Staying on Course
Scripture Reading 1 Timothy 2:1-13
Good morning church family. I hope you all had a safe 4th of July. As Chris mentioned last week he has been here just over 6 months. We have been in Colossians all year and he asked me to preach after he concluded Paul’s letter. It always takes me a while to discern what God wants me to preach on. As I thought about what to preach on, I started to reflect on the last 6 months. I have been continually surprised about what God has been showing me each week. I shouldn’t be surprised but I am. I have been surprised by the depth that is in the Word and how much I have glossed over in my reading of the book of Colossians in the past. I have to admit I have also had to realized that I have learned some things wrong or incomplete. I want to thank Chris for trusting the Word and the Holy Spirit to reveal His truths to us. How about you? Have you been challenged or stretched through the book of Colossians? As I reflected on this, my mind kept coming back to a specific set of scriptures.
This scripture was the first scripture I ever memorized. I actually memorized it months before I became a Christian. This is a scripture that I have not deeply explored since then. I have read it and quoted it but I have not really studied it. I wanted to go back through the scripture and see what God says through them today. They are very applicable to each of us today and to the life of our Church here.
The scripture is Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up.
A little background on the passage. The book of Hebrews was written by an unknown Author. Many have tried to determine who wrote it but there is not conclusive evidence pointing to any one person. It is unique in it structure and it does not follow the traditions of the other letters in the bible It is most likely a letter or a sermon to a small group of Jewish Christians and not to the general public. The writer was part of this group. We know this due to the familiarity with the readers and specific details in the letter. He talks about earlier days and wanting to return to them.
The beginning of Hebrews 12 is a transition between chapters 11 and 12. Depending on the bible translation you have these verses may be grouped a a conclusion to chapter 11 or the beginning of the next section.
Inspiration to the Racer
Inspiration to the Racer
The author uses imagery of a racer to bring to light the truth that God wants to share with his friends. He starts Chapter 12 with “Therefore”. This is pointing back to the “Faith Hall of Fame” as we call it. The writer has just recalled some of the great people in the bible. He is reminding this group of Christians, of the Enduring Faith of the men and women that has come before them.
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For by it our ancestors won God’s approval. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith.
He then goes on to detailing out the example of faith of OT people and concludes with
And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead, raised to life again. Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.
Because of all of these great examples of Faith He writes:
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us...
Who are the witnesses that are being spoke of? Raise your hand if the first image in your head was a stadium or a long race with all of the people of the last chapter watching you race down the track? This as what I thought this ment but the word witness can be used two ways and there is a tension here about how it is used here. The definition of a witness is;
Witness: Someone who sees an event and reports what happened.
The difference is dependent on whether the witnesses are seeing or reporting. Are the witnesses seeing something for the first time or are they coming before a court and giving an account or testimony to what they saw observed. Are we surrounded by witnesses in life? Absolutely. Paul tells Timothy:
1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of eternal life to which you were called and about which you have made a good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
It is true that our Faith plays out in front of many people and how we live are lives for Jesus very important but based on the tie to Chapter 11, it makes more sense that the writer is communicating that all of the people of the last chapter are testifying to the endurance of Faith. He was pointing them back to these men and women who’s lives God recorded for us as examples of the faith. They are examples that overcame great obstacles, they failed at times, their lives were not easy and they endured many hard days. But they lived in Faith that the promises of God would come true even if they did not see it with their own eyes.
There isn’t anything to suggest that they are watching us cheering us on or watching us fail. They have lived and died and their lives testimony is shared with us. We must look to the word for encouragement and the reality of what a faithful life looks like.
by holding firm to the word of life. Then I can boast in the day of Christ that I didn’t run or labor for nothing.
We must hold firm to the word of life.
We must be very careful to what we hold firm too. We cannot hang on to the Saints and worship them. We cannot hold firm to pastors and teachers and follow them blindly. We cannot look to self help books and follow them. We can seek information from all of them but we cannot hold firm to them.
As Christians running the race we:
Look to the testimony of the witnesses that came before us and give testimony to those that come behind.
What have you seen that you can give a report on to your coworkers or neighbors? What are some specifics of your ongoing testimony to your race?
Instruction to the Racer
Instruction to the Racer
We have seen that finishing the race is possible through the testimony given chapter 11 and many other places in scripture. Do you ever read the bible and read about people like King David and think to yourself, “He had such huge faith, I could never be like that?” or “That’s great but how did he get there?” The verse continues with instruction on how to run the race of faith.
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us,
let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us.
This part of this verse is so easy to read. Even an engineer is not challenged by the wording. There are no hard names, no foreign concepts, the language is so familiar to us, that it is really easy to speed through this part of the verse and not stop to see what lays below the surface. If you read this like I did as a kid maybe all you got out of it was “Don’t sin.” I really doubt that “Don’t Sin” is a new concept to most of us. But lets look into it deeper. The idea starts with “Let us”
The author is part of this group of believers. He is calling himself and the recipients of the message to join him in action. Lay aside means:
lay aside: to take off, or to stop oneself from being in a state or condition
let us lay aside: to take off, or to stop oneself from being in a state or condition
This can simply mean to take off. Like to take off a garment. It can also mean to stop oneself from being in a state or condition.
One way to say this would be to say “Let us take off every hindrance and sin” or what if we said “Let us change our state of carrying hindrances and let us change our state of sinning”
If you remember back to Colossians Paul uses the same command and it is translated as “Put away”
But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.
Change your state of: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language.
Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
Here it is translating “ridding”. Change your state of moral filth and evil. Change from your pride to humility to recieve the word.
every: Each. As in every one counted individually
let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. We are supposed to lay aside our hindrances and sins but there is that little word in between those thoughts. Every means
every: Each. As in every one counted individually
We are now not looking at hindrances and sins in generalities but in very specific detail. But isn’t this what we do at church and with our fellow brothers and sisters. We talk about our struggles and growth in generalities. Do we interact with ourselves and others at the individual sin detail? We need to look at each individual thing in our lives that hinders us and each sin we have. If we want to run the race with the power and endurance that is possible then we must focus on the details.
How many of you have trained for a sport or event? As an athlete I remember going to the gym and specifically the weight room to get stronger. And if you go into one you will see that there are 1000s of different types of machines in there. Who here raised your hand only uses one machine at the gym. Why isn’t there just one machine? Because our bodies are complex organisms that get stronger in various ways. I remember a pitcher in high school who would take out weights and do moves like this. If you want to be a successful runner you cannot just do weights. You have to run. But you run short distances and long ones. You run up hills and in different weather climates. You don’t just jump on a treadmill for an hour a day and then run a marathon. Kyle just finished a 1/2 iron man. 1.2 mile Swim | 56 mile Bike | 13.1 mile Run
I really doubt he focused on just one training event. He had to focus on each part individually. Our spiritual lives are complex and to grow in likeness of Jesus we need to have the same determination of an athlete to see the details of our lives and then we need to repent and change our state of living with those sins.
1 Corinthians 9:24–27
Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
What if we as Christian’s disciplined our walk with God and our service to God with the same passion, determination, planning and detail as we do in other parts of our lives? What is the perishable crown you are seeking that will fade away? Where is your effort going to instead of the imperishable crown. As awesome as it is for Kyle to accomplish what he has done, it doesn’t go to heaven with him. Mine is my job. I am realizing how much I naturally focus on my job. This is in contrast to how naturally I focus on God’s plans for me.
This brings us to the word hindrance in the verse.
A hindrance is impediment ⇔ bulk n. — something immaterial that interferes with or delays action or progress; understood as a large and weighty mass.
Runners and athletes at the time would run light. They would strip off every thing they could so they would not be weighted down during their competition. many times they would literally strip every thing off. These hindrances are not sins because the author list those separately.
So what is he referring to? The bible does not say directly but the letter is to Jewish Christians. They were Jews that had come to know Jesus as their Lord and savior. They were most likely having a very hard time removing some of the legalistic bulk that they were accustomed to and were familiar with. They may have even moved away from some of it traditions of the Jewish religion and were moving back into them.
For us here, this applies to many of us. Some here were Catholic or Mormon or just came out of a different Baptist church. We carry traditions and ideas from our past experiences and hang onto those as we try to live our lives. If we are not specific in finding and dealing with the bulk that we carry from our past experiences they can way us down. They can keep us from running the race efficiently. This means anything that is not defined as a sin scripturally but does not help us advance the kingdom of God.
What does extra bulk look like? Haydon come up here...
This brings us to sin.Sin is by definition:
sin (act) n. — an act or feeling that transgresses something forbidden or ignores something required by God’s law or character; whether in thought, feeling, speech, or action.
So easily ensnares = skillfully encircling on all sides (to attack, assail, or inhibit action).
Did you notice that sin is active? It easily and skillfully encircles us. it attacks us. it inhibits us.
If hindrances slow us down sin stops us in our tracks. We can still run with bulk but we cannot run when we are trapped.
I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The enemy is using our sin for his purposes. Do you have anger? Is it all you think about? Do you dwell in it?
Is your health and idol? What i mean by that is do you seek health before Jesus and with more passion than than you do the church and God plan for you life?
Are you promoting dissension or factions around you?
Are you selfish about your time? Do you struggle to give time to God? Do you prioritize your time? Do you actually believe that it is your time anymore?
Do you live a life that takes into account and prepares for skillful attacks that easily ensnare us? Or do you live like most people and believe that that will never happen to me. Unfortunately we live very defensively instead of offensively. We should be preparing for the attacks not waking up one day realizing how stuck we are.
Why do we worry about hindrances ans sins? so that we can
...run with endurance the race that lies before us.
To run with endurance means
steadfast endurance n. — the power to withstand hardship or stress; especially the inward fortitude necessary.
Who here would like some more power to withstand hardships? Are you willing to do what the bible says. To individually strip off each hindrance that is slowing you down? Are you willing to deal with the individual sin in your life?
Why is this so important? The author here speaks of an individual racer but Christianity is a team sport. Is it not. We are responsible individually but we work cooperatively.
For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all given one Spirit to drink. Indeed, the body is not one part but many. If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” it is not for that reason any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” it is not for that reason any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as he wanted. And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable. And those parts of the body that we consider less honorable, we clothe these with greater honor, and our unrespectable parts are treated with greater respect, which our respectable parts do not need. Instead, God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it.
We tend to think that our sins and our complacency only effect ourselves but God’s Word is clear. The church is a group of Christians. Each and every one of us have a responsibility to be a part of the body of Christ but we must work together.
I personally want to run an amazing race. I hope you want to as well. If you need help in working through sin or growing give Chris a call.
Maybe you are not a Christian, you have never accepted Him as your Lord and savior, then you have not entered the race. I can boldly say that running this race is amazing. Jesus is amazing and if you have any questions about what you have heard today or in general. Please contact us.