Author: Ron Graham
Foreword: The outline for the study we have been doing in Hebrews was conceived back in 1988 and was used in the "Speaking for the Master" lectureship. My assignment was "Pressing On to Perfection". Two decades later, well after preparing the current series, I came accross the outline of the lesson presented in 1988. I was surprised at the completely different approach taken back then to the approach taken in 2003. Given the same title the same verses, and the same author, you would expect the lessons to be similar. However they are so different that I've appended the old lesson to the current Hebrews series.
Imagine a mountain climber clinging precariously to a sheer cliff face. A chill ominous breeze gathers force. The sun sinks into gloom. Below is a swift fall to the death. Above is a rope secured, and the end of an ordeal. But an awkward overhang requires a supreme effort to surmount. The climber cannot make fast for the night. The choice is stark — labour now to ascend, or plunge headlong to destruction. Spiritually we are like that climber. We fall back to perdition, or we press onward, upward, with diligence and perseverance toward safety. We climb or we fall.
The hope of the gospel is conditional upon our diligence and is made possible by Christ’s perfection. Nobody stays spiritually static. We advance, or we backslide. A higher plane of spiritual maturity should be our aim, and the fear of God one of our motivations.
Hebrews 2:1-4, Hebrews 3:12-19, Hebrews 4:1-3, Hebrews 5:11-14, Hebrews 6:1-12, Hebrews 10:23-39, Hebrews 13:18-22
In the verses from the book of Hebrews listed above, we can find three imperative principles. If we live by them, and help each other to apply them strongly, we will al be better enabled to press on to perfection.
" We must pay more earnest attention to what we have heard, in case we drift away from it... How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? Take care, brothers and sisters, lest there be in any of you an evil unbelieving heart departing from the living God. By this time you ought to be teachers, yet you have become dull of hearing and need someone to teach you over again, the beginning elements of God’s word. You need milk again, when you ought to be taking solid food. But beloved, we are sure of an improvement from you. God is not unjustly forgetful of your labour of love. We want you to go on showing that same diligence until the end, to the full assurance of hope."
We are told to give the more earnest heed to the gospel, and not be dull of hearing. We must be diligent in our reading and learning of God’s word which elsewhere the Hebrew writer calls "energetic and sharp" —and it will surely make us energetic and sharp in our faith, if we labour to grow and mature in that word.
The Stronger Application This also involves what the Hebrew writer calls "solid food" rather than milk which is for babies. He tells the Hebrews to "leave the elementary teaching" —not in the sense that we forget it or lay it aside, but rather that we build upon it and don't remain at that elementary level. Elementary doctrines are good, and we need to be reminded of them from time to time, however we also need to pay closer attention to the deeper things of God’s word.
" Encourage yourselves every day, all day long, in case any of you become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. So let us fear lest any of you be deemed to come short. Do not be lazy, but imitate those who inherit the promises through faith and persistence. Let us consider how to stimulate each other to love and good deeds."
We are in need of encouragement from one another —especially that soft and gentle comforting and encouragement when we are downhearted and discouraged. "Encouraging one another day by day and more and more" is so important to our spiritual welfare.
The Stronger Application There are stronger forms of encouragement that we need too, and the Hebrew writer himself is an example of this. Stronger encouragement comes in the form of exhortation and when necessary even rebuke. You might say that our encouragement should extend to putting the fear of God into each other, because the Hebrew writer emphasises that we need to fear God.
" Remember the former days when after being enlightened you endured great conflict of suffering. Do not throw away your assurance. You need to endure so that you may receive the promise in just a little while, after you have done the will of God, who says, 'The righteous shall live by faith, and if he draws back, my soul does not delight in him.' But we are not about drawing back to destruction. No, we are about having faith toward being saved."
The first two principles are probably not new to you. You've heard all this before no doubt. But have you thought about this third principle, remembering the former days when you first believed and became a Christian? Oh to restore the vitality of those days when salvation was first announced to you, and you embraced it with fervent zeal! It does you good to think about those days, and talk to your fellow Christians about them. It is a great motivator.
The Stronger Application We are not talking about mere nostalgia here. We need a stronger form of remembering. We need to not merely remember, but to re-live the former days. Jesus said that the love of many would wax cold (Matthew 24:12) and he warns those who fall back to repent "and do the things you did at first" (Revelation 2:4-5). We need to restore the way we were then, and live now like we did then.