Sunday, December 31, 2017
Today is the last day of 2017. Around this time of the year, we celebrate because we made it through another 365 days and we are excited what new year will bring to us. And many people come up with new year’s resolutions in desire to make it better. I researched the top five New Year's resolutions people make every year. Can you guess what the top five New Year resolutions are? They are:
- Lose/gain weight and get fit
- Quit smoking
- Learn something new
- Eat healthier and diet
- Save money
It is good to come up with New Year’s Resolutions because you want to make this year better and because it is a fresh start. But in Christian life, we have to deal with our past in order to make the coming year better. We can't neglect the past and expect to receive great things that God has in store for us in 2018. Today's Scripture is telling us to do two things: 1) Lay aside and 2) run. It is telling us to lay aside all burdens, encumbrances, and sins-not just sins but anything that will slow you down. In order to move forward and press on, we need to deal with our past and present. We have to lay aside every temptation that steals our attention from God, things that draw us away from Him, and things that we choose over a love relationship with Him. Temptation is not exactly sin, but don't let it get to you for it is what leads you to sin. Temptation. It’s not that you don’t love God, right? You love God in your heart but every once in a while, there’s this reality of real pull, intense cravings of the flesh from inside of you toward something that God prohibited. We know we can’t be happy outside of God but every single thing in us is pulling us that way. You get distracted. You need to lay aside every temptation and weight that will slow you down. Don't just ask, "Is it a sin? Am I committing a sin against God?" But ask, “Does it help me run? Does it help me become what God wants me to be? Or does it get in my way?"
And we should talk about sin. What is sin? Some Native American groups had a very interesting way of instilling their young people with the idea of sin. There is a triangle within our chest. The triangle has sharp points. Every time we do something wrong, the triangle would turn once, cutting the heart. When you sin again, it would turn again, cutting our hearts deeper. That is how we know we sinned against God. We are in a love relationship with God that whatever hurts God hurts us and vice versa. But eventually, the edges of the triangle will become dull and round, and when we sin, the triangle will turn but it would no longer hurt the heart. We come to make peace with sin. This is where we are gradually beginning to die even without realizing it.
Then, how can we lay aside every weight that slows us down? How can we escape sin? By running! We are told to RUN-not aimlessly-but run while fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. We hear these messages to resist intensive cravings of the flesh. Don’t do this and don't do that. Don’t be bad. Don’t steal. Don’t kill. Don’t lie. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. That is what the Old Testament laws are all about, right? Do’s and Don’ts. But the New Testament grace is telling us to come, come to the light. Run to God. Run to Christ. When you run toward the light, the darkness will fade away.
This is what Paul meant by “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” Fix your eyes on the Jesus. It means to be overwhelmed by the love of God. Be full of God. It’s the idea of a person being so focused on this love relationship that you are not even noticing anything else. Nothing comes before God. Nothing can replace God, and you don’t want anything to be in His place in your heart. You are so in love with Jesus, so captured by His love, that God is everything to you. You are His and He is yours.
And a little voice is going to say, “this looks like a lot of loss and not much gain.” The answer is “Yes, it is going to be loss. A lot of loss.” Christ had to die in the most shameful and painful way and lost everything. He lost his life. He lost his disciples. He lost his family. He lost his friends. But I promise you that the Christian life is gain. It is the gain of the love of God. It is the gain of the peace of God. And it is the gain of the eternal life with God.
As the new year comes close to us, let us prepare ourselves for the race that is set before us
- by laying aside every encumbrance that will slow us down,
- by laying aside every temptation that will attract our attention,
- by laying aside every sin that easily entangles us.
- and by fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ who is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, through whom we gain eternity with the Father in heaven.
Let us run this race together.