The Sin that So Easily Entangles
The Christian life is full of joys and trials. It is full of victories, but then there are those times when we seem to be defeated. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” But that isn’t always as easy as it seems, is it?
Each of us is unique, and that means each of us has unique areas of weakness. Those weaknesses seem to pop up at the most inopportune times. For some, the weakness is food and the lure that it can comfort us in our times of stress and anxiety. For others it is anger, a fire that burns inside and explodes over the most menial of things – a spilled cup, a toy left out, etc. For still others the sin that so easily entangles is worry, the perpetual belief that we are not going to be cared for by our heavenly Father. To worry is to believe that we must take care of ourselves, for no one else will – so we plan and plan and make innumerable backup responses, ordering them from A…Z. You get the picture; Each of us will find ourselves with one or more of these sins, or of countless others like greed, sex, porn, jealousy, or envy to name a few. And these sins will try to sneak up on us and trip us, so that we would fall irretrievably in the dust – left without hope, without a future, without the chance to run again.
What are you to do when the sin that so easily entangles has either tripped you up, or is trying to trip you up? Interestingly, the answer is the same for both situations. First, the Hebrews passage reminds us that we are surrounded ‘by such a great cloud of witnesses.’ We must remember that we are not in this race alone. There are people who have gone before us, people that are running with us now, and people that will run after us. Because of this, we must not try to live the Christian life in our own strength and power. We need community. We can look back and consider the lives of others, realizing they were frail and they struggled just like we do, and we can draw strength to get up and continue on in the race. If God used them to do great things, he can use us. Just take a gander through Hebrews 11 and you will see that many of the people that are heralded as the ‘great cloud of witnesses,’ had plenty of entangling sin – Noah and the drunken stupor; Abraham and his endangering of Sarah, twice; Jacob and his conniving; Moses and his anger; David and his sin with Bathsheba, need I go on? And yet, God allowed these men and women to stand up and keep running the race. Their sin didn’t knock them out of the race, rather, it caused them to fall back upon the grace of God.
Second, Hebrews goes on to tell us to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus.’ When you are running in the race and sin tries to come upon you, or actually has its way with you, the solution is to look to Jesus. Satan wants us to wallow in our sin. Satan wants us to tear ourselves apart and to think that we have been disqualified for the prize. He wants us to think that we are injured beyond any ability to continue being of useful service in the kingdom of God. But that is a lie. Jesus is the ‘author and perfecter of our faith.’ Our successful completion of the race depends upon His merits, His strength, His endurance. And He has promised never to leave us or forsake us, even when we are lying on the ground, bleeding from our sin. For then, He comes and bandages our wounds and carries us onward, until we are healed once again.
But the same is true when we are running and sense the lure to sin. Most of us get tripped up because we begin gazing upon the sinful thing, and that just reinforces it into our psyche. Have you ever tried to not think about something? The very act of trying not to think about it brings it to the forefront of our mind. So notice what instruction we are given: fix your eyes on Jesus, not on the sin that entangles. Instead of looking at the temptation, look upon the one who overcame every temptation. Look upon the victorious one. Contemplate His grandeur, His goodness, His holiness. Think about His sacrifice and His love. Remind yourself that He reigns in glory and nothing is more powerful. (I confess that I am not always good at shifting my gaze, but when I do, victory is assured.) Sing praises to him. Sin always looks less enticing when we are worshipping. So worship, even if it means staying up all night long in order to see that the tripping hazard is destroyed and has passed.
If we would but remember these two things, I believe that every believer would experience a new joy in the Lord, and a new power in their ministry and life. So go forth remembering that you are not alone, and keep Jesus at the front and center of your life.