THE AUTHOR AND THE FINISHER

Heb.12:2 – fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I guess the question we have to ask ourselves is this, what exactly are we looking at? What we focus on will determine what fills our being, that is why our “eye” is so important. If we look at our problems and obstacles (and we all have our share of those) our inner man will be clouded with darkness. Looking at sickness, poverty, and lack will cause sadness and depression to settle in our hearts. When we turn our eyes upon Jesus in the midst of our trials our being will be filled with light and joy will fill our hearts. Look at His promises, look at today’s promise, what He has authored He will complete. Fill your heart with this word and you will stand strong in adversity and you will see Him who has promised to finish the work. Here are some amazing thoughts from John Gill on today’s verse.

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,…. Not with bodily eyes, for at present he is not to be looked upon in this manner, but with the eye of the understanding, or with the eye of faith; for faith is a seeing of the Son; it is a spiritual sight of Christ, which is at first but glimmering, afterwards it increases, and is of a soul humbling nature; it is marvelous and surprising; it transforms into the image of Christ, and fills with joy unspeakable, and full of glory: a believer should be always looking to Christ, and off of every object, as the word here used signifies. Christ is to be looked unto as “Jesus”, a Saviour, who being appointed and sent by God to be a Saviour, came, and is become the author of eternal salvation; and to him only should we look for it: he is able and willing to save; he is a suitable, complete, and only Saviour; and whoever look to him by faith shall be saved; and he is to be considered, and looked unto, as “the author and finisher of faith”.

So I ask you again, what are you looking at? Look at Jesus and you will find yourself in the middle of His completed plan.

THE PURCHASE OF GOD

Acts 2:33-35 – “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.

“For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,

UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”’

What was it the Lord was after? Really; why did He become a man and endure the mess that He was welcomed with on earth? Obviously, He didn’t walk in blind; He knew exactly what He signed up for. He knew the resistance and hatred He would face and endure, He knew the hardships, but He also knew something else. He knew about the reward. He had enjoyed it from eternity with His Father. He wanted to taste this life as a man so that man too could experience this treasure of unspeakable delight. Heb.12:2 – “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

It’s this sitting down at the right hand of God that has captured my attention. Think about it, He is at the right hand of God as a man representing us. Paul said in Eph.2:4-6 – “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”.

So how does all of this effect me in my down to earth here and now world? Actually, it is major. I am seated together with Christ and have access to the life and joy that Jesus has enjoyed with His Father from eternity. This is our heavenly inheritance and we taste the edge of it now through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus purchased for me. He purchased access into this heavenly intimacy with the Father and the Son. He has called me into this fellowship of the Holy Spirit purchased by His blood.

David saw this and prophesied about it 1000 years before Christ. Peter tasted it on the day of Pentecost and proclaimed “THIS IS THAT”. We can enjoy this blessing now, it is more than enough to sustain us and satisfy us in this journey called life.

ZION

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Heb. 12:22 ¶ But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,

The amazing thing about this passage is it says we are already brought to Zion. Zion and the New Jerusalem are more than just a place somewhere; they are the very kingdom of God which is here now. For most, the veil still blocks the view, for others they stand in the blazing beauty of His presence. Even seeing through a glass darkly is quite stunning, I can’t even imagine face to face. That veil that blocks the view is taken away in Christ. What kind of veil blocks your view? Is it pain from past disappointments? Maybe its shame for a past life that somehow still feels very present. Could it be your veil consists of offenses from past betrayals never really letting go of the past and all that was said and done? Regardless of what material your veil consists of it is totally and finally removed in Christ. Here is how Andrew Murray describes this beautiful city called Zion.

“Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. Read the description of the heavenly Jerusalem in Revelations, and listen to the voice: Behold I the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. The Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb are the temple thereof. The glory of God did lighten it, and the light thereof is the Lamb. The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein; and His servants shall do Him service; and they shall see His face. This is the glory to which Jesus has brought thee in, when He took away the veil. In the power and experience of that opened way the Holy Spirit enables thee to live. This is the city which Abraham looked for, which hath the foundations. Thou art come to it. Of this city thou art now a citizen. In it thou canst live, for thou hast been brought into the Holiest, the very centre of the city, the very presence of God. Ye are come unto Mount Sion.”

So let go of the past; the anger, the guilt, and the pain and let’s go to Zion. It’s nearer and more amazing than you have ever thought. As a matter of fact it is here right now within your reach.

TWO MOUNTAINS

Heb. 12:22-24 ¶ But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

Let me tell you about the first sermon series I ever preached. It took place one month after Parris and I pioneered Victory Fellowship in January 1979. That February, we attended a minister’s conference in Monroe, Louisiana. Boy did we feel out of place!!! All the preachers were there in their three piece suits with their well groomed preacher’s haircuts. The women were decked in their finest outfits and some of the older ones were wearing that famous Pentecostal bun hairdo. This was a long way from our Jesus commune in California; characterized by beards, jeans, and flannel shirts.

The services were also different from what we were used to. The songs were “Victory in Jesus”, “I’ll Fly Away”; you get the picture. At the end of the service they would gather at the “altar” by the platform and cry. We figured we were just out of the loop and something terrible had happened.

As the week wore on the message being preached began to get my attention. It was called “Let’s Go Back to Mount Sinai”. I didn’t understand fully the theological ramifications of that sermon but something just didn’t ring true for me. That’s when it happened. It was one of those moments during the sermon when you begin to wander off, I wandered off and my eyes fell upon today’s verse of scripture in Hebrews 12. You have come to Mount Zion, quite different from Mount Sinai. These two mountains pretty much point to the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament, between the preaching of law and grace. That became the topic of my series called TWO MOUNTAINS that began the very next Sunday. Mount Sinai speaks to us about our separation from God because of our sins. It’s the place where Moses wore a veil so that the people could not look on the glory shining from his face. Zion speaks about the unveiled worship that David introduced on Mount Zion. Mount Zion speaks about the message of grace and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Sinai reminds us of the fall and our banishment from God, Zion speaks of our reconciliation and calls us near. That was how our church began, God calling us to Zion. That is how we must continue, let’s camp out at Zion, the place of unveiled worship and intimacy with the Lord.

CLOUD OF WITNESSES

Heb. 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

This is a very powerful picture painted for us in the book of Hebrews. The word cloud used in this passage, defined by Vincent “means a great mass of cloud covering the entire visible space of the heavens, and therefore without definite form, or a single large mass in which definite outlines are not emphasized or distinguished”. This is no ordinary cloud. This is the cloud of witnesses just described in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. This is Abel’s sacrifice of faith, Enoch’s walk of faith into heaven, Noah’s work of faith, and Abraham’s life of faith. The author sees us struggling with the daily obstacles that hold us back, being cheered on by the lives of those that have gone before us. We are being challenged to shake off our daily hinderances and finish the race that we began by faith. Here are some thoughts from Albert Barnes on today’s verse.
“The apostle represents those to whom he had referred in the previous chapter as looking on to witness the efforts which Christians make, and the manner in which they live. There is allusion here, doubtless, to the ancient games. A great multitude of spectators usually occupied the circular seats in the amphitheater, from which they could easily behold the combatants. In like manner the apostle represents Christians as encompassed with the multitude of worthies to whom he had referred in the previous chapter. It cannot be fairly inferred from this that he means to say that all those ancient worthies were actually looking at the conduct of Christians, and saw their conflicts. It is a figurative representation, such as is common, and means that we ought to act as if they were in sight, and cheered us on.”
I love to imagine the scene in heaven as the eternal race draws to a close. The witnesses know what is at stake and they also know the challenges we face. Like Jesus stood to cheer for Steven, He stands again with all His other witnesses as we approach the finish line. Their shouting from another world penetrates the atmosphere of this realm as this age draws to a close. What are they shouting? Finish the race, run with all your strength, the reward is greater than you can ever know. Shake off your fears, your doubts, your insecurities and your sins and run with strength into His arms of love.

RUN TO THE FINISH LINE #2

Heb. 12:2 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Our Christian life is a race to the finish line. Christ is waiting for each of us with outstretched arms at the line, the saints who have gone before are standing and shouting us on. It’s our turn, its our turn to run.

The race itself is supernatural. He has called us to the race. He has equipped us and trained us to win. He has marked out the course and put it in our hearts. He strengthens us as we go. He encourages and picks us up when we stumble. Its our job to just keep running, we just have to stay in the race. Here are some comments from Gill’s Commentary on this great scripture verse.
“…and it becomes all the saints, and belongs to each, and everyone of them, to “run” this race; which includes both doing and suffering for Christ; it is a motion forward, a pressing towards the mark for the prize, a going from strength to strength, from one degree of grace to another; and to it swiftness and agility are necessary; and when it is performed aright, it is with readiness, willingness, and cheerfulness: it requires strength and courage, and a removal of all impediments, and should be done “with patience”; which is very necessary, because of the many exercises in the way; and because of the length of the race; and on account of the prize to be enjoyed, which is very desirable: the examples of the saints, and especially Christ, the forerunner, should move and animate unto it.”
We must ask ourselves the question, “Am I even in the race?” Paul refers to the race as our chosen purpose in this Christian life. The Lord has a track for each of us to run. It involves surrender, commitment, diligence, and perseverance. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this race involves your part in ministry to others. The work of the ministry is for all Christians. The work of ministers is to equip Christians for this work. The second question is this; “am I disqualifying myself by my choices?” Paul told us to run this race to win. The reward is eternal and the race is final.

So if you have stumbled, get back up. Get back in the race. There is not much time. How do I know? The roar from the stadium is almost deafening.

RUN TO THE FINISH LINE #1

HEB. 12:1   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.

This passage paints an incredible picture of our Christian life. Paul compares our life as a marathon race finishing in the Olympic Stadium with the faithful men of God watching and cheering us on. He sees there lives as forerunners for each of us. Their testimony encourages us. Check out this picture painted from this passage from Gill’s Commentary.
“The stadium, or race plot, in which the Christian race is run, is this world; the prize run for is the heavenly glory; the mark to direct in it, is Christ; many are the runners, yet none but the overcomers have the prize; which being held by Christ, is given to them: this race is “set before” the saints; that is, by God; the way in which they are to run is marked out by him in his word; the troubles they shall meet with in it are appointed for them by him, in his counsels and purposes; the mark to direct them is set before them in the Gospel, even Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, whom they are to look unto; the length of their race is fixed for them, or how far, and how long they shall run; and the prize is determined for them, and will be given them, and which is held out for their encouragement, to have respect unto: and it becomes all the saints, and belongs to each, and everyone of them, to “run” this race; which includes both doing and suffering for Christ…”
Of course this passage in Hebrews follows up the great faith chapter in Hebrews. You know the one, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Paul had seen his life as a race by faith. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

Have you seen it yet? If you have, run. Run with all your strength. The reward will be greater than we can ever imagine.

FULFILLED

Heb. 12:2 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Lord has promised to finish what He starts, He always does. I think one of the things that makes all of us nervous is the fact that the Lord never is nervous. He proceeds the same way in the worst of times as in the best of times. When I look at my circumstances and see a mountain of unanswered prayers and unfulfilled promises and expectations, my tendency is to try to make things happen myself or slip into discouragement and fear. I was in one of those moments in 1990 when this scripture was given to me as a prophesy. It always amazes me how a scripture verse that is received and believed can change everything. That has been 25 years ago now and this promise is still being realized in my life and ministry. The immediate work the Lord performed was in me, I was no longer afraid but I began embracing all the Lord was doing in my life. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on today’s verse.
“The same hand that has begun this good work will perform it: He shall bring forth the head-stone; and again, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, be it spoken to his honor (perhaps with his own hands he laid the first stone), and though it has been long retarded, and is still much opposed, yet it shall be finished at last; he shall live to see it finished, nay, and his hands shall also finish it; herein he is a type of Christ, who is both the author and the finisher of our faith; and his being the author of it is an assurance to us that he will be the finisher, for, as for God, his work is perfect; has he begun and shall he not make an end? Zerubbabel shall himself bring forth the head-stone with shoutings, and loud acclamations of joy, among the spectators. The acclamations are not huzzas, but Grace, grace; that is the burden of the triumphant songs which the church sings. It may be taken as magnifying free grace, and giving to that all the glory of what is done.”
So maybe you have some unfinished business in your life; its going to be okay. He always finishes what He starts. If the Lord is at work in you, completion is certain.

LOOSE ENDS

Heb. 12:2 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I was recently thinking about a lot of loose ends I see in this tapestry of life I have experienced in Christ. I have been privileged to see some amazing things in my 42 year long journey in Christ (since my conversion). I have seen two major waves of revival and their ramifications first hand all over the world. I have been part of an amazing church in New Orleans for the last 36 years. I have seen thousands of souls come to Christ, baptized in the Spirit and go on to become productive members of the body of Christ. I have also seen some unpleasant train wrecks. The Christian life can be amazing and quite disappointing at the same time. Recently I felt the Lord impress on my heart that I would begin to see some loose ends come together in the near future. I felt strongly the word completion or fulfillment. Here is the definition of finisher from today’s verse in Louw and Nida’s word book.
“one who makes possible the successful completion of something — ‘one who completes, perfecter.’‘looking to Jesus, the one who initiates and completes faith’ or ‘looking to Jesus on whom (our) faith depends from beginning to end’.”
The Lord began and continues a supernatural work in all of our lives. Staying with Him to the end is a tricky business. Here are some thoughts from the UBS Bible Commentary on today’s verse.

“As perfecter of faith, he brings it to its intended goal. Thus, whether one talks about faith as a possibility or as the experience of fulfillment, all depends upon Jesus. For this reason, Christians must keep looking away from this world to him. He is not only the basis, means, and fulfillment of faith, but in his life he also exemplifies the same principle of faith that we saw in the paragons of chapter 11. Thus, by faith he counted upon the reality of future joy and, assessing present circumstances in light of the glorious future, he endured the cross, scorning its shame. He died as a despised criminal. And that future joy is already his in a preliminary way, for he sat down at God’s right hand.”
So I have my eyes on the Lord and His work. He is the Finisher, Completer, and Perfecter. If He has saved the best for last in all of His works, some amazing days are just on the horizon.

LIVING PARALYZED

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS BAILEY

“So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your week knees.” HEB 12:12

Recently, I literally woke up to horrible pain. After a series of doctor visits, emergency room, Chiro’s and physical therapists the MRI showed a herniated disk pressing on the sciatica nerve causing all sorts of havoc with my leg. Ouch! All walking, kayaking, biking-well everything had to be shelved. For someone that lived to go outside it became a hard pill to swallow. Lots of crying and learning how to deal with pain  was a challenge to the say the least. Psalm 40 became my verse of meditation as I waited for the new song to spring up. Seeing the situation wasn’t going away I decided to hang curtains and decorate my little dungeon. On top of the everyday pain, more storms blew in to deal with. Deep inside I knew the Lord would come and I wanted to be ready. Repentance, hurling myself on the mercy of God is so good for the soul. I used this dungeon time to make sure a root of bitterness didn’t spring up. In order to make things lighten up I would compare myself to  ” a sack of potatoes”. Just roll around really not doing much. PARALYZED!  God had my attention. This verse describes someone that Gill said; “Was from weariness and exhaustion. Renew your courage; make a new effort to bear them. The hands fall by the side when we are exhausted with toil, or worn down by disease. And the feeble knees – The knees also become enfeebled by long effort, and tremble as if their strength were gone. They were to make every effort to bear up under their trials. The hope of victory will do much to strengthen one almost exhausted in battle; the desire to reach home invigorates the frame of the weary traveler. So it is with the Christian. In persecution, and sickness, and bereavement, he may be ready to sink under his burdens. The hands fall, and the knees tremble, and the heart sinks within us. But confidence in God, and the hope of heaven, and the assurance that all this is for our good, will reinvigorate the enfeebled frame, and enable us to bear what we once supposed would crush us to the dust. A courageous mind braces a feeble body, and hope makes it fresh for new conflicts.”

You too might find yourself in a incredible dungeon. God promises to meet us down there. There is no time table with God. We have a mighty covenant that says  “The LORD will vindicate His people and relent concerning His servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free.” Deut. 32:36 LIFT UP YOUR HEADS! The King of Glory will show up!