Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

“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, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Faith and Obedience

When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin and we are raised with Christ to newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, and to be lived to the glory and praise of God. For Jesus died on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to his righteousness.

But it doesn’t end there. We don’t “get saved” and then we live however we want, and then one day when we die we get to go to heaven because of some one-time decision we made in our lives to “believe” in Jesus. This is not what the Scriptures teach, but it is what many church pastors are teaching their people, and many, thus, are believing a lie and not the truth.

This “great cloud of witnesses” is in reference to Hebrews 11 which is commonly referred to as the “faith chapter” of the Bible, for it lists for us quite a few names of people in Bible history who walked with the Lord by faith in him and who did what he said to do, i.e. they walked in obedience to his commands and they honored God with their lives.

They are examples to us. Now, these were not perfect people, but the ones mentioned for their faith were mentioned because of their obedience to the Lord in doing what he told them to do or because they were acting in faith in doing what they believed was right to do in the eyes of the Lord. And so God honored them for their faith.

So, here we see that faith and works go hand in hand, but not the works of our flesh, not “good works” done in the flesh that we decide to do believing that we are pleasing God or hoping that God will be pleased. The works being done are being done by faith in the Lord and according to God’s will for our lives, so they are the works of God he planned for us to walk in.

And as we read the New Testament and the Old Testament, too, we soon learn that God has always seen and he still sees obedience to him as faith and disobedience as unbelief. For, if we do not obey him we do not know him and he does not know us and therefore we do not have salvation and forgiveness of sin and the hope of eternal life with God, but we will die in our sins because we refused to die with Christ to our sins.

So, it doesn’t matter what we profess with our lips if we do not follow that confession or profession of faith with obedience, i.e. with doing the works that God has called each of us to do. For, we are all going to stand before God one day, and he is going to judge us according to our deeds. And many who professed Jesus as “Lord” are going to hear him say, “Depart from me you workers of iniquity. I never knew you!”

Sin Which Clings so Closely

Before we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives we are dead in our sins, separate from God, and without the hope of salvation and eternal life with God. Sin is clinging closely to us. We are enslaved (addicted, in bondage) to sin. Addiction and “Christian” do not go hand-in-hand. We are either enslaved to sin or we are slaves of righteousness, and if sin, it ends in death, not in eternal life with God. So, you can’t be a Christian addict.

In fact, the Scriptures teach that if we walk (in conduct, in practice) according to the flesh, and not according to the Spirit, and if sin is what we practice and righteousness is not what we practice, and if we are not obeying our Lord but we are living in sinful rebellion against him, heaven is not what awaits us on the other side. We will die in our sins. Period!

The truth that is in Christ Jesus is not just that Jesus died to take away the guilt and punishment of sin and to forgive us our sins and to give us the hope of eternal life with God. The truth that is in Christ Jesus teaches us that sin must be put to death in our lives, and we must be changed in heart and mind, and we must walk in holiness and righteousness in the power of God.

So, we are to forsake our sins, we are to put them away, throw them off, get rid of them, die to them. It is not okay with God if we continue living in addiction to sin or that we take a lifetime to “recover” from our sinful practices. Jesus died on that cross to eradicate sin from our lives so that we would no longer be under the dominion of sin, but so we would now be slaves of God and of his righteousness.

But it isn’t just the sin that we are to put away from our lives, but anything that is weighing us down and is keeping us from walking in obedience to our Lord or that is leading us into sin. Many “Christians” continue in moral failure because they don’t get rid of those things in their lives which are either distractions, which are keeping them from obeying the Lord, or which are points of temptation to sin which they have not bothered to discard.

For example, you are not going to be morally pure if you are regularly watching or listening to or reading what is morally filthy or sexually suggestive or that excuses away sinful behavior or that glorifies sin, such as romantic affairs, adultery, fornication, lying, cheating, and the like. We can’t play with fire and expect not to get burned in the process.

Run With Endurance

Many people today professing faith in Jesus Christ are living morally filthy lives. They are regularly giving way to sin and are leaving doors wide open for the devil to get a foothold in their lives. Some of them are doing so because they have accepted a belief that says that they don’t have to obey the Lord or repent of their sins or honor Jesus as Master of their lives.

Others may not openly profess such a “faith,” and they may even profess to believe the true gospel of Christ, but they live one thing while they profess another. So, they are busy trying to give an impression of righteous living on the outside, like the Pharisees, while they are secretly engaged in moral depravity when they think no one can see what they are doing.

If this is how any of you live, you are not going to be able to run with endurance the race that our Lord has set before us to run. We can only run with endurance if we are walking in obedience to our Lord, and if daily by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh. We can’t be walking in sin and running with endurance at the same time.

And we can’t be walking in sin, repeating the same sins over and over again, habitually, deliberately, and premeditatedly and then claim after each sin that we have repented and so we are in good standing with God. For repentance involves a spiritual U-turn. We were walking according to the ways of this sinful world but now we are walking according to the Spirit.

Daily we must take up our cross and follow Jesus. We must die with Christ to sin and deny self and walk in obedience to his commands if we are going to run this race with endurance. And Jesus is our example, and the one we are to look to, for he endured that cross for you and for me so that we could now live free from our slavery to sin and so we could live holy and godly lives, pleasing to our Lord, and for his glory and praise.

[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10]

The Prayer

Written by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager,
Alberto Testa and Tony Renis

I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know

Let this be our prayer
When we lose our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.

I pray we’ll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When the stars go out each night
Remind us where you are.

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe.

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