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Summary: Cleaning up, sorting out the rubbish, clearly we can run light weight, the spiritual race before us focused on Jesus. Jesus being our focus keeps the path ahead doable.

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Hebrews 12: 1-3

This was to be the final part in this series of tools of the Faith; I think there maybe another one or two of these sermons coming up yet.

In any situation where tools have been used there is often a need for a clean up. A time to get rid of the rubbish, to cast off all the junk and packaging that gets in the way, get the egg shells in the bin, maybe a time to throw out the extra screws that appeared while fixing the toaster or putting that kitset desk together.

With any job there is a time for cleaning up, now some people clean as they go. They do a bit of work and clean up as they go. At any stage they could leave the work site and you would not know that they had been there; these people are in my opinion amazing and rare. Others and this is the group that I am included in do the whole job making a horrible mess and clean up at the end of the job, their focus is on doing the job, not the mess that they are creating, but they also know that the job is not complete until the mess is removed. Then there are those who do the job make a mess and leave the mess for somebody else to clean up, these people often wonder why they are not asked back to do a job again. Then there are others who work in their own space who like this last group never clean up but somehow manage to survive in mess.

The writer of Hebrews had just given his readers in the previous chapter a run down on this great group of heroes of the faith, and here he was pointing out that in life his readers were surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

Let’s have a look at Chapter 12 verse 1 and try to figure out why he wrote the way he did. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

The picture that was being portrayed here was one of a sports stadium. Imagine this the heroes of the faith all seated in the stands, looking down upon the Hebrew Christians, the race is about to begin. What was needed for the race to be run?

Firstly a little bit of history. The Hebrew Christians at this stage were mostly second generation Christians and some were wondering if it wouldn’t just be easier to revert back to their old Jewish roots, if the Christian journey was just too hard, you see there was persecution going on, though at this stage none of this group of Christians had been killed for being a Christian, it had happened elsewhere in the world.

Back to the stadium for the beginning of the race, right, they are warming up, the race is to begin in a few minutes. Yes we can see the athletes are taking off their track suits and are now just wearing the essentials for the race.

William Barcley worded verse one this way, “So then in the arena of life we are surrounded by a vast crowd of spectators. We must therefore, as an athlete strips for action, strip off every encumbrance and the sin that clings to us, and we must run with gallant determination the race which stretches in front of us.”

We have a picture of runners wearing just what is essential to compete in the race, they have shaken off everything that gets in the way of their best result. In Biblical times when it came to an athletics race they would have taken off their outer garments, their robes, belts if they were wearing armour or weapons these as well, until quite literally they would be running in their under wear, yip running in their undies.

In verse one there are two things that are mentioned that need to occur before the race can be run properly.

1) a)Remove all those things that hinder the runner. Those outer garments, how many of us enter the Christian race with things that hinder – the experience we have had of formal religion, the abuse that we have suffered at the hands of another or that we’ve dished out that now rides our conscience telling us what a terrible person we are, maybe it’s some painful thing that you’ve carried from childhood, that idea about yourself that says you’re not worthy, not unique, not loved by God, maybe it’s the addiction that calls us first thing in the morning before we listen for the voice of God, this is really a list that can go on and on. But let us throw off everything that hinders – cast it aside, it will only slow you down and wear you out. Cast off the rubbish.

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