Exalted by Perseverance

Christ Is Exalted  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Reading: Hebrews 6:4-12
Hebrews 6:4–12 ESV
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. 9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Prayer
One of Jesus’ most enduring methods was story-telling. Take the story of the sower and the soil for example.
A sower went out to sow some seeds. Some fell on a hard path, and the seeds could not get into the ground. Birds flew in and devoured the seeds.
Some seed fell among the rocks, and quickly grew. But when the sun got hot, the plants withered away because they did not have good roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and began to grow. Then the thorns and thistles and briars grew and choked out the good seed, so that it eventually died without producing fruit.
But some seed fell in good, nutrient-rich soil. These plants grew and produced a good crop for the farmer.
Jesus was a master of story-telling. The picture of the sower and the different soils sticks with us because it’s (pardon the pun) so down to earth. Even a person like me, whose thumb is only green when I’m painting with green paint, can understand the message.
Jesus even explains the parable for us (as he did for his disciples). The seed is the Word of God - the gospel message. The same seed is sown no matter the soil. It’s not a question of the seed’s quality - that is guaranteed! The success of the seed is totally dependent on the quality of the soil upon which it falls. Good ground yields good produce, but bad ground yields none.
Some people have hearts that are hard, like a beaten path. They may have a thousand opportunities to receive the gospel, but it’s all for naught. The message of redemption never penetrates their hard-heartedness. So the enemy snatches the gospel away and it does no good.
Some people have hearts that appear good on the surface. They may have a great top soil with plenty of nutrition. But like so much of the land of that region there are rocks lying just below the surface. The plants that do grow do not develop roots because the rocks prevent it. So when things get “hot,” they wither. They have no roots to draw up the water of life, so they dry out and die out.
Some people have hearts with some good soil, but with extra junk too. They carry burdens that vie for the attention and allegiance of the individual. Good and bad both fight for coveted space in the day, leaving this individual with too little to devote ample time and energy toward God. Even the religious activity they do is merely a distraction from the gospel. So in that kind of soil, the gospel plant is malnourished and dies without producing the fruits of repentance and righteousness.
But there are some, few though they may be, whose hearts are good soil. They weed out the distractions and various affections, they have broken up the rocks and tilled the soil until it is loose and full of vital nourishment for the seed to grow. God’s word flourishes in this person, and the fruit produced is amazing (and delicious too!).
I spoke to a farmer about his crops. He said that crops that produce 30-60 fold would be normal range for him, depending on the type of crop. But 100 fold return would be incredible. In that region of the world, even a 30 fold crop would be great, but a 100 fold would be almost unheard-of. It would be a miracle.
I think the author of Hebrews, whomever he might be, had this parable in mind as he pinned the words in Hebrews 6. There’s a real danger in having so much access to the gospel: we can become complaisant and lazy. We can be slothful and refuse to grow in grace. In short, we can be like the soil that is not good and end up shaming our Lord.

We Shame Our Lord When We Reject His Grace...

Consider the warning in verses 4-6:
Hebrews 6:4–6 ESV
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
Look at the type of person he’s talking about:
They learned of God’s wisdom
They experienced God’s gifts
They shared in God’s Spirit
They tasted God’s goodness
Then they fell away
Now for just a moment I want to look back at these verses, but take out all of the descriptions, and see what the author is saying:
Hebrews 6:4–6 ESV
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
What the author says is that this person, who has experienced God’s gifts and blessings and yet still turns away and commits apostacy, has no hope of restoration to repentance. Why not? Because they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm. By having all of the access to God’s goodness and rejecting it, they have totally and completely rejected God himself. They re-crucify Christ by defiantly spitting upon his sacrifice.
Not only that, but they also are holding him up to contempt. We know this word contempt from courts - when a witness or party in a case refuses to acknowledge the authority of the court, they are “in contempt” and are held in a jail until they are willing to comply.
What’s so interesting is that this person, who sees with his eyes and hears with his ears all these good things from God rejects God - and they shame his Son publically by their renunciation. They hold him in contempt, claiming that he does not submit to their authority!
They’ve got it backwards! He is the one with all authority, in heaven and on earth! They hold him to be in contempt, but in reality they are the ones in contempt - they are the ones who reject his rightful authority over their lives. They are the ones who are shamed by their wickedness.
That’s why there is no hope of repentance because their hearts are hardened against God. F. F. Bruce states it well:
Those who repudiate the salvation procured by Christ will find none anywhere else (NICNT, 149).
Then the author of this letter clarifies his meaning:
Hebrews 6:7–8 ESV
7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
In Jesus’ story, there are two types of soil. Yes, he divides them into four categories, but three of these are all one basic kind. Either the soil is good or it’s bad. There is not a “pretty good” soil that yields some but not a lot. There is no “better than…but not as good as” soil, which unlike some soil gives a produce, but unlike the best soil produces just a little. Either the soil is good and bears much fruit, or it is bad and it produces nothing. Period.
Your heart is either good soil or bad soil. You can’t say, “well my heart is better than so-and-so’s heart.” You can’t say, “at least I’m not as bad as someone else.” You can’t say “my heart didn’t produce fruit, but look at these beautiful leaves!” None of those excuse you. God will not compare the soil of your heart to someone else’s, nor will he look at the leaves you produce or how many plants you grow and excuse your inability to bear fruit. He judges us based on our fruitfulness for his kingdom - for himself. If we do not bear fruit, we are doomed.
What kind of soil is in your heart? Is it good soil that will cultivate a fruitful crop, or is it bad soil that will choke out the seed, prevent root growth, or outright reject the gospel because it’s too hard?
Before you think this author has it out for these folks, look at verse 9:
Hebrews 6:9 ESV
9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.
He is warning his readers of real danger, but he doesn’t want that the to be last word. He speaks of the danger, but turns to them and says, “But I know that’s not what’s going to happen for you.” What makes him so confident, so sure that better things lie ahead for his hearers? Because of verse 10:
Hebrews 6:10 ESV
10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.
Consider the judgment of God - it’s perfect. And this author has seen their works. He has seen their love for God’s name, lived out in love toward one another. I seem to remember Jesus saying something about us Christians loving one another...
John 13:35 ESV
35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
God knows these things too. He knows their hearts and their works, and God will not be unjust. Yes, there are many who will say “Lord, Lord” but are not his. But they don’t love like this. They may do good works, but not like these. Jesus knows their works but still tells them to depart because “I never knew you.”
And not only have they done these things, but they continue to do these things. That “as you still do” means it’s ongoing. They continue to work, continue to love God, continue to serve one another. That ongoing work is the means by which this author can be sure about them. They have not fallen away, even if they are not growing. So he calls them to exalt their Lord by persevering. We shame our Lord when we reject his grace,

… But We Exalt Our Lord When We Persevere in His Grace

Our perseverance magnifies the name of Jesus Christ in the eyes of those around us. You can see that playing out in verses 11-12:
Hebrews 6:11–12 ESV
11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Look how Christ is exalted - when we persevere in his grace we continue to keep hope. Hope that knows God’s faithfulness doesn’t have to make a wish and cross its fingers. Hope in Christ is firm as a solid rock. It is full of assurance that lasts until the very end when our faith is made into sight.
When we persevere in his grace, there is no room for spiritual sloth. We stop being so sluggish, so dull of hearing, so slow to respond to God’s leading. Instead, we imitate the faithful.
A few years ago…okay, maybe it was a tad more than just “a few” years ago…I helped a church do a week of VBS. The pastor’s wife at this church taught the kids the motions to the songs. That Sunday morning, the kids sang and did the motions during the church service. Everyone in the audience was watching the kids, and I’m sure all of them were looking at their own child. But I saw something interesting. The kids weren’t looking at their parents. They were all looking at one person…the pastor’s wife. She was in the back of the room doing the signs. The kids were watching her and imitating her movements.
Some of the kids were barely doing anything. Some were trying to keep up, but they just weren’t fast enough. Some were doing pretty good and only had a couple of mistakes. But all of them, every single one, were looking at the pastor’s wife and trying to do what she was doing.
That’s what verse 12 is telling us to do. God calls us to live a “monkey see, monkey do” kind of life, imitating the faithful who have gone before us. We’ll take a deeper look in chapter 11 at those faithful fathers of the faith, but for now just know that persevering in grace means following the footsteps of the faithful. And, of course, what better model can we follow than Christ himself, the one called Faithful and True?
As we persevere in grace, we better reflect the glory and majesty of our Jesus. And the more we lift him up, the more men will see him and believe. We exalt our Lord by persevering in his grace, bearing much fruit for the Father’s glory.
Is your heart the right kind of soil for the gospel to bear fruit in you? Are you the land that produces a good crop, or are you the bad land that bears no fruit and is doomed to destruction?
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