Hebrews 12:1-17 deals with a call to endure. “Let us run with endurance the race set before us”. This race includes those times when the Lord reproves and disciplines us (Hebrews 12:4-13) We are disciplined, according to Hebrews 12:13, so that we might be restored. We were given in Hebrews 11 the examples of the great heroes of Israel as our inspiration. Now we are told to be alert to a way of thinking and a life‑style that generally is associated with such thinking that draws us away from the walk that God expects of us.
Hebrews 12:15-17 characterizes worldliness which is the antithesis of godliness. Worldliness isn’t something external. We tend to judge worldliness by looking at the externals. Worldliness isn’t based on the things we like or traditions, or feelings. It isn’t based on where you’re located or your circumstances. Worldliness is a mindset that diminishes or denies the Messiah and His rightful place. It is a way of thinking that influences the way we reason. Worldliness appeals to our emotions, our weaknesses and our wills so that we live in a way that says we will not allow God to rule us. It is the mind that caused the children of Israel to seek a king like their neighbors. 1 Samuel 8:1-8. In other words worldliness tells us to do things the way the world does it.
Why it is dangerous? ‑ Because we become victims of our times rather than victors. Our circumstances dictate how we will run our lives, and we slowly become ensnared and find ourselves in bondage. It is important to remember that the world system as we know it today is under the dominion of Satan, the adversary. (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4) The philosophy of the world is constantly being pumped into our heads. It’s the system we’ve been educated, raised, and have learned to socialize in. It’s the system that has taught us what’s right and wrong. It is always louder and more attention getting than the system of God. Our passage in Hebrews tells us how to deal with it.
As we said, Hebrews 12 deals primarily with running the race.
In Hebrews 12:1 we were told to run with endurance.
In Hebrews 12:2 we are told that when we begin to get weary, we need to focus on the Messiah.
Hebrews 12:3 tells us to meditate on Him, (consider), that we might continue or endure the race.
In Hebrews 12:4-11 we’re reminded that it’s in the hard times that God gives us the discipline to hang in there.
Hebrews 12:12-13 gives us the commandment not to stop when times get tough.
Hebrews 12:14-17 gives us additional insight. The writer is warning us of a philosophy that we need to be alert to. To help us, we are given some positive commands and some negative warnings. Positive Commands (Hebrews 12:14) Pursue peace with all people ‑ As much as is humanly possible through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we are to be committed to unity with others. Unity not uniformity. The world system says, “Harmony or not, do what’s necessary to come out on top.” The system of God on the other hand says, “Pursue peace.”
The world system says that people are not good and we should take advantage of them. God’s system declares that we not fight back and be suspicious, but that we care about our brothers and sisters, as well as the lost. This doesn’t mean peace at any price, but to pursue peace as much as possible. Pursue being different. The term sanctification has at the core of its meaning two ideas: Separation and difference.
The world tries to put us into one big mold. But our goal should be not to stand well with men, but with God. If we seek to be different ‑ by solving problems with people God’s way, not the world’s way, we’ll see God at work. The worldly mentality resists and teaches retaliation, holding a grudge, defending one’s rights. But if we operate from that kind of perspective, we’ll never see the Lord. So then if we are children of God, we are called to Pursue Peace and to Be Different.
Negative Warnings (Hebrews 12:15-16) Each one of these warnings are introduced by the phrase “see to it.” We see here a series of three commands to take charge.
Don’t let anyone come short of grace.
This is an interesting warning. As believers we are called to live in the realm of grace.
Too many believers operate in the realm of legalism, and as a consequence they’ve become demanding, forceful, and rigid.
On the other hand we are called to demonstrate Grace which is receiving the opposite of what we deserve. In the Hebrew Chanon ‑ which is a free and spontaneous willingness to bestow good on him that is bereft of it, either in a way of kindness (chesed), or in a way of compassion (rachmones). Chanon excludes all idea of merit it is something that is freely given with no strings attached to it. (Ezra 9:5-8) We should encourage grace, talk of grace, remind others of God’s grace, and not allow other to lag behind in grace. In the new covenant we are told that if we expect God to forgive us we must forgive others. (Matthew 6:12).
Don’t allow bitterness to take root.
Two things are true of something that takes root: the roots develop without being seen, and it takes time for the roots to mature. The picture in these two verses is of someone in the family of God allowing time for the root of bitterness to take shape. Once bitterness sprouts, it soon bears fruit. The implication is that this fruit is poisonous. We are called to be alert to such fruit in our lives as well as help our brothers and sisters in whom we see bitterness growing to stop and deal with it. The bitterness may be against men, women, a congregation, a spiritual leader, circumstances, school, a teacher, an employer, family or friends.
Don’t tolerate the Esau syndrome. Esau is identified in this passage as an immoral, godless person who sold his birthright for a single meal. Probably the saddest and most godless person aside from Judas in the Scriptures is Esau. On the surface their actions don’t seem any worse than some of the offenses described in other passages. But the Bible strongly condemns them; probably because they had more opportunities to hear and obey God’s Word. They knew and had experienced the fruit of God’s promises, they had seen His miracles, had fellowship with His people. Yet they turned their backs on God and the things of God. Esau was not only immoral, but was godless. He had no regard for the good, the truthful, or that which was sacred.
He is the classic example of that which is worldly, secular, and profane. Jacob, Esau’s brother, was not a model of ethics or integrity, but he genuinely valued the things of God. The birthright was precious to him. Jacob basically trusted and relied on God; While Esau trusted in himself. When Esau finally woke up and realized what he had forsaken, he made a halfhearted attempt to retrieve it. Just because he sought it with tears does not mean he was sincere or truly repentant (2 Corinthians 7:10). He found no place for repentance. He regretted but he did not repent. He selfishly wanted God’s blessings, but did not want God. His worldly mind was unwilling to be transformed.
Resisting the Worldly Mentality ‑ Two thoughts come to mind when we think of turning from a worldly mentality and allowing God to be King and Lord in our lives. Allowing your mind to be transformed (Romans 12:1-2) Seeking the filling of the Holy Spirit ‑ that you might manifest the fruit that comes from being filled with God’s Spirit. (Galatians 5:13-18).