My message tonight's going to come right there from the very first two verses there in Hebrews chapter 12 where the Bible reads, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Now, what I want to point out first of all in this passage is often Paul and his epistles, we can see in several different places that Paul likens the Christian life like unto a race. This is just one example. For sake of time, you won't turn there in 1 Corinthians 9:24, he also speaks about that. You can see here in this passage where the apostle Paul is likening the Christian life unto a race that is run.
Before I get started on the message, what I'm about to preach tonight, I just want to make it clear that this only applies to Christians. This does not apply, this idea of running a race and the things that we ought to do to run the race well and to excel at living for Christ, these things only apply to those who have been born again. If you're here tonight and you've never been saved, if you've never accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior, this sermon really doesn't apply to you. What does apply to you is a little bit of what I'm going to talk about here, just the two or three minutes. That's this. This is that salvation is by grace alone. We all know that it's not a race. For example, a drunk can be saved and on his way to heaven without being in the race. If someone was a drunk we'd say they're definitely not in the race for Christ but that doesn't have any bearing on whether or not a person's going to heaven. They could be a drunk. You can be a drunk and be on your way to heaven because salvation is not based on your works, as it says in Ephesians chapter 2 in verse 8 and 9. "For by grace, you're saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast."
See, it's not about running a race or trying to keep God's commandments. That's not what gets us into heaven. Jesus said in John 4:15, "If you love me, keep my commandments." You see, it's not our love for God is what gets us into heaven. It's our love for God is what saves us. It's what makes us a disciple. That's the difference. In John 8:31, then said Jesus unto those Jews which believed on him, "If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed." Jesus also said, "Man shall know by your love one for another." I'm kind of paraphrasing there. You see, our love for the brethren is what makes us recognizable as disciples, but it's not what gets us into heaven.
You see, what gets us into heaven is God's love for us. That's what brings us salvation. The Bible says in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life." Romans 5:8, the Bible says, "But God comendeth his love toward us and that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." You see, it's God love for you that saves you tonight, not your love for him or your love for others. We should love others, we should love God, but it's God love for us is what gets us into heaven. You see, the gospel of salvation is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is not the power of a changed life. Romans 10:9, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Just right off the bat, I want to make that perfectly clear. What I'm talking about tonight has nothing to do with salvation. Salvation is by grace through faith.
Now, back to our text. Again, we see that the apostle Paul is likening the Christian life unto a race. He shows us in Hebrews 12 that there are several things that we can do to run the race well or to obtain the prize that is set before us there. One of the first things he says there, if you look down, is to lay aside every weight and sin. To run this race well, to finish the race well, one of the things that we're going to have to do it says here is to lay aside every weight and sin. Another thing that we're going to have to do to run the race well is to run with patience. Even a third thing he goes on to says there, "Looking unto Jesus." Now, this sermon is only going to focus on that first admonition. That's to lay aside every weight and sin. That's what I want to talk about tonight is laying aside every weight and sin so that we might better run this race for Christ.
Before we deal with the specifics, I want to look at just some general characteristics of weights and sins. See, the Bible says here that the weights and sins, these are things that beset us. That word "beset" is not something that we use very often in our modern vocabulary. In fact, some people might be kind of scratching their heads right now thinking, "What does that even mean? What does that even mean? What does it mean that it besets us? What does that word mean to beset?" Now, the dictionary definition of beset is simply this: to cause problems or difficulties for; to trouble or to harass; to set upon; to assail; to hem in or around. Now, that's the dictionary definition but this dictionary lines up with the Bible's use of the word.
You know, I'll read it for you. You don't have to turn there. In Judges 19:22. We'll move through this very quickly. I'm not going to go into the story here, I just want you to see how the word "beset" is used. The Bible says, "Now, as they were making merry their hearts, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house roundabout and beat at the door and spake at the master of the house, the old man, saying, 'Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him.'"
Now, notice there it says that they beset the house roundabout. That would line up with the dictionary definition to hem in or around. Notice also that these men, these sons of Belial, beat at the door. That would line up with the definition once again to trouble or harass. If you're beating at somebody's door, you're kind of harassing them. Thirdly, notice it says, "That we may know him." Those of you that read your Bibles and are familiar with that terminology, you know what that means. "That they may know him," that means in a carnal way, in a very filthy and vile and disgusting way, as the sons of Belial are wanting to do. Again, it lines up with the dictionary definition of the word beset where it says,to set upon, to assail, or to assault. These men were there. They beset the house, they beat on the house, they harassed the people in the house, and they were there to set upon, to assault, and to assail.
There are passages that we could turn to and look at but we won't for sake of time. I just want to point out the fact that that's what the apostle Paul is saying here in Hebrews 12. That's what these weights and sins do in our life. They beset us. That's the nature of what it is when something besets you. There's something that is surrounding you and something that is assailing you, something that is assaulting you. You see, weight and sins beset us in the sense that they surround us, they are in our path, they trouble us, they cause us grief, they cause us hardship, and they assault us in the sense that they cause us harm.
Now, in the context of Hebrews 12, the weights and sins are obstacles in our path that hinder our race that we're trying to run. Again, the Bible says, going on, again we're just looking at some of the characters of weights and sins. First, we saw that the weights beset us. Notice also it says, "The weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us." And the sin. Weights and sins are two different things but they have the same effect of hindering us.
You see, sins differ from weights in that they are clearly condemned in scriptures. We know what a sin is. A sin is not hard to identify as sin. We could probably, if we went around the room tonight, everybody could come up probably with a unique sin that they know of, that we wouldn't have anybody repeating the same sins. Everybody could probably think of a sin. Sins are very easily identifiable. Sins differ from weights in that they are clearly condemned in scripture. For example, sins like drunkenness and fornication are obvious. They're obvious to us, people that are around those that are committing those sins, and they're obvious to those that are committing those sins. No one wonders if they're a drunk. No one wonders if they're a fornicator. It's an obvious sin that we can see. That's one difference between a sin and a weight, is that sins are obvious.
Sins have a very devastating effect. For example, we're talking about the sin of fornication. In 1 Corinthians 5, if you turn there. 1 Corinthians 5, we can see that sins are easily identifiable and clearly condemned in scripture. We're going to talk about just the sin of fornication very quickly. 1 Corinthians 5, beginning there in verse 1. 1 Corinthians 5 says, "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication that is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from you. For verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, I have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed." We can see there that it was Paul saying, "Look, this sin of fornication is so obvious that everybody knows about it." He goes on and he says it has very serious consequences.
If you look over there in verse number 7, Paul goes on and says, "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators, yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters. For then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person."
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul is making it perfectly clear that it's the duty of the church to kick out fornicators. When it comes to the attention of the church that someone is living in fornication ... In case you don't know what that means, it's somebody who's living with another person, going to bed with them outside the bonds of marriage. They are to be kicked out of the church.
We can see that how a sin differs from a weight because a sin has a very clear condemnation in scripture and it is very clearly dealt with in scripture and that it has a very serious consequence. I won't go on for the sake of time, but that's not the only option for the fornicator. That's the good news for the fornicator. They basically have three options. One is to get kicked out of church and consider themselves warned. The Bible goes on and talks about 1 Corinthians 6. Of course, option three is always on the table too which is simply to just get married. If you're living in fornication, you want to be in the church, then you need to just get married. As it says in Hebrews 13:4, "Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled, but whoremongers and adulterers, God will judge." You see, the sin of fornication serves as an example of how sins differ from weights. That's really a point I'm trying to make here. They differ from the weights by the fact that they are condemned in scripture, the fact that they are obvious to ourselves and others, and the fact that they have a clear remedy. Also, the sin of fornication serves an example as how sins are similar to the weights in that they beset us. They are the weights and sins that doth so easily beset us. They hinder us and they also must be laid aside.
Again, I'm just trying to go over and just show us some of the general characteristics of weight and sins here. Now, sins are easy to identify and there are clear means of dealing with them. Now, in contrast, weights, which we're talking about tonight, are difficult to identify due to the fact that they're not always sinful in and of themselves and are not obvious to others. Weights in our lives are not things in our lives that are necessarily sinful, things that are condemned in scripture. Because of that, they're not as easy to identify and they're not as obvious to ourselves and others.
Going on, just talking again about some of the generalities of weights and sins. The Bible goes on there in Hebrews chapter 12, if you go back there in your Bible. Hebrews chapter 12 verse 1, it says, "Let us lay aside every weight." Notice that word "every". Meaning this that there is more than just one weight in our lives that we need to set aside. See, there's laying aside of weights in our lives is an ongoing process. We lay these weights aside in our lives as we encounter them in our path. You know, in fact, the same weight that we have in our life might be needed to lay aside more than once. We might have something that's holding us down in our life.
I'll get real specific about a weight here in a minute because there's so many. I'll bear in on one but I'm just trying to give us a general idea, just some generalities about weights and the nature of weights. Again, there's many of them in our lives, some more than others. The fact is we all have weights to lay aside. We might lay this weight aside today and then next year, it's back in our life and it's something that we need to get out of our way again. See, laying aside of weights is an ongoing process. That's why he goes on and says that we must run the race with patience. We must take the time in our lives to identify the weights that hinder us, that slow us down, as we endeavor to run the race for Christ. Identify them, lay them aside, and if they come back in, take the time to lay them aside again.
Now, the weight I want to bear in on tonight and focus is one that I think a lot of Christians struggle with. I know it's something that doesn't get talked a lot about and at least people don't express the fact that they're struggling with as much. I know for a fact that a lot of people do. That's this. The title of my sermon tonight is The Weight of a Guilty Conscience.
See, I believe there's a lot of Christians tonight that are hindered in the race for Christ by the fact that they are bogged down, they have a weight in their path that needs to get laid aside. That weight is the weight of a guilty conscience. What do I mean by that? When I say guilty, I mean the weight of remorse in your life, the weight of regret in your life, or the weight of some sense of guilt over the things you've done in the past. You know, there is a time to feel that weight and to feel guilty and to feel that remorse, but I think that sometimes, we as Christians, we hang on to that a little too long and we let that hold us back. It's an obstacle that we can't get around.
A church like this that's going out and seeing people saved and reaching the lost people in the world, we're seeing people get saved much later in their lives sometimes. People make mistakes so early in their lives these days and if we're bringing the lost in, they're getting saved and they're joining the church, the fact is that people are going to walk through the doors of Faithful Word Baptist Church and they're going to have weights in their lives. They're going to have guilt in their life. They're going to have remorse and regret in their life. They need to know how to deal with that. In order to run the race, the weight of a guilty conscience must be laid aside. Otherwise, it is going to hinder us. You see, dwelling on past sins and failures of a guilty conscience, those things must be laid aside so that we might more clearly focus on the path that is ahead of us.
I'll read for you Proverbs 18:14. The Bible says, "The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity. But a wounded spirit, he can bear." Proverbs 15:13 says, "A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance. But by sorrow of heart, the spirit is broken." Proverbs 17:22 says, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine. But a broken spirit drieth the bones." You see, reminding others of their failures and sins doesn't help them recover and run the race. They need to be reminded that those sins are forgiven, that they're under the blood, that they're in the past and that they can move on and live their lives.
If you would, please turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 2, and see just a quick example of this. Again, we're talking about the weight of a guilty conscience and laying it aside. Chapter 2 beginning in verse 6, "Sufficient unto the man is the punishment which was inflicted of many." Now, this scripture here is referring to the man that we read about in 1 Corinthians 5 that had committed fornication with his father's mother, the one that Paul was telling them to kick out of the church. If we didn't read it there in that passage, it says, "But deliver such a one unto Satan for destruction unto the flesh."
That man went out and got right. When he came back to the church, Paul is now admonition the Corinthians to forgive this man. He says of him, "Sufficient unto to such a man is the punishment which was inflicted by many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him." Paul here is telling us that we should not hold sins over people's heads. If someone's committed a sin, we need to deal with that sin. We need to deal with it appropriately, depending on what sin it is. Once that person has got it right, they should be able to welcome back into the fold. We should be able to act as if that thing had never happened.
The Bible says in Matthew 18:21, "Then came Peter to him, and said, 'Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?' Jesus saith unto him, 'I say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven.'" You see, we should be quick to forgive others. We should also be quick to forgive ourselves. "Blessed are the merciful," Jesus said, "For they shall obtain mercy."
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there's never a time for us to feel mourn or regret or there isn't some things that perhaps we should feel bad about in our lives, things that we've done and messed up. It's not something that should be an ongoing process. There's a time to get over it. There's a time to feel sorry and a time to feel guilt and to mourn.
See, if we're living in sin now, if we're enduring some trial now, now is the time to feel bad, now is the time to feel guilty about it. "Now," as it says in James 8:4, "is the time to draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hearts, ye sinners and purify your heart. Cleanse your hands, ye sinner and purify your hearts, ye double-minded. Be afflicted and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he shall lift you up." There is a time to feel bad.
As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1, "To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance." Then it goes on in chapter 7 verse 2 of Ecclesiastes, "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth." There is a time in our lives that we ought to feel guilty, that we ought to feel shame and regret for the sins that we are committing. There's also a time when we've confessed that sin and we've forsaken that sin. There comes a time to just get over it and move on with our lives. That's easier said than done, but that is the fact.
For example, David committed a great sin of adultery and murder. If you know your Bibles, he committed the sin with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in battle. He was called out. The prophet told him, "Thou art the man." He said that a great judgement would come upon that he would take the child that was resulted from that union and he would kill that child and take it to heaven. David, if you recall, went in and he fasted and mourned for many days. There came a time when the judgement came and it was over with. The Bible says in 2 Samuel chapter 12 verse 20 that David arose from the earth, washed and anointed himself and changed his apparel and came into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then, came he to his own house when he required and when he required, they set bread before him and he did eat.
There was a time when David said, "What's done is done. I did this sin. I confessed it. I forsaked it. I've sought the Lord. I was in sackcloth and ashes. I prayed. I fasted. Now, it's done. There's a time to just move on with my life." There's a time that we need to just get over the things that we are hanging onto and beating ourselves up about. There's time to stop beating up other people about things that they've done in their past and just let everybody live it down and move on with their lives. Again, this is easier said than done and it may sound callous to say, "Get over it." The fact is, it's true. People can allow guilt and remorse become an excuse or a weight that slows them down or even stops them.
As we saw with Peter in Matthew chapter 26, Peter answered and said unto him, "Though all men should be offended because of thee, yet I will never be offended." Jesus sayeth unto him, "Verily, I say unto you that this night before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice." Peter said unto him, "Though I should die with thee, yet I will not yet deny thee." Likewise said also all the disciples.
Verse 74, then began he to curse and to swear saying, "I know not man," and immediately the cock crew. Peter remembered the words of Jesus which he had said unto him, "Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice." He went out and he wept literally. You see, Peter here makes this great declaration of his faithfulness to Christ. Just a few verses later in the same chapter, he's doing exactly what he said he wouldn't do and he's denying Christ and feeling very bad about it and ends up quitting the ministry. We won't take the time. I know it's something that's been preached over this pulpit even recently many times. He quits the ministry there and he goes fishing, if you recall and he takes some of the disciples with him. Peter quits but eventually he's restored too. This story can be taken two ways. It can be the moving story of God's love and his desire to restore Peter to service. Another way we could kind of simplify that, in not so flowery speech, is just Jesus telling Peter to just get over it and to go and forget the past and to live for him.
We see the example of Paul as someone who got over their past and was mightily of use to something that we should look at. Go to 1 Timothy chapter 1. We're looking at people now who are an example of this getting over, this laying aside the weight of guilt and sin in their life and going on and running the race for Christ. 1 Timothy chapter 1 verse 15. The Bible says, "This is a faithful saying worthy of all acceptation that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief. Albeit for this cause, I have obtained mercy that in me first, Jesus Christ, might show forth all long-suffering for a pattern to them which hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." See, Paul calls himself the chiefest of sinners and he says that he obtained mercy from God to serve as an example for us. He served as an example of God's long-suffering for who? For those that would hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. That's, I believe, one of the purposes that God had in using the apostle Paul. I think he went out and he chose the chiefest of sinners and used him in a mighty way to hold him as an example of it doesn't matter of what you've done or where you've been.
We're going to look at Paul. I think we sometimes give Paul a pass, but you've got to remember there's some things about Paul. It says he used him as a pattern which hereafter believe on him. He was shown all long-suffering for a pattern to them. Let's look real quick at the pattern of Paul. Acts 2:31, I'll just remind you some things about Paul. Paul said in Acts 2:31, Paul, earnestly beholding a council said, "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day." That is a very bold statement that Paul makes there when we begin to consider who Paul was, where Paul came from and the things that Paul had done. Paul said before these men, he got up before God and everybody and said, "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day." He said in 1 Timothy chapter 1 verse 12, "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who hath enabled me. For he counted me faithful, putting in the ministry, who was before a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious." Paul is telling on himself here. By his own admission that he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and he was injurious. He goes on and says, "I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly and in unbelief."
In Acts 9, we see Paul breathing out threatenings and slaughter when he went to bring the disciples of the Lord bound to Jerusalem, hailing women and casting them into prison, men and women. That's when Jesus showed up, when he's on his way to do ... It was known of us that we were one of these people that would go around and trying to round people up. We would try to get as far away from that person. We would say, "I don't want anything to do with that guy. That guy wants to throw me in jail. He wants to injure me. He's a blasphemer, he's injurious, he's a persecutor." That's when God showed up. That's when God decided to step into Paul's life, when Paul was on his way to blaspheme and to injure the church.
If you would, please, turn to Acts 26 very quickly there. Acts 26 in verse 9, he said, this is Paul speaking, "I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, which thing I also did in Jerusalem and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme. And being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me." We see again that's where God decided to step into Paul's life. We see the kind of person Paul was. That's who God used to pen most of the New Testament.
Now, Paul, in the book of Galatians in chapter 1 verse 23, says, "The churches in Judea had heard only that he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed." It says, "And they glorified God in me." You see, when we see a wicked sinner get saved, when we see somebody walk away from a past of sin, a past that we would be ashamed of, and we see them begin to live for God, some people are tempted, especially in the world, they want to call that person a hypocrite. They want say, "What do you mean you're living for God now? You did this. You did that. You did all these terrible things. I know the truth about you." When we as Christians see somebody do that, we can look at that person and instead of trying to call them out or make them into something they're not by calling them a hypocrite, we can glorify God in them as they did in Paul.
You say your past is too wicked, but God says that's exactly who he's looking for to use. You say, "My life is a wreck and I'm a mess. I have made mistakes. I've messed up my life." Paul says, "Welcome to the club." That's who God's looking for. You see, when God uses a sinner, God gets the glory for what is accomplished. We read where Paul tells on himself. Now, look at what he does in 1 Timothy. I'll just read it for you. "Now, unto the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." I think Paul, some of the things, Paul has some of the greatest passages where he's just praising God, passages that I just like to repeat in my own mind sometimes. "Now, unto the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God be honor and glory." It's a powerful passage and I believe Paul could feel those words and knew those words because Paul understood who it was that God saved, who it was that saved him. It was the grace and power of God that was able to bring him out and to, despite who he was, use him in such a mighty way.
The same goes for us. We often, I think Christians get such a low view of themselves and they forget that that's perfectly normal to have that low view. God isn't looking to use the person who's puffed up and thinks it's all about them and that they're really something. God can't use that person. That's not who God uses. 1 Corinthians 1:26 says, "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are."
Why? Why does God use the base? Why does God use the weak? "That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. That, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." Paul wrote that. A blasphemer wrote that. A persecutor wrote that. An accomplice to murder wrote that. That's the power and grace of God. We need to get our heads around this. If we're struggling with our past, if we're letting the weight of a guilty past bog us down, we need to let this fact sink in that God uses us in spite of ourselves.
You see, Paul didn't underestimate God's grace. Ephesians 3:8 says, "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. And to make all men to see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ."
Looking again at 1 Timothy 1:12, "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry. Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious. But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." You see, Paul did not underestimate God's grace in his life.
For us, in order for us to lay aside the weight of guilt, the weight of a guilty conscience, the weight of remorse, we also must understand the fullness of God's grace toward us and trust that he has forgiven us just as he promised he would. We must lay aside the weight and understand the fullness of God's love and trust that he has forgiven us just as he promised as he would. Romans 3:23, the Bible says, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for their missions of sins that are past." To declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past. Our sins of the past have been remitted through the blood of Christ. Once we understand that, we are forgiven and we learn to forgive ourselves, we can lay aside the weight of guilt and we can run the race that is set before us.
Turn to 2 Peter chapter 2 verse 1. We're going to look at verses 5 and 8. The Bible says in 2 Peter chapter 2 verse 1 beginning in verse 5, "And beside all this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you in and abound and make it that you shall neither be barren nor infruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." Look what he's telling them to do there. He's telling them to add. Add to knowledge temperance. Add to temperance patience and to patience godliness. A building up, a moving forward in the Christian life, getting one thing down. Getting knowledge, moving on. Getting temperance, moving on. Getting patience, moving on. Getting godliness, brotherly kindness, a process that, if I can, a race that is set before us. This is part of our race. Adding and moving forward and growing, this is what we need to be doing. This is how we run the race.
Look at verse 9. "He that lacketh these things is blind and can not see afar off and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins." If you can not see afar off, if you can not look unto Jesus, it's because you've forgotten that you were purged from your old sins. That's why a lot of people can not run the race today. They're beating themselves up over a past that has been forgotten and that has been purged by God. They're looking backwards at their past. They're trying to run a race backwards. Now, I'm no runner, but I know one thing. You do not run backwards when you run a race. That's what a lot of people are trying to do these days in the Christian life. They're so focused on their past and they're trying to run a race and all they can think about is their past. They can't keep their eye on the path before them. They can't get the weights and sins out of the way and they wonder why they're tripping up all the time, why they're never making any progress, why they're never getting ahead in the Christian life. It's because you keep looking back. Those things have been purged. You need to move on. You need to look forward. See, running backwards and looking in the past, that is not the example of Paul.
If you would, please, turn to Philippians chapter 3. Philippians chapter 3 beginning in verse 1, "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more. Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, as touching the law, a Pharisee, concerning zeal, persecuting the church, touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended but this one thing I do. Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
You see, Paul talks about his past and he talks about he forgot all about it. He talks about he presses forward to that mark, how he's striving and he's trying to apprehend those things for which he's apprehended of. Notice verse 6, "Concerning zeal, persecuting the church." He says that almost as if it's something to be proud of. He's kind of bragging on himself right there if you think about it, the way he's using that in context. These people want to call themselves Hebrews and make themselves into something, concerning being a Jew, being of the law. He's saying, "Hey, I persecuted the church. What did you do, buddy?"
Concerning zeal, persecuting the church. That's not something to be proud of. When I think about it, I can't back it up with scripture, but I don't think it would be too far fetched to kind of maybe assume that maybe Paul might have lost a little sleep over that later on his life when he realized what he did. Do you think that's possible? Maybe Paul tossed and turned a few times when he thought about the fact that he persecuted the church.
He says in verse 13, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do. Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before." Notice the tense there. "Forgetting," not "having forgotten." The process of forgetting is a continual one. The fact is, things are going to keep coming up. It's easy to forget about something but we walk by that place, we see that old friend, we hear that old song, even a smell, and all of a sudden, all these old sins come rushing back into our mind, all these things that we used to do, all this guilt and shame. We feel bad about it. That's why he says, "Forgetting those things." The process of forgetting the past is a continual one.
He goes on and says, "Reaching forth." You see, it's not enough just to forget your past. I think some people, they do that. They know they need to forget the past and let the old things go, but they forget to add. They just create a void in their life in their mind. I've forgotten those things which are behind. I'm forgetting. I'm forgetting. I'm forgetting. Then, they don't press forward toward the mark, they don't reach forth unto those things which are before. It's not enough to merely to let go of the past, we must also at the same time move forward to create that distance between us and the past. As time goes on, as we live faithfully for God, as we serve God with our lives, as we go through that process of forgetting and we have less and less to be ashamed of in our lives, those sins that used to haunt us, those memories that come back and plague us, they're not as strong. We've created distance.
I'll conclude very quickly here. If you would, please, turn to Psalm 103. The book of Psalms chapter 103. Psalms 103. You see, tonight we started reading in Hebrews 12 and it became very evident that we all have a race to run. There's a race for you to run tonight no matter who you are. God has something he wants you to do. God wants to use you no matter who you are. There is a race for you to run. No matter what pace you keep, whether you choose to run it or not, or what place you end up finishing in that race, one day that race is going to come to an end. We as Christians, as God's children, must not allow our past to become a weight that slows us down and robs us of the prize. If we're going to run this race, we might as well want to try and finish first. We might as come in as far ahead of the pack as we can. That's why it's very important for us to understand that we need to let go of the past, that we need to quit letting the past bog us down and haunt us and slow us in the race. You see, we have all sinned. God has promised to forgive us if we ask him to.
1 John 1:19, this is my life verse. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." That's a great promise from the word of God. Proverbs 28:13, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whosoever confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." You see, God's grace is greater than the guilt that you feel. Isaiah 1:18 says, "Come now and let us reason together," sayeth the Lord. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." You see, God's mercy is a consistent theme in the Bible, all throughout it. It's one that we need to be familiar with for our own sake, so that we can run this race that is set before us.
In closing, we'll just read 103 verse 8 there. "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide, neither will he keep his anger forever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame and he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass. As a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it and it is gone and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him and his righteousness unto children's children. To such as keep his covenant and to those that remember his commandments to do them."
That's my admonition to you tonight to run the race, understand that there is a race to run, and then we have a loving and merciful and kind God. Then, if we but seek his face and ask him to forgive us for those things, then we will have that mercy that we need. Then, we can go about the process of leaving those sins, leaving that guilt in the past, and running the race that is set before us.
Let's have a quick word of prayer.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for the word. We thank you for the great promises of your word. Lord, I pray that you would help all of us to find consolation in it. Lord, that something that was preached tonight or read from your word would be helpful to those that perhaps were struggling in this scenario. Lord, we just thank you and praise you for your great love toward us in Jesus' name. Amen.