Teaching Series Introduction: All Being Well? (Find true wellbeing)
The Series: There is no doubt about it. For many of us, these last few months have been pretty tough. So, how are you, really? This summer teaching series helps us take a deep and refreshing look at how you’re really doing. And, we’ll begin to discover what true wellbeing looks like for your life right now, regardless of the chaos around.
Bible Focus: Using the stunning words of encouragement from the book of Hebrews in the Bible (Chapter 12, verses 1-3) as our backdrop, we will consider some incidents in the life of the first disciples as we do a summer health check and unpack how to stay spiritually and emotionally fit for the journey ahead.
Title: Running Free (Resisting the downward slide)
By: Judy Moore
Date: 9 August 2020 (Online Service)
Hebrews (Chapter 12, verse 1)
John (Chapter 18, verses 15-18 and, 25-27) (Chapter 21, verses 15-19)
1 Corinthians (Chapter 10, verses 1-13)
We all have ‘stuff’, sinful habits, tendencies and ‘shadow sides’, that drag us down. During lockdown, because of the chaos and complexity, it has perhaps been easier to let our guard slip a bit. But, as we emerge out of lockdown we need to refocus and once again ‘throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.’ Peter has his own ‘stuff’ too, and Jesus set him on a completely new path.
Pause for thought:
Some things hold us back. Over these last few months, there have been some tricky times for all of us. What are the unhealthy things that we have let drag us down, and how do we step forward with freedom?
Sin is attractive, but destructive. During lockdown many of us will have been all too aware of our shadow side. We have a choice to get ourselves back on track. But we don’t do it alone.
Well, good morning everyone. We are looking today at our wellbeing in our series of ‘All Being Well’. We are looking at what does it mean to keep well? Both spiritually, mentally and emotionally. There is a lot, about soul care at the moment. There is a lot of things about self-care.
As with all these things, what I love is the Bible gets there first. And as we’ve been looking at this verse that Tim introduced for us last week from the book of Hebrews, we’ve looked at that we are surrounded on that race, if you like, of life from Hebrews (Chapter 12, verse 1) that we’re surrounded, as Tim said last week, by this ‘cloud of witnesses’. We have people to cheer us on in this life that we desperately need. But the next bit of the verse tells us that we need to throw off, Paul says, and let us throw off the things that entangle us, the sin that so easily entangles us, anything that hinders us, he says, let us throw off.
Let us throw everything that hinders us. And as we look at roaming free this week and as we looked at our perfect Instagram family, that they sort of caved, didn’t they, before our eyes? And I think we are all a bit relieved when they did that all was not as it seemed. There is a shadow side to every single one of us and there is perhaps our Instagram persona or our church persona. And then there’s reality, as we sort of know, that there is that darker side, that shadow side to us that every single one of us wants to throw off.
I love the way Paul kind of said, let us just throw it off. And you might say easier said than done. But I think in lockdown and beyond, we have done a lot of decluttering, haven’t we, physically? I certainly know that there was a slight euphoria in this household when I managed to get my slot at the tip. I was really excited by it, which I know is deeply sad.
But others felt the same way, whether we have a skip on the road, or we had something where we could just declutter. Maybe that is still on your list, like the family and you have not quite got to it yet. But many of us have. And I think there is a reason behind that because we have been forced to face our mess if you like. In lockdown we have not had our usual busyness or coping strategies or the fact that we can just shut that cupboard or shut that room away because it is sort of been there a little bit more.
Maybe we have done that more with our own habits as well. Maybe we have had to start our own mess spiritually a little bit more as well. But Paul uses this analogy about running the race set before us in the Book of Hebrews. He recognises that in order to run the race, we need to be aware of what it is that we are carrying. What is it that is tripping us up? What are those habits that we are forming or even have gone back to actually and that we want to throw off?
I love the fact that it is positive. It is not bowed down; it is not despondent even. It is just let’s get rid of it and saying you just feel like that sometimes; ‘I just want to stop doing that’, ‘I just want to throw that off’. And the race parable or metaphor, if you like, is a helpful one. And as some of you know, I have been doing a little bit of light running, I am doing the ‘couch to 5k’, and it is quite a helpful analogy.
A hindrance to running can be not wanting to be seen, or not wanting to stand out, if you like, the sin of pride. And in these two little extracts that we have from the Book of John, we see the character of Peter on a ‘real low’ and on a ‘real high’, if you like. We see him in failure, and we see him if you like, in the success. In the first little passage that we had read we have a snapshot of Peter denying Jesus, saying ‘I’m not part of his team’, ‘I’m not his friend’, ‘I’m not one of his followers’. And when asked are you one of his followers, he gives that sort of flat ‘No! he’s not!’. And yet in an account in Matthew, we hear that Jesus says to Peter, one of you is going to deny me before the rooster crows three times.
And he says, well, it will not be me. He jumps in and suddenly he starts to wear pride. At that moment, he says, I will die with you and I will never deny you. Now, that comes from a place of love in Peter. He knows he loves Jesus; he knows that he wants to run free. So, he cannot imagine a time when he would ever do that. But pride creeps in and he wears it. Fear creeps in and he wears it. He does not realise until that moment in the courtyard, that he starts to wear it. There are things that are hindering us that maybe subliminally we are not really quite aware of, and that God even today just wants to highlight.
Peter will have worn shame. There is no doubt about it. When the rooster crowed three times he thought, oh, it was me! I was the one who is denied Jesus! Jesus was right about me, and shame then starts to be another thing that Peter wears. And Judas in the Bible betrays Jesus, and his shame leads to such critical poor wellbeing, or mental health if you like, that he actually takes his own life. He has nowhere to take the shame that he is wearing.
Yet, Peter has someone and somewhere to take that shame, and it’s to Jesus and Jesus reinstates him. In the second passage, we hear this beautiful interchange between Jesus and Peter where he says, ‘do you love me more than these?
I just felt that in a way, what is our answer to that question today? Because the things that hinder us, the addictions that we have or that we wear that we do not even know about some of the time are the things that we put ahead of our love for Jesus. Things get displaced, that is what John Mark Comer says; “Whatever gets our attention starts to be who we become.” Isn’t that true that actually where our gaze is fixed, that starts to change us. Some of those things are destructive and negative, and some of those things are uplifting and peaceful.
We are all addicted to something, every single one of us. We might say, well, you know, that’s just for people in rehab. No, we are all addicts. We might be addicted to success. We might be addicted to business. We might be addicted to approval. We might be addicted to something, you know, that actually is really destructive for us in our lives.
I love this quote from ‘The Book of Waking Up’ by Seth Haines. He says, “we’re all addicted or attached to something. We all use some kind of coping mechanism. In other words, if you have a pulse, you have a problem.” So, there is something about that, that as we look at Peter, we kind of know that we too, are wearing. Things that perhaps we weren’t so aware of that even today, if we’re going to run free, we really need to be able to say, Lord, just take this from me, because the wonderful news that we have in the New Testament is that Jesus says ‘my yoke is easy and my burden is light’.
In other words, what we take off, he can take on! In that kind of divine transaction that our shame, our fears, our habits, we can say, Jesus, you wear this, I am not able to wear it any longer, I’m weary of it.
You know, when we declutter, isn’t it true that sometimes we find something that we thought it was really important to keep at the time and now we think, why am I still hanging on to this? It is not doing me any good anymore. And my experience in the Christian life, I can honestly say, is that the things that God has asked me to give up have been really hard, perhaps at the time. I look back now, and I think they were not doing me any good anyway! Because he is for me, he’s for us in our race.
He’s like our Michael Jordan on the couch to 5k saying ‘come on Judy! come on John! come on … whoever, you can do it, you can do it like that ‘cloud of witnesses’ around us. And we do need those people who will speak in and say, why are you still wearing that?
There is a lovely moment where Jesus brings Lazarus back from death and he says, ‘take off your grave clothes’. And he says that to you and I today, you know, take off even that apathy, take off those things that would hinder you today. That would hinder me today.
Now you might be thinking, well, that is all very well for you to say, but how does that work? How do we do it? Well, we do it incrementally, a bit like the catch to 5k, you know, some of us might feel like we are on week 1, some of us might feel like we are ready to run marathons. We are all at different points in the track. We are all on different points in the race. But Jesus says that we can confess our sins to him, and he will faithfully forgive us because he has beaten death and sin for every single one of us. That is the amazing truth of the gospel today! If you have never heard that before, that people like Peter in the passages that we have heard, people like you and I, we all have stuff, we all have. If we have a pulse, we have a problem, as we have heard, but! we have a rescuer, we have a saviour, we have someone who says I want you to run freely and lightly. And ‘that’s not a good look on you anymore’, ‘You don’t need to be wearing that anymore’.
My spiritual director said to me last year that I had perhaps started to tell stories with me as the victim. And she said, I wonder why you are you doing that? We realised that because something had happened in my life way back where perhaps I was the victim, I was still wearing that and Jesus wanted to say ‘you don’t have to wear that role anymore’, ‘I can take it from you’. So, we then start to tell a different story, that we start, if you like, to sing a different song.
So, as we come to respond, Jesus wants us to be free. So, there is something, as we said at the beginning, really positive about this. Almost joyful in saying ‘I can be free, I can run another way’, ‘I can take off that thing that I was wearing,’ and ‘I can see a new life for me’. ‘Others around me will help me run in that, to run towards grace, run towards the love that we see between Jesus and Peter because he is able to say, ‘you’re the one I choose’, and he says that to you as well today! That in spite of our fragility and our failures and our successes, he says, do you love me more than these?
So, let us pray together, as we respond to that, let’s pray.
‘Jesus, I love you and yet I deny you. I am a betrayer and a follower. I am a proud and fearful person and yet I want to stand out for you. I am an addict and an apprentice. I want to declutter and yet I know that I am hanging on to so much here and now. I offer you this shame I am carrying, this unforgiveness I am wearing, this habit I have gone back to. And I pray you will help me today to let go, to throw it off now and however long it takes, until that day when I know I’m not wearing it anymore and I am running free. Forgive me, Lord, I pray, Amen.’
- What has been the hardest thing about lockdown for you?
- Read Hebrews 12:1-3. When you read the phrase ‘…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.’ What does it mean for you? What kinds of things do you think the author might have had in mind?
- What strikes you about the word ‘entangles’? What things are there in lockdown that fit this category for you?
- Read John 18:15-18 and John 21:15-19. In what ways might Jesus’ questions to Peter help reveal the reasons behind his betrayal? How might Jesus’ gentle, but firm, words to Peter help us to ‘throw off things that hinder us’?
- Knowing of Peter’s betrayal, and then reading of Jesus’ call on Peter’s life, what do you find most freeing in it? How does this help to set you free from the things that ‘entangle’?
- Take some time to thank God for his forgiveness and grace, asking for a flare confidence to ‘throw off those things that hinder’.