Saturday, July 11, 2015, 6:33 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 5:11-6:12 (NASB). The Elementary Principles (5:11-14) Concerning him 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 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. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. This is a sad reality in the church here in America today. So many, many people claim to be Christians and followers of Christ, and yet so many of them are still spiritual infants, or else they never really were born again, but only made a profession of Christ as Savior. The church is largely at fault here, because they have compromised with the world and have partnered with an evil government, and have turned the church into a corporation (business) of human origin, run and marketed just like any other human business. The gospel has thus been diluted so as not to offend the customer base, and in order to make the gospel more attractive and appealing to this sinful world. Not even the elementary principles of the oracles of God are being taught in many congregations, many of which have shied away from such words as sin, repentance, obedience, and submission, etc. So many who call themselves Christians here in America have become dull of hearing, because they have been dumbed down by TV, movies, video games, social media, news media, TV commercials, and the like, to accept the idea that life should be about working, eating, sleeping and being entertained. The introduction of home computers, IPads (tablets), and smart phones has only increased the accessibility and pull towards being entertained and having fun all the time, and it has opened wide the door to all sorts of evil made available at people’s finger tips, in the privacy of their homes, and largely absent of any accountability. The church has only helped to promote this as they have also focused much attention on entertainment and having fun, and on making people feel good all the time, and on helping them to not feel threatened, judged or uncomfortable in any way. As a result, there are many people here in America who have claimed to be Christians most of their lives, but from all outward appearance their lives seem to be focused largely on themselves and not on God at all. So, they do need to be taught the elementary principles all over again, or for the first time ever, because so much of the church is not teaching these truths anymore. A big problem, I believe, in the church today, is that so many of our men, including a large number of pastors, have become pornography addicts, because pornography is so easily accessible now via home computers, tablets and smart phones, which provide completely private internet access with no accountability. This has, thus, emasculated our men so that so few of them are godly leaders anymore. And, that has been a big downfall in the church and in the home. So few men are spiritual leaders in their homes or in the church, and thus the church has become so much now just like the world. This modern-day gospel, absent of the cross of Christ in the lives of individual Christians, or in the lives of professing Christians only, has only paved the way for this lack of teaching in righteousness and holy living in the church, and for the large absence of those within the church who are living spiritually mature lives, devoted to Jesus Christ and to obedience. Press On To Maturity (6:1-3) Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits. For us to leave the elementary teaching about Christ and to move on to maturity, we have to have first of all laid the foundation of these elementary truths, and the people must have been truly born of the Spirit of God. Since so many pastors are no longer teaching about sin and the need to repent of sin, it is impossible to move on to maturity, because so many who call themselves Christians never repented of their sins, and thus they are not really saved. Others may or may not be saved, but have been convinced that God really requires nothing of them other than to believe, and that he smiles on them and is pleased with them no matter what they do. So, they have none or few encouraging them toward maturity. If they are convinced that all there is to salvation is “getting saved,” then going to heaven when they die, then what is to motivate them toward maturity? Yet, scripture is real clear that if, after we make a confession of Christ as Savior, we continue to conduct our lives in the flesh, and not after the Spirit, we will not have the promise of eternal life, but we will die. So, let’s first of all lay the foundation of this elementary teaching about Christ. When Jesus began his earthly ministry, and he began to proclaim the “Good News,” he said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:15). Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lu. 13:3, 5). “Repent” means to have a change of mind; think differently afterwards; and change the inner man. Biblically speaking, it is used in reference to forsaking sins and turning to follow Jesus Christ (God) with our lives. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny himself (his self-life), take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self), and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them (for eternity), but if we lose our lives (die to sin and self), we will gain eternal life (Lu. 9:23-25). He said his sheep (his followers) know his voice, they listen to him, and they follow (obey) him. These are the ones who cannot be snatched out of the Lord’s hands (Jn. 10:27-30). A Warning (6:4-8) For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. 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; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned. There is a serious warning here in relation to those who have NOT moved on to maturity, but who have remained spiritual infants for a long while. There is a high risk factor that they may “fall away,” and not be able to be brought back to repentance. So, what does it mean here to “fall away”? It means: “I fall away, fall back (into the unbelieving and godless ways of the old time). Parapíptō (from pará, ‘from close-beside’ and píptō, ‘to fall’) – properly, fall away, after being close-beside; to defect (abandon)” (biblehub.com). This is not to say that one can’t backslide, then come to his senses, repent of sin and be revived. This is speaking of those who willfully choose to reject Christ and go back to living in an unregenerate state of mind after having been partakers of the Holy Spirit. This also does not discount the possibility of those who were never truly saved, but who need to have genuine conversions. Only God knows our hearts, and he alone knows who are truly his, so he is the only judge of such matters. Yet, there are many solemn warnings in the New Testament concerning those who think they know Christ, but who do not know him, because they never repented of their sins, and because they never turned to follow (obey) Christ. Also, there are multiple solemn warnings in the New Testament regarding those who began with Christ, but who never moved on to maturity, as being those who are in danger of falling away and of not being able to be brought back to Christ. So, we should take these warnings seriously. We need to remember here that true faith is repentant, obedient, submissive and continuous (ongoing), and that only those who are presently believing in Jesus have the hope of eternal life. We cannot have the hope of eternal life on the basis of past faith. We also have to remember that our salvation is a continuous process (having been saved, are being saved, and will be saved), and it will not be complete until Jesus Christ returns for his bride. The Same Diligence (6:9-12) But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 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. 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. Yet, not everyone is faking their Christianity, or is deceived into believing they are saved when they are not, or is in grave danger of falling away from Christ beyond recovery. There are many followers of Christ in this world of ours who are fully devoted to Jesus Christ, many of whom are presently suffering much severe persecution, even to the point of death, for their faith in Christ and for their testimonies for him and for the gospel of our salvation. They have left the elementary teachings about Christ, and they have moved on to maturity. They are walking the talk and are not just talking the walk. They understand that faith in Christ means death to sin and living to righteousness; death to self and living for Christ. They listen to their Lord daily, and they follow him in obedience and in surrender to his will for their lives. And, they are willing to lay down their lives for him and for his gospel, because they love their Lord, and because they know that the true gospel is the only hope for the people of this world, for without Christ, people are doomed to eternal damnation. Yet, this is not speaking of sinless perfection, but of the process of continually conducting our lives no longer after the flesh, but according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God. Such believers as these, who walk according to the Spirit, also care deeply about the spiritual growth and maturity of their fellow believers in Jesus Christ. So, they follow Christ in ministering to and in encouraging the saints of God to follow Christ with their lives, and to no longer follow the ways of this sinful world. At the very least, those who know Christ, but who have slipped back into following after the flesh and the ways of this sinful world, are in danger of missing out on all the spiritual blessings of obedience to Christ that could be theirs, such as being used of God to encourage, to strengthen and to bring much spiritual comfort to their fellow believers, and such as God using them to spread the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that many can hear, can turn, and can be saved. Yet, we must not ignore these many grave warnings which teach that Christians can fall away from faith in Christ, beyond recovery, and which teach that there are many, who think they are saved, who will one day hear God say, “I never knew you. Depart from me.” God is not someone to play games with. Take him seriously! He will do what he says he will do. Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer, This is my constant longing and prayer; Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures, Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear. Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion, Loving, forgiving, tender and kind, Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting, Seeking the wandering sinner to find. O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit, Holy and harmless, patient and brave; Meekly enduring cruel reproaches, Willing to suffer others to save. O to be like Thee! while I am pleading, Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love; Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling, Fit me for life and Heaven above. Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee, Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art; Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.