Hebrews 6:1-12 – It’s more than elementary!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 2, 2012 AM
I have learned over the years that if you have low expectations from yourself or from others, those are the limits you or they will attain. This is true in relationships, education, or your work ethic. It is true spiritually as well. We have a choice as believers to either expect great things from ourselves or to acquiesce to the world and live in the gutter of our sin. At some point one has to decide to leave behind anything or anyone in their life that hinders their maturity in Christ. Continued living in spiritual preschool is not an option for those who want to live as Christ. It involves more than the elementary teachings of Jesus.
Hebrews continues on the theme he has been building toward in his sermon. Righteousness requires faith, faith requires trust, and trust requires righteousness. I am amazed how little children grow and the things they quickly learn to do. They crawl, then walk, and then run. They blabber, they talk, and then they shout. It is the natural order of things and it naturally occurs whether we want t to or not, however, when these things do not happen in the order they are supposed to, we wonder why. We know something could be drastically wrong. The same is true for those who claim Christ but who do not live like Christ. We wonder, “Why are these folks immature in their faith and stuck in the elementary teachings?” Let’s discover what Hebrews teaches us…
Some parents have to learn to be a playmate and friend, while others learn how to be a “cowboy” – rope, throw, and brand them! However all realize very quickly that silence can be a warning that something else is going on. It is only one aspect of parenting. There are of course many more things to learn and as your children grow parents learn the basics and continue onto the deeper waters of parenting. The same is true for our faith. Christians are to hold onto the basics of faith and then…
I. Leave the elementary things behind! (Vv. 1-3)
“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.”
1. The writer makes it very plain that rather than going over old ground it was time for them to “leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.” Too many are content to stay preschoolers of faith. You may argue, “Pastor, aren’t we to have the faith of a child?” And I would say, “Yes, but your faith should move you to grow spiritually and mature!” If all you can talk about is when you repented, accepted Jesus, were baptized and joined the church; something is wrong with your spiritual growth! I can remember meeting with fellow pastors and all they could talk about were the numbers of people in the pews and the dips in the baptistery. Few could talk to you about how they were discipling their congregations teaching the deeper truths of Scripture. However to be fair many Christians depend only upon their worship attendance to teach them the deeper truths of their faith. This creates a spiritually shallow emotionally based faith. In this kind of learning environment pupils continually wonder if God loves them or if they are “good enough.” The author knew to continually review the fundamentals of faith would only have left them where they were! He preferred “radical surgery” and decided to herd them forward as rapidly as possible. This was the solution to their spiritual immaturity. Thousands of books are written each year on how to connect emotionally with God and they keep the reader in the shallow water of emotional dependency. Focusing on constant introspection does not move the believer out of the classroom and into the world! It keeps one constantly spiritually insecure. However, they could avoid the danger “of laying again the foundation of repentance.” They needed to leave the elementary things behind!
Example: In the movie “Jack” Robin Williams plays a young 10-year-old boy that has an unusual aging disorder that has aged him four times faster than a normal human being. He is extremely childish as a consequence of his secluded life. He has only had contact with his parents and tutor, Lawrence Woodruff (Bill Cosby), who introduces the idea that he should go to public school. His parents initially balk at the idea of their son going there because he could be emotionally hurt. He enters the fifth grade for the first time with the appearance of a 40-year-old man. What follows is the disbelief of students, teachers, and other parents. How uncomfortable is it when there are those who have claimed Christ for decades and yet remain spiritual preschoolers in adult bodies? Perhaps we need to leave the elementary things behind!
Moving on from the basics of faith, Hebrews moves into the deeper truths his listeners needed to hear, especially those who had followed Jesus for different reasons than faith. The writer wanted true believers to be able to distinguish themselves from those who claimed Christ, but really did not believe. He teaches us that…
II. Faith produces a harvest! (Vv. 4-9)
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case–things that accompany salvation.”
1. Self confidence cannot be inherited; it has to be learned. Those who have placed their faith and trust in Christ can be confident of the fact that they are his and he is theirs forever. The writer of Hebrews knew the truth that “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance.” He knew, like the old preacher said, “When you are changed by God, you are changed by God!” If your spirit has been “enlightened” and you therefore have “tasted the heavenly gift” of salvation sealed by and “shared in the Holy Spirit” you are changed! This does not mean your old habits are necessarily gone, but it does mean your intrinsic self is completely changed, cleansed, and complete in Christ! As Paul would declare, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) Folks who claim Christ, but continually “fall away” back into their old life and insecurity are displaying a faithless life! It is hard for them “to be brought back to repentance” because it becomes a crutch rather than trust. Are they in fact saved because, “to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace”? He writes that even “land that drinks in the rain… produces a crop useful to those” who farm! True believers produce a harvest from their faith. They join a church; they serve, they teach, reach, and tell others about Jesus through their lives, words, and deeds! “But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.” Wow! There it is dear child of God. Can we say, like the author of Hebrews, that “we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation”? Can we see a harvest in your life? Faith produces a harvest!
Example: I am excited about having a garden next year. I built raised beds, put in gardening soil, and have kept the weeds and cats out of the beds. Next year we will plant seeds and watch them grow. Now I know that it will be a lot of hard work to water them, weed them (yuck, I hate weeding), and to keep the insects and pest away from the young plants. But the harvest will be fun! It will be enjoyable to harvest what we have planted and cared for and helped to grow all year. The same is true for Christians who share their faith through hard work, their actions, their words, and their willingness. What a joy to reap a harvest for the Lord and watch it grow! GBC has been part of a wonderful harvest over the years. Planting the seeds of the gospel in the lives of others and watching them grow, bloom, and make fruit of their own! Hebrews teaches us that faith produces a harvest!
It is always good to know that even during our darkest times of faith; God never forgets us or leaves us. We can wander away from the Lord, but God never is never far from our lives.
III. God knows those who know him! (Vv. 10-12)
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”
1. We live too often for the moment. We live for what we can get out of life right now, instead of investing for eternity. The church and its leaders have failed to properly teach and remind folks that this is not all there is and we will be held accountable for what we do in this life in the next. The writer of Hebrews was not talking about believers who lose their salvation, but rather those who claim Christ, say they believe, and yet know they never did have faith that would “move mountains.” Having “tasted the heavenly gift” and “shared in the Holy Spirit” and his power, they walk away because of insecurity and their worthless crop of “thorns and thistles… will be burned” up! Paul related that “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NIV) But the author of Hebrews was confident of his readers. The author knew that “God is not unjust.” His readers would not be forsaken. He tells them that God “will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” He knew that if they showed “this same diligence to the very end” their “hope” was “sure.” He did not want them “to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised!” God knows those who know him!
Example: My 3-year-old grandson and I play a little game with one another. He will point to me and say, “I see you!” and I will immediately point to him and respond, “I see you!” We will often repeat this over and over until his grandma or his mom gets tired of hearing us! Then we will both laugh. It is enjoyable because what he is learning is the fact that he not only “sees” me but he knows I “see” him as well. I am there for him as his “papa” and I am willing to take care of him as well. Because of this and the love he has experienced from his momma, his grandma, great grandmother and aunt, and his church, he knows he is loved. Do you know what? The same can be said for the believer as well. We can rest assured that God knows those who know him!
Hebrews teaches us that we need to leave the elementary things behind, that faith produces a harvest, and that God knows those who know him!
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.