Monday, November 14, 2011

The Four-Way Jesus Test

Hebrews 5:11 – 6:12 “Christian Maturity”

This is one of the most misunderstood passages of Scripture.  There are two reasons for this.  First, people try to impose a theological grid to explain away the meaning.  The problem is that nobody has the right to alter Scripture.  Second, bad brewed theology flips this into something it is not.  The problem is that nobody has the right to bully another.

The author of Hebrews has just opened a serious discussion on Jesus as our High Priest.  To dive into this subject requires skill, patience, and maturity.  It is at this point we stop to ponder our maturity BECAUSE where you are and what direction you are moving will determine how you deal with the following subject matter.
Four “simple” lessons about Christian maturity:

I.     If you don’t grow you die. [5:11 – 14]

       A.   Law of nature… definition of living – “grows from the inside out.”

              1.    Dead things do not grow from the inside out… no energy, no process, and                        no life.

              2.    Dying things have ceased to grow.

       B.   Christian maturity knows “it’s not about me.”

              1.    [v 11] “BECAUSE you no longer try to understand.” [NIV2011]

                     a.    “The verb implies a deterioration on the hearer’s part.” [Vincent]

                     b.    This unwillingness to understand is sometimes translated sluggish, lazy, and stupid.

                     c.    Literally it means “no push.”

              2.    [v 12] “You need milk, not solid food.”

                     a.    The image here is of a baby needing to be fed.

                     b.    Mature: someone who is capable of feeding themselves.  (“trained by constant practice” ESV)

              3.    Simply put the mature understand it is not about what they like or want.

                     a.    Other people and common goals become more important than the                             self.

                     b.    Children… the world revolves around them.  Adults… the world                                                         revolves around what must be done.

II.   If you don’t stand firm you will fall. [6:4 – 6]

       A.   This is NOT an accidental falling… deliberate, systematic.  

(“entire and willful apostasy.” JFB)

              1.    The word “impossible” is a hard one… BUT…

                     a.    It is the same word (idea) that says it is “impossible” for God to lie                            [Hebrews 6:18].

                     b.    It is the same word (idea) that says it is “impossible” to obtain forgiveness         through works or ceremony [Hebrews 10:14].

                     c.    It is the same word (idea) that says it is “impossible” to please God                            without faith [Hebrews 11:6]

              2.    If you have a Bible that includes the word “if”… it’s not in the text…. The text                     says “and”

                     a.    These are people who HAVE been enlightened, who HAVE tasted the                                heavenly gift, who HAVE shared in the Holy Spirit, who HAVE tasted                                  the goodness and power [vv 4 – 5]

                     b.    All those words (ideas) are in the past tense, indicating they were                             possessed and experienced.  

***** These are believers who have willfully walked away from Christ. *****

              3.    How can we do this?

                     a.    Stop attending church… out of the habit means we’ve put something                             else as our priority.

                     b.    Willful and habitual sin… breaks our relationship with God.

                     c.    Deliberate renunciation of Christ…

       B.   Christian maturity means they are “all- weather” Christians.

              1.    There are those who follow when things are “bad.”

                     a.    They look to Jesus to do something...

                     b.    They gain comfort and support from the church in need.

                     c.    BUT when the pressure is off, they are on their feet… they vanish.

              2.    There are those who follow when things are “good.”

                     a.    The enjoy what is happening…

                     b.    BUT when pressure comes, they find themselves on their back, or                             they get  lured away by a better offer (even a “better” church)…                               they vanish.

              3.    How it works…

                     a.    God still speaks and works…

                     b.    …but we train ourselves to respond or NOT respond.

III.  If you plant the right crop you thrive [6:7 – 10]

       A.   “Land that drink in the rain…” [v 7]

              1.    Think of it this way: God provides with what we need to grow a useful crop. [v                       7]

              2.    That’s the goal… “USEFUL”

                     a.    The word here means “appropriate” in the context of well placed.”

                     b.    The contrast is land that is overrun by thorns and thistles.

       B.   Maturity understands you harvest what you plant.

“You cannot fool God, so don't make a fool of yourself! You will harvest what you plant. [8] If you follow your selfish desires, you will harvest destruction, but if you follow the Spirit, you will harvest eternal life.” [Galatians 6:7 – 8 CEV]

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” [Galatians 6:9 KJV]

              1.    This means we are going to have to guard what goes in… GIGO [Garbage In,                       Garbage Out]

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” [Proverbs 4:23 NIV2011]

              2.    It’s what’s in your heart that matters…

                     a.    In your heart are the things that motivate you.

                     b.    In your heart you hold your priorities.

                     c.    In your heart you decide.

IV.  You win if you press forward. [6:11 – 12]

       A.   The only way to “lose” is to quit.

              1.    We are told to “show… diligence to the very end.” [v 11]

                     a.    Full assurance comes from our diligence… 

                     b.    Full assurance is not an opinion, not construct, not  wishful thinking…                               it is the evidence of persevering grace [John Wesley].

              2.    “We do not want you to become lazy…”   [v 12]

                     a.    Same word as in verse 11… This unwillingness to understand is                             sometimes translated sluggish, lazy, and stupid.

                     b.    Faith and patience are required in a world that is losing energy.

       B.   Maturity knows that you get out what you put in.

              1.    Feel God has left you short?  Seriously, what effort have you made?

                     a.    Think of it this way: a tool box verses a job.  If you don’t used the
                            tools to do the job then why are you complaining?

                     b.    What’s your excuse?

              2.    Thing is… our sinful nature uses our sinfulness to make us useless to God.

                     a.    Ever wonder why we put so much emphasis on being useful in the                             church and in our community?

                     b.    Disciples are not spectators…  spectators are complainers…                            complaining is useless.

In Sault Ste. Marie Herbert J. Taylor developed “The four way test” for business dealings.  Today I’d like to suggest “the four way Jesus test” in conducting our spiritual life.
The four way Jesus test:

       1.    Is it about Jesus? (Self or Christ…)

       2.    Is it Jesus we are following? (In good times or bad…)

       3.    Is it what Jesus wants? (Harvest what you plant…)

       4.    Is it abundant life in Jesus or slow death in self? (Your choice…)

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