Sermon Options: August 18, 2019

June 26th, 2019

A CLOUD OF WITNESSES

HEBREWS 11:29–12:2

Driving through Kentucky, a friend decided to see some of the rural areas and found himself in a small town called No Hope. On a hunch, he drove around looking for a church and came upon a little white church. In front of it was a big sign: "No Hope Baptist Church."

Contrast that church's name with the spirit of this passage. The name "No Hope Baptist Church" evokes defeat. This passage is filled with encouragement.

I. A Cloud of Witnesses
Paul compares the spiritual life to a race. And by saying we are "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses," he presents a two-fold concept. First, in the stands were former winners and heroes of past games. As Christians we are surrounded by the saints who have already run the race and won their crown of righteousness. Despite all the splits and various denominations, the church is still alive. Lives are still being changed and given meaning and purpose. The gospel still brings hope and new life, partly because of the faithfulness and encouragement of the saints.

Second, all sporting events have spectators. This is the other aspect of the "cloud of witnesses." There are folks outside the church or on the fringes of the church who sit and watch to see if we practice what we preach. They may base their faith decisions, even their lifestyle on what we do. Consequently, we must be faithful.

We never know what influence we have. During World War II, a woman received a letter from a soldier she didn't know. The soldier, named Murray, wrote that he had once been in her Sunday school class, and she had spoken about Christ as a hero for boys. He even mentioned the date when her witness had altered his life. She had kept a diary all her life, so she turned to the date Murray mentioned. She came home that Sunday discouraged, and thought about giving up teaching Sunday school. The entry read: "Had an awful time. The boys were so restless. I am not cut out for this kind of thing. I had to take two classes together. No one listened, except at the end, a boy from the other class, called Murray seemed to be taking it in. He grew very quiet and subdued, but I expect he was just tired of playing." Just as she touched Murray's life, we never know how our lives and faith will influence or touch those around us.

II. Lay Aside Every Weight
We cannot run the race effectively until we get rid of the stuff that weighs us down. That's why Paul writes, "lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely." We can't live life fully if we're bogged down with unfinished business, regrets, grievances, hurt feelings. We're called to keep our eyes on Christ and get rid of anything that slows us down.

III. Perseverance Is the Key
The Christian life is not a short dash to glory, it demands endurance. We have to guard against all potential distractions. We have to run with the intention of winning. It's important to run a straight and intentional course. If we get confused and turned around our effort counts for nothing. Next to faith, perseverance is possibly the one quality we need the most.

Sometimes we think we're alone or the race is too hard and there's no hope. Remember, we are not alone. We are "surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses." We encourage one another. And Christ comes to our aid when we grow weary. (Billy D. Strayhorn)

THE PRICE IS RIGHT

LUKE 12:49-56

The Price Is Right is a very popular television program. The host invites selected contestants to name their prices for specific items. The person who chooses the correct amount or suggests the amount closest to the actual amount is declared the winner. It is an exciting game show with each player being coached with prices from the audience. Participants and viewers alike get caught up in selecting the price that is right.

In the text, Jesus is continuing to challenge his followers to consider the price in following him. To be a follower of Christ is not as easy as a walk in the park or a casual stroll down memory lane. It is difficult, and the text speaks with sharp realism of the costs of commitment to Jesus.

I. The Cost of Distress (vv. 49-50)
Salvation begins with an awareness of the distress of one's life in sin. A person without Christ as personal Savior is eternally separated from God.

When Jesus spoke of fire, he was speaking of judgment. Fire in Jewish thought is usually a symbol of judgment. As he was speaking of the coming kingdom of God, he viewed its beginning as a time of God's judgment upon the people. The Jewish people of his era believed that the criterion of their judgment was different from all others. Their being descendants of Abraham was qualification enough to "pass through the fire."

Many today place their hope of acceptance by God on their birth certificate, their membership in the correct church, their humanitarian efforts, and their squeaky clean morality. Jesus addresses this mind-set with his declaration that he has come to be the dividing rod with his hot words about fire.

Verse 50 gives us a glimpse into the Savior's heart as he already is looking toward Calvary and death. Having been baptized by John in the Jordan, the baptism of which he speaks is his death. Gethsemane is already present in his thoughts. His commitment to the Father brings the tone of distress. In declaring one's faithful intent to walk the walk of Jesus, we should not be surprised when we must pay the cost of distress.

II. The Cost of Division (vv. 51-53)
Each of the three Synoptic Gospels records the explanation of Jesus regarding the division in families that would occur because of loyalty to him. Ultimate loyalty to Christ moves all other relationships, even family, to a secondary position. People will divide over what costs are to be paid in being loyal to him.

Although families may be divided over Christ, no family ties are stronger than those in Christ. Human history continues to demonstrate the multiplicity of reasons we have chosen to be divided in him. Ultimately, the entire human race is divided over Jesus. There are those who are saved, and all others are lost. Some are walking the narrow way to life eternal, while many are walking the broad way to eternal death.

III. The Cost of Discernment (vv. 54-56)
Palestinian Jews did not have to watch the Weather Channel to be able to anticipate the weather. Clouds forming to the west over the Mediterranean Sea meant that they could expect rain. When they felt the hot breeze from the desert south begin to blow on their faces, they knew that the dreaded sirocco wind would come soon with its blazing heat.

Jesus rebuked his listeners by stating that they were very wise in discerning the signs of the weather—physical signs. However, they were very ignorant in reading the spiritual signs all around them. The signs of their times pointed to the Messiah with the arrival of his Kingdom. They had eyes to see and ears to hear, but they chose to be blind and deaf.

Today, signs of spiritual awakening are all around us. Those who see them take off their shoes, recognizing they stand on holy ground. Others "stand around and pick blackberries!"

Jesus said with his words and his life that "the price is right" for the cost of discipleship. The question is: Are we willing to pay the price? (John Lee Taylor)

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