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January 25, 2011 A True Witness for Jesus Kathleen Maples

In Hebrews 11 we have a lengthy list of the lives of people who were changed, transformed,
preserved and delivered, and some even sacrificed, martyred, but kept through the miraculous
and faithful power of God. They all suffered, they made mistakes, they were all tested and tried
by events allowed by God into their lives. They were flesh and blood as are you and I with the
same passions we have. Each example is given there for a reason. Each example is a careful
testimony of God to us. Remember Paul, along with the other writers of the New Testament
were indeed holy men, separated to and for God by the Holy Spirit who moved on them and
told them what to write for future generations. This would be a record for humanity, a
testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. These were examples in whom the life and righteousness of
Christ was on display. Their lives can teach us something about HIM. The Old Testament
pointed to Christ all along the way. The New Testament revealed Him.

Abel is the first example listed and we can see how the flesh of Cain, the selfish nature that,
according to God Himself, dominated Cain. He rose up and destroyed his brother who was
dominated by the humble nature of Christ. The Word testifies that Cain killed him because
Abel's works (life, thoughts, deeds) were righteous and his were not. 1 Cain was offended and
angered by what his brother represented. In Enoch we have a testimony of a man who walked
with God in a world where few did. In a world where the Holy Spirit hadn't been given, where
there was no Holy Bible. Enoch walked with God so closely he was eventually raptured out of
this world into the presence of God in heaven. Noah walked with God. He believed God, and
moved with fear, in a world facing judgment, obeyed and prepared the way of escape God had
ordained.

Abraham, left everything he knew to go where God was leading him. God was faithful and kept
him on his journey, and gave him and Sarah a new life-a son, when they were incapable of
producing this life. Jacob, a man of failures, a man who wanted the life of God but went about
it the wrong way. Joseph, a man who suffered and was tried by the Word of God, prepared by
his afflictions to rule a nation. Moses, a man who failed miserably in his own strength but
when he was ready to depend only on God, went back and led a nation to freedom. We can read
of testimonies of deliverance when God's children refused to bow to the world system and
man's false image of themselves. When a defeated Samson, who had been unfaithful,
captivated by the world, and unwise concerning His separation to God, was captured, mocked
and imprisoned by the enemy, cried out to God and God once again touched and empowered
him. So many examples of people who faced trials and temptations and persecutions as we
have and as we will are written in Hebrews 11 for our learning upon whom comes the end of
this age, this world. We can learn something vital about God and how He works in the lives of
His own from each testimony given us which will fortify our faith.

Heb 12:1 Therefore seeing we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us
lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily ensnare us, and let us run with
patience the race that is set before us,

Because we have been surrounded with such a vast list of witnesses of this life and light of
Jesus Christ, there are some things we need to do. Consider that word 'witness' carefully. The
word in the Greek is martus, G3144. It means a martyr, a record, or witness, in a legal,
historical and ethical sense. This is someone who has personally seen and experienced the
truth of what they say. They are what they preach, they have lived it. When they testify about
Jesus Christ, it's because they KNOW HIM. In a courtroom you cannot testify to what you
heard others say or do about something or someone, it must be first hand knowledge or it is
only hearsay. No weight is given to hearsay. It is rejected. How can we, as Christians become

1 1 John 3:12: Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And why slew he him? Because
his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.
witnesses of Jesus Christ in the true sense of the word? He is in heaven. He walked this earth
over 2000 years ago. How can anyone alive today be a true witness of such a One Whom we've
not seen with our eyes, personally? Act_1:8 tells us how and this is the only way we can be
accurate witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel:

Act 1:8 But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall
be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the
uttermost part of the earth.

That word in Acts 1: 8 is the same word in Heb. 12. Martus. A living martyr. Not only does it
mean someone who has personal , firsthand knowledge, but it also means one who is willing to
lay their life down for what they believe. To be a witness for Him means we live to do His will,
as He did our Father's. We do not live to do our own will. In other words, this is one who
proves or validates their faith by obedience unto death, literally or figuratively. We must ask
ourselves, do we believe His Word enough to live each day seeking direction and strength,
totally dependent on the Holy Spirit who alone can live this life of Christ in us? We must be
filled with the Holy Spirit, baptized or immersed into His life, with His Presence and power
working in us. This is the only way we can be accurate witnesses. We don't produce this life,
we don't have this power of ourselves, we can have nothing unless it is given us from above. It
is not of us, about us or by us, but it's something we must have or we are not true witnesses. We
can't be witnesses without this, for Jesus told the disciples that they must tarry for this. Wait
for it before they did anything else. This life can only be lived in us and through us by Him for
it's His life, not ours. We are to be channels for His power to flow through to others. He will not
use just any vessel-it must be clean, and set apart for Him. This involves preparation and
obedience of faith.

God has made available to us the record of events that reveal to us He is worthy of our trust.
We should depend on and follow His Word. Because we have this vast record of accounts and
events, we need to lay aside or put away every weight. We can make excuses, we are not good
enough. He can point to Christ, our Perfection, in Whom He has made us accepted. We aren't
smart enough. Christ, our wisdom. We are unworthy, Christ our Redemption and
Righteousness. We are afraid. So was Moses. He says fear not, for I AM with you. We are
uncertain. He says I'll never leave you or forsake you. At times, so was Abraham uncertain,
especially when he went to Egypt. See why God gave us this record? As He was with them, so
will He be with us.

So, what is a weight? It is any burden or thing that hinders or slows us down from fully
embracing and obeying the Word and will of God. Now, it gets a little sticky. Our number one
weight, the number one thing that hinders us and slows down our progress into this deeper life
of Christ is ourselves. We must understand and recognize this truth. Self will. It's demanding,
never satisfied no matter how much it has or gets its way, and is always in opposition to the
Holy Spirit. That is the heaviest load we carry, and one we must be relieved of. All the weights
we carry stem from our own self will and human understanding. There are things we allow to
be put on us by others, by the enemy of our souls, and by the traditions of men-religious or
otherwise, by the culture of our environment that are totally opposed to the nature and will of
God. The flesh-that human nature we are born with is always self focused. Most all hindrances
stem from our own human nature, especially here in the American church. We are so used to
being comfortable, having plenty. In this world we live in there is a devil who rages, there is
the pull and draw of the world we are born into. Temptations are all around us. The world and
the devil would exploit and cater to the ungodly desires of human nature. And they are
ungodly. Watchman Nee said this, and I have to agree: "The flesh makes Self the center of all
things, while the Spirit centers all life on Christ. Such is the battle that rages in all believers until
victory is gained over Self."

Temptations around us target these desires, and can be directed at times by Satan to try to
hinder us but these are everywhere in the world. Our human nature is prone to sin, prone to
fail. Where there is unbelief, these temptations often succeed in overwhelming or drawing us
away from the straight and narrow path. These could be in the form of distractions which tend
to lure us away from prayer, from dedication to God's purpose and plan for our lives, from
dedication to God Himself. We make excuses for we are so busy, or we allow ourselves to be
discouraged and think ourselves unworthy because of failure. God has never relied on the
ability of man. It is HIS strength, His ability that is made perfect in our weakness. We can't
help God. We can trust and obey Him, though. We have no valid excuse for the Lord can remind
us of how He was able to give new life to a dead womb, how He was able to keep Abraham and
Sarah, and their families in a strange land with pagan inhabitants. He can point us to His
keeping power when Pharaoh would have killed Moses. We feel inadequate and we limit God.
God has said "Consider not yourself. I am well able." But it's a natural instinct to first consider
ourselves and when we do that we limit God.

We do well to remember the warning Peter gave us in 2 Peter 3. He takes 16 verses to remind us
of past judgments of God on sin, and he acknowledges there will be false teachers and scoffers
who refuse truth. He warns us that because we know what is coming, we know Jesus is coming,
we know the wrath of God against sin, and how His judgment will end in the destruction of this
earth. He warns many will fall away from the truth so we must beware of being led away with
the error of the wicked. What is that error? It's this: they simply refuse to believe God will
really send them to hell for their sin. Their flesh and the devil and the world will try to deceive
you into thinking God will let you by, because of your good works, because He is a good God,
He won't really send you to hell. You're not a rapist or mass murderer. You don't rob banks, or
beat your kids or spouse. You're not a child molester or a junkie. Oh, beloved, beware the
deceitfulness of sin. A gossiping tongue is just as damaging as a violent alcoholic. A liar is just
as much a cheat and thief as one who robs a bank. Remember, Satan used subtlety, not violence
in his lies that caused the fall of Adam. God means what He says, unlike much of humanity who
is willing to scrap our laws, and can be bribed. He cannot be corrupted and will not change His
Word. Christ is our way of escape-our only way. His life, and His truth is the only way.

We should lay aside the sin that so easily besets us. Paul said 'let us'. It's a choice and there are
consequences for our decision. Do we lay aside the weights and sins that so easily beset us or
do we continue to carry and indulge in them? Each choice has its own consequence. To lay
something aside means to put it off, or away. This is where the message of the cross is vital-and
dangerously neglected or misunderstood in most of professing Christianity. Much of
Christianity is thinking we carry a cross because we name the name of Christ and some people
make fun of us, or we resist the ways of the world. We can dress holy, we can be separate, and
still not be carrying our cross. We can be full of religious pride, contempt for those unlike
ourselves. Our tongue can be unruly, our thoughts and faith waver. We can have the spirit of
God in us and walk right by a lost and dying world and never blink an eye or shed a tear
because we are so consumed with our own 'trials and temptations'. Self focus. Self must be put
out of the way, beloved and we are not strong enough or able to put ourselves out of the way.
This must be a work of the Holy Spirit. But if we do not feed on His Word and present ourselves
to Him alone, in prayer, and regularly, frequently, get in His Presence and believe Him to do
what we cannot, it will not happen.

Remember, the Scripture says the Lord has no fellowship with idols, and self is the number one
idol in this land of America-in and out of the church.

What about sin? Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, but some preachers say you can't live above
it or without doing it. If that were the case, why would Jesus have had to die like He did? If God
hates sin so bad that He would allow His only begotten Son to be punished so severely, do you
think He takes it lightly when we continue to do it, and excuse it, without crying out in hatred
for it, for deliverance from our own natural tendency to sin? If we have His Spirit living in us
we will not be able to lightly indulge in sin. He will not let us do that. He will let us feel the grief
our sin has caused. He will let us know we have erred immediately. He paid a terrible price-
something Mohammed, Buddha, the Pope, none of these idols did or would do. Consider the
thoughts and ways in which we miss the mark God has set before us. Ways and thoughts in
which we are mistaken. How much of our faith is based on the teaching of men, traditions
handed down through the church for generations? Carnal reasoning about spiritual truth. We
are born with a natural tendency to love everything God hates. We can dress it up with a
religious facade, but it was the religious crowd that wanted Jesus Christ dead.
We get saved, and we bring that natural reasoning into our Bible reading even though He
clearly says lean not to your own understanding. Have the mind of Christ, not your natural
mind. The natural man can't receive or understand the spiritual truths of God. He tells us it's
the Holy Spirit that searches and teaches us the deep things of God. We can't know them any
other way. Yet often, our own reasoning can cause us to step off the straight and narrow path.

So what exactly is the Biblical definition of sin? The word here in Hebrews 12 is G266,
hamartia. It means to be without a share in something, to miss the mark, err or be mistaken.
To wander from the right path, to do wrong in thought or deed, violating God's law. There are
things that distract us from His purpose. Sometimes we allow these things, we might complain
about them but the truth is we allow them to distract us from His purpose. Prayer is the
number one thing we allow ourselves to be distracted from and it shows, church. It shows
when we are faced with hardship and we hesitate to call on God because we feel guilty for
neglecting the altar. It shows in our lack of power, our lack of His presence, our lack of
confidence when faced with the needs of others.

We live in a world that is growing darker by the day, it's full of selfish and deceitful and
distracting things and people. The Lord, through Paul here tells us lay these things aside. This
is not a suggestion. If we need help doing this, and we will, He is an ever present Help. Ask the
Holy Spirit to point out to you what these things are in your life if you are not sure. There are a
variety of things it could be, depending on the individual, their location, their life, their job,
families, etc. These things can work to hinder your progress into the deeper life of Christ.
Because this is the case, HE is not seen in us, we ourselves are. HE is not heard, we are. This sad
truth is evident to the world and it's why they mock Christ. They think He is what they see the
church to be and they do not respect or fear Him.

Peter said many, because they yield to or follow their pernicious, or self destructive ways, will
cause the way of truth to be spoken evil of. (2Pe_2:2)

Instead of giving place to these hindrances and distractions, pursue the path the Word of God
has lit up and pointed out to you. This is the course for your life. Spend your time and energy
on what is of eternal value, not what has been condemned and is and will corrupt. We must
stay and continue on this path, this journey, constantly, patiently waiting and enduring
whatever comes, with hope. The Lord has laid out a bright and shining hope before us of a life
in and forever with HIM.

Lay these things aside and run this race that is set before you. What does that really mean? The
word 'race' means conflict. It's a fight to guard your faith in God, in His promises to you, His
love for you, His faithfulness to you, the TRUTH of His Word for your life. All of these things
have been under attack since Satan deceived Eve in the garden. These wonderful truths about
God are daily under attack in your mind, in your life. We have to learn to fight that attack by
holding up the shield of our faith. We have to learn to recognize these attacks, understand
where they come from and what motivates them. We must depend on the Holy Spirit in us to
raise the standard, to empower us and overcome evil with good. Only God is good, remember.
The devil will always challenge what is right and good. The darkness of this world will
challenge it. This is a contest with eternal and both wonderful and chilling possibilities. We can
endure by the power of HIS strength and Spirit and refuse to surrender our faith in God to lies
from the hellish mind of the devil. We can't endure or face this conflict in our own strength, we
must face it in the strength of the Lord. We can see evidence of this battle raging around us in
the lives of others as well as our own. We have been appointed or chosen and put in this battle,
this race. We either go in the strength of God and win or we go in our strength and fall flat on
our face in failure and defeat.

Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author 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.
This is one we will need to remember as we get into the verses that follow concerning the
chastening of the Lord. Remember Jesus Christ Himself was chastised for our peace. He was
bruised for our iniquities. He bore the chastening of God for our sins. Then consider carefully
the story of Eli and his sons in 1 Samuel because he refused to heed the warning God sent
through the prophet and did not chasten his sons.

Because this fight , this conflict with our flesh, our self will, the fight to resist the pull of the
world and the lies of Satan will not stop it will cause us to grow weary. We must fix and keep
our focus, our eyes, our mind, our confidence and hope in and on Jesus Christ alone. We must
depend on His strength to see us through. Remember Phil 4:13- I can do all things through Christ
Jesus who strengthens me.

By an act of our own will, we must choose to turn our focus away from other things, the
weights, the sins, the failures, the fears, the struggles, the hurt, the weariness, and focus on
HIM. Consider not ourselves but consider HIM. Pay attention to HIM, nothing else. The Holy
Spirit has and is the mind of Christ to and for us. He must be in our lives, to show us Christ, to
show us what was purchased for us at Calvary, show us things to come, teach us the deep
things of God, and minister conviction and encouragement, as well as His eternal life to and
through us to others. He is the One who pours the love of God in our heart. He is the One who
reveals to us the wisdom and righteousness of Christ. He is the One who conforms us to the
image or likeness of Christ. His Presence in us is our seal or mark that identifies us as one of
God's Children. 2The Holy Spirit will show us it is Christ who is the Author, the Creator and
Leader of our faith. He writes our story, not Satan. He goes before us, leading the way, the
Captain of our salvation, and our ship. He's the One who led us out of darkness and sin into
light and faith and His righteousness and HE alone will complete, perfect and finish our faith,
our life, our story.

We need to give careful consideration to this word 'finisher'. In the Greek, it is G5051 teleiotes.
It means a completer, consummater, perfecter. When we are born, He gives us a measure of
faith. I believe this is why children so readily accept the gospel. When we are born again, that
faith is stirred by the work of the Holy Spirit, so we can believe Him and be saved. But through
our Christian life there is a process for that faith to be brought to full maturity, like a ripened
fruit. That faith will be tested, tried, stretched, challenged, and it will be fed. HE is the One who
oversees this process in our life, like the husbandman cares for the grape vine. The Scripture
says He nourishes and cherishes the church. When we abide in Him, stay in close contact with
intimate fellowship through prayer and feeding on His Word, we will be nourished, and fed.
That word consummater sticks in my mind. We are to be joined to the Lord, as a husband and
wife are joined-becoming one. He that is joined to the Lord is ONE spirit. His faith in His Father
is what our faith will be-like HIS. We are to have His mind, His will, His faith, His love, His
truth, His Spirit. Nothing of ourselves injected here. It's about HIM.

Heb 12:2 Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the
Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher
[bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was
set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated
at the right hand of the throne of God. [Ps. 110:1.] (AMP)

There was a joy set before Him. There was a prize He wanted, and the anticipation of that was
the reason for His joy. He delighted to do the will of the Father, according to Scripture. He
delighted in fellowship with His Father. He delighted in rescuing the souls of humanity from
the clutches of the evil one. He endured the cross which meant the death of His own flesh. He

2 Rom 8:7-9 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither
indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, but in
the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is
none of his.
bore the trials, endured great suffering, self denial and death on that cross. He endured a brief
separation from the Father, learning what it was to be separated-lost as we are in darkness
until we are born again. In that moment on that cross when HE who knew no sin became sin
for us, He tasted briefly what it was like for humans who were lost, with no awareness of God.
That's why I believe He cried out in grief what we have written in Psalm 22. He felt just for that
moment forsaken. He did not yield to that feeling. His faith saw Him through as will ours. He
knows, saints. He knows what we go through much better than we realize.

Oh, Father, let us not live in this world unmoved by human need. Let us not walk among the
lost in their darkness with no compassion or courage to reach out to them. God forbid. Grant us
Your courage, Your faith, Your love, Your light to hold up before them and Your Spirit to show
us how to lead them out of the dark into the light. Don't let us walk by the lost and hurting and
be hard and unfeeling, without the compassion that YOU had for them when You walked
among them. Help us get over ourselves Lord, so You alone can be seen and heard in us.
Forgive us for our excuses and failures and change us Almighty God into the likeness of Your
Son who alone is lovely and worthy. You said it is finished on that cross-the work has been
done. Increase our faith and draw us back to the altar so we may in obedience wait there,
broken and willing to empty ourselves of self that You might fill us with Yourself. Then we can
say for us to live is for Christ to live and to die is to gain Your holy life. Help us see the truth so
we will be willing to cast off the flesh as dung, to count it joyfully as lost that we might win
You. Oh, Holy Spirit we will be trading filthy rags for glory. Help Your people, Lord, for the
sake of Your Holy Name, Your honor, and for the souls of men and women who are dying
without You, deceived by a wicked devil. Just as it is offensive to us to think of a person
molesting a child, it is so offensive to you to see the devil molesting men and women, boys and
girls in their minds, and corrupting their hearts. Break us, Lord, so You can revive us with
Your Spirit-for Your glory, and for the sake of the lost. Give us Your heart for ours is deceitful
and desperately selfish and wicked. Give us Your life for ours is inadequate. Help us be willing
to exchange our self life for the life of Christ so Your will can be done and You can be glorified
and exalted among Your people and so the world will again know there is a GOD who loves
them and died for them.

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