There an interesting phrase in Hebrews chapter 12 verse 1, which encourages us to lay aside every weight and sin; and this directive has caused some degree of confusion and misapplication, to make people think that they must strive to “stop sinning” through their own self-effort. And this, like every other form of religiosity, will lead to spiritual and emotional bondage and ultimately death instead of the freedom and life that Christ sacrificed to give us.
What I would like to share with you today, is a different perspective on what it means to lay aside every weight and sin – and it doesn’t rely on your own efforts, your own sacrifices, or your own strength, but on the finished work of Jesus Christ. And as you see this truth today, you will rejoice at how easy Christ has made all of this for us.
Okay so as we begin today, let’s first take a look at the scripture itself, in Hebrews 12:1-2, and right away, just getting more context from verse two, we will begin to see the light of Christ in what is typically seen in a legalistic fashion:
“Therefore seeing we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking to 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 the typical way that verse 1 is understood and taught by the average religious leader, is that you need to put an end to all of your sinful actions because there are all these witnesses (people) watching you and it will ruin your reputation.
And I do understand where these people are coming from – I understand the logic that is behind what they are implying, however as with most religiously man-centered ideas, it proceeds from a wrong foundation… and that is the foundation of our own ability, and our own strength (hint: we have none).
If we actually had any ability to stop our sinful actions, then Christ wouldn’t have needed to die to save us – since we would be capable of saving ourselves. This is actually Paul’s argument from Galatians 2:21, Romans 11:5-6 and Ephesians 2:8-9.
So these verses aren’t telling us that we need to exercise our own power to stop sinful actions, because that charge would be ultimately fruitless, as the verses mentioned make clear. What then are these scriptures in Hebrews 12 telling us?
Well this is another example where looking at the context and looking at the original language can offer us some additional details and help us to understand what these verses in Hebrews 12:1-2 are actually saying to us.
First of all, as we look at verse 1 of Hebrews chapter 12, we see the phrase “lay aside every weight” – and that phrase lay aside in the Greek language is the word ἀποτίθημι (apotithēmi), which means to put away. The same phrasing is used for when husbands would put away their wives for adultery or other reasons. This “putting away” is very strong and harsh, which signifies a complete cutting off, equal to a death; and that point is a very important detail to keep in mind is we continue.
Next we see that we are to lay aside (put away, as in a death) every weight, which is whatever burdens you; the word in Greek is ὄγκος (ogkos), a heavy mass that burdens.
The verse continues: and the sin, that so easily besets us. And this right here is where the religious legalists love to turn this whole thing into a work, and say “see! You need to get rid of your sin!”
The problem is that the word sin here is the noun and not the verb! And this fact gives us another bit of insight into what this verse is really telling us. Much like the heavy bondage and burden of the Old Covenant Law mentioned in Acts 15:10, this burdensome weight that we are supposed to put away is the burden of the Old Covenant mindset and our old identity of sin.
We lay it aside; we put it away through death. Specifically as our old identity died on the cross with Christ, and we reckon our old identity to indeed be dead and gone, as mentioned in Romans 6:11 – we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin (the noun) the old identity of a “sinner” is not who you are today in Christ Jesus. You are alive as a completely New Creation, and the mark and stain of sin is no longer on you anymore because you have been entirely regenerated by Christ, washed in His sacrificial blood, and cleansed by Him. It is entirely inaccurate to call such a new creation, as still “a sinner”; it is not who you are today, my friend.
So we are to put away (as a death) that Old Covenant mentality and that old identity of sin. But how? Are there still works and self-effort involved? Let’s take a look now at verse 2… this is the part that most religious leaders fail to include after reading verse 1; and verse 2 certainly doesn’t waste any time, it gets right to the point by saying:
Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
This is the point, and this is how you accomplish it. You don’t try to put away your own sin – instead you look to Jesus, and realize that He already put away your entire sinful identity through His death on the cross!
In the same way that everyone bitten by the poisonous serpents lived when they looked upon the bronze serpent on the pole, so also do we live when we look upon the substitutionary atonement of Christ Jesus on the cross for us.
So often, through religious indoctrination and man-made theology, we become focused on our sin – and we spend all of our time looking at our sin, rather than the solution that Christ already offered. By doing this, we miss the point of it all, and get trapped in a works-mindset that brings us nothing but condemnation and death; I know, because I lived in that realm for many years, and it drove me further and further down every single day.
The way out of that, is not by trying harder, gripping tighter, or striving more – but the way out is to, release all of the weight of that old, dead identity, and look squarely at Jesus; see His sacrifice for you, and own it, personally!
The sacrifice of Christ is not a formal, abstract thing… it is a personal payment for you! He did not die as Himself, because He had no sin of His own to die for; 2nd Corinthians 5:21 says:
“For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
Jesus was made sin, for you.
Those were your sins that He paid for on the cross, and that was your old identity as a sinner hanging there.
And as the second-half of the verse makes clear, the result of that payment is your new identity, your rebirth as a new creation… Jesus was made to be your sin, so that we would be made the righteousness of God in Him!
This is how you truly lay aside every weight, my friend – you drop that old identity and that Old Covenant religious mindset and fully embrace who you truly are today in Christ: a divinely righteous child of God, because that is exactly who He had made you to be!
I encourage you today, to receive this truth for all that it is worth, and I say to you with all sincerety in Christ,