“Grace First: Relationship comes with Responsibilities!”
Hebrews 11:1-2 (ESV)
Pastor Jerry Ingalls on July 2, 2017 (Independence Day Weekend)
(Saving Private Ryan ending scene):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZgoufN99n8 (end at 3:10)
In the movie, Saving Private Ryan, the older man who was Private Ryan, asks his wife if he lived a good life, if he was a good man. He was a man who lived every day of his life privately consumed by Captain Miller’s final words, “Earn This.” This Captain gave his life so that he could live and Private Ryan never forgot it; it compelled him and it constrained him to be something more than he can be. Jesus doesn’t tell us to earn His death, but to never forget it; to remember it; to live in memory of it; that is what we did when we took communion today.
Hebrews 11 is about people who have a relationship with God. Who know Him and because of their relationship with Him, live differently. This is the Hall of Faith not because these people were more capable than the rest, but because what they believed impacted how they lived.
For the last six months, I have been teaching through Hebrews 11 a series called, “Transforming Stories.” Have you looked past Hebrews 11 to see why Hebrews 11 is there? I have! I kept reading into the next chapter and I was captivated. When I read Hebrews 12 I said, “Wow!” Then, I read it again and again. There is a pattern in this Scripture. It doesn’t jump out at you at first, though you start noticing it; it is the biblical rhythm of “IF you believe this about God, THEN live this way.” Scholars often call it the “indicative-imperative” pattern. The indicative of the language describes what you are to believe about God and the imperative of the language commands what then you should do.
Listen to Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12 starts with a “therefore” and the common thing you do when you see a “therefore” in Scripture is you ask yourself: “What is it there for?” Don’t devoid God’s commands of their meaning and grace by just reading what comes next, but go back and see what the Bible teaches you. In the Bible, God’s grace (God’s choosing) always precedes the call of obedience (God’s divine demands upon His children); in other words, “Relationship comes before responsibilities!” If you don’t get this, you can easily become a legalistic (rules-based) Christian only focusing on your ability to obey the commands of God and in your efforts miss the heart of God. God does not call you to strive for acceptance through your own efforts, but Invites you to rest in His relationship with you. It is only by grace that you are even in a relationship with Him, nevertheless, able to live according to His divine responsibilities as family.
RELEVANCY: Examples of this are seen in marriages, family dynamics, employee-employeer relationships, in the military, this is a leadership principle! There is a great difference between positional authority and relational authority!
Hebrews 12:1-2 transitions from the previous chapter’s descriptions of faith to the responsibilities of faith. Hebrews 12 leans heavily on the reliance of relationship between God and His children. We have been investing these last six months to truly know the heart of God; to know He is good and that we can trust Him in all our circumstances. Who was the God of these people? What does it look like to live by faith? How does God transform stories through relationship? Me too? Does God love me this way too? What are the implications of this love?
God calls by grace! You are His by His loving choice! Relationship precedes, but does not preclude, responsibilities! We see this best illustrated for us in the most ancient of places: the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. For many, it is whitewashed as moral decrees to be obeyed to be found acceptable in God’s eyes. But I want to illuminate the most important part of the Ten Commandments: The Word of Grace that comes before the responsibilities of relationship! What is the first thing God declares in Exodus 20 before launching into His covenantal expectations? God says, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). GRACE! I choose you, I rescued you from slavery, not because you deserved it, but because I love you; therefore…as my dearly beloved children, follow these 10 commandments, they will help you exhibit my grace of your choosing!
God establishes your identity in Him! This is John 15:16 & 1 John 3:1! This is who you are!
Do you remember the first time your chosen for something? Maybe it was a glance across the classroom, the request for a dance, the acceptance to a college, the selection for promotion at work, or the diamond engagement ring.
Tweet this: Being chosen changes everything! #forHenry
Jesus takes it even further and makes it so overt that we can’t miss it: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
How do we live in memory of Jesus Christ everyday of our lives?
- When you give generously without thought of getting anything in return.
- When you love for the benefit of the other and not for yourself.
- When you forgive a debt.
I try to teach my children to give good gifts; not to give away something they don’t need or want, but to give their very best. Love doesn’t give spare change; it gives the best of the first fruits (tithing)! Love doesn’t give when it has spare time; it makes time (ministry). Love doesn’t keep its commitment just when it feels good or is easy; love endures all things (1 Cor. 13).
The faith stories of God’s people summarized in Hebrews 11 inform our lives and our lifestyles this way: “THEREFORE, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Take some time this week and read Hebrew 11 into Hebrews 12:1-2 and you will see greater depth. If you minimize the Bible to a moralistic rule book filled with one-dimensional people, then you miss God’s extravagant love and scandalous grace. If you miss love and grace, then you miss Jesus.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that you can make a good human effort at living according to the Ten Commandments, doing and saying all the right things by your own strength for your own peace of mind of being right. Jesus did not die on the Cross so that you can go around living a good moralistic life and be filled with pride & self-righteousness.
Jesus did die on the Cross so that you could be free from sin to love others as He first loved you; not to earn anything, but out of a grateful heart for what He did because we can only be righteous by His sacrifice on the Cross. He gives us our right standing by grace! Be humble…
There is a world of difference between those 2 options: one of them brings glory to God, the other brings attention to yourself!
Do you want more people in Heaven through your life or more people waiting in line at your calling to tell your next of kin what a good person you were?
What we do in life is in memory of what He did to give us the life we live!
What does your Hall of Faith “transforming story” look like?
In your story, in every story, grace matters!
Do you remember when God chose you?
Today, God is calling to you, choosing you, extending His love to you. Trust Him today…