“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
I have, many times in my life, sat across from individuals in a “spiritual crisis”. It seemed to them that there was a spiritual need that they must have met. Furthermore, this conversation usually ends with an absolving of the bonds that exist between the individual church and the individual believer. Under the simple phrase, “I think it better for my spiritual growth”, the church is left with one less member and one more stripe in the battle for unity and purity.
This situation is one repeated across the spectrum of Christianity. However, the issue is not one of “spiritual crisis” but milk addiction. The reality of the matter is one in which the individual finds their own desire to gourde themselves on milk more important than a call to feed and teach others. In this text we must see the reality of this.
Here we see a church more concerned with things that are inconsequential than the proliferation of the Gospel of Jesus. In our context the author would say something similar. I can imagine the issues being worship music, communion style, dress at church, or any other litany of issues. The problem arises when individuals elevate non-doctrinal issues to a status that they should not obtain.
Here it would have been issues of tradition and law. The individual complantaint in the Hebrews church would have been obliged to think that tradition and observance of the Law was more important than Christ. However, the author says that is not the problem. The issue in the Hebrew Church is not a pressing need for more law but a pressing need for more Jesus. The author understands an important truth. A valid encounter with Jesus cannot be valid without a desire to move toward being a teacher to others.
This brings light to the fundamental problem facing the church today. People have lost sight of the goal of Christ in us. I think of the great saints of the catholic and orthodox churches. The individuals have been lifted to a status of almost being a god in some rights. However, that was not the point of their lives. We also do the same with Christ. So many people need a rally cry, a cause, or a mission. This is not a bad thing. However, the possibility exists that we have allowed false images to take over our call to Christ.
The issue is one so much tied to discipleship. The health of the church in this book was directly tied to the teachability of the people in the congregation. These individuals were more worried about the sins in other people’s lives and beliefs than they were about there own usefulness to God. Furthermore, as a result they were flirting with the desire to deny Christ as God. We must realize that when we allow ourselves to be more concerned with an issue instead of with Jesus than we in a very visual way are denying Christ to the world around us. We must be teaching others. Christ says, “I will make you fishers of men!” When was the last time we truly lived the life of fishermen? Are we living a life that looks like someone who understands what it means to teach others in any context?
My great fear is complicated by so much. It seems that the Milk addict often times feels completely justified by saying, “my spiritual needs are not being met.” This phrase is considered completely valid despite their total lack of ability to teach others. An individual who does not teach others is a perpetual student and therefore will never graduate to greater things. This should be concerning.
Furthermore, the problem exists of issue driven Christianity. Peoples “spiritual needs” are lowered to inconsequential things (i.e. my spiritual needs are not being met because you don’t agree with me). This should be concerning as well. The question should not be, “are my spiritual needs met?” the question should be in contrast, “Is Jesus being preached to me and by me”. If no, than something must change. Most likely the needed change however is not your locale but your heart and diet.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
On June 4th 1940 Winston Churchill said the following words in a speech given to rally the English people in the face of a looming war with Germany. He said:
“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
These words became infamous in the coming years and decades as the British people fought to remain British. The people of the Empire found themselves facing odds that seemed insurmountable in the face of Hitler’s Germany. However, the one thing that Churchill understood so well is this simple fact. Words have power.
So is also the case of our text at hand. One commentator on this text said it very plainly. This writer stated, “The point of this passage is that the word of God has come, and is such that it cannot be disregarded.” Yet throughout the course of Christian history it has been this very fact that has come under so much attack. As the bombs of Germany tried to demolish all that symbolized Britain so the enemy of Christ has sought to compromise the great finite truths of Gods word. Often times doing so whilst wearing the very trappings of that which it hates.
The unique nature of the situation in the church here is one in which the author of this text sought to define the very foundation of what it meant to be Christian. The answer to the writer of the Book of Hebrews was a simple one. The Word of God was and will always be the answer. There is no amount of practice, tradition, or thought that will ever circumnavigate the great wealth of assurance that comes from the word of God. However, religion had and will continue to have a great effect on ones ability to see this simple fact.
William Barclay makes a profound statement about the word of God. Mr. Barclay said that, “When people take God seriously, they immediately realize that his word is not only something to be studied, not only something to be read, not only something to be written about; it is something to be done.” This is sticking in the face of the contemporary church in which we live. How many “Christians” find themselves more concerned with practice and observance than they do in living out the idea that there is, “something to be done”? So many it seems have become bogged down in the thought that personal holiness equals Gospel living. However, this in some regard may not be the case. In fact an over exaggerated sense of holiness can lead to the very opposite. There is only one formula for true holiness and that is found in Christ, and Chris as the word of God. All other actions and processes lead to legalism.
Now, I am not saying that personal holiness is of no importance. However, I am saying that often time’s individuals get lost in the quest for it. Instead of seeking to know God in his Word, many seek to experience God in deeper “ways” forgetting the Gospel in the process. This in someway leaves only selfishness at the core of what we portray to the world around us. I would even propose to say that this mentality is no less expressive of who we care about than the rich young ruler who so promptly stepped over the body of the starving Lazarus. The wealthy man was so assured of his status before God that he cared not to stop and care for the weak and dying around him.
This is ultimately what happens when a Church community becomes more concerned with themselves than with those whom Christ is still calling. The scary fact is that most do not see it this way at all. I imagine that many in the Hebrews church were seeing this same issue in their context. Many in the Hebrew’s church would have proclaimed the very name of God yet, lacked grace and love. As a result many individuals in the church would have become disillusioned with the Gospel, falsely associating Gods word with the legalism of the prideful. With each proclamation of the supremacy of Moses, or Joshua the Gospel was defamed. With every word or call for individuals to go back to the Jewish practical religion the grace of Christ was attacked.
I would put forth the idea that many pastors do the same in our context. So many, it seems, preach a problem and answer version of the Gospel. This I would say is more in an effort to comfort rather than drive individuals to a deeper call to Gospel living. When we present the Gospel as the great problem solver we present a Gospel that is man centered and not Christ centered. The people of God should be challenged to think and move further into the trusting of God and His word through speculation. When we present ourselves as having all the answers (even though we do in Gods word) we set the church up for failure. Inevitably we will reach an impasse at which we cannot provide all the answers (or more importantly the answers that people want which may not be the best answers). It is here that unlike Ruth people will choose the path of Orpah. It will be easier to go home to the gods that individuals worshiped before.
This brings us to why the Word of God is of the upmost importance. When the author here states, “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” the word used is of great interest. The word “uncovered” literally translates, “naked”. In short what we are seeing here is the author making a statement on the final authority of God in the judgment of men. In the end there will be nothing that will stop God from seeing the very nature of our claims on the Gospel. There is no amount of activity, clothing, or pomp (which in that day and even in ours is an effective way of setting oneself apart) will ever stop Gods word from either condemning or exalting. The word has great power and should never be dismissed. All things are answered in Christ and His embodiment in the word. That’s the bottom line.
Like a cigarett and an empty coffee cup life without Christ is fleeting. Psalm 6:5 says, “For there is no remembrance of You in death; who can thank You in Sheol”. I am struck this morning by cut of that verse. What do we love? What is it that drives us toward truly living?
I am fearful that we all live so often motivated by the next thing we will partake in. That we are prone to wander as it may be from one fleeting sensation to the next. This even goes so far as our churches. How deep is mine, your faith? Why do we go to church? Why am I a pastor?
Have you ever just sat down and thought about how we answer questions? For me I think many times the answers to my questions come in their negative proposition. For example; here I think to myself… “how does it make me feel to think of never even recalling God?” Its frightening. To think about never waking to his word again, to contemplate an existence where there is no recollection of the love of Christ. Does that frighten you? it should… This is my thought for the day…
Charles Spurgeon once said in talking on Christ’ call to man the following; “You have no belief and no repentance, -come to him, and he will give them to you. Come just as you are, and take “Freely”“. It strikes me as just plain odd that Spurgeon the great preacher of his day would say such a thing as this. How counter to our own concept of all things “christian” does this saying seem to be to our modern interpretation? We so often think that the process of faith in which one must “come” in faith in order to be counted as faithful. More so we carry this into our walk as believers. We do not ask because we don not believe. We do not trust because well, we don’t trust. However, Spurgeon here would scold us. This great man would in short profain us to go inspire of our unbelieving hearts, Spurgeon would say continue on good Christian soldier knowing that in spite of your unbelief God will carry you through. William Cowper in one of his many hymns and poems wrote, “Decide this doubt for me”… Is that not more the faith that we should have? One in which we might acknowledge our own insufficient faith, doubting often, as Cowper proclaimed but all the while pleading with God to “decide” the issue for us. In our modern church we have come to see faith as a standardized test. We think so often that we must ask and answer, seek and find. However, is this the model which we see in our faithful fathers before us? Did Abraham know the land before God showed him? Did Joseph know the Pharaohs graces before his terrible imprisonment? Did Moses know the other side of the sea before it had been split? Furthermore, were those acts defined and sustained by their faith? I would say decidedly no! The fact is that the acts were sustained not by some symbiotic relationship between man and God but rather by Gods power and care. Gods ability to prosper us is not based on our ability to be faithful. We have no faith apart from that given us by God. We call in spite of our trembling voice, we walk in spite of our weak knees, we carry on only because we know in the end God will be glorified and sustain Himself. He has latched our well-being to His glorification, that is why there is a covenant. If He could (and I say that lightly) fail us than His own covenant would be worthless. The greatest grace God has ever given man is that he has bound Himself to us by His word and sealed it with the blood of His own son. If we fail He fails, that is not an option.