“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

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What can we expect to happen when we belong to Christ? What can we expect to happen when Holy Spirit dwells within us? We can expect to see the growth of good fruit, and in his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul spells out that fruit for their benefit as well as ours today. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness (generosity), faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul was preaching about the freedom to which we have been called; we are now free to live in the Spirit and to be right with God in Jesus Christ. As free people, the Spirit gives us the characteristics of Jesus, so as we grow in faith, we find that we belong to God and can walk daily in the Spirit. “So stand strong for our freedom! The Anointed One freed us so we wouldn’t spend one more day under the yoke of slavery, trapped under the law” (Galatians 5:1).

But hold on a second? I can’t seek revenge on my enemy? I can’t strike back? I can’t give into my lustful urges, or turn a blind eye to others? Well that doesn’t sound like freedom at all; that’s how the world views it any way. The enemy has deceived the world into viewing sin as freedom and godliness as bondage; reality in reverse. Develop a habit watching pornography, and then try to give it up. Works the same way with tobacco, alcohol, or any other drug, promiscuity, gossiping, coarse language, self-pity, short temperedness, or greed, to name a handful of snares. Speaking from my own experience, it’s no easy task to walk away from sin. In fact, just as we can’t save ourselves, we need God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9); likewise, we cannot live a godly life by our own strength. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). In contrast, the spiritually rebellious people described in Romans 1 who acknowledged God’s existence yet rejected him; their hearts were poisoned by the vain thoughts that consumed their lives.

A trick of the enemy is to distract our focus from God, just as he did the people in Romans 1. But we, brothers and sisters, aren’t like those who came before. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). No part of the crucifixion story leads me to believe that Jesus was happy about nails being driven into his flesh, and dying from asphyxiation, while hanging on a cross, but he was also at peace. Despite his circumstances; Jesus never took his eyes off the Father. And it is to this end that God is working inside of us who belong to him; God finishes what he begins (Philippians 1:6). Chase away hopelessness with gratitude.

I will close with some final thoughts. When I receive a ministering word, God also ministers to me. When I receive a word of rebuke, God also rebukes me. When I receive a word of encouragement, God also encourages me. We may all have different gifts, but we share in the same Holy Spirit, and I believe God is speaking to each and every one of you too. Open up the Word, pray, and find out what God is saying. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).

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