The danger of dull hearing
I would like to look at the biblical doctrine of The Perseverance of the Saints IE the redeemed. Let me first explain the meaning of some of these words. So that were on the same page of what I mean by these words.
What “Doctrine” Means
What is a doctrine? A doctrine is something the Bible teaches. It’s a teaching. So what the Bible teaches about Christ is the doctrine of Christ, and what the Bible teaches about heaven is the doctrine of heaven. So when you hear the word doctrine, think “teaching.” Bible doctrine is Bible teaching.
Notice, I don’t say “Bible doctrines of heaven” or “Bible doctrines of baptism.” The Bible does say a lot of different things about heaven and baptism in a lot of different places. And so in that sense there are a lot of different teachings about these topics. But when we say we are going to study the Bible doctrine of heaven or of baptism, we mean that we are going to try to look at all the teachings (or most of them) and then sum them all up in a unified way.
That is why you will only hear doctrinal preaching in churches where the Bible is considered to be an inspired unity. In other words, if I believed that all the different teachings in the Bible disagreed with each other, I wouldn’t bother trying to preach on “the doctrine” of anything. But I believe the Bible is God’s word, and that God is not a God of confusion or contradiction. So what it says on various themes will fit together. And we will be the wiser and deeper for trying to listen to the whole message of the Bible on its important themes.
Now what does the word saints mean? “Saints” simply means Christians. When Paul writes to the church at Philippi, he simply says, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi.” A saint is not a special group of Christians, like martyrs or preachers or missionaries. Saints is just another name for people who are born again and who have saving faith in Jesus Christ.
The word perseverance means endurance or persistence. Perseverance means hanging in there. So I want us to look at tonight the doctrine, or the biblical teaching, of the hanging in there of the saints.
the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints bride, that is, the Bible teaching of the hanging in there (the endurance and persistence) of people who are the redeemed. One of the greatest books to look at this biblical teaching is the book of Hebrews.
The book of Hebrews has more to say about the believers perseverance than any other New Testament book. It is written specifically for a group of Christians who were about to quit “hanging in there”.
Tonight, I want to walk us through this book to show you what the situation was and how the writer of this book responds to it.
Let’s start in chapter 2. What we see here is a indication that the church was starting to drift away from the truth. Verse 1: “We must pay the closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” They had started to drift with the current of the world instead of rowing upstream or swimming upstream toward holiness.
Verse 3 “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” Verse 3 tells us that they were beginning to neglect the greatness of their salvation.
They were just not paying much attention any more to what it means to be a believer on this side of the age. They were drifting and neglecting.
Now chapter 3. Verse 6b reveals to us that they were losing a grip on their confidence about the future. Just like so many today; Verse 6b: “We are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope.” “If we hold fast!” So evidently there was danger they were not holding fast to their confidence and hope.
Drifting. Neglecting. Letting slip. All three are the opposite of perseverance. The opposite of hanging in there over the long haul.
Verses 12–14 show us again what the danger is. First verse 12“Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” Their drifting and neglecting and slipping could result in a falling away from the living God. They are not “taking care” the way they should. So he goes on in verse 13 …
“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called, ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Evidently their conversation was only about the world. All they talked about was the kids and the stock market and problems at the office and at home. They had lost the urgency of exhortation in their daily conversation. Sin was starting to deceive them. And this neglect of God’s guidelines was causing them drift and slip and lose their hold on joyful vibrant confidence. And that is terribly dangerous, he says in verse 14
“Because we share in Christ, if we hold our first confidence firm to the end.”
For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,
Hanging in there with confidence is crucial if we hope to finish the race.
Chapter 4, verse 1, says that some in the church are in danger of not finishing the race. “While the promise of entering his rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it.” Some had become so negligent and careless in their spiritual walk that they had no godly fear about what was at stake in their daily lives. This is a carry over to last Thursday in the Camp David internship…
Jesus defines wisdom and folly in Vs 3 and 4 in the most simplistic way. It is profoundly simple and simply profound. It is so brief; how he describes wisdom and folly. He goes exactly to the point.
He says, “Let me tell you what a foolish ministry does.” Vs 3 they take their lamps but they take no oil.
They take their ministries and push to increase them at every opportunity. He goes in this hour of history it’s foolish to think that your responsibilities in the kingdom will produce that which will protect the heart, as well as the lives of those your touching. The idea that they would carry there lamps, they would function in there ministries without fire in there hearts as though these God given responsibilities in themselves had power in and of themselves.
It will not deliver the person with the lamp nor the children in the family which the lamp is shining nor the church which the lamp is directed to.
He says when sin escalates and the rage of Satan breaks fourth and my judgement shakes everything he goes “your lamps with out oil will have no power at all. Jesus says “it’s foolish” they don’t understand the time and the hour in which they live nor do the understand the power of there own darkness of there heart. They assume activity will deliver them but it won’t and it won’t deliver those that they care most about.
They confused the memory of liking oil with having oil.) They still preach on getting oil. They pray for people to get it. But they don’t do it in their own personal history with God. They don’t actually encounter God with their hearts. And all the while they are becoming dull of hearing and hardening in the heart.
Accumulating oil is no longer important as long their lamps are getting bigger. And this is the state of the church across the earth, generally.
So Jesus would say “ its foolish to be preoccupied first with your lamps while neglecting the oil for it will produce dullness of hearing and the hardness of heart. The writer of Hebrews is suggesting the same thing in 5:11 but with different language when we neglect and become carless with what God has admonished us to do and how we are to live. Lets turn to Heb 5:11
“About this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” In their drifting and neglect and carelessness, their spiritual ears had become dull. Another way to say you have no oil. The Bible the word of God was becoming uninteresting. Their desire for the teaching and preaching of God’s Word was fading. The energy to think and ask questions about the most important questions in the world was seeping away. And in its place was a kind of spiritual sluggishness and insensitivity. Things of the world were becoming more exciting and attractive than the Word of God and the beauty of the Lord along with the greatness of his salvation.
Chapter 6, verse 1, tells us that this church had lost its zeal to press on in the Christian life to maturity. “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrines of Christ and go on to maturity.” The church was beginning to feel that progress to maturity and growing in holiness was optional. It wasn’t really necessary in the life of the believer. So they were just drifting along on past attainments. And all the while becoming dull in hearing, deceived by sin, and hard in heart. Hosea 6:3 “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.”
Chapter 10, verses 23–24, show the same danger. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” They had the idea that hope was a kind of automatic thing. It just sort of happened to you, and stayed with you. But the writer says, on the contrary, hope has wings and will fly away as soon as you let it go. Keeping hope is a very active thing.
And the same with love and good works. If we drift, we drift away from love. All our natural tendencies are downstream toward the ocean of selfishness. If we are going to be a loving prophetic community, we must stir each other up.
If we are going to live upstream in the clean, cool waters of hope and love, we must actively hold fast to hope and actively stir each other up to love. Drifting and coasting and inactivity in spiritual things is very dangerous.
It wasn’t always this way at this church. Look at 10:32, “But recall the former days when after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings.” In other words you were once so fired up about the value of your salvation and God’s purpose in the world that you were willing to suffer for it.
But now you are sitting on your easy chair with no zeal for the future and perhaps thinking that those past experiences you had are enough to make you an acceptable Christian.
But security does not come like that. Look at verse 35, “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised.”
There it is: You have need of endurance, persistence, perseverance, hanging in there. They are; we are making a critical mistake in thinking that we don’t need endurance, they don’t need to hang in there. But verse 39 makes clear what is at stake: “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.”
In other words we can lose our souls and be destroyed if we begin to go backward and don’t press on toward greater faith and holiness. Hanging in there is very important. Keep in mind the “I shalls” and the “you must.” OK
Let’s look at one more image the writer gives us of what’s going astray
Chapter 12:12–13, “Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” The race has run on a long time and the Christian runners are tired. So their hands hang down and their knees are wobbly. They are on the brink of being totally incapacitated, if a leg goes completely out of joint.
Summary of the Problem in Hebrews
So now we have a sense of what’s going wrong in the lives of these believers.
Here’s a summary of the problems that the writer in the book of Hebrews is addressing.
• They are drifting instead of rowing against the current of sin, and that means drifting backward toward dullness of hearing and the hardening of their hearts which ultimately leads to destruction.
• They are neglecting and being careless with the great salvation they claim to have.
• Their grip on joyful, zealous hope is slipping.
• Their hearts are hardening to the truth of God’s Word.
• Their conversation is losing its spiritual urgency.
• They are losing their desire to press on to maturity.
• They are becoming weak and sluggish.
• And the result of all this is that they are in danger of shrinking back from the beginning they had made, becoming hardened to spiritual things, falling away from the living God, and losing their souls.
The opposite of all this is Perseverance—hanging in there as a zealous, growing believer in Christ Jesus. There are two alternatives for those of us who claim to trust Christ as Savior and Lord. One is to press on toward maturity in knowledge and faith and hope and holiness. The other is to drift slowly into indifference and dullness and, eventually, destruction.
And one of the great errors of this church was that they thought there was a halfway point where they could stay as professing Christians, not pressing forward and not drifting backward. Kind of just unplugging, while still being carefull to use the write language, but there is no such place. That’s the point of this book. Either we press on toward the inheritance or we drift back toward destruction.
Exhortations to Have Assurance and Confidence
So let me close this morning by showing you some of these exhortations to have assurance and confidence.
• 6:11—“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope unto the end.”
• 6:18b—“ … we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.”
• 10:22–23—“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith … Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful.”
• 10:35—“Do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward.”
I going to close and I want to leave you 2 things:
1. A strong, urgent sense that there is no standing still in the life of the believer in Christ Jesus. Either we are persevering toward greater faith and holiness or we are drifting backward toward hardness and dullness of hearing.
2. Just as strong and urgent: a sense that this perseverance is to be pursued in a joyful and full assurance of hope that we will inherit the promises because of the faithfulness of God.
My prayer is May the Lord take away all dullness from our hearing and give us a sharp and living hunger for the truth of his Word.