Pursuing Spiritual Maturity: Called, Equipped, & Warned

Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  46:48
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God provides for & thus expects us to... continually grow in spiritual maturity & depth.

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(HEBREWS) PURSUING SPIRITUAL MATURITY: CALLED, EQUIPPED, WARNED Hebrews 6:1-8 – Mountain Home AFB, Protestants – 7/31/22 – Pastor Matthew Ellis I. Slide 1) Introduction A. Introduction: 1. How many of you are frustrated when you encounter an immature person? (Not handicaps, but… emotional immaturity, socially immature, immature behavior, immature humor, etc.) a) It’s expected for certain ages, but when we see it in an older person… wow! b) Ever been frustrated when you found it in yourself? 2. Although we’d hate to admit it publicly, a) A close look into the dark recesses of our heart will reveal that each of us struggle with immaturity and regressive tendencies! b) At times in our lives, we realize that we must actively fight against it! 3. Let’s talk about those regressive tendencies for a moment… a) Ever noticed teenagers who don’t want the responsibilities that come with their age? (Story of getting my driver’s license) 4. Now, let’s consider immaturity & regressive tendencies in regards to spirituality… a) Do we struggle with spiritual immaturity? Absolutely! b) It is easy & natural to remain immature! c) Many Bible verses actually address this, trying to spur us on toward maturity & progression! d) What is the danger of spiritual immaturity? (After answers are shared…) i) You certainly do not receive as many blessings as God wants to give you, do you? ii) It’s like a parent who has to keep dealing with immaturity issues with their kids… (i) There’s a lot of great things those kids don’t get, because discipline keeps falling! iii) We can encounter the same issues with our Heavenly Father B. Big Picture: 1. S2) Welcome back to Chaplain Little’s sermon series on “Hebrews”! 2. The last time I had the honor of preaching to you (May 22), I shared a message about “Disobedience & Unbelief” from Hebrews 3:7-19; 3. Today I have the honor of an excellent follow-up sermon from Hebrews 6:1-8, a) S3a) Entitled, “Pursuing Spiritual Maturity!” In this, we will see how we are… i) Called to spiritual maturity ii) Equipped for spiritual maturity, iii) And warned away from refusing spiritual maturity! 4. Both of these passages give strong warnings to the hearers of Hebrews to avoid falling away from Christian faith & maturity. 5. As we go through today’s passage, 6. S3b) Thesis: I hope that we will each see how… God provides for & thus expects us to… continually grow in spiritual maturity & depth C. Appeal: The severity of the warnings given in this passage are meant to catch our attention 1. There are very real spiritual dangers we face when we refuse the spiritual maturity & depth that God calls us to D. Scripture Context: As with every part of the scriptures, be careful not to take this passage out of context from the book in which it is found… 1. The theme of “warning us away from immaturity” was really started in Hebrews 5:11; 2. Which was addressed by Chaplain Little on July 10th, as he looked at… a) The problem of, cause of, & cure for spiritual immaturity E. Transition: So today, I invite you to join me in digging a bit deeper into this topic in Hebrews 6:1-8 1. In honor of the Lord & His Word, I invite you to stand with me in this first reading, 2. As we see… II. God’s Call to Spiritual Maturity A. Verse: after correcting us to not only partake of spiritual milk & exhorting us to partake of spiritual solid food—we come to Hebrews 6:1-3, 1. S4) 1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do, if God permits. (NASB95) B. Explain: These verses establish our first point for today… 1. S5) God call us to spiritual maturity. 2. Our faith starts with certain core beliefs & practices a) Here the author of Hebrews addresses those as “elementary teachings about Christ” i) S5) We need elementary teachings of Jesus! (c.f. Hebrews 5:11-14) Without them, (i) We don’t even know how to enter into a relationship with Him (ii) We don’t understand the fundamentals of Christian faith & growth ii) And so, when Hebrews 6:1 says to “leave the elementary teachings about Christ & go on to maturity,” He isn’t saying that we abandon these teachings… (i) S5) And as we grow, we don’t replace or disregard these! iii) On the contrary, he is highlighting that these beliefs are a foundation upon which to grow! (i) S5) We build on their foundation! C. Illustrate: In many ways, you can think of them like the “Elementary School” of your faith 1. The basic arithmetic, reading, & writing skills that you learned in primary school— 2. Did you abandon them in middle school, junior high, or high school? 3. Not at all! But you didn’t keep taking 1st grade math over & over again, did you? 4. And so it is with Christ, with the Lord’s help, a) S5) We must press on toward maturity! b) This Greek phrase encourages swift & energetic movement— c) The middle voice that it is placed in suggests that God is helping move us along toward this goal d) We must, by God’s grace, grow beyond the elementary teachings of Christ. D. Expand: In this discussion, the author of Hebrews mentions several elementary teachings of Jesus— It would do us well to briefly consider these & our own understanding of them. 1. He briefly mentions six in what seems to be organized as three pairs. a) The first 2 deal with things of the past; the fundamentals of salvation i) Elementary to coming to faith in Jesus is what we turn from & what we turn to! ii) We repent from dead works; those fruitless deeds of the past –those old sinful actions iii) We then turn to faith in God, through Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 11)— (i) Belief that He is who He said and that His teachings are true (ii) Trust in His death & resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins & our right standing before God (iii) Understanding that He ascended to God & reins in power! iv) These are fundamental ‘things of the past’ in our Christian walk— (i) Foundations of salvation! But He didn’t stop there… b) The second pair deals with the present; instructions on external rituals in the Christian Church i) Ritual washings may refer to the old Jewish ritual washings or the new Christian baptism— In regards to baptism, we understand that… (i) Christ calls us to receive this upon our conversion— (ii) To step forward in faith & obedience & be baptized… (iii) As an outward sign of our inward change ii) The laying on of hands was much more common in early Christianity than it is today— (i) It was used to designate people to a certain office or task , like pastors or missionaries (Acts 6:6; 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6) (ii) It was also used in prayers for healing & blessings upon people (Mark 5:23; Matthew 19:13; Luke 13:13; Acts 28:8) iii) These were traditions & rituals; (i) Outward expressions of God’s callings & blessings on His people— (ii) There is nothing wrong with them, but to obsess over them or always & only focus on them… that would be a problem! c) Finally, he shared two things of the future—teachings about the end times! i) First, he addressed the resurrection of the dead; (i) A plural Greek word is used here, likely referring to the resurrection of all the dead (Daniel 12:2; 1 Corinthians 15:20) ii) Secondly, he addresses that with is intricately connected to our resurrection—the eternal Judgment of God! (i) For some are resurrected unto eternal life & others are resurrected & yet receive the second death (Revelation 20:11-15) d) These are foundational teachings in Christianity i) And a new believer can receive these fairly easily in their first year of growth as a Christian. ii) The problem being addressed, again, is not these teachings— (i) but being caught up in them & never going beyond them… (ii) Never coming to have a rich understanding of Christology (iii) Never coming to a place of greater obedience to God from the heart. (iv) Never truly learning to love your neighbor as Christ demonstrates & commands 2. By God’s grace, or as Hebrews 6:3 puts it, “if God permits”— a) We are all to press on to this higher calling of spiritual maturity & depth! 3. Through the phrase, “If God permits,” (c.f. 1 Corinthians 16:7; James 4:15) a) S6) We are reminded of this—We must rely on God for this growth! i) It is not by our own strength & wit! ii) He equips us for this calling iii) We need to seek Him & lean on Him to accomplish it! 4. So, let’s make sure we have these elementary teachings established… a) And then, with total reliance upon God (v3), press forward in our faith! E. Transition: Ah, but what of those who don’t? 1. That is the issue that our text turns to now… III. The Danger of Refusing Spiritual Maturity: A. Verse: Hebrews 6:4-8 reads, 1. S6) 4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. 2. S7) 7 For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.” (NASB95) B. S8a) Explain, 1: 1. This passage has stirred much controversy in good, Bible-believing Christian circles since early on. a) Is it addressing a loss of salvation for those once saved? b) Is it merely hypothetical situation of what would happen without God? c) Is it sharing the evidence of genuine faith? d) Is it showing the manner of salvation that God uses to persevere us? Or, e) Is it addressing a loss of rewards for rebellious Christians? 2. Again, good, Bible-believing Christians will take different views on this. a) And that is okay! Don’t divide over these minor issues & passages b) But how can we make heads or tails of it? 3. It is important to note that while the audience of this letter is primarily Christians, a) The author understands that the unregenerate, merely professing Christians would also read it b) So perhaps, multiple meanings are meant, depending on your standing before God. 4. Not to turn this morning into a seminary class, let me simplify my own view to say that… a) When you let Scripture & not systematic theology books be the best interpreter of Scripture i) I do come from the theological background that believers salvation cannot be lost— (i) Look at Digging Deeper #2 for biblical passages that seem to suggest this. ii) The severity of the warnings given here & in other Hebrew passages (Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:1213; 10:26-31; 12:25-29) suggest that this is not just for some hypothetical situation iii) Similarly, trying to read this into a cause-and-effect situation that shows a manner in which God saves us, seems to read something into the text that it doesn’t even address… b) Remember—the focus of this entire section is on pursuing the Christian maturity God called you to; and now the focus only slightly shifts to the danger of refusing this call! c) So, where do I land on this? S8b) These two seem to be the most convincing understandings of this text: Hebrews 6:4-6 describes either i) The evidence of genuine faith—those who do not fall away ii) Or it is sharing the dire loss of rewards for believers who refuse to mature in their faith d) Note that these understandings address different potential audiences to this text: i) Unbelievers & Believers C. S9) Explain, 2: And both views clearly demonstrate the danger of refusing spiritual maturity! 1. For unbelievers, the “Evidence of Genuine Faith” understanding calls them to true faith— beyond external benefits they have received being surrounded by the church (Matthew 13:24-30; consider also those who fell in unbelief though they experienced the exodus!) a) They were enlightened to understand the truth of the Gospel— i) They truly do understand their need for salvation & God’s means of salvation! b) While they have ‘tasted’ the heavenly gift & God’s good word with the powers of the coming age – they never really consumed it… i) Like a wine tasting experience where you spit out each wine you encounter… c) They encountered the Holy Spirit through His work in the lives of the believers surrounding them in church; perhaps even receiving tangible blessings from Him i) As an unsaved child may receive due to Christian parents. d) Ah, but even after these undeniable experiences, in rejecting spiritual maturity… i) S9) They reject the Holy Spirit! (i) Being unwilling to receive His conviction of sin ii) S9) They fall away from His blessings, (i) Ultimately removing themselves from His community iii) S9) They continually shame & crucify Christ (i) Through their brash disobedience (ii) Possibly even looking for another means of salvation, 1. A replacement to the crucified Christ iv) S9) Ultimately, they become hard against repentance (i) Having so hardened their hearts, 1. That they no longer have sensitivity to the pleadings of the Holy Spirit 2. It is as though they have been spiritually inoculated against His truth (ii) They are ultimately given over to their own destructive sins & lusts (Romans 1:28) e) What hope could they possibly find? None. i) If they have blasphemed the Holy Spirit’s clear revelation to them, is there anything else that can stir them to repentance? Nothing! (Luke 12:8-10) f) These are… i) The soils sowed with seed, but that produce no fruit (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15) ii) Like those who come to Jesus in the last days, saying “Lord, Lord!” presuming to have prophesied, cast out demons, & to have performed miracles in His name… (i) And yet He says, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’”(Matthew 7:21-23, c.f. Luke 13:22-30) iii) The ones who left the church because they were never truly part of it to begin with! (1 John 2:19) g) Alas, they never went deeper than the external experiences & blessings of merely being in a community of people who receive God’s blessings! i) To these people, Hebrews 6:1-8 preaches a very clear message… Repent! (i) Truly be transformed by the indwelling Spirit! (ii) Truly give your life to Christ (iii) Do not merely ‘accept Him as Savior,’ but ‘come under His lordship’ in every area ii) For if you do not—the fire of God’s judgment will come & you will be left worthless & cursed in the end of days (vv7-8; Matthew 7:19, 25:41; Mark 9:48). 2. Now, let’s shift gears for a moment and consider how understanding of a “Loss of Rewards” is edifying for us as believers… i) In this understanding—the enlightenment, tasting, & partaking all reference true believers—not merely members of a Christian community who have superficially received these blessings ii) The author of Hebrews is seen to bring up these various categories to illustrate that… (i) S9) We are exceptionally foolish to refuse spiritual maturity, 1. Considering all God has done for us! (ii) S9) It highlights how We publicly shame Christ, 1. For claiming His name over our lives… 2. But refusing to live as He calls & equips us to live (iii) S9) Finally, we also become hard against repentance when we live in this way 1. Deadening our spiritual sense to respond to the Spirit’s voice 2. Training ourself toward disobedience, not obedience (iv) And while we will yet be saved—the cleansing fire before the judgment seat of Christ (Matthew 3:10-12; Mark 9:49; Luke 3:17; 2 Corinthians 5:10) will clear out the field of thorns & thistles that we grew for Him (vv7-8; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). D. Reiterate: Let us not be those who shrink away into spiritual regression & immaturity— 1. There are real consequences to such actions! 2. But let us be those who press on into becoming the people that God has called us to be! a) Going deeper in our spiritual maturity than ever before 3. Let us prioritize our spiritual growth, a) Moving from the milk… b) And into the solid food of His Word & lives of total obedience unto Him 4. For that is the life that brings blessing! a) That is the field that drinks up the rain & brings forth fruit that is useful unto our God (consider John 15:1-12; Matthew 13:23; Mark 4:20; Luke 8:15)! E. Transition: Let’s begin to close this off… IV. Conclusion A. S10) Reiterate: God provides for & thus expects us to… continually grow in spiritual maturity & depth 1. Early in our walk with God, we are to learn the elementary teachings of Jesus— a) Having established this, though, let’s move on to deeper & greater things! 2. By God’s will & empowerment, He calls all of His children to maturity! a) We are the field upon which He rains down His provision— b) Will we drink this up & bring forth the fruit He desires? B. S10) Apply: So, how should we respond? 1. S10) Learn the elementary teachings of Jesus! a) Knowing his original audience, the writer of Hebrews took for granted that they knew this i) Some of us may not be there yet! b) S10) So… Make sure you have responded to God in repentance & faith! i) Check your heart (it is deceptive! See Jeremiah 17:9)– ii) Remember that Judas seemed to think he was a disciple of Jesus for about 3 years… c) S10) Then… prayerfully study God’s Word! i) Create personal daily time to do this; especially read the Gospels ii) Get plugged into a good Bible Study! (Men, Women, Ed & Suzie, etc.) iii) Let His word get into you, dwell on it, let it fill your heart & mind! (i) This is foundational for all Christian growth! 2. S10) Build on this foundation! a) There are three key areas I want to encourage you to grow, too— b) S10) Theology: Your understanding of God & His truth, His Word, the doctrines of our faith (Proverbs 1:7; Hosea 4:6; 1 Corinthians 14:20; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Peter 3:17-18) c) S10) Obedience: Practically saying “No!” to sin & “Yes!” to daily obedience, from the heart i) Not simply avoiding the “Thou Shalt Nots,” but actively pursing the “Thou Shalts”’! ii) Yes, even those challenging exhortations that Jesus sent us through the Apostle Paul in places such as 1 Thessalonians 5:14-22, (i) “14 And we exhort you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Don’t stifle the Spirit. 20 Don’t despise prophecies, 21 but test all things. Hold on to what is good. 22 Stay away from every kind of evil.” (CSB) d) S10) Love: Which honestly falls underneath the prior point… i) Jesus commands us to love God (Mark 12:30), one another (John 13:34-35), our neighbors (Mark 12:31) & even our enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:35) ii) And be careful not to confuse this with worldly—although that is a sermon for another day. e) As we excel in these things, we will more & more embody the picture of God’s people that Paul painted in Ephesians 4:12-16, i) A people full equipped for ministry, unified in faith & knowledge of Jesus, ii) Growing into maturity that is appropriate for Christ’s people iii) No longer little children being tossed around by every wave & wind of teaching or cunning & clever techniques of deceit… iv) But in word & deed, we will express love v) And “grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ.” (CSB) 3. But finally, let us remember that today’s message is a warning—and so… S10) Guard yourself against spiritual regression! a) Regressive tendencies go hand-in-hand with being a broken human… i) Don’t assume you are better than this & so deceive yourselves (James 1:21-22) b) S10) Watch out for spiritual stagnation… i) You know what happens to stagnant water, right? (i) It begins to smell… Things grow in it… it can be deadly ii) Instead, let the living water flow out from you! (John 4:13-14, 7:37-38) C. Appeal: Instead, let us become the fruitful people of God that He has called us to be D. Concluding Statement: Please join me in prayer… Digging Deeper: Prayerfully use this to bring His Word into your week! 1. To gain better context for today’s passage, review Hebrews 5:11-14 2. I shared my view that believers cannot lose their salvation. These are some of the verses that I look to that help shape this view: - - John 6:39-40, 10:26-30; Romans 8:38-39, 11:29; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 John 2:19 3. An elementary teaching of Jesus that this passage addressed with faith. - - Read Hebrews 11 to learn more about this core Christian belief 4. These verses share about situations involving the “laying on of hands?” See these two groups of verses. What types of things does each group seem to show? - - Acts 6:6; 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6 - - Mark 5:23; Matthew 19:13; Luke 13:13; Acts 28:8 5. Consider these Bible teachings about the resurrection of the dead & of eternal judgment: - - Daniel 12:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15; Revelation 20:11-15 6. Hebrews frequently warns us against falling away from God, check these warnings out: - - Hebrews 2:1-4, 3:12-13, 6:1-8, 10:26-31, 12:25-29 7. Hebrews 6:7-8 highlights the biblical imagery of fire for God’s cleansing or condemning judgment. What type of fiery judgment do each of these verses seem to reference? - - Matthew 3:10-12, 7:19, 25:41; Mark 9:48-49; Luke 3:17; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10 8. Jesus frequently emphasizes how important it is for us to produce fruit in our Christian walk. Consider what these verses share to this concept: - - John 15:1-12; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15 (also see Isaiah 5:1-7) 9. What does Christian maturity look like? - - Prayerfully consider the picture Paul painted in Ephesians 4:12-16 - - How can you more fully manifest this… in your personal life? In your faith community? Note: If you would like prayer, chaplain support, or information on our announcements, please call the chapel's main office phone number (208-828-6417).
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