Look to Jesus

I just had some thoughts I wanted to share from Hebrews 12:1-2. My husband and I have been talking lately about some old sins that tend to creep back up in our lives and how to deal with them. Our question to each other was, “how do we conquer them?” This Hebrews passage came to my mind and we read it together. The answer was right there in front of us and I want to share it with you.

“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.” – Hebrews 12:1 NLT

The writer is telling the Hebrew believers (and all believers) to strip off every weight and sin that slows us down and trips us up. That means anything that is a hindrance to us in our Christian walk. There are things in our lives that are actually good that can hinder us from a closer walk with Christ. In a sermon on this verse, John Angell James gives us a word of warning and exhortation toward our “besetting” or entangling sins:

Besetting sins are powerful hindrances to Christian progress. In the case of most people, there is some one sin to which, either from their situation, taste, constitution, or other circumstances—they are more powerfully tempted than to others.

Satan knows very well what in every case this is, and skillfully adapts his temptations to it. He is an expert angler, and never chooses his bait, or throws his line, at random! Independently, however, of him, the very tendency of the heart is in that direction.

That one sin, whatever it is, while indulged, will hold you back! You cannot make progress in holiness, until it is mortified. Even its partial indulgence, though it may be considerably weakened, will hinder you!

Study then your situation, circumstances, and constitution. You cannot be ignorant which temptation and sin, you are most liable to succumb to. You must know in what way you have most frequently wounded your conscience, and occasioned to yourself shame and sorrow.

Is it an unsanctified temper?

Is it an impure imagination?

Is it a proud heart?

Is it a vain mind?

Is it a taste for worldly company?

Is it a proneness to envy and jealousy?

Is it a love of money?

Is it a tendency to exaggeration in speech?

Is it a fondness for pleasure?

Is it a disposition to censoriousness and backbiting?

Study yourselves! Examine your own heart! You must find out this matter, and it requires no great pains in order to know it. It floats upon the surface of the heart, and does not lie hidden in its depths. There, there, is your danger! As long as that one sin, be it what it may, is indulged, you cannot advance in the Christian life! Other sins are like unnecessary clothing to the racer. Besetting sins are like a ball and chain around his ankle!

Direct your attention more fixedly, and your aim more constantly, to the destruction of besetting sins. You know what they are, whether … lusts of the flesh, or lusts of the mind, or bad tempers toward man, or sinful dispositions toward God, or violations of piety.

Let us be distinguished by a great mortification of besetting sins, which, more than anything else … distress us, disgrace us, and hindered us in our progress heavenward.

No sins require … such severe mortification, such incessant labor, such earnest prayer, such strong faith for their destruction as besetting sins. But all this is necessary, for if they are not destroyed, they will probably destroy us.

So how do we get rid of the weights and sins that entangle us? Verse 2 gives us the answer.

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.” – Hebrews 12:2 NLT

The answer to stripping off everything that keeps us from Jesus is by keeping our eyes on Jesus! In the Greek, this means looking away from everything else and looking at nothing else except our Lord and Savior. The NASB version says we “fix our eyes” on Jesus meaning we fasten our eyes, attention, and mind unswervingly upon Him. Our lives are to be so focused on Jesus that we are not distracted by sins and hindrances in this life.

What does keeping our eyes on Jesus look like? It means to trust Him and have an attitude of faith. To trust in Jesus is to sacrifice your pride, worry, fear, and control to Him. He modeled this for us when he took the shame of the cross for us. He looked past His pain and torment because He knew what was beyond it – the joy of making a way for mankind to be one with God. Can we lay down the things that trip us up and look beyond our suffering right now knowing that there will be joy ahead? Can we deny the flesh and sacrifice the things that hinder us right now so that we can live the abundant life that God has called us to live? “So, if our hearts be occupied with the sacrificial love of Christ for us, we shall be ‘constrained’ thereby to drop all that which displeases Him; and the more we dwell upon the joy set before us, the more strength shall we have to run “with patience the race that is set before us.” AW Pink

  • Are you suffering? Look to Jesus for strength.
  • Are you worried? Look to Jesus for peace.
  • Are you tired? Look to Jesus for rest.
  • Are you struggling? Look to Jesus for freedom.
  • Are you apathetic? Look to Jesus for a fresh spirit.
  • Are you hurting? Look to Jesus for healing.
  • Are you lost? Look to Jesus to be found.
  • Are you confused? Look to Jesus for clarity.

In all things, look to Jesus the author, perfecter and finisher of our faith. Amen.

Grace Nuggets: Romans 1:16-17

Romans 1:16-17 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Why is Paul not ashamed of the Gospel? He gives us three reasons:

  1. The Gospel is God’s power of bringing salvation to everyone who believes.
    • It is God’s power that brings us into salvation – not our works or deeds because they are powerless to make us righteous. And this is good news for us because it takes the pressure off of us to perform to be right with God. All we have to do is just believe in His finished work! The Gospel is good news because it shows us that God loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for our sins – knowing we are imperfect, messy, sinful people. We were separated from God when Adam sinned in the Garden but our Greater Adam, Jesus, came to reconcile us back to God, therefore, making a way for us to be right with Him once again!
  2. The Gospel is the righteousness of God revealed.
    • Paul gives us the theme of Romans: The Gospel is God’s righteousness being revealed to mankind. Throughout the book, Paul will show the Romans (and us) how God can declare sinners right with Him. First, Paul must show his readers how unrighteous man is (Rom 1:18-3:20). Paul’s indictment against all men is enough to make you wonder why God would want to give us His righteousness! But as Warren Wiersbe puts it, “we can never know the righteousness of God until we understand the unrighteousness of man.” When God gives a sinner His righteousness He treats the sinner as if he had not been a sinner at all (Barclay).The contrast between our unrighteousness and God offering His righteousness to us, shows how much He truly loves us! Romans 5:8 says that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What an amazing God!
  3. The Gospel is the righteousness of God that comes through faith.
    • Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel because it is God’s power to save us and reveals how we are made right with God. How is God’s righteousness revealed? By faith. Paul says that the righteousness of God is revealed by faith from first to last, or faith to faith, or from faith beginning to end. It’s not from faith to works or faith to law. This means that our salvation is accomplished only by putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. We cannot work for it nor earn it. It is given to us as a free gift of grace and can only be received by believing in faith. This fulfills Habakkuk 2:4 which says that the just or the righteous will live by faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 confirms this when it says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” The righteousness of God is given to us by grace through faith, not our works or efforts. Faith is not only by which we are saved but is the basis of the Christian life. We are saved by faith and we live by faith.

You are unrighteous. God is righteous. God cannot accept your sin and you can never be righteous with God through your efforts and works. You are hopeless. But God reveals hope to you: Jesus. You believe in Jesus by faith. God declares you righteous. You are saved by faith and you live by faith. This is why we should echo Paul’s declaration: I am not ashamed of the Gospel! Amen.