Thursday, May 17, 2012

Struggling Against Sin

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, 
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, 
who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, 
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, 
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, 
you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood."
Hebrews 12:1-4

When I reflect on my life, I often feel frustrated that I haven't grown as much as I hoped I would. I tend to do this at the beginning of the year, on my birthday, and other times that mark the beginning or ending of a season of life. I always hope I will be more mature than I am or further along in dealing with the issues in my life. With self-reflection it is easy to grow weary and lose heart, especially when one is a perfectionist like me. There are several principles in Hebrews 12 that enable me to "run the race" successfully and with joy. 
First, I am to get rid of everything that hinders my ability to live the Christian life. That could include people, things, and negative thoughts. It is good for me to stop and think about whether there are people in my life that steer me away from the life I desire to truly live. It is good for me to consider whether there are people I allow to influence me to not love people I know God has called me to love. It is good for me to honestly consider whether movies or TV shows I watch influence my view of holiness. Good to examine my thoughts to see if there are negative thoughts that plague my ability to see myself as Christ does. It is wise to look at my thinking to see if there are doubts creeping into my life that keep me from using the spiritual gifts that God has given me? Am I seeking after things of the world or the things of God? 
Secondly, I am to get rid of the sin that so easily besets me. Some commentators interpret that to mean personal weaknesses. Others interpret the "sin that so easily entangles us" as the sin of unbelief. I am thinking that they may be one in the same. At the root of besetting sin is the fact that I often have a need that I don’t believe God will meet. For example, when I am struggling with some behaviors it is because I am plagued with insecurities because I don't believe in my heart of hearts that I am radically and unconditionally loved by God. This can influence us in many ways. Women often struggle with gossip because we don't understand and full trust our acceptance in Christ, so we deal with our fear of rejection by damaging others reputations to insure our place among our friends.  
Next, He reminds me that I haven't resisted sin to the point I have shed blood. I believe this is a reference to Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. He wrestled with the desire to do His own will and to do His Father's will so hard that capillaries burst and blood tinged his sweat. When was the last time I wrestled so much with the desire to honor God in the midst of a temptation that I sweat drops of blood? I wish I could remember even one time I resisted to that point, but to be honest I can’t. To live a life that honors God, I must be willing to resist strong temptation that comes my way. I must accept that the Christian life may not feel easier as I grow in my desire to be like my Heavenly Father.  
          Finally, I'm commanded to keep my focus on Jesus. He is the one who is able to mature my faith. I can’t increase my faith apart from Him. I can only choose to trust God and His word in each circumstance I face. If I keep my eyes on Jesus, what do I see? I see His love-scarred hands that are open wide to me. I see the scars on His brow, reminding me He bore the curse for me. I see the stripes on His back, reminding me He came so that I could be healed. I see His love filled eyes that are full of acceptance rather than the condemnation I expected to see?
I am afraid I forget my name is on His lips, inviting me to spend time with Him. I forget that in His presence my fears and concerns melt into adoration and praise. I forget when I pour out my heart to Him, My bitterness is turned into perfect peace. I forget that I see in Him a power strong enough to overcome death. When I look at Christ and His glory, I want the path He laid before us. When I look at Christ, I can't be satisfied with any love, except His pure and holy love. When I think of His holiness I want to rid myself of anything hindering my relationship with Him. When I am focused on Christ, I desire to get to the place that I resist temptation to the point I sweat blood as Christ did in the Garden. 
Where is the focus of your eyes? Is it on the world, yourself, or Christ?  What entangling sin do you need to cast off? How deep is the root of unbelief behind that sin? The God who died for you designed the race you are to run – have you entered the race?  

Prayer:  Lord, You are holy good and You gave so much to reconcile us to Yourself.  Please help us to see all that hinders our relationship with You and give us the courage to get rid of it. Please help us see even the roots of the sins that entangle us and help us to resist the temptation in order to see Your strength manifested in us. Please help us to keep our eyes focused on You and to allow your perfecting work in us. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!