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Laying Aside Sin

By David A. DePra

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about 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 unto 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. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The epistle to the Hebrews admonishes us over and over again to the effect that in Christ there is NOTHING between each believer and God. Indeed, Christ is IN US. The finished work of Jesus Christ – His Cross and His resurrection – has made this a reality. This finished work is the foundation of Christianity. Those who are IN CHRIST are told that we must walk in this Truth BY FAITH.

Chapter 11 of Hebrews gives us example after example of those who walked by faith in the Old Testament. We read, "By faith….." These are witnesses to us today. That is why, as we begin chapter 12, we are told, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses -- LET US….." In other words, now, in the light of those witnesses of faith, LET US walk BY FAITH – indeed, LET US RUN THE RACE BY FAITH.

And what IS that race? It is NOT a journey to get saved. Rather, this is written bo people already saved. The race is the Christian life. It is our journey in Christ – our growing to know Him and experience Him.

Now, within that context – that of the Christian life -- you will note that in this passage we are also told to LAY ASIDE two things: Every weight – that is, all that would hinder our running the race – and, "the sin which does so easily beset us."

Keep in mind that the weights we are told to, "lay aside," are UNNECESSARY weights. They are burdens – not given by God to build our faith – but unnecessary burdens taken up by us that will hinder our walk in faith. These we are to, "lay aside," or, "discard" -- looking unto Jesus. In addition, we are to LAY ASIDE THE SIN that so easily besets us. It is to this that we now turn.

Laying Aside Sin

"The sin which does so easily beset us:" The Greek here means the sin that so easily, "wraps itself around us." This is quite a picture of one trying to run a race. A person could barely move at all, let alone run a race, if he were wrapped about with a hindrance. Thus, we are told to LAY ASIDE this sin that so easily wraps itself around us.

Most of us probably assume that this passage is commanding us to stop sinning. We probably think it is saying, "Your race – your journey in Christ – is slowed every time you sin. So lay aside all sin. Stop sinning and obey God!" Well, I would never argue with the admonition that we stop sinning. But it is vital for us to see in what sense God means it when He says, "lay aside the sin that does so easily beset us."

I submit that this verse from Hebrews is NOT primarily an admonition to STOP sinning and to START obeying God. That is not the meaning here, despite the need to do so in our lives, and teaching to that effect in other places in the Bible. But that is NOT what Hebrews means when it says, "Lay aside the sin which so easily besets us." Think about it. This is talking about laying aside that which keeps us from running the race of the Christian life by faith. So when we are told to lay aside sin –we are being told to never let our sins keep us from running the race of the Christian life. We are being told never to let our sin keep us from victory in Christ. Why? Because Christ has already paid for sin.

If you examine yourself, you will probably discover that when you sin you tend to take your sin and put it between yourself and God. Except you don’t think you are doing that. You probably think it is God – you think that your own guilt, condemnation, and fear are from HIM. But if you believe this error, then you are going to be beset and entangled in having to deal with condemnation and fear. You will never win this battle. For you are entangled in your sin – you are beset with the law of sin and death. Deliverance is impossible except through faith in the finished work of Christ.

We can lay aside our sin and it’s effects only if we see the Truth that in Christ it has already been laid aside. Jesus took away our sin. THAT is why – through faith that is solely in His finished work – we can lay it aside. This is what we are being told to do in Hebrews 12. We are to lay aside sin – "looking unto Jesus…who for the joy before Him endured the Cross."

We must come to terms with the fact that it is impossible for us to lay aside sin on any other basis except the Cross – it is impossible for us to overcome sin. It is impossible for us to stop sinning. It is impossible to obey God. Only by faith in the Cross is any of this possible.

Paul wrote, "If righteousness could come by law keeping then Christ died in vain." (Gal. 5:22) You cannot obey enough to be righteous – not even if you say you are doing it by faith. This is not only taught everywhere in scripture, but it is the foundation of the gospel. Indeed, all obedience is real only if it is the outcome of faith – only if it is the outcome of death and resurrection in Christ.

The issue here is not whether you have committed sins. Rather, the issue is whether you BELIEVE the Blood covers -- despite sinning. By faith in the finished work of Christ we lay aside the sin that so easily besets us – by faith we LOOK UNTO JESUS. This is what we are being told to do in Hebrews 12. WHEN we sin, we are to LOOK UNTO JESUS – and then our failings will not hinder our course.

Herein we see the whole gospel of grace in a few sentences. We are saved. We are running the race. But we sin. There is no use denying it – we sin. The question is therefore what we DO when we sin. Do we allow the fact that we sin to wrap itself around us like a bondage and drag us down into condemnation? Do we allow the fact we have sinned to form an obstacle that stands between us and God? If so, we are basing our access and relationship to God upon OUR WORKS. We are letting our failures weigh us down – despite the fact that Christ has already, "taken away the sin of the world." This is unbelief.

When Hebrews says, "Lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us," God is not – in this passage – talking about WORKS. No. He is talking about FAITH. That is why Hebrews 12:1-2 is linked to, and based upon, Hebrews 11 – "by faith…." God is saying, "Run this race. BY FAITH lay aside the sin….don’t let the fact you still sin keep you from running the race."

God is telling us that when we sin we are to continue running the race. We are not to let our sins hinder our running. No. Instead of letting them hinder our running, we are to BY FAITH look unto Jesus – the One who has already paid the price for our sin. On the basis of His finished work, we are to, "lay aside," our sin – lay aside the fact that we have failed – and nevertheless continue running the race that is before us.

The Key to Freedom From Sin

There is no possibility of getting free from sin except through faith in Christ crucified. This is why we must LOOK UNTO JESUS – we must run the race by faith in Him.

But what IS freedom from sin? It is most definitely MORE than freedom from the penalty FOR sin. It is legally possible to have the penalty for sin lifted from the sinner, but for the sinner to still be completely bound by the power of sin. God would never free us from the penalty for sin but make no provision for freedom from the power of sin itself. No. That is why in Christ there is complete deliverance from both.

This Truth is unfolded many places in the Bible, but one verse will suffice: "He that is DEAD is freed from sin." Here we see, in one sentence, that the key to freedom from sin is NOT obedience. This verse does not say, "He that obeys is freed from sin." No. Why? Because in order TO obey you have to already be freed from sin. In other words, freedom is not the result of obedience. Rather, obedience is the result of freedom. And according to this verse, that freedom is the result of DEATH.

If you want to be freed from sin you are wasting your time trying to achieve this freedom through obedience. You cannot become righteous – which is freedom from sin – through keeping laws. Freedom from sin is only possible through death – "he that is dead is freed from sin."

So if we are to be free from the power of sin we are going to have to DIE. I hope you see what I am getting at. The only way to be free from the power of sin is to come to the Cross of Jesus Christ and take our place in HIS DEATH by faith. This is what it means to, "be baptized into HIS DEATH." It is what it means to, "be planted into HIS DEATH." It is what it means to be, "crucified WITH Christ." You have to die IN CHRIST.

Note that: YOU have to die in Christ. YOU have to die – "our old man must be crucified with Him, so that the body of sin might be destroyed." That is the only way to get freed from the power of sin.

This is more than just accepting a legal forgiveness from God because Christ died FOR you. No. Paul knew Christ died FOR him. But he said, "I am crucified WITH Christ." Paul died. And we must die – for only, "he that is dead is freed from sin."

In other words, it is BECAUSE Christ died FOR us that we are able to come to Him and DIE IN HIM. Only then we can say, "we have died with Christ, therefore we shall live with Him." Only then can we say, "sin will have NO dominion over us." Only if we come to the Cross BY FAITH solely in Christ and DIE IN HIM are we set free from the power of sin.

This is how we LAY ASIDE the sin that so easily besets us – and hinders us in Christ. We must DIE IN HIM. Our faith must abide continually and fully in Christ and Him crucified. We must, by faith, be running the race set before us by, "LOOKING UNTO JESUS…who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross."

The key to freedom from sin is faith solely in Christ and Him crucified. But faith that is in Christ always means that I DIE IN HIM. There is no other possible outcome of faith in Christ crucified except that I voluntarily take my place in His death. Note that: There is NO other possible outcome of faith in Christ except that I DIE IN HIM. Only then can I walk with Him – or, if you will, run the race in Him – in newness of life.


True obedience is possible ONLY if I die in Christ. Anything else is some form of law. It is religious flesh trying to DO what Christ alone has done through the Cross.

Paul stated in no uncertain terms that if righteousness were possible through any form of law keeping that Christ died for NOTHING. (see Gal. 5:22) Yet Christians so easily remain in unbelief. To try to maintain your standing before the Lord through any form of your own working IS equal to carrying the weight of sin.

Paul had the answer. He said, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me…." Can we see DEATH in Christ and then being raised in Him? We easily ignore these words. But they form the very foundation of the Christian life – "YET NOT I BUT CHRIST."

The Sin of Unbelief

The Bible makes it perfectly clear that there is no possibility of freedom from sin through will power, trying to overcome, obedience, or any form of religion. Freedom is possible only through faith in the Cross – which, as noted, means that I have to DIE in Him and be raised in Him – I have to be baptized spiritually INTO His death in order to be raised in Him.

Do we think we can be obedient to God on any other basis than that of resurrection life in Christ?

Indeed, the Bible makes it JUST AS CLEAR that if we try to achieve freedom from sin through any other means but the Cross that we are not only doomed to failure, but we are doomed to a greater bondage to the very power of sin that we seek to escape.

Why? Because if we try to overcome the power of sin through our own working, then our FAITH is in our own working – and THIS IS SIN. And if we try to overcome sin WITH sin, sin will have dominion over us all the more.

Sure.  For we are putting our faith in our own working rather than solely in the Cross. THIS, "faith in our own working," is the very definition of unbelief – it is precisely what Paul called, "another gospel." IT IS SIN. And then we are fallen from grace. Sin will have dominion over us because we are not under grace, but under some form of law.

We MUST see this: If we are trying to overcome sin through our own working we are actually trying to overcome sin by sinning! Sure. We are trying to overcome sin through the sin of unbelief. The result will not only be failure, but it will simply increase the power of sin in our lives. The term Paul used for this was, "the law of sin and death."

"The law of sin and death," is a law of spiritual reality – it is really how the nature of fallen humanity functions when faced with the righteousness of God. Paul speaks of it all through his epistle to the Romans. If I stand face to face with the holy, just, and good law of God, I am going to be exposed as unholy, unjust, and bad. I will be exposed as such even if I do no works, good or bad, but I will certainly be exposed as such if I try to be righteous or to overcome sin through my own working. The more I try through my own working to overcome sin – the more I try to be righteous through law keeping – the more the law of God will expose me as being a sinner – and the more I will come under condemnation. This is the law of sin and death – it is the result of my nature coming up against the holiness of God.

Of course, all of this is nothing more than the TRUTH. Outside of Christ, I am a sinner without hope. Outside of Christ I have no life. The law of sin and death is therefore nothing more than the law of God exposing the TRUTH about me.

The law of sin and death is the ONLY POSSIBILITY if our faith is not in Christ. It is the spiritual reality or law of nature that works even if we don’t realize it. The more I try to overcome sin and become right with God through my own working, the deeper I will sink beneath the law of sin and death. Again – this is because I am trying to overcome sin BY sinning. I am trying to become righteous through the sin of unbelief. The power of sin will therefore have dominion over me all the more.

Now, when I say that the power of sin will have greater dominion over me if I try to overcome sin through my own working – I am not saying that I will necessarily manifest this fact with what is normally called gross or immoral sin. Indeed, I may simply become more dominated by the power of the sin of self-righteousness. But we need to understand that the sin of faith in self – self-righteousness – is most often WORSE than any other sin. For the sinner knows he needs help. The self-righteous is blind to the fact. Jesus Himself said so.

But we must be clear about this: Outside of faith in Christ, the law of sin and death is the ONLY possibility. Why? Because we are either dead in Christ or we are not. If we are dead in Christ then we are set free from the law of sin and death. If we are not dead in Christ, then we are in bondage to it.

The good news is that we can put our faith solely in Christ. Paul writes:

There is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1)

Here again we see TWO options – even for the saved – two options for those running the race. We are either running the race under the law of sin and death – which means we are NOT laying aside our sin by faith in the Cross – or we are running the race under the law of the spirit of life in Christ. If we are running the race under the law of the spirit of life in Christ then we don’t want to sin – but when we do sin, we tell the Truth about ourselves – we confess our sin – but we don’t let that sin beset us and ruin our race. Rather, we look unto Jesus, for we know that He is faithful and just to have died for us so that we can run the race that is set before us.

The amazing Truth is, that if I am set free from the law of sin and death – through faith in Jesus Christ alone – then the result is NOT going to be that I continue in sin because I know grace abounds. No. The result will be freedom from sin, and freedom from the law of sin and death that binds me. I will discover a growing DESIRE and freedom to obey God. But this obedience will never again be for the purpose of keeping myself right with God. Rather, it will be because I have laid aside the sin through Christ, and know that through His Cross alone I am free.

Christianity is not a religion of rules and laws. It is Christ in us – it is new life from above in Christ. Thus, freedom from sin means freedom to obey God, yes, but also freedom to WANT to obey Him. For all of my obedience will be the outcome of being rightly related to Christ by faith. When the sin issue is finally settled in my life – when I am dead in Him – then the freedom to obey through the power of the resurrection can find release.

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