Now is the time to take stock of our spiritual lives and move on to maturity.
[Rudy Rangel] Today I'd like to go through a section of Scripture, that's going to be the framework for the message. I read this during the Feast, and it really helped with my focus. There's so much to unpack in the 12 verses that we're going to go through. I won't get through every aspect of it, but we'll unpack what we can here. I didn't realize until the Feast, how distracted I have been this year by everything going on in the world. 2020 has really stolen some of my focus. And perhaps you feel the same way. I want to refocus, and the Feast of Tabernacles is a welcome slap in the face for spiritual awakening. And I was grateful for it this year.
This year, I have been wrapped up just like everybody else with what's going on with the virus. I've been wrapped up and seeing what's happening now with this crazy presidential election. I've been wrapped up with seeing, oh, who agrees with me on Facebook about masks and the situations going on with that? Even while working on this very message, I was wrapped up in that Supreme Court judicial nomination. It was just great TV, really, when I was wrapped up in it. And all of this clutter throughout the year, I can say, has gotten me a little off track. It's got me a little off track focus-wise.
So let's go to Hebrews today. Here's where I'm starting. For us to get refocused, as we face now the coming winter, a few months without a high holy day, Sabbaths we have obviously, coming up each week, but let's refocus. Let's start in Hebrews. And Hebrews at the end of chapter 4 and 5, the author begins talking about the qualifications of the high priest. We see the author bringing the point that Jesus Christ is far superior to any of the human high priests that there were serving, since the time of the Levitical priesthood. Jesus Christ is of the order of Melchizedek, the priest's king that we read about in Genesis 14.
In one of our articles online, we state very clearly that this Melchizedek could have only been the eternal preexistent Word who later became Jesus Christ, who is our High Priest and King. And at the end of chapter 5, the author takes the recipient of this letter to task on their maturity. See, he's laying the groundwork of the importance of Jesus. In verse 9 of chapter 5, he uses the words like, "He's been perfected. He's the author of eternal salvation." And he's telling them this before He says, the bomb drop of, “you have become dull of hearing,” in verse 11. When I read this in the New Living Translation, it says quite boldly, in verse 11 of chapter 5, "There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don't seem to listen."
It's important to understand that the writer here is writing to those who came out of sort of the Old Testament way of worship. Most likely these were Jewish converts. Some of them, probably even ex-priests. And what they were doing, what they began to do, was to look back, when things were easy, comfortable. And He's taking them to task. I don't want to look back. We shouldn't look back as Christians. We need to look to Jesus and see what He's doing in our lives today. When He said He was going to the Father, and He works, and His Father works, we have to believe that. We have to believe that He is working. And we have confidence as we move closer to the Kingdom of God that He is working intimately with us through His Spirit.
With everything going on in the world, I don't want to look back. I don't want to look back. Don't look to our society or our government to fix things in this world. Things weren't that great back then either. We are a body of people solely looking forward, looking forward to that Kingdom of peace that's coming, that Kingdom to come. And you and I, we're ambassadors for that. We are ambassadors, representatives of that coming Kingdom of peace. This year of 2020 did not start off hot, and it went down from there. My daughter was telling me that she saw a meme this week that said, "2021, round 2." Let's hope not. I wouldn't say that I was dull of hearing because of lack of interest or weariness but because of the distractions we all had to deal with. The distractions are what can easily take us off track, focus-wise.
Okay. So here we are. Hebrews 6, this is where we'll begin. "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection," or another word here that's translated is maturity, which is the title of the message today, "On to Maturity." "Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and the eternal judgment." Verse 3, "And this we will do if God permits." Remember, the author here is writing to a group of people who are slipping. And so he says, "Let us go on." And he's not saying that in terms of, well, let's leave this behind. What he's saying is, these are the foundational principles. These things that are listed here, repentance, that's a basic doctrine. That is something we all know that is the foundation of our relationship with God.
If we don't repent, there is no relationship. There isn't a relationship. The understanding of faith, you know, repentance is turning away from sin and faith is that turning towards God, and understanding that I'm moving away from darkness and I'm moving towards the light, towards God. The understanding of baptisms and of the laying on of hands. The laying on of hands is a very special thing that we look to for ceremonies in the Church, for ordinations, for the setting apart of people, whether it be a wedding, or for an ordination, or for even blessings. We'll have the blessing of little children, at some point. He's saying, "These are foundational things, the resurrection of the dead and of eternal judgment." There is a foundation that you and I, we adhere to. We don't waver from the fundamentals.
Later in the chapter, it mentions that the hope we have is an anchor to the soul. And having these fundamentals grounding us, it is hopeful, and it is an anchor. There's comfort in knowing that in the next couple of months, we're going to have another round of annual holidays. I look forward again to the Passover. Each year, we get to renew our knowledge and deepen our understanding of what God is doing in our lives. There's comfort in that. It's comforting. As this world gets crazier, and it will, we have a guide to life. And there is a foundation of belief that we adhere to and we don't waver from the things that are fundamental. That's what he's saying here. The meaning is not… We're not going to do these things anymore but it's these things are so much a part of our life that let's move on from that. Let's not squabble over the things that we absolutely know to be the foundation of our belief. Let's move on so that we can become mature. Let's build on these principles.
When we build a house, we pour the foundation, and then we move on. We move on to building the rest of the house. We build on top of that. So what does this look like for us as a spiritual body? I had a discussion with some friends this Feast. We stayed here in Cincinnati. And I remember saying that, once you've been in the Church for a while, the doctrines of the Church, they're pretty straightforward. Keeping the Sabbath, I can do that. I can do that. Keeping the Feast days, I can do that. I can do that. There are some things though, that we are required to move on to maturity. And what that looks like is… In 2 Peter, we're going to read it again today. Let's go to 2 Peter. 2 Peter 1:5 2 Peter 1:5And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
American King James Version×, "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love."
It's interesting. It sounds like a progression here, doesn't it? Add to the things that you have. Okay, you started off with faith, then you add virtue, in virtue, knowledge. You continue to grow in this area. And, you know, if you think back on the history of, you know, the Church, in general, where are we falling short in the maturity? It's interesting that love is the last thing there, love. All these things build up to love. You think, "Oh, love?" Where we fall short on maturity is really some of the hard stuff. And the hard stuff is dealing with people, dealing with people, with each other. That's the hard stuff. Thank you. Keeping the Feast and Sabbath days, it's on my calendar, I'm going to do it. But when Jesus says things like, "Pray for your enemy." That's easy to say, but I have strong feelings towards this person. I have hurts. That's the hard stuff. That's where our maturity should be heading towards. Difficulties with people, that's where we've fallen short.
Jesus said, "Go to your brother when you're offended." It's easy for me to tell my friend when they were offended, "Oh, you should just go talk to them," but to do and practice in real life, it's not easy. It's hard. That's the hard thing. Love… You know, we want knowledge. We want to have more understanding of what the Scriptures say and what God wants us to… Well, this is leading up to love. That's the hard stuff. Another thing that we're told to do that's easy to say, that you need to esteem others better than yourself. Moving on to maturity is more than just knowledge. It's a heart matter. It's a heart matter. The heart stuff is not some new teaching. It's actually putting into practice love. Thinking about going on to maturity, this is an area that we can all focus on. The relationship stuff is hard. Feelings and emotions make it difficult. As we're still on this spiritual rejuvenation from the Feast, let's commit ourselves to be more loving. Jesus said very clearly, and we'd say it all the time, "By this, you will know that you're My disciples, if you have love one for another." We need to do that. Let's do that. Let's go on to maturity.
I don't always do this. And so, I think this is a good place where we can start. The last section here in Hebrews of that first three verses, it says, "If the Lord wills." This is sort of similar, as we read in James 4:15 James 4:15For that you ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
American King James Version×, where he says don't boast about what your plans are or where you're going to go. You know, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do that.” So if God allows us another year, these are the things that we're going to make as our foundation. So back in Hebrews, you can actually just put your marker there because we're going to go back there for the rest of this sermon. The first couple of verses here, verses 1 through 3 tells us that we have a solid foundation, a solid foundation of understanding. And from here on out, we're going to build on that. That's what we need to do. We need to build on what we know for stability.
Hebrews 6, we can go on to the next part, verse 4. "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tested the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves, the Son of God, and put them to open shame." It's impossible to do that, it says. Now, let's understand. This is the unpardonable sin. This is what we're talking about here. What can we do that God can't forgive? Now going through this, here are other reference Scriptures for the unpardonable sin, Hebrews 10:26 Hebrews 10:26For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins,
American King James Version×, Matthew 12:31 Matthew 12:31Why I say to you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven to men.
American King James Version×. What I realize going through this, if you're worried that you've committed the unpardonable sin, then you haven't done it because it's a heart issue. It's a heart issue. This unpardonable sin, the thing that you do that God can't forgive, it's up to you actually. What it is… what's explained here is a mindset, a mindset that says, for someone who has been baptized, who says they've been partaker of the Holy Spirit, they've been baptized, then they start down a path of sin.
But that sin is better in their mind than the promises that God gives. And rather than submitting to God and turning their life back to God, and stopping, they say, "No, I'm content with this. This is where I want to be. I want to continue on in this sin. And that's just where I want to be." It's this idea of the mindset of, I'm not going to repent because this is what I want instead. That's what it's talking about here. It's turning your back on the sacrifice that Jesus made for you. Now, at the end, while he's talking about this, we do read about a falling away, “the love of many who were wax cold.” We read about this falling away. And there's a danger to that falling away. So, in the context of us today, trying to get refocused back to God, back from all the craziness we see in the world, what should I be asking myself? If I'm not committing this unpardonable sin, how should I think about this?
Let's go to Revelation 2, and these are the letters to the churches that we read about. Revelation 2:1 Revelation 2:1To the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things said he that holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the middle of the seven golden candlesticks;
American King James Version×, we read this. These are the things that we should be asking ourselves. "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, and who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your a labor of patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you've tested those who say that they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works…’"
Those in Ephesus had some really good things going actually. They hated evil. They found false teachers and called them out on it. And they had perseverance. That all sounds pretty zealous. But what they lacked was a love for this way of life. And that's what we have to ask ourselves.
I have to ask myself, "Do I just hate evil or do I love what God has called me to do? Do I love that God wants me to be a representative of Him? Do I love His feast days? Do I love His Sabbath day? Do I love the fact that I have been called into a body of believers and we're to grow together? Do I love those things?"
Those in Ephesus, they kind of got tired. And they didn't get tired of hating the bad but the good stuff, they needed to learn to love it again. They needed to get fired up. We are supposed to have a fire in us for this way of life. And when we don't have that, we are lacking. We're lacking. What do I love more than this way of life? What do I love? We have to ask ourselves these questions. Have I put anything ahead of loving God, loving this way of life, and loving my brothers and sisters? I think this is where our generation needs to focus because of all those distractions, because of video games, because of what's on the news, because of Twitter, because of Tom Clancy novels.
Actually, I didn't know about that Mr. Phelps. That's interesting. Thanks for sharing. What are we putting ahead of God? What do I love more? Am I just willing to call out evil as I see it or am I willing to say, "I love this way of life”? All of our distractions can lead to a loss of love. It can lead to like a weariness, like, "Oh, yeah, it's a Sabbath, I'm ready to go." But do we love it? Have we put our time, and energy, and focus somewhere else?
So these verses in Hebrews, if you want to start heading back to Hebrews 6, remind us that we have made a serious commitment to God. A serious commitment to God. And that He talks about the extreme consequences of falling away. It's good for us to remember that we can't grow weary of this way of life. We can't grow dull of hearing because it's serious. The commitment we made to God is serious. Hebrews 6:7 Hebrews 6:7For the earth which drinks in the rain that comes oft on it, and brings forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receives blessing from God:
American King James Version×, "For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessings from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned."
Now that we understand the serious of the commitment that we made to God, we should consider something else. Am I bearing fruit? Am I growing? Am I being a productive Christian? We read a parable that shows that not everything that is sown, bears fruit. So we have to ask ourselves, "What do I need to do to make sure that I am growing?" God is looking for those who are going to transform, who are going to become something else. That's what He's looking for. Not staying the same, not, like, "Oh, yeah, it's just been another year. I did not too bad. I stayed good." That's not what God is looking for. Are you drinking in the rain every day? Because staying stagnant or getting bogged down by the distractions of the world, it's not helpful. We need to take stock of the growth that we've made, see where we're at, and see where we've fallen short. Because no matter what, here it says, there is an outcome for our response, in terms of growth, either a curse or blessings.
Jesus said something very similar to this, as we read in Hebrews here… in John 15. John 15:1 John 15:1I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer.
American King James Version×, Jesus says, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I'm the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; without Me, you can't do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them in the fire, and they are burned." This here, again, is beautiful imagery that we read about, you know, our relationship, what it should look like to Jesus. We have to be connected to the vine. A branch that's broken off and is laying in the yard isn't going to grow fruit. It's off by itself. It's not going to grow. We have to be connected to that vine. And for those who do bear fruit, it says pruning is still required.
That's why we go through trials. That's why we go through hardships. When I was a kid, my parents planted three trees in our backyard. Three trees and I remember it. I have very clear memory of us planting the last one. And my youngest brother had like a Little Tikes car. It was red and had handlebars, you know, the plastic Little Tikes vehicles. And he ran over the last tree that we planted, and he got in trouble. And you know what happened to those three trees? The two first trees grew at an average rate. That third tree that he ran over, the one that he stressed at a very young age, by the time we moved out of there, was as big as any tree in the neighborhood. It grew because it was under stress right from the very beginning. And that's what caused it to grow. None of the other trees grew like that. So when we go through the difficult times here, as it says, to bear fruit… Sometimes to bear fruit, we have to go through hard times. And it's hard for me to even admit, but the times that I've grown the most spiritually, have been during those difficult times. It's hard in the middle of it. But you look back and you say, "You know what? I'm different because of that. I'm a new person. God's working in me. And I can see that. I could see His hand in my life." The option to not bear fruit isn't a path that we should go down.
I was watching a rock documentary, recently. I'm not going to out myself and tell you what band it was. But rock and roll artists are usually pretty wild in their young years, live a pretty wild lifestyle. And this band was no different. And they were being… As they got older, they started to sing against some of the ways that they had lived their life. They were growing, right? And some of the rock journalists took them to task on this and said, you know, "Aren't you hypocrites because the things that you're talking about now, that's exactly what you used to do when you were in your 20s?" And they said, "I'd rather be a hypocrite than someone who doesn't grow." I'd rather be a hypocrite than someone who doesn't grow. Our life is a transformation. And if someone we come across 20 years later sees us and says, "Oh, you're kind of a hypocrite because you're speaking against a way of life that you used to live." No, no, we can't be locked into who I was 20 years ago. We're under a process. We're going through a journey. We're on a life of transformation. We're not hypocrites. We're growing. We've been tasked with that growth by God.
Let's go to Colossians 2, Colossians 2:6 Colossians 2:6 As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in him:
American King James Version×, "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." We need to be rooted in Jesus. Again, that imagery of the branch and the vine, we need to be deeply rooted in Jesus Christ. We are a people who are supposed to be growing, firmly planted in Jesus for nourishment and for growth.
Okay. Let's go back to Hebrews now. Hebrews 6, as we continue on in this section. Hebrews 6:9 Hebrews 6:9But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
American King James Version×, “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister." I like that they're saying, "I recognize that our tone has been a little bit stern, but we are confident we are confident." The tone has changed here. You know, clearly, they were correcting. They were being corrective here. The writer was being corrective. And the change of tone moves and he says, "Okay. I love you, my beloved." And the writer says, "I have assurance…" He assures them with confidence that he's going to urge them on. He knows that they have better things ahead of them. You can only take so much of the correction before you say, "You know what? I believe in you though. This is what's going on. But I believe in you."
I help Mr. Kubik occasionally with the podcasts. And about a year ago, he interviewed Katherine Rowland, who was our choir director. And she said something very profound. I wrote it down. I thought it was so encouraging. She said in this podcast about being the choir director. She said, "You can't look at your choir and wish that they were somebody else. You have to see these people who you have here, and you have to just believe in them." And man, that was so encouraging. I think for any person in leadership should have that mindset. I can't wish that I had a better baseball team or I wish I didn't have a better team at my plant at work. Look at that those people and believe in them. And that really changes your mindset, especially if you have a boss like that, who says, "You know what? I believe in you."
Here, the writer is being encouraging at this point. After working on the Feast video and thinking about all the things that are going on in our church, you know, I feel that way too. I feel like we have some awesome things. Despite what's going on in the world, we have some great things happening. It doesn't matter if we have different ideas about masks or what political thing is going on. It doesn't matter. That stuff doesn't matter. We're God's people. What binds us together is His Spirit and our hope of a coming Kingdom. That's what we're looking forward to. That's what brings us together each week. We can be adaptable. We can show love. We can be caring. We can yield ourselves to God. And God is not going to forget the good works that we do. That's encouraging. That is encouraging because sometimes those good works do take sacrifice. He's not going to forget.
This week, our daughter, Edie came to us and we didn't even ask her. She said, "Oh, I had to sit on the hall today." You know what I said? And I said, "Oh yeah, why did you have to sit in the hall?" "Oh, in our music class, they were playing Halloween songs, and I didn't want to listen to them." And so she said, "I don't celebrate Halloween. I'm not comfortable sitting here." So she had to go out in the hall by herself, 11 years old. Man, that was a proud moment for me. We didn't know that that was happening that day. She took it upon herself. And you know what? God is not going to forget that. That's encouraging. God is not going to forget the labor of love. When we stand up for Him, He's not going to forget.
So here, Hebrews 6:9-10 Hebrews 6:9-10  But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which you have showed toward his name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
American King James Version×, God knows you. He knows what you've done, what sacrifices you've made in your life. He's on your side, He's on your side. There's a corrective letter here that the writer of Hebrews is giving. And he's saying, "But I'm confident. I know you have your faults, and I'm not giving up." God feels that way too. He's confident. He's cheering for us to succeed. Jesus said, "I'll never leave you. I'm not going to leave you." Those are encouraging things to think about as we shift our focus here. Okay. Hebrews 6:11 Hebrews 6:11And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end:
American King James Version×, "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
It's not really a language we use today. It's kind of a mouthful to "show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.” It's not really how we would say that today. But are you actively engaged in the guarantee and hope of God's Kingdom, of His promises? Are you actively, like, I am hopeful? Do people see that hope in your life, or is it Bleak Street? "Yeah, here's what's going on in the news. I can't believe what's going on." Are you living a life of hope? And are you full of assurance of that hope? I am sure that what is coming is better than what we see around us. And then it goes on here, "That you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises."
There is a group of people who live their lives by faith. There's a group of people who have a hope ahead of us, seeking a better country. We read about them in Scripture, but that's not where it ends. We have some of those people in our congregation today who have lived a life of hope. Those people who have gone before us, as someone smack dab, finally, in middle age, I can say this, to the older generation, thank you. Thank you for laying down your life of faith for those of us younger than you, that we can look to your examples. I'm grateful for that. Under a certain age, we needed to see your life committed to God, and love for God's truth, and for His people.
And to the younger people, thank you for boldly taking up the reins to move forward towards that Kingdom of God. We need people who are passionate, passionate about this way of life, ready to share with those who God's calling. We need that. You who are young, you know this is the right way to live your life. You can't logic your way out of it. You must carry on what the Church has passed on to you. Live a life willing to transform. Live a life of faith and pass on what you've learned. God's called us all individually and He's called us to be part of a body for growth, for edification. This church, when we come together, is a powerful resource for spiritual growth.
The Hebrews writer was addressing a people who were growing weary. They were sluggish. They knew what was expected but it was just easier to say, "I'm just going to keep doing what we were doing before, do what we've always done." We've just come home from the Feast of Tabernacles and the Eighth Day. It's a highlight for many of us for the year. It's a time when we spend quality time with God, with His Word, and with His people. Now that we've unpacked our bags and we're settling in for the winter, let's not grow weary. Let's not grow weary of the truth of God. But let's boldly go to Him and ask Him to rejuvenate our hearts to this way of life. Let's not get distracted and bogged down by what we see going on around us. It doesn't matter what's going to happen in November. We don't have to worry about that. But let's all together as one body, move on to maturity.