Bible study

Shedding Spiritual Pounds

 

WP_20141002_003

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,

-Hebrews 12:1

Dr. Morris not only preached healthy living to his patients, he practiced it himself. A middle-aged doctor living in the piney woods of East Texas, he constantly trained to run ultra-marathons (foot-races of 99 miles, or more) in Death Valley, Ca., and Leadville, Colo.

He never won those races, but anyone who has attempted such a feat will tell you, just finishing the race is the victory. During an interview I did with him in 2007, Dr. Morris said the feeling one gets upon crossing the finish line is pure euphoria.

Most of the time, Dr. Morris finished his race. A few times, he did not. The year I interviewed him, he failed to finish a race because he had gained weight prior to running at Leadville, a course consisting of steep climbs and descents in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Now, in gaining the weight, Dr. Morris did not get fat. Au contrare! He gained muscle as part of a nutrition and workout regiment designed to build strength. He was still in shape, better than many professional athletes. However, the gained muscle mass added strain on his cardiovascular system, rendering him unable to deal with the combined pressures of the altitude, slopes and added weight.

The weight wasn’t bad for him, but it did affect his ability to run the race. (He returned home, lost the weight and went on to finish another ultra-marathon later that year.)

Hebrews 12:1 says that we are to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us, and that we are to run with patience the race set before us.

In understanding this concept, we must realize that the Bible is telling us to lay aside two completely different things. Weight, and sin. What’s the difference?

The weight is something that, in and of itself, is not a sin. However, it is something that comes between us and God, making it sinful. Possible examples of weight could include career ambition, entertainment, or social lives.

All of these are not necessarily bad. Career ambition is a good thing. It motivates us to better ourselves so we can better provide for family. Entertainment is not necessarily bad, it relaxes the mind and can promote good mental health. Social lives are not bad, they result in lifelong friendships, which scripture says that we need.

However, when these things interfere with our Spiritual walk, they become weight. Anything that hinders you from living your life the way God wants you to live would fall into this classification. If entertainment keeps you out of worship, it becomes weight. If career ambition prevents you from honoring your commitment to your family, or to your church, it becomes weight. If social activities leave you too tired to have personal time with God, or to worship God, it becomes weight.

These are just a few general examples of what can happen. Only you know what’s truly happening in your Spiritual life.

When these things happen, Hebrews 12:1 tells us that we are to lay aside that weight. That means to re-examine our priorities when it comes to career aspirations and time management, to put our entertainment desires into perspective, and to stop letting social engagements control our lives.

Basically, whatever comes between us and God, we have to lay that aside.

Sin, on the other hand, is a direct disobedience to God, or a violation of His law. Sin is open rebellion against God, and will not only hinder our walk with Him, but will draw his chastisement upon us as He corrects us.

Is there anything that is coming between you and God? Is there recurring sin in your life? If so, it’s time to lay that aside so you can run your race for the Lord.

Leland Acker has served as pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. He is currently leading the congregation through a study of the book of Hebrews, which will conclude Sunday, Dec. 17, with a study of Chapter 13.

Running the Race

1554446_10202778076678833_64181163_nThe New Testament book of Hebrews was written to remind us that salvation comes by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ, and that no works on our part are involved in securing our salvation. Hebrews makes the case that our salvation was secured completely by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In making this point, Hebrews points to the lives of the Old Testament heroes, like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Moses. Hebrews 11 chronicles how their lives were all driven by faith. By faith, Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice. By faith, Noah moved with fear and prepared an ark to the saving of his house. By faith, Abraham offered up Isaac, accounting that God was able to raise him up again. By faith.

Whenever you see that phrase, “by faith,” it means that the one who performed the action did so because they trusted God completely. Their trust in God, their faith, motivated their action.

Faith is what gives you access to God’s salvation. It is what moves you from God’s wrath into His Kingdom. Faith is what saves. Actions, or “works” are merely an expression of that faith.

It is on that note that Hebrews 12 begins:

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,

Hebrews 12:1 says we are compassed about (surrounded) by a cloud of witnesses. We are surrounded by the legacies of the Old Testament heroes listed in Hebrews 11. These were men and women who lived their entire lives by their faith in God… from Abel all the way down to Rahab, and then on to King David and the prophet Isaiah.

Because of their faith in God, they believed the impossible, stood against insurmountable odds and foes, and did great things, whereby we remember them today. Some of these heroes won earthly victories, some had to wait to enter eternity to receive their reward, but the end of Hebrews 11 is clear, one day those of us who know the Lord as our savior will be resurrected and glorified with those Old Testament heroes. We will all reap the reward of our faith.

So, with that in mind, Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to live up to our Christian heritage by living by faith. This involves laying aside every weight (things that come between us and God) and the sin that so easily besets us, and running with patience (endurance) the faith that is set before us.

Throughout the course of this week, we will explore what it means to run the race before us, and to live by faith. May God bless you this week.

Smiling through the pain

1554446_10202778076678833_64181163_nLet’s be real. Sometimes life just stinks. Pain is real. Problems continue to pile up, and you get to the point where you are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

When life stinks, it can be hard to find comfort. No one understands your pain, and the trite little phrases like “too blessed to be stressed” only compound the agony. How are you supposed to just “speak victory” into your child’s cancer diagnosis, your wife’s passing, or the foreclosure of your home.

Yet, society expects us to just put on a smile and fake it through the day. “Fake it till you make it.” However, when the day ends, you’re right back at home, face to face with your problems.

Pain and suffering, grief and bereavement are not foreign to the Christian experience. In fact they are a real part of the Christian’s life. Christians face problems, feel pain, and experience periods of hopelessness. You’re human.

When the Apostle Peter authored his first epistle, he was looking at thousands of Christians who had been displaced by severe persecution. Roman Emperor Nero had allegedly set Rome on fire, then blamed Christians for the devastation before burning many of them alive.

He made sport of Christians by drafting them to be gladiators. He fed them to the lions. He executed them in ways he found entertaining. Imagine having your wife kidnapped from your home, and brutally murdered by being tied to the horns of a bull for the entertainment of Roman nobility. This is what 1st Century Christians faced.

Can you imagine the pain and grief that one would naturally experience under those circumstances.

Peter, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could not sit idly by and just watch this persecution happen. And he wasn’t in a position to mount a successful civil rights movement. The best Peter could offer would be a word from the Lord to the persecuted saints. Thus, we have 1 Peter.

In reading 1 Peter, you will notice that he directs your attention away from the things happening in the world, and toward the coming Kingdom of God. His words of hope center around the fact that Christians have been redeemed by God, and He is coming to put an end to the suffering and usher in an eternity of peace and prosperity. If you know Jesus as your savior, you will see that day, regardless of what happens here. If you die, Christ will resurrect you from the dead so that you will see that day.

In chapter 1, Peter reminds us of how God chose us for this redemption, and how He purchased this salvation through Christ dying on the cross. He then encourages us to stay faithful and to trust the Lord even through those hard times. In Chapter 2, he points out how Christ suffered for us, pointing out that God isn’t allowing us to go through anything He Himself hasn’t endured.

There are no magic words to make the pain go away. What scripture does accomplish is reminding us of what God has done for us, giving us a purpose for our experience, and encouraging us to make a difference in the world around us.

If you would like to know more, join us for Bible study Wednesdays at 6 p.m. at our office at the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E Industrial Dr., Early, TX 76802. If you’re unable to make it, consider reading 1 Peter on your own. It would make a good devotional for those experiencing hard times.