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Anchored in Jesus

Date: Mar. 26, 2017

Author: Bob Henkins

Hebrews 5:11-6:20

Key Verse: Hebrews 6:19-20

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

In our house, we have this spot behind our bedroom door where Julia and I record the growth of our children with dated marks next to the door frame. And it’s neat to see how much our children are growing. In the past year, Michael has grown about 5.25 inches and much to my surprise it seems like I might have shrunk about a half an inch. That’s not the direction I want to go. Interestingly enough, this kind of connects to the passage we’ll be studying this morning which talks about spiritual growth. Through this passage, we’ll learn how our spiritual growth helps us to be anchored in Jesus and to hold on to our hope in God during the rough periods in our life.

Let’s jump right into today’s passage take a look at verses 5:11-14. “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” In all the previous books in the Bible there hasn’t been a whole lot written about Melchizedek. He’s kind of a mysterious figure. He was mentioned once in Genesis 14 and once in Psalm 110, and now the author of Hebrews wants to expand upon those verses, and if you remember from last week in the first part of chapter 5, the author was about to do a deep dive into a discussion about the high priestly order of Melchizedek and how it related to Jesus. But he’s having a bit of trouble because it’s a difficult subject and the readers are no longer trying to understand, or as the Message translations says, they picked up this bad habit of not listening. And so, he has to put his main point on hold for a little while and deal with on their spiritual immaturity. In the process, he rebukes them in the hopes that they would grow up in Christ.

Were they spiritually immature because they hadn’t reached that level yet, was their growth somehow stunted, or were they immature because they had made it to that level and had regressed (fallen back) because of disobedience or some other sin? What kind of immaturity is it; social, ethical, doctrinal, or something else? One hint the text gives us is in the phrase “you no longer” which indicates that the readers were previously in better spiritual condition, but now for some reason they are no longer trying to understand. It’s as if they have given up.

This reveals that they had stopped struggling to meditate on the word of God, and truly understand it, and apply it to their lives. People who have spiritual desire make time for God and study his word. They are the ones that can grow in wisdom and can find strength in God when they’re tired and weary. But those who are spiritually lazy miss out on God’s blessing. Instead of having desire to know God they are distracted by things such as their career, seeking fun and pleasure, self-medicating or a myriad of other things. By this time the author thought the readers should have grown mature enough to be teachers, but instead he realized that they needed to be taught like little children. They had to be taught the elementary truths of God’s word all over again (12a). They needed milk because they couldn’t handle solid food. Why did they stopped growing? Did they only want to be loved and served like a little child forever without growing up and taking responsibility? When we lose our spiritual desire to grow in Jesus, we gradually wither and become useless. You might think that this is just a personal problem but it’s really more than that because it can spread and impede others spiritual growth if they become a bad influence to the body of Christ. Don’t be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor 15:33)

Also, I find it interesting that the author assumes that they should be teaching God’s word. It’s a natural progression in life, for example, when you become a parent, you become a teacher. You have to teach your children everything from how to speak, how to get dressed and wash behind their ears, not to touch the hot stove or put a knife in the electric socket; you have to teach them everything. It’s actually a sign of maturity when you begin to teach others. Likewise, as you mature in your Christian life, you should naturally progress and teach it to others. Now imagine what it would be like if a parent didn’t teach their children the necessary things in life. If a parent doesn’t teach their children what the heck are they doing? I remember when our son David was really young, Julia and I met another young couple with a boy around the same age. They had a different parenting philosophy than us, they never taught their child the concept of “no”. If their son got into something that he shouldn’t be into, they would distract him and give him a toy to play with. When we noticed this, we asked them about it and they said that they didn’t want to limit their child by saying “No” to him. However, when we saw them again several years later, their child was almost uncontrollable. It’s the parent’s duty to teach their children right from wrong otherwise when they grow up and enter into the real world they are going to have a real tough time.

And the author brings this issue up in verses 5:13-14. “13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” In these verses, we find that spiritual infants are not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. They don’t know right from wrong. For them, they want something to go down easy like milk, you don’t have to chew that but solid food takes more works it’s harder to digest. But the spiritually mature aren’t satisfied or fulfilled with milk, they want something more substantial, like steak. However, solid food is not easy to chew and digest; it requires work. When I had my surgery and dental implants put in, I couldn’t eat solid food. It hurt too much. And I had to chew with my front teeth. It took forever just to get one piece of meat down because I couldn’t chew with the molars in the back of your mouth which really crush and break down the food. So, Julia had to put all my food in a blender and liquefy it. Her spaghetti with chucks of Italian sausage and tomato and noodles, or her minestrone soup with chunks of ham and vegetables and parmesan cheese, it makes me hungry just thinking about them. Then sadly she had to throw it into the blender. It was the same food, it still tasted good, but somehow it wasn’t as satisfying. Spiritually speaking the solid food is “the teaching about righteousness” and “training oneself to distinguish good from evil.” There is an emphasis on “training oneself.” This means to make a personal decision to mature from self-centered, to Christ-centered. This requires us to develop our own spiritual discernment and to make wise decisions that builds our spiritual growth. However, this doesn’t come naturally. Some people misunderstand that they will grow simply with the passing of time. Sadly, this isn’t true. Recently, I heard a story about a boss that promoted a person who had ten years of experience over a person that had worked there for twenty years. When the twenty-year person complained, the boss replied, “He has ten years of increasing experience while you have one year repeated twenty times.” Likewise, spiritual growth is not a matter of time, but of attitude. In order to do this, we need to mature to the point that we can train ourselves to be godly. We need to become independent because we’re not going to have our shepherd with us all the time. Paul could help Timothy when he was with him, but he wasn’t going to be with him forever that’s why he exhorted him: “…train yourself to be godly” (1Ti 4:7b). In order to do that, we need to be able to discern good from evil and avoid evil things such as the love of money, lustful desires, pride of life—and pursue godliness and fight the good fight (1Ti 4:11b-12a). It’s a blessing to have others around so that iron can sharpen iron but we can’t stop there we still need to train ourselves to be godly and we do that by constantly using the word of God.

After the author rebuked them for their immaturity he urged them to move on take a look at verses 6:1-3. “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.And God permitting, we will do so.” To repent means to change direction or turn away and here “acts that lead to death” means “dead works.” The ancient work, “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” (Didache), described these as: murder, adultery, unlawful sexual acts, theft, idolatry, magic arts, sorcery, robbery, false testimony, hypocrisy, deceit, arrogance, and more. We must turn away from these acts that lead to death. Repentance and faith go together (Mk 1:15b; Ac 20:21). As repentance is turning away from sin, faith is turning to God, who forgives our sins and gives us new life. 

In the older NIV translation, it said “baptisms” instead of “cleansing rites”. This meant teaching the difference between Jewish and Christian baptism. Jewish baptism was necessary only for Gentile proselytes. In contrast, Christian baptism was required of all believers according to Jesus’ command, and was done in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). “Laying on of hands” could refer to prayers for healing the sick, or to the bestowal of blessing during commissioning or ordaining (Mk 6:5; Ac 6:6; Mt 19:13-15; Ac 13:3). Believing the resurrection of the dead is an essential element of Christian faith. Resurrection of the dead is not only for believers, but everyone (Jn 5:28b-29). When Jesus comes again, all people of all nations will stand before him to be judged according to what they have done (Mt 25:31-46; 2Co 5:10). Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mk 16:15). This is eternal judgment. Repentance, faith, baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection and eternal judgment are the six elementary teachings of Christian faith. They seem like advanced teachings, but they are really the foundation in which our Christian lives should be built upon and eventually we should move beyond them to maturity. Just like in architecture, if we keep re-building the foundation over and over again, we will never get to build the rest of the house. At first when I thought of elementary, I wrote it off thinking that they are not advanced and therefore not so useful. However, it is a mistake to write off elementary things as useless because you can’t go on to the advanced material until you’ve mastered the basics.

The next section is one of the more difficult passages in the Bible. Take a look at verses 6:4-6. “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” To be truthful I struggled with this section a lot because it seems to contradict other passages in the Bible, maybe that’s why they consider this one of the most difficult passages. Other Bible passages clearly teach that those who are truly born again by the work of the Holy Spirit will never lose their salvation. Jesus said in John 10:28, “I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” And yet this passage implies that we can fall away. I don’t want to pretend that I know everything so I’ll just say that I don’t know how to reconcile this section with the other passages. But my personal faith is that it is important to have the fear of God and live our lives accordingly. One of my uncles would say that he was saved when he was six and he was done. However, he didn’t live as if he was saved. When we look at these verses they give the impression that this is not only our confirmation but also God’s confirmation in our life. They go deeper than just our confession of faith for when we share in the Holy Spirit it’s almost as if it’s God saying that we are a believer. Peter hadn’t fallen away even though he denied Jesus, but Judas did. Elijah didn’t fall away even though he despaired. Maybe these verses just had to be said, like stop sinning or something worse will happen to you.

Now, in 6:9-20, he changes to a tone of encouragement: “Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation” (9). This is a common way to get people to take action, previously he rebuked them as children but now he says, “I wasn’t talking about you.” However, he was confident that God had been working among them and the evidence was clear through the fruit of their lives. God is just. He never forgets the good works of his children who have expressed their love for him and his people. Even the smallest act of love done in Jesus’ name is remembered by God.

The author mentioned Abraham as a model of faith in God whom all Christians should imitate. After making his promises to Abraham, God wanted to confirm it with an oath. Since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants” (13-14). This is a quotation from Genesis 22:17 where God spoke to Abraham after he passed God’s test and was ready to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Obviously, God’s promise meant more than the birth of Isaac; he was just a sign of the promise. God’s promise is much bigger. It is the Messianic hope, which was to send the Messiah through Abraham’s offspring and to fulfill his salvation purpose. When God called Abraham, he gave him a great promise. Even though this promise was vague, and too big to believe, Abraham held on to it. Whenever Abraham struggled, God encouraged him to hold on to his promise. After waiting patiently for twenty-five years, Abraham received this promise itself as a reward. God’s promise never disappoints us however we do have to be patient.

Based on God’s work with Abraham, the author explains the certainty of God’s promise in verses 16-18a. Usually, to settle an argument, people swear by someone greater than themselves. This oath is the final word that puts an end to all argument (16). God used this method to encourage Abraham. No one is greater than God, so he swore by himself. This oath made the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear (17). Here we can find two unchangeable things: God’s promise and God’s oath. God’s promise alone is completely trustworthy. Yet he confirmed it with an oath in order to make it doubly sure. Both God’s promise and God’s oath are unchangeable because their source is God, who cannot lie. God did this, not only for Abraham’s sake, but to encourage trust and patient endurance in all the heirs of his promise. Anyone who has faith in Christ and follows Abraham’s footsteps of faith can claim this promise (Gal 3:7). Verse 18b describes these people as, “…we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us….” We realize that it is foolish to try to settle down in this world which is subject to the power of sin and death. So we flee to take hold of the hope that God set before us. As we take hold of this hope, we obtain an amazing privilege. Let’s read verse 19: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain….” Through this hope, we can enter the inner sanctuary. This corresponds to the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle, where the living God was present. Ordinary people did not dare even to think about entering the Most Holy Place for fear that they would die. Only the high priest could enter, and only once a year. Entering the inner sanctuary to meet the living God was a great blessing and privilege.

How can we meet the living God? Verse 20 says, “…where our forerunner Jesus has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” Jesus has already entered into God’s presence on our behalf. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven (1:3). As our great high priest, he intercedes for us before God. By the mediation of our everlasting high priest Jesus, every believer can meet the living God. We have this hope as an anchor for our souls (19a). Whereas a ship’s anchor goes down into the ocean bed, the believer’s anchor goes up into the true, heavenly sanctuary. Because of our great high priest, our souls can be anchored in the living God, firm and secure. When we live in this world, we confront many things that threaten us, such as misunderstandings, persecution, broken relationships, financial hardship, serious diseases, unforeseen accidents, etc. Yet, no matter what kind of trial or challenge may beset us, this hope is unshakable.

The taller we want to make a building the deeper the foundation has to go. A tree has to have deep roots if it’s going to be tall because it has to withstand the winds and storms and the droughts and lack of rain. Our spiritual life is the same, if we want to overcome the storms of life we have grow and go deeper, down to the bed rock Jesus.

We need to be deeply anchored in Jesus, we need to become more mature, and grow in Jesus in the image of Jesus. Paul continued to grow in Jesus. In his letters there is a progression, as the years went by he saw himself as a greater and greater sinner, he wasn’t complacent or satisfied where he was, but wanted to grow more, he confessed I want to know Christ. We should learn from his example. I pray that you and I will.

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Daily Bread

Seek Righteousness, Seek Humility

Zephaniah 2:1-15

Key Verse: 2:3

  Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
    who do his just commands;
  seek righteousness; seek humility;
    perhaps you may be hidden
    on the day of the anger of the LORD.

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