Going For Gold!
2. Remove Any Hindrances
Hebrews 12: 1b
We’re continuing in our series called, “Going for Gold” as we train together to become spiritual champions. The Olympics took place during the time the NT was written and the Isthmian Games were held in Corinth every 2 years. Athletic imagery is sprinkled throughout Scripture.
Our key verse is found in Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Last week we remembered the witnesses as we looked at those men and women in Hebrews 11 who believed and behaved by faith. I trust that you’ve grown in your ability to walk by faith this week and that you were able to study one of the people mentioned. I hope you’ve been encouraged and that you’ve learned from their example. Our focus today is on the middle phrase of v. 1: “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us…” This passage packs a punch because we’re to radically remove… Stuff that encumbers, Sin that entangles
Lay it Aside
1. Throw Off Stuff That Encumbers
“…throw off everything that hinders...” NLT - “let us strip off every weight that slows us down.” The word can mean a “hindrance, burden, bulk or a mass,” and carries with it the idea of something bending or bulging.
This passage has one imperative, or command: LET US RUN!
We are to throw off stuff that slows us down so we can run with speed. When Olympic athletes compete, they get as streamlined as possible. In the summer games most of the swimmers vacuum-pack themselves into long-john style swimsuits. Runners wear lightweight shirts, shoes and shorts. I read this week that Ferrari built the bobsled for the Italian team, working on it for 4 four years to make sure it is as aerodynamic as possible. It looks like a bullet.
I’m reminded of two men who were riding on a tandem bike going up a steep hill. They were panting and perspiring as they neared the top of the incline. The first man said, “That was a tough climb.” The guy on the back agreed and added, “Yes, if I hadn’t kept the brake on, we would’ve slid down that hill backwards!”
Is there something, or someone, that is keeping the brakes on your spiritual growth? Is there an obstacle or encumbrance that is slowing you down?
In considering what may be slowing you down, it’s important to remember these 3 truths.
A. The problem is often not what the weight is, but what it does to you. I find it interesting that when the blind man came to Jesus in Mark 10:50, he threw aside his cloak.
B. The choice is often between what is good and what is best. Say - “I’m holding nothing back from you.”
C. What is a hindrance to you might not be a hindrance for someone else.
Notice that we are to throw off every weight that hinders us from running the race. C.S. Lewis was right when he said, “The complacency of Christians is the scandal of Christianity.” What is it that is slowing you down? Are you ready to part with a hurt, a habit or a hang-up that is hindering your pursuit of holiness?
The idea is to launch these things as far as we can throw them. James 1:21 captures the meaning: “Therefore get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent…”
This is also illustrated in Colossians 3: 8: “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips.”
Be severe about it. Throw it away. Chuck it. Get rid of it.
It’s helpful to ask the question: Does this activity or relationship or schedule help me or hinder me from running the race of faith? Be ruthless about what stays and what goes.
This passage also has application to us as a church, doesn’t it? We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help, not hinder us from going forward to accomplish our mission, which is to equip people to reach their full potential in Jesus Christ.
So, let’s first throw off the stuff that encumbers. Second, let’s…
2. Throw Off Sin That Entangles
If stuff encumbers by slowing us down, sin entangles by tripping us up. Notice the next phrase: Let us lay aside…“the sin that so easily entangles.” The use of the definite article “the” before the word “sin” would seem to indicate that there was a specific sin that was tripping up the early Christians.
The number 1 transgression addressed in the Book of Hebrews is -
A. The sin of unbelief.
That’s why the author continually reminds his readers that Jesus is far superior to angels, the prophets, Moses, kings and priests. Hebrews 3: 19 says that it was a lack of faith that entangled Israel, robbing an entire generation of the joys of the Promised Land: “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
Romans 11: 20: “Because of unbelief they were broken off.” One reason the author lists all the individuals in Hebrews 11 is so his readers would not give up on God. As they looked at the list they would be encouraged to believe and behave accordingly, just like we are today.
B. Sin Ensnares Us
This is a graphic description of something that sin does: it easily ensnares us. The word, “ensnare” means to “ambush, entrap, or encircle.” I like how descriptive the ESV is: “Let us also lay aside…sin which clings so closely.” Luther referred to it as “the sin which always so clings to us.” It’s the idea of a competitor thwarting your every move. The picture is that of twine or weeds wrapped around your feet so that you cannot run…or wearing heavy boots that are tied together.
Psalm 9: 15 captures the meaning: “…their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.”
Peter makes the point that if we’re not vigilant, and become entangled in transgressions, our walk with Christ can be thrown off and we can go backwards: 2 Peter 2: 20: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.”
C. We Each Have Our Signature Sin.
At the root, all sin is really unbelief. It just goes by different names and is demonstrated in various ways. Most Christians have a “signature sin,” which is a sin that has your name on it. It might be considered your “fatal flaw,” which is that area that gives you the most trouble. This makes me think of King Solomon. He had a lot of good things going for him but there was one sin that kept tripping him up -1 Kings 3: 3: “Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.”
Some truths to think about when targeting our signature sins -
i. The battle is usually won or lost in the first 5 or 10 seconds you’re tempted.
The longer you consider the devil’s offer the more likely it is that you will lose. Use the model of Jesus in the wilderness. When He was tempted by Satan on 3 different occasions, He immediately responded each time in Luke 4 by saying, “It is written…it is written…for it is written.” Make the right choice right away, using the Word of God as the sword of the Spirit to fight off Satan, sin, and selfishness.
ii. There is greater pleasure in overcoming sin than there is in giving in to it.
Let’s be honest about sin. It’s fun. In fact, sin is enjoyable. That’s why we sin. In Hebrews 11: 25 sin is referred to as “pleasurable.” But don’t forget the last part of the verse. Moses knew that sin was satisfying, but it was just for a “short time.” The great taste in your mouth has a way of turning your stomach on edge. Friend, it is much more satisfying to say yes to God than it is to succumb to sin.
iii. Sin will always take you further than you planned to go and keep you longer than you were planning to stay.
Jesus said in John 8: 34 that “everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Sin is no small thing. The more we play around with it, the more in bondage we become. Proverbs 5: 22: “His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin.”
iv. When you’re tempted there is always a way out.
Don’t give in to the thought that you have no choice when it comes to sin. God has made a promise to give you an escape route in 1 Corinthians 10: 13: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Many of us give in to sin way too easily. Hebrews 12: 4 provides a strong challenge: “You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.”
v. The only way to victory is through the blood of Christ.
You and I can have victory over stuff that encumbers and sin that entangles. Psalm 25: 15 tells us where this victory comes from: “My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for He shall pluck my feet out of the net.” If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, 1 Corinthians 15:57 is a tremendous encouragement: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Hindrance Hurdles and Signature Sins
1. What’s some of the stuff that is encumbering you? Write it down. What one thing is hindering you?
2. What sin is entangling you right now? What sin has your name on it? Maybe you have a lot of good things going on like Solomon but there’s an “except that…” somewhere in your life. Write it down.
It is Finished
I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul said about a city in Greece, where the Olympics started, some 1900 years ago in Acts 17. When he walked around, he was greatly distressed to see that the place was full of idols. He saw all the stuff that was slowing them down and all the sins that were tripping them up. He reasoned with the people, acknowledging that they were very religious. He then proclaimed the way of freedom and forgiveness to them, beginning with the doctrine of creation and ending with the doctrine of redemption. He then summarized what it is that they needed to do in Acts 17: 30: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent.”
Friend, no matter how religious you try to be, or how hard you work to get rid of your unholy habits or the sins that have ensnared you, you will always fall short. It’s not enough to be religious if you’ve never repented.
If you’ve confessed and repented, the Father has forgiven you and Christ has cut the cord of your sin. Not only that, He makes us into new people. He makes beautiful things out of the dust and dirt of our lives! 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Listen to these words of hope and encouragement as we close.
Psalm 103: 11, 12: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
Micah 7: 19: “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
Romans 8: 1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”