Weight and Clingy Sin

Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12 1 b NRSV

Pretend with me for a few minutes.  You are a well- conditioned athlete.  You have exercised hard, gone to every team practice, listened to your coach, and now you are about to get into the blocks awaiting the sound of the starting gun.  You are scared, shaky, and sweaty.  This has been your goal since you were 10 years old—to run this race and maybe even win!  You wonder, do I have everything that I need?  Shoes—check.  Proper clothes—check.  Cell phone—check.  Umbrella (in case of rain) —check.  Change of clothes (in case of rain) —check.  Sunglasses—check.  A pocket of change—check.  Bottle of sun screen—check.  First aid kit (heaven forbid if I fall, but just in case) —check.  House keys, car keys, church key, and safety deposit box key—check.  Clean underwear (just in case) —check.  Last Will and Testimony—check. Tomorrow’s homework assignment (unlikely, but) —check. Girlfriend’s picture —check.  Ear buds —check.  Full water bottle —check.  Protein snack—check.    When the call comes to get into the blocks, you try but all the stuff you are carrying begins to fall out of your pockets, off your head, out of your briefcase, and the suitcase breaks open unleashing tons of video games and decks.  You try in vain to get all of this essential stuff back into its containers so that you can run the race.  You could leave it all sitting on the track at the starting block, or you could just pack it all back up and slowly drag it off the course, and maybe try another day.  Maybe you could get better organized the next time.  Don’t say that bad word, downsize, because all of this stuff is absolutely necessary to run the race properly and without worry.  Regardless, this does not look like a good day to run a race.

You drag your stuff slowly off of the track.  Got to have that stuff, right?  Stuff is more important than the race.  What is life worth without our stuff?  Some of the stuff, I guess, you might be able to part with, such as the homework assignment, and the girlfriend’s picture (there are always more girls), but most of this stuff is essential.

That is the mistake a lot of people make.  We get so caught up in stuff that it hinders us from running our race and we end up staggering down the track and never finishing because our back is broken from carrying all of our stuff. We stumble, we fall, we slowly pick ourselves back up, we lick our wounds, and then head for the locker room. Paul talked about this, but instead of calling it our stuff, he called it a weight and our sin. Truly, sin is heavy and is a weight.   Not only that, but Paul tells us that sin is clingy.

“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Maybe some of you have actually washed and then dried clothes in a clothes dryer before.  I have a few times.  Well, one thing that is essential to use when you dry clothes is fabric softener sheets which control static cling.  If you forget to throw one into the dryer, when the clothes are dry they are really, really clingy.  The clothes are fastened to one another with a death hold.  You have to peel them off of one another, and then make sure that the individual pieces of clothing don’t start clinging with themselves, like an arm to an arm, or the leg to the waistband.  You can get into a real take down trying to un-cling laundry.  That is the way it is with sin, according to Paul.  Sins are very clingy.  Once you start accumulating sin in your life, the sins cling to one another and to you.  Apparently, they like company.  If you don’t keep ahead of the sin in your life, you are going to have a clothes dryer type of disaster on your hands.  Imagine what having a lot of clingy sin in your life will do to you as you try to run the race set before you.  Your mind will be on the sin and not on Jesus.  Lay aside the sin and look to Jesus!

Besides all of the clingy sin in your life, Paul talks about the weights that you attempt to carry while running.  When you are overcome with a lot of weight, be it worry, cares, anxiety, unneeded possessions, or unhealthy relationships— you name it, you are slowed down to a snail’s pace.  If you run at all, you lack energy and enthusiasm for the race.  Paul says to get rid of the weight!  Just like the runner in the example, weight can sabotage your efforts and actually cause you to withdraw from the race.  Keep things simple:  Get rid of the weight of worry and all of his buddies, and get rid of the clingy sin.

What kind of weights and clingy sin do you need to drop at the starting line so that you can make it to the finish line?

-Luke Elwell

 

Paul Faces Felix

image (1)
Acts 24
When the Roman Empire conquered the Holy Land in the middle of the first century BC, it established its own rulers to ensure peace and cooperation throughout the region. The Jews have had a long history of revolting against their rulers (especially when they weren’t monotheists), so it makes sense that one of the main jobs of the regional Roman rulers was to keep Zealots (Jews who vocally, and sometimes violently, opposed Roman rule in their homeland) from causing too much trouble. Whenever any of these Zealots caused an uprising in a Jewish city, there were major consequences–sometimes death.
 So when in chapter 24, the attorney for the Jewish elders accused Paul of being a trouble maker who stirred up riots among the Jews, he was saying that Paul was not such a great guy and should perhaps be killed. He also claimed that Paul desecrated the temple–a capital offense. These religious leaders wanted Paul taken out.
As Paul stood to defend himself before Felix, the first of several Roman rulers who would hear his case, he was up against some serious allegations. But Paul was unfazed. He had just been assured by his Master that his journey would not end here. Paul spoke boldly in both the defense of his character and his faith. I think Paul would have done this even without that assurance because of where he had his focus. Paul’s eyes were fixed firmly on his savior and the future hope of the resurrection. This allowed Paul to operate without fear of death or retribution–to be at peace.
You may not live in a society where you must defend yourself or your faith in front of corrupt rulers. But perhaps someday you will face charges because of your beliefs. If that time ever comes, you, like Paul, can have a peace that passes understanding. Trust in God, rely on His promises, focus on His Son and the hope of the resurrection, and pray.
-Joel Fletcher