Date:  February 18, 2018

Be Killing Sin – Part 1

Text: Hebrews 12:1-3

Pastor Matthew Burt

Wellspring Church, Springfield, Ma.


SCRIPTURES:  Hebrews 12:1-3

 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, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.



What do you think about when you think about sin? This little three-letter word. How much do you know about sin? Many people think lightly of sin. It is for us an easy thing to dismiss; sin as some sort of vague moral failure that brings some level of displeasure from God. Sadly, few of us think of sin in this way.

“The is no subject of greater importance to Christian theology than its understanding of the concept of sin and its effect. That may seem like an odd statement to make, but if we think about what the Christian gospel is, we shall quickly see why this is so. The gospel is a message of salvation from sin, achieved for us by Jesus Christ.” It is only because of sin that the darling and precious son of God holy and free from all taint of wrong-doing came to this world and took on the guilt of sin and died a death that was both physically unspeakably gruesome and horrible-but a death that suffered the full extent of the wrath of God unleashed upon him. Get sin wrong, we get the gospel wrong. Get the gospel wrong and it loses all its wonder and luster. When it loses is luster we lapse into a dull, and unappreciative thanklessness. Small sin, diminished savior, unappreciated God. (quoted and paraphrased from Gerald Bray, “Sin in Historical Theology” Fallen, Crossway, 163)

Doesn’t it seem that it is appropriate to think a little more carefully about sin?


  • The rule of the “what is” and the “so what”. The “what is” in this passage is that we are surrounded by a great number of witnesses. The “so what” is to run this race with endurance. It is important for us to see this rule.  God can command and order anything He wants. He is sovereign. But God in His graciousness has said to us I am not going to just command you to do things, I am going to give you a ground to stand. So God did not have to give us any reasons. All God has to say is do this and don’t do this. Because we are a people who like to question, He tells us “what is” so we can see why He asks us to do this.  So we come back to this.  He has called us to run the race because we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
  • This great cloud of witnesses should not be seen as cheering us along. It’s more effective for us to look at Hebrews 12:1 as an encouragement for us to be faithful in our race. In times of weariness, trouble, darkness, and when doubt begins to insinuate itself into our hearts we look to this great cloud of witnesses – this dozen! They chant with one voice – God is faithful; Keep on; He will not let you go; God is faithful. PB recommends that we get good Christian biographies and hear them say God is faithful. So we can say with the apostle Paul, I know in whom I have believed.
  • We are to lay aside every weight. When we talk about weight; the picture is so easy – we see runners – they are not carrying suitcases! These weights might be considered in themselves neutral or even good/wholesome and healthy. They become a weight when we allow them to grow into our heart to such an extent that they become obstacles to our spiritual progress. Too often, we approach decisions in life: we ask is this a sin? What if we ask a different question along with it: is this a help or is this a hindrance in my race toward heaven?  There are vocations, hobbies, people, dreams and goals that we might cast off because the answer is that it hinders me.
  • We were given a motivation: Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate witness. No one suffered more for the cause of God’s glory. No one had to express as much faith as Jesus Christ. He is saying to us: my dear brother/sister I made it and you can make it.


Point 1:Just what is this sin that I am supposed to lay aside?

Point 2:Why is sin so difficult to lay aside? I am assuming that your experience in the Christian life is not unlike mine. There are some things that we know that are offensive to God and yet we continue to do them. Why is it so hard to get rid of these things?

Point 3:  Even though it seems impossible to disentangle ourselves from sin, we can, with hope and confidence, carry out this instruction to lay aside the sin that clings so closely.

Understanding these 3 points, we will better equipped to run the race.

Point 1: What is sin? 

Sin is any lack of conformity to the law of God. Anything that does not line up is sin.  Sin has a negative and positive aspect. I am doing against and I am not doing what I am supposed to do. Two sides of sin. Sin is natural to every person. Every parent knows this. You don’t have to do anything to be a sinner.

Here’s the Westminister catechism:

  1. 25. Wherein consisteth the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
  2. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually; which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.

We don’t generally have a good conception of what sin has done to us. We think lightly of sin. Look at what John Piper has written as sin:

“What makes sin sin is not first that it hurts people, but that it blasphemes God. This is the ultimate evil and the ultimate outrage in the universe. The glory of God is not honored. The holiness of God is not reverenced. The greatness of God is not admired. The power of God is not praised. The truth of God is not sought. The wisdom of God is not esteemed. The beauty of God is not treasured. The goodness of God is not savored. The faithfulness of God is not trusted. The promises of God are not relied upon. The commandments of God are not obeyed. The justice of God is not respected. The wrath of God is not feared. The grace of God is not cherished. The presence of God is not prized. The person of God is not loved. The infinite, all-glorious Creator of the universe, by whom and for whom all things exist, who holds every person’s life in being at every moment; is disregarded, disbelieved, disobeyed, and dishonored by everybody in the world. That is the ultimate outrage of the universe. Why is it that people can become emotionally and morally indignant over poverty and exploitation and prejudice and the injustice of man against man and yet feel little or no remorse or indignation that God is so belittled? It’s because of sin. That is what sin is. Sin is esteeming and valuing and honoring and enjoying man and his creations above God. So even our man-centered anger at the hurt of sin is part of sin. God is marginal in human life. That is our sin! Our condition!” (Piper)


What Piper points out here is that sin is first and foremost vertical in its relationship. Our culture tells us that sin is merely a horizontal issue. We have domestic violence in the White House staff, we have seen women and children gassed in Syria, we have seen a gun man gun down 17 students and teachers. We are rightly indignant at the hurt and pain and ongoing damage and trauma to the victims of these heinous actions. We are wrong if we only respond on the horizontal level (man to man); they are first and foremost a sin against God. The death of human beings is an affront to God who created them to glorify Him.  If we cut the vertical out, we diminish sin and soon it just goes away: it’s just another shooting. Soon the anger and the resolve to do something differently vanishes. When its an affront to the holiness and majesty and the law of God then it needs to settle deep into our souls and it doesn’t go away.

The apostle says to lay aside the sin that clings so closely.  Not just because sin keeps us from getting along with people but because sin keeps us from making it home. All sin is first against God.

Another Puritan has written:

We put ourselves in the place of God when we sin. We are to lay aside, put aside, get rid of sin.  Get rid of naughtiness – had to do with depth of immorality.  Let us put aside all malice and rage.

Point 2:  Why is sin so difficult to lay aside?

Notice that there is a definite article left out of the ESV.  Lay aside THE sin which clings to us. Putting THE sin, you see it is a singular thing.  When we think of sin we think of our actions and attitudes that we are know are displeasing to God.  That’s now what it means – lay aside THE sin. The very root of sinfulness; self centered idolatry or distrust of God or pride.  The thing that permeates my entire heart.  Look what the author has done by putting THE here. There’s something huge and big here. We are not called to snip off the rotten fruit from the rotten tree as if that will make the tree healthy. We are called to pull the rotten tree out by the roots.  Let us lay aside THE sin which clings so closely to us.

Sin is a general universal condition for all people. THE sin clings to us.

Sin is the very fabric of who we are.  If our hearts were garments – the patterns begin to fade if it is painted on to the fabric. If the patterns are woven together – then they never fade.  That’s like sin in our life.

Paul speaks to us about indwelling sin. There remains in the life of every born again believer still the seed and the weed of indwelling or remaining sin. It’s an enemy that lives within us that always seeks to bring us down. It’s as if there are terrorist cells in our body.  They are constantly planning or plotting to bomb. You don’t even know they are there. They are just waiting to explode volcanic fury and spew lava all through our lives.  That’s why it’s so hard to get rid of.

Point 3:  Even though it seems impossible to disentangle ourselves from sin, we can, with hope and confidence, carry out this instruction to lay aside the sin that clings so closely.

Lest we through our hands up in despair. Let me tell you why it’s not all bad news. Don’t give up. Here’s why you don’t have to give up. In spite of the depth and the power of this indwelling sin there is hope because:

  1. Every command of God comes with the power and ability from God. Go back and read Romans 6 – we are no longer slaves to sin
  2. I have been given weapons to fight this sin. I have been given the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit that cut throughs the lies of Satan.
  3. We have been given the Holy Spirit. Don’t diminish the word comforter as a teddy bear in your life. It is a strengthening spirit. We don’t have a cuddly tear bear God but one that says I will be behind you so you can lay aside every sin.
  4. With every failure there is a heavenly hand reaching down to pull you back on the road. Those who wait upon the Lord will soar with confidence.
  5. With the struggle comes the motivation to keep our ears open to the heavenly chant: God is faithful. I can keep on not because I am strong but because He is strong and He is faithful.
  6. Keep my eyes open to Christ who faced a battle more desperate than you and I will ever face and He made it to the end. He went on looking at the joy set before him – our heavenly home.
  7. With the struggle comes the unbreakable promise of God: Those who He has adopted He will never forsake. He who has begun a good work in you, will see it to completion. All that we have committed to Him is safe and secure.