Lesson 7 -- first quarter 2006
July 16, 2006
© Copyright 2006
Lay it aside and run!
The Christian life is a race that must be run . . . and won.
We can do neither unless we shed all sin and all weight that would hinder us. That requires self-discipline and self-sacrifice.
If we live after the Spirit and not after the flesh, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16). We should constantly be putting forth every effort to make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14). Make no allowance, make no excuse -- avoid those things and situations that feed your flesh. Discipline yourself. Exercise temperance and self-control.
My worst days are my careless days. I know my flesh seems especially inclined toward irritability, lust, bitterness, and unrestrained pleasure. If my spirit is not constantly and faithfully on its guard, I "suddenly" find myself heeding my flesh. Because of my own carelessness, I am again making "provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof," which is precisely what I ought to avoid at all costs (Romans 13:14).
But I won't give up, and neither should you!
"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" (Hebrews 12:1).
When you discover you've picked up that weight again, drop it again, and start running again!
Some folks reject the notion of self-discipline, insisting that Christian living is simply and only a matter of Christ living in us and through us. They say that the Christian life can be lived only in the power of the Spirit and not in the power of self.
That is true enough . . . as far as it goes. Paul firmly asserts (at God's direction), "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). So, yes, God provides the will and the power to run this race. Even so, it is still up to us to exercise that will and that power!
Paul also testifies, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection" (1 Corinthians 9:27). Furthermore, he calls on us to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh" (2 Corinthians 7:1), to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24), and to "mortify the deeds of the body" (Romans 8:13). We have to act. We can't just sit around and wait for God to do all the work!
So, get out there and run, run, run. Keep at it; don't quit. Remember that running and winning takes time and patience because it is a process, not a single event. Day in and day out, my flesh must be crucified, denied, brought into subjection. God works in conjunction with my spirit to make it exercise increasing control over my flesh. God began something good and He will continue working on it (Philippians 1:6). So don't give up in discouragement!
A relay race
"Jesus began" (Acts 1;1). What God's own Son launched, we get to carry forward toward fruition and completion! Our commission to blanket the world with the Gospel was not just told to us, it was passed on to us. The difference is incredibly significant. Instead of being given a message alone, we were handed a baton. Jesus didn't just come to teach us what to do to accomplish world conquest, He came to do the project. But He didn't stay here until it was fully accomplished, He launched it and left us to carry on. What a privilege and responsibility!
When the Lord passed off His "baton" to the Apostles and other disciples, they seized it and took off. Full speed ahead. Driven on by the understanding of the enormity and divinity of the project. Empowered and emboldened by the Spirit. This was a race -- against time and the devil for men's souls. This was a race--a race that demanded runners, not joggers, not walkers, not couch potatoes. Any other attitude and any other speed translated into minimizing what "Jesus began." This in turn translated into more souls in Hell. No wonder they made all other things, desires and ambitions secondary!
And so it has been down through the ages. As one batch of runners expended their time, energy and resources -- their lives -- they carefully and faithfully passed off the baton. The new runners, with fresh time, energy, resources and life, blazed off toward the goal. On and on they ran, compelled to finish what "Jesus began."
But not everybody has been faithful. For some, their hands were too close to full with the things of this life and . . . they fumbled the baton. For others, careless living consumed critical amounts of energy, time, resources and life and . . . they lagged further and further behind. For yet others, their distracted eyes missed the critical "pass off" time, or their earthly-overtaxed hearts succumbed, or their out-of-step stride upset the rhythm and . . . right, you got it.
Now it is your turn! Will you be faithful or careless? Where is the baton? Are you training? Remember, "Jesus began" and He is counting on you to carry the message and the life forward. The ribbon across the track is in sight. This isn't the time to relax and slack off, it is the time to give the home stretch everything we've got! "Jesus began"; will your generation get to finish?
"Ye shall receive power . . . and ye shall be witnesses" (Acts 1:8). Jesus neither expected them nor commanded them to grab the baton and run without first having the energizing power of the Spirit. But the disciples did not expect to receive this power by doing nothing. They didn't try to "redeem the time" in earthly, fleshly pursuits while they waited on God. Instead, they "all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Acts 1:14).
I don't know for what they prayed and supplicated. Perhaps they asked for zeal for the race. Perhaps they asked for hearts disposed to receive that power and use it earnestly. Perhaps they were overwhelmed by the enormity of the trust Jesus had laid on them. But they prayed, and they prayed together. I don't doubt that God used this waiting time to prepare them individually. I am equally certain that God used this time to knit them into the cohesive, coordinated relay team He needed.
What about the team of which you are a part? What are you doing in expectation and anticipation of the race that is before you?
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