“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race…” – Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)
The word “therefore” is frequent in the Bible. When we come across it we find out what it is there for. This time it bridges a transition between Chapters 11 & 12 of Hebrews where is a list of deceased people whose lives witnessed the value and blessing of living by faith. The author of Hebrews is giving us reassurance that is drawn from the saints in the past who faithfully believed in the LORD God. We are encouraged to rid ourselves of sin because sin entangles us and inhibits our ability to live with endurance. We are all on a path that is a race of sorts, not against each other but against the wickedness of Satan who is set on causing us to stumble and fall and fail to reach our goal. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:13-14) explains this, and like him, we have a goal that we are straining forward to reach. A life pleasing to God. Therefore we are pressing on toward the goal God has set before us. Sin entangles us and misdirects us and causes us to miss out on the prize of blessings God has set for us.
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 John 2:1-2 (ESV)
Yesterday our promise focused on the small word, ‘sin,’ how in truth we struggle with sin and our need for confession of sins. Today’s promise comes from a much bigger word and one which is not in our common vocabulary. It is ‘propitiation.’ It is appropriate for John to address his readers as “my little children” because when he wrote this, John was greatly advanced in years. He was the sole remaining survivor of the apostles who had enjoyed intimate, eyewitness association with Jesus throughout His earthly ministry. Yet not exiled to Patmos where He receives the Revelation of Jesus Christ, John was actively serving the church in Ephesus. He taught that Christian must continually acknowledge and confess sin (1 John 1:9), but we’re not powerless against it. Fulfilling the duty of confession does not give license to sin. When we do sin, we have a promised defense attorney, Jesus Christ our Advocate. Why is this a promise for us? Because the death of Jesus on the cross satisfied the demands of God’s holiness for the punishment of sin. That’s what ‘propitiation’ means – “satisfaction” or “appeasement.” Jesus is the satisfaction of God for us each time we sin, we’re covered.
“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” – 1 John 1:8-10 (NASB)
Now here is a little word that none of us consider a favorite word. In fact we don’t even want to think about the sinful acts that we do. Yet, the truth is this, we cannot escape from sin being a part of our lives. We do sin. Everyone sins. There is no one who does not sin. If we refuse to acknowledge the sin that assails us and pretend to claim that we have no sin, as our verse tells us, we are deceiving ourselves. We can’t profess to live in truth if we are not addressing the sinful actions and thoughts we do and have. In fact, if we deny having sinned, we make God a liar. Our promise is if we sin (and we do) then we confess our sins. What is confessing? It is being honest and saying the same thing about our actions that God says. We agree with God that we have sinned and God faithfully and lovingly promises to forgive and clean us up. The bad thoughts and actions are washed away. We’re done with them. It is an ongoing process in our lives until we get to heaven.
“Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” – 1 John 3:7-8 (NASB)
Recalling the promise from yesterday’s verse helps us understand today’s verse and why we are instructed to submit and resist. It is a persistent goal of the devil to deceive, especially those who are in Christ. If we don’t submit to God and if we don’t resist the devil we are actually practicing the devil’s ways. There are no multiple ways to multiple gods. Only one God and only one way to Him. We are instructed to practice righteousness as Christ, who is righteous, dwells within each true believer. If we fall for the deception of Satan and give in to the temptations he presents then our way of our life is the practice of sin. Christ has chosen us⸺he has provided the gifts of faith, and grace, for salvation⸺we should believe in the purpose Christ came to earth. He came to destroy the effects of the devil’s work. In His death on the cross, Christ struck the decisive blow to destroy the works of Satan. Christ’s resurrection from the dead secured for us the victory. One day, Satan’s time of conditional limited freedom will be over – that is a promise. (Revelation 20:10)