Running the Race Without the Extra Weight
Laying Aside Both Sin and the Weight
There are two things that can slow down our progress as we “run the race” of the Christian life. Both need to be addressed. The writer of Hebrews pointed out these impediments when he wrote, “…let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us…” (Heb. 12:1).
We must recognize that sin can easily ensnare us, so we must remain on guard, watching carefully where we place our feet. However, the “weight” that the Hebrew writer mentions is usually overlooked or misunderstood. It seems clear that the writer intentionally differentiates between sin and weight by pointing out both.
The Greek word translated “weight” is onkon which means something heavy or burdensome.The word is translated “encumbrance” in some Bible translations. It is that which hinders or encumbers us from running as freely as we could if the impediment were not there. The truth is, it would be easier to run without either of these impediments.
Had the writer of the passage only used the word onkon and not mentioned sin, we probably would have assumed the weighty thing was sin. However, he chooses to distinguish between the two. So then, if onkon is not sin, what is it?
We know that it is something heavy weighing us down. We know it is hindering us from running the way we could if it were not there. I cannot come up with any other possibility than this one thing: lie-based belief. When we believe a lie, it comes with its corresponding emotion. Ask any depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, fearful person to tell you how he feels, and see if he doesn’t describe being weighted down by his heavy emotions. Negative emotion is weighty and burdensome. It is also the product of our belief. I believe the writer of Hebrews was aware of this reality when he identified both the sin that so easily entangles us, as well as the weighty things that are the product of our belief.
The father disciplines those He loves
We know what to do with the sins that might entangle us, but what are we to do with the “onkons” we have in our backpack? Most true Christians are not practicing sin, because the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit sees to that. When one of God’s beloved veers off the race track over into sin, the Spirit rushes in and convinces him to return. If one of His little lambs wanders off by itself, the Good Shepherd seeks him out. God is our heavenly parent watching carefully over us and disciplining us as needed (Heb. 12:7-11) keeping us on the right path.
If any person professes Christ and yet is comfortable about continuing in sinful behavior, there is something wrong. If we are not being disciplined by the Lord then we are “illegitimate children and not sons” (Heb. 12:8). John the Apostle also wrote, “God’s children do not make a practice of sinning…” (1 Jo. 5:18). So then, if we are having difficulty running the race, but sin is not the problem, it must have to do with what we believe.
It is important to note that the weighty negative emotions can be the result of a lie-based belief, or a truth-based belief. Both must be attended to before I can “run with endurance the race that lies before me…” (Heb. 12:1)
Some lie-based emotions include fear, worry, stress, anxiety, depression, feeling overwhelmed, helpless, powerless, etc. Some weighty truth-based emotions include grief, regret, disappointment, genuine guilt, etc.
Every Sin is begins with a thought and every thought is rooted in Belief
In TPM, we focus on the lie-based heart belief and not on the sin, even though we recognize that sin can be an issue for the believer. The very fact that the writer of Hebrews points it out tells us the potential for being snared by sin is real. However, if we can attend to our lie-based belief and allow the Spirit to persuade us of His truth, sin will become less of a problem.
Many of the sins we commit are directly related to our emotional state, as we feel whatever we believe. This is the typical progression: I believe something (belief), I feel something (emotion), I do something (sin). If I only focus on changing what I do (sin management) and do not address what I believe and feel, the cycle continues. If I only focus on the pain I feel, I will probably find sinful ways to manage it. I can say with confidence that every sin ever committed began first as a thought that was reflective of belief. This was followed by emotion and consummated in doing something (sin).
Even in the Garden, Eve gave much thought to the suggestions of the tempter, and she came to believe several things about the fruit (which were ultimately about her identity and the nature of God) before she partook of it. The narrative says, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 2:6). Much thought and belief went into Eve’s decision to sin (good for food, a delight to her eyes, could make her wise.) If she had dealt with her belief issues in that moment, she might have decided to walk away.
Based upon what Eve said to the serpent, she apparently knew the truth before the deception was brought in when she said, “…From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die” (gen. 3:2-3), Nevertheless, she chose to exchange this truth that knew for a lie (Rom. 1:25). This is the same thing we each do when we are “drawn aside and enticed” (Jam. 1:14).