Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [Hebrews 12:1-2, NKJV]
The New International Version reads, "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles." It is so easy to become entangled in sin. We can look around at the churches of today and see the church itself is not only warped with sin, it condones it.
Here it says that we should lay aside every weight. What are these weights? Maybe these weights are things that are not necessarily sin, but are not encouraging the Word of God within us. These are things that distract us from God's will for our lives and maybe even hinder us from doing His will. These distractions may be your television, your computer, or sports. Maybe it's our hobbies or our job (and, let me say, there's a fine line between providing for our families and working to satisfy our greed). Maybe we are trapped in the busyness of our lives. Do we have our children involved in too much? Have we become a taxi service to their playdates and activities? Maybe, as stay at home moms, we decided to start a small business out of our home. Have we become obsessed with it? Has it taken over our duty as the keeper of hearts and home?Has it overrun our time with God?
I know I have a tendency to allow my reading and writing to get in the way of my "home blessings" (as Flylady calls household chores). I get caught up in reading articles- most of which are very encouraging, Christian writings- but fall behind in my duties as wife and mother. Maybe I fail to do the laundry, so my husband doesn't have the slacks and shirts he needs for the next day, or the dishes pile up. Whatever the case, my hobbies should come after my duties, and many times they don't.
The television use to get in the way of our family worship time when we settle down together to read the bible, sing, and pray. We had this issue a while back and had canceled cable, but since our move, we had set up an HD antenna to improve our regular digital channels. We fell back into the habit of watching shows that condoned sin, especially sexual sin, and I knew that we needed to get rid of it, but part of me wanted to keep it because, well, it's just so entertaining!
As I read my bible, I was reminded that it was sinful to take a stand against certain things that the bible deemed as sinful, but allow others to slip by while I justified them. As fallen humans, we tend to categorize sin. You know, murder is worse than sex outside of marriage. Sex outside of marriage is worse than dishonesty. Dishonesty is worse than gossip. However, in the eyes of our God, sin is sin.
So we must set aside all sin- not just some sin, or the sin we don't like- but all sin. We can't hang on to the sin that is entertaining or that we think "isn't so bad".
In I Thessalonians 5, verse 22, Paul exhorts the people to "abstain from every form of evil". We are to steer clear of every appearance of sin. This means we shouldn't be watching plays, shows, or movies that condone or laugh along side sin. This means we must encourage our children to stay pure, and help them understand what sexual sin means. We must prepare and inform our children if we want them to abstain from sin. If we haven't, they will walk straight into it.
If we are going to stand against sins like abortion and homosexual marriage (two things that seemed to be at focus in this years presidental election) claiming they are against God's will, then we must stand against all sin which is against God's will without justification and excuse. We shouldn't pick and choose. Either we follow the Word of God or we don't. Personally, I believe that the New Testament is full of essentials. We live according to the New Testament. However, the Old Testament is still full of guidance and promise. While I feel the Lord has led us to give him control over our fertility, a belief founded in the Old Testament, I do not believe this is essential to salvation for all people. Yes the Old Testament is a very important part of our bible. The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 has been such a guiding light for me (as have the other chapters in Proverbs) and Psalm has been a beautiful lesson in prayer and worship. I have learned much from the lives of Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, David, and Daniel (and many more), but Jesus died on the cross and rose again- therefore the promise these people awaited in the Old Testament was fulfilled in the New Testament. (Which is another entry for another time.) I bring this up because I have heard it argued from some as to why Christians cling to some practices and beliefs but not others, citing Leviticus (OT) which is full of practices that we no longer follow today.
Our family bible study has been in Romans and has given me a lot to think over. Paul talks about the sin of the world, and I think the first chapter of Romans clearly outlines what sin is and includes. (I am not going to post the whole chapter, but I encourage you to read it yourself! If you don't have a bible you can go to biblegateway.com)
He tells the church, "They know God's law says that those who live like this should die. But they themselves not only continue to do these evil things, they applaud others who do them." [Romans 1:32, NCV] The King James Version says they take "pleasure" in those who do them. (Note: This verse right here makes it clear that we shouldn't be entertained by those things which applaud sin. It so deeply convicts me to abstain from watching shows and movies that do! It could not be any clearer!)
So we know that murder is wrong. We're against it, but are we against deceitfulness? We say we are, but do we lie? Have we deceived our bosses or our spouse, even in the smallest way? One day, I went grocery shopping and saw a delicious microwaveable family dinner. I microwaved it put it in a nice dish, and hid the box at the bottom of the trash so my husband would think I had slaved over the stove and made it myself. This was deceitful! We like to think that deceit is when someone cons another person out of money or commits fraud and ends up in jail, but deceit is (by the definition given on dictionary.com) "concealment or distortion of the truth for the purpose of misleading". A little white lie is a sin. Now, my husband never asked if I made the dish. He assumed I did. He simply said it was delicious, and I thanked him, but I was still commiting a sin of omission. Even though I never came right out and said I made it, I let him believe I did. Omission, or "concealment", is a sin as well. By the way, by the end of dinner, I had told him I bought the meal from the grocery store. He told me, "I would have never known if you hadn't told me," to which I replied, "I would have!"
Paul also lays out other sins like envy and gossip. These are often sins which Christians are involved with. Remember, if we're going to claim we follow the bible and claim we hate sin, then we must hate all sin!
So we shouldn't be reading gossip magazines or websites or watching gossip shows. We should not participate with gossip with our friends or co-workers. And, we need to be careful what we say to our spouse about other people because our children are always listening. Gossip seems to thrive in churches. It's so easy to get caught up in gossip. At first, it may start out as a genuine concern for a certain person, so we share news in the form of a prayer request. We have to be careful that our prayer requests on behalf of someone else don't become twisted into gossip, either by ourselves or by others. Sometimes gossip is created to slander a person, but we have to remember that often it begins in a seemingly innocent way.
The bible says gossip stirs up trouble, breaks up relationships, and causes anger. Sometimes people intentionally start rumors to do these things. The bible says gossip is a product of a corrupt mind and a wicked heart. Here is a link to a great biblical evaluation of gossip.
Envy. Well, that's a sin that's difficult to escape. However, I have found that we are really good at putting ourselves in positions which encourage envy. For example, we watch shows or flip through magazines (or even visit blogs) that feature all sorts of items we crave and desire. We want that lifestyle. We want that house. We want want want. I stopped buying magazines for several reasons. Most popular magazines encourage sexual sin, gossip, and selfishness. We become unsatisfied with who we are, how we look, what we have, what we can do, who we're married to..... These magazines have a knack for presenting beautiful lies, and we buy into them hook, line, and sinker.
There will be times when we find ourselves envying something or someone, even when we have tried to steer away from it.
As Christians, we are not perfect. We are not incapable of sin. In fact, we will sin, but we have God's grace and mercy to cover us if we are of a repentent spirit.
I remember someone who claimed to be a Christian telling me, "I know it's wrong to do [this], but if I tell God I'm sorry, he'll forgive me." That is NOT the right spirit at all. We shouldn't walk right into sin with the mindset that God will bail us out and let it go.
Again, I want to restate my point here.
We are to abstain from all evil and all sin. ALL evil. ALL sin. Get rid of it. Get rid of it all. So you may not be able to cover up that billboard with a woman provactively posed to encourage men to visit a "special club". You may not be able to convince that woman in the grocery store to put on more clothes, and ones that aren't so tight and revealing. But you can control what is in your home. You can control what you watch, what you hear, what you say, what you do. You can control what you allow to be brought into your home and what you take out of your home. Sometimes I try to justify something by saying, "We'll it's mostly good." Mostly good is not enough. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Don't get use to sin. Get rid of sin. Don't excuse it. Refuse it!
Remember the original verse I quoted? "Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses..." People are watching us. Sadly, there are many people parading around claiming to be Christians while living a life that denies Christ. We are sending a message to the world that you can "do whatever you want", but that's not what the bible teaches. Christians should not be getting drunk. Christians should not be involved in premarital sexual relations (that includes "petting"!). Christians should not allow filthy words to erupt from their mouths. Christians should not be trying to keep up with the world. Christians should not be focused on material things, like getting the latest iPhone, having the nicest house, or being the best dressed (and, let me tell you, I love clothes!).
What shall it profit us if we should gain the world but lose our soul? (Mark 8:36)
Separate yourself from sin. All sin. All appearance of sin. I have to remind myself to quit making excuses and just do it. I know I miss so many of God's glorious blessings when I cling to sin.
Do you want your children to have a great foundation in Christ? Do not allow sin to permeate your home. If not for your own sake, then for your children's. You think you are strong enough to resist the temptations on your television? Are your children?
"Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us." Runners don't want anything holding them back that may keep them from reaching the finish line. They want to be in the best of health. Do not poison yourself with sin. Let go of those things that, while they may not appear to be sinful, are holding you back in your service to the Lord, to your family, to the church.
I write this so I can look back on it and receive conviction and encouragement from what God has revealed to me. It is a reminder to me. Resist temptation. Refuse sin.
IT IS WORTH IT.
There is so much more I could write on this one chapter, but I'll save it for another day. I hope you have found yourself convicted and encouraged through the Word of God, as I have. Thank you for allowing me to pour out my heart... and reading it!
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