We are to throw off the sin that so easily entangles. Sin is doing what we do not want to do. You see, when we walk close to God, we can easily identify sin and commit to avoid it. Then the wheels fall off and we do what we don’t want. Today we find Jesus is the answer.
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
I think when we read this passage of scripture, we are focused on the words discipline and father. It’s all about the Father’s discipline of his children and whether it is reasonable or loving or just. This is really about sin and being healed from its entanglement.
Hebrews 12:1 teaches us to throw off the sin that so easily entangles us. We struggle against that sin. Oftentimes, we lose that struggle and then look in the mirror to see the defeat of a person who did what they did not want to do. For the Christian, that’s what sin is. Sin is doing the thing that we do not want to do (Romans 7).
When we are walking closest to God, we can easily identify what sin is and we are committed to avoiding it.
Then in the heat of circumstance, we do what we were committed to not do. It’s a struggle against sin. And so we are asked here, have we resisted sin to the point of shedding our own blood? We can hear Jesus’ voice ringing in our heads now: If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away,” (Matthew 5:29-30).
Are we really to self-mutilate to avoid sin? I do not think so, in a general sense. Actually, if you followed this teaching, you would be dead in no time. It would be your eye today, your hand tomorrow, and then your tongue, ears, brain, and heart after that. This is why Paul cries out, with regard to his sin, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).
Self-mutilation is not the answer. Jesus is the answer.
Here in Hebrews 12, we see that the Father uses discipline in our lives, just as an earthly parent does, to correct his children toward righteousness and holiness. This is the path to life (vs. 9). God’s purpose is that we share in his holiness. His purpose is that we produce a harvest of righteousness and peace. This is describing the character of Christ. This is available to us in the healing of Jesus which he earned for us on the cross.
We cannot get there on our own. We need God’s help to resist sin and overcome it. Will you fix your eyes on Jesus, welcome the discipline and correction of the loving Father, and walk the level paths of healing? This is God’s will for you.