CROSS-EYED, PT. 1

 By Pastor J.D. Link

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Hebrews 12:1-4 says, “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, 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. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” 

The Book of Hebrews was written as a warning to Jews who had believed on Jesus Christ, but because of persecution, were not growing in the faith – and were even turning back to Judaism.  Paul encourages them through the letter to hold fast their confession of faith, because God is faithful.  He describes how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament types and shadows.  He reminds them in chapter 11 of the many people who, by faith, saw God’s faithfulness.  That brings us to chapter 12. 

“Seeing then, that we are encircled with such a vast cloud of witnesses (martyrs)”.  We must always remember that there are thousands of faithful believers who have gone on before us.  Their testimony cheers us on.  It tells us, “With God, ALL things are possible!”.  These were not perfect people.  They were just like you and I.  They were flawed, and at times did foolish things.  Some even fell into sin.  However, they believed God!  Faith pleases God!  God honors faith!  He is not looking for perfect people (there are none) – but faithful people.  If you were perfect, God wouldn’t use you anyway, because you would think your own power delivered you!  Over and over in the chapter it says, “By faith! By faith! By faith! By faith! By faith!…….”.   It does not say, “Through his superior intellect, Noah built the ark.  By physical strength, Abraham received a child in old age.  Through superior leadership skills, Moses delivered God’s people”.  No!  By FAITH they did these things!

Through their faith, they cheer us on to believe God for all things!  They tell us, “Keep going!  Don’t give up!  Don’t quit!  Don’t get discouraged!  God will come through!  God will keep His promise!  Scholars believe it was between 70 and 120 years that Noah was building that ark before he saw any rain!  He didn’t quit! Abraham was 25 years waiting for the promised child!  He didn’t quit!  Joseph waited 13 years, many of them in prison, before he received the promise!  He didn’t quit!  Moses was 40 years on the backside of the desert before he delivered his people!  He didn’t quit!   By faith, by faith, by faith, they did not quit, and they received God’s promise!  Hang in there!

I believe many people are weary in well doing.  I believe I’m talking to people right now that are discouraged.  You might feel like quitting right now.  You have stood and stood.  You have confessed and confessed.  You have prayed and prayed.  You have spoken and spoken some more.  You have fasted.  You have meditated on the Word.  You have done all you know to do – and still, no breakthrough.  I know how you feel. But imagine Noah in his 119th year of building; In Abraham’s 24th year of standing;  In Daniel’s 20th day of fasting and praying;  In Moses 39th year in the desert;  In Joseph’s 11th year in prison – If they would have quit. Quit believing God’s Word. Quit standing on His promises. I believe they had some discouraging days; but they did not quit.  They “hoped against hope”.  They walked by faith, not by sight.  They were on the brink of a mighty work of God in their life, and they held on until they saw it.

Brothers and Sisters, don’t grow weary.  In due season, you will reap a harvest.  In Eph. 6, Paul tells us, “Having done all to stand – stand”.  Don’t give up on Jesus.  Don’t give up on your walk with Christ.  Don’t quit praying.  Don’t quit reading the Word.  Don’t quit your fellowship with other believers.  Don’t start speaking against God’s promises.  Guard your heart; guard your mouth; and call on God when the hour is dark.  Don’t run away from God – run to Him.  I don’t know why some things take so long.  I don’t know why some things are such a struggle.  I do know, that if you let them, they will build character, maturity, and patience in you.  If you don’t, these things will just simply destroy you.  Will you become bitter, or will you become better?  If you’ll stay with Jesus, you can become better.  If you leave Him, you’ll just become bitter. 

I encourage you to simply trust God.  Pray, study His Word, confess His Word, obey His Word, and stand on His Word.  Do what you know to do, and leave the rest up to God.  While you’re doing that, don’t forget the many that have gone before you, doing the same thing.  They are cheering you on.  As for the meaning of the title of this article, you’ll have to come back next week.  Selah.

Cross-Eyed Part 2

By Pastor J.D. Link
Hebrews 12:1-4 says, “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, 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. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”

Last week we started out this series by focusing on the fact that we, as Christians, are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.  We gain strength and confidence in knowing that there have been many faithful brethren that have gone before us in the faith, and their testimony encourages us to press on today.  This week, we will continue to examine these Scriptures further.
The next point Paul makes, is that we should lay aside every weight and sin that hinders us from running our race in life.  “Lay aside (Heb 12:1, 1Pt 2:1)” is also translated “Cast off (Rom 13:12)”, “Put off (Eph 4:22, Col 3:8)”, “Put away (Eph 4:25)”, and “Lay apart (Jam 1:21)”.  This is something that is in our power to do – otherwise, God would be unjust in telling us to do it.  Of course, the power to do it comes from Him; but through Him we can do “all things”.  We do not have to carry weights.  We can cast them on Jesus, and take his burden upon us, which is easy and light.

Paul often used the Olympic games to describe the Christian walk.  He described life as a race to run, and a fight to fight.  Runners want to rid themselves of every weight.  That means excess body weight, restrictive or heavy clothing, and mental distractions.  Otherwise, you will not win.  These things would hinder you.  As Christians, we must examine ourselves, and let the Holy Spirit reveal to us what things are weighing us down.  All weights are not sin, for he differentiates between weights and sins.  A weight may just be something that is keeping you back from running after Jesus at full speed.  Is there something in your life that is hindering you from living for Jesus whole heartedly? Not so much a sin, but a hindrance?  Allow the Spirit of God to reveal these things, and then “lay it aside”.  Let’s run to win.

Paul then addresses the sin that so easily surrounds us and entangles us.  The carnal man naturally bends toward sin.  This is why Paul tells us to mortify (put to death) the deeds of the flesh (Rom 8:13, Col 3:5).  Paul himself put his body under, and brought it into subjection to the Spirit of God (1Cor 9:27).  Some may feel powerless to do this, but that is a lie.  Romans 6 explains clearly that the Christian is legally free from the bondage of sin, because we are under grace, and not under the law.  Sin shall not have dominion (legally) over us.  If sin is dominating us, it is because we allow it.  Like Olympians, we must discipline ourselves, and not let our flesh have its way.  We must exercise ourselves unto Godliness. 

It is convenient to blame our failures on the world, the flesh, and the devil – but God’s Word says, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world”.  The fullness of God dwelt in Christ bodily (Col 2:9), and Christ now inhabits the bodies of His people (Col 1:27).  We are the temple of The Holy Spirit.  Refuse to take on a victim mentality.  You are more than a conqueror.  Look into the mirror of God’s Word, and see who you are in the spirit.  See who you are through God’s eyes. 

Our eyes must continually be on the cross.  We must be “cross-eyed”.  Life is a race, and we must run to win that race.  We must never forget that there is a reward to be received.  This life is short, but the crown we win will be worn forever.  We must stay eternally minded.  We must focus on the fact that we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ someday.  Will we receive a crown?  Will we hear from our precious Savior, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”.  Do you long to hear those words?  Do you run this race called life as one who wants the prize?  Do you live with purpose?  Do you fight the good fight?  Are you Heavenly minded?  Read the following verses, and encourage yourself in The Lord (Ps 119:32-33, Lk 13:24, 1Cor 9:24-26, Gal 5:7, Philp 2:16, 3:13-14, 2Tim 4:7).  Selah.

Cross-Eyed Part 3

By Pastor J.D. Link
Hebrews 12:1-4 says, “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, 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. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”

Over the past two weeks we have learned from these verses that there is a great cloud of witnesses that surround us Believers in Christ; cheering us on to keep the faith.  We have learned that it is in our ability, through Christ, to put off anything that weighs us down – whether it be sin, or just distractions.  We have also learned that life is a race, and that we should run the race of life to win.  We need to live Heavenly minded, eternal rewards minded, and cross-eyed (our eye always on the cross).  Let’s look this week at just how we should run our race.

The Bible says we should run “with patience” the race that is set before us.  Our Christian life is a long-distance race.  You cannot just start out in a sprint.  If you do, you will give out before you reach the end.  We have all heard, “It’s not how you start – but how you finish.”  We must run our race with patience.  We cannot get discouraged with people moving ahead of us, or minor setbacks along the way.  There will at times be pain and suffering – we must press through it.  In this world we shall have tribulation, but we must be of good cheer, because Jesus Christ has overcome the world (Jn 16:33).  Long distance runners run “their” race.  They race to beat their own records.  The Christian should do the same.  We should look to run “our” best race.  Quit comparing yourself to other Christians, or other people in general.  You run the best race you can run.

You must decide whether you’re going to let the trials of life make you bitter or make you better.  James 1:4 says that we must “let” patience have her perfect work in us through trials.  Will you give up and give in?  Will you start speaking defeat?  Or will you persevere in Jesus Name?  Let patience have her perfect work in you.  Tribulation will produce patience – if you let it (Rom 5:3).  It is through faith and patience that we inherit the promises of God (Heb 6:12).  Just ask Abraham, Noah, Joseph, etc.  We need patience (Heb 10:36).  It is a good thing.  We are used to microwaves, fast food, and basically instant gratification at every level.  That is worldly.  That is of the flesh.  Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). 

It sounds funny, but you cannot rush patience.  It must be developed over time.  It is actually through trials that it is perfected.  You cannot skip trials and mature in patience.  You might want your two-year old to be twenty – but you will wait 18 years, like it or not.  Same thing with patience.  Get out of the lottery mentality of life.  God cares more about your character than your comfort.  God wants you to mature.  He wants you to handle things in a mature way.  Most people want to jump ship when the seas get a little rough.  You will never mature if you do.  You will never grow and become what God wants you to be if you bail out at every challenge.  You will remain a baby for life.  We must add patience to our faith (2P 1:6).  With patience do we wait for our blessed hope, Jesus Christ (Rom8:25, Titus 2:13). 

Also notice, it says the race that is set before us.  We all have a race to run.  We all have a destiny.  We all have a course that God wants us to fulfill.  Your race is not my race.  My race is not yours.  We will all (Christians) stand before the Judgment seat of Christ.  We will be judged individually.  Don’t focus on other people’s race.  Focus on your race.  Run to win your race.  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t encourage and help others along the way, but it does mean that we cannot run their race for them.  We all have different gifts and talents.  We all have different degrees of trials and tribulations.  We will all give an account of ourselves to God.  Purpose in your heart to run with patience the race that God has set before you.  Encourage others along the way, but don’t get so focused on other “runners”, that you get off the track you are supposed to be on.  Selah.

Cross-Eyed Part 4

By Pastor J.D. Link

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “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, 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.  

“Looking unto Jesus”.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  Keep your eyes on the cross.  Be “cross-eyed”.  When we want to draw attention to something, we say “Look” at me – or this or that.  We want the person’s eyes to focus on what we are pointing out.  This is what Paul is saying to the Hebrews.  He is saying, “Quit looking at your circumstances.  Stop focusing your attention on what is going on around you.  Stop letting the suffering you are enduring get your attention off Jesus.”   Look at Jesus (Mic 7:7)!  Focus on Jesus!  Don’t stop looking up!  Look to Jesus for salvation (Heb 9:28, Isa 45:22).  Look to Jesus, your blessed hope (Titus 2:13).  Look to Jesus for mercy (Jude 1:21).  Look to heaven (Philp 3:20).  Whatever we focus on tends to get bigger.  Are you focused on the problem?  It will get bigger in your life.  It will tend to dominate your life.  Are you focused on Jesus?  He will get bigger in your life.  You must do the looking.  No one can do it for you.  No one can make you focus.  You must discipline yourself to do it, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith.  Author means beginner, captain, chief leader, pioneer. Finisher means perfecter, completer.  In other words, Jesus starts and finishes.  He is the Alpha and Omega.  The first and the last.  The beginning and the end.  Jesus starts the good work in you, and perfects it until His return (Philp 1:6).  He establishes you until the end (1Cor 1:8).  He perfects that which concerns you (Psa 138:8).  He performs all things for you (Psa 57:2).  He calls you, and He does His work through you (1Thess 5:24).  He performs the thing appointed for you (Job 23:14). 

The same faith we must put in Jesus to be saved, is the same faith that must sustain us and bring us to the end.  Often Christians start out with full confidence and assurance in Christ.  However, before too long, they are trying to do things in their own strength and power.  They are trusting in their ability or wisdom.  They quit looking to Jesus, and start looking to themselves.  When you get saved, that is not the time to stop looking unto Jesus!  That is when you really start!  We must look unto Jesus our entire Christian life.  Until the day we die, or get taken up to heaven, we must be constantly looking unto The Lord. 

Remember King David? He lived a righteous, holy and “on fire for God” life – and then He got comfortable. He took his eyes off the Lord, and put them on Bathsheba. He found forgiveness, but it cost him huge. He was over 50 years old when this happened. Never think you’ve reached a place where you can make it without the Lord. We can walk with God 50 years and fall, if we stop looking unto Jesus. We need His grace and help every moment of everyday.

1Pt 5:10 says, “…. After you have suffered a while, you will be perfect, established, strengthened, and settled.”  This life is very short.  It is a vapor (Jam 4:14).  It is as quick as a blink, compared to eternity.  Whatever suffering you are going through, keep your eyes on Jesus.  Paul constantly kept his eyes on Jesus.  That is why he could say what he did in Romans 8:18 and in 2Cor 4:17.  You cannot make these kinds of statements (and mean them), and have your focus on the natural. 

Have you counted the cost?  Biblical Christianity is no cake walk.  Being a true disciple of Jesus Christ will cost you.  There will be trials and tribulations – that is guaranteed.  When you sign up in The Lord’s Army, the shootin’ begins immediately.  Our Brothers and Sisters in many foreign countries know this all too well.  We need to know it also.  I thank God for the many Scriptures He has given us on how to handle persecution, and how to keep looking to Jesus to be overcomers (Mt 5:11-12, Acts 5:41, 16:25, Rom 8:17, 2Cor 1:7, 12:10, Philp 2:17, Col 1:24, 2Tim 2:12, Jam 1:2-3, 12, 1Pt 3:14, 1Pt 4:1, 12-16, Rev 1:9).

Don’t stop.  Don’t quit.  Don’t turn back.  Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  Don’t compromise.  Read the Bible every day.  Be a student of Scripture.  Pray without ceasing.  Love the brotherhood.  Do not forsake assembling together with other Believers.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  Keep yielding to the Holy Spirit.  Keep your eyes on eternity.  Selah.

Cross-Eyed Part 5

By Pastor J.D. Link

Over the past several weeks, we have been studying in detail the first few verses of Hebrews chapter 12.  Last week we got into verse 2, and discussed looking unto Jesus, who is the author and finisher (Alpha and Omega) of our faith.  This week we will continue delving into this second verse, and let it minister even more life and wisdom to us.  Let’s get into God’s Word.

Heb. 12:2 says, “…for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross – despising the shame…”.  Say, “Endure”.  Jesus endured.  He tolerated.  He put up with.  He long suffered.  He patiently bore. He persevered.  Do you endure?  Are you in for the long haul?  Do you quit as soon as things get tough?  Do you leave at the slightest criticism, or do you, like a wise man, receive correction and become yet wiser?  Do you pray for a day or a week or a month or a year and then quit?  Or do you pray and trust God until you get the answer?  Do you shout and holler when the sermon is on God’s blessing, but then look for the exit when it’s on suffering?  Were your wedding vows, “Until offense or inconvenience, do we part”, or were they, “Until death do we part”?  Jesus endured, and as He is our example to follow, so should we.  

Through endurance, we shall be saved (Mk 13:13) and we shall reign with Christ (2Tim 2:12). Love endures all things (1Cor 13:7), like tribulation (Rom 12:12), afflictions (Heb 10:32), and injustice (1Pt 2:20). However, we ought not view this negatively, for “Blessed is he which endures” (Jam 1:12) and “Happy is he which endures” (Jam 5:11).

The Apostle Paul did not count his life dear (Act 20:24).  He was “dead to self”.  This simply means, that Jesus was the center of his universe – and he was not.  You can tell a dead man bad news all day long, and he will not get depressed.  Tell him how horrible everything is.  Tell him about the heat and the stock market and lack of rain and our bankrupt government (morally and financially).  He doesn’t care a bit.  He’s dead.  Are you dead to yourself, and alive unto God?

Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him.  What was this joy? His glorification (Lk 24:26, Jn17:1, 1Pt 1:11, Philp 2:8-9, Eph 1:20-21). Yes, He would suffer horribly – but He would be glorified. He would rule and reign. He would be given the name above all names. He would be given dominion over all. He would also lead many of us into His glory. We also endure in like manner, focusing on the eternal glory we will receive (Rom 2:7, 5:2, Col 1:27, Rom 9:23-24, 1Thess 2:12, 2Thess 2:14). However, this glory will come after we have suffered for “awhile” (in this life – 1Pt 5:10). If our best life is now, we’re going to Hell. No, for the saint, our best life is yet to come in eternal glory.

How was Jesus able to see past the pain, and into the joy?  Because He despised the shame.  The word despised here in verse 2 means to dis-esteem, to think little or nothing of.  He dis-esteemed the shame.  He thought little of it.  He lowered it in His mind, and He exalted the joy set before Him.  If Jesus disesteemed the cross, then what should we do with what our suffering?  Jesus exalted His Father.  He exalted His God given mission.  He didn’t exalt suffering on the cross.  Following in the footsteps of Jesus, we need to stop highly esteeming our problems, and start disesteeming them.  We need to magnify God’s Word, instead (Ps 138:2).  This is what Scripture teaches us (Heb 11:24-26).  This is what Paul did (2Cor 4:14-18, Rom 8:18, 36-37, Acts 20:22-24).  

We all have challenges and problems to some degree.  The difference is in how we handle those things.  Some people fall apart over problems that would make other people laugh.  Some people have so many problems, they would give anything to have yours!  Yet, often you would never know it.  Why?  Because they don’t exalt them.  They don’t talk about them.  They talk about God.  They speak His Word.  They disesteem their problems.  Are you one of these people?  Or do you shout every little problem you have from the roof tops?  Do we magnify mole hills, and make mountains out of them?  Do we exaggerate our trials to get attention?  Or, do we quietly persevere in our faith, and exalt God in our life?  We want to emulate Jesus.  Jesus disesteemed shame, and exalted the joy.  He focused on completing His mission – not on what He was going through.  We must learn this from our Master.  We must put these disciplines of Christ into action in our life.  Jesus taught us how to handle tribulation in our life.  Let’s learn and obey, and live the overcoming life!  Selah. 

Cross-Eyed Part 6

By Pastor J.D. Link

Please read Hebrews 12:1-4. This week we will finish our series on being “cross-eyed”, or living our life focused on the cross and the finished work of Jesus Christ. So far, we have covered: 1. A great multitude of past witnesses surround us, and by their testimony, cheer us on to finish our race. 2. That through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can cast off every weight (distraction) and sin that tries to trip us up.  3. That we all have a race set before us to run, and that we should run to win. 4. That we need to look to (focus on) Jesus at all times. 5. That He is the beginner and the finisher of our faith.  He will complete the good work He started in us. 6. That we need to endure (be in for the long haul) just like Jesus. 7. That we need to disesteem whatever temporary suffering we may be going through, knowing that a great reward awaits us. 

The next section of Scripture says that Jesus has now sat down at the right hand of God.  What does this tell us?  

1. That Jesus accomplished His mission.  He did not get distracted.  He stayed focused and finished the job of redeeming (Buying out of slavery to the devil) mankind.  “It is finished”.  What is?  The righteous requirement of the law being fulfilled.  The paying of the price for sins.  The reconciling of man to God. Don’t try to add to Jesus. He accomplished the work and sat down. You just need to believe it and receive it, and stop trying to earn it.  God will not accept one ounce of our good deeds for salvation.  Our only hope of eternal life is placing faith in Christ Jesus alone as Lord and Savior.  That’s the way God said to come to Him – and that’s the only way we’re going to come to Him.

2. His sitting down shows us that there will be an eternal rest for us as believers when we finish our mission.  Although no athlete likes the pain and sacrifice it takes to become the best at what they do, they certainly all like the reward.  A million squats and push-ups doesn’t feel good – but a gold medal on your neck sure does! This is the Christian life.  Persecution and rejection does not feel good at the time, but the eternal reward for being faithful to Jesus is worth all the suffering.  That is why Jesus told us to count the cost.

Whatever choice you make about Jesus will cost you.  The only question is, will it cost in the short term, or in the long term?   Will it cost you temporary discomfort, or eternal torment?  Staying committed to Jesus now will cost you short term tribulation – but long-term glory.  Indeed, we must count the cost!

We must consider Jesus, who endured such affliction for us.  Have you resisted to blood-shed, fighting against sin?  Not if your reading this. So, what is Paul trying to say here? Hang in there! You fight until the end!  You run until the end! You don’t slow down! If you still have a breath left in you, you need to be serving and praising Jesus with it. Sprinters are taught to run through the ribbon – not to the ribbon. We need to be going full blast for Jesus when our heart beats its last. Basically, Paul is saying, “Are you dead? Because if you ain’t dead, you’ve got no excuse for not running after Jesus!”

God trains us through trials and persecutions.  He doesn’t try to destroy us – that’s the devils work.  However, He will work all things together for our good as believers in Christ.  If He loves us, He will chasten (child train) us. If we receive no training from God, we are not His (Heb 12:6-8).  Of course, persecution doesn’t seem pleasant during the trial; but the result is righteousness and patience and maturity being worked out in us (Heb 12:11). God cares more about our character than our comfort. This is what Paul’s letter to the Hebrews is about. He is trying to get them to understand that there will be temporary sufferings for naming the name of Jesus; but that the eternal glory so far outweighs the suffering that there is no real comparison.  Just keep your eyes on Jesus! Selah.

 

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