Faithlife Sermons

Unchained

Heros of Faith  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Hebrews 12:1–3 NLT
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
Yes we are back here again this Sunday, there are so many good things in these verses of scripture that we need to come here again.

The weight of religion

First of all take a look at the phrase “throw off all the weight” - everything that hinders.
The word “Hinders” here can mean any kind of weight.
Last Sunday we looked at the chains of anxiety. Anxiety is a dead weight, which is a pleasure to through off once we know how.
Would you indulge me this morning to think about religion as something to throw off?
Often we look at religion as a good thing. You are looking at me saying Pastor you better explain yourself here.
Why would anyone want to throw off the weight of religion?
How can religion be a weight?
First let’s define “religion” - when I say religion I am talking about a system that emphasizes rules, rituals and regulations as a way of earning God’s favor.
Religion can be seen as a means to barter with God. The message of religion - is always try harder to do better.
Many people have been “turned off” from pursuing God because of the way religion presents God.
There have been some who have said “Everytime I go to church felt like a failure and was told you didn’t make it and Thanks for playing. Try again next week”.
No wonder people buckle under the pressure. That load is unbearable.
Some may have been brought up thinking that religion was the track for running the race God set out for us. But Jesus spoke of religion as a weight - as a part of the problem instead of the technique for running.

Jesus is better

Matt. 23 tells us about a group of religious leaders who listen to Jesus teach. These leaders are known as the best and the brightest of their day, the most spiritual people around.
They know the scriptures backwards and forwards and they define for everyone else what the daily rules are. They thrive on this. Everyone reveres these guys and defers to them, everyone that is except Jesus.
Jesus is not about that. He is not having it and delivers a stinging rebuke in the form of a sermon.
The issue that Jesus addresses is the practice of loading people up with excess rules and regulations.
He says this:
Matthew 23:4 NLT
They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
Religion does that. It crushes people under the weight of trying hard enough to be good enough, and it does nothing to ease the burden.
This goes against everything Jesus taught and everything He came to do.
Good works alone never bought anyone close to God.
The readers of Hebrews had a hard time throwing off the weight of long traditions in these teachings.
The book of Hebrews teaches us to reconcile the Jesus who wrote the law with the Jesus who finally completes it, answers it, and removes the burden once and for all!
The law did do one thing well and that is dramtically played out the pointless effort of trying to please God. It is not that God hates us it is that there was a need for the perfect Savior to come. It points to the fact that we can’t keep the law and we will always feel defeated.
Jesus came, kept the law impeccably, and perfectly intercedes for the rest of us who can’t.
His intercession on our behalf is a free gift of GRACE! All we need to do is ask.
Think of it like this:
Pole vaulting - not your everyday illustration or atheletic endeavor but think of that bar as the law and Christ is the only hero who has ever cleared it. Then he takes his achievement, his medal, his full reward and assigns it to us.
All of us were required to line up and make the leap. We were told we have to clear that bar. No one else made it very far off the ground much less to the level of the bar. We end up embarassed, humiliated with the words “Thanks for playing, try again next week” ringing in our ears.
UNTIL!!!
ONE
MAN
CLEARED
IT!
Hebrews theme - the superiority of Christ.
Jesus is simply better!
Fix your eyes on Jesus because Jesus is better, He is superior to everything and everyone else.
The words “better” and “superior” show up 15 times in the book of Hebrews.
The original readers of this book were first gen. Jewish Christians who faced persecution for their faith, they were ridiculed and opposed.
The message Jesus is better was given to encourage them not to go back and not to give up!
Friends Jesus is the answer! Do not give up. Do not be discouraged.
As you read the book of Hebrews you see Jesus is better:
than the law
than traditions
better than the prophets of old
The first 5 verses of Hebrews point out that in the past God spoke through prophets but now he has spoken to us through HIS Son.
Chapter 3 makes the case that Jesus is better than Moses. This would have been offensive to the first readers because Moses was seen as the ultimate prophet.
Moses was a servant and Jesus is the master!
Jesus is better than
the angels.
the high priests
the old covenant
the sacrifical system
Keep all of this in mind:

Do not trade freedom in Chist for the weight of religion.

Jesus is better than religion.
Jesus is just better. Always has and always will be

Institutionalization

Talk about the illustration of institutionalization.
talk about how walls of a prisoner are hated and then after a while embraced as comfort
have we embraced the safety of what religion brings?
are we comfortable with our list of dos and don’ts with no room for grace?
Religion is attractive because offers a set standard. There is something appealing about a system that lets you measure how good you are.
The religious leaders Jesus was speaking of in Matt. 23 were made partly of Pharisees.
If there was such a thing as a champion team for religious people these guys would be it.
They were proud.
They had an exhaustive list of rules, dos and don’ts that far exceeded what was taught in Hebrew law.
There were more than 600 rules in the OT and that was not enough for the Pharisees.
They found ways to “clarify” the finer details.
If God gave one commandment, they would come up with 100 ways to make sure it was fully obeyed.
Each rule was yet another weight on the runners back.
God said honor the Sabbath by keeping it as a holy day of rest.
How do we know what constitutes the honor thing here?
The Pharisees were on it - the decided and decreed that:
a person could only walk 7-10ths of a mile on the Sabbath
If you got off your donkey, you weren’t allowed to take off the saddle that would be considered working
If a hen laid an egg on the Sabbath you were not allowed to eat the egg because the hen had worked on the Sabbath
Sounds crazy hey?
Can you see how this approach is burdensome?
They created a list of rules and rituals then they kept track.
Did they publish weekly stats on who is the holiest?
The point is there was a well established system to feel better about yourself and feel more judgmental of others.
There are many examples of how tradition carries on because it is not a Hebrew thing it is a human thing.
People come to church we hand out weights and we spend the week trying to run under those weights (expectations).
ladies dress modestly - translates no wearing pants have to wear dresses which can’t be tight or short etc.
no unwholesome talk - which words are that? curse words? but judgemental talk about someone not being as holy or in church and they are a leader… are ok?
Guard your hearts but it is followed with all kinds of subclauses and ammendments. Like no R rated movies or secular music.
The list goes on…and this changes with time.
Religion gives a feeling of superiority much like the guy at the gym who walks in wearing a string tank top and uses a gallon jug as a water bottle. He adds more weight to the bar and grunts loud enough for everyone in the gym can see how much he can lift.
Luke 11 talks about a religious leader who does something like this.
Jesus is eating at the home of a Pharisee and we are told that Jesus didn’t wash his hands before the meal. This was one of the many laws that religious leaders came up with and held over people.
Jesus not washing His hands was not an accidental oversight. He knew what He was doing. He is picking a fight with the religious stat keepers of the day!
Jesus makes the point that He is not ok with all their extra rules and add ons.
He basically states that the religious leaders are bullies who use religion as a way to promote themselves and control people.
Jesus was not having that. He knew that kind of weight crushes people.
Be careful not to do this with badges of perfection or spirituality. (never been drunk, no sex before marriage, evangelism pro, etc).

Throw off the weight!

The Pharisees turned holiness into a weightlifting competition and people were getting crushed.
Jesus came to take the weight off!
The law of sin and death can no longer hold us down.
Matthew 11:28–29 The Message
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Jesus came to free us from the weight of tring hard enough to be good enough.
Continuing to play by these rules will do several things and none good:
Grow frustrated
Feel exhausted
Acting fake until you can’t fake it anymore
End up conceited or defeated

FOWOT

Conclusion:
There are so many abbreviations today. Trying to keep up with that lingo is impossible for me.
YOLO - You only live once
BRB - Be Right Back
LOL - Laugh out loud - Lots of love
NVM - Nevermind
OTW - On the way
TTYL - Talk to you later
FOWOT is another abbreviation but it dictates our life (fear of what others think)
One of the ways Jesus sets us free of the weight of religion is by setting us free from fear of what other people think.
Matt. 23 just after Jesus says the religious leaders crush people with the unbearable weight of religious demands.
Matthew 23:5 NLT
“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels.
The weight of what others think is one that religious people carry whereever you go.
Jesus tells the leaders they may look good on the outside and everyone may be impressed but they are like whitewashed tombs. Clean and well manicured but on the inside a rotting corpse.
Church this morning throw off the weight of religiosity and the FOWOT!
BE FREE!
Jesus makes us free.
When we see ourselves thourgh Jesus eyes we become less concerned about how we look in the eyes of others.
Jesus takes away the sin and gives us righteousness so that we stand before God without blemish or defect!
This is how Jesus sees us.
If you try to earn His love it won’t work.
You don’t earn love points for certain things you do or don’t do.
God does not love that way.
You are free from earning God’s love.
When you begin to understand his love and acceptance it releases you from fearing what other people think.
Then theres real freedom from that heavy weight and you feel light, swift and ready to sprint, eager to get back up and fulfill the mission purpose of your life.
Paul tries to remind believers that Jesus has freed us from these burdens.
Galatians 2:19–21 The Message
What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.
There is so much freedom to be found when we get away from the obsession of what others think.
Go to God for His gracious approval, and loving acceptance and then we will find the greatest freedom ever.
Real freedom
Real Rest
Real Joy
Quit worrying about others acceptance and just rest in God’s
I speak Jesus
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