For February 14, 2021
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV) contains the fundamental ideals that have informed and shaped our Christian faith for two thousand years. The passage reads as follows,
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.
First, we are surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses,” which confirms that physical death is not the end of our existence. God created us with a spiritual component that survives our death to thrive long after our bodies have decayed and passed away.
Thus, along with the “Roll Call of Faith” of Hebrews 11:4-40, all those who have died in Christ surround us like spectators whose existence confirms our successful completion of faith journey with God. Just think. We have our own cheering section to affirm us.
Our parents, loved ones, and friends became part of the “cloud of witnesses” when they became absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), awaiting His glorious return. Then, all those who have “died in the Lord,” will be reunited with us who are yet alive (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
The Bible also teaches that we have an appointment with death, and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). So to avert our eternal peril, God has given us both the capability as well as the opportunity to choose where we will spend our eternity—weather in Heaven or Hell—while we are yet alive today.
In other words, we can either choose to accept His gift of righteousness secured by our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to satisfy God’s righteous requirements, or we can rely on our flawed self-righteousness to appease God’s wrath (due to the penalty of our sin).
It is comforting to know that we can trust in Christ, and we will be with Jesus along with all the saints, “coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26). A most welcome and most wonderful day that will be indeed. Amen!
Second, we Christians are responsible to make every effort to “lay aside” the continual practice of sin, particularly the ones we find extremely tantalizing and are within easy reach. Instead, we are to pursue earnestly and heartily His righteousness consistently, as Luke 11:35-36 (NKJV) tells us,
Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light.
“No part dark” means our lives are faith-driven, Spirit-powered, Christ-centered, and God-honoring quests for spiritual and moral purity publicly and privately, with no “secret” sins. We strive to be the same spiritual and moral person, whether we are alone or in the company of others.
In other words, what we do, and how we act on Sunday during church services should be the same way we act on Monday at home, work, or school. The “what I do in the privacy of my own home” should never be shameful or embarrassing if ever disclosed publically, since our lives are to reflect an integrated, consistent ethic that flows from our genuine conversion in Christ,
Sin is turning away from God. As someone has said, it is aversion from God and conversion to the world; and true repentance means conversion to God and aversion to the world. When there is true contrition, the heart is broken for sin; when there is true conversion, the heart is broken from sin. We leave the old life, we are translated out of the kingdom of darkness unto the kingdom of light.1
Finally, our “spiritual eyes” must remain focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the source and consummation of our faith in God, as His Spirit actively works within us. In Jesus’ Intercessory Prayer in John 17, He foretells how His followers live “in the world,” yet they will never become “of the world” (John 17:15-18). This remains true for us today.
God commands us to be holy, just as He is holy (Leviticus 20:26). Jesus calls us to be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Jesus is the Vine, and as His branches, we can yield His fruit consistently, just as He states in John 15:5. Although only Jesus was perfect, yet we can make every effort to refrain from habitual sin and let our lights shine before the world. Then we can glorify God and be a blessing to others just as the Lord teaches in Matthew 5:16.
Unfortunately, dishonesty, deceit, and debauchery have become commonplace for many professing Christians as three-quarters of Americans identify themselves as Christian, yet only 13 percent say they have no faith at all. Only one in every four is Bible-minded, although nearly two-thirds have an orthodox view of God.2
Oh, how I long for a time when noble character with principled behavior is deemed as innate Christian characteristics. To the modern-day society, inconsistent conduct has hampered our noble Christian witness,
Christianity is often not portrayed well in media. It is not “politically correct” to be a Christian anymore. Social pressure to “fit in” as a Christian is largely absent. In contrast, it is considered more socially acceptable to embrace non-Christian identities and lifestyles that stand in conflict with biblical values.3
God’s eternal purpose for His people—to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before Him each day—has not changed (Micah 6:8). Jesus declared that as the Light of the World, His followers will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life instead (John 8:12). In this way, He affirms His righteousness and ours.
Christian faith changes human lives as we enter into the presence of the Living God. Drastically changed human lives think, speak, and act in ways that improve the welfare of others without being motivated by race, gender, culture, social status, or political affiliation. Such is our destiny,
We don’t have to be victims of our glands. We are not automations or victims. We are free to make choices, whether noble or ignoble. To live for money, power, or pleasure is to die one day and leave it all behind. Indeed, to live for anything except Christ will mean reaching the end haunted by guilt and despair.4
Ultimately, Jesus paid the price for our sin when He died on Calvary so that we can share in the perfect joy that was set before Him. It is His joy that captivates our hearts and minds today and always as we receive His unfathomably precious gifts of forgiveness and freedom.
What a Wonderful Savior!
- See: Dwight L. Moody, The Overcoming Life, Moody Classic Edition, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995) 51.
- Bible-minded refers to reading the Bible during the past week and asserting its accuracy in the principles it teaches. See: The Barna Group, Barna Trends 2018, What’s New and What’s Next at the Intersection of Faith and Culture, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2017) 210-211.
- See: Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez, Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials are Walking Away and How You Can Lead Them Home, (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2017), 61.
- See: Ted W. Engstrom and Norman B Rohrer, Making the Right Choices, Maintaining Your Integrity in a World of Compromise, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), 154