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HEBREWS 12:25-29
Series:  Running By Faith - Part Eight

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
November 7, 2010

We have been looking at faith.  God has not created us to live in… fear, but by… faith in Him.  In Hebrews 11 God has provided a long list of examples - men and women from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences - the good, the bad, the ugly in life - examples of people who set aside their fears and trusted God - and God showed up.


Hebrews 12 - tells us that the way to live life the way our lives were created to be lived - with abundance and fulfillment and joy - even in the midst of crud - the way to live life is to set aside our fears - fix our eyes on Jesus - and run forward through life trusting Him.


The examples - in Hebrews 11 - are there to encourage us - in the real time of where we live our lives - to encourage us that we can trust God with the stuff of our lives - and run forward trusting Jesus.  If you’ve been with us over the last few Sundays that all sounds familiar.  Right?


What we’ve been looking at here in chapter 12 is very practical.  Because let’s face it we all struggle with faith.  Hebrews 12 says - here are the things you need to let go of - four encumbrances - weights - that we drag along with us - that hold us back as we’re trying to run through life by faith - four attitudes that we have to let go of if we’re ever going to get past our fears and live trusting God.


The first weight was what?  The encumbrance of our priorities.  Meaning that the agenda for our lives needs to be God’s agenda for our lives not our agenda.  What we’re investing our live in needs to be what God has for us to invest our lives in.  Our priorities in life need to be God’s priorities.


The second weight was what?  The encumbrance of self.  Meaning that - we need to let go of ourselves - our entitlements - our self-serving attitudes - in order to pursue peace with others - to be people of grace toward others - so that others will be attracted to God - not put off by our attitudes.  Life is not about us.  Its about who?  God.


The third weight - what we looked at last Sunday - the third weight was what?  The encumbrance of religion.  Instead of living in some kind of refuge of religious regulations - instead of coming to God in fear and trying to appease God by the things we do - we can come to God in faith - trusting that God really is gracious and loving towards us - enjoying the relationship that God gives to us in Jesus.


This morning we’re coming to the fourth weight - The Encumbrance Of Death.  Let’s say that together.  “The encumbrance of death.”  If you’re not there already please join me at Hebrews 12 - starting at verse 25.


Story goes that someone asked one of our astronauts, “How does if feel inside a spaceship?”  The astronaut replied, “It really makes you think, when everything is done according to the lowest bidder.  It really makes you think.”


How secure do you feel?


On a blustery day - windy and stormy - a man was working on his roof - which had a sharp peak.  So he decided to be safe he should somehow secure himself to something on the earth.  He tied a rope around his waist, pulled it tight, climbed to the roof, and went over the peak.  Then he threw the rope over the side and said to his boy, “Tie that to the tree.”


Well the little kid thought, “That tree is rather small.”  So he tied it to the bumper of his dad’s car.


Mom was busy in the house with chores of her own.  She discovered, however, that she needed to make a quick trip to the store.  She went out, put the car in reverses, and the guy came off the roof really quick.


As we’re looking at these verses - be thinking about what you’ve tied your rope on to.  What you’re clinging to for security.


Hebrews 12 - starting at verse 25:  See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking.  For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.  And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.”  This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.


Walk with me through these verses.


Remember this from last Sunday (Mt. Doom)?  Verse 25 takes us back to Mount Sinai - the people of God before God’s mountain. God descends on His mountain and there’s thick smoke - fire - the whole mountain is shaking violently.  God’s voice shook the earth.


That shaking is designed to grab the attention of the people - to impress them with the holiness of God - that He - God - is holy - and separate from them beyond anything they can imagine.  That shaking is a warning not to refuse God’s offer. 


On Mount Sinai God lays out His law before His people.  What it means to live holy with the holy God.  Behind the law is God’s love.  God’s offer to live in relationship with His people.  An offer God’s people would be foolish to refuse.


All that shaking is a warning - don’t refuse this.  To refuse means you will live without God - rather than being a recipient of His love you’ll be subject to His wrath.


Verse 25 goes on to say that God warns us from heaven.


Hebrews 1:2 says that in these last days God has spoken to us in His Son.  God speaking from Heaven through Jesus.  Hebrews 2:3 warns us - as those who’ve heard the Gospel, “How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation after it was spoken through the Lord.”


Same God - same offer - same seriousness - same penalty - same blessing - in fact and even greater blessing which comes through Jesus.  Don’t refuse what God offers you in Jesus.  To refuse what a God offers you in Jesus means you’ll live without God - rather than being a recipient of His love you’ll be subject to His wrath.


Verse 26 tells us that God isn’t through shaking things up.  Verse 26 “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” - heaven meaning atmosphere and space.


God isn’t through shaking things up.  Put simply:  There’s a whole lot of shaking going on.  Only now - instead of speaking on a mountain through Moses - God’s speaking from heaven through Jesus.


In the Bible, earthquakes - the shaking up of the earth - earthquakes come a significant times - God doing something of significance - making sure His people are paying attention.  “Can you hear Me now?”


At Jesus’ crucifixion - when Jesus yielded His spirit - the temple veil was torn in two - top to bottom - God Himself opening up the way to the Holy of Holies - into His presence.  And the earth shook - so violently rocks were split into pieces.  Tombs are shook open.  God’s people are resurrected - walking out of their tombs.  God saying, “Can you hear Me now?”


The Roman centurion at the crucifixion said, “This really was the Son of God.”  He heard God’s message.  (Matthew 27:50-54)


At Jesus’ resurrection - God shakes the earth as the angel rolls the stone away from the empty tomb.  The angel says to the women, “He’s not here for He has risen.”  “Can you hear Me now?”


In Acts 16 - God rocks the Philippian jail - uses and earthquake to spring Paul and Silas.  Its a God moment.  “Don’t mess with My boys.  You need to hear what they’ve got to say.”  “Can you hear Me now?”


The jailer and his family come Jesus.  They’re hearing God’s voice.


“Yet once more” means and yet there’s more shaking to come.


Haggai 2:6:  “For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Yet once more in a little while - did you catch that phrase?  It’s the verse that quoted here in Hebrews 12:26.  “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Yet once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land.”


It’s a prophecy about when Jesus returns.  More earthquakes.


The Book of Revelation - the sixth seal of God’s judgment - when its opened on a day yet to come - maybe not too far in the future - when the sixth seal of judgment is opened it unleashes the mother of all earthquakes.  So much dust is thrown in the air that the sun gets blotted out.  The moon shines through the haze with the color of blood.  Every mountain moves.  Every island moves.  The Earth gets shaken apart at the seams.


In that day people will be hearing God’s voice - they’ll be crying out for the mountains to fall on them to hide them from Jesus Who’s coming.  (Revelation 6:12-17)


The prophet Zechariah tells us that when Jesus comes back He’s going to touch down on the Mount of Olives - in Jerusalem.  When Jesus steps back down on this earth that mount is going to move - split in two.  Half of the mountain is going to move north.  Half of the mountain is going to move south.  There’s going to be a valley - running east to west - where that mountain was.  (Zechariah 14:4)


What Hebrews is telling us is that once more God is going to shake things up.  But the next time God shakes things up Jesus is going to touch down on the Mount of Olives.  He’s coming back as the conquering King of kings and Lord of lords.  He’s coming back as judge.


It’s a warning.  Because if we haven’t heard God now - everyone will hear Him then.


That’s verse 27.  Every thing that mankind has put their trust in - everything that mankind has been looking to for security - is going to get shaken.  We’re all gonna get shaken.  But only those in Jesus - who have not refused to hear Him - those who’ve received His offer of salvation - only God’s people - when God is through shaking things up - only God’s people are gonna be left standing.


Flip forward with me to Revelation 20 - starting at verse 10.  Look with me at what’s coming - at the end - after it all gets shaken.  Revelation 20 - starting at verse 10:  And the devil - our enemy - who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire - a lake not made of water - but fire - eternal fire - and brimstone - sulfuric gas - acrid steam - foul odor - a place of eternal burning and choking - where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  Torment without relief - forever and ever.  That’s where Satan - our adversary - ends up.


Verse 11:  Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.  Jesus the Judge sitting on His throne.  There is no place to hide from His judgment.


Verse 12:  And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds,.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds - no one escapes this.


Verse 14:  Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire - same place where Satan ends up.  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.  If you are without Jesus that’s where you end up - eternal burning and choking - unending weeping - sorrow - gnashing of teeth.


What’s that Newsboys song? “They don’t serve breakfast - where?  in Hell.”  I have a box of Cap'n Crunch in my office that reminds me of that song.  Hell.  Nasty place.  Very real.  Is there any wonder that God so powerfully warns us not to refuse His offer?

Revelation 21 - start in verse 3:  I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will not longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”  


Whatever Hell is - Heaven is the opposite.  Given a choice.  Take God up on His offer.


Are you hearing God?  There are two trajectories through life - pathways through life - with God or without God.  Everyone is going through life on one or the other of those trajectories.


One trajectory is what believers in Jesus - followers of Jesus - are on.  Those who’ve listened to God’s speaking - accepted God’s offer - who are going through life trusting Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  The other trajectory is the one everyone else is on - those who’ve refused His offer.


Both of these trajectories follow pretty closely parallel with each other.  We all go through pretty much the same stuff of life.  The same seasons of life - growing up and growing older.  We all have similar struggles - joys - concerns.  Some go through all that with Jesus.  Some go through all that without Jesus.


Both trajectories experience death.  Sooner or later everyone of us - unless Jesus comes back before then - everyone of us is going to die.

Did you know that Costco sells caskets?  At member prices?  The one on the left is the “Edward Casket” which goes for $2,999.99.  The one on the right is the “In God’s Care” casket which sells for a cheap $1,299.99.  By the way you can order these in large quantities.  Just a thought - there are only 47 more shopping days till Christmas.


Sooner or later whatever trajectory we’re on passes through death.  That’s where these two trajectories split dramatically - at death.  One leads to heaven the other to hell.


Grab this:  If our security is in anything or anyone else besides God death should be feared.  Because death is coming and what’s waiting beyond death is eternity without God.  But - if our security is in God - what all this gets shaken out - death is not to be feared - because death is coming and what’s waiting beyond death is eternity with God.  Are we seeing that?


Verse 28:  Therefore - here’s the reason for the therefore - therefore since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken - meaning that in Jesus our eternity with God is secure - let us show gratitude - literally - let us have gratitude - for what God has done and because we know what’s coming - let’s serve and worship God not with compulsion or guilt or fear - the encumbrances of religion - let’s serve and worship God out of gratitude - not what we have to do but what we desire to do - by which - serving God - worshipping God with gratitude - by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Moses - while he was warning God’s people not to forget their relationship with God - warning them about worshipping other gods - Moses - in Deuteronomy 4:24 says, “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”  The imagery here in Hebrews means that the Lord is jealous - that He wants us to worship Him and Him only.


Why should we be grateful for that?  Think about it.  Who doesn’t want a jealous spouse?  If a wife leaves a husband and the husband doesn’t care he never was the kind of husband a woman would want in the first place.  Right?  He wasn’t the kind of husband who wanted his wife.


We worship the God who wants us - who’s consumed with us - who burns with passion for us.  Who desires purity in our love for Him.  That’s something to be thankful for.


How does Hebrews tell us that we should show gratitude to God?  Verse 28.  With “acceptable service - meaning service - with reverence and awe.”


The Apostle Paul writes - in Romans 12:1:  “I urge you - I passionately plead with you - I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”


Mercy is what?  not getting what we deserve.  For our sin - our spiritual and moral failure - while we deserve God’s condemnation and wrath justly poured out upon us - while we deserve the fires and torments of hell and eternal separation from God’s presence - God is merciful and offers to everyone undeserved salvation - forgiveness - cleansing - in Jesus Christ.


Paul writes, “By the mercies of God” - by the means of God’s mercy - because God enables you to do it - “present” yourselves before Him.


“Present” is a military term.  It means to stand at attention before a superior officer.  Think about who we’re standing before.  God.  Omniscient.  Omnipresent.  Holy.  Almighty.  And a whole lot of other theological words we use to describe God but can’t even come close to understanding the meaning of.


We need to get off of our own little pedestals of our agendas and priorities for our lives - and our little prerogatives and entitlements for our lives - and all the self-serving worship and things that we say we do for God but really are about us.  We need to “get off” of ourselves and realize that none of us has the right to expect or assume or demand the privilege of being before God.  That we live and breath and exist and come only because its by God’s mercy and God’s mercy alone.


With that attitude - Paul writes - present yourselves. 


First - Paul writes, “present your bodies.”  Some of us might say, “Well, are you sure God really wants this body?”  Our bodies are the physical means through which everything else that we are - our heart - our mind - our soul - our bodies are the physical means through which everything we are is presented to God.


Animal sacrifices are led to the altar and tied down.  The animal doesn’t have a choice in what’s about to happen to it physically.  The point is - we’re not dumb animals.  You can tell that to the person next to you, “You’re not a dumb animal.”  We choose to present our bodies - ourselves to God.

Second - Paul says that our presentation is “living.”  A sacrificed animal - sliced - diced - and Bar-B-Qued - it’s dead.  It doesn’t get up again.   But we live.  Paul’s talking about our choice to honor God in the daily things of our lives.  To present our bodies as instruments of righteousness. 


Mouths that speak words which encourage and build up and bring others to closer to God.  Caring hands that reach out in His love to embrace those who are hurting.  Eyes that dwell on what is pure before God.  Eyes that look for those who are in need of God’s love.  Feet that walk in His ways.


Imagine cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, driving, teaching, golfing, having “discussions” with our spouse, disciplining our children, taking classes - all the daily things that living bodies do.  By choice these become acts of daily worship as we present ourselves to God to do through us whatever He wills.


Third - our presentation is “holy.”  That which is holy is dedicated - completely set apart - only for God’s use. 


It’s arrogance to think that we get ourselves up on Sunday morning - drive ourselves over here - and somehow we honor God by sacrificing some of our precious time on Sunday morning.  We sacrifice so much to show up here for a Service of Worship.


1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “You have been bought with a price.”  That price is the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ.  God - in Jesus - purifies us and He mercifully enables and allows us to worship Him.


Presenting ourselves is giving to God what is already His.  That means that it is just wrong to hold back anything of ourselves from God’s work in us - and His glorifying Himself through us - whenever and in whatever way He chooses.  Total commitment.


Paul concludes in verse 1 - that is our “spiritual service of worship.”  Literally, in the original Greek the idea is that this sacrificial worship is the only logical - rational - way for people who have been shown God’s mercy - it’s the only response that makes sense.


It’s like the old story of the chicken and the pig that were discussing breakfast.  The pig was complaining.  “For you chickens, breakfast means giving an offering.  For us pigs it’s a total sacrifice.”


Have you noticed that a lot of the things that people look to for security seem just a tad insecure?


People look to security in numbers - alliances and partnerships.  Used to be a hand shake was enough to seal an agreement.  Today we have so many scraps of paper - legal documents - that really aren’t worth a whole lot.  A good lawyer can shred any agreement.  Nobody trusts anybody.


People look to security in organization.  If we can just get ourselves organized we can take care of any problem.  Government is a human organization.  Used to be “our” government.  Now it’s “the” government.  An organization that’s run away from us and now we’re afraid of it - its control and influence on our lives.  Looming ahead is a one world government.


People look to security in people - in humanity - the ultimate goodness of humanity.  The wonderful global community that’s developing.  Which has its good points.  And yet - there on the net is the best of humanity - our civilization, culture, and crud.  Along with all that openness and community is a whole lot of concern about who’s using all our personal information?


We could go on with this.  Right?  Security in money.  Security in science.    Security in medicine.  Real Estate.  That went well didn’t it?


There’s a reason why all that security seems kind of shaky.  Because it is.


That’s why death is such an encumbrance.  Because if we can’t see down the trajectory that we’re on - to see beyond death - to heaven - death should be feared.  And every move we make in life should be weighed by the encumbrance of our mortality.  If we can’t see past death to heaven the only security we have is in what’s shaking around us.


Going back to Hebrews:  “Acceptable service with reverence and awe” requires everything that we are.  A daily choosing to commit all that we are to God - laying ourselves without reservation on the altar before Him.  If we’ve really heard God speaking it’s the only response that makes sense.


Its God’s invitation to live life without the fear of death.  To look down the trajectory of our lives - to see past death - to see Heaven.


Several years ago I attended a seminar led by Don Roberts from Bible Couriers International.  Bible Couriers is a missions organization focused on delivering the Bible to Christians in places where they’re restricted or persecuted.


As I was listening to Don Roberts speak - kind of half listening - half dozing like some are now.  This was 3:30 on a warm afternoon so I had an excuse.  Don asked this question, “How can the church in the United States prepare for coming persecution.”  Immediately my ears perked up.


Don said, that as they’ve been in contact with persecuted Christians around the world - many who’ve been imprisoned for their faith - they’ve asked them this question.  “What would you tell Christians in America that they need to do to prepare for coming persecution?”  Great question.  The right people to ask.


Here’s what they said to us.  Number one answer - with almost universal agreement:  “You must learn to voluntarily deny yourself daily so that when you are made to involuntarily deny yourself you will ready.  Otherwise, when the time comes you will compromise.”


Self-denial means letting go of anything - any encumbrance - that keeps us from totally trusting the Lord.  Whatever else - besides God - that we place our security in - Social Security - IRA’s - politics - a paid off mortgage - insurance - our own wits and abilities.  If our security is placed in any thing or any one else beside God - then Satan will use that item of security as a weapon against us - to  compromise - to trust the wrong thing - to do the wrong thing - to make wrong decisions - that limit our ability to run through life by faith - living as God has created us to live.


Ask yourself, “If God took this away - whatever this is - even my life - is that okay?”  If its not okay, then we’re placing greater security in having whatever that is than in God.  That security is what we need to voluntarily deny ourselves today.


Jesus said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it.”  (Matthew 10:39 NLT)  The way to find life is to let go of our life.  That’s not suicide.  That’s realizing that the only life worth living - the only security in life - now and for eternity - is found in Jesus.


Think about it.  What are you really clinging to?


Only when we give up our lives - when we’ve died to ourselves - laying our lives on the altar before God - only when we’ve already died - then death no longer is an encumbrance.




Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.