Lesson 29: "Lay Aside Every Weight" (Hebrews 12:1)
The Book of Hebrews. This is lesson # 29 and this lesson starts in Heb. 12:1; so, turn the page and let's get going. You will remember that our writer usually follows each discussion section with an admonition section or what we might call a practical passage. The last time our writer stopped to admonish his contemporaries in and around Jerusalem began back in Heb. 10:19 after discussing the new covenant as versus the old covenant. Someone has said that section was written in the lettuce patch...the author said: "let us draw near with a true heart...let us hold fast the profession of our faith...let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works." What we call ch. 12, was again written in the lettuce patch. He used that phrase twice in the very first verse. Now, keep in mind that we have just covered the definition of faith in ch. 11 and beyond that our writer demonstrated Bible faith and exemplified this with more than 2 dozen examples. So, again, it's time for a little admonition. Are you ready? Let's read it, beginning Heb. ch. 12:1 and we'll read down through v.11...please put your eyes on the text...let's read. Beginning 12:1...
"Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if he be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."
Alright, now, I should tell you this admonition section does not end (here in v.11). Actually the rest of the book might be classified generally as warnings and admonitions; although, he goes back to Sinai and touches a lot of bases before concluding...we'll get to that. Now, back to v.1, please put your eyes on the text. At the end of ch. 11, our writer said all those people of the O.T. that he championed and that demonstrated such great faith, "received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." You're aware, of course, there were no numbered chapters or verses in the original writing. So, in switching from those O.T. people down to us, he says, "wherefore." What does "wherefore" mean? The dictionary says, "for which reason!" Thus, for the above reason, "seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses..." (v.1). Now, what is our writer saying? In switching from those O.T. examples and bringing it down home to us, he imagines that our life, our Christian life (if you will) is somewhat like a foot race. The Romans were great champions of the track... they excelled in all kinds of sports... you probably know. They built great arenas for their sports activities ...just turn to "Rome" in your encyclopedia. Foot races were it, back in those days...no stock-cars. So, our writer imagines you are a participant in a foot race, i.e. you are running on the track of your life in a great arena packed with spectators. Those spectators, he imagines, are all of those O.T. characters just mentioned (back in ch. 11)... Abel... Enoch ...Noah ...Abraham ...on and on ..."a great cloud of witnesses," he says. The arena is packed. Thousands upon thousands of the faithful past are cheering you on. Do you get it? Now, don't miss this first persons bit. WE are the participants. WE are running in this race... the race of life... the Christian race if you will. God is in the press box, above all those spectators and God is watching and God is inspecting our performance as the prime observer. So, in this imagined Christian foot race, WE are the performer, not a spectator. Please get that thought through your skull! If I might inject this thought: the Bible is written on the premise that we are participants, not spectators, a premise that very few ever seem to comprehend. Now, obviously to participate in a foot race certain things are assumed, (#1) we must enter the race. And, don't forget, there are rules for entering this Christian race also! "Our hearts [must be] sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." Do you remember Heb.10:22? We are baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27), that's the way we get in. Jesus told Nicodemus, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot ENTER..." (John 3:5). Then, (#2), a foot race requires endurance...hanging in until the end of the race. Then, (#3) for an honorable finish, we must complete the race in good style. These things are obvious, this is assumed in any foot race. Now, there is this difference; however: in the Christian foot race of life, all who finish the race in good style will receive a crown (Rev. 2:10), not just the first man to finish. This is not a race of competition! This is a race of endurance. So, take your time, be patient; but, finish the race in good style. Got it? That's the author's message in a nutshell. Thus, our writer has two recommendations, two admonitions if you will (both are in v.1 and both come from the lettuce patch). (#1) "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and [#2] let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." Have you got it? That's his recommendation! (#1) "lay aside every weight." Athletes who run foot races don't carry a big sack of potatoes or fifty pounds of gold and silver medals. They even dress for the occasion. They train for the occasion. They schedule their life to accommodate the occasion. You know, they run very meticulously with the bare essentials. Right? Now, what's the message to us? How do you prioritize your life? Around your Christianity? Or, is your Christianity out on the peripheral of your life? Or do you perform selectively when there's no ballgame, nothing on TV, or when your worldly friends just happen NOT to visit? Or, your boss unexpectedly gave you Sunday off and you didn't have time to plan anything else. The writer of the book of HEBREWS has been reading your mail. Lay aside every weight! Now, what's "the>sin which doth so easily beset us?" What is that? What is our writer talking about? THE sin that doeth so easily beset us? What is that sin? Which sin is that? The sin of a lack of faith ...our writer has been pounding on it for one whole chapter. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith cometh by degrees! How much faith do you have? How are you doing in that Christian foot race? Your progress is proportional to your faith. It's just that simple. No faith, no progress. You can't even enter the Christian race without faith. Faith gives you the power to become (John 1:12). He that believeth AND is baptized shall be saved (Mark 16:16). Faith comes first. That Christian race begins with faith. You can't even get in the race without faith and you certainly will not continue in that race without faith in Jesus. Hey! Would you like to increase your faith? Faith cometh by hearing (Rom. 10:17). Turn the TV off, blow the dust away from that N.T. and start today. Try it! You'll like it! Our writer recommends it!
Now, back to the lettuce patch. (#2), "let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." Let's do it! If you have entered that Christian race, by faith, repentance, confession and baptism...then, how do you run in the Christian life? Incidentally! Do. you know what a honeymoon sandwich is? Lettuce alone! dumb! dumb! I know; but, lettuce is an important ingredient. "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.."and that's no dumb-dumb. The race has been set before us! God set it up! The Bible is our rule book. I didn't invent it! I just run! If you run, you'll win! Jesus said, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown" (Rev. 2:10). How do you run? HOW DO YOU RUN? It takes only about ten minutes to be baptized into Christ, it takes a lifetime to run the Christian race. Where are you? Struggling! Right? It is a struggle. That's what our writer is saying. No one has said, it's easy. Now, it's worth it; but, it's not easy. Look at the end of v.1 just a minute, "run with patience." Our writer said to his brethren in and around Jerusalem, "You have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (Heb. 10:36). Hey! What are your chances in this race? How do you run? Our writer recommends (v.2) that you run "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." I have very little experience with foot races and I never took track in high school or college. But, I understand the coach during practice sessions tries to place beginners with a pacesetter. A pacesetter is an advanced runner that always stays just a little in front of you. You are always trying to keep up. In doing that you try harder. You keep looking to your pacesetter. In doing this you develop endurance. Have you heard about the rabbit and the turtle? You don't have to be the fastest in this race! You don't have to quote the most verses. In Christianity, your pacesetter is Jesus. Jesus ran this race, starting in Bethlehem and by way of Nazareth he came to Golgotha just outside of Jerusalem. Jesus is my pacesetter! Jesus is everything! Jesus wrote the rule book (we call it the N.T.). Jesus is the author of the faith. It's called Christianity. "Jesus was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Heb. 4:15). Your race in this big arena of life will end at the judgment. You will stand before Jesus...Jesus is the Judge (John 5:22). Jesus IS the finisher of your race. Think about it! Jesus is MY pacesetter! Who is your pacesetter?
The apostle Paul said, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (I-Cor. 9:24-27). Our writer said: look unto Jesus! Jesus is our pacesetter! Starting in the middle of v.2, our writer discusses Jesus, our pacesetter, "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame..." and that discussion continues (down through v.11). Do you know what chastening means? That's an old English word that simply means to get a spanking. Maybe you need a spiritual spanking! Then our writer plays this one out, going back to our childhood. There's a lot of food for thought there. How much self discipline do you have? Paul said, "if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged" (I-Cor. 11:31). Practical Christianity is simply one big bundle of self discipline. It's the hard part of Christianity. I work on these courses every morning. I get up at 5:30 AM, come to the church building and work until eight o'clock. Then I go eat breakfast with my wife. I work in the garden one hour when I can and then go and have a great day. But, when that alarm goes off of a morning, my old body says: Oh! No! Not again! My old sore muscles say, Horsley, you need some rest. Don't get up! Nobody says you have to "do dat!" But, when I look to my Pacesetter with nails in his hand, when I think of Noah who hammered and sawed on that old boat for 100 years, when I think of Abraham back there in the desert and how many times he moved that old tent and redone those old tent stakes; then as hard as it is, I try to get feet on the floor. That's the faith that our writer is talking about. Paul told the Ephesians to think of their faith as the shield of a Roman soldier that can stop the fiery darts of the devil (Eph. 6:16). I sit there on the edge of the bed and argue with my self (groan...and moan) and then head for a cup of coffee which I carry with me (PJ's and all) to the office about 100 years away, this morning just like every morning. I would NEVER get these lessons done if I didn't do that. It's a grind! Christianity is a hard grind. You must learn self discipline and that doesn't come easy. It never becomes easy.
Let's end this lesson by reading two more verses, one more sentence (v.12-13), have you got it? Here we go: "Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed." Lift up the hand! Can you imagine a runner with his tongue out and his arms dangling straight down and protesting every step. A good runner lifts his arms and swings his arms. It gives him a certain balance. He leans forward and takes advantage of that gravitational pitch forward. He keeps his knees stiff and keeps pushing forward. He doesn't swerve back and forth from side to side, he aligns his body with the track and makes every ounce of energy count and he realizes every step, I'm one step closer to the finish line. He is looking to Jesus! The judge at the end of the way. Without faith, without that insight, what happens? We become lame, swerve and sway and lose sight of the goal. We will be turned out of the way (v.13). Have you got it?...really got it? Our writer says, don't do that! Be patient! Pace yourself! Keep your eye on your Pacesetter (with a capital "P") and on the goal post. Even with a pacemaker, you can stay headed in the right direction, you can keep your eyes on the prize. And, I'll tell you something folks. You are somebodys' pacesetter (with a little "p"). A pacesetter must keep his eyes straight to the front. He can't observe those that are trailing behind him. Your stamina may actually be the motivation for the next generation. Not only do YOU need to receive that crown of life that Jesus has promised. You need to be an example, a great pacesetter for your neighbors and friends. You don't have to have a lot of money to do that. i t's worth more than money! Give this a little thought. I'll be with you in lesson #30, have a good day.