All is well…knowing the end of the story changes everything
Where are you discouraged in your struggle against sin? When our focus is only on what is immediately in front of us — all of today’s temptations and failures — we lose perspective on the big picture and the ways God is at work, even in the midst of our sin.
1Therefore, 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, 2looking 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. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
In my last post we looked to Jesus as the founder and perfecter of our faith. Now I want to consider the wonder that he went to the cross “for the joy that was set before him.” First, the passage tells us something important: going to the cross meant Jesus experienced shame. Not only does Jesus identify with us in our temptation, he even identifies with us in our guilt and shame though he was personally sinless. He experienced them for us on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21 describes it like this, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” He became sin for us. He took all our guilt and shame on his shoulders as he faced the curse of dying on a tree (see Galatians 3:10-14). He is able to understand and have compassion for everything you experience – even the pain of your guilt over repeated failures. He knows the reality of your sin and invites you to see him lifted up, bearing it for you so that you are able to walk in newness of life.
What was his motivation? The joy set before him. That joy includes you and me. In my last post I quoted Titus 2:14: Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” The point then was to consider him as our perfecter, committed to purifying his people. But the whole point in our purification was to make us a people fitted for his own possession. Jesus went to the cross, for the joy of liberating us from our slavery to sin so that we could be his beloved Bride. He has betrothed himself to us, and, as we both await that great Wedding Feast of the Lamb, he is joyfully purifying us in glorious anticipation. Even though on our end the purification process is anything but joyful and glorious!
This truth radically impacts the call to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.” How? There is a goal we are running to. This isn’t mindlessly circling a track until you’ve suffered enough in abstinence from sexual sin. God is not a killjoy who dangles pleasures only to see us drool. There is a glorious destination in view. One awaits us with a smile brighter than we can imagine (like the sun!), whose arms are outstretched, whose heart is overflowing with love, who delights in us and even sings over us. We need to cast aside everything slowing us down because Jesus is eager for us to arrive, to offer us pleasures at his right hand forevermore. Pleasures that right now, in this existence, with these bodies, we can’t even begin to fathom. He promises that joy, pleasure, peace and contentment beyond our ability to comprehend, await us at the end of this race. He promises we will be satisfied for eternity. Contentment in this life is often fleeting at best. In his presence is fullness of joy forevermore. The pleasures offered to us in this life are good gifts from a loving God that enable us to glimpse in a mirror dimly the infinitely greater glories awaiting…
How would your battle against sin change if your eyes were focused on the end of the race? Do you believe that Jesus isn’t holding out on you, but reserving pleasure and delight that will infinitely satisfy your soul at the race’s end?