I am always thankful that we have a New Year’s Day service in our congregation. I had the privilege of preaching at that service in our congregation yesterday. As an illustration to introduce my sermon, I referred to a magazine which is sold on the streets of most of our cities by people who are homeless. The aim of the organisation behind the magazine is to give homeless people a start to earn some money by selling the magazines at a small profit, and so build up a businesss for themselves. All the sellers are self-employed. The name of the magazine is “The Big Issue”, that ‘issue’ being homelessness, although the magazine covers a wide range of topics.
The point of using the title of this magazine to introduce a New Year’s day sermon is obvious: the question being, ‘Is there a big issue between youself and God, that you need to settle before more time passes?’ The issue of course is, whether you are RightWithGod, or not. It may surprise you that I applied the question to believers first, and then to unbelievers. It applies to both, but in totally different ways.
But surely the believer is already RightWithGod? Yes, most certainly: there is not the slightest possibility, that a person who is saved, united by faith to Christ, trusting in Him as the only One who can save from sin, can ever, ever be lost.
However, when we look at a passage of scripture like Hebrews 12:1-4, which is clearly addressed to believers, we have a picture of the christian life, which challenges the christian. In verses 1 and 2, we read of a race, not of our own making, but one which God himself has “set before us”. It does not say, ‘He sets the race before us, and forces us to run it.’ He just sets it before us, and, if we are believers, we are enabled to run this race, but not forced into it. It is a race which can only be run with patience, literally, perseverance, or staying power. This is very far from the attitude which says, ‘I am saved, and saved irreversibly for all time and eternity, and nothing can change that (which is true), so I can relax, and enjoy my christian life without pushing myself. The last clause is mistaken.
The christian life is a life of intense joy and happiness in God. No greater happiness is possible in this life than this. It is a life of “laying aside” certain things, or separating ourselves from them. The first of these is “every weight”. Weights here mean things which are not in themselves sinful, but which weigh us down: certain company, friendships, reading materials, entertainments, excessive internet chats, etc. The second thing is “the sin which does so easily beset us”. We must get to know ourselves, and especially the sins which all too easily over take and enslave us, filling our thoughts before w know where we are. We must separate ourselves from all the situations which make it easy for these sins to ‘grab’ us: If you are honest with yourself, you will soon know what these situations are. This race is really a pursuit: it is pursuing holiness. This is a pursuit which is in itself is the joy of all who are in it. The greatest happiness possible to the christian is the enjoyment of God.
This is supremely being RightWithGod. As we separate ouselves from the things mentioned, we separate ourselves unto Christ; “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”. We make Him the focus of our thoughts and aims. He is the one whom God the Father graciously, lovingly sent to “endure the cross” for us. His Joy was that He would reconcile us to God by His suffering the penalty of our sins for us on the cursed cross. Let us endure for Him, just for the sheer present joy of dong so.
I have written enough for this week. If spared, we will address the unbeliever next week.