Hey everyone! My name is Josh Pollard and I’m the adult ministries Pastor here at Renovation Church.
This week we’re finishing up our 4-week series on Hebrews 12 called Endurance. Pastor David probably picked that title for our series because he’s a runner. When I used to work at a bank, they tried to get me to sign up for a 401k. But I was like I don’t really like running that much. They said it would make me a lot of money but I knew I wasn’t going to win, so …can’t fool me. By the way, do you know what you call the person who comes in last at one of those races? An ambulance, they’re going to need some help.
Endurance - The ability to withstand a trying situation without collapsing. Today’s passage is going to ask us to consider if the principles and beliefs and values we trust can truly endure. Today passage is Hebrews 12:18-29 (Renovation Church app – Bible – weekly verses)
I’m going to read it and then we’ll break it down. It’s a bit of a longer passage and parts of it might seem confusing so I’ll include a bit of commentary along the way to help clear up some of the more obscure references. This is one of those passages that even if the details are a bit confusing at first, you can still undertand the main point of the passage, so let’s not lose the forest for the trees, as they say. Let’s start by noticing that it’s is written in 4 sections with the focus coming in verse 27, and the appropriate response, which we should have, coming in verse 28. Keep it up in front of you while we work through it for a few minutes.
Section 1! Verse 18 starts with a description of when God came to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai in Exodus 19 and formed a covenant with them through Moses. It says:[Put Heb12:18-21 up on a slide]
18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
God’s authority, power, and holiness were obvious here. They took God’s words very seriously and were terrified by the potential consequences of ignoring them even a little bit. But you’ll notice that almost nothing in this description is alive: mountain, fire, darkness, trumpets, don’t even come close, it’s too much. [take down slide] Let’s compare this description, as the author does, to the following passage, which is a description of the New covenant. The setting it describes is not just an earthly mountain like before. Instead It’s the heavenly Mount Zion, which, throughout the old testament represented the true seat of the Living God, God’s personal thrown not just a somewhere he’s visiting, where His holiness doesn’t need to push them away anymore, but where his sacrifice has made them righteous enough to gather with Him. Section 2! It says: [Put Heb 12:22-24 slide]
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven (that’s Christians). You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, (that is, righteous people from the past that have died) 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
You may recall that Able, the 3rd human, Adam and Eve’s son, was murdered by his brother Cain, thus becoming the first person in scripture to die. His blood, spilt by murder brought death into creation. The ultimate punishment for humanity’s rebellion is first realized with him. But the Blood of Jesus, spilt by murder, brought life. The ultimate repair of humanity’s rebellion begins with him. That’s why it’s a better word.
And did you notice that everything in this description is alive: The Living God, Thousands of joyful angels, church of the firstborn, God the Judge, Spirits of the righteous, Jesus and his sprinkled blood that speaks. What a contrast to the first covenant! The new one in so much better! [Take down slide] But sometimes, we mistakenly think that the New Covenant (that is, what Jesus did) and the Old Mosaic Covenant (that happened with Moses in the Old testament) were opposites and that’s not true. The were not opposite sides of a coin as much as they were just different chapters in the same book, one building and clarifying the previous one. They were both made by the same God. The same God whose voice sparks reverence and terror and whose give commands over life and death in the first covenant, is the same living God, Judge of all, surrounded by a joyful assembly in the second. His voice is heard in trumpets in the first and in blood in second. Same voice. How important is it that we listen to his voice?
This takes us to section 3. It continues in V. 25. [Put Heb 12:25-27 up on a slide]
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth (that is, through Moses, the mediator of the First covenant), how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven (That is, Jesus who is the mediator of the new covenant and reigns from heaven)?
So it’s extremely important. The changed description should not alleviate the seriousness with which we hear God’s commands, but instead build it up even more! Make sure you don’t refuse! Why? It goes on…
26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
So here, we find the crux of the passage. The Big One is coming. God is going to test the stability of everything that is. And we’ll see what shakes. [Take down slide]
As a kid growing up in California, we would have earthquake drills at school all the time. The bell would ring. Drop under your desk, cover you neck, and hold on! Drop, Cover, hold, drop, Cover hold. We were always ready because, you just never know when the big one is going to hit. Of course, as a little kid, you’d get down there, look around at all your friends, and think, “Man if the roof goes down on us, I’m going to have to save everyone, I’m the only one doing this right! Everyone else is just looking around!.. Mom’s gunna be so proud.”
Twenty-odd years later, I was newlywed, with decent job, a college degree, and a car that worked. Life was fresh, simple for a while. Predictable. Steady. I was holding on well.
I know Minnesota has its fair share of extreme weather, but I can assure you that nothing is quite like waking up to the entire house shaking around you like it’s about to crumble. It’s terrifying and disorienting. The best way I can describe it is that it is somehow both loud and quite at the same time – like a photo of someone screaming. Your thoughts don’t go to drop, cover, hold – they go to “Is this the big one?!, is this the end?! Is the house coming down to crush us?!” That earthquake hit at 11:43 PM. It was such an sudden pop of motion that adrenalin kicked in immediately and we tried to get up out of bed and go .. go somewhere, try to think of something solid, but there is no desk here to get under! The bath tub, no, the bathroom doorway, no, down in a little ball next to the wall. Everything was shaking! It was like we were in an unbalanced washing machine on spin cycle… and then it all just stops. … No damage, no rescue team needed, maybe a few car alarms going off for a few minutes, you get up off the floor and try to go back to sleep.
It’s weird how an experience like that stays with you. For months, I would tense up when a large truck went by outside or when someone closed a door to hard. I’d set my glass a bit further back from the edge of the table, just in case. Sit my chair a bit further from the window, just in case. You realize that the world is shaky. It seems so steady, until you realize the possibility for it to shake and then it never seems quite steady enough again.
Is what you are counting on shakable?
For many people 2020 has been an earthquake that has reminded us of how shakable everything is. Our jobs, our health, our friendships, our political and educational systems, our daily routines, all the things that often build our very identities. They are all so trusted as sturdy and yet we have been in a shaking house all year. Let it wake you up with spiritual adrenaline! The house of this world has always been shaky, always will be shaky, and eventually it will be shaken so completely that everything shakable will be gone.
My concern is for those of you who are calling themselves Christians but you are trusting the shakable, and as a result, end up refusing “Him who speaks”.
I believe that there are 3 reasons why we may refuse “Him who speaks.”. 1) we just don’t know what Jesus said. 2) We know what Jesus said, we want to follow him, but we don’t have the tools to live it out (know the what, just not the How), or 3) we know what he said, we have the ability, but we are hard hearted.
[Put up these 3 on a slide. If you can make them come up one at a time as I say them, that would be awesome.
We don’t know what Jesus Said.
We know what he said, we want to follow, but we don’t know how
We know what he said, but we are hardhearted ]
Take down slide after just a few moments]
We may fall into each of these at different times and in different parts of our lives. There are antidotes to each of these.
Let’s take a look at the first way – That we refuse him who speaks because we don’t know what he said.
Sadly, we often think we know what he would say, but we don’t first know what He said.
Have you ever heard the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” WWJD? When you are in a situation that you aren’t’ t sure what to do you just ask, “Well, what would Jesus do? And then do that. We used to see that WWJD everywhere, Bracelets, t-shirts, bumper stickers. People would get it tattooed on their body. I even saw it graffitied on wall a wall once in big letters –“WWJD”… I wanted to write probably not graffiti. The idea of “What would Jesus Do?” is commendable but ill-fated because it’s usually based on just what we think Jesus was like and not who He shows himself to be throughout scripture. And then not surprisingly, when we ask what would Jesus do, it always seems to be right in line with what we personally would have done. We see this continually in the American Church as denomination after denomination move further from believing that Scripture is authoritative, so they stop reading it and just imagine what Jesus would do and then go that way. And they end up refusing to listen to what Jesus himself said.
They stop reading it because they disagree with it, but shouldn’t that be expected from the outset, that we don’t think like Jesus? We think we should make all the money we want, and do what we want with our bodies, and call people idiots, and hate people that do bad things, and follow what makes us happy. But Christ is our my master, and he’s already given us correction by saying things like, “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” and “offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” and “you cannot serve both God and Money” and “anyone who says, ‘you fool’ will be in danger of the fire of hell”, and “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.” Never fully trust what you think Christ is like. Instead of asking “What would Jesus do” ask “What did Jesus already tell us to do.” Only trust what He showed himself to be and what he told you to do. Read the Bible so that you can know what he’s saying and come to church so that you can be hear the Word of God preached. What you think Jesus is like is completely shakable. Who He shows himself to be in scripture is unshakable. Hold on to the unshakable – the shakable is going away.
The second way that we refuse him who speaks is that we know what he says, we want to hold on to him, but we don’t know how to put it into practice in our daily lives.
First, we need the Holy Spirit’s help.
We cannot continually hold on to Jesus without the help of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us the “No one is good, no even one.” As much as we want to follow Jesus, we are imperfect people. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to obey and follow Him. Pray for God’s help with that. Ask him for the gift of obedience.
The next thing we need is help from people that have walked this path before you. We need mentorship and accountability.
Many of you have intentionally joined a house group in our church in order to have some accountability. That’s good. But it is all too easy to show up to House Group and not be completely honest, or to have a guard up to receiving spiritual correction. I encourage you, for YOUR GOOD, let these people in fully into your spiritual walk with God. Give them access to parts of your life that are too tempting, too difficult for you to handle on your own. Let them show you from scripture (not their own opinions) how your spiritual thoughts or actions may not actually be in line with Jesus. Let them help you no refuse the Lord
Everyone needs help to grow. Even Olympic athletes need coaches and training partners. That’s how the develop the ability to endure. If they need it for running in circles, how much more do we need it for walking this straight and narrow path!
The next tool we need is intentionality.
Holding on to the unshakable Jesus doesn’t happen by accident. Notice that in verse 25 it doesn’t just say “do not refuse”, but “see to it that you do not refuse.” See to it – Make sure – don’t just hope for it – Don’t just try– instead do what it takes to not refuse – Go out of your way to make sure it happens.
Set your life up intentionally so that you aren’t tempted to refuse either his grace or his commands. I’ll give you some practical examples of what I mean by this.
If you struggle with a being consistent at church, join a service team. Sometimes you might be having a one of those Sundays where you’d like to just stay home, but you just so happen to be scheduled on the cleaning team! And that helps get you to church.
If you struggle with tithing faithfully, set your tithe up on automatic withdrawal and remove that temptation every month or every week. To not tithe.
If you lack the self-control needed to censor what types of videos you watch, get rid of your smart-phone, computer, and TV, even if it’s extremely inconvenient.
Remember, I’m not just talking “tips for a happier life” or something. I’m talking about intentionally setting up your life so that you can see to it that you are following Christ and not something in this world that is shakable.
Whatever is stopping you from living as Christ wants you to, get rid of it. No matter what it is. Even if it’s extremely inconvenient.
Look, following Jesus isn’t always a no brainer. When you have been reading the Bible, you’ve been coming to church, you know what it means to be Christ follower, but You’re just not sure how You should go about it… Pray for Gods help, Surround yourself by helpful people, and be intentional with how you set your life up so that you grow in your ability to follow him.
The Third way that we might “refuse him who speaks” is that we know what he says, but we are hard hearted. Essentially, we still just say no.
For some of you, you’ve heard the Gospels and the idea that you need a savior at all is offensive. The idea that He paid for your sins sounds like a copout. The resurrection sounds like a fairy tale. The call to follow him – too costly. Some of you have heard the gospel again and again and again and again, and you have dragged your feet. Take the step and choose faith. We put our faith in such trivial things all the time. Put your faith in something that is actually consequential. Something that actually has some bite to it.
But there are others that want to follow Christ up to a point and then they draw a line in the sand. They get to something that seems too costly. Something that in this life seems so right, like it would just go against who I am not to have it or do it. And You know Jesus says that’s not the way but you just say, I’ll find more palatable instructions else where, or I’ll hang out but I’ll pass on this one, it’s not for me.
Please hear the warning in this message. Everything that was created is shakable. There has only ever been one thing on this earth that wasn’t created – Jesus. The Bible says of Jesus in Isaiah 9:6: [No slide]
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Everything but Jesus is shakable and will be removed. Make sure that you don’t refuse the one who is speaking. In today’s passage, Hebrews 12, that voice speaks with ultimate authority from the mountain top in verse 20, and with ultimate mercy from Jesus’ Blood in verse 24. If you refuse one, you refuse the other. You can’t accept the mercy of his blood, without accepting his authority of his words.
Jesus puts it like this in Matt 7:24-27 [Put up slide of Matt 7:24-27. Split at v.26 if needed]
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Everything is shakable in your life. The Big One is coming. Where are you building your house? On the Sands of our created, perishing, earth quaking world? Or on the rock of Christ? [take down slide]
In a minute, one of our House Group leaders is going to come up and give some announcements and then we’re going to sing a song together called King of Kings. It talks about how Jesus, in order to fulfill the promises that He made in the Old Testament, came down from Heaven, revealed his Kingdom, died for our salvation, rose from the dead, and sent the Holy Spirit. It’s a powerful theologically rich song. As we sing it, I leave you with the instructions that our chapter in the book of Hebrews ends with. It tells us:[Put up slide of Heb 12:28-29]
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Copyright: Josh Pollard
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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