Today’s passages: Micah, chapters 1-4; Hebrews, chapter 6
Scripture: Hebrews 6:1-12 (NRSV) – Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And we will do this, if God permits. For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over. Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Observations: The first thing that catches my attention is the call to “go on toward perfection.” This is a strong reminder that we can never “rest on our laurels” in our walk with Christ; there is always more work for God to do in us to make us more and more like Jesus. Whenever Satan tries to convince us that we’re “good enough,” may God remind us that we’re not “good enough” until we are fully conformed to the image of Christ!
The second thought comes from the statement that it is impossible to restore to repentance those who have once been enlightened and then have fallen away. Last night, my Bible study group and I were discussing Jesus’ call to the Laodicean church to repent and return to him (Revelation 3:14-22). I shared with them that although we believe that it is possible for those who have come to faith to fall away, it is not as easy as we had been led to believe in our younger days. In the same way, this passage makes it clear that it is possible to have once been enlightened…and then have fallen away. But I would submit that it is not as easy as some might fear. The depth of this “falling away” is reflected in the statement that those who do so are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up for contempt. This involves more than just a momentary lapse, or a protracted struggle; it is a complete renunciation of faith and the Lordship of Christ in our lives. We need to guard our hearts, and strive daily for communion with God and spiritual growth; if we do so, we will not degenerate into an open and willful rejection of God as Lord of our lives. Jesus’ call to the Laodicean church to repent reminds us that it is very difficult for us to move to the place where repentance and forgiveness are impossible.
The third thing that God brought to my attention is the example of ground that receives rain. The writer of Hebrews is making it clear that we who receive the blessing of God’s Word are expected to produce a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated. If we do not – if we produce thorns and thistles– then like the ground referred to, we are worthless and on the verge of being cursed. What is the “crop” of thorns and thistles? God immediately brought to my mind the repeated condemnation of anger, bitterness, dissension, and division which we find in the New Testament epistles. Christians who produce this “crop” are in spiritual danger, because God’s Word makes it clear that these things are not what he expects from us! This part of the passage reminds us that “going on toward perfection” involves producing a crop of righteousness, and not producing a crop of bitterness and division.
Finally, God focused my attention on the last part of the passage – the call again to diligence in the pursuit of Christlikeness. We are called to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. We show this diligence by not becoming sluggish – by not sitting by while others are doing the work of the Kingdom, by not thinking that God doesn’t expect any more of us. As long as we are still here, we can be sure of two things: God still has work that he is doing in us, and he still has work that he expects from us. This is the course which will lead us to inherit the promises!
Applications: God is reminding me today that the work that he has for each of us is a vital part of our process of growth and maturity. It is important for us to study the Word, to strive to learn more about God and his Kingdom, but it is just as important for us to put what we learn into practice. That’s why the “application” part of our daily reflections is so important; once we know what God is saying to us, when need to ask him what he wants us to do with what we’ve learned. God is reminding me that I have to be more intentional and more persistent in challenging his people to put into practice what he has shown them, in order to build his Kingdom.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the assurance that you are teaching us, and that you have work for us to do that will flow from the things that you teach us. Help us not to “hijack the train” by figuring out how we want to put your truth into practice; help us to allow you to lead us to the opportunities which you have prepared for us to minister. As we pray that your Kingdom would come and your will be done, remind us that we are committing to do your will; remind us that that is the way that your Kingdom comes in ever greater measure. Help us to be the places where your Kingdom meets this world, and to communicate the joy and peace that come from knowing you. Amen.