Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Crowd of Martyrs says look at Jesus the Champion

Hebrews 12v1 tells of a great cloud of witnesses, or a great crowd of martyrs who cheer us on as we run the race.
"As saints of old still line the way,
retelling triumphs of His grace,
We hear their calls and hunger for the day,
when with Christ we stand in glory"
-- Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
They cheer us to look to Jesus, our champion - which is what the next verse tells us to do. I'm preparing to preach on this twice in September to 18 year olds going off to University.... in doing so, I unearthed this by Spurgeon:
Where shall language be found which shall describe his matchless, his unparalleled love towards the children of men. Upon any ordinary subject one may find liberty of speech and fullness of utterance, but this subject lies out of the line of all oratory, and eloquence cannot attain unto it. This is one of the unutterable things—unutterable, because it surpasses thought, and defies the power of words...

...Christian men! If Christ endured all this [detailed in Hebrews 12v2], merely for the joy of saving you, will you be ashamed of bearing anything for Christ? The words are on my lips again this morning,—
“If on my face for thy dear name,
shame and reproach shall be,
I’ll hail reproach, and welcome shame,
my Lord, I’ll die for thee.”
--Thomas Haweis
Oh! I do not wonder that the martyrs died for such a Christ as this! When the love of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts, then we feel that if the stake were present we would stand firmly in the fire to suffer for him who died for us.
CH Spurgeon Sermon 236 on Hebrews 12v2.

The stories of the Hebrew Christians, of Moses and supremely Jesus himself call us, as Luther wrote, to:
"Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God's truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever."
Meanwhile Douglas Groothuis has a lot of questions about preachers and preaching.


  1. Hey Dave, thanks for the post. Do you have any thoughts on Hebrews 11:1-7? I am preaching on this in August at church and would be keen to know if you have any thoughts

  2. Er, not particularly.... My preach is going to touch on 10v34 and 11v24-26.... What I do know is that I'm loving reading Hebrews. Everything in there is BIG!

    I'd recommend Piper's scripts: 11v1-3 and 11v4-6. And the MP3s... 11v1-3 and 11v4-6.

    And Spurgeon on 11v7 This quote alone is enough to warrant a look: "The old writers, who are by far the most sensible—for you will notice that the books that were written about two hundred years ago, by the old Puritans, have more sense in one line than there is in a page of our new books, and more in a page than there is in a whole volume of our modern divinity—the old writers tell you, that faith is made up of three things: first knowledge, then assent, and then what they call affiance, or the laying hold of the knowledge to which we give assent, and making it our own by trusting in it."

  3. Totally off topic... a non-Christian friend has asked me about gnosticism(?!). Anyone know much about it? (and how I could get some Gospel into the conversation)?

  4. Thanks for the Spurgy quotes, and also thanks for the Piper links. I'm thinking of delving into part of this for a preaching series in the Autumn. It's inspiring stuff that encourages us out of our comfort zones. But as we leave our comfort zones, we discover something far greater and worth living (and dying) for. How do we so easily get duped into settling for those mud pies again (a la CS Lewis)?

  5. Mike,
    gnosticism is quite hard to define, because it varied with its proponents. But you'll find a few articles on it halfway down this page on monergism.com, and I'm fairly sure some of the IVP Dictionaries of Theology have articles on it, so you could visit some of your old chums at the uccf office & run down to the library to browse them...

    Gnostics were of the 2nd century AD, believed matter is evil, spirituality was to do with special hidden knowledge (gnosis), because matter is evil you could do whatever you liked physically cos it was the spiritual gnosis that was important (most heresy is an excuse for immorality after all). A lot of the ideas in the Da Vinci Code are gnostic. The article "Gnosticism and the Gnostic Jesus by Douglas Groothuis" on that page looks particularly good.

  6. Mike, there's also this on bethinking which explains gnosticism a bit, in short qu-ans format.

  7. Read 1 John as much of the letter responds to gnosticism!

  8. Hm, to be picky, John's gospel and letters, while blowing gnosticism out of the water, cannot have been responding to gnosticism itself but ideas which later developed into gnosticism - which was 2nd-3rd century.

  9. Thanks for the Spurgeon quote: I am amazingly challenged by it.

    "Where shall language be found,
    Words uncovered,
    Eyes unveiled,
    Tongues un-loosed?
    Where, indeed, but in the great and last gathered throng,
    Of those redeemd and re-enlivened,
    Whose loosened tongues and unveiled eyes
    Shall lift to Him,
    The Heavenly Prize,
    And so prize Him in exalted adulation
    That words and sight shall fail us not
    But fit by Him, to Him for His greater praise
    Be lifted up through endless days?"

    I can't wait till our eyes can see what that great cloud of witnesses witness now and which we anticipate with 'baited breath'!

  10. Oh, and meant to add an Amen to Rosemary's comment.

    Talking about Gnosticism (BTW the G is silent as in 'gnome' please don't pronounce it, it sounds silly when people do that) is a bit like talking about Post-Modernism: we're actually talking about a cultural or ideological 'mood' or a set of ideas that share a common thread.

    There are key features that developed in Gnostic ideas but they developed differently within the various cultures that adopted them: Greek, Roman, Near Eastern and even Jewish and some christian groups took up Gnostic ideas and developed them, fashioning them 'into their own image'.

    Key features include(d):
    Spiritual hierarchy - from flesh to spirit (from bad to good)
    Hidden knowledge - attaining the hidden through initiation/enlightenment gained through experience/study
    A general dispassion toward the physicality of life - either in asceticism or in debauchery (pessimists and hedonists)

    Talking about modern Gnosticism looks a lot more like talking with people who have created their own moral code/religion. Dan Brown in the Da Vinci Code get's it right - often Gnosticism today mystifies sexuality: which is a long walk down the short plank of idolatry (Romans 1...)

    John's gospel blows Gnosticism out of the water because he shows that the Triune Creator God comes in the flesh to die in the flesh and be raised from death in the flesh never to face death again; so that we who come to him in faith might know God in His fullness through the subsitutionary and atoning death of Jesus and be raised to eternal life at the coming of Jesus as Judge and King. John blows Gnosticism out of the water because he preaches that Gospel. John also undermines all false faiths - Mormonism, JW-ism, Islam, etc, etc, etc - not as a response to THEM but as a faithful proclaiming of HIM!