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.
I’m sure we have all been involved in race, whether it was when we were at school, or maybe recently in a cycling, swimming or running race. Maybe we’ve see our kids in a cross country, or maybe the Olympics.
When we think about racing we think about competing, striving, moving towards an end goal. So a big part of racing is endurance.
I don’t know what experiences comes to mind when I say endurance it might be a time when you were part of a physical race and you hit a wall and you have to keep moving. It might project where it becomes really hard or writing an assignment or just something difficult that you had to push on and keep going. The focus of this passage is having endurance in our faith which is both preserving when its hard and carrying on to the end.
What is this race? Look with me in verse 2, ‘looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith’. This race is all about a transformation, the race is us being transformed into the likeness of Christ.
This is about the end goal of our faith which is our salvation being made perfect (sanctification). Jesus is making perfect our salvation through the completion of our faith. 1 Peter 1:9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
This race is the process of Jesus making us perfect, or transforming us into his likeness.
So in this race of being transformed into Christ's likeness how do we run with endurance?
In this race let’s lay aside every sin and run.
Jesus lived a perfect example of a sinless life. He was tempted like us but he never sinned. As we look at laying aside sin, let's remind ourselves of Jesus’ example of a life lived perfectly.
What is sin? Sin is disobedience or rebellion against God. Sin starts with the disbelief of who God says he is and that his ways are right. Its starts in our heart attitude, develops in our mind with the outcome of disobedient acts. Adam and Eve, believed the lie that God didn’t have their best in mind. Their attitude was ungratefulness or entitlement, they thought there were better things for them than God intended so they disobeyed. Sin starts with the disbelief of who God says he is and that what he says is right.
Sinful thinking produces actions founded on these disbelief's. In our race we need to lay aside every sin in order to run. To do this you must carefully examine what we believe about God and lay aside anything that isn’t true, then replace it with truth. Its the process of transforming your mind Rom 12:2. Its a deliberate and decisive action that we need to take. Ephesians 4:22-24 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
We need to lay aside this wrong thinking about God and what he says about himself and put on a new way of thinking. In doing this we are laying aside sin and we are moving towards the goal of being made like Christ. Running with endurance is continuing to do this again and again.
How can we lay aside, or put off this wrong thinking and put on a new self?
Something that stood out for me in our Proverbs study was Proverbs 16:2 all the ways of man are pure in his own eyes, but the lord weighs the spirit.
I have tendency to think my ways are right. I sometimes catch myself describing a story about one of my colleagues and then I end with ‘but I just wouldn’t do that’, or ‘I’m not like that.’ I sometimes have this tendency to justify all my own actions because think that I am to doing the right thing.
My sin is this belief is that my ways are pure in my eyes. But not my colleague, but not that person. I forget that I am equally as broken, equally as fallen and prone to be selfish as the next person. This false perspective of myself stops me from me from allowing God to change me into the likeness Christ. So my sin is my belief, that my ways are pure. I realize I have to lay this sin of self righteousness aside and put on a new way of thinking. As I do this with the guidance and prompting of the Holy Spirit I am allowing Jesus to transform me into his likeness. By doing this repeatedly I am running with endurance. I am keeping at it until I reach the end goal. The goal of being made completely like Christ.
If we remove our wrong thinking about God and who he is and lay aside our sin. We can allow truth to transform our thinking and move towards the goal of being made like Christ.
So what sin is slowing you down in your race? Do you tend to put your confidence in things that you can control rather than trust in God’s sovereignty. Do you seek your value and worth in something other than the identity the Christ has given you? Whatever this sin is the writer of Hebrews is telling us to lay aside this sin and put on a new self through new way of thinking. In doing so we are laying aside any the sin that slows us down in in this process of becoming like Christ.
In this race let's look to Joy Look with me in verse 2 ‘For the Joy set before him he endured the Cross.’ Something motivated Jesus to endure the unbearable suffering of the Cross. In the hours before he was put to death we find him in Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood because he was under extreme stress.
The suffering to come was so close and overwhelming. And this was his prayer Luke 22;42 “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me. Yet not My will,but Yours be done.” It is in this prayer we find what motivated him to continue on until the end. It was obedience to the Fathers will. There was no joy in suffering but joy came through obedience to Father.
He knew the truth about who the Father was and that the Fathers ways were right. He succeeded where Adam and Eve failed. In this way, he sets the example for us to follow. Obedience to God’s will results in the joy of know what you are doing is right.
Proverbs 3:7-8 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.
There is an immediate and present joy of obeying the Father, it will bring healing, and refreshment. When we believe the truth that what God says is right and are obedient, we experience that Joy.
There's this immediate joy through right behavior, but there's also the ongoing Joy of knowing through trials we are being made like Christ. (God is developing righteousness in us.). - James 1:2 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking.”
In trials we have a choice. A choice to obey or to disobey. When we obey we are persevering despite hardship. Persevering allows us to grow into Christ Like thinking and attitudes. Through small steps of obedience we become like Jesus, we are transformed into his likeness. There is a joy when righteousness is produced in us. Through obedience we experience the continued joy of being transformed into Christ's likeness.
How do we view trials that we go through on a daily basis. Do we view them as opportunities to grow? Do we choose to obey and do what is right? If we do this moment by moment as guided by his Spirit we are moving toward the goal transformed into the likeness of Christ through obedience.
There is a third time of Joy that come from our confidence of knowing that one day we will reach our end goal and the race will finish.
Jesus ran the race well to the end. We must continue to the end.
One day we will arrive at the end of the race, won’t have endure anymore. We won’t have run or experience suffering anymore. We will receive the prize, we will finish. How great will that day be when we complete the race! When we are perfect like Christ.
But we are not there yet. Endurance is moving towards that goal until the end. Philippians 3:14 says I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. We still have to press on by laying aside every sin and putting on a new self. . We must continue in obedient to God in difficult situations. We cannot do this on our own, we do this by looking to Jesus through faith.
It is through faith in the person and the saving work of Jesus Christ that we begin this race. Its through continued faith in Jesus as the perfecter of our faith that we are able to run with endurance. It is through faith that we look forward to the end goal with confidence because Jesus is the one doing the the transforming. It through the prompting and guiding of Holy Spirit that we have direction and the desire to be transformed. Phil 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began this good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
We can be confident about the outcome because it is Christ not us, who is completing this transformation. We know that on that we will be exalted in him, we we be glorified with him, when because we are in Christ. Ephesians 2:9 Is by Grace through faith that that this will happen, we can’t boast that we have achieved anything but we boast in what Christ has done in us. In this way Christs joy is our joy, Christs end goal is our end goal.
Any human role model has great things we can look up to and follow. But never can we fully follow someone's example, there is not one single human being that is a perfect example to follow, Expect for Christ. We can follow Christ's example in every way because not only are his ways perfect, not only do we share the same goal and the same joy, but he is fully invested in the same outcome as us. He started it through his death he will finish it as the living Saviour who is our Brother, our mediator, our king.
So what now after church we will walk out the door and get back to things as usual, how do we make sure God's words in Hebrews stick, that they make a difference? We continually lay a side wrong thinking about God and what he says about himself and put on a new way of thinking. Let's follow to Christ’s example of obedience in difficult circumstance and experience immediate and ongoing Joy. Let's look forward to complete transformation with confidence because Christ is the author and perfecter of our Faith. And we do all this through the guiding and prompting of his holy spirit.