Don’t Be a Pushover or a Bulldozer
I’m going to invite you to turn to Hebrews chapter six as we continue on this series together. We are walking in the series with just a simplicity of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The Book of Hebrews shows us the supremacy of Christ in all things, how Jesus is greater. Summer is a time of season where there is a lot of change, a lot of things going on, a lot of things you don’t normally do in the routine of life, but you’ve got to get everyone back in line when school starts. But knowing you’re typically out of routine this time of year, we just want to focus on in your Christian life, what it means to be a pursuer of Jesus and to rest in Him. Enjoy the reason for which God has created you as you enjoy His presence in your life.
I’m just going to be frank in starting this off and let you know, Hebrews chapter six is kind of the tying together of everything we’ve learned so far, in saying to you, so what. Like, what are you going to do with the topic of which we have discussed together as it relates to Jesus. We have seen the significance of Christ in our lives through everything that’s been described the first five chapters and we’re going to continue to see that. In fact, I’m just being honest, my favorite chapters are seven, eight, and nine of this book. Then in chapter 10 it makes application to living out the Christian life. At this juncture of the book, we kind of hit the pause button in what’s being stated here and sort of do a heart check of where our lives are as it relates to Christ.
The beginning of this verse, it says this, “We’re leaving the elementary teachings about Christ. Let us press on to maturity.” So, the idea of this section of scripture is to recognize God desires for you to grow in Him. To be mature in Jesus. If we remember the end of chapter five, kind of a weird verse that it used to illustrate what it means to be mature in Jesus. It talks about the nurturing of a child and Paul says, “You’re all still on milk when you should be biting into steak,” right? Instead of meat, you’re on milk. It’s kind of the picture of as a mother nurses a baby within the first year of life looks totally normal but when you get to like age 15, man, people freak out about that. That is weird. You don’t want to be doing that at that point of life. You need to become rather, teachers yourself. What it’s saying to us is that God wants to do such incredible work in you that he then works through you.
That God doesn’t want you to hoard what he does in your life to yourself, but let that light shine through your life. He’s describing this as maturity. Just so you know where we’re going, I’m going to start here in and end here and I want you to know that the life of the gospel ends in death, or, begins in death, I should say it like that. The life of the gospel begins in death. Meaning, what Jesus did for us in His death, brought us life and that is the Gospel. Jesus dies on the cross for you, he says, “To tell us thy pain for it is finished for you.” He becomes the atonement, taking on your sins. The bible calls him the propitiation. He satisfies the wrath of God, invites you to trust in Him and what He has done is a sufficient sacrifice so that you can experience life.
In death, in the Gospel, there becomes life. That’s how the Gospel continues to move forward. As you lay down your life in Christ, God continues to work in you and through you. So when we talk about Christian maturity, it is literally the laying down of your life so that God can work in you and through you. The Gospel, or the goal of Christianity isn’t about just information. We study the Bible together and we’re not just studying the Bible, it’s a beautiful picture we’ve seen, but we’re not studying the Bible for information. What we desire in is transformation. Our goal isn’t to make you smart, our goal is to see you holy. Separated in Christ.
What Paul is doing in this passage of scripture, he’s calling out the body of believers, that he desires Christians to experience maturity and he’s calling out the body of believers to move forward in maturity in Christ because we meet certain challenges in our lives that can bring hang-ups, but what the author of Hebrews desires is for you to thrive in your Christian living. Liken it to what a parent’s desire is for their children. You don’t want your children to be dependent forever, but rather become independent. You don’t want to see your kids become a drain on society, but a blessing to society. Not a taker, but a giver, a contributor. Life-giving in this world. The same is true with Jesus’ desire for you. That as he makes you new on the inside, transforming your life, you express that newness in this world.
So, God’s desire for you is to see this maturity be made known. That what God produces in you reproduces in this world. In fact, Paul said to Timothy, in Second Timothy, 2:2, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” So, he’s saying to Timothy, “Look, Timothy, there’s going to be all kinds of people in this world that are challenging, but look for those individuals that are on fire for the Lord and continue to pump life into them so that they can begin to express that in this world. Help them develop in their maturity.” I think that’s an important concept to think about because in our lives, what we tend to do as people is we get really fixated on the problems, like especially perfectionists.
We’ll get so fixated on the problems that we forget what’s working and we want everything to work well, but any good business man will tell you when it comes to business, you can’t fix every squeaky wheel. Rather, you want to continue down the path of what your business or what it’s created to do, what you’re about. The same thing’s true with Christianity. Sometimes we get so fixated on our problems that we just simply try to treat the symptoms, but what God desires to do is completely transform your life. It’s like this, it works like this in our life, when we think about the fruit of the spirit. We know it’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness. From a legalistic, symptomatic solution, we’ll be like, you know, “I’m okay in loving, but I don’t have joy.” and so we’ll fixate on joy.
But when the Bible talks about the fruit of the spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, what it’s saying to you is not to treat the symptoms by being more loving or being more joyful when you don’t have it. Rather, it’s surrendering your life to the spirit of God. Let God have your life. Saying to the Lord, “Lord, have your way with me. I’m created for your purpose. I no longer want to live for my glory but it’s about yours, God. Do your work in me.” It’s not about the symptom, but rather, the solution. This idea of maturing in Christ, it’s putting on the big boy pants, right?
I mean, you think, maybe as a young person, this certain monumental moments of life that you waited for because you knew once you got to that point, you were going to be so grown up, right? I mean, the first time you got your driver’s license or maybe voted or for me, this is kind of unique, maybe a little bit weird, but I remember the first time I went into McDonald’s. I can still see it in my mind, I went into McDonald’s and rather than order the Happy Meal, I got the Big Mac. I put it down so fast, I beat everyone to the finish line and I wondered why in my life I had not tasted the glory of the Big Mac much sooner, you know? That thousand island dressing, it was just … it was magic in my mouth.
But that step of maturity, that mark of growth, that’s what the author of Hebrews is pursuing your life because he understands what God can do in you and through you. How powerful that becomes. Sometimes we get focused on the problems, treating the symptoms rather than just letting our heart rest in the solution which is Christ. At the same time, believers within the context of what’s being written here, they’re focused on the past as well. Look at this, it says, “Leave the elementary teachings about Christ. Press on to maturity.” Not laying, again, a foundation of repentance from dead works and the faith toward God of instruction about the washing and the laying on of hands and the resurrection of the dead and the eternal judgment. See, it goes on these different areas where they’re going back to their repentance from dead works and the faith toward God but they’re living in the past.
For them, they can’t move forward because they’re not looking for the sufficiency of Jesus. They’re stuck in the identity of the religious past. It’s if they’re saying in the living of their life, what Jesus did was good, but it just wasn’t good enough. You remember the sort of the conundrum these individuals were in, this is the Book of Hebrews, written to the Jewish people. They’ve lived with this religious identity and they’re about to be persecuted because of their faith now, in Christ and what he’s accomplished for them. In Acts, Chapter Seven, they’ve already experienced the persecution with Stephen, when Stephen was martyred, that sent the church spreading all over the Roman empire.
Paul, in fact, before he became the Apostle Paul, went out to persecute the church and when he was on the way to persecuting the church, that’s when he became a believer. But, he wanted to devastate Christianity in its beginnings. So, Christianity begins to spread but we’re now on the cusp of Nero beginning his persecution. The writer of Hebrews can see this coming. He wants to see the believers in Jesus solidifying their faith. They’re stuck between these two worlds, pursue Christ in all that he is and the sufficiency of him and alienate my people, or make my people happy by partaking in the religious works that undermines the sufficiency of Jesus and still hang out with the Christian community.
What the author is saying in this passage is “Look, that’s dead works. You can’t have it both ways. It’s either Jesus’ sufficient enough and you walk with Him, or you deny Christ and you embrace your community.” That’s the conundrum in which they are in. The way that the author is calling this, he’s recognizing they’re reverting back to their past and not living in their present and the sufficiency of Christ, but he’s referring to it this way. That it’s they’re going against the repentance from dead works and of faith toward God. He doesn’t want them to walk this road again, but I love that he’s saying in this passage these two ideas of repentance and faith because it’s the same idea but just different sides of the coin.
Sometimes we read the word repentance and we have such a bad idea of what repentance is. We have a religious mentality of thinking about repentance. When we say repentance, oftentimes what happens in our mind is this thought of penance. Like to come before God, I’ve got to pay a certain amount of guilt on my shoulders, a certain amount of pain, a certain amount of sorrow, a certain amount of beating myself up because of what I’ve done wrong. We see it as an attitude of penance but it’s … Repentance isn’t penance. Repentance is to understand in a biblical perspective that Jesus is already paid it all. Repentance is this idea that we’re walking down a particular path in life and we begin to realize this path is messed up. This path is not getting me ultimately where I should be in life, not what life is all about.
Rather than continue down this path, in this case a religious path, I’m going to turn from this path. But repentance is only one side of the coin because the question you’d have to answer is when you turn from this path, what path are you turning toward? It’s like this, anyone that struggles with addiction, wonderful, wonderful, which we all do in a certain degree of whatever sin that you just fall into. All right, we all have that sin in our lives where it’s like, “I just can’t beat this.” But, when you talk about repentance from sin, or the turning from something, the question isn’t just what you’re turning from, but also what you’re turning toward because if all you’re doing is leaving something behind, what you’ll do is find some other vice to replace it.
Some other fixation, something else to be addicted to that’s not healthy. It’s not just about what you’re turning from, but what you’re turning toward. The idea of faith in this passage gives that expression. See this written in the bible, often times they’ll carry these two words together, repent and believe. Repent and have faith. Turn from the road of destruction and turn to the one that gives you life. So he’s saying what they’re doing in this passage is they’re going back to the very thing which they left and which doesn’t work. This calling to maturity is to see the sufficiency of Christ, laying down your life in the sufficiency of him. Not laying the foundation of the past, but moving into the presence in Jesus.
Then he begins to list certain areas in which they’re faltering. Verse Two, it’s the instruction about washing and the laying on of hands and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. I want you to know this, this verse drove me crazy because I went and read tons and tons of commentaries on this, trying to figure out what exactly this was talking about. This is the conclusion I got, you can join me in this challenge if you want. No one knows, no one knows exactly what Verse Two is talking about and the reason is they don’t have enough detail here.
What aspect is it referring to when it talks about the washing, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and the eternal judgment. No one really knows exactly what it’s talking about but the overall implications are this, that they’re seeing this as sufficient as it relates to the Gospel and they’re adding to it. For us, we don’t need to know the details of what’s taking place here to still make application to our lives. But, nonetheless, he’s presenting to the early believers where they’re faltering in the faith of pursuing God with their lives. Getting caught up in these secondary issues and making them primary to the Gospel.
Then you get to Verse Four, to Verse Six. Just to scare the life out of you this morning, I want you to know Verse Four to Verse Six, some people say are the most challenging verses in all of the New Testament. In fact, they definitely agree that in the Book of Hebrews, these three verses are the most challenging verses in Hebrews, if not the entire new testament. But, I want to read it to you and you’re going to see it as read along. It says this, “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, and have tasted the good Word of God and the power of the age to come and then have fallen away,” look at this, “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance. Since they have again crucified to themselves the Son of God and put him to open shame.”
Now here’s the holy cow moment, right? Unless you’re in India, that’s offensive, don’t do that there. But what this verse is saying here is it’s saying it’s describing an individual partaking of the Holy Spirit in some way within the context of the community of Christ. They see who Jesus is and whatever decision they make, they ultimately decide to just move away. So, is this passage teaching you lose your salvation? Or, what about this? What if in your life, you were a follower of Christ and you walked away from Jesus, but now later in life, you came back to Jesus? Can you really come back to Him? Like, once you left, is that all for you and you’re just here wasting your time, today? Is that what this passage is saying?
Freak out, right? This is a … Well, okay, this is a sobering moment to think about walking after Christ and what it means to be pure in your walk with Jesus and giving your life to Him. What is this passage saying? I’m not going to tell … I’m just kidding, I’ll tell you. I want you to know, too, if you look this up there’s … Some people debate a little bit over what’s being talked about in this section, this scripture. Wayne [Groodham 00:15:44] agrees with what I’m about to tell you. Warren [Whiresby 00:15:47] has the same stance. What I’m going to say to you is not an unpopular position in Christianity. I think the majority of people would fall under this.
First off, when you read this passage, I want you to see in Verse Four that the author is distinguishing between believers and someone different, because it’s saying those people, right? And in verse four, it’s those that have experienced this. And when the author’s describing this in this passage, I think what he wants to do is to make these individuals look as Christian as possible without truly being a follower of Jesus. And so the way that he describes them is they’ve been enlightened. They’ve seen the heavenly gift. They’ve seen the way the Holy Spirit has worked in the lives of people. They’ve tasted the good Word of God and the powers of what’s to come. They’ve walked with the early church. They’ve experienced this, but I don’t think they’ve ever really belonged to Christianity.
And the reason I say that is because of what verse six says. “They have fallen away and it’s impossible to renew them again to repentance since they again crucified to themselves the Son of God.” And this idea of crucifying is actually in the active tense. Meaning … In Christianity, we talk about the crucifixion of Jesus that happened for us a couple of thousand years ago. But it was sufficient for my life today, because when Jesus died, He died once and for all. In fact, I would tell you, Hebrews chapter 10 verse 12 and 14 should become your pillar verses in this section of scripture, because what it says to us is Jesus died once and for all, having perfected us in Him. His sacrifice, once and for all, was sufficient for you for all time.
But what’s happening in this passage is these individuals have seen and heard and experienced the sufficiency of Jesus, and rather than allow that sacrifice to be sufficient for their lives, they continue to re-crucify Jesus as if He wasn’t enough. And so what it’s saying, in the active tense, because Jesus is sufficient enough for them, they continue to do these works as if they add to the sufficiency of Jesus. And when they do that, they’re re-crucifying Christ over and over and over again. And as long as you have that believe that Jesus isn’t enough for you, then He’s not enough to save you. Because Jesus, when He died for you, said it is paid in full. His sacrifice was sufficient.
So what I think it’s saying in Hebrews chapter six with the individuals that are practicing religious law is they need to come to a place where they see the sufficiency of Jesus. But as long as they don’t see Jesus as sufficient, they can never fully turn to Him, never fully trust in Him, never fully lay down their life to Him. So for us, as Christians, or as people that are looking at Jesus, the question becomes for us, where is your faith in Christ? And have you trusted in Him? And is He sufficient for you?
That’s the beauty of what they’re saying about Christ in this passage is that in our lives you may not ever feel good enough, but because of what Jesus has done for you, you are. He loves you right where you are. This is the place in life where, when Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I give you rest,” in Matthew 11:28, what He’s saying to you is Jesus doesn’t want you to pretend to be something different. Jesus wants you to present yourself to Him exactly where you are, exactly as you are. And He loves you right in that spot. And when you surrender your life to Him in that spot, that’s where Jesus begins to do His transformation work in you. But it’s not until you lay your life down before him.
It’s kind of like these individuals in the story who are holding onto something, as if to say by doing all these extra works, “Jesus, I’m going to give you part of my heart.” But that’s not how a relationship with Christ works. That’s not how a healthy marriage works. You got to give it all, just as Jesus gave His all for you.
So this is pointing us to that. Then he goes on and just gives an illustration. He wants us to recognize within the Christian community, not everyone that is a part of us belongs to us. There are some people that are just attracted to the church and just examine what’s taking place there. So this is this place to call us. Look, just put your trust in Christ. And the illustration goes like this. “For the 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. But if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to be cursed and it ends up being burned.”
So God wants to do a work in you. Do you allow what God wants to do in you to produce the life of a crop, or is it just grow up to thorns? Where your faith is in Christ, that matters. How you surrender your life to God, it matters. So from this point, because Paul’s just not … or the author of Hebrews, I should say, is not just fixated on the problem, but he’s looking for the individuals that want to walk by faith.
He then in verse nine starts calling us into that. So what he says in verse nine is this. “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you.” This is the beloved. “Now the body, the people that are loved by Christ, who belong to Jesus, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation though we are speaking in this way, for God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name in having ministered and still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end so that you will not be sluggish but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
This is what he’s saying in verse 10. Guys, those that are in faith, sometimes we do things for Jesus in this world and it doesn’t receive accolades, it doesn’t receive praise, and in fact some people don’t even recognize it in life. No one else around you sees it. There are some of you in this room that have paid sacrifices for Christ that you know, if you go back into your life, you have felt the pain because of decisions in following Jesus. Yet you remained faithful. And sometimes when you get to those points, we get in such discouragement, we wonder ourselves what’s it all for. Who really cares?
Yeah, I think for my own family, this happens every time we go back east. Visit my parents, my wife’s parents, my mom who likes to remind me that I’m keeping her grand babies away. For what?
And in verse 10, it gives the answer. “For in God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name.” Look, I want you to know this. Some of the sacrifices you have made for Christ in your life, other people … Other people may not recognize it. It may have been painful. It may have taken you a while to get over it. But before Christ it is some of the most beautiful praise that you have ever given to God. In your deepest pain in pursuing Jesus, before the eyes of God has been some of the most beautiful sacrifice of praise to Him. So he’s saying to us in verse 10 and on that God is not ignoring this, and God is not absent to what you are doing for Him. So Paul is calling us out in the midst of this story to keep pushing forward. To keep pursuing him, to keep letting God be the joy and love of your life, to experience that great reward which is in Him.
And look, in this first century, no doubt the Jews faced challenges. It was religiously. And they looked at their community, and in some cases their communities just say to them, “Look. You can still have your Jesus and talk about Jesus, but you need to just embrace this legalistic living that we’re telling you brings you righteousness, because Jesus isn’t enough. So if you just do a little bit of this, we’ll still accept you, and you can still have your Jesus.” Half in, half out. But with Jesus, all in is where we find joy, right? That’s their challenge.
And today, we can look at this and read about this and look down at them, really, with our noses, and think, “How foolish. How foolish in that century to see what Jesus has done for them and then just go back to that.”
But I want us to know, rather than just point a finger or say anything negative … Maybe we can relate to it, but in our case, if we just think about this text, I want us to recognize that the church in every culture in every time period needs to discover how to live for God within their context. Because while they faced this in the first century, we face similar temptation but it just looks a little different, has a little different flavor, in our society today.
And when culture rises up contrary to God, the temptation is for us to do one of two things. To be a pushover or to be a bulldozer. To be a pushover and just go with the flow and what the culture represents to us which, by the way, when you look just like your culture you can’t make any difference in it. Or to be a bulldozer and try to railroad people. Rather, what the Gospel calls us to is to stand firm on truth and to share that truth in love. To stand firm on what we believe and rather than beat up on people, serve them. It’s what Jesus did for us.
But, guys, I want us to realize in life when culture pushes against you, we’re not fighting against people. We’re not here to beat up people. We’re here to reach people. The church is the only organization in really history, I think, that exists for a purpose outside of itself. We are called to reach people in this world. To stand on truth and to love people where they are, just as Christ has done.
Everything we do as a human being is driven by a belief, a faith or a theology. Everything you do, whether you recognize what that belief is or not, everything you do is driven by a belief or a faith. In fact, if I went back to this first century, I would see them stuck in this position between the Gospel, which is sufficient only in Christ alone, and religious living. And by denying this and moving back to religious living, they’re saying something about the Gospel, though they may not be saying it directly, in that it’s not sufficient. Everything we do as human beings is driven by a belief and a faith.
The ideology of our current American culture isn’t about trusting an external religion as much as it’s trusting in yourself as your religion. In the context of our culture today, we have smoothed throughout the decades further and further from the existence of a god, claiming really there are no absolutes, or not even maybe saying there are no absolutes, just not teaching them any more. Educationally, we are not providing any more answers to the ultimate meaning and purpose in life. We’re really telling people what to do, but not defining the ultimate reason as to why they’re doing it.
I don’t want to ride this hobby horse but I’m going to say it, at least. In our culture today … Well decades ago, hundreds of years ago, there was the phrase that was coined, “separation of church and state” around the time of Thomas Jefferson. I can’t remember if even Thomas Jefferson might have been the one that phrased it. But when he made that statement, what he wasn’t saying is what we’ve applied it to today. Separation of church and state was never intended to move church from the things of the state. What it was intended to do, rather, was to keep the state out of the things of the church, to continue to let the church place its influence on the lives of people, because that’s where the answer is to the ultimate meaning of life.
We’ve fallen on this trajectory educationally of not defining any of this. I was listening to a speech by Ravi Zacharias. He was talking, and he mentioned back in the economic downturn that a reporter came to him and wanted to have a theological perspective on what was taking place in the world and the type of questions people were asking because of the hardships. It’s interesting. When things are difficult, we ask the theological questions, but when life is fine, we just want to leave God behind, right?
But here he is, the reporter coming to ask Ravi Zacharias, and he said, “Listen. I’ll give you your interview if you let me ask you one question.” The report was a little bit taken back by it, but he allowed Ravi to ask the question. He gave this comment first. He said, “Take for example a young guy studying business or economics in school, and we teach them there is no morality or ethics in business or economics. Then when he’s a businessman and acts corrupt, we respond shocked and throw him behind bars for living out the very way we have taught him to act in this world.” Then he want on to ask the question, “Should we throw teachers and lecturers in jail for warping the minds of our young people?”
But the interesting thing about it, I know it’s an overstatement that he was getting at, but the interesting thing is that what ultimately should drive us is people. We really aren’t defining within the education of our young people today. We’re leaving them devoid of those ultimate answers. And when they’re not living life out in light of a God which they’re accountable to, we’re still holding them accountable. How can you claim there is no morality and then live like it?
We divorce our society from God. We no longer have an ultimate basis for why we exist and where we are going. What we ultimately do is allow self to become god, and our morality will be defined by what we want, since the individual is god. When the ultimate purpose of life is about you and your pleasure, it affects everything around us. Without even defining it, we’re living by a belief. If we are the supreme purpose of life and we are gods ourself defining our own morality, this defines everything we do. The significance of life and how we take it, pro-choice, pro-life. Sexuality, politics.
Read in this Hebrews chapter six, in Judaism they were about religion. In American today, we debate whether or not there’s even a god. Then the end, without God, might makes right. Not even the majority, but the minority if they scream loud enough, the might will make right.
Can I tell you where else we’ve seen that in history? Nazi Germany. The silent majority made up 80% of Germany. But yet the strong minority who voiced their statements into this world, might made what was right. Now what they did was not right. But when individuals start dictating by themselves, being the idol of society, what is right, then they determine it.
And I’m not telling us that we need to go out and lambast everyone that disagrees with us. I’m not saying that at all. What I’m saying, rather, is we need to get to the basics of what drives the significance of who we are as human beings. And when the church is silent over these issues, it affects the generations to come. You think about Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was a Christian during the time of Nazi Germany, who was given a pastor position in America. And rather than stay in America, he chose to go back to Germany because he had to preach the truth to his people. He made this statement that just resonates through history. He says, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.” That God has given you a voice. You don’t make a different in your culture when you look just like it.
In a Nazi Germany, the silent majority gave way to the loud minority. And Hitler went down in history. Listen. This is what Hitler said about his desire, “I want to raise a generation of young people devoid of conscience, imperious, relentless, and cruel.” Can I tell you how to do that? Make yourself God. Make yourself and your desire the center of the universe.
If someone comes in this morning we have no basis for truth, no basis for morality, and they come in this morning and they say to me “In five seconds I’m gonna turn around and kill the person right behind me unless you can convince me otherwise that it’s wrong.” Apart from a moral lawgiver, what do I have to argue? He says “It feels right to me, it feels good, it feels like this needs to happen.” What, am I gonna argue feelings back? “Well, I feel like it’s wrong.” On what basis?
Victor Franklin was in a concentration camp during the days of Nazi Germany’s reign. He was a brilliant man, he ended up dying in 1997. In his assessment of what took place here, this is what he said, “I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Nazi Germany were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers. What gave way to what was produced was the education of the minds of the people.” That’s where the battle started.
For us, as believers, it becomes paramount for you in what you choose to do in the time that you’re given, in the culture in which you live. Can I tell you, most specifically, if you find yourself involved in the educational system of our society today, if you’re directly on those front lines, I’m not saying all this to stand against you? Rather I would stand behind you and just lift you in prayer. What a beautiful spot to be. What a great place to influence in our society.
Because it’s not just to elevate that position but to recognize in all of us. All of us the voice that God has given and the happens here, where you lay down your life for the sake of Christ. And to understand that when we make decisions in Jesus, it could cost you. In fact, the Bible tells us “It will cost you.” So to do that, to take those steps in Christ, you stand over the precipice, and before you even step forward you need to know, is Jesus sufficient for you?
The rest of this chapter reminds of the sufficiency of Christ, but I want us to know, this entire book is laying this out for us. It’s showing us from beginning to end how God just didn’t come up with this plan last minute in order for the preservation of your soul. This has been dictated to us from the beginning. In fact, he starts verse 13 this way, he says, “For in God made the promise to Abraham…” going all the way back. This is where it begins, where God is laying this out for you. This wasn’t something he just came up with out of the dark. This has been known from the beginning of time.
And so he goes back for us, “For when God made the promise to Abraham since he could swear by no one greater he swore by himself saying ‘I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.’ And so having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.” So he’s saying this idea’s rooted in the promises of God, how important it is for us to see this picture.
Throughout the book of Hebrews, in verse 16 “For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them, an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way, God, desiring even more to show the heirs the promise, the unchangeableness of his purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we have taken refuge will have strong encouragement to take hold of the hopes that before us.”
God wants you to take hold of the hopes that before you, and where does he wrap that hope? In his identity. His nature cannot lie. The promises to you will be delivered, and God can promise by no one greater than himself. He says in the beginning of this verse, we promise in one another all the time, and especially in this day, your word is as strong as oak, right? When you’re a kid “Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” If you ever said that you’re gross, right? But as kids you try to make promises, “I swear on my mama’s grave.” You know, somethin’ like that. “You’re mama’s not even dead, what are you talkin’ about?” But we say things like that because we want our word to matter.
But he’s saying in this passage, God’s word is pure. If there’s something that you can trust in it is God’s word. If you ask the question “How do I know? How do I know?” I’m telling you, we’re doing this throughout the whole book of Hebrews together. We’re looking at the picture that God has orchestrated from the beginning in Jesus, to see how God just didn’t slap this plan together, but he has been showing these foreshadows of what Jesus would ultimately fulfill.
I cannot wait to get to Hebrews chapter 7 to chapter 9, because that section of scripture for me ties it all together so masterfully. Those are my favorite chapters in this book. So I realize in saying this, for some of us we need to see how we can trust Jesus more deeply if we haven’t put that faith in Christ. But for the rest of us who have, it’s to understand how significant that position in Jesus really is. To understand that his promises, and the truth that he’s declared to you, how important it is to stand on that and to recognize, you will pay a cost for Jesus somewhere, some way. But can I remind you guys, when you think about the early church and the sacrifice that they’ve made? And I’m gonna tell you some of that here in a minute.
Today we see those individuals as heroes. We talk about them like they’re heroes. But when they stood for Jesus, at the time in which they stood for Jesus, they were not looked at as heroes. At best they were looked at as nuisances to society. That’s why I wanna say to you, in Christianity, for the first 250 years it existed, 125 of those the church was persecuted. No one sang their praise. They were looked at as enemies, and in many cases, they could’ve died alone. But to God it was beautiful.
Do you know the effects of what they did in their society? It revolutionized the world around them. If I just told you, I don’t think we even live in this world today recognizing how Christianity has transformed society around us. During the days of early Christianity, infanticide was practiced in the lives of individuals that didn’t wanna keep their kids. What they would do is, if they had a kid that they didn’t feel like was gonna contribute to the family, it was gonna cost them more to be a provider, they would take them out and just lay ’em in the street and leave ’em to the elements and let them die. And it was seen as okay to do.
Christians began to gather them because they learned from what God taught them that everyone’s created in the image of God, that everyone has inherent worth, value, and meaning, and Jesus died for them. So the early church started to adopt. Adoption begins in Christianity. That’s really where it takes root and catches on fire. In the early days of Rome, women especially, they were seen as devalued in comparison to men, and sometimes they would look at women and realize that they weren’t worth having around, so they, in that culture, would just leave young girls out on the sides of the street, and people would come by and they would pick them up.
Not Christians, but other individuals would come by and pick them up, and they would do one of two things with them. They would either turn them into slaves or they would pimp them out. Christianity sees the worth, value, and meaning of women. I can promise you. I try to think of instances where this isn’t true, but if you go through societies in our world today, and you compare where women are valued and women are devalued, and I’m not saying it’s perfect for women in this world. But I can promise you that to my knowledge, almost every society where you look at where women are valued, Christianity has already been there.
It might be a post-Christian society, but the value of women began to be preached in the realm of Christianity. That’s why when you look at the conversions in early Christianity, you know what it is? It’s the poor, it’s the slaves, it’s women. Because the first time in their lives, they’re seeing the value of who they are in light of who God is.
The other thing in this society, if you were a slave in Rome, the majority of people are slaves. Well not the majority, but a lot of the people I should say, are slaves, or you’re poor. And in the context of those societies, you know what’s taught in that theology? God doesn’t love you as much as he loves the wealthy. That’s why you are where you are.
And now all of the sudden in Christianity, they see this guy that doesn’t reject them because they don’t have, but rather a God that’s been pursuing them. A God that loves them where they are. A God that shows them their worth. When you see this at the early church it’s incredible how these individuals live for the sake of Christ.
How it began to change society and end certain atrocities going on around them. Even when you look at the way Christians live their lives, they refuse to build anything that was dedicated to false gods, which in their society there was a plethora of that goin’ on. They refused to go to hospitals for treatment during that time period because when they went there it was believed if you had some sort of sickness it was because the gods had some curse against you, so you went to the hospitals you didn’t really get treatment, what you got was a priest who walked around who gave some chant over you. The Christians were like “No way, we ain’t lettin’ some false god chant over us, we’re not going to the hospital.”
Sometimes in those societies, what happened if you had certain sicknesses, they would cast you out in the street and consider you cursed by God. What happened in Christianity, Christianity really developed the hospitals. They started to recognize that people need to be treated by medicine, God created medication that could treat people, they started bringing these people in that were cursed because they understood that was a curse by false gods that weren’t real, they started loving on these people, nurturing one another.
And all the while in that society when bad things happened, when the Nile River flooded, when there wasn’t enough rain, when there was an earthquake, where somethin’ burnt, the people immediately jumped to the conclusion that the gods must be mad, and when the gods were mad that meant it was the Christians fault, ’cause the Christians weren’t worshiping the false gods, so they would take the Christians out and they would martyr them.
If you read in Fox’s Book of Martyrs, you can read this free online, this is just a section of the chapter titles, but I’ve told you, first 250 years of Christianity 125 of that, it would cost you your life. These are the persecutions that took place under those rulers. There’s one by the name of Decius that was the seventh persecutor, emperor leader that persecuted the church, and the way that he wanted to persecute the Christians that he found most effective was he would bring out a Christian family, and then he would take the children away from the parents, then he would proceed to mutilate the children in front of the parents in order to get them to renounce their faith.
These people were considered nuisances. But yet what you find is that their faith moves forward. In fact, over and over again you’ll read in history these individuals that persecuted the early church, that they’d gladly give up their life as if they are immortal. It’s as if they believe they would live forever, and allow themselves to be sacrificed for Christ. We see these people as heroes, but during their time the people around them saw them as a problem.
The encouragement to you guys on all of this is to be faithful. To understand just exactly how God can use you to make an impact on society around you, and that when you choose not to stand in Jesus you’re still teaching a theology, and it’s the insufficiency of Christ. But be faithful. Can I tell you this though? When I tell you to be faithful I’m not telling you or asking, whatever, however you wanna phrase this, to have this incredible amount of faith. I think what makes you powerful isn’t the size of your faith, but the size of your God in which you express your faith.
There are plenty of people in this world that have faith in all kind of things but at the end of the day, their faith isn’t gonna save ’em because in what they trust in, it’s worthless. When it comes to Jesus, you don’t have to have this incredible amount of faith. What you need is just a little bit of faith in this incredible God. It’s God who does that work. And here’s where it starts. “Jesus, as you’ve given your life for me, so use my life for you.”
At the end of this book, he starts speaking about the belief that the early church carried. The promises of God because of the sufficiency of Jesus. So much so that there is a statement that was birthed out of the early church called the Apostle’s Creed. The Apostle’s Creed that most people read today is a little bit more extensive than when it first began. But when the Apostle’s Creed was first written it dates as early as 140 A.D. so in the middle of all this persecution you know what the church did in response? It solidifies its faith and sufficiency in Jesus.
They created this creed that gave their identity. It says this, “I believe in God the Father all mighty, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten son, our Lord.” Can I tell you, just that phrase right there, in Rome, would get your head cut off. In Roman times, the people were expected to say “Kaiser Kurios” which is “Caesar is Lord”. Christians refused to bow down to any other god except for Christ, and rather than saying Kaiser Kurios, they said “Christos Kurios”, Jesus is Lord.
In doing that they denied the gods of Rome, they denied Caesar and the faced persecution. But they allowed the statement to resonate from their faith, and it says this “He was born of the Holy Ghost, and of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, buried on the third day, and rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the father, from thence he shall come to Jesus, the quick and the dead, and the Holy Ghost, the Holy Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting.”
God is able. And the sacrifices that we make to him is the praise of the glory of who he is. And the challenges we’ve faced as followers of Jesus, we should rest secure in the identity of our God.