Monday, December 12, 2016

"Go on to maturity!"

Day #348

Scripture Reading:  Hebrews 5 - 7 …

"Go on to maturity!" (6:1).  Spiritual maturity is the only thing that can lead to living with a peace of heart and mind that continues no matter what goes on in your life or in the world around you.  The result of spiritual maturity is what the writer of Hebrews speaks of in chapter six, verses 18-20:  "God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure, it enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.  He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."  HOPE!!  "Hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure!" 

The writer of Hebrews writes to the church in the first few decades following the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, but already he is writing to them of things that most people have no understanding of today, and he says to these early believers (who did not yet have the New Testament in their hands), " ... 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!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (5:12-14).  He then urges them to "go on to maturity" (6:1), and issues what is perhaps the most frightening warning in all of Scripture:

"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, IF THEY FALL AWAY, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace" (6:4-7).  How is this possible?  Can true believers "fall away"?  No!  There are many Scriptures that teach that those who are born again by the Spirit and who put their hope in Jesus for forgiveness and life can never be lost - because GOD Himself holds them in His hands.  Jesus said that not one of His sheep would be lost of all that God had given Him and Paul testifies that "He who began a good work ... will bring it to completion" (Philippians 1:6).  Then who are these the writer of Hebrews is talking about?

They are the same ones Jesus was speaking about in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:12-23).  These are people who have been hanging around the church, who have heard the Gospel, who have confessed Jesus Christ with their mouths, but who have never been born again.  The goodness of God and the power of His Spirit were declared to them, but they had no internal desire to pursue righteousness.  They "repented," they looked like they wanted a better life, but their HEARTS just weren't in it for the long haul.  They had no anchor, so they were blown about by every wind of teaching and ultimately drifted away with the current of the culture and the people around them.  And because they had confessed Jesus and taken His Name upon them, their actions brought disgrace to Him.  Their judgment will be just and more severe than those who never heard of Christ.

These words COULD shake the sturdiest of believers, but we read further, "Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case - things that accompany salvation. ... We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" (6:9, 12).  Maturing in your faith in Christ requires effort; it requires knowing that God has given you in His Word instruction that you need.  You need to know God, you need to know who He is and how He works, you need to know what He has done in the past and how He is working today and what He has promised to do in the future - and to see YOUR part in it. 

Case in point:  the teaching about Melchizedek.  Melchizedek is first mentioned in three verses in Genesis 14, verses 18-20, where Abraham returns from defeating several kings and meets this King of Jerusalem, Melchizedek.  The writer of Hebrews describes him as "without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever" (7:3).  What does this have to do with the early believers ... or you and me?  

The very purpose of the entire Old Testament was to show mankind that we needed a Savior, one who was at the same time a prophet, a priest and a king.  No man has ever fit that description - except ONE!  This is now the point of the writer of Hebrews:  to point to Jesus Christ as the perfect match!!  "If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood ..., why was there still need for another priest to come - one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?" (7:11).  
In verses now applied to Jesus, David wrote in Psalm 110:  "The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind:  'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek'" (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:17,21).  David goes on to say in Psalm 110:5-6: "The Lord is at your right hand; He will crush kings on the day of His wrath.  He will judge the nations ..."  This could be none other than Jesus. "Because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood.  Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them" (7:24-25).  THERE is our ANCHOR!!!  Read on ...

"Such a high priest meets our need - one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people.  He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself !" (7:26-27).  You and I need to keep learning because, “solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (5:14).

"Thank You, Father, for Your constant watchful care of this sheep of Yours and thank You for my great High Priest, Your Son, Jesus Christ!   Help me to feed on Your Word, that my life may exalt the name of Jesus Christ, my Savior and my Lord.  Help me to go on to maturity, for Your glory!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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