Dean Inserra challenges Southern Baptists to “run our race on road paved with truth and grace’

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INDIANAPOLIS–Preaching the convention sermon at the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Indianapolis, Florida Baptist pastor Dean Inserra implored attendees to “run our race on the road that is paved with truth and grace that, after all, is the road of Jesus Christ.”

Focused on Hebrews 12:1-3, Inserra, lead pastor at City Church in Tallahassee, explained, “The author of Hebrews is testifying on behalf of believers of former days,” those who “had run and completed their races of faith,” highlighted in Hebrews 11. These believers “remind us that God is good, He is faithful, He keeps His promises, which are ultimately realized, fulfilled and find their Yes in Jesus Christ.”

Inserra noted that the NFL Combine occurs annually in Indianapolis, allowing potential NFL football players to showcase their skills for scouts from the 32 NFL teams in hopes of being drafted. During the 40-yard dash, a player will “run as fast as he can for 40 yards, alone, not racing anyone or anything but the timer clock.” Running the 40-yard dash alone, not beside or against anyone, “will almost always guarantee a slower time,” Inserra said, “but running with someone in the lane next to you causes you to have to keep up and it pushes you to the finish line. You don’t look at them the entire race as the finish line is your focus, but quick glances in your peripheral vision, you know they are there running alongside you.”

The writer of Hebrews “calls believers to run their races and, in doing so, reminds them and reminds us that they are not alone,” Inserra said.  A large cloud of witnesses surrounds them and “their instruction, teachings and, yes, even mistakes remind, encourage and push us to run our races well and to not get entangled by sin as the enemy is so committed to get us off track.”

The race of faith is not a 40-yard dash, Inserra said, because the Scripture teaches believers to “run with endurance the race that lies before us. And, praise God, that cloud cheers us on.”

Inserra said Southern Baptists are “blessed” because such a great cloud of witnesses has gone before us. Perhaps the greatest encouragement from that cloud of witnesses is for us “to remain convinced of every syllable” of the Bible and “refuse to be hindered in our race by compromising or departing from the Scriptures but also never forgetting or neglecting the Great Commission call that we all share together,” he said.

Those witnesses, although flawed, “are not just leading us somewhere but to Someone, and His name is Jesus Christ,” Inserra explained.

Jesus Christ, whom believers focus on during their races of faith, Inserra said, “is not presented as a good luck charm or a moral teacher or an inspirational figure or a mascot or a social revolutionary.” Rather, believers look to Jesus’ finished work on Calvary and to His empty tomb.

“Gospel centrality is not a fad; it is not tribal. … To not keep our eyes on Him is going to cause us to get off track, entangled and fall out of our lane during the race and not run as well as we could,” he said.

Using an illustration of being asked to “step to the left” as he was boarding an airplane, Inserra said, “The world wants us to step to the theological left. And we must always be cautious, Southern Baptists, that it will never happen on our watch. It is such a temptation. Perhaps the sin that so easily entangles us in this era of Southern Baptist history is being so concerned about what others think about us, especially online. … We can so easily just step to the left as we stare at our phones to appease, impress and get a thumb’s up just for the moment.”

The answer to this temptation, he said, is “to stay on the faithful road of following Jesus, fixing our eyes on Him and submitting ourselves to the authority of His word. … We cannot hold to inerrancy and simultaneously be embarrassed by what the Bible says.”

Inserra said that running the race of faith “rightly and faithfully” will result in health in two areas: a strong gospel doctrine and a strong gospel culture in churches and in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Southern Baptists do not have a problem with a strong gospel doctrine, Inserra said, although it must always be guarded.

Having a problem with a strong gospel culture, however, hinders Christians’ race of faith, “causing us to grow weary. … The SBC is in a season of being weary. We may have won the battle for the Bible, but let’s not lose our joy on the side streets.”

To keep running the race faithfully and rightly, “We need each other.”

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