Look to the Past for the Promise of Today

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, (Hebrews 12:1-2a NRSV)

This week I am going to look at how looking to the past examples of Christian life can help and is a biblical principle to help you run the race of life. Not looking back at past events in your life and dwelling on the past sin in your life because that can only cause stumbles and falls back into that sin.

Legacy is a Cheerleader

What we read in Hebrews here is that we are ‘surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…’ (Heb. 12:1a) What is meant by these witnesses? What is this word? Is witnesses the best translation? What does it mean??

The Greek word here is μαρτυρος.

μαρτυρος is translated as witnesses and it is were we get the word martyr. A Martyr bore witness to the faith. It is also linked to the word μαρτυρια that means testimony.

So I believe that this is the same thing that We are surrounded by witnesses. A bunch of examples to follow while following Jesus but also there is a difference between example and testimony. Example shows you how to live and provides strategies to walk in your life. Testimony is a cheer a loud cry to encourage you to show that God is still moving and God has done it once so he can do it again. Holy Spirit knows what you need and how minister to you through other people’s stories.

I remember when I was 17/18 I went through quite deep depression and this is not just feeling down. We are talking close to suicidal thoughts. I then heard the story of Nick Vujicic. He is a man that was born without arms and legs. I remember watching a video of his testimony. It stirred my heart because he as a young boy thought of suicide and all he had to do was roll over in the bath. However, he turned to the bible and read this:

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind” Jesus said, “Your asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. (John 9:1-3 MSG)

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. (John 9:3 NRSV)

He realised that that God has made him the way he has been made to do God’s Glory. I doubt he will read this blog but if he does. I wanna thank him for that testimony because I kept me going that God was teaching me something in that time in that dark season it was producing something.

We boast in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Rom. 5:3-5 NRSV)

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! (Rom. 5:3-5 MSG)

I am including both versions here because both have different resonance in the NRSV translation shows exactly what Paul is stating but those words can be very loaded and difficult to get a grip around so the message paraphrase uses more emotive language that shows the strength of character is like that of steel. Character is our back bone. Character and Authenticity is what the church should be marked with. No more double lives. No more hypocrisy. No more judging on what people wear and say.

Shake it off, Shake it off

let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us (Heb. 12:1b)

This second half of verse one is also very important. We look to those in that have gone before us to see how they deal with temptation and sin. I look to other people who have struggle with singleness to help me with my singleness. I look to other people who have struggle with sexual sin to close the door to sexual sin.

The thing I want to pick out here though is that there is a something we miss in this verse. We as a Global church often pray that God takes our sin away. However, what we see here is ‘let US lay aside’ We see that God helps us defeat sin but it is also our responsibility to take it out and throw it away.

I choice not to watch porn and throw that sin away. I choice not to smoke everyday because it doesn’t honour the body God has given me. When we shake off sin with God’s strength it stays off if we keep turning to him in times of temptation. Remember if you do it with the christ you will be free because the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36 NRSV) 

This what they calling running the race with perseverance. The race of life. the race of sanctification. The race to Glory. The examples and testimony of the past encourage us and cheer for us like a crowd cheers for a football team. Like fans at the side of a marathon.

A Loving Stare

looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. (Heb 12:2a)

We see here that we are to look to Jesus while running this race. I wanna make sure that we understand its a continuous word here. We don’t look t Jesus to get saved and then run the race on our own. It’s run the race with our eyes FIX ON JESUS. In the same way that a kid keeps its eyes fixed on a parent when running into their arms. This is how we should run the race of faith.

Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus means we do everything above because if we are focused on Jesus. The saints of the past are reflexing the Glory of Christ. The more we focus on Jesus the more we are able to resist temptation because you won’t even see it. It won’t distract you. Jesus is and should always be your focus not the temptation in front of you.

A 110m hurdler doesn’t focus on the hurdles he focuses on the finish line because if he focuses on the hurdles they automatically run into them and get too close to jump over them.

Conclusion

Look to the past for inspiration and example on how to run the race of faith. Take responsibility for your sin and throw it into God’s eternal fire with God’s help. Finally, Fix your eyes on Jesus because he will complete the work that he started in you and if you keep focused on him. You will resist sin and the Father will say you are my son in you I am very please.

Advertisements

Pride, Guilt, Healing

I felt like starting this Blog up again to help vocalise and teach some of the lessons I have learnt over the last few years.

I want to start by sharing a story. I checked with the guy who is the subject of this story and he has given me permission to share his story. I will keep names and place out to protect him and his heart as we are called to do as Christ followers.

This story is about a 20 year old Bible College student who was so excited to start studying God’s word and what his ministry is going to look like because God has told him that this is where is being called.

However, after a month or so, his devotion time started to dissipate and he starts talking to a girl at his college but this is not talking about Jesus or Ministry or God. They were talking about how many relationships they had been in which was really innocent to start but then it started escalate to sexual topics. They start talking about what them having sex would look like? Where they would do it? They even started sending nude pictures to each other.

All this is going on while he is teaching about Jesus. He is leading worship on a Sunday morning. He is preaching about how God can deliver you from your past. He believes this but doesn’t practice it.

A few days before he is about to start his second year at college; Checking his emails he sees one from his tutor asking for a meeting. This seems like a normal occurrence but this was not. His tutor starts asking about the images and whether it was true. He asks whether they did have sex. Whether they had sex on campus.

The student’s heart sinks into his stomach. He admits to everything that he had done but refused to admit that to the stuff he hadn’t. He gets told there is going to be a formal disciplinary hearing with the tutor and two of the senior management. He explains to them exactly what he had said to his tutor. They seem to not believe him.

Two days later, He gets called to the senior management for the decision. He gets offered to leave and have a neutral reference. The other option is get expelled and fight. The guilt he once felt turns into pride, anger and a sense of injustice that the girl getting to stay at the college overcomes him. He takes that letter of expulsion and storms out the office. Filled with the rage, pride and hurt. He types his appeal letter. Each sentence is the swing of a judgemental, indignant, self-righteous and heartbroken sword that smashes into the character of each member of the disciplinary panel.

It didn’t matter how well crafted or how well he articulated his hurting, tinted view of these people. They were always going to up hold the decision.

Shame Turns to Pride Turns to Regret

As we see in this story, there is a stages that I believe every person goes through when dealing with sin and confrontation and rebuking. What we see initially is that there is a deep sense of shame. This is where you realise people have sound out about that skeleton in your closet. The light starts shining in the darkness of the heart. I believe that everyone feels this when secret sin is uncovered that gut-wrenching feeling in your stomach that means you nearly ‘chunder everywhere.’ The feeling that make your head drop. the feeling that you get when you stare at the sun without shades on. This feeling is a good feeling. Not in the sense that it feels good but that shame shows areas we need to correct and have the transformation of the mind (Romans 12:2) It can make you realise that what your doing needs to be got rid of before you move into God’s purpose.

However, what happened with the man in our story is that the feeling Shame soon shift and morph like a power ranger into an ugly monster of Pride. Pride is what happens when you take the wrong attitude to change. It is when the enterprise puts its shields up. It is Orlando Bloom punches Justin Bieber. It’s a when you don’t have a teachable spirit or respect for those in authority over you. You like what your doing it feels good. It’s not hurting anyone. It’s just sex, It’s just getting drunk, It’s just missing one meeting, It’s just missing one lecture, It’s just porn, It’s just one joint.

This attitude will cause the Lord to look at you and go “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23) and its because of your timidness that will cause the Lord on the day of judgement to spit you out because you acted like you didn’t need him. (Revelation 3:16f.) You had enough money, you were kind of happy in your relationship. You thought you were living in the White House when actually you were living in the favelas. When pride sets it causes your heart to harden to God’s work. It causes you to lash out at those around you. It causes you to resist the authority over you. We see this in our story where our lad fights and fights against what he saw as injustice. He offered blow after blow against his Rocky Balboa and he didn’t even make him stumble. Thats the thing with Pride and taking punches out of that place it will never make a dent. The phrase ‘pride comes before the fall.’ I think is actually slightly in accurate. I think pride comes while falling and after the fall. When the ground beneath you starts sliding you valiantly try to run back up the hill rather than sliding down the hill into the arms of a loving father, because the father will always catch you. (Psalm 37:24)

The end of our story is different than you think because overtime if you stay connected to church then this Pride you experience will change into Regret. Regret for hurting the loved ones trying to support you. Regret for launching character attacks at people who want the best for you and for the rest of the college. Regret for the sin you had. This place of regret can either cause a pity party or will cause healing and growth.

In our story, The guy felt that regret and he then moved that regret into change and healing and freedom. If you dwell in God’s presence, he brings healing and freedom because “where the spirit of the Lord is there is Freedom.” ( 2 Corinthians 3:17) because of the Triune God. there is freedom in the spirit and “if the Son sets you free, You are free indeed.” ( John 8:36)

Healing Leads to Calling

The end to this story is a happy one. This man did not walk away from church because he was hurt by it. He walked further into church because the further into church you run and better you are plugged in the more of Christ and God you will absorb. He still struggles with some of the problems he went through but because of the church he has systems and supports to stop him going back there. He is now chasing his calling again. He is back at a different Bible College and is ministering in a local church. God is moving in his life.

We can learn that all things. I mean “ALL things will work for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28) When you go through a storm and you fail and stumble and feel so inadequate. God will use this storm to build you up and make you stronger. Like a body builder has to go through the pain of breaking muscle tissue to get stronger. The same way God has to break and tear parts of your life for you to grow and be strengthened in our faith and trust in God.

My hope is that this post would build you up and strengthen you in the your faith. I believe that this post could bring and will bring healing to people who have done through suffering and has experience extreme diversions from the calling they believe God has for you.