1. Pursue Peace (verse 14a)
2. Pursue Purity (verse 14b)
3. Pursue Grace (verse 15)
4. Pursue God (verses 16-17)

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend of mine, who is an elder at his church, and frequently preaches. We were talking about church and preaching. He asked what I was preaching on recently. I said that I’ve been preaching on Hebrews, and coming to chapter 12. He said, "Ohh! In the practical section, huh?" Yep. That’s where we are. We are in the practical section of the book of Hebrews. We have been there since chapter 10, verse 19. Hebrews is like most New Testament epistles, which spent the first part grounding us in the truth, and then, explain how it is that we must live.

In our text, there are many commands, as you read these verses, look for the commands.

Hebrews 12:12-17
Therefor, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees taht are feeble, 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. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 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; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 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.

OK, let's test your football knowledge. Do you know the names of the signs in the picture above? If you know a bit about football, my guess is that you know the first three signals.  They are "Touchdown," "First Down," and "Holding." However, you will only know the last signal if you are a football junkie. It's called "Helping the Runner." It is illegal for a teammate to push, pull or lift a runner to assist his forward progress.  The penalty for doing so is 10 yards. If you didn't know the last signal, don't feel too bad. It's never called. I've seen it many times. I’ve seen a runner come into a pile of people and try to run, but be stopped. Then, all of a sudden, a big offensive lineman comes running in and pushes the runner in the back and moves the whole pile forward a few yards. But, it’s never called.

But, we aren’t here this morning to think about football. We are here to think about the spiritual realities of life. We are here to think about God and Christ and the church and faith. So, let’s think about the spiritual realities of life. When it comes to the church of Jesus Christ, helping the runner is not only allowed, it is encouraged. No, it is more than that. It’s commanded. God commands us to "Help the Runner."

My message this morning is entitled, "Help the Runner." This entire chapter has been placed in the context of athletic imagery. Chapter 12, verse 1 says, "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." The picture here is a runner in track shoes, stepping up to the starting line, awaiting the starter’s pistol to fire, ready to give it his all. His aim is crossing the finish line in first place.

The Christian life isn’t a stroll in the park. The Christian life isn’t a day at the beach. No, the Christian life is a grueling race - a marathon. We are called to endure this race: "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." It’s a warning not to stop. It’s a call to "press on," as I have chosen to say in my "theme" of Hebrews, "Jesus Is Better, So Press On!" This is the main point of our section today. Hebrews 10:36 says it this way: "For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised."

Chapter 12 is filled with helps to press on. First of all, we are to run with an eye to the heroes of the faith (Hebrews 11). They ran with endurance, and so ought we. Second, we are to run with an eye to ourselves (Heb. 12:1). We must lay aside every encumbrance and sin in our race. Finally, we are to run with an eye to Jesus (Heb. 12:2). He is the author and perfecter of faith. He is the one who endured the cross, despising the shame.

Then, in verses 3-11, we see how to endure the Christian life with all of its discouragements and troubles, without growing weary in it. Verse 3 tells us to consider Jesus. He endured the hostility by sinners against Himself. He remained true under trial. He will be ready to help us in time of need. Verses 4-11 ask us to consider our own life. Your struggles and difficulties and hardships could be worse. You haven’t yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin. Your trials could be discipline. When troubles and afflictions come upon us, it may very well be the disciplining hand of the Lord. And he disciplines us because He loves us (Heb. 12:5).

And then, the practicals come in verse 12. It begins with the word, "Therefore." In other words, "In light of everything that we have just said, ...." In light of the examples of those who have gone before us, in light of the work of Jesus upon the cross, in light of our own battles with sin, in light of God’s disciplining hand in our own lives: "Therefore, ... strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 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" (Heb. 12:12-13).

Perhaps you remember that when we looked at these verses two weeks ago, I emphasized the corporate nature of the call of our lives. It’s not that you are running the race all by yourself. No, you have some teammates in the race. Some of them will be there to give you help in your time of need. Some of them will be there for you to give help to in their time of need. You have friends that you need to help in the race. Some are weak. Some are feeble. Some are lame. You are called to strengthen their hands and their knees. You are called to make straight paths for their feet. You are called to "Help the Runner."

If you see someone who is weak in faith, God’s call upon your life is to help their faith. Talk with them. Encourage them. Bring them in to see your own walk of faith. If you see someone who is tired of living righteously, tired of seeing the wicked prosper, tired of being reproached for Christ -- God’s call upon your life is to help them. Help them to see the reward of following Christ. Help them to see the joy in your own life when facing these things.

I trust that you can see the corporate nature of this call there in verse 12 -- that God’s call upon your lives is greater than your own little world. God calls us to have our eyes open and care for others. "Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble." We are called to "Help the Runner."

But, it’s even beyond looking for those who need help and helping them. It’s preparing the way so that things go smoothly for others before they trip. Look at verse 13: "Make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lamb may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed." God’s call upon our lives isn’t only reactive. It is also proactive. We ought to live in such a way that our lives help to smooth the path for others to walk the same road.

This was Paul’s heart in Romans 14:13, "[Let us] determine this--not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way." In other words, let’s so live, so as to be an encouragement to others to press on in their lives as well. You can live in such a way as to hinder people in their walk of faith. You can live in such a way as to help people in their walk of faith. What you say. What you do. It all can make an impact.

There are so many ways that this might be done. I’ll give you a few. Suppose, for instance, that your church attendance is spotty at best. By your life, you are teaching others that attending worship is really not necessary to live the Christian life. It may be that others follow your example. As a result, they miss out on the fellowship and the hearing of the word that they so desperately need. The result is this: You may have made their way bumpy. If they have a weak limb, it may be put out of joint.

Or, suppose, for instance, that you hardly ever speak of spiritual things. Sure, you attend church are around the fellowship of believers. But, by your talk, you are distracting all around you. You are always bringing attention to your sports or your hobbies or your activities, anything but the Lord and His working in your life. As a result, their minds are pulled away from the Lord and into the world. The result is this: You have made their way bumpy.

Parents, you can so easily do this with your children. You may say one thing and act one way while around Christians. But, you may talk and act entirely different in the home. Hypocrisy in the home will make a bumpy way. It’s hard to drive a car on a cobblestone road!

Well, let’s get to my points this morning. There are four of them. Each of them identifies a practical way for you to "Help the Runner." First of all, ....
1. Pursue Peace (verse 14a)

I trust that you can see my point in verse 14 -- "Pursue peace with all men." It’s a pretty simple command. Peace is the absence of conflict. Peace is the presence of harmony. Peace is the absence of tension. Peace is the presence of unity.

And we are called to pursue this peace. We are to be actively engaged is doing what we can to promote peace. Again, I trust that you can see how active this exhortation is. We aren’t called to sit back and be content in not making waves. No, we are called to go forward and calm the ripples as they arise.

In his great little book, Practicing Affirmation, Sam Crabtree shares how he sought to promote peace in his public school classroom. He writes, ...

Wayne (not his real name), was particularly problematic. He would damage the school property, carving up the furniture. If you sat ahead of him he might write on you or on your clothes; he might cut your hair or your clothing. He once took a cube-shaped eraser and drove stick pins through it in every direction so that the sharp ends protruded like a Sputnik satellite, and then he would toss it at someone and say, "Catch!" If you caught it, you’d bleed. Even if you didn’t catch it, you might bleed.

Wayne was in affirmation deprivation, for understandable reasons. He was a poor student, so he didn’t receive any academic accolades. He wasn’t athletic or musical. He came from a broken home and was socially not easy for his peers to be around. He wasn’t receiving praise anywhere for anything. In my classroom, I positioned his desk closest to my own, so I could more readily keep an eye on him.

Wayne was in my class, and I was his teacher. I wanted him to listen to me, to hear me, so I prayed, Lord, what can I affirm in order to gain a hearing? Is there some small approximation of a God-honoring trait upon which I can capitalize for Wayne’s refreshment and for the good of the class? One day, I had assigned some work to the students, and I was circulating through the classroom helping those who requested assistance. Out of the corner of my eye, which was almost always on Wayne, I noticed that he wasn’t doing his work, but he wasn’t killing anybody, either. He was daydreaming, gazing out the window with his chin in his hand. "I’ll take it!" I thought

So I maneuvered behind Wayne and laid my hand on his shoulder. His head immediately jerked around, and he leaned slightly away as if to say, "What did I do now?"

I said, "Wayne, I can tell you’re deep in thought. I like that about a guy. I like a man who’s a thinker!" I can still see the look on his face, at once bewildered and yet savoring it like no pleasure he could remember experiencing. His face said, "So that’s what a compliment feels like." And with that, I patted him on the back, and resumed my rounds, still keeping an eye on him. He had been affirmed for doing something God does--think. God himself invites us to reason together.

Wayne still wasn’t doing his assigned work, but at least he was moving in my direction. His eyes were following me around the room, and whenever he saw that I was about to turn in his direction, he would quickly snap into the chin-in-hand posture of The Thinker. Affirmation tasted so good that he was lining up for seconds. What was happening? His hatred for teachers was being undercut, because he was affirmed by one.

Affirmation has power to gain a hearing for the affirmer even in the ears of the outright rebellious. Perhaps that hearing is one form of the mercy that comes from God toward the one doing the refreshing.

Following our breakthrough, did Wayne immediately take off in his academics and become valedictorian? No, and that wasn’t an immediate aim. On the way to getting him to cooperate in doing his studied, I aimed at getting him to cooperate at all, to just listen to me. We can affirm progress, even when it still falls short of mastery. Sometimes we thank God for increments. I had Wayne as a student for only one year, and affirmation helped us move our relationship in the right direction. [1]

Although Sam Crabtree was giving an example of the power of affirming people, the result ended in peace. He and Wayne established a bit of peace in the classroom, which carried through the rest of the school year.

But, I want for you to see how active Sam Crabtree was in the process. He longed for peace in the classroom. He identified the disharmony. He prayed to God for an opportunity to improve the situation. He was open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in his life. He took the initiative to give the complement. He continued what he could to keep things on the right track.

That's what it means to pursue peace. And that’s what all of us are called to do. Long for peace; identify the disharmony; pray for opportunities; be led by God’s Spirit for an opportunity to gain a level of peace; take the initiative; continue to cultivate peace wherever you can.

What worked in the classroom can work among the body of Christ. So, seek peace. Pursue peace. Jesus gave us a promise of blessing if we do: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt. 5:9).

Now, there is some question as to whether this is referring to everyone -- Christian and non-Christian alike -- or, whether it is referring to all believers. I take it to mean, "All men." Jesus said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). Loving your enemies is a way of seeking peace with "all men." The encouraging thing is that (in general) you can have peace with your enemies: "When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7).

At least we can be the ones who are seeking the peace. Paul rightly said, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men" (Romans 12:18). So, Pursue Peace (verse 14a). Here’s my second point, ...
2. Pursue Purity (verse 14b)

I get this from the second half of verse 14, ...

Hebrews 12:14
...and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

The verb is supplied in the first half of this verse, so you might easily read it this way: "Pursue the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord."

As actively as you are engaged in pursuing peace, pursue purity as well. That’s what sanctification means. It means a purity in your life. It means being separate from the world. It means being Christ-like in your thoughts and in your deeds. It means being holy. It means being righteous. And this verse says that we need purity to stand before the Lord.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). So, how are we supposed to gain this purity? On the one hand, we gain our purity through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the great reality of the gospel, that by believing in Jesus, we are cleansed by His blood. All our sins are wiped away through Him. We sang it this morning, right? Actually, we sing it every Sunday morning at Rock Valley Bible Church. We always sing of the gospel. This morning we sang it like this, ...

The greatest of all transactions
The costliest purchase price
Father, Your Son’s atoning death
Was given in payment for mine
To buy me back from slavery
To set me free from my chains [2]

There it is. The death of Jesus in place of our death. His death was a ransom for our death to give us life and freedom. The second stanza goes like this, ...

Now I’ll never know Your judgment
My Savior was judged for me
Jesus, Your death and Yours alone
Has cancelled the debt that I owed
You satisfied the law’s demands
And new life’s been given to me [2]

The same thing. Because Jesus was judged by God, we won’t face the judgment of God. It was the death of Jesus that cancelled our debt. Now, we live the true life! That’s the glories of the gospel. Jesus died to give us a holiness, that we might stand before God holy and blameless.

That’s the point of the argument of Hebrews. Jesus is better. He was a better high priest who offered a better sacrifice and brought in a better covenant. Thus, He gives us access to God like no other high priest. Hebrews 10:11-14, ...

Hebrews 10:11-14
Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

Such news ought to thrill your soul. You ought to be singing, ...

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb
Redeemed through Your infinite mercy
Your child and forever I am [2]

Apart from the work of Christ, and apart from our faith in His work, our story is far different. We need that holiness to stand before the Lord. We need that sanctification to stand before the Lord. So, let’s pursuit it. Let’s pursue it strong.

And here’s the thing: when you pursue Christ with your whole heart, He does a work in your heart, to conform you to Himself. And you gain a personal, and practical holiness, which grows and grows. The more you see and experience Jesus, the more like Him you become. The more your heart will sing with His.

Well, let’s move on. Pursue Peace (verse 14a). Pursue Purity (verse 14b)
3. Pursue Grace (verse 15)

This comes in verse 15, ...

Hebrews 12:15
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; and that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.

God’s grace is there to be had. Jesus has offered His salvation freely to all who would come to Him by faith. And yet, many come short of the grace of God. It's the reality of life here on Earth.

I saw a good illustration of this a little over a month ago at opening day for the Cubs and for the Sox. As many of you know, one of our members organized an outreach for those days at Wrigley Field and Comisky Park (now U.S. Cellular Field). Several of us went and handed out little tracts before the ball game. We handed out little cards with some baseball trivia on the front and a short explanation of the gospel on the back. It was amazing to me how many people refused to take a card.

We all tried giving this little business-card sized card to people, and many, many of them refused. My guess is that my success rate in getting someone to take a card was about 20%.

Here we were, no strings attached, not trying to sell anything, trying to give away these little cards. We were saying short phrases like, "Here, take this." Or, "Here’s a card for you." Or, "It’s free." And yet, few would take them. There was little interest.

I remember thinking of what a good illustration this is of the grace of God that is often refused. We had the words of life on these little cards. And yet, few wanted them. That’s how people are with the grace of God. They don’t want anything to do with it. They think that there are strings attached. If they can’t work for it, they don’t want it. They think that you are trying to sell something.

But, I also noticed something else. I noticed that if people saw someone else take the card, they were more willing to take the card as well. It’s like they saw that you didn’t die if you took the card, so they wouldn’t die either, so they took the card. And so, if there was a group of 10-15 people walking toward you, it was important to work really hard to see that the first person in the group would take a card. Eye-contact was helpful. A smile. Pulling the card out of a pile just as they came seemed to stir their interest. And if they took it, you could be assured that you would be able to hand out a bunch of cards to those walking behind them.

And the writer here says, "See to it that no one come short of the grace of God." Work hard that people would get it, that people would embrace the grace of God in their lives.

This was especially appropriate for the original readers. They were coming out of their Judaism and into the church. And yet, many of them hadn’t come all the way to Christ. They had heard about Him. They had experienced the fellowship of the church. They had heard the good word of God. They had seen the work of the Holy Spirit. They had witnessed the love of the brethren. And yet, they were still on the fringe.

And the writer says, "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God." This was the eminent danger of those who had come from their Judaism. They were in danger of going back, coming short of the grace of God, and returning to their Judaism with it’s sacrifices and priests and festivals and feasts. The call of verse 15 is to do what you can so that they don't fall short of the grace of God. Rejoice in grace. Demonstrate grace. Extend grace.

The call of verse 15 is to the entire body. Look carefully at what he says. He doesn’t say, "Make sure that you don’t come short of the grace of God." That’s true. But, the command is to all of us. The call is for each of us to have a diligence in our walk to pursue the grace of God. But, the wording of this verse makes it much broader and far reaching. He says to all, "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God."

This verb, "See to it" comes from the Greek word, "episcopa", from which we get "Episcopal," which means "to oversee." This is a verb which describes one of the roles of a elders in the church, he is to "oversee" the church. He is to take the high vantage point and survey the flock, seeing where the need is for help. In fact, elders are even called "overseers" in Titus 1:7. But, the writer to the Hebrews isn’t talking only to the leaders of the church. No, he is talking to everyone in the body. The idea here is that we all have the responsibility to oversee each other.

Again, I trust that you see how we need to "Help the Runner." If you see someone coming short of the grace of God, then do what you can to bring them along to see the glories of the Messiah. Everything that we have in Jesus is ours by grace! He is a higher being than the angels. He is a better leader than Moses. He is a better priest than Aaron. He offered up the perfect sacrifice. His covenant with us is better than the Old Covenant. He entered a heavenly tabernacle. "Believe in Him! Trust in Him!"

The sad result is, that when people turn their back on Jesus, they often get bitter. I have spoken with enough people who have come into the church, where the grace of God wasn’t dominant in the body. And they were burned by the church. Someone sinned against them. Someone judged them. Someone said some harsh things against them. Here, they have given much to the church and they had sacrificed much to the church. All they had to show for it was some people who hurt them. And as a result, they want nothing to do with the church -- not now, not ever. That’s what the second half of verse 15 is addressing: "that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled."

I’m sure that most of you heard about Harold Camping’s predictions about yesterday: May 21, 2011. The world was supposed to end yesterday (at 6pm). Now, I want for you to think about his followers. I want for you to think about Robert Fitzpatrick -- the retired worker, who lives in Staten Island, New York.

Through the teachings of Harold Camping, he became convinced that the world was going to end on May 21, 2011. He even wrote a 350 page book entitled, "The Doomsday Code: God Is Warning us Through The Bible." It is available for purchase on Amazon.com. In the book, he thanked Harold Camping for his teaching. He sent a copy of his book to every embassy and consulate in New York that he could. As the day approached, he spent his life-savings on an ad campaign warning the world about the doom coming on May 21.

Fitzpatrick spent the day yesterday with a reporter, who logged some of his activities. He treated yesterday like any other day, except he didn’t do his dishes or water his plants. At 3pm, he went to visit his 94 year old mother, and say good-bye to her. He took the ferry to Manhattan and was in Times Square, by 6pm, awaiting the Rapture.

As 6pm passed, cheers erupted from the crowds of people in Times Square. He looked down at his Bible and read Genesis 7:4, "I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made." He said, "I don't understand why nothing has happened. I did what I had to do. I did what the Bible said." Dejected, he said, "I obviously haven't understood it properly because we're still here ... Let's just say I'm surprised that nothing has happened - everything in the Bible indicated it." [3]

Now, what’s going to happen to Robert Fitzpatrick? My guess is that he will carry on for a few days in a fog. I’m sure that he’ll be embarrassed to face his friends that he warned. I’m sure that he’ll be ashamed at getting God’s word so wrong. But then, as he realizes how he followed these teachings so blindly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he separated himself from Family Radio. I wouldn’t be surprised if bitterness would set into his soul. He may well rise up to write another book about the delusion that he experienced.

Now, I want for you to think about the church. There are those who come into the church and fall short of the grace of God. They never quite get it -- that Jesus paid for all their sins. They stumble over something that Jesus said or something that He did. They get burned in the church. They leave angry and bitter. And then, they spread it.

I’m sure that you have heard it happening in churches. We have even tasted a bit of this at Rock Valley Bible Church. It hurts. It’s hard.

I remember attending a church on several occasions, where a man became bitter against the church and sought to harm the church. He owned the lot next door. I seem to think that this man had been attending the church. Now, I don’t know any of the details at all. But, somehow, someway, the church was seeking to purchase his property (or a portion of it). But, for some reason, it didn’t work out.

The man became embittered at the actions of the pastor and accused him of lying. He didn’t just say it, he erected this large sign on his property, right in front of the main entrance to the church building. It was easily read from the church doorway and detailed the man's side of the story. Basically, the sign said something to the effect that the pastor is a lying, cheating scoundrel. On the sign, it said something like, "I will remove this sign when the pastor leaves."

I heard of another church, or a friend of mine, where a man in the church became embittered against the pastor. He used to attend the church, but now, he merely stands outside the church building, in protest against the pastor. He said that he would come into the church building when the pastor left. And so, he was there, standing at the door of the church every Sunday, but never coming in. For 15 years he did this. Most people in the church thought that he was simply the doorman. At one point, my friend told me that he held a sign that said, "I am not the doorman."

I remember talking with my pastor friend, who said, "You would think at some point, he would just give it up." But such is the sting of bitterness for those who fall short of the grace of God. It can be defiling to many. So, don't come short! Do what you can so that others don't come short of the grace of God.

So, let’s pursue the grace of God in our lives, as well as in the lives of others, that this might not happen. Church family, pledge yourself today to pursue grace.

Let's look at my last point, ...
4. Pursue God (verses 16-17)

At this point, we come to the story of Esau, who came short. Verse 16, ...

Hebrews 12:16-17
that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 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.

Esau’s story is told in Genesis 25. Esau was a man’s man. He loved hunting and the great outdoors. Jacob, his brother, preferred to stay at home, being a "peaceful man" (Gen. 25:27). On one occasion, Esau had been out in the field, working hard. He came back home, "famished" (according to Genesis 25:29). You know the feeling -- when you have worked long and hard, and worked up a great appetite.

So Esau came home. Jacob, according to his nature, had been at home cooking. He cooked up some lentil stew. As Esau came into the door, he saw and smelled what Jacob had been doing and said, "Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished" (Gen. 25:30). Typical gruff talk of the outdoorsman.

At first, Jacob refused him, saying "First sell me your birthright" (Gen. 25:31). As Esau was incredibly hungry, he said, "Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?" (Gen. 25:32). He wasn’t about to die. He had just walked in from the field. You die of starvation when you haven’t eaten for more than a month. And yet, such was the fickleness of Esau. And such is what we need to learn from him.

And so, Jacob said, "First swear to me" (Gen. 25:33). Then, we read those dreadful words, "So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob" (Gen. 25:33). "Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright" (Gen. 25:34).

That’s a big deal. In the ancient near-east, the birthright was everything. The inheritance came to the one with the birthright. The blessing came to the one with the birthright. By giving it over for a pot of stew, Esau was forsaking the blessings in his life. From that moment on, Esau forsook the blessings of God upon his life. We see that come to pass later when Jacob receives the blessing of the oldest son.

This story is told in Genesis 27. We don’t have time for all the details this morning. But, we can summarize. Isaac knew that he was soon to die (Gen. 27:2). So, he brought Esau near and requested that he hunt some game, and prepare a savory dish for him to eat. After that, Isaac would bless Esau before he died (Gen. 27:4).

Well, Rachael had overheard the conversation and schemed with Jacob to deceive Isaac, so that Jacob might receive the blessing in place of Esau. So, she cooked a meal for Isaac. And Jacob brought it to Isaac to eat. When Isaac had finished eating, being deceived, he blessed Jacob instead of Esau (Gen. 27:27-29). Thus, Jacob stole the blessing from Esau, his brother (Gen. 27:36), and quickly departed.

When Esau came back with his game that he prepared, Isaac related to him everything that happened. We read in Genesis 27:34, "When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, ‘Bless me, even me also, O my father!’" (Gen. 27:34). Three times, Esau sought a blessing from Isaac, but Isaac had already given the blessing to Jacob. There was none to give. Esau pleads, "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father" (Gen 27:38). We read, "So Esau lifted his voice and wept" (Gen. 27:38).

Such is the background to verses 16 and 17 of our text this morning.

Hebrews 12:16-17
that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 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.

Esau was a godless person, whose thoughts were upon the here and now, rather than upon the LORD. That’s why I framed my last point like I did. Let’s Pursue God (verses 16-17).

That’s the very thing that Esau failed to do. If Esau had been seeking the things above, he would not have sold his birthright. If Esau had been seeking the things above, he would have obtained the blessing. Instead, all he received was tears. He so desperately wanted to change things, but once it was done, it was impossible to change.

That’s the best way to take this phrase in verse 17: "he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears." He was seeking for Isaac’s repentance. He was seeking for Isaac to be able to change his mind and take back the blessing given to Jacob. But alas, it was impossible.

And the warning comes to us: Let us learn from the anguish of Esau. Let us Pursue God (verses 16-17)

Particularly, in verse 16, the author singles out the sin of immorality. Let us abstain from immorality. This is talking about sexual immorality. This is talking about pornography. This is talking about fornication. This is talking about all types of sexual sin.

Sexual sin is seeking the here and now, rather than seeking the Lord. Sexual sin is seeking earthly pleasure, rather than the heavenly reward. Sexual sin is seeking a bowl of chili now, rather than the marriage supper of the Lamb in glory. Sexual sin is also like the sin of Esau. There are some consequences that can never come back, like pregnancy, like sexually transmitted disease, like some forms of cancer. Try what you like, you cannot reverse these things. Just as Esau tried to change circumstances, they cannot be changed. Many tears have flowed from those who have lived immoral lives, wishing that things might change. But they can’t.

To be sure, forgiveness can be obtained, but the effects of the sin may linger. Consider David, the King. He sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba. Then, he had her husband, Uriah, killed in the front lines of battle. Later, he repented and found forgiveness (see 2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 32, 51).

And when it comes to us and the Lord, we need to Pursue God (verses 16-17) We need to pursue God today! We need to pursue God now! So, let’s "Help the Runner," by reminding each other of these things: Pursue Peace (verse 14a). Pursue Purity (verse 14b), Pursue Grace (verse 15), Pursue God (verses 16-17).

This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on May 22, 2011 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.

[1] Sam Crabtree, "Praciticing Affirmation", pp. 58-60

[2] "The Greatest of All". Chorus by Fanny J. Crosby, music and additional words by Pat Sczebel

[3] http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/05/21/2011-05-21_apocalypse_live_follow_exmta_worker_robert_fitzpatrick_as_he_prepares_for_raptur.html