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Our Baptist Heritage

By Elder John Keen, Jr.

Brownsburg, IN

Heritage _ the lot, condition or status into which one is born. As a born again child of God and a member of Jesus' Body, His Church, our heritage is to live for Jesus, stand against sin and suffer persecution from Jesus' enemies. Jesus discussed the persecution in John 15:20 when He said, "Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you."

This persecution was later confirmed by the Apostles, Elders, Deacons and saints throughout the New Testament and untold numbers throughout history as they stood for Jesus and against sin.

Examples abound of men, women and children who suffered for Jesus. Though women and children suffered, usually it was the men who bore the brunt of persecution as they were the leaders. On one occasion a 120 year old man named Symeon was tortured for many days. "All, including even the proconsul, marvelled that, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, he could endure so much. And orders were given that he should be crucified." (Canfield, Leon Hardy; "The Early Persecutions Of The Christians"; AMS Press; New York;

1913; pg 200.) Surely, like Moses, Symeon "endured, as seeing him who is invisible." (Hebrews 11:27)

Now the ministry is laid at our feet and what shall we do with it? Hebrews 12:1_3 admonishes us to first notice that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. These are the brethren who went before us and sacrificed and suffered to bring it to this point. If it doesn't fall to us men to carry on this work, who does it fall upon? We may get help from our sisters and from our children, and we need their help, but the heavy end of the load falls upon Christian men.

What shall we do? After noticing all those that went on before us, God admonishes us in this Hebrew passage to, "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us." All too frequently a saved man will get inspired by the Word of God and His Holy Spirit to stand for Jesus only to discover that he is so mired in the world and its sin that the effort is too great to start. He quickly loses patience and resolves to just be a spectator and try to cheer on the others who make an effort. The answer provided by God is to first lay aside the weight and the sin that hinders us.

I picture the "weight" we are to lay aside as worldly entanglements. They are not of themselves sinful but they do hinder us from fulfilling the ministry the Lord's churches are called to conduct. These weights could be associated with every part of our lives, from what we do to earn a living, to what we do to relax, to even what we do in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We all know men who are workaholics. This kind of dedication to secular labor, six or seven days a week and lots of overtime, will keep us from more important spiritual work. Of course that person is only marginally worse than the person who spends an inordinate amount of time enjoying life in the pursuit of his favorite pastime. And not to be out done is the man who devotes much time to charitable causes, even "religious" ones, where his efforts are not only time consuming but more significantly they don't allow him the opportunity to testify of Christ and Him crucified. We need to remember that the work of the Lord's churches is to _ 1) make disciples, 2) baptize them and, 3) teach them to do all things Christ commanded. All three of the men mentioned above are being hindered from participating in this ministry of the church by "worldly weights."

Nearly everyone agrees that our lives today have become too hectic and too complex. We all from time to time wish we could go back to a simpler life which was at a much slower pace. Well, perhaps we can't recapture the "good old days," but we can lay aside some of these weights. If you're engaged in climbing the corporate ladder, re_think your goal. Pray over it and determine if what lies at the top is really God's Will for you. If you're working substantial overtime because of the extra money, a better solution for you, your family and the Lord's work would be to reduce your expenses. Again, pray about this matter and trust God to meet your needs both today and for the rest of your life. If your extra_curricular commitments take you away from God, your family or away from the opportunity to actively work in the ministry of your church, you are over_committed. Give up some of these positions. As Jesus told one of His disciples in Matthew 8:22 who wanted to first bury his father before following Him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead." Nothing is more important than following Jesus and that means to personally spend your time with Him, your family and with the Lord's work in His churches. These are some of the ways we lay aside the weights that are spoken about in Hebrews 12:1.Regarding "the sin which doth so easily beset us,"the types of sin have remained unchanged down through the years. We still struggle with the temptations of adultery, fornication, idolatry, hatred, wrath, strife, drunkenness, etc.. Perhaps the thing that has changed from the days of our spiritual forefathers who dripped their blood along the trail is our comfort with these sins. We think very little about exposing ourselves to these temptations. We do this through association with sinful men and women or through reading material, movies and television (now add computers to the list). We rather enjoy the thought of sin all the while not realizing its degrading effect on our spiritual strength. With the weights mentioned above, we need to also lay aside these sins. They are a great hindrance to us and to God's work. Take a stand against sin and flee its appearance on every occasion.

Having laid aside the weight and the sin, we are now able to "run with patience the race that is set before us," (Hebrews 12:1) It is a long race, lasting a lifetime, and it will require patience as there will be many obstacles to overcome along the way. But the next two verses of this passage help us to stay focused.

"We are admonished to look to Jesus for the strength we need and to consider what He endured for us. "

Our forefathers in the Faith kept their eyes on Jesus. They passed the baton to us to continue the race. You see it is a relay and there is someone up ahead waiting for us to pass the baton to them. Not only is it a wonderful opportunity to run in this race, it is an awesome responsibility for which we will be strengthened to accomplish. Just don't drop the baton!