Hebrews 6:1-12 “Confident of Better”
There are better days ahead. That is really what the first line of this text is telling us today: “Let us go on towards perfection.” We have a footnote in our bibles that say that word perfection is perhaps better translated as “maturity.” I for once am going to agree with the editor that the word “perfection” is the better choice. The word in the Greek is τελιος, meaning the “end” of all things. You see, this is not just about being good old and mature Christians. This is indeed about that simple question: What does my life in the end boil down to? Why was I put here in the first place? Why have I gone through all that I have in this life? The answer that we garner here from just these first few words is very reassuring indeed. We are going to be “perfected” in Christ Jesus. The end of all we have experienced in this life is being with God in heaven as Jesus today is with God in heaven after having suffered and died.
Great, now that we know we are going in this direction towards perfection in Christ, the community that was being addressed in the letter to the Hebrews, namely the Jews in Rome in the first century, are challenged to do more than just stick with the basics of church instruction. I really appreciate this message. I hope you do too.
I believe that the church, any church, any human endeavor, can only take you so far in the understanding of the Christian faith. Yes, you can listen to the messages on Sunday morning and you can attend a bible study with others, but the final perfection of your faith is really something that has to take place between you and the Almighty.
I went to Sunday school as a child. I learned to sing the “Jesus Loves Me” song. I went to the campus ministry in college and studied the bible in various courses there. I went on to study at a seminary in Berkeley. I was ordained. I went on to get my doctorate from Fuller. After all that, does that mean I am now perfected in faith?
Let me put it to you in this way: If I get the hiccups, I might ask any one of you what the best remedy might be. I could go on the internet and look there. I could go to college to study anatomy. I could become a doctor. I could write papers and share my knowledge of hiccups. Yet, what good is all of that if I still have the hiccups?
By the way, the only sure way to get rid of hiccups is to hold one’s breath for thirty minutes straight. I really do not recommend that. In the end what gets rid of the hiccups is what gets rid of the hiccups.
Later in chapter 12:1 of Hebrews we read the line that Jesus is “the author and perfector of our faith.” We can see in Jesus’ own life how it was that already at the age of 12 he knew all there was to know about the Jewish religion, the scriptures and all. He went so far beyond that in his own ministry. He changed water into wine, he walked on water, he healed so many others of their diseases. He broke bread and blessed with his entire soul. He died on the cross and was resurrected and lived among us once more before ascending to God.
Jesus was the author of the story that we are now living. We are who we are because Jesus lived first and we see this in the Gospels. We know what we know because of him. We know that there is a reason, a purpose, a cause to live for, because Jesus lived this cause first.
We are his disciples, but we cannot stay in the classroom just learning from the master forever. Jesus did miracles of faith. His own disciples also did miracles of faith. So, we have to go beyond the stuff that really we know we know already, and follow the author into the next part.
Let us look at the Apostle Peter’s life in order to understand what is being asked of us here in our text for this morning. You will recall that Jesus chose Peter. As we can read in Luke 5, Jesus came to Peter to use his boat as a platform for preaching to the crowds. Peter must have heard his preaching but was not convinced in the faith because Jesus tells him to put out the nets to collect the fish. Peter is still unconvinced after hearing Jesus and complains: “But we have tried fishing all night long and have caught nothing.” He does not fully believe that Jesus can do more than just talk to the crowds. He needs to discover for himself who Jesus really is.
Peter does what Jesus says just the same, and the haul of fish is incredible. The response from Peter though is not “I truly believe now.” Rather he responds with “Lord, go away from me.” Jesus then tells Peter that he will be catching people for God rather than just casting nets for fish to eat. Then, he does leave everything else behind and follow Jesus.
Leave everything else behind and just follow Jesus! That is of course not as easy as it sounds. Peter struggled with this idea for the rest of his life. His faith in Christ was challenged again and again. At the time of Jesus’ betrayal Peter denied Jesus three times. At the time of Jesus’ resurrection Peter did not fully believe until Jesus appeared again and did that same miracle with the fish again.
But then, after Jesus was raised to heaven at the time of the ascension, and the Holy Spirit came down at the time of the Pentecost, we see that Peter’s life finally clicks on to what Jesus was saying all along. In the Book of Acts, we see Peter suddenly preaching and quoting from the Prophet Joel word-for-word, which was certainly a miracle for a fisherman. Thereafter, Peter is healing just as many if not more people than Jesus ever did. Peter would just be walking and his shadow falling on others would be enough to heal them.
Remember, Jesus said that we would be able to do even greater miracles than himself. John 14:12 “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and in fact do greater works than these. . . .”
That is also the promise of Christ in verse 12 of our scripture in Hebrews. But, what if we do not ever get rid of our hiccups? What if we never actually come to see that perfection can be ours? What if we do not have the faith we need to make it to those better days ahead? What if we lose confidence?
Our text for this morning says that losing confidence in Christ is the same as putting Jesus back on the cross. Do you see that in verse 6? If we have come to know the promise of Christ and then decide to lay it aside, then Jesus will have to die again for that sin of leaving God once more. It is truly like being cast out of Eden once more. Perfection will not be ours.
This loss of confidence is what has been played up in the news lately about our country in the midst of the pandemic. For the last few months, we had collectively built up a sense of confidence that we could overcome Covid 19. It was about time, too. The “19” on Covid 19 is a reference to the year 2019. We have been dealing with this pandemic for going on two years now. With the vaccinations and all, we were supposed to be past the whole thing already. What happened? All of the sudden we are taking steps backwards. That causes us to lose confidence. But, should we let the virus win?
We see that in the church as well. We should be able to at least go back to what we had before the pandemic by now. How long will it be before we can start a meaningful outreach through the schools again? Will there ever be a choir again? Will it always be that every time a visitor comes to worship here that we will have to take down their medical history and the like? But, should we let the virus win, or do we continue to hold our confidence of better days ahead through Christ our Lord?!
Global warming? I believe that there will be better days ahead! Racial injustice? I believe that there will be better days ahead. Violence in our society? There will be better days. That somebody will finally create a can opener that works; I know that this is going to happen. After all, if we can send our billionaires into orbit, tell me what we cannot do if we keep the faith in Jesus Christ?
Being with my aunt and uncle in Germany recently, and hearing of how they had to survive through World War II as children has refocused my view of things. Yup, humankind has issues, but they are not the issues we had just seventy years ago. This gives me confidence in the future.
Did I ever tell you what “confidence,” that is the word itself, actually means? “Con” means “with.” “Fide” means “faith.” So, to be confident in the future is to be with faith.
But, without faith, I do not think things will get better. Just like at the end of World War I there was no confidence, so then we had a World War II. It takes faith to beat back all the bad things in this world that want us to be putting Christ back on the Cross.
We are working towards our own perfection. We are confident of being with God in heaven. Because of these, we can be confident that things here in this life will be better. Two steps forward, one step back, but always moving towards what is godly and just.
Let me close by just re-reading verses 10-11, “For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work. And the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end.”