Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1
Years ago I was an adult leader at a youth rally. The speaker sent teens and adults off for a half an hour, arming us with a spiritual inventory to take. It was like a checklist of questions related to obtaining a clean heart. It was a chance to see if we were carrying around sins and weights that were bogging us down, and then getting them right before God.
What happened next was awesome. We regrouped and teenagers began to get up, confessing their sins that they knew God was speaking to them about leaving behind. Kid after kid got up in tears, voluntarily and moved by the Spirit, and renounced things. I’ve not been in such a revival like setting before or after, where people were so visibly moved to be free. Psalm 66:18-19 is sobering: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.”
There is freedom in finding a clean heart, but it is not easy. The reason it’s not easy is that it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome our own pride, unforgiveness, and stubborn sin habits. A couple of years ago I lost over forty pounds. What freedom to get rid of that weight! Involved in that process was totally changing my eating habits and sticking to consistent exercise.
To put Hebrews 12:1 into practice may mean a radical change in spiritual and emotional habits. Sometimes the things that weigh us down aren’t sins, they are just unhealthy spiritual and physical habits or things that zap our love for God and our devotion to Him. It is like what Luke 8:14 describes from the parable of the sower: “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares (of this world) and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” Life’s worries, the deceitfulness or seductiveness of riches, and the pursuit of fun are weights that certainly can get in the way of running after Jesus.
Some checklist questions could include:
- Are there any cares of life that rob your peace and joy?
- Is your joy found in things other than Jesus and His Word?
- What would you have a hard time fasting from or giving up for the sake of having a closer walk with Jesus?
- Is there anything that occupies more of your free time and money than it should?
- Do you listen to any music, watch any TV shows/movies, or read any books that you seek satisfaction from that either might be ungodly, or competes with your finding satisfaction from God?
- Are there any unconfessed sins that you secretly harbor?
- Are there any unresolved conflicts or relationships where you have wronged someone, and it needs to be made right?
- Are there resentments against certain people or situations that have led to bitterness, rage and malice? (Malice is the intention or desire to hurt someone else; ill will.)
- Are you overly concerned about yourself, having most of your conversations and thoughts centering around “I”? Or are your feelings easily hurt?
- Do you gossip or talk unkindly about others?
- Do you cheat, steal, cut corners, exaggerate, or stretch the truth as a habit?
- Are you undisciplined, lazy, or neglectful of family duties or spiritual habits?
- Do you have a stubborn heart, or an unteachable attitude?
Clear out some time alone with God and pray the prayer of Psalm 139: 23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”