The text for this sermon has some of the most difficult to understand verses in the entire bible.Many of my commentaries skip Hebrews 6:4-12; the lectionary skips the entire chapter altogether. Why? Because these verses are hard to understand, and there is a lot of disagreement on them. Last week, the writer of Hebrews told us that it was time to move from milk to meat; it’s time to move from the elementary understandings of our faith and become mature disciples of Jesus Christ. Since saying that, he has wasted no time in moving to the meat of our faith. In fact, he has done so with exceptional quickness.
Understanding these verses means we must be willing to move from a faith that focuses solely on what Christ did for us and incorporate into our thinking what we do to Christ. That’s a hard transition! But, it is a transition we must make if we are going to begin taking our faith, commitment, and calling as Christians seriously.
If you care to, you can read the study materials for this sermon here. There is a ten question quiz on the text on that page or, if you want to skip the reading, you can go straight to the quiz here.
Where are you on the maturity scale? All Christians know that faith and repentance are the building blocks for becoming the people God calls us to be. We know where we stand with God. We know that God loves us, and we know that our salvation is secure. But, where are we in our progression? Yes, Jesus, love me this I know for the bible tells me so.
However, would smile and sing Jesus Loves Me if the lyrics said Jesus loves the homeless? Would we sing Jesus Loves Me if the lyrics said Jesus loves the gay person? What if the verse was Jesus loves the drug addict or the prostitute? What if it was Jesus loves the person who votes differently from me?
Growing in our faith means we set our self-absorption aside. Becoming disciples requires us to understand it’s not all about “me.”
The writer of Hebrews would argue with Franklin D. Roosevelt declaration that the only thing to fear is fear itself. The main point of our text this week is we must fear faithlessness to God. The Israelites did not trust God’s protection and refused to enter the land God prepared for them. Their lack of trust, their lack of faithfulness, led to God refusing to let them enter.
Some Jewish believers had doubts about whether the life God promised in Christ was available to them. They thought they had been born too late to enter into God’s rest, forgetting that each day of creation had a specific beginning and a specific ending except the seventh day! God’s rest remains open and available (as He told David in Psalm 95) today.
Are you faithful to God? If so, you can rest in the knowledge that you will enter into God’s rest. If you are not, it is not too late. Choose faithfulness to God today.
Are you looking at God through something other than God? The Israelites had a hard time keeping their focus on God because they were looking through Moses. Because they didn’t focus on God, they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness and only their children and descendants were allowed to go into the promised land.
Hebrews 3:1 states, “fix your thoughts on Jesus.” The word translated as “fix” means much more than just “looking” at Jesus. How many times in a day do we look at a thing and not actually see it? This word means to perceive, to note. Instead of just looking at a thing, it means to put your whole mind toward it, to try to understand it. It is the same word that Jesus uses in Luke 12:24. He wanted us to understand the lesson we can learn from the ravens. We, as believers, have an invitation from God to God. We cannot afford to just glance at the invitation; we must put our whole mind toward it.
What would you do if, because you are a Christian, you got a letter that said, “We know where you are, and we know what you’re doing.” Christians in Afghanistan received a letter like that this week. The Taliban is also going house to house looking for those that they consider enemies. This includes members of the Afghan military, American allies, and, yes, Christians.
You may be wondering how the Taliban knows who professes Christ as Savior. Afghan citizens have a national ID card. These cards often show religious affiliation. Two years ago, members of the Christian church changed their affiliation, so the government had that information, and, now, so does the Taliban.
Christians in Afghanistan are being hunted and killed because of their faith. Even facing torture and beheading, they aren’t turning their backs on Jesus. They remain true to their faith.
In a discussion this week, the general consensus was that we don’t know what we would do if we were faced with the same situation. We can hope that we would profess Christ, but we don’t really know. The more I thought about that consensus, the more I decided that it was wrong.
If we don’t know what we would do, then there is a pretty good chance that we have drifted as warned about in today’s text. If we – personally and collectively – aren’t living, breathing, sharing, and guarding the message of Jesus Christ, we are drifting away from it.
If we are not living the message of Jesus Christ, we will not die for it.
While the exhortations were written to Jewish believers in their context, there is a lot of encouragement and comfort for us. There are also warnings that we need to take to heart. One statement I read really resonates with the reason I wanted us to go through Hebrews. “This book leads one from superficial thinking to profound depths concerning the person and work of Christ.” The deeper we can think about and understand our Lord, the more like Him we can be.
Today we are going to start going through the book of Hebrews like we did Romans last year. The difference is that I will try to post my research for the sermons online each week. To get to the exegetical work, click on the “Bible Study” tab in the menu and select the book of the bible to see an overview of the book and a link to the information on each sermon. Each sermon will also have a link to the exegesis for the week.
While I will be the first to admit that I can geek out on translation and background and all that stuff, there’s not enough time in a sermon to cover all of it. I’m hoping that this will help those who are interested in going deeper into the text get a little geeky with me. And, folks that don’t get all geeky over it won’t hear as much of it in the sermon, so it’ll prevent their eyes from glazing over.
While I will try to have the info available early in the week of the sermon, where if you care to, you can read it over before Sunday, I cannot guarantee that I will always get it done as early as I would like. I ask that you bear with me and extend grace when necessary. This is something that I genuinely feel that God is placing on my heart to do, and I’m doing it, but I admit, until I get a few weeks into doing it, I am flying blind. I am also very open to suggestions and comments, so feel free to email me with either.
Paul tells us that we are to “put off” the person we were before we came to Christ. But, how do we know if we have? The measure that we can use to determine whether we have or not is our reflection. When people see us, do they see Christ or, instead, see a person in whom Christ is an afterthought?
When you are in a disagreement with someone, do they see Christ?
When you are stuck in traffic, do people see Christ?
When you are inconvenienced, do you show the mannerisms of Christ?
When you see someone in need, do you act like Christ?
These are just a few of the questions that you can ask yourself. God calls us to a radically different life from those in the world. We are to put off our old self, put on the new self, and be like God created us to be.
These four virtues that make our hearts a place that Jesus is proud to call home culminate in a fifth virtue, peace. As peace can be defined as right relationships between people, peace leads to unity. All of the other virtues, humility, gentleness, patience, and love, require putting others ahead of ourselves. They require that we obliterate ourselves, and once we aren’t trying to be the center of things, Christ blooms in our hearts. When Christ has a complete claim on our hearts, then we have unity. Then, together, we are one body and one Spirit with one hope. We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and one Father.
We know that from the time we accept salvation, we have Jesus in our hearts. But here’s a question for you. Have you ever considered if your heart is a comfortable home for Jesus?
Do you know what happens when you make your heart a welcoming home for Jesus? You realize that He isn’t the guest; he’s the owner. We are stewards of what belongs to God. The earth, our bodies, and our hearts.
This prayer of Paul was for enablement. That God would enable us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus into an unknown future.
That last part is where we have a tendency to fall short. That unknown future bit. We’re quick to say that we live for God when we don’t fall to temptation and when we keep on going despite our frailties, but following Jesus into the unknown………man, that’s scary stuff!
We want to be able to peek around the corner and see what’s coming before we commit. We’re real good at living for God, but when it comes to letting God live through us…well, that’s a different story.
God created humans to worship. Think about that statement. God, our creator, and sustainer made us to worship Him and gave us what we needed to want to worship.
Every civilization that ever existed has worshipped one – or several – deities. If we don’t worship God, we will replace Him with something else because we were made to worship. Maybe we replace Him with our job and pursuit of money; perhaps we replace Him with another god such as Buddha; possibly we replace Him with our spouse or family. Addicts replace God with their addiction. Some replace worshipping God with worshipping self. But, because we are made to worship, we are going to worship something, we can’t help it.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. Examine your faith. Do you see signs that you have lost your first love, that you have lost your fear of God, that you are in danger of losing your faith? God is waiting for you to come back to what He created you to do.
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