6. Grow. Mar 18, 07 TEMC
TEMC. March 18, 07
1 What is growth? We see it all around us. Pretty soon we will see it again in nature as the grass will begin to come out, as the flowers will appear. We see growth on a continual basis in life – take children for example.
a) Small children grow bigger. They grow in size. We are happy for that – we expect it. But how would it be if you had a baby, and that baby would not grow? It would remain the same 7 or 8 pounds that it was born? After 5 years, other children would begin school, and your baby would remain the same size? You would be very worried.
b) They grow in strength. How about if your baby would grow, but it would not get stronger? It would grow longer, heavier and wider, but it would not gain any strength? After 5 years the baby would be 3-4 feet tall, but the child would still not be able to hold its head. You would be worried.
c) Children if they are healthy grow in knowledge. Some children are born with a learning disability. In extreme cases, they never learn to talk, they never learn to express their needs or wants. They remain as they were born.
d) They grow in their preferences and choices of food. How would you feel if your child remained on the bottle for years on end. If your child grew bigger, became a school boy or girl, and would not change their diet. All they would ever take in their lunch bag would be a bottle of milk, and perhaps a little jar of pablum. I know we as parents would be embarrassed.
e) They grow in self confidence. This is an area where parents often struggle. Their little one clings to them, and they would like to see their little one be outgoing, friendly and to be fun around with.
i) We may not be able to do everything for our children when it comes to growth. But there is an area of growth that we can do a lot about.
f) When it comes to our own spiritual growth, we are responsible for it. Do you know that for our spiritual growth God has provided and continually provides everything we need? We have the bible, we have opportunities.
2 Spiritual growth is a major teaching of the bible. For anyone who has become a Christian, growth is a command. Someone might ask: “ Do I have to?” We should ask, why would I not want to?
a) I have heard discussions where people say things like: “ the more we know, the more we will be held responsible for.” They say that with the idea in mind that if they remain spiritually immature, God will go easy on them, and let them get away with not serving God. These people have the idea that they don’t want to go out doing things for God. They just want to stop doing bad things, but they are not interested in starting to serve God.
b) We want to continue in our series on Hebrews. And for this sermon I want to look at the instructions that are given to us to “Grow”.
The outline I plan to use for this message is not my own. I borrowed it from the Outline Bible. Often someone else has already done a job that applies directly to what one intends to do, and there is no need to “reinvent the wheel” as they say.
The Appeal for Spiritual Maturity (6:1–12)
1 So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. 2 You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.
4 For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— 6 and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.
7 When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. 8 But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.
9 Dear friends, even though we are talking this way, we really don’t believe it applies to you. We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. 10 For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. 11 Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. 12 Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
1 The author’s challenge (6:1–3): The writer of Hebrews issues a twofold challenge to his readers.
a) Don’t go backward (6:1–2): He urges them to stop going over the same old ground again and again.
i) Verses 1& 2: So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. 2 You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
(1)I remember when I took guitar playing lessons. It was difficult. But I soon learned that I enjoyed doing the same songs over gain and again instead of learning new ones. Familiarity, easiness always attract us. But that is not growth
(2)When are we in danger of going backwards? When we are not going forward. Many people in life would like to tell themselves that they are maybe not growing – they are at a standstill. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a stand still in our Spiritual growth and our relationship to God. Either we are growing, or we are shrinking.
(3)If we have been doing the same thing all our lives, and it has not moved us closer to God, then we need to ask ourselves what needs changing. One of the things is perhaps stop doing something that is sin.
(4)If we are knowingly doing things in disobedience to God, don’t expect growth.
(5)If we are knowingly not doing things in obedience to God, don’t expect growth.
(6)We are always tempted to do the easy thing, the convenient thing, the comfortable thing – whatever it is that we are used to. We need to stop and ask ourselves – will what I am doing, or what I am refusing to do – will that help me come closer to Jesus, or will that bring me farther away from him?
(7)The writer to Hebrews mentions an area where the readers needed to grow in.
b) In the importance of turning from sin and toward God (6:1)
(1) There are a few ways to explain this passage perhaps:
(2) When a team begins a game , - lets say hockey – they don’t immediately know what is going to happen. It takes some time to learn what the game is doing – are they going to win – lose, be even. But one thing is sure – no game is ever won on defense alone. Defense is very important. Protect your self. But what is equally important in winning is that there is good offense.
(3) Another way to explain this is in building a house. If for instance the construction crew spends all its time just with building the foundation – but they never get to actually putting up the walls, roof and install the windows – no building will ever be built. Lets say they build the foundation. Then they study the foundation. They decide to redo the foundation, they again study the foundation – they decide to redo it again. They are never sure that the foundation is going to be good enough – what would our thoughts be on a construction crew like that.
(4) Years ago when I was a teenager, one of my uncles and aunts came over and they brought their little children. The one little boy saw the tractor in our yard and he decided to get on it. He was only about 3 years old. His mother saw her little son on the tractor and she almost had a heart attack. “ get off that tractor, you are going to fall off!” she yelled. I knew she was not in favor of her little boy exploring and taking on new challenges. Some time later we again had visitors. A different uncle and aunt came over. Their little boy also spotted the tractor and he climbed on it. His parents too saw it. They congratulated the little guy for his ability to climb on the tractor. Did they see the danger? Of course they did! But they saw something more. They saw the need for this little boy to grow. And he was.
(5) What is our duty? Get to work for God with the talents and gifts he has given us. We can’t forever remain in preschool. We have to move forward. In what areas?
c) In the importance of baptism, the laying on of hands, the resurrection, and judgment (6:2)
(1) There is nothing wrong with these teachings. They are very important. This is all prepatory work for becoming an effective disciple for Jesus. But if that is where it stays, that is a sign of a deeper problem. I wonder how many people in countless churches get baptized, become members, and five years later are further away from Jesus than the day they became a Christian? Not only do many people NOT grow, they drift from even the place that they were.
(2) We might ask: “ How do we know a conversion, a confession, a baptism is done for the right reason – for the right motive? A simple answer is that we don’t know. But we believe. There is a difference. And sometimes even if it has been done properly – a person may still later on decide to walk away. We can’t control that. And we shouldn’t try to control that.
(a)Instance: I can’t say I KNOW you will remain faithful to Christ. I BELIEVE you will – but I don’t know that because I am not allknowing. This is where faith comes in.
(3) Our calling is to move forward in faith and by so doing grow.
d) Do go forward (6:3): Push on to maturity in Christ.
(1) When are we moving forward? When have we moved forward? I think our answer is in chapter 5:12. These people were not yet ready to be teachers. They were still on the bottle. Have you ever seen an adult person – perhaps 30, 40 or even 50 years old, not being able to eat meat and potatoes. Always having to be fed with a bottle – they can’t even hold the bottle themselves without getting themselves messy? Spiritually many people never get to the point where Satan has anything to fear from them. They may have made a confession of faith, gotten baptized, but that is where it stops.
(2) What does maturity look like? Maturity is balanced growth. It’s obviously difficult to measure, but here are several disciplines necessary for healthy growth. They can serve as a checklist to make sure we’re maturing in all areas of life. He mentions that how we manage our freedom, our emotions, our things, how we manage our feelings, our recognition, or lack of it – it all points to how mature we are.
(3) Mature Christians are those who can teach others – who can help others in their walk with God. Mature Christians are those who are able to find their way through the mazes of life without getting all confused themselves. They are people who have counted the cost and are at work for their Lord and savior Jesus Christ. They have a higher focus than themselves, they have a higher focus than their career, their job – even their life.
(4) Immaturity is often easy to spot. Our responses reveal our maturity or lack of it.
(a)Some people turn and run. They don’t stick around. Just like a baby when a stranger tries to pick it up they let loose with a loud wail and everyone can hear that someone is scared.
(b)Some people are like a little child that clams up and shut up and you can get nothing out of that child.
(c)Others will attack, hit, kick scream. Those are all pictures of immaturity.
(5)Again, a sign of maturity is when things become challenging – these people remain just calm, collected and secure. They are in the thick of the situation and they do what they do best – represent Jesus. Whether the situation is an opportunity to share Christ, whether it is an opportunity to lend a hand, whether it is a responsibility to remind a slipping brother or sister, these are people who have their wits about them and they are focused on Jesus and the rest they leave up to God.
e) The importance of growth. How important is it?
(1) No one should become a Christian just to get some spiritual life insurance. Someone might say – hey – what’s the big deal. If I become a Christian, and become a member of the church, why should I be concerned about anything beyond that? As long as I make it into heaven – let me have a good time here while this life lasts. There are people who have no desire for Jesus, or heaven. They don’t want to go to hell. Their hearts and minds are not on heaven, not on Jesus. But they do believe that there is a life after death and so they will go to church, hoping to find some kind of spiritual life insurance.
(a)People buy insurance for their homes, their possessions not because they are hoping for a fire, or a flood – but because they don’t want a disaster to make them poor. So it is with many people in the church. Their church going is based on nothing more than just what is in it for their immediate comfort and happiness. It must grow beyond that.
(2) The matter is as I mentioned before – we can’t really stop and put our Christian life in park. We are either growing, or we are in decline. It is not for me to judge anyone as to where they are at. No one is in greater spiritual danger of walking away from God than those who decide to follow Jesus, but then decide that they are going to decide to call the shots – they are going to tell Jesus what he can and cannot do with them. Really that is a sign of selfishness and in the long run such a Christian life won’t last. A true Christian wants to get as close to Jesus and remain as close to Jesus as possible.
(a)A little child was sent to bed one night and some time later there was a loud thud. The mother or father went and checked on the little child and asked why she had fallen out of bed? She answered. “ I stayed too close to where I got in.’
(b)If we stay where we got in long enough, we just might get out again. I am not saying this in judgment of people, but as a warning to all of us. Lets not see how little we can follow Jesus and still be a Christian. If we are truly in love with Jesus, we will see how close we can get to him and how much we can be like him in all areas of life. we will give all of our life to him.
(3) There is a warning if we hold back – if we refuse to move forward. We can go back.
2 The author’s concern (6:4–8): He warns in regard to a dreadful situation.
a) The impossibility in this situation (6:4–6) . 4 For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— 6 and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.
i) There is such a thing as something not being possible. This is one of them. It is possible to turn back and again decide to once more live a life of sin. Are such people lost? Who is it talking about?
ii) The who (6:4b–5): Who is talked about here? Those who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit and have tasted of God’s Word. There is such a thing as having had a salvation experience and then deciding to reject it.
(a)Some people say that once you are saved you can’t be lost. I am not judging fellow Christians who teach that, but I think that is a mistake. I believe that as long as I live on this earth, I am following Jesus by choice. I have been given a free will to do as I choose. God will not force me to obey him. I can obey his commands by choice and I can disobey his commands by choice. I can accept his gift of grace by choice, and I can reject it by choice.
(b)Whatever position one takes – this much is absolutely clear – Everyone who denies Jesus, who turns his back on Jesus – everyone of those people will be lost in eternity. The bible teaches that.
iii) The what (6:6a): What have they done? After experiencing this, they turn from God.
(a)There is such a thing as aan intentional turning away from God here. One might wonder – who would do this? What would lead to that? I don’t have those answers. What we have is a lot of warnings in scripture to remain faithful to the end. We are reminded in many stories of the importance of watching. Again and again Jesus reminded the disciples to watch and pray. Watch and pray for what if there was no danger and no risk? Why is this so important?
iv) The why (6:4a, 6b): Why is this so critical? These people cannot be brought back to repentance, for they crucify the Son of God all over again. People can go back into a life of rebellion, and have no desire to get out.
(a)These are some of the saddest words. There is no other way to salvation than through Jesus Christ. They have at one time experienced the saving grace of Jesus, but they decide that it is not for them anymore. They have made up their mind to reject it.
(b)I have had discussions with people who say that once a person has tasted the grace of God they would never let it go. Again, I am going to argue. But I will stick to the words of scripture. I do believe that it is my choice to remain faithful to Christ, and it is also my choice to reject him if I so choose.
(c)When Jesus is rejected, when his finished work on the cross is rejected – there is simply no other way that person can be saved. Could that person again come to Jesus? I believe as long as we are on this side of eternity, and the holy spirit draws a person – there is hope for that person. But there is no other way than the cross of Christ for that person.
v) What is the evidence of our state with Christ? The writer uses an illustration of a piece of land that is blessed with rain and returns a crop.
b) The illustration for this situation (6:7–8): The author refers to a piece of land to illustrate his point.
i) When the land is fruitful, it is blessed (6:7).
(a)I am reminded of the story in Matthew 13 where Jesus talks about the sower and the seed. Some of the ground was hard, and the birds snatched what was scattered. Some ground was shallow, it was enough for the seeds to begin to grow, but it was too shallow and the small plants just died. Other ground was deep, but it grew so many thorns that it chocked out the good seed. Some ground was good and it produced a crop.
ii) When the land is fruitless, it is cursed (6:8).
(a)Not all land is good. Even though it receives the rain, it is not producing a crop. Maybe we should ask ourselves this: “ In light of the opportunities we have been given, in light of the resources we have been given, we have a great opportunity and responsibility to move forward.
(b)Ever wonder why it is that churches grow fastest where they have the most opposition? I wonder why it is that churches are strongest where they are surrounded by the greatest evil. I wonder why commitment is greatest where it would be the most difficult to keep. There can only be one answer. It has to do with our spiritual maturity. Our brothers and sisters in persecuted lands are for the most part very mature believers. It is evident simply by the price they are willing to pay for following Jesus.
3 The author’s confidence (6:9–12): He is confident his warning does not apply to his readers.
a) Who do the warnings apply to?
i) The author is convinced that they don’t apply to his readers ( back then). I can’t say this applies to you, or you, or you. I know it applies to the church as a whole as a warning.
ii) We need to be mindful of the good that is happening in the various churches. I see in various churches individual people and groups that are very concerned and focused on doing what Jesus would do – it is like one sister said recently – the hands and feet of Jesus. That is growth.
iii) God too will remember our efforts. V 10. he will not forget the work that is done for him for his people. Sometimes the work we do goes unnoticed, it goes noticed but then it gets questioned, it may get painted with a black brush, it is suspected and we are in danger of becoming discouraged. Let me encourage you. God knows why you did what you did. In the end it doesn’t matter what anyone says. God knows the heart of your efforts – whether or not what you did was out of selfish motive or out of love for Jesus. Even if there are no results, don’t become discouraged. God knows why you are serving.
(a)I remember some years ago a couple – not from this church asked me to come for a visit. They were struggling very much in different areas, one was with child raising – things were not going well at all. I sat and listened to their sad story of how it was going. They had tried, they were trying and it was just not working out. What do you do then? As I listened, I thought about the struggles this couple was facing and this phrase came to my mind and I shared it with them. “ Sometimes you have to give yourself credit for effort.”
(b)It is very easy to become discouraged and frustrated when you have very intentionally tried to what you knew was right, you gave it your all. You prayed, and you worked – and it failed. Remember – God won’t forget your efforts. He remembers what is done in his honor, and he will take that into account.
(c)Notice what it says: 10 For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do. It doesn’t say that success is what God demands. We will not be judged for results. We will be judged on faithfulness.
b) This is an encouragement not to become lazy. Remain diligent. Keep on using the gifts God has given you. Focus on what will bring glory to Christ. Keep on working for your King. Imitate those who have gone before and left us a glorious example.
i) Work, dedication and commitment to serve will bring us to maturity in Christ.
4 Judgment is for the mature.
a) Babies can’t be held responsible for their mistakes and failings. When a baby is born, that baby wants their mother and father. That baby will not reject its parents. It wants everything from the parent that the parent can give. That is a sign of a healthy baby. But as time goes on, the baby grows into childhood and takes on responsibilities and begins to work.
b) Mature people can take responsibility. God expects responsibility from people who become Christians. Matthew 25, the story of the sheep and the goats. Realize that the talk Jesus has with the people has nothing to do with baptism. It has nothing to do with church attendance. It has nothing to do with education. It has nothing to do with style of worship. It has nothing to do with which group you belonged to. I am not saying we can or should be careless in our worship. The case before God that day will be how have we lived? In case someone thinks - hey – I have time, think again. Some people think that when they are on their death bed, then they will say: “ God be merciful to me a sinner.”
c) What about death bed conversions? I am not sure of the implications of waiting till one’s death bed. I will say this: A person who has intentionally waited to repent and confess their sins, who has intentionally waited for a ‘better’ time to ask Jesus for forgiveness until they are on there death bed, and has selfishly used their time, their energy and money only for themselves for many years, and then in the last hours of their life turn to God and say – “Be merciful to me a sinner” I am not sure if those people are even aware of what they are doing. And if that is all that their repentance is, then it remains doubtful if it was real
d) I do believe that there are death bed repentances. We read of the criminals who were crucified with Jesus. One of them was repentant, and got saved in the last hours of his life. Was he a baby Christian? Yes, he was. Did he have time to mature? We know that he had no time to go and serve Jesus. But he died saved. But God didn’t come to just save sinners. He came to make us into saints to bring him glory.
Where are we spiritually? Are we growing? Are we still in need of others feeding us? Are we maturing?
For growth we must move forward. It will take us out of our comfort zone into areas where we are challenged and stretched. How will re respond? How have we responded? How are we responding? Are we like a child that runs away? Are we like a child that is shy, won’t get involved? Are we like a child with a temper tantrum? I believe all of us have room to grow.
We must be careful and pay close attention to what we do. Jesus is the only way, the cross is the only method of payment for our sins. If we crucify Jesus again by rejecting him, there is no other option for us.
God is faithful and he will remember our work that we do for him.
What is one area of growth this week that you are going to improve on?
What are some things we are going to do to achieve that growth? You have to pray to Jesus and talk it over with him and ask him for grace and strength to be able to do that.
May God give us his grace as we move forward in our faith beyond the entry point of our walk with God. May God help us to become mature giants of faith that future generations will look to and want to imitate.
Lets live so that our lives will have counted for something. We can live so that our lives will be remembered for future generations because of the mature lives that we lived. Let me close with a short reading from Max Lucado’s book: “When God whispers your name.”
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18 niv
Growth is the goal of the Christian. Maturity is mandatory. If a child ceased to develop, the parent would be concerned, right? …
When a Christian stops growing, help is needed. If you are the same Christian you were a few months ago, be careful. You might be wise to get a checkup. Not on your body, but on your heart. Not a physical, but a spiritual.
May I suggest one? …
Why don’t you check your habits? … Make these four habits regular activities and see what happens.
First, the habit of prayer.… Second, the habit of study.… Third, the habit of giving.… And last of all, the habit of fellowship.
When God Whispers Your Name
May God bless you.
Smith, Fred: Learning to Lead : Bringing Out the Best in People. Carol Stream, Ill. : CTi, 1986 (The Leadership Library 5), S. 47
Lucado, Max ; Gibbs, Terri A.: Grace for the Moment : Inspirational Thoughts for Each Day of the Year. Nashville, Tenn. : J. Countryman, 2000, S. 257