Jesus is better than Abraham
I was always cautious child…
Hope Valley, abseiling… .
The same is true with Christianity. Christianity is in the category of those things that you cannot safely do in part. Like the deepest most life shaping relationships we have, I can no more safely say that I’m dabbling with Christianity, than safely say to my wife that I’m “dabbling in marriage today”,
This passage today, is all about the danger of being a Christian who dabbles with the faith, but won’t go all in.
The modern word for such things is compartmentalisation. For those of you who were wondering it’s word that scores 28 on scrabble, and it means…A person who calls themselves a Christian on Sundays but Monday - Saturday, you’re agnostic.
in verse 11, the writer calls root of this “refusing listen”, .
So…he writing to a group of Jewish converts to Christianity, who have been paddling in faith, and were now thinking they wanted to withdraw altogether and go back to Judiaism.
The writer, pauses his description of the theological nuances and wonders of Jesus being our great high priest, to address a pastoral concern at the root of their loss of confidence in Jesus..
So, Verse 12 that you need milk not solid food. You’re like a baby that has developmental problem - that’s an uncomfortable illustration given the seriousness of underdeveloped babies, and the writer is saying “yes, exactly, spiritually speaking this is serious!”
Big accusation, what is the evidence for this?
Verse 14, you can’t discern between good and evil.
What does that mean?
Chapter 6:1-2 There are a bunch foundational
Christian truths that you have not absorbed into your brain, that, if you had, would mean that you would be exercising your Christian Faith in a wide variety of life situations throughout your entire week.
He lists these foundational truths as:
Faith in God alone
Ceremonial washing and laying on of hands
Heaven and Hell
In fact all of these are taken up in detail elsewhere in the book of Hebrews.
You’re hearing stuff, but you’re choosing not to apply these basic doctrines to your whole life, which has meant that you’re failing to exercise discernment over your behaviour and the result is you’re living like an nonbeliever Monday to Saturday and living like a believer on Sunday.
For these guys specifiically, it may have been that they were living like Christian on Lord’s day and acting like a rabbi during the week.
Allow me to lovingly call you out on this, if this is you.
It’s locking Christ away in the churchy part of your life, it is immature.
Be concerned if you’re debating the finer points of five point Calvinism with your Christian friends but then surfing 50 Shades of Grey, when you’re on your own.
The bizaare reference to ‘laying on of hands’ is likely to refer to the time when they first became a Christian, as laying on of hands was a common practice when people came to faith in the early church, and had a really powerful experience - which is great!
But, the likelihood is, some of the Christians were getting fixated on that new Christian enthusiasm and emotional intensity, that like a new car smell, eventually fades, they were so distracted by that they couldn’t move on in their faith to better more maturer relationship that God has in store for them.
The marker of Christian maturity is seen in sacrificial service primarily to other believers, therefore be concerned if you’re chasing deep mind blowing spiritual experience with God, but should your private conversations about others in the church be exposed - you would be tragically shamed!
The writer’s challenge to those in this book and to us today, is stop paddling in the shallow waters of Christianity - go deep.
So what’s wrong with paddling in Christianity?
The writer says, if you do this, sooner or later it will spiritually kill you.
For these guys, they'll go back Judiasim, for you and I we’d go back to a form of atheism. Look at verses 4-6.
Like the ghost of Christmas future in novel Christmas Carol, or for those of you less culturally sophisticated than me, a Muppets Christmas Carol, where Scrooge is shown where his life will end up unless he changes.
The writer shows us where our life will end up if we continue to paddle in the shallow waters of Christianity rather than throw our whole life in to get soaked.
Let me illustrate these rather disturbing verses with a fictional character called Kevin. The name isn't anything personal, it's my favourite Minion.
Now Kevin…...imagine, music switches, friends move away, time of church alters - changes breed resentment, disillusionment, withdrawl - stops describing himself as a Christian altogether.
You see, if the reason you compartmentalise your faith, because deep down you have no genuine love for Christ but that was ok because you really loved the accessories to Christ:
community, vibrant worship, powerful emotional experiences, profound intellectual stimulation, a purpose that gives your life meaning - when those things become dull, or disillusioned, your resentment to the faith becomes so huge in your mind, it's like having an iceberg plonked Infront of Christ for the rest of your life.
If anyone offers the gospel to you again, all you'll see is the past pain and hurt and it will be impossible for you to see who Christ truly is.
But of course many of us hear that are thinking, "that could be me, how do I know if I'm genuinely loving Christ rather than loving Christian stuff?"
The NT makes clear, that genuine faith doesn’t fail. You can't be a Christian today, but not tomorrow, and then a Christian again, it’s a permanent state. But the proof of a genuine faith is whole life perseverance.
So I have to wait till I die to know for sure? Well, good first test is to ask, is my life bearing fruit?
Verses 7-8 offer a health check in this rather direct illustration, of a farm. And the point is clear: a fruitful life doesn't qualify you to be s Christian, but if you are a Christian you can't help but be fruitful across your life..
You can no more stop a Christian leaking gospel fruit juice , any more than you could stop an apple tree from growing apples by shouting at it.
So, let's pause to ask the question, where are you tempted to compartmentalise your faith, and where are you showing fruit publicly?
Which areas of your life, can you hold your hand up today, and say: “I’m just spiritually paddling”.
Actually, verse 10 is even more specific. The writer commends the readers for their fruit. Specifically, their service to other Christians.
Now, this is likely to refer to chapter 10… where some of the original readers were publicly putting themselves in danger by visiting Christian leaders in prison.
So let's tighten this application a little.
What recent evidence do you have in your life for helping other Christians in such a way that it cost you something significant to do it?
Notice, genuine Christian fruit isn't simply being a nice person.
True fruit, is sacrificial service, because that is marker of Jesus, because that is how he served us.
So to summarise...this is the danger loop…
Fail to apply deeply
Compartmentalise your faith
So how do we go deep with our faith and avoid compartmentalising, and failing to be fruitful?
Verses 12-20 give us to key tools
Find a wounded warrior
What we’ve seen so far, is that imprisoning Jesus in one small corner of our life is a warning light to suggest that spiritually we’re not in a great place.
And the writer recognises that one of the chief reasons for our resistance to throwing our whole life in with Jesus, is when suffering comes we panic, and get self protective.
So it’s right that we should look for maturer Christians to follow, but some of us are following the wrong people. Look at who verse 12 says we should be imitating.. imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
In other words, find a role model in the church who is a Christian, who has endured hardship, suffering, loss and yet despite that, they've patiently kept going.
There might have been pain, or tears or mistakes but they kept going, kept fighting for their faith.
For the good of your spiritual health find a wounded warrior.
EITHER PAUSE HERE FOR VIDEO OR REPEAT THE POINT ABOVE
Forget the: theological oracle, the charasmatic character, the wise talker, confident walker, natural leader, or high EQ people reader.
No, find the often forgotten wounded warriors whose life scars show they prize Christ above all others.
2. Find your VIP Pass
Gate crashing a party…
Another reason we hold back our whole life from Jesus is that many of us struggle with a nagging doubt, not that Chritianity is untrue, but that at the end of the day, we are an imposter, and it’ll apply to others but not for us.
If you’re in that bracket, you’ll hear a warning like this passage, which isn’t saying you’re not a Christian, but invites us to reflect seriously on our spiritual health, and you’ll be the ones quietly hyperventilting thinking - “He’s talking about me, I knew I was a fraud!”
Breathe, breathe. If that’s you, pick up a paper bag, it’s going to be alright. Because the writer recognises that we struggle to fully commit ourselves to Christ, if we’re not sure he has fully committed himself to us.
So the writer's offers us, a triple lock of assurances, that even if your faith is no bigger than a mustard seed, you’re safe, the full benefits of the gospel apply to you, it’s all going to be alright.
So we conclude with three heart illustrations for the anxious Christian.
Verse 13-18, relates to Genesis…, where God, himself, made a promise to Abraham salvation would come through one of Abraham’s descendants, as we’ve seen earlier in this series, he’s talking about Jesus.
But secondly, God so knowing that we would be paranoid distrustful things, he made a vow, binding himself to fulfill his promise that if you’ve placed your hope in Jesus you will be saved.
I get nervous about signing an 18th Month phone contract, but God made an unbreakable promise to himself, that he would cease to be God if your faith in Christ, turned out to be insufficient.
You can go all in with God, because he went all in for you. Your VIP pass to God is tattooed to the forehead of your soul.
Verse 19, is The illustration of an anchor. The word here, conjures up the image of boat withstanding the crashes of a storm that smash along its body, but though it rages hard, the anchor holds and the boat remains unmoved.
It means that even when the tsunami sized waves suffering smash against you. Or when the hull of your soul feels squeezed and crushed by the barrage of depression or despair, if you are a Christian, then those things however hard cannot undermine the reality of the promises to you.
And though for now, it feels like you are clinging on by your finger nails, and the night seems to last forever, the dawn will break, you shall find anchor held, and the paradise of the new creation shall be worth it.
Charles Wesley on a boat…
Because for the Christian, at the end of the road of all suffering, is the throne room of heaven.
That’s the heart of verse 19-20. Throughout the whole OT access to God was forbidden, only high priest could step into the Holy of Holies, the most sacred throne room God, at the back of the temple. He could only do it once a year and only for a moment.
The reasons those Christians could sing on the boat even as they faced what they thought was certain death,
was a Christian assuredly knows, because God is the one who has committed to bringing them home safe in end, that whether you finish your earthly journey at the end of a terrorists gun, a sunken ship or in a NHS bed.
Death has no sting, all roads lead to the throne of heaven.
Where we will find, that Jesus has gone before us, has made a place for us, just as he said he would, and there he will wipe every tear from our eyes.
It is this image of verses 13-20, of assurance, that means you should make every effort to press on in forwards in your faith.
It’s why you can afford the risk to go deep with Jesus in every part of your life.
It’s why Wesley on seeing this assurance, recognised here was something he deeply wanted more than anything.
So, Christian you have a VIP pass to throne room of God, let us then boldly approach.