June 15, 2009

The Peril of Not Progressing

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6: 1-12)

Are you being constantly driven forward by the Spirit of God or are you finding yourself in a frustrating position of being stuck? Do you see signs of fruit in your life and in the lives of those you spend time with? Is God your utmost priority or has He taken the back burner? All of these questions beg to be answered and I'm personally challenged in the asking. As much as we're all well-trained to put on a smile and cheerfully declare that "everything is fine", most of us fall prey to the condition of half-hearted living. It's all too easy, especially in the times of testing or trials, to trade in the "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" fruit-of-the-spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) for a lack-luster attempt at just getting by. I've been guilty of this recently and I'm so grateful for God's undeniable mercy. He never let's us sink to the point of no return....but He does allow us to sink. More times than not, the Lord wants us to sink to a point of realizing that we have not a single glimmer of hope other than His deliverance.

This passage starts out by speaking to the position that tempts any of us who are striving to be more Christ-like. That temptation is to make the quick turn into theological debate over what seems like deep, intellectual (even spiritual), conversation - that, at the end of the day, lacks the vitality of true Spirituality. We will only move into the place that pleases God IF He wills it. Which, by the way, He absolutely wills. How do we know? Because Jesus himself made it clear; "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:40) The difference between a real relationship of not just understanding, but mostly practicing, are:

1. Being enlightened
2. Tasting the heavenly gift
3. Becoming partakers of the Holy Spirit
4. Tasting the good word of God and the powers of the age to come
(For deeper study go here)

The warning for those who have experienced all of the above, and then turn their backs on Christ, is powerfully frightful. But, as frightening as it might be, it should also be reassuring. Reassuring in the sense that many of us have claimed Christianity but lack in experiencing one or more of these areas. The commentary by Matthew Henry says it far better than I ever could.

Every part of the truth and will of God should be set before all who profess the gospel, and be urged on their hearts and consciences. We should not be always speaking about outward things; these have their places and use, but often take up too much attention and time, which might be better employed. The humbled sinner who pleads guilty, and cries for mercy, can have no ground from this passage to be discouraged, whatever his conscience may accuse him of. Nor does it prove that any one who is made a new creature in Christ, ever becomes a final apostate from him. The apostle is not speaking of the falling away of mere professors, never convinced or influenced by the gospel. Such have nothing to fall away from, but an empty name, or hypocritical profession. Neither is he speaking of partial declinings or backslidings. Nor are such sins meant, as Christians fall into through the strength of temptations, or the power of some worldly or fleshly lust. But the falling away here mentioned, is an open and avowed renouncing of Christ, from enmity of heart against him, his cause, and people, by men approving in their minds the deeds of his murderers, and all this after they have received the knowledge of the truth, and tasted some of its comforts. Of these it is said, that it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance. Not because the blood of Christ is not sufficient to obtain pardon for this sin; but this sin, in its very nature, is opposite to repentance and every thing that leads to it.

If you feel as though you haven't truly experienced the four conditions listed in this passage as descriptions of the true believer, than as Henry' suggests, cry out for mercy and ASK God to help you. Pray through each of them and ask that He would open your eyes and ears to what He has in store for you. "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." (Matthew 7:8) God WILL help you and He will give you what you need.

What I need more than financial breakthrough (much-less financial "security"), greater opportunities, more friends, nicer belongings, good health, or anything else on earth is "faith and patience to inherit the promises". We can exist on very little but we can't even begin to breathe eternal oxygen apart from a "full assurance of hope" that, by faith and patience, will bring us through to the very end. There's not a thing we can pull off on our own strength other than God's divine ability to strengthen us for the journey.

Join me in asking the Lord to draw us deeper into all things that bring Him glory. Progress is not a good thing, a noble accomplishment, or even a lofty goal. Progress in our spiritual maturity is ESSENTIAL.

God, please empower us to enter your work and labor of love which we desire to show toward your Son, Jesus. Strengthen our feeble hearts so that we long to minister to the saints. Keep us from our own natural tendency to fall into the trap of sluggards, even the kind who seem to busy themselves in every way but in pursuing You. Take our focus off everything around us that is not essential towards our progress as kids acting in quick obedience towards their Daddy. We love You and desperately need You. Enlighten us, allow us to taste your heavenly gift, to become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and to taste your good Word along with the powers of the age. Forgive us our unbelief and overcome in us any hurdles that might prevent your desire to force us along in progress.

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