Enduring the Cross for the Joy

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.”

The Cloud of Witnesses

The cloud of witnesses appears to be the saints of God who have gone before us, many of whom endured much suffering for the sake of their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is our triune God – Father, Son (Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit. These saints walked by faith and not by sight. By faith they did what God required of them or what they knew would please him, and what they knew was the right thing to do.

Now, it doesn’t mean they always obeyed or that they always did what was right, but they were honored in Hebrews 11 for their faith in specific areas where they followed the Lord in obedience or where they did what pleased him by faith in him. They serve as examples to us of what our faith should look like, for if we truly believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives it should be evidenced by what we do in obedience to our Lord.

Laying Sin Aside

In order to become a follower (disciple) of Jesus Christ, which is what it means to believe in him, we must be crucified with Christ in death to sin and be raised with Christ to walk in newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. This is of the Spirit of God, and not of our flesh, but we must humble ourselves and submit to God’s will and purpose for our lives, and yield control over to him, or this can’t take place.

For, when this takes place in our lives our old self is crucified with Christ in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we will no longer be enslaved to sin. You see, the goal of our faith in Jesus and in what he did for us on that cross is that sin must be put to death in our lives so that we are no longer habitually and deliberately committing what we know is wrong, and what is against God, and what is against his word.

Thus, we are to no longer let sin reign in our mortal bodies, to make us obey its passions, for sin is to no longer have dominion (rule, power, control) over our lives, since Jesus died to deliver us from our slavery (addiction) to sin. For we are slaves of whomever we obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness and to sanctification and to eternal life with God. So, if keep living in sin, we will die in our sins.

As followers of Jesus Christ we are to no longer live like we did before we believed in him, if indeed we did believe in him with genuine faith in the true gospel of our salvation. We are not to be those who give ourselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. And we are not to be those who think that God’s salvation now permits us to keep on sinning without conscience and without consequence.

For the truth in Christ Jesus teaches us “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (See Ephesians 4:17-24).

Run with Endurance

We can’t run with endurance the race that our Lord has marked out for us to run if we are being weighed down by sin and disobedience to our Lord, and especially if we have this modern attitude that says, “I don’t have to submit to the Lordship of Christ, I don’t have to repent of (turn away from; forsake) my sinful lifestyle, and I don’t have to obey the Lord or his commands.” This is absolutely contrary to God’s nature and to the teachings of Scripture.

We can only run with endurance the walk of life God has for us to live on this earth if our lives are surrendered wholeheartedly to the Lord Jesus, to walk in his ways and in his truth and righteousness. We must be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Yet, this is not saying that we must be absolutely perfect or the sword will strike us down. We do serve a loving and a forgiving God. But we should not be walking (in practice) in sin.

For the race (or the walk of faith) God has set before us involves total surrender to him as Lord (Owner-Master) of our lives. It involves us daily dying to sin and to self, by the Spirit, and us daily walking in obedience to his commands, also by the Spirit, and in the strength and power and wisdom of God who now lives within us. For we now belong to him. We are his possession. Our lives are no longer ours to be lived however we want, but our lives are now to be given over to the Lord Jesus to do what he has called us to do and to become.

Looking to Jesus

None of this talked about so far can be done in our own flesh – no dying to sin and living to God and to his righteousness can be done in our sinful flesh. For the flesh is against the Spirit and the Spirit is against the flesh. So, all of this is of the Spirit of God, by the Spirit of God, and for the glory and praise of God. For, if it is not, then it is not of God. But we have a part in it. We must submit to our Lord and do what he says in his power and strength.

Thus, this isn’t about behavioral modification or us trying to clean up our old lives to make ourselves more presentable to God. It can’t be done in the flesh. And we aren’t “recovering addicts” to sin, either. We are now dead to sin and sin no longer has mastery over our lives. Jesus delivered us out of our slavery to sin so we would now no longer be enslaved (addicted) to sin. For if we continue in deliberate and habitual sin we don’t know God.

And again, this is not saying that we will be absolutely perfect or else we are not in relationship with Jesus Christ. But the Scriptures teach that if, after we make that profession of faith in Jesus Christ, we continue in deliberate and habitual sin, and sin is still our practice, and righteousness and obedience to our Lord are not our practice, that we don’t know God, we are not “born again,” and we will not inherit eternal life with God.

So, we have to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and on his word and on daily surrendering to him and walking in obedience to him and not making sin our practice. Daily by the Spirit we should be putting sin to death, saying “No!” to ungodliness and fleshly lusts, and by God’s Spirit we should now be living self-controlled, upright, and godly lives while we wait for our Lord’s return.

For the joy set before us, which is our eternal salvation, we endure the cross – daily putting self to death, and daily living to God and to his righteousness.

[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 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:21-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Matt 7:21-23; Ac 26:18; Rev 18:1-6; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]

You are Loving and Forgiving

An Original Work / February 19, 2012
Based off Psalm 86

You are loving and forgiving,
Jesus, Savior, King of kings.
You provided our redemption.
By Your blood You set us free.
You are gracious; full of mercy.
No deeds can compare with Yours.
Great are You; there is none like You.
Glory be to Your name.

Teach me Your way, and I’ll walk in it.
O Lord, I will walk in Your truth.
May I not have a heart divided,
That Your name I give honor to.
I will praise You, O Lord, my Savior,
For great is Your love toward me.
You have delivered me from my sins.
Your grace has pardoned me.

You, O Lord, are full of compassion,
Slow to anger, bounteous in love;
Faithful to fulfill all You promise;
Glory be to Your name above.
Hear, O Lord, and answer Your servant.
You are my God. I trust in You.
Turn to me and grant Your strength to me.
You are my comforter.

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