Everything That Hinders

Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 6:30 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put the song in mind, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 12 (NIV).

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…

The Hindrances

The great cloud of witnesses, I believe, is described in Hebrews 11, i.e. they are the greats of the faith who believed God and who did what he said. They serve as examples to us of what it means to have faith, and also what it means to persevere. It is almost as though they are standing there watching the race we are running, and they are cheering us on.

We can’t run the race God has marked out for us, though, if we are weighed down by the cares and trappings of this world. One of the big hindrances to his followers running this spiritual race with perseverance, which he has been showing me, is today’s flesh-driven church here in America, and their modernized version of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The church in America is in a serious state of spiritual decline, I believe. The teachings of Christ, the prophets and the apostles are being replaced with books written by mere humans, many of which barely touch on the scriptures but rather follow after the philosophies, psychology and humanistic thinking and reasoning of this sinful world. The gospel has been diluted to make it more appealing to the people of this sinful world and it has been altered to make it less offensive so that more people will want what it has to offer. It is then dressed up to make it look like the real thing, when, in fact, it has little substance to it at all. It cannot hold water, much like a broken cistern. It promises its hearers the hope of eternal life in heaven with God, but it cannot back up its promise, for the promise is empty, shallow, and is based on a false premise, i.e. on a lie (a false image).

Oh, people of God, we need to be so discerning unlike any other time in the history of our nation(s), I believe. So many lies, deceptions and manipulations of truth now exist within evangelical Christianity that we will not be able to discern truth from lies unless we are grounded in the word of truth and we are following after God wholeheartedly with undivided devotion. We can no longer take such a casual approach to our relationship with Jesus Christ as many have. He needs to be our “all in all.” We must trust him with every aspect of our lives, walking daily in his footsteps, allowing him to guide and direct our path. And, we must test everything that passes itself off as truth against the word of truth so that we don’t fall prey to the evil schemes and plots of the devil to lead us astray from the purity of our relationship with Jesus Christ and from the purity of his word and that of the gospel.

Fixing Eyes on Jesus

… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

To fix our eyes on something means to fasten, secure or position our thinking and reasoning on the object of our attention. It means to focus our thoughts, attitudes, affections and attention securely in place on Jesus Christ, having turned our eyes away from other things – the distractions, cares, trappings and sinful attitudes, thinking and behaviors of this world.

We can’t stay focused on Jesus, though, if we are allowing our minds to be distracted or to be drawn away from him by so much junk this world has to offer us. We can’t run a race if we don’t keep our eyes set on the goal, i.e. if we keep getting sidetracked, and we keep stopping along the way to check out other stuff or to wander off for a while on other paths. So many people I have talked with say they want victory over sin but they feed the sin by the things they daily take into their minds and hearts, and by their lack of time spent at the feet of Jesus listening to him speak and then in doing what he says. Sometimes we end up shooting ourselves in the feet, and that is a hindrance to our running the race, too.

So, for us to fix our gaze (our undivided attention) on Jesus Christ, so that we can run the race of the Christian life God set out for us to run, we must throw off these hindrances and the sins which easily entangle (ensnare) us and which take us captive to do their will. This means that we must be willing to allow the Spirit of God to examine our hearts and to show us the lies we are following after, and how we are playing with sin by the things we take into our eyes, minds and hearts, and to show us what he requires of us in the way of thought, deed, word and action. And, then we must be willing to get rid of those things in our lives which serve as hindrances and as weights and which keep us from persevering in what God has called us to do.

Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. He is the author (creator) of faith, which he gives to those who willingly surrender their lives to him to follow him wherever he leads. He is also the one who grows and matures us in our faith, refines and sharpens our faith, and he is the one who brings our faith it to its completion at his return for us. Not only are we saved by his grace in him dying for our sins, but we are also saved through the faith he provides for those who come to the cross and who are willingly crucified with him to the lifestyles of sin and self which once ruled their lives (See Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6-8; Gal. 2:20; Tit. 2:11-14; Ac. 26:16-18; 1 Jn. 1-5, et al).

He died, not just so we could go to heaven one day, but he died so we would be free of the control of sin over our lives in the here and now, and so we would be free to walk daily in his righteousness and holiness. This is the goal of our faith that we would put away from our lives everything that hinders us from walking by faith in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, and that we would live lives pleasing to God in his power and strength within us.

He Endured the Cross

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart…

What was the joy set before Christ for which he willingly endured the cross? I believe it was the salvation of our souls, for that is the purpose for which he died. Yet imagine with me, if you will, this imagery here. What do you think Jesus saw when he looked into the future that brought him such joy? Do you think he saw people who made a profession of faith but who continued to flounder in their sin? Do you think he looked past all that and only focused on the time when we would all be with him in heaven? I don’t think so! He didn’t die just so we could know the joy of eternity with him in heaven, as wonderful and awesome as that will be. No! He died so that “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Co. 5:15). I believe that is what brought him joy, seeing us set free from the control of sin over our lives, and seeing us walking with him daily by faith, by his grace, in obedience to his word, living holy lives pleasing to him.

We are to reflect on him who endured such opposition from sinful humans so that we do not grow weary and lose heart. So, what kind of opposition did he face from sinful humans?

He faced much rejection. He was hated, persecuted, abandoned, denied, beaten, mocked, spat upon, falsely accused, called of Satan and thought to be crazy, too, even by his own family members. And, then they hung him on a cross to die, although he had done no wrong. He was not Mr. Popularity and everyone did not love him as many try to imagine. He was not just a good deed doer who went around making everyone feel good. He confronted people in their sins, and told them that what they were doing was evil. He warned them of judgment, called them to repentance, and told them the cost of following him, and that he was the only way to heaven. And, many who had been following him turned away from him never to follow him again because they said his teachings were too hard. He healed the sick, raised the dead, comforted those who were hurting, spoke tenderly to the oppressed, and chastised the hypocritical leaders. Some loved him for a time, but then turned away. Many hated him. Others loved right up to the moment of crisis, but then deserted him.

So, if we are to reflect on his life, and on the opposition he faced from sinful humans so that we do not grow weary and lose heart, what do you think that should look like? I think the point is that as we are growing into the likeness of Christ and we take on more and more of his character and do the things he did, and say the kinds of things he did, that we should expect to be treated in much the same manner as he was treated, too.

If everyone loves us, I would begin to ask myself “Why?” Jesus said we would be hated like him, so if we are not hated, maybe we got this whole Christian life thing wrong. Maybe we have bought into this modern self-driven Christian lifestyle that follows after the ways of this world and the teachings and reasonings of humans, and we are not truly listening to the voice of Jesus and following him wherever he leads us. Maybe we are too concerned with everyone liking us and less concerned about the salvation of souls. Maybe we are like the church in Laodicea which was neither hot (on fire for God), or cold (completely disinterested), but we are lukewarm (just kinda hanging out and doing our own thing but showing some interest in Christ and his teachings, too). And, so God is calling out to us, the church in America, to repent of her sins of adultery and to begin to follow Christ and his ways. Where are you today? On fire for Jesus, completely disinterested, or do you have one foot in the world indulging in its pleasures and one foot in Christ, but not overly committed?

Laodicea / An Original Work / April 29, 2011

Based off of Revelation 3:14-22

Laodicea, Laodicea, I’m calling you.
You hear Me calling, you hear Me calling. I’m calling you.
Will you not answer? Will you not answer? I’m calling you.
If you but follow, if you but follow, I’ll answer you.
Won’t you give Me your heart and your soul,
So I can cleanse you and make you whole?
Laodicea, Laodicea, I’m calling you.
If you will answer, if you will answer, I’ll come to you.

I stand at your door, I stand at your door. I’m knocking there.
Will you not listen? Will you not listen, while I’ll be there?
If you’ll but open, if you’ll but open your hearts to Me,
I’ll come within you, I’ll come within you, you’ll sup with Me.
Won’t you buy from Me some gold and salve?
These costly treasures are yours to have.
Laodicea, Laodicea, I’m calling you.
If you will answer, if you will answer, I’ll come to you.

Are you contented, are you contented to be lukewarm?
Will you not have Me? Will you not have Me? Of this I warn –
If you don’t hear Me, if you don’t hear Me, and so obey,
I will spit you out, I will spit you out without delay.
So why not heed this your final call,
And give to God absolutely all?
Laodicea, Laodicea, I’m calling you.
If you will answer, if you will answer, I’ll come to you.