"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Striving for Solid Food (Hebrews 5)

{Below are a few thoughts that I  recently provided our small group leaders. The challenge is that we continually go deeper in discipleship and lead our groups beyond the surface level discussion that occurs when small groups aren't intentional. I am blessed to work alongside many strong small group leaders, so these words aren't intended to address current ministry needs, but to remind us all of what happens when we take our eye off the proverbial ball.}

The letter to the Hebrews is penned by an unnamed author. Because the author refers to his letter as a “word of exhortation,” it is often considered to be a single sermon, or sermonic letter. The style is very polished and the message of salvation is heavily rooted in the superiority of Christ, and the idea of Christ as our heavenly high priest.  

So why is that important, and what can it possibly have to do with our small groups?  

Great question! The interesting part is that this particular passage serves as an abrupt interruption to the “sermon.”  In today’s world, it would be as if right in the middle of the message, the pastor was to notice a group of us nodding off, or checking email (er ... scrolling through YouVersion Bible software on our smartphone), or just looking dazed and confused at what was being taught. Notice the outline of Hebrews:

§  Hebrews 1:1 – 2:18       Jesus’ Superiority to Angels
§  Hebrews 3:1 – 5:10       Jesus’ Superiority to Mosaic Law & His Priesthood
§  Hebrews 5:11 – 6:12    WAKE UP! Mature in Understanding – I Know You Can Do This!
§  Hebrews 6:13 – 10:18   Continue Sermon on Priesthood and Superiority
§  Hebrews 10:19 – 12:29 Call to Faith & Jesus the Perfecter of our Faith
§  Hebrews 13:1 – 13:25   Concluding Remarks & Greetings

Just prior to this “Wake Up” exhortation, the author is teaching from Psalm 110 and of Christ’s appointment to high priest “after the order of Melchizedek.” This is great stuff – stuff that the author believed to be critical for a disciple of Jesus to want to understand. Maybe the author knew that it would require that the Hebrew audience showed greater interest and more passion to know God and His Word, if they were to become disciple-makers themselves.

The heart of the message comes to us in 5:11-12; “About this 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 need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.” Wow! Paraphrased, I take it to say, “There is such wonderful insight from God’s Word that we really want to tell you, but you are no longer listening. You’ve stopped reading the Bible, stopped discussing His precepts, and stopped learning. So many of you could lead others to Christ, but you have to start from scratch again.”  I have to believe this did wake a few folks up.

The goal of every disciple, according to Brandon Hatmaker at Barefoot Church Austin, should be to learn how to feast on the Word of God without being completely dependent on an outside teacher. In short, so many in Western Christianity have lost the ability to feed themselves. When we can feed ourselves, and then supplement with other strong, Godly teachers, we will then be in the disciple-making zone. And this is not an issue of where we are spiritually, or what our level of Biblical knowledge is when we begin to lead others. It’s much more an issue of the direction in which we are headed, and with how consistently we are attempting to feed ourselves.  

Lastly, we are told to leave our “elementary doctrine” and strive for “solid food,” or maturity in our understanding. How? As mentioned above, and as referenced in verse 14; “but solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice …” Consistently feeding on the Word of God leads to maturity.

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