I want to start today by sharing with you something that is almost too good to be true. What Jesus did on the cross, for us, was unbelievable. Let’s read about it.

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us – set us right with him, make us fit for him – we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand – out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. MSG Romans 5:1-2

Have you ever had the thought or feeling that there is something between you and God? Maybe you feel like you don’t add up or you have been so bad that God could never accept you.   Maybe you grew up in church and feel like God accepts you but He has His favorites and it’s not you. For whatever reason, there is something not working between you and God.

The Bible tells us, when you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and has come to rescue you, all those thoughts and feelings aren’t true. Based on scripture, immediately, you are right where you always wanted to be, in a perfect relationship with God. You are in God’s grace and glory. There is nothing between you and God.

Because it’s almost too good to be true, God told us, the most important thing we could do in our life is focus on that every day. That’s why we are endlessly challenging everyone to build a relationship with Jesus. Why? Because that relationship changes everything. It literally gives you things you can’t create in your life. Spiritually, God gives you; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You can’t produce those things in your life. You can act loving for a couple days but it will run out. You can take the weekend off to find joy but by Monday lunch, it will be gone. Only God can plant long term joy into your soul.

Later in scripture, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter called Hebrews. In this letter, Paul talks about life being a struggle, it can be hard. He tells us to treat Christianity like you would a long race.

12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. NIV Hebrews 12:1-5

God’s grace for you is so over the top amazing, God told us to focus on that every day. Why? Because the number #1 thing you need, by far, is to know God loves you. Without grace, when we fail to focus on it, we die inside. We strive and struggle to try to be a good person. We demand that others validate us and are easily offended. We get busy, competitive and angry.

With God’s grace, when we focus on it, it brings us to life. Spiritually, God plants the following into your soul; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Paul in Hebrews says, life is a long term race. Get rid of anything that is taking your focus off of God’s grace. Why? Without God, you will wear out. Without God, life will steal your joy. All those things God wants to plant into your life, you won’t give Him time to do it.

v 1, …throw off everything that hinders AND the sin that so easily entangles…

Those are the two things that will steal your focus on God’s grace. First, anything that hinders us needs to be thrown off. We aren’t talking about sin here.   It could be our habits, like business. It could be those areas we accept into our lives but are doing a lot of damage; complaining, sarcasm, criticism, laziness, procrastination, etc. Paul asks, is it stealing your joy, your passion, your freedom? Is it stealing your focus on God’s grace? Throw it off.

Secondly, sin. Any sin we allow into our lives, over time, will steal all the freedom and joy and passion that God has given us. Stealing, swearing, cheating, lying, gossip, anger, lust, drunkenness, over eating, over working, apathy, etc. Have you noticed that after you sin, you feel bad? Guilty? Separated from God? You want to hide. God’s grace forgives you if you ask but to allow that sin to stay, it only separates you more.

So I want to ask you, what is it for you? What is stealing your joy? What is making you tired? What is stealing your focus on God’s grace? Paul told us; get rid of it because if you don’t, you won’t be able to race well or finish well.

This leaves us with a choice we have to make. Freedom v Bondage. When you come to Christ and experience His grace, it’s amazing. As you can walk in life, you have a choice. You can walk in freedom. That means I get rid of anything that steals God’s grace from me. You can walk in bondage. That means, I do nothing.

In my opinion, the people who wrestle with this the most, are the people in church. Maybe even those who view themselves at the mature, well disciple, you know – the Delta Force – the elite. We have the knowledge but we don’t do anything. It leaves us tired, worn out and carrying about things that don’t have eternal value. This can be why you see so many people proclaiming to be Christians who are worn down, tired and feeling miserable.

We must give God time to plant love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control inside us.

Paul said, …throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…   So I want to ask you, what is it for you?   What is stealing your joy? What is making you tired?   Whatever it is, get rid of it, this is a long term race.

As a Christian, you need to know, nothing has the spiritual right to put you into bondage. You have the power of God to trade bondage for freedom.

A practical example.   One of the biggest struggles we face is walking through life, experiencing emotions or thoughts and allowing those emotions or thoughts to rule us. If we allow negative emotions to stick to us, it impacts how we view ourselves, how we view others and how feel for the day, week or month.

It’s almost like walking into the day with an empty back pack. As negative emotions hit, we put 10 pound weights into our back packs. If we allow those weights to stay and grow, it wears us out and we struggle to see life with clarity.

All along, all we need to do is take off the back pack to walk in freedom but we don’t. We allow that back pack to wear us out. What did Paul say? Throw off anything that hinders.

What needs to happen? We must be aware and in touch with our emotions. We never ignore them. They are real and they tell us what is happening inside us. So we talk about them with trusted people. We journal about them. We ask questions like, “Where did that emotion come from?” “Why do I feel this way?”

However, if negative emotions are beginning to rule us, we go to scripture:

It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. 1 Thessalonians 1:4

Our emotions are important but God’s truth is more important. That negative emotion of fear, depression or anxiety is real but doesn’t have to rule us. The truth is, God loves us and has His hand on your life.

We can make the trade. We can trade negative emotions with God’s love of us. So we aware of your emotions, they are real. But, they don’t have to stick to you for long periods of time. You can …throw off anything that hinders… You can drop the back pack of weights. You can make the trade: God’s love of you for depression, fear or anxiety.

So specific to kids, Middle School, High School, emotions are real. BUT, they don’t have to rule or dominate you. We all face fear, anxiety and depression but that’s not who you are. You are loved by God, that’s who you are. You can live in freedom! Make the trade.