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Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great cloud a of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Heb. 12:1-2

Dear Lord Jesus, for many believers in the world, yesterday was celebrated as All Saints’ Day—a time for remembering our faithful brothers and sisters who have gone on before us into heaven, leaving us examples of commendable spirituality.

For a good part of my life I thought the “cloud of witnesses” referred to in this passage was to be understood as a huge crowd of spiritual giants peering down from heaven onto the earthly playing field of Christianity—cheering us on in the “righteousness race”, pulling for us to make it across the finish line. Noah, Abraham, Moses, King David, the apostle Paul—all winners, now motivating us to do more and try harder; to persevere and finish strong.

But that overly self-centered, performance-oriented-spirituality led to pride in my doing, or despairing of my failures, depending on the day, week or month. I could be expect to be “blessed” by you if I performed well, or disciplined if I didn’t do enough to please you. Hallelujah, a better understanding of the gospel rescued me from that grace-less rut and gospel-lite regimen!

I now realize that the one thing Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Paul all had in common was their abject brokenness and consuming need of your grace—which you freely gave them. Indeed, Jesus, you are the only hero in this great story of redemption and restoration.

So as this day begins (and tomorrow, and the day after that) I will get my eyes off me and fix my gaze on you—the author and finisher of my faith. I’m only a saint because the Father has hidden my life in yours. My only “dress” is your righteousness, plus nothing.

I will run and finish the race because in you, Jesus, I live, move, and have my being. I will make it to heaven not because of my efforts but because of yours. What wondrous love and eternal inheritance is this, indeed!

I truly bless you, with great joy, for the gospel models you have given me—the men and women who have turned away from unrighteousness and self-righteousness to Christ-righteousness, those dear saints who show me what gospel righteousness and kingdom living look like. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and loving name.

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Scotty Smith

Scotty Smith is the founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. You can follow him on Twitter.

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