December 24, 2022

Big Rocks 2023 Manuscript

DATE: 1-1-23
SERIES: Stand Alone Sermon
SERMON: Big Rocks - 2023
TEXT: Hebrews 12:1-2

Watch the sermon here.
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Happy New Year! It’s good to see all of you awake this morning…hopefully it stays that way throughout my sermon. My name is Matt Heft. I’m an elder here at Gateway Church.

Last year, early in January, I preached a sermon on Gateway Church's Big Rocks using our mission and vision statements to lead us through that. You might have even called it a sermon on healthy church membership. After that was over, I thought it went pretty well and people seemed to receive the message well, so I told Pastor Josh, “Josh, I’d be willing to start off next year with a sermon like that too.” Note to self, always check the calendar before making big, bold statements like that. So, here we are on January 1, 2023. The good news is, we get to have all of County Road 9 and North Main here in the same room including kids. The other good thing is, we do livestream, as well as record the sermon, so you can go back and watch later if you happen to nod off. I’ll do my best to keep that from happening.

As we talk about healthy church membership, of course, I’m going to bring up the Gateway Church Mission and Vision. If you’re a guest with us this morning…first, thank you for your dedication to be at church on New Year’s Day! This morning you’ll get a peak at church membership. Let me go ahead and read those:

OUR MISSION: To connect people to Jesus Christ and one another

OUR VISION: To be a church that connects people to Jesus Christ and to one

another, we aim to…

● Worship in a way that is Gospel-centered, contextual, and done with excellence,

● Connect through Word-based application and caring for one another,

● Serve the people in our church family, and

● Go into the world by equipping, partnering with, and sending members to proclaim the   Good News of Jesus Christ.

Sin & Love

Before we dig into each of these elements of our vision, I want to slide over to a different starting point and bring up two other words that I think have a very big impact on our ability to carry out this mission as individuals and as a church. My two bonus words for today are sin and love.

I think we could all agree, we think too little of our sin (and when I say, “too little”, I mean we minimize it) and we think too little of God’s love for us and combined, that way of thinking is keeping us from the very best God has for us.

Here’s my big idea that you’ll hear me say several times this morning. If we will throw off the sin in our lives, and if we will rest in Jesus’ love for us, it will radically change how we [ _____ ].

I want us to reflect on a couple of verses, while we talk through these two words. If you would, please turn with me to Hebrews 12:1-2. Hebrews 12 comes several chapters after what Josh has been preaching on throughout the advent season. Just remember, even if I don’t say it as much in this sermon, Jesus is greater. Ok, let’s read.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud 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, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

A Focus on Sin

After reminding us of the Hall of Faith that we would have just read in Chapter 11 (you know, that passage that tells about the faith of Noah, and Abraham, and Rahab, and many others), today’s verse starts with the challenge to lay aside every weight and every sin that clings so closely. Like I said a few minutes ago, I think we think too little of sin, we minimize it, we act like it’s not that big of a deal. In so doing, it’s like leaving weights clinging all over us, weighing us down, making this journey we call life even more difficult. When we think little of sin, we’re just continuing to try to walk or run through this life with all this extra baggage. We try to solve our problems, we try to be 1% better, we take the stairs, we find our one thing, we will attempt anything, but we won’t stop, take inventory of what’s going on in our lives and discard the sin that is holding us back. We wear it on our backs as if it’s just another accessory to our wardrobe. We’re called to run with endurance, but let’s be honest, there are times where it doesn’t feel like we’ll make it through the week, let alone endure for the time God has for us here on earth.

One of my big challenges to us this morning is that we need to take our sin more seriously. Let’s look back at our verse. “let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely”. I really like the wording choices of some other translations for this phrase “lay aside”. Visualize these with me as I read through them. Lay aside (ESV), rid ourselves (NASB), throw off (NIV), and you can stop visualizing now, the New Living Translation says to strip off. Whether you like the more gentle wording or the strong wording, there is no question that we have to remove sin from our lives.

And what is the nature of this sin. Look at what the verse says, “it clings so closely”. The NIV says that this sin “easily entangles us”.

I want to go really extreme on you this morning, because I think we have to go to the extreme to realize the seriousness of our sin. I’m going to use the words of an ancient scholar to compare our fear of death and our lack of fear over our sin.

Now, I know we have some younger kids in here this morning. Some of you are a big brother or a big sister. If you’re a big brother or a big sister, could you raise your hand? Now, can you make me a promise? I’m going to tell a made-up story, but you’re not allowed to try this out on your younger brother or sister. Promise? Good.

"It is a childish terror to fear death but not to fear sin. Little children are afraid of masks, but do not fear the fire. Quite the opposite, if they are accidently carried too near a lighted candle, they stretch out their hand without any concern for the candle and the flame. Yet a mask…terrifies them while they have no dread of fire, which is really the thing they should fear. Just so, we too have a fear of death, which is a mask that might well be despised; but we have no fear of sin, which is truly dreadful…And this is likely to happen not on account of the nature of the things, but because of our own foolishness…What then, I pray you, is death? Just like putting off a garment. The body is about the soul as a garment; and after laying it aside for a short time by means of death, we will resume it again with even more splendor. What is death at most? It is a journey for a season; a sleep longer than usual! So that if you fear death, you should also fear sleep!...Sorrow not for the dying person; but sorrow for those who are living in sin!" (Saint John Chrysostom, Homily 5 on the Statutes, from Remember Your Death, Momento Mori Lenten Devotional, Theresa Alethia Noble, p. 153.)

I very badly wanted to re-enact this up on stage with one of our toddlers. I was going to put on a mask and scare them, then I was going to light a candle and see if they went towards it and tried to touch it. You’ll be very happy to know that there was not a single Kidway worker or mom that would let me borrow their little one. There were a couple dad’s, but we decided that may not be a good idea.

We don’t need to re-enact this anyway, because we all know what would happen. The child would scream at the mask, but that candle would attract them. The mask would have no real substance behind it, but the candle could start a fire that would spread and consume.

Friends, when we look at death and sin. We’re seeing the same thing as a mask and a candle. If we take the time to think of it, we are frightened of death, but sin, ahhh, not that big of deal. And we play around with sin as if nothing bad is ever going to happen to us or as if we have plenty of time to make things right. Listen to this quote from an audiobook I listened to in the Fall. “The average American believes old age begins 6 years AFTER the average American dies.” (Arthur Brooks, From Strength to Strength, audiobook 2:38:29.) Read that again…so it sinks in. We all think we have way more time than we actually do. We all think we have way more time to deal with the sin in our lives and to prepare for death. We’re wrong...we have no idea when the Lord will call us home. Our sin is serious and we need to grab those weights and throw them off of us. We have to lay aside this weight. It is holding us back, it is dragging us down, it is keeping us from running the race God has designed for us.

God’s Love For Us

I really do think we just think too little of our sin. We dance around it like it’s no big deal. But there’s something else that I don’t think we consider enough and that is God’s love. Let’s look again at our verses from Hebrews 12.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud 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, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2

I don’t know about you, but when I’m running, I’m usually looking behind me…because I’m not running unless something is chasing me. But let’s pretend I’m running a race. I might be staring at my feet…one more step, one more step…or I might be looking straight ahead to pick out my next milestone ten feet away…or I might throw my head back, looking up to the heavens, just so I can try to catch my breath. But the author of Hebrews is telling us that in this life, we’re to look to Jesus...or as the NIV says, we’re to fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the one who has authored and will perfect our faith.

We’re supposed to look to Jesus as we run. But here’s what I want you to take away from this section the most. I already made the case that we don’t pursue Jesus with everything we’ve got because we’re weighed down by sin. The second part of my argument is that we don’t pursue Jesus with everything we’ve got because we don’t recognize, appreciate, or live in the love he has for us.

Do you know why you’re supposed to fix your eyes on Jesus? It says that for the joy that was before him he endured the cross. What was that joy other than knowing that by his sacrifice he was submitting to the will of the Father and our sins could be forgiven? He went through all that he did on the cross for the joy that would come out of it. He went through all that he did on the cross because he loves you more than you will ever realize.

Let’s do a quick Gospel recap in case this is new for you or you just need a reminder. Jesus, God in the flesh, came to earth as a baby boy, he lived a perfect life, he died on a cross, but rose from the dead three days later. He did all this, so that if we will call out to him, confess our sins, and ask him to make us clean, he will wash away all our sins.

Friends, he loves you so much. Let me read for you the lyrics from one of my favorite songs by Sovereign Grace Music.

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me

Underneath me, all around me
Is the current of Your love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Your glorious rest above

Oh the deep, deep love
All I need and trust
Is the deep, deep love of Jesus

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Spread His praise from shore to shore
How He came to pay our ransom
Through the saving cross He bore

How He watches o'er His loved ones
Those He died to make His own
How for them He's interceding
Pleading now before the throne

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Far surpassing all the rest
It's an ocean full of blessing
In the midst of every test

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Mighty Savior, precious Friend
You will bring us home to glory
Where Your love will never end

I don’t think we understand how much our sin weighs us down, but I also don’t think we have any comprehension of how much we are loved by God. If we understood that, you wouldn’t be able to keep me out of this church building on a Sunday morning. You wouldn’t be able to keep me from serving my brothers and sisters on a Sunday morning. You wouldn’t be able to keep me from connecting with others that have tasted of this glorious salvation. You wouldn’t be able to keep me from going to the world and telling them the good news of Jesus! No matter what else you hear this morning, I hope it will resound in your ears all week. Your sin is a weight holding you down. And you are loved so much that Jesus has provided a way for you to receive forgiveness and to avoid the punishment for that sin. Friends, that is good news!

Sin & Love Resources

Just like last year when I preached the first of the year sermon, I have some recommendations for you. Some books, some practices to incorporate into our lives, so that we can more fully live for him. 

  • The first book I want to recommend on this is Jerry Bridges, “Respectable Sins”. We have a tendency to be willing to put away or set aside those really big sins, or at least the ones that others could observe and comment on, but what about those hidden sins, even those respectable sins. Don’t let the title fool you…these aren’t respectable sins, these are those sins that we let slide, that we have gotten comfortable with as individuals, and maybe as a church. Let me read you just a few of the Respectable Sins that Jerry Bridges covers in this book: Anxiety and Frustration, Discontentment, Impatience and Irritability, Worldliness, and Judgmentalism. I challenge you to get a copy and allow yourself to change and grow as you apply it to your lives.
  • Another book that I want to recommend is “Whiter than Snow” by Paul Tripp. If you need a book that will encourage you to both take your sin seriously and soak in the love that God has for you, this would be a great book to read as it looks at Psalm 51 from several different angles.
  • I also had a book that talks about God’s love in great ways. From the beginning of time to the end of time…the heights and depths…now what did I do with that? Oh, right, here it is. Brothers and sisters, above any other recommendation I may make this morning, this is number one. Open your Bibles, read them every day. Listen to God’s Word, read it, study it, meditate on it, and memorize it. Let this book show you how much God loves you.

Gateway Church Discipleship Process

With all that as our starting point, let’s jump into Gateway’s Discipleship Process. Connecting people to Jesus Christ and to one another through worshiping, connecting, serving, and going.


Let’s start with Worship…and the phrase that I stated earlier. If we will throw off the sin in our lives, and if we will rest in Jesus’ love for us, it will radically change how we worship. In its most basic form, we define this as just being here for a worship service on a Sunday morning. That’s a good start and there are some that I would be thrilled if they would just do that. For others of you, you have that routine down…so how about getting here early and staying a little later, so that you can fellowship with other believers, encouraging and being encouraged by them. I want Sunday mornings to be one of the most exciting joyous times of your entire week. That all centers around this worship service. As we have a time to corporately hear God’s Word preached and sing praise to him.

How does fighting sin and resting in God’s love impact my worship? Well, with less sin, with fewer weights and entanglements, I can come in with a clear conscience. I can start worshiping on song #1, instead of needing songs 3, 4, or 5 to finally be able to quiet my soul and accept that God loves me. It sometimes takes a while for this hard, crusty shell of sin to break away.

Here are some resources for the year as you consider how you might grow in Worship.

  • Last year, I mentioned Paul Miller’s, “A Praying Life”. I hope you had a chance to read that. He has a new book out…or soon to be out. It’s called “A Praying Church” and I love this sub-title…Becoming a People of Hope in a Discouraging World. Isn’t that who we want to be?!
  • Another book that can guide you in your prayers might be “Psalms in 30 days”. Our worship teams used this last year and I’m looking forward to reading it myself this year.
  • And I know I said this already, but when it comes to Sunday morning worship, get here early, stay late, spend your morning loving on the people of God, encouraging and praying for them. Then, when you’re here for corporate worship, it will truly feel like corporate worship.


Connecting. If we will throw off the sin in our lives, and if we will rest Jesus’ love for us, it will radically change how we connect. At Gateway Church, we primarily define this as being in a Life Group. But I think that we can acknowledge that there are also other ways we can connect. But let’s be clear about what that connection is about. One part of it is just getting together and living life together, but I could do that with a political group or a book club or some workout buddies. There’s something different when we talk about Connecting within the church.

As we connect, whether it's in a Life Group or an Equip Class or over coffee with a friend, let’s be tackling the tough issues of sin. Are we willing to be real with each other? To talk about our struggles, to seek out accountability, to even get ideas on how to better fight and cast off this sin?

And then, love. In those same contexts, are we always pointing each other back to the love of Christ. Someone might say, I have a wayward adult son or daughter…hey, remember to love them the way Christ loved you. I’m struggling with my job. Hey, remember you are defined by the fact that God loves you, and not by your career progression. I’m being pulled in so many directions. Hey, remember, Jesus loves you so much that he’s paved the way for a new direction for your life. You can relax and rest in his finished work.

So, specifically how would I challenge you to grow in the area of Connect?

  • One of the main ways we have defined that is through Life Groups. So here’s the lay up, join a Life Group. But we all know that just being in a Life Group does not guarantee connection. We have to be intentional about that. We need to show up. We need to be vulnerable and willing to share. You might need to be ok with being part of a group that is generally older than you, or generally younger than you. Be open to whoever God may bring into your life. Could it be that those that you seem to struggle to get along with are exactly who he wants in your life to knock off some rough edges?
  • Charlie Mike. Ed Grable shared this with us at our Life Group leader training at the beginning of August last year. Ed shared that that was a military term for Continue Mission. Keep going. Don’t give up. And with our Life Groups, that’s what all of us need to do. Leaders and members alike. Keep fighting sin together, keep pointing each other to the love of Jesus. Charlie Mike.


The next big rock that we talk about is serving. If we will throw off the sin in our lives, and if we will rest in Jesus’ love for us, it will radically change how we serve. We typically define that by serving others in this church body. That may be serving in the café once a month, gathering up the whole family and greeting folks at a door, serving in Kidway, or serving a youth Life Group as a leader. You all know those ways that are available to serve. In fact, if you’re visiting with us from another church out of town this morning, I bet you know similar areas that you could serve in at your church.

How does serving look different when we consider it in the realm of sin and love? Without the weight of sin, dragging us down and constantly gnawing at us, we will be able to serve with light hearts. And once we realize the depth of God’s love for us, that Christ first served me and met my greatest need, you won’t be able to stop me from serving. It will be my joy and my honor to be able to serve because daily I will be in awe of my salvation and how much God loves me. This morning, I want to propose a slightly different way to serve. What if we would all serve our Pastor by doing one, simple – ok, maybe not so simple, thing. I want to challenge all of us to read this book and do what it says.

Here’s the book:

  • “The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read (But is Too Embarrassed to Ask)”. Someone is sitting out there going, ok, then tell us the name of the book. That is the name of the book! “The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read (But is Too Embarrassed to Ask)” by Christopher Ash. I so badly want us to love Pastor Josh well, to serve him in this way, that I’ve given a copy to the folks at the Resource Center. The first person in here to tell them Happy New Year! after the service will get that copy.


Go. If we will throw off the sin in our lives, and if we will rest in Jesus’ love for us, it will radically change how we go. All of you are going. We tell you each week, you are sent. You might leave right away, or hang out and talk for thirty minutes, but eventually you all go. What are you doing in your going? We are sent (or going) for the purpose of spreading the Gospel. That should start by living it out in our homes, but before too long, that should spread to the world outside of those walls. Sharing the love that has washed away our sins should be on the top of our mind. How are you doing with sharing God’s love with others, whether that’s in Findlay or somewhere else in the United States or world?

  • One resource that I am especially excited about reading this year was recommended to me by our friends from Campus Outreach at the Bowling Green Campus. Listen to this title: “How to Talk About Jesus (Without Being THAT Guy)” by Sam Chan. I’m really looking forward to this one and applying it to my life.

Before I head into my conclusion, let me give a plug to our upcoming membership class that will start next week. You might be sitting there thinking, “man, these guys are serious about church membership”. To that I would say, “we are”. So get signed up for that and learn more about what Gateway Church is all about.


For those that already are members. Your elders deeply love you. They care about Gateway Church as a whole, but members, they groan and strain and pray and talk and want to do all they can to help you grow in Christ. I have seen them do this time and time again over the past year. You need to know that.

So, when your shepherding elder reaches out and says, “hey, I noticed that you’re not really serving anywhere” or “you’re not plugged into a Life Group”. They aren’t doing that just to put a guilt trip on you. They are truly concerned for you. If not going to Life Group or not serving was all there was to it, maybe it would be ok. But the real concern is…Is this person missing how deeply they are loved? Do they realize what Jesus did for them? Are they keeping their eyes fixed on him or have they started looking around or behind?

Maybe your shepherding elder has concerns about the baggage you’re trying to carry while running this race. Perhaps they see signs of visible sin or maybe the sin is invisible, but the symptoms are not. They care, your church cares.

Regardless of what else you may hear this morning. I hope you’ll hear loud and clear that we already know that you’re a sinner…so are we. But Jesus has such a deep love for you that he will save you from that. He is willing to reach out and save you from your sin (whether the world would regard that as a bad sin or not) and love you with an everlasting love.

Closing Prayer

God, thank you for the opportunity to start this New Year off with your people. As we look out to the year ahead of us, I pray that we would make a conscience choice to live for you, no matter what may come our way. I pray that we would not only confess our sin when we do fail, but that we would fight against sin in our life on a daily basis, so that we can be holy like you. Thank you for your deep, deep love for us. I pray that this love would compel us to live our lives for you and your kingdom and not for ourselves.


Father, thank you for the opportunity to share this message this morning. I pray that as individuals and as a body of believers, we would throw off the sin that is dragging us down. And I pray that we would grow in our knowledge of how deep Jesus’ love is for us. I pray that this knowledge would be so profound that it would daily change how we do everything.

As we now enter into a time of celebrating the Lord’s Supper together, speak to our hearts and change us as we enter this new year.