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Hebrews 12:12-17

The Path of Healing

  • Rich Jones
  • Weekend Messages
  • December 11, 2016

In the verses we’re studying today, the author of Hebrews challenges the Christians in the early church to make straight paths for their feet. In other words, if you choose to go back, if you choose the old ways, the old life, you are choosing a path of great difficulty. When you run the race that is set before you, you are making your paths straight, you are choosing the path that brings healing. He then gets very straightforward and practical as he shows them what it means to live on the path of healing.

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

The Path of Healing

Hebrews 12:12-17 

The writer is challenging them in their faith. They had come to a decision point; a Y in the road, you might say. Should they choose the path that goes back to where they came? They were Jews who had received Jesus Christ as their Messiah and Savior, but they were being pressured and even persecuted by other Jews living in Jerusalem to fall away from their faith in Christ and to go back to the laws of Moses, back to the ways of the Old Testament.

The writer to these Hebrews heard that they were struggling, so he writes to remind them of all they have in Jesus. “Why would you neglect so great a salvation?” he challenged.

Sometimes Christians struggle in their faith as well. Some have worldly friends that try to influence them to go back to their old ways. “Don’t you remember the ‘good ol’ days’ in the world when you use to party and embarrass yourself and feel yucky in the morning?”

It might remind us of when Israel spent 40 years in the desert murmuring and complaining against God and wishing for the good ol’ days when they were slaves in Egypt. Something is wrong with the perspective. It’s blindness that looks back and calls them the ‘good ol’ days’ when in fact God’s plan for you is to give you a future and a hope.

They needed to be strengthened in faith and so the writer challenges them, “You have need of endurance. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward,” he wrote in Chapter 10.

They were at a decision point, they had come to a Y in the road. Those who struggle in their faith need to choose the path of greatest blessing, for there is great reward for those who seek God, who pursue relationship with Him, who press into their faith and do not shrink back.

In Chapter 11 he reminded them of the heroes of faith from the Old Testament who endured many trials and difficulties and suffered much, but they were looking to the reward. They had a hope fixed before them; they had made their mind, for them it was settled, the question was answered.

Then, in the earlier verses of Chapter 12 he challenged them to lay aside every encumbrance and run with endurance the race that was set before them. In other words, choose the way of faith. You believe that there is a God? Wonderful, you do well, but even the demons believe that. Those who come to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. That’s the path you must choose.

In the verses we’re studying today, he challenges them to make straight paths for their feet. In other words, if you choose to go back, if you choose the old ways, the old life, you are choosing a path of great difficulty.

It reminds me of the challenge that Joshua brought to Israel, “Choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the people in whose land you are now living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

It’s also like when Elisha called the people together on Mount Carmel and challenged them, saying, “How long will you waiver between two opinions? If Baal is God then serve him, but if Jehovah is God, then serve Him.”

When you run the race that is set before you, you are making your paths straight, you are choosing the path that brings healing. He then gets very straightforward and practical as he shows them what it means to live on the path of healing.

I. Pursue Peace with All Men

  • In verse 12 he writes to the church in Jerusalem “to strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble.” It’s an expression. Hands that are weak and knees that are feeble are people who are weak in faith and need to be challenged and strengthened.
  • Make straight paths for your feet so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. In other words, sure, you’re weak in faith, but if you choose the wrong path, you won’t just be weak, you’ll be put out of joint. Life will get difficult.
  • Run the race God has set before you, choose to seek Him, to pursue, to draw nearer, to press into your relationship that He made possible through Jesus Christ and instead of being put out of joint, you’ll find the path of healing.
  • There is a healing aspect of faith because it has a direct impact on your life. Faith isn’t just a theology, it touches every aspect of life, it directly impacts your relationships. And he begins with peace.

A. As far as it has to do with you

  • Pursue peace with all men, he wrote. The key word is the word ‘pursue.’ It means to make peace with others a real priority, make a real effort, pursue with all diligence the things which make for peace.

Romans 14:19, So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

Romans 12:17-18, Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

  • I’m glad he said, ‘if possible,’ in that verse because frankly, with some people, it’s impossible. But when he says, ‘as far as it depends on you,’ it means that you do everything possible, you take the initiative. Do it because of your faith, because you’re walking the path of healing, because you are seeking God and walking closer to Him.
  • In other words, choose the path of healing, don’t choose the way of contention or conflict. Too many people hold onto differences, even small differences, and it only makes conflict.

Illus - That reminds me of a story I read about a man walking across the Golden Gate Bridge…

  • Too many people hold onto their differences and become contentious, but God has called us to peace. As you increase in faith, you also pursue the path of healing relationships.

B. Pursue sanctification

  • Verse 14 - Pursue peace – and pursue sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord.
  • This is the path that leads to greatest blessing. But what does it mean? The word ‘sanctification’ has to do with the process of becoming holy or righteous.
  • There is an aspect of sanctification that is passive; in other words, you simply receive it, it’s done unto you.

  • God gives the gift of righteousness to those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In other words, not only does He forgive all your sins, He also gives you the righteousness of Christ.
  • There is another aspect of sanctification that is active; the path of healing and the way of blessing is when we choose to pursue sanctification ourselves.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, For this is the will of God, your sanctification… that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;

  • Know how to possess your own vessel, your body, in sanctification and honor. You are to be the master of your own passions, they are not to master over you.
  • When he says to pursue sanctification – without which no one will see God, he’s not suggesting that the only way a person can see God is to become advanced in personal sanctification.
  • What he is saying is that sanctification that God gives us is such an important part of our salvation, our eternal life, that we should embrace it and pursue it. God wants you to share in His Holiness.

Philippians 2:12-13, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

  • In other words, God has worked salvation into you, now you work salvation out of you. Embrace and pursue sanctification; desire to have more.
  • When many people hear the phrase, ‘pursue sanctification,’ they resist it. Why is that? Is it our flesh or our spirit that resists it? It’s our flesh; it likes freedom and does not like to be constrained. But that will also make your path extremely difficult.

II. Don’t Come Short of Grace

  • Verse 15 – See to it - make very sure, that no one comes short of the grace of God. That’s a strong statement. Make sure that no one lacks in grace.
  • Notice this is not a suggestion, it’s a directive; make sure of it, see to it.

A. Grace heals relationships

  • Make straight paths for your feet, so the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Grace is the way of healing; not only for you, but also for those near you.
  • Grace is the way God wants you to live in your relationship toward others because it’s the quality most like God.

Luke 6:36-38, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

Illus - One time, Jordi and I were driving to the beach after church Sunday afternoon. I was tired and needed a nap so I asked her to drive. Wanting to give a smooth ride, she decided to use cruise control. All was well until we got into the hills and she kept the cruise control set just like when the road was straight… It became an opportunity either to become irritated and cranky or to extend grace. But grace comes back to you.

B. A root of bitterness causes trouble

  • Verse 15 – that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.
  • There’s a lot in that one verse. Bitterness causes trouble and because of bitterness, many people are defiled. It’s not a path of healing, but of trouble.
  • That word ‘defiled’ is a powerful word. It means to be stained. In other words, bitterness is an ugly stain on a person’s personality and it affects the whole of a person’s life.
  • Bitterness comes from unforgiveness, holding onto hurts far too long, it comes from harboring anger in your heart.
  • The problem with a bitter root is that it is unseen and yet so destructive. It’s the picture of a well that has a root in the water making everything bitter.

Illus - It’s the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is pleasant and a blessing to others. A root of bitterness makes bitter fruit. I remember growing cucumbers in a garden we had. They were terrible; they were absolutely bitter. I discovered that cucumbers that are stressed become bitter. Bitterness can even be passed to the next generation of cucumbers.

Illus – The feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys was probably the most infamous feud in US history. It started in the late 1800s when one accused the other of stealing a hog. Soon lives were lost as it got passed on to the children.

At one point, the governors of Kentucky and West Virginia called in their national guards. Eventually, the feud made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Finally, on June 9, 2000, the McCoys were having a family reunion and decided to invite the Hatfields.

C. Treasure your birthright

  • Verse 16 - that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.
  • Jacob and Esau were twins, but Esau was born first which gave him the birthright of the firstborn; a double portion of the inheritance, the rights of the patriarch, and ultimately, the blessing of Abraham.
  • The problem is that Esau didn’t value his birthright. One day he came in from the field famished. Jacob had made some delicious, red stew. Esau wanted some, but Jacob insisted that he trade his birthright for it – and he did.
  • Trading your birthright for a bowl of stew? It wasn’t worth it, and that’s the point.

Romans 6:21, Therefore what benefit did you gain from the things of which you are now ashamed? The outcome of those things is death.

  • We are born again in Christ and we also have a birthright. We have a great salvation purchased at a great price which comes with a great reward and many promises.

Illus - The flesh doesn’t think very well, it doesn’t calculate the cost – it just wants what it wants and it want it now. But it’s not worth it.

When the flesh says, “Me wants stew!” You must have an answer; you must remind yourself that what you have is far more valuable.

  • Those who come to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Hebrews 12:12-17     NASB

12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. 14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.

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