As I’ve previously mentioned I’ve been incorporating The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis in my morning devotions this year along with a collection of Puritan prayers. The two go hand-in-hand, which is interesting on a number of fronts, not the least of which is the historical front. Here is some interaction with yesterday’s reading from The Imitation of Christ:
Grant me, O Lord, to know that which is worth knowing, to love that which is worth loving, to praise that which pleaseth thee most, to esteem that which is precious unto thee, to despise that which in thy sight is contemptible.
The author of Hebrews exhorts us to “…lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…,” Hebrews 12:1b-2a.
Not to minimize sin (I have a forthcoming post about sin as a matter of fact), but I think that more often than not our enemy is not so much sin but encumbrance – things that don’t matter from an eternal perspective. Runners in a race, or swimmers in a race, pay close attention to what they wear – what they wear is directly related to the race and nothing unrelated to the race is worn by the runner or swimmer. Anything extraneous to the race would be detrimental to the competitor, would impede the competitor’s progress, would create resistance, and would weight the competitor down.
Suffer me not to judge according to the sight of the outward eyes, nor to give sentence according to the hearing of the ears of ignorant men; but with a true judgment to discern between things visible and spiritual, and above all to be ever searching after the good pleasure of thy will.
What appears good and righteous to the natural eye, to the visible world, may be an encumbrance; it may be a substitute for things eternal, it may be an exit ramp off the race course. The fact is that all of us are ignorant men to one degree or another, which is why Solomon teaches us to not lean on our own understanding but to look to God. Our vulnerability is not so much when we don’t understand, then we tend to look to God; it is rather when we understand, because then we assume we know what we are doing and we assume our judgments are correct. And we are the most certain of our own judgments when we deal with what we think is good and evil, or right and wrong, or righteous and unrighteous apart from the Christ of the Cross and the Cross of Christ. There is no righteousness outside of Jesus Christ, and there is no glory outside of Jesus Christ – when we cloth ourselves with anything other than Jesus we encumber ourselves in the race of life in Christ.
We forget that the tree which our ancestors Adam and Eve ate from was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – the knowledge of “good” is just as dangerous, if not more so, in the life of the Christian than the knowledge of evil – for it can deceive us into thinking we understand and experience good apart from Christ. To be sure we are called to maturation in Christ so that we can discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14), but the context is Christ, the context is always Christ.
Am I running the race with excess baggage? Am I weighing myself down with things that are good but are not eternal? What about you?