Jesus Can Give You Hope

Steve Viars February 7, 2009 Hebrews 5:10

- If you raised children, you may remember a book entitled The Impossible Journey…

- it was a great theological tome…featuring Mickey Mouse and his sidekick Goofy…

- the gist of the story was that they received a letter in the mail from their friend and famous explorer Stan Livingstone who needed them to come and rescue him in Africa…

- to aide them in their search, he sent them a packet of impossible berries…and every time they came across a task that seemed impossible, they just ate one of the berries and they were able to do impossible things…

- it’s a delightful little book because it makes you think about what life would be like if nothing was impossible…

- if you’re familiar with Scripture…you know that that very concept and sometimes those very words are used to help us understand the power and character of God…with Him, nothing is impossible…

- for example, in Genesis 18, when Sarah and Abraham are told of God’s promise that they will have a son, even though they are well beyond the normal age of childbearing…Sarah laughed…and then we read…Genesis 18:13-14 - And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’“Is anything too difficult for the Lord? --- and that’s a good question for all God’s people to consider…is anything too difficult for the Lord

- another example is with the prophet Jeremiah…who prays in …Jeremiah 32:17 - “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,

- of course the best known example is one we often think of at Christmastime…do you remember?...it’s when the angel comes to the virgin Mary and tells her that she is going to give birth to the Messiah…and of course she can’t understand how she is going to have a child if she’s never had sexual relations with a man…

- and the angel tenderly explains…Luke 1:35-37 - The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.“For nothing will be impossible with God.

- the point of all of this is – there are 2 words you do not generally associate together…the words “God” and “impossible”…

- however, did you know that the Lord still says that there are certain things that are impossible…

- that’s true…not because of any deficiency in His character…but because of the condition of the person on the other end of the equation…

- and you might want to brace yourself for this…but the Scripture tells us that for certain kinds of individuals…it is impossible for them to have a relationship with God…

- the point of the text is – wise is the person who does everything in his power to stay out of that condition…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible this morning to Hebrews chapter 5…page 171 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- this winter we’re doing a verse by verse study of the book of Hebrews entitled Finding Hope in Our Sufficient Savior.

- this is part of our annual theme of Finding Hope

- this book is all about the superiority of Jesus Christ…

- Christ is better than the prophets, and He’s better than the angels, and He’s better than the OT sacrificial system, and He’s better than Moses…as we saw in…(the 1stchapter)…

Hebrews 1:1-14 – Jesus is Superior in Every Way..that’s why, according to …

Hebrews 2:1-18 – Jesus Deserves your Attention

Hebrews 3:1-19 – Jesus Can Soften Your Heart

Hebrews 4:1-5:10 – Jesus Can Give Your Rest

- this morning, we’re going to look atHebrews 5:11-6:20 - and see how…Jesus Can Give Your Hope…

- but in order to find that, we have to get over this hurdle of God Himself declaring that certain things were impossible…

- Read Hebrews 5:11-6:20

- so we’re talking this morning about how Jesus can give you hope…

- in the time we have remaining, let’s look for 3 characteristics of the hope available in Christ.

I. Hope that Better Days are Ahead Spiritually – 5:11-14

- now, I realize as I was reading these verses you might have thought – you know, I see where the theme of hope comes through in this passage, but there’s also a lot that is pretty negative as well…

- in one sense that’s true – this is the third warning passage that we’ve come across so far in the book…

- there was the warning of neglecting the gospel in chapter 2 verses 1-4…remember the possibility of drifting by the harbor…

- then in chapter 3 verses 7- 19, the warning about hardening your heart…

- and now there’s this one about the possibility of being spiritually immature and unable to understand, accept, and respond to crucial truths from the Word of God…

- but the fact that that warning is given is not intended to simply be a statement of condemnation…it’s equally a statement of hope…God is saying – you can do better than that…if you let me show you the way…

- now, at the beginning of verse 11, what is this…”concerning him”…who’s the him?...

- remember in Bible study, it’s always important to look at the context…reading the verses before and after…

- and the answer becomes very apparent…the “him” of verse 11 refers back to the man named “Melchizedek” in verse 10…

- now I realize you might say – who’s that?...well, I have good news and bad news…

- the good news is, there are some rich truths to be gained by comparing Jesus Christ to Melchizedek…

- the bad news is – that has to wait until next week…because if you peek over at chapter 7, the writer is going top pick that subject up again…

- but that’s the whole point of chapter 5 verse 11…he has some great things to say about Melchizedek…and they are hard to explain…but because of the spiritual condition of at least some of the people there, they are not yet ready to receive that truth…

- and the reason is very obvious in verse 11, isn’t it?...because they are “dull of hearing”…

- and the point is clear…if you want to see better days ahead spiritually…

A. Avoid the tendency to be “dull of hearing.”

- of course then the question is – what does that mean?...

- it is a fascinating word in the original…it’s the Greek word nothros – made up of the words for “no” and “push”…it literally means a person who has “no push”, slow, sluggish, intellectually thick, numb, not because of diminished capacity but because of an unmotivated heart…

- a theological couch potato…

- Michael Horton has written a new book with the provocative title Christless Christianity

- the idea is that we have all sorts of people in our culture say that that they are Christians, but when you drill into that you find that such persons do not even have a basic understanding of Christian doctrine..not even enough to explain the biblical nature of man…and the biblical nature of God…and the significance of the Person and work of Christ and how and why that potentially reconciles these two conditions…

- My argument in this book is not that evangelicalism is becoming theologically liberal but that it is becoming theologically vacuous – Horton – Christless Christianity, p. 23.

(Vacuous – empty of matter, showing lack of intelligence, interest, or thought, inane, characterized by a lack of purpose)…that is exactly what the writer of Hebrews is warning against…you cannot advance spiritually if you are dull of hearing…

-  what happens as a result is not a lack of spirituality…it is a lack of spiritual depth…

- so Jesus no longer is the who’s worshipped and obeyed…He’s co-opted and used…

- My concern is that we are getting dangerously close to the place in everyday Christian life where the Bible is mined for “relevant” quotes but is largely irrelevant on its own terms; God is used a s a personal resource rather than known, worshipped, and trusted; Jesus Christ is the coach with a really good game plan for our victory rather than a Savior who has already achieved it for us; salvation is more a manner of having our best life now than being saved from God’s judgment by God Himself; and the Holy Spirit is an electrical outlet we can plug into for the power we need to be all that we can be – Horton – Christless Christianity, p. 19.

- I don’t think it is unreasonable to say that much of what passes itself off as evangelical Christianity today all too often falls under this heading of being nothrus -- “dull of hearing…”

- well, how would a person get out of this – where’s the hope?...

B. Develop a spiritual appetite for solid food.

- this is very much like the arrangements at large family gatherings?...

- when you were growing up at Thanksgiving or Christmas when you had a lot of friends and family together, did you have the adults table and the kids table?...

- all families do that, right…

- and what’s it like at the kids table…you’ve got all these sippy cups…and baby food…and mashed up mush that’s easy to digest but doesn’t have much flavor or sustenance…but that’s what you need at the kids table..

- but were you ever in a family where there was this awkward time when some of the kids were getting older but there was really wasn’t any room yet at the big table…

- so you’re sitting there or this squat little chair, being drooled on and not having the best food choices…with all these baby noises and occasionally baby smells…

- there’s nothing wrong with sitting at the little table while you’re still wearing short pants…but at some time you ought to want to move  up to the big table…with the big people…eating the big food…

- and according to this text…the same thing is true spiritually…

- the opposite of being nothrus (dull of hearing) is…you choosing to develop an appetite for solid spiritual food…

- and did you notice in the text what happens if you do?...

1. You can become accustomed to the Word of righteousness – v. 13.

- v. 13 - Hebrews 5:13 - For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.

- we’re not talking about learning all this deep truths so that we can sit around and contemplate our spiritual navels…

- biblical depth results in practical holiness…

- so if you’re a husband here today who has been trying to get a better handle on what it means to be God’s kind of man, and God’s kind of husband…and you’ve been willing to dig and to study and to learn…and then to apply…you’re at the big table…

- [develop – a few weeks back – slipping out on a Saturday am to get some biscuits and gravy for a family breakfast – all these guys already at Cracker Barrel studying the word to find practical applications…]

2. Your maturity will be evident by your ability to discern good from evil – v. 14.

- Hebrews 5:14 - But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

- one of the reasons some people are so spiritually dull is that they are feeding their minds on mental junk food…

- if you care more about the identity of the latest American idol  than you do the Person and Work of Christ…then don’t be surprised when you get all confused about what’s right and what’s wrong…

- and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that program, per se – I don’t know anything about it…I’m just saying that if you fill your head with fluff…there might not be much room left for substance…and when the time comes for you to make an ethical decision…you may not have the level of spiritual depth necessary to make a wise choice…

3. You can be used by God to begin teaching others – v. 12

- Hebrews 5:12 - For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

- one of the reasons my wife and I made sure that our kids were in Sunday school, and at Wednesday night Kids of Faith is because we knew we needed people to help us teach our kids…

- and our children would tell you today that there have been certain teachers either at the church or our school who have made a profound impact on their lives…

- Kris and I owe such persons a huge debt of gratitude…the only way such persons could be used in that way is if at some point in their life they chose to no longer be “dull of hearing…”

- now, what are some take aways?...

1. Sign up for FCI [show catalogs, encourage folks to sign up and invite others].

2. this point also has application for the counseling conference that will begin here tonight…

- what we’re discussing right now is one of the prime motivators for developing a counseling ministry and making it available to people in our church and our community…

- the belief that there really is hope…for anyone…and that better days can be ahead for others spiritually…and that’s it’s a great privilege to be part of that process…

- but, the potential danger is to simply present Christ as the One who will solve your problems instead of the One who is worthy of your worship…

- Jesus has been dressed up as a corporate CEO, life coach, culture-warrior, political revolutionary, philosopher, copilot, cosufferer, moral example, and partner in fulfilling our personal and social dreams.  But in all of these ways, are we reducing the central character in the drama of redemption to a prop for our own play? – Horton – Christless Christianity, p. 25.

- see, the counseling process is less about using the Person of Christ to solve problems and more about using the context of problems to grow in one’s love for Christ…

- our counseling process is focused on the superiority of the Savior…because it’s in loving/knowing Him that we and others can find hope…

- now, let’s bring the first 8 verses of chapter 6 into this…

- you may know that the interpretation of this passage is rather hotly contested…

- so you may not agree with me on all of this and you can still buy my lunch…but I believe that this next section is speaking about people who had been around the church and knew a lot of Christian truths but had never truly repented and believed in Christ themselves…

- but the overall point is…Jesus offers…

II. Hope That You Can Have a Fruitful Life – 6:1-8

- let’s work our way through this…

A. You have to leave elementary teaching behind.

- it’s not that the ABC’s are bad, it’s just that in and of themselves, they’re insufficient…

- now, remember a very important principle of Bible study…what would these words have meant to the original audience?...

1. In their case.

- their Old Testament Judaism…and perhaps in some cases, pharisaic laws that had been mixed in to their worship of God…

- that’s what he meant by “repentance from works that are now dead”…those sacrifices are no longer necessary if Jesus paid the price once and for all…

- "instruction about washings”…all of those legalistic standards the Pharisees had erected…

- whatever it was that was stopping them from coming to God by faith alone, though grace alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone…they needed to leave all of that behind…

2. In our case.

- it could be a lot of things…

- some may be here today and you’ve believed that you could be reconciled to God by your own effort…

- so you’ve been trying to live a pretty good life and you’re fairly proud of the fact that you have…

- have you ever considered how offensive it is to the cross work of Christ to believe that you could be reconciled to God on your own merit?...

- for others, it might mean all sorts of preferences and opinions that have very little to do with Jesus and have a lot to do with you…

- the reason many churches are such hopeless places is because people are busy fighting about all sorts of things in ways that are no better than the behavior of the babies in the nursery…it’s majoring on the minors, endless arguments about the ABC’s…

- and some of that reveals that the persons involved, regardless of how long they’ve been in the church, are really not regenerate, they’re really not children of God…and someone needs to love such persons enough to point out that possibility…

- a book that has been very helpful to our church family is Who Stole My Church – Gordon MacDonald

- part of the point is that saved people do not major on the minors…they don’t sit around and fuss about the elementary teachings…

- one of the things I appreciate about our church family is that we’ve come to the belief that we want to have a laser guided focus on community based outreach ministry…so there are all sorts of things that we just don’t have time to fuss about…because that might get in the way of accomplishing the mission…(and when that emphasis on the centrality of Christ and His mission is not there, you can almost hear the hope being sucked out of the room)

- leave the elementary teachings behind..

 

B. The consequences of not doing so are severe.

- if persons have been around the teachings of Christ and they have not trusted Him as Savior and Lord and are growing in their love for Him…they could reach the place where they move away from Him and into any number of legalistic activities and actually get to the place where it is impossible for them to be renewed again to repentance..

- now, the reason some folks have trouble with this text is because they assume the descriptions in verses 4-5 have to be speaking about Christians…

1. Being around truth is not enough.

a. once had been enlightened

b. have tasted of the heavenly gift

c. been made partakers of the Holy Spirit

d. have tasted of the good Word of God.

- but what happens to them at the beginning of verse 6?...they have fallen away…

- they are no longer living for God…they are no longer bearing fruit…

2. These are not persons who lost their salvation, they are ones who never had it.

- the Scripture teaches in many places that you cannot lose your salvation.

a. The seal of the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:13 - In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,

Ephesians 4:30 - Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

b. The power of God’s hands.

John 10:28-29 - and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

c. The reliability of God’s promise.

Philippians 1:6 - For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

- that is just a sampling of passages on this topic and they can be a great source of encouragement for the person who genuinely knows Christ…

- [could point out that those who believe the people in this text were saved still have to deal with the fact that they could not be saved again…]

- but what about these persons in Hebrews 6?...what about God’s use of this word impossible?...

3. A person can reach the place of being beyond repentance.

- this is also what the Scripture means when it speaks of individuals who have a seared conscience…

- it is not that God would not forgive them if they asked…it’s that they are beyond the place of wanting to ask…

- if they have been this close to the gospel, and in their case, considering going back to the OT sacrificial system…that’s like crucifying Christ again and putting Him to open shame…

 

- that’s why avoiding being nothrus “dull of hearing” is so important…

1. cf. parents – not just being satisfied that your children are conforming to outward behavior standards (they’re under control) – at some point the question is, does my child love Jesus?

2. people attending church – great, but not because it’s a social club, or because I’ve met some nice people there, or a I hear a helpful principle from time to time…but because I have had admitted my sin, and trusted Christ as my only hope

3. college students – it’s nice to be part of a group so I don’t have to go through this phase of life alone…(or worse, there are some nice looking people there…)

4. counselees – I’ve learned some helpful principles, but I’ve not have a life transforming encounter with the redeemer…

- in each of these cases, someone could be around the church, gospel, biblical principles…but never truly come to Christ…the day may occur where they walk away (maybe they don’t even know why…) --- take heed – that person could get to the place of being beyond repentance…

- so, how do I know?... but how does this section end?...

C. Good ground produces fruit.

- Hebrews 6:7 - For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God;

- we ought to talk about having the assurance of our salvation in three senses…

1. Theologically

2. Historically

3. Experientially.

- 1 John 2:3 - By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.

- so what about the person who would say – PV, what if I’m beyond repentance?...I’ve been around the things of God all my life, but there is no genuine evidence that I know Christ…what if there’s no hope for me?...

- there’s a two-fold response to that…

- the fact that you care enough to ask the question probably indicates that you have not yet reached the “it is impossible” place yet…

- but you would be wise to do something about that right now…

- some folks find themselves in this position…[show pics of car wreck…]

- now, how does this chapter end?...

III. Hope that Can Serve as an Anchor to Your Soul – 6:9-20

A. God has a great memory.

Hebrews 6:10 - For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.

- that kind of selfless service for Christ can steel your heart about the genuineness of your faith…

B. Your diligence can give others hope.

Hebrews 6:11-12 - And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end,so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

C. God’s promises to you are based on His unchangeable character.

 

Hebrews 6:17 - In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath
 

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video