Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
These verses were a great reminder this morning as we reflected on our past year, our present circumstances and our future to come, Lord willing. It is fitting that the phrase …looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…be the phrase that we spend the most time meditating on. It is what I am continuing to learn personally: treasure Christ above all else, trust Christ above all else.
It is a Jesus who is treasured that will cause us to lay aside every weight and forsake every sin that clings so closely. It will be a treasured Jesus that will motivate us and spur us on to do these things with reckless abandon. It will be a treasured Jesus only that will motivate us in this race.
The Gospel is central to these verses. Why treasure Jesus? Because he is the founder of our faith! Without the Gospel, without it impacting our lives in such a way that we come to treasure Christ, we fall prey to simple legalistic lifestyles. By looking to Jesus, and thinking long on the how the Gospel has impacted our lives personally, we begin to desire to shed off the things that would hold us back from being close to him! We cannot remove our salvation from the sanctification process. When we fail to focus on our salvation, and fail to meditate on the grace that has been lavished on us, our sanctification becomes self-righteousness. It becomes all about us and what we need to be doing, rather than about Christ and what he has done.
When we keep our gaze focused on Christ and how our Father has moved us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, we begin to understand that even the race is not about our own effort. Jesus…the perfecter of our faith. This is a wonderful truth! God does not begin us on this journey of faith and leave us to our own strength, effort and resourcefulness! Glory! And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV) And so we treasure Christ not only for placing us in the race, but also for bringing us through to the finish line! What confidence this should bring to the child of God! If I were to have confidence only in my own efforts for enduring the race I have been called to, I should give up now! I cannot succeed by my own determination.
Let me encourage you (all three of my readers…ha!) to treasure Christ this coming year. Do not “double down” on your own efforts to try and improve your life and faith. Make Jesus worth more than any sin that clings close to you. Value him more than anything that would weigh you down and distract you from running to him. Everything is at stake here. Is there anything you would rather have than Christ? Go back to the Gospel. Meditate on the grace shown to you through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Fan your affections for him by lingering at the cross. Treasure him and trust him to bring you through the course he has laid out for you. I leave you with a quote from Jonathan Edwards:
What cause have they who have an interest in Christ, to glory in their Redeemer! They are often beset with many evils, and many mighty enemies surround them on every side, with open mouths ready to devour them. But they need not fear any of them. They may glory in Christ, the rock of their salvation, who appears so gloriously above them all. They may triumph over Satan, over this evil world, over guilt, and over death. For as their Redeemer is mighty, and is so exalted above all evil, so shall they also be exalted in him, They are now, in a sense, so exalted. For nothing can hurt them. Christ carries them, as on eagle’s wings, high out of the reach of all evils, so that they cannot come near them, to do them any real harm.~J.E.; The Works of Jonathan Edwards