I learned the first three verses of Hebrew 12 at Christmas time in the city of Amsterdam in Holland in 2000.

it remains one of my favorite go to verses and is both highly challenging and encouraging. it is also an excellent verse to consider as we had towards the new year, time of new beginnings and so on…

i was doing a discipleship training school (DTS) with youth with a mission (YWAM) and before we hit the streets, we were all given a scripture to learn and then pass on to someone we met.

i feel like so much of the gospel message is contained in this passage:

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‘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 upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scoring its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.’

As you look ahead to the beginning of a new year, why not give this first part some significant time and attention:

# Throw off everything that hinders:

what is there in your life that is hindering you in your walk with God? besides obvious sin which we will get to in a moment, could it be that your current lifestyle is so busy, that you don’t make regular space or time for God? time to read the bible… time to talk to God or simply be still and listen to what He might be wanting to say? time to honestly wrestle with the ideas of scripture and what that means in terms of how you live your life… What can you put into place as you head into the new year that will remove that hindrance and help strengthen your walk with God? Regular time in your schedule, someone to meet with, perhaps a new book or journal to help you be intentional about this?

is there maybe anger or disappointment or confusion that you are feeling towards God for something you feel He has or hasn’t done? Maybe removing the hindrance is as simply as speaking or writing it out. Addressing your feelings with the confidence that God is secure enough on His throne to be able to take whatever you have to share with Him. And deeply desiring the interaction with you.

is there a distraction in your life, a time waster or procrastination activity that is stopping you from living a fuller more effective life? is it a computer game that is draining hours of your time or perhaps a facebook application or a site like Instagram or Pinterest [or even Facebook itself?] that turns minutes into hours without you realising, day after day? perhaps it is sport or tv watching or music? a lot of these things aren’t bad things in and of themselves… but when they start to rob you of a couple of hours per day then perhaps there are more useful things you could be doing with a lot more of your time. Is there something you need to reduce or cut out of your life as you head into 2014? 

maybe it’s a relationship? It could be a dating one or else just a friendship which is proving detrimental to your life and well-being. It could be a toxic relationship that is influencing you in a negative way and every time you spend with that person you end up doing stuff you don’t want to do or becoming the kind of person you don’t really want to be. It might be a bad habit in your life that is affecting your marriage or a family relationship… or even something that you have done that you need to apologise for or repent of. it could also be the lack of a relationship that is hindering you in your walk with God? someone to mentor or encourage you or even just to be able to listen to your struggles or pain. If there is someone who needs to be added or possibly stepped away from, maybe even just for a season of time, then make a plan to initiate that.

So whatever it is, and it could be a number of different things, and might even be more than one, if there is anything that is hindering you, distracting you, preventing you from living the fullest life you could be, then make a plan to throw off everything that hinders so that you can start the new year well.

#Cast off the sin that so easily entangles:

– is there any sin in your life that needs dealing with? Decide now to get intentional with repenting and walking differently from now.

– is there perhaps some sin that you have minimalised by calling it something else? a bad habit or “just who i am”

– is there sin you’ve given up on because ‘i cant help it’ has become your go to defence?

Know that God is bigGER. Know that He is able to do more than you have experienced up to this point. Know that He desires to help you to cast off any sin that causes you to be less than who you were designed to be. Take it to Him, confess what has been dragging you down and resolve in His strength to walk away from it.

One of the greatest pieces of mentoring advice i ever got was to “Keep a short account with God” – much like a bar tab that you keep adding to, the less frequently you deal with your sin, the more it builds up and often shames you into not even wanting to approach God at all. So make regular times of confession, even if it is something you have struggled with for a long time, just keep going back and restoring relationship and inviting Him to empower you to take it down completely.

Cast off the sin that so easily entangles.

The rest of it is the how. And it is quite simple [in one sense] The best way to run the race we have been called to [which is always a kingdom of God building race] with perseverance is to throw off the things that have hindered and cast off the sin that has entangled your legs and to “Fix your eyes upon Jesus” – so we need to regularly make sure that our gaze is firmly on Him and be reminded that He is cheering us on loudly [He is in heaven interceding on our behalf] and it is in Jesus Christ that we can “do all things” [Philippians 4.13] What makes is a little easier is knowing that Jesus [A] is the author of our faith – He created us and knows how this thing works well and so it makes sense that we look to Him for guidance and strength, and [B] endured the cross – He has experienced life and death on earth and so He knows the struggles of temptation and physical duress. He is not commentating as one removed, but He speaks to as as one who gets it.

Powerful, powerful stuff and a scripture worth committing to memory and living out well.

[For my next favourite verse – Romans 12.1-2 – click here]

[For the growing list of all my favourite verses, click here]

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