness, folly, absolutely guarantees that stupid decisions will be made in response to various opportunities.  These stupid decisions have consequences.  And no matter how wonderful your parents are, no matter how godly or how diligently they deal with their children about matters of foolishness and wisdom, there will always be in your life a measure of folly. 

3C.   It’s just plain foolishness for a child to bolt out into the street.  That child wasn’t motivated by lust or urge.  It just came into his foolish and immature mind to run out into the street.  Yet for the rest of his life he must deal with the consequence of his folly, which is that his big brother was killed trying to save his life. 

4C.   It’s just plain foolish to stand on the rocks down at the ocean with your back to the water.  No one stands with his back to the water for any other reason that I can think of than pure foolishness.  But because that little girl had her back to the water, and because her daddy foolishly distracted her by talking to her so that when she responded she would have her back to the water, the father must for the rest of his life deal with the tragedy of his little girl being overwhelmed by the unexpected wave that knocked her down, dragged her out and under the water, and drowned her. 

5C.   Why did the boy cut class that day instead of going to school?  It didn’t seem like he was all that tempted to do wrong.  It seemed at the time that it was just the Huck Finn in him, the boy just doing something quirky that boys sometimes do.  But something important was taught in his class, something that he needed, something that he missed and would never get again.  It turned out that he missed something that was a vital key in his education, something he couldn’t compensate for, some deficiency he couldn’t overcome, without great effort. 

6C.   Her husband directed her to go to camp.  She didn’t want to go to camp.  She had a legitimate health concern about going to camp.  But her husband directed her to go to camp, so she went to camp.  At camp she got lost.  She didn’t get saved at camp, she got lost at camp.  What would have happened had she foolishly disobeyed her husband?  What would have happened had her husband foolishly remained silent instead of directing his wife to attend camp?  And what would have happened if, after coming back to camp, she had foolishly stayed home that Wednesday night from Church because she was very tired?  What would have happened had Theresa Guerrero foolishly not rendezvoused with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God at Church that night? 

7C.   I don’t think every fork in the road of life that requires a decision is either a temptation or a testing.  Sometimes forks in the road are set before us by God to exercise either wisdom or folly, with the challenges that result from folly requiring something of us to deal with properly. 

8C.   The child whose brother was killed because he foolishly ran into the street has a burden he must carry.  The father who foolishly allowed his little girl to stand on the rocks with her back to the ocean has a terrible burden to now carry.  In both cases, had that person been wise instead of foolish a loved one might still be alive. 

9C.   The boy who foolishly cut class has the burden of a harder way in life caused by something else.  He has a tougher life ahead of him, because his foolishness created a more difficult crisis for him to deal with to get a good education or to get a good job. 

10C. How many men in this country get married before they get a good education?  But by getting married before they get a good education they are usually being foolish.  Why were they foolish?  Because they were married they didn’t make the tough decision to finish their education.  That caused them to miss certain opportunities that they would have had so that when they got injured on the job they would have had options they do not presently have. 

11C. Now, don’t trade in your wife.  And don’t give up your kids.  Don’t settle into a depression that makes you unhappy with your lot in life.  Just realize from past foolish decisions that there are consequences that must be faced.  And use those past experiences in two ways:  First, exercise more wisdom in the future.  Second, harangue your kids to exercise wisdom when making decisions, and help them when they are young to make wise decisions when they are older by spanking their backsides when they play the part of a fool. 

2B.    Another Kind Of Challenge Are Those Challenges That Result From Temptation 

1C.   First Corinthians 10.13 is a wonderful promise to the Christian Church member:  “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  Paul wrote this to Christians who were Church members. 

2C.   This promise does not guarantee safety or a safe escape to someone who is foolish, but to someone who is wise and spiritual.  Further, this verse shows that you will never be subjected to a temptation to commit sin that is not common, ordinary, usual, the kind everyone has to face. 

3C.   First, we look at the guarantee.  Does this verse guarantee that the new Christian who got saved out of drunkenness will be able to walk into a bar or a tavern, chat with his friends for a while, and then be able to walk out without succumbing to the temptation to take a drink?  No.  Walking into the bar is just plain stupid, and this verse does not promise protection from acts of pure stupidity.  What about a guy who likes to talk to the saucy secretary at work?  He hangs out at the coffee machine and talks to her again and again instead of doing his work.  Does this verse promise that that fool won’t fall into her trap of adultery or fornication?  No.  As I said, God is not here giving any promises to someone who is just plain stupid. 

4C.   This verse promises that God will watch over the Christian man or woman or kid who seeks to do right, who isn’t a fool, who wants to be clean, who desires to serve God.  If you are a Christian man who desires to serve God, God is promising here that if the sexy secretary tries to snag you at work, God will always give you a way out of that situation, a way to navigate through that temptation.  But you’re on your own if you hang out at the coffee maker with her. 

5C.   Is there someone who tries to get your goat?  That person just eggs you on and eggs you on, trying to get you to blow your stack?  God will make a way of escape if you really want a way out.  That’s a promise.  After all, your situation is not unique.  There is always a parallel in the Bible that you can use as a pattern or a template that will show you what to do to avoid succumbing to that temptation to commit sin. 

6C.   Now, sometimes the actual differences between a challenge that results from folly and a challenge that results from a temptation are subtle.  And there is no reason why you have to be able to categorize the challenges of life for any reason other than to know whether you brought the challenge on yourself by being foolish, or was this challenge brought on you because you have a sinful nature that is prone to stray? 

7C.   If your problem is foolishness then you need wisdom.  And wisdom is gained in four ways:  First, you ask God for wisdom, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God,” James 1.5.  Or, second, your mom or dad give it to you by means of a thrashing, Proverbs 22.15.  Or, third, you get wisdom from a study of God’s Word.  Or, finally, you get wisdom from the experiences of life, which is the hardest way to gain wisdom. 

8C.   But the challenges that result from temptation are avoided in a different way than the challenges that result from a lack of wisdom.  Some situations that will result in temptation can, obviously, be avoided.  But other temptations are purely biological, and nothing short of getting older will alleviate the problem.  What’s to be done then?  Colossians 3.5 calls for mortification:  “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” 

9C.   In Romans 6.11 the apostle Paul again calls for mortification:  “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin.”  Mortification refers to treating your sinful impulses as though they were dead.  Your body cries out for sinful gratification and wicked satisfaction, claiming to have needs that must be met!  But your body lies!  Therefore, ignore your body.  Pay no attention to its sinful impulses, being careful, however, to meet it’s proper and lawful needs. 

10C. So, the challenges that result from foolishness should be wisely avoided.  Get wisdom.  The challenges that result from temptation, however, are to be dealt with by means of mortification, resistance.  But there are two exceptions to the general rule of dealing with temptations by resisting, by mortifying the flesh. 

11C. Advising a congregation that had been overwhelmed by temptations, Paul writes about two kinds of temptation that are so powerful that you shouldn’t even try to resist them.  Rather, you should run from the temptation to commit fornication and you should run from the temptation to commit idolatry.  First Corinthians 6.18:  “Flee fornication.  Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.”  Run away.  First Corinthians 10.14:  “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.”  Run away. 

12C. These two temptations are so strong, and the consequences of failing to resist the temptations to commit these two sins is so great, that Paul’s advice when confronted with the temptation to commit sexual sin or the temptation to commit spiritual idolatry is to just run away. 

13C. This is why it is particularly irksome to me when I see gals or guys just hanging around someone who, because they are at Church, cannot run away.  Parents, do something about this.  Please!  Not groups of kids talking, mind you.  But when someone is obviously being obvious!  Put a stop to it. 

3B.    The Third Kind Of Challenges Are Challenges That Result From Testing 

1C.   I suppose we could categorize challenges by considering to what degree they are self-inflicted.  Challenges from being foolish are entirely self-inflicted.  This is the spiritual shoot yourself in the foot.  You do something stupid and it creates a whole series of problems and obstacles that you now have to deal with, and that you may not successfully deal with.  Christopher Reeve, the guy who played Superman?  Broke his neck jumping on a horse.  Foolish.  Now he is in a wheel chair for life.  “But he was just having fun, pastor.”  I know.  But the Christian life, if lived properly, is all the excitement any responsible person needs.  And what are the real benefits versus the possible costs of foolish behavior? 

2C.   Temptations are somewhat less self-inflicted, because temptations are not always the result of a conscious decision that you have made.  Temptations can occur for two reasons:  First, because of your sinful nature and a natural propensity to be drawn into sinful behavior by your appetites and by your eyes and by your pride.  Second, you can be tempted by another person, a human being or a demon, intentionally luring you into sinful behavior by playing on your sinful nature. 

3C.   Testings, on the other hand, are brought on entirely by God.  Though the word for testing and the word for tempting are the same in the Greek New Testament, the difference between tempting and testing has to do with the source of it and with the desired goal of it.  Satan, or some nice person, tempts for the express purpose of causing failure, causing disobedience, provoking you to commit sin.  God, on the other hand, tests you to provoke obedience and to strengthen you spiritually.  

4C.   Read James 1.13-14 with me:  “13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”  This, obviously, is enticement to commit sin, which God’s Word declares, God never does. 

5C.   Now turn to Genesis 22: 

1       And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

2       And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

3          And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

4       Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

5       And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

6       And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

7       And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son.  And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

8       And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

9       And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

10     And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

11        And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

12     And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

13     And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

14     And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.

15        And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,

16     And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:

17     That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

18     And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.


6C.   Did God tempt Abraham in an effort to entice him to commit sin?  No.  He tested Abraham to provide for him an opportunity to demonstrate his faith, as we see in James 2.22. 

7C.   Likewise, did God tempt Job when He allowed Satan to so severely afflict Job?  No.  God was testing Job, while He allowed Satan to function as an instrument His glory, all the while Satan did what he did to Job to tempt him, to entice him to commit sin.  Thus, we have a single act performed on Job that was by God a test, but by Satan a temptation. 


1.   Think of the many and varied challenges of life.  You have the challenge to remain sexually clean.  You have the challenge to prepare yourself for adulthood by getting an appropriate education.  You have the challenge to negotiate the hazards of physical desires and emotional fears on your way to marriage.  And of course, you have the challenge of dealing with spiritual realities and your great need of Christ, if you are not yet converted. 

2.   But all the while you are dealing with these challenges you are being watched.  And indeed, some of those who watch you are participating in the very challenges they are watching you negotiate.  And what a show you put on for those who witness you. 

3.   Your own foolishness, no doubt, causes a great deal of laughter by some of the witnesses who watch you.   I know my foolishness over the years has.  But we know for sure that Satan, the demons, and human beings are involved in tempting you to commit sin, even though many temptations are purely the result of your own sinful nature’s lusts. 

4.   What will you do when you are tempted?  Will you give in and do it?  Will you resist the temptation?  Or, in the case of two temptations, will you obey God and run for dear life? 

5.   And finally, what will you do when you are tested by God?  Will you fail?  Will you belly ache?  Will you feel sorry for yourself as Job did until God rebuked him? 

6.   My friends, life is very, very hard.  But as hard is life is, it is best lived by those who face it head on, by those who deal with it as it really is, by those who do not tuck tail and always take the easy route, and by those who are not always shooting themselves in the foot by doing foolish and stupid things. 

7.   Life is very hard, and there are those in the bleachers who are cheering for you, as well as those who are cheering against you.  There are those who are helping you and those who are trying to trip you when you’re not looking. 

8.   What’s to be learned from our snapshot of the challenges of life?  You need God’s grace.  You must have God’s grace.  Life cannot be lived properly without God’s grace.  It’s too complicated, requires too much wisdom that can only be acquired by God’s grace, and there are too many unseen mines that you will step on, too many booby traps set for you by the devil and by your own sinful nature. 

9.   So, approach life with humility, but not cowardice.  You must have a courage born of faith in God.  And you must have the grace of God for living that He only gives to those who know Jesus as their Savior.

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