In Hebrews 12:1-2, we see a very widely misunderstood picture of what it means to follow after Jesus.
“Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…
The reason I am quoting this passage is because I want to convey, on a minor scale, the subtle operation of the anti-Christ spirit. Most of us have often heard this passage preached in the context of a motivational message concerning the importance of laying down your life, your rights, and (the pinnacle motivation of the religious spirit) FIGHTING YOUR HORRIBLE SIN. We love to couple this passage with portions like Luke 9:23-24, the requirement of carrying YOUR cross to follow Him, for the double whammy cutting edge message on holiness. Well…hate to burst the bubble, but it’s neither cutting edge, nor the heart of God. Not only has the church been preaching this self-sacrificing doctrine for centuries, regardless of the prophetic lingo we opt to utilize, but we’ve become the agent of hell in our dogma concerning it.
Luke 9:23-24 (and its duplicates, Matthew 16:24-27; Mark 8:34) is hardly a message to the believing church that unless you walk the way Jesus did you cannot follow Him. Let the first person who has adequately lived a life as sinless as our Saviors speak against me in this, because otherwise…THAT message makes following Him an unattainable reality. Jesus was not pointing to a physical OR spiritual death required of those who believe. He was pointing to HIS death that was the salvation of all mankind. To carry your cross means to wear the weight of the sacrifice made FOR YOU. Scripture tells us that we were crucified with Him (Gal. 2:20). That means its YOUR cross. To deny yourself means to give up trying to save yourself. We often forget to consider the context of those whom the Lord was speaking to during His ministry on the earth. I realize His words are eternal, but those hearing them (and thus the issues to which the Lord was speaking) would not have been the same had He been born in Siberia in the 1800’s. He was speaking to torah-keeping Israel, who were living a life of self-righteousness by way of sacrifice. The essence of His words are applicable to every person throughout the whole of time, but without considering the context, we will interpret them wrong 100% of the time. This is why Jesus said “whoever desires to SAVE HIS LIFE will lose it…”. The “take up your cross” words of the Messiah were a proclamation that the cross of Christ was the END of the law, not that you still have to do “your part”.
In view of that reality, Hebrews 12:1-2 takes on a whole new meaning. The word for “weight” in the greek here is “onkon”, meaning “a burden; an encumberance”. The entire chapter preceding Hebrews 12 is renowned as “the hall of faith”, and details the faith (pistis: to be persuaded; come to trust) of those who have gone before us, who looked with longing into the reality we live in…THIS side of the cross. Thus, the “therefore” of verse 1 is the mortar that settles the way we are to approach “running the race”; on the foundation of their motivation: FAITH. Their reality however was beneath the burden of law, which was given to reveal sin and prove our need for a Messiah (Romans 3:20; 5:20). So, “therefore…let us lay aside every weight” can only be referring to the what was the burden of the forerunners verses 1 & 2 of Hebrews 12 are built on. Laying aside every weight means to lay aside every encumberance and condemnation of the law.
Building on this truth, laying aside “the sin which so easily ensnares” takes on a new meaning as well, or at least new in comparison to common church though and teaching. We must remember that we are EXPECTED by God to take all of His word through the filter and lens of the cross of Christ. So, simply put, this verse is not encouraging the fight against sin but rather the awareness of righteousness. Here is where I’m going to lose most of you, if I haven’t already. There is more dogma surrounding the guilt of humanity and our indebtedness for sin than any other topic in Christendom. This is of no surprise, however and merely aids in the logic of my point that the anti-Christ spirit is primarily in operation within the church; he is called the accuser of the brethren, and unfortunately we have been his cheerleaders. Romans 8:2-3 says “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh…”. The thing “the law could not do” was make us righteous and end the dominion (sovereignty; control) of sin. The law was given to reveal sin, which was within the confines of the law the sovereign of humanity. The law was not given to condemn humanity, but to show sin for its true colors as an evil dictator. As its subjects, and as with the fall of any kingdom and its ruler, we were destined to its fate. When Jesus came “He condemned sin in the flesh”. He came as a man (flesh) to win man back. The greek term used here for “condemned” is “katakrino”, meaning “to judge decisively as guilty”. The Lord Himself was there in the garden when sin (the governing entity of emptiness) was imposed on mankind, and he came as one of mankind to restore our righteousness (the governing entity of the Spirit of life). My point is that, concerning the heart and mind of God, MANKIND IS INNOCENT. He made His judgement on the cross, calling sin the transgressor and condemning it in His flesh…not men (John 3:17; 12:47)
Returning to Hebrews 12:1-2, in light of these truths, we can begin to rightly understand the reason Christ came, and consequently see the deception of the anti-Christ spirit. When the author of Hebrews wrote “looking unto Jesus” in verse 2 of chapter 12, the word used for looking in the greek was “aphorao”, which means “to look away”. he was not simply saying that we must be determined to look at Jesus; set our will like flint to keep from sin and “have eyes only for Him”. He was exhorting us to look away from the system of the law that ended with the proclamation of John the Baptist (Luke 16:16), and to ALLOW ourselves to be captivated by Jesus; to be distracted by the finished work of the cross that He endured from the lie that we have any payment due for “sin”, or that we could ever have paid it anyway. In his translation of Hebrews within the Mirror Translation, Francois Du Toit says it like this:
“Look away from the shadow dispensation of the law and the prophets and fix your eyes upon Jesus. He is the fountainhead and conclusion of faith. He saw the joy (of mankind’s salvation) when he braved the cross and despised the shame of it. As the executive authority of God (the right hand of the Throne of God) he now occupies the highest seat of dominion to endorse man’s innocence!. (“Having accomplished purification of sins, he sat down…” Heb 1:3, Isa 53:11)”
The deceiver has used all of the verses I’ve discussed over the course of church history to bring us to the precise opposite revelation they were intended to. He has dumbed down the grace of God in mixing it with the law (the mixture Jesus called lukewarm and said makes Him vomit), and caused a hideous religious dogma in our leaders based in “upholding the standard of righteousness” and “fighting the heresy of sloppy grace”. The outcome? A body in shambles, controlled by sin, and upholding a standard of unrighteousness that leads to death.
It is time for a revolution. But we have to stop pretending we’ve figured out God to get there.
Next Post: Hebrews 10:14; Philippians 3:1-14; Galatians 2:17-21 ANTI-CHRIST: ANTI-YOU