Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 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 12:1-2a ESV).
Interesting title, huh? Now I’m not going to go into specifics, but I will share with you one of my lifelong challenges—or rather—sins. But it is one that clings so closely. Which leads me to a question for you:
What’s the sin in your life which clings so closely? Think about it.
Are you familiar with the seven deadly sins? You will find representations of them “decorating” cathedrals all over Europe. They are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth. The first six are words you’re probably familiar with, but the seventh may require a definition, A failure to do things that one should do.
Now, it’s not my intent to go into a theological debate about the seven deadly sins, because all sin is deadly. What about one that’s not listed—telling a lie? Here’s one of the Lord’s commands regarding lying:
The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst (Deuteronomy 19:18-19 ESV).
Or another unlisted one, calling somebody a fool? Here’s what Jesus had to say about that:
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell (Matthew 5:22 NIV).
Back to the Hebrews passage. One of the definitions of the words clings so closely is “skillfully surrounded,” and you also find that these sins have a purpose “to prevent or retard running.” Why prevent us from running? Because our struggle is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12 NIV) and even people who seek to prevent us from finishing that race and getting to Jesus. And that’s why we need to lay aside every weight and every sin.
Before I get to some verses that describe the race we’re in, and how we can win it, I should probably share my favorite sin, and it’s at the top of the charts: pride. One of the ways the sin of pride is illustrated in art is a knight falling headlong off his horse. They probably get that from Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Pride convinces me that I can do it on my own, solve the problem on my own or even beat the sin on my own. But I can’t. And God takes the sin of pride very seriously:
Though the LORD is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud (Psalm 138:6 NLT).
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished (Proverbs 16:5 ESV).
How to Begin, Run and Finish the Race
We must begin with Jesus. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28 NIV).
Paul gives us a great description of what the blood of Christ accomplishes:
You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:12-13 NLT).
Above there was a passage that described the struggle (or the race) we are in, and who or what our foes are. We can also have people against us, And there’s one other: ourselves.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway (Romans 7:18-19 NLT).
But in the next chapter of Romans, Paul victoriously proclaims what is ours because of the blood of Jesus:
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39 NLT).
One more verse helps us in our day to day run, when we stumble or fall, when we get off course or when pride (or your favorite sin) seeks to disqualify us:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 ESV).
Keep your intervals short. Don’t go too long without confessing your sins, because when you do confess, then you are forgiven and cleansed, and those sins which cling so closely, are shed and you can keep on running.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NLT).