For many, 2016 simply stank. I won't go into all the various whinings and moanings, which were heard from people across a broad persuasion. A two-part recent happening, for me at least, is the "poster child" for the stinkier aspects of 2016 - - a dreadful one-two punch. A few days ago, Princess Leia was flying home for Christmas, had a massive heart attack on the plane, and just a couple days later died. Then, today, while planning her daughter's funeral arrangements, her elderly mother had a major stroke and shortly thereafter died.
Oh yes, I know. There are many worse "world problems". And, I get that. And, I know that God is sovereign. And, I'm totally okay with that.
Here, then, we find ourselves on the cusp of a new year: 2017. I do love to celebrate New Year's Day, because it carries with it a sense of "starting over"... a fresh start! Even those corny, and often short-lived, resolutions carry with them a sense of hope.
I was pondering all this as I read today's verse from Hebrews 6. (Yes, we are back to Hebrews now that my herky-jerky Advent is past!)
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
Hebrews 6:1 (ESV)
The writer of Hebrews is exhorting us to not be "Groundhog Day Christians". Do you remember that ridiculous movie, starring Bill Murray? In it, he would go to sleep at night and awake the next morning to discover that he was required to live the previous day all over again.
Many of us live our Christian lives like that, though. For whatever the reason, excuse or motivation, we find ourselves continuing to dwell at the beginner levels of our Christian faith. This can be true whether the believer's commitment to Christ was made 10 days ago or 60 years ago. Spiritual immaturity is no respecter of age; likewise, spiritual wisdom is not a guarantee to the aged.
Of course, the Christian walk is not totally linear, with a perfect upward trajectory. It should look more akin to a climbing stock market, which despite ups and downs, peaks and dips, continues its path upward. (God teaches us SO much in those "dips", or He tries to...)
Notice that the author of Hebrews, unlike the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, refused to simply re-teach the fundamentals to the Hebrew audience over and over again. Instead, the author told them they needed to "bust-a-move"; and, he or she had just the teaching to effect that in their spiritual understanding: the teaching of Christ as our High Priest. (Whew! That's a whopper! And, I don't mean the one from Burger King.)
So, how does a Christian do that, press on to greater spiritual maturity?
Well, it certainly won't be aided by feeding the soul only baby formula, what the writer of Hebrews calls "the elementary doctrine of Christ". I'd venture to say that most Protestant churches today dispense baby food, or worse, "junk food". A steady diet of either of those produces Groundhog Day Christians, with little to no growth and no hunger for it either.
The first element, then, is to seek out and consume hearty, nutritious spiritual teaching, characterized by the whole truth of the Word of God. (I'm amazed at the lack of appetite for this.) A key point here is that we don't eat only once or twice a week; so, any Christian feeding solely on what he or she hears from the local church pulpit is going to starve to death, spiritually speaking.
The second element is to let the Word of God make changes in your life. In other words, we need to be not only consumers, but also producers! If we are "doers of the word and not hearers only" (James 1:22), then we will grow spiritually. If we don't press on in this manner, letting the Holy Spirit mold us more and more into the image of our Savior, then we are merely deceiving ourselves. That smack-down is courtesy of the Holy Spirit inspiring James, thank you very much.)
I know you fellow travelers think I preach at you a lot, but really, I am preaching to myself (and you just get to hear it!) . I'm thinking that these 2 elements would make some totally awesome New Year's resolutions. What do you think?
In the next post, we'll look at the six items the writer of Hebrews lists as "elementary, my dear Watson".