["To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul's paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart. Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found Him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking. Moses used the fact that he knew God as an argument for knowing Him better. "Now, therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight"; and from there he rose to make the daring request, "I beseech thee, show me thy glory." God was frankly pleased by this display of ardor, and the next day called Moses into the mount, and there in solemn procession made all His glory pass before him. David's life was a torrent of spiritual desire, and his psalms ring with the cry of the seeker and the glad shout of the finder. Paul confessed the mainspring of his life to be his burning desire after Christ. "That I may know Him," was the goal of his heart, and to this he sacrificed everything. "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may win Christ." (See Phil. 3:7-14 which expresses what the author of Hebrews is saying.) I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted." The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer]
Tozer's quote is a good summary of the book of Hebrews. The author of this great epistle warns and exhorts these Jewish believers in Christ and us today not to settle for the shadows (ritualistic religion) of Judaism or for us, the shadows and shallowness of worldliness, but to go for the substance – the rich satisfying banquet found only in a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Again Tozer's prayer says it well: "O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away." Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus' Name, Amen."
The problem seen in the book of Hebrews focuses on Jewish believers in Christ who were digressing in following Jesus as Lord because of persecution, and going from drifting (2:1-4), to doubting/unbelief (3:7-4:13), to dulling (5:11-6:20), to drawing back (10:26-39) to denying/refusing Him (Heb. 12:25-29). Likewise, the world, the devil and our flesh wage war against our soul and tempt us to do the same. The author reminds us continually to "fix our eyes on Jesus" as the way of spiritual growth, and the entire epistle exalts Him.
Spiritual drifting (Heb. 2:1) away from God and from spiritual growth is natural and happens by default. It is like a boat without an anchor (Heb. 6:19-20) or standing still on an escalator that is going down. Whereas spiritual growth is supernatural (God's work for us and in us) and requires spiritual discipline (man's work) such as Bible study, prayer, fellowship, service; and is like a salmon swimming up stream. Thus the author exhorts and warns us throughout the epistle to "work out our salvation" (Phil. 2:12-13). Spiritually speaking he tells us to get off the couch or recliner, take off our slippers, put on our running shoes and go for a run. And he includes himself in the many exhortations to "exercise ourselves unto godliness" (1 Tim. 4:7-8). "Let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it; let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience; let us hold fast our confession; let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need; let us press on to maturity; let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith; let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds; let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us; let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach; let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." (Heb. 4:1; 4:11; 4:14; 4:16; 6:1; 10:22-234; 12:1; 12:28; 13:13; 13:15)
The risk of faith – Why do some press on to maturity and others don't? We are all basically motivated to pursue happiness, pleasure, profit, etc. The risk of faith challenges us to believe (with all our being) that pursuing God and His will for our life will ultimately bring us the greatest joy now and especially in heaven as expressed by the psalmists: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." (Psalm 73:25) Jesus, As a Man, believed this and lived it out before a watching world for those who choose to fix their eyes on Him. So the question is where are you placing your hope for joy and blessing? I believe one of the biggest reasons Christians can drift or experience spiritual sloth is because we wrongly look to this world/life to meet our needs and desires and can even "expect" God to provide temporal and material blessings if we obey Him. Larry Crabb calls this the evangelical prosperity gospel. But hear these passages in Hebrews 11 that speak strongly against this. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.(Heb.11:1) Notice that Biblical faith is always future (the ultimate payoff is in heaven) and unseen – the invisible kingdom of God, an invisible God and our own invisible souls; i.e., we can't even see our spiritual growth or fruit most of the time.
Yet faith as described above is what pleases God and what He rewards as we seek Him (not blessings from Him). "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." (Heb. 11:6) In this same chapter we see many examples of men and women living by faith and trusting God for their eternal reward, not a full pay off in this life:
"All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them." (Heb. 11:13-16)
"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward." (Heb.11:24-26)
"Others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect." (11:35-40) Some people who lived by faith experienced victory and blessing in this life and some didn't but none of them received (all) the things promised. The important thing was not if they had victory in this life but that they gained approval from God by trusting in His promises to reward them for obedience now or in heaven. ["God has borne witness to the faith of these Ã¯Â»Â¿OTÃ¯Â»Â¿ heroes, yet they died before receiving the fulfillment of the promise. They did not live to see the Advent of the long awaited Messiah or to enjoy the blessings that would flow from His ministry. God had reserved something better for us. He had arranged that they should not be made perfect (complete) apart from us. They never did enjoy a perfect conscience as far as sin was concerned; and they will not enjoy the full perfection of the glorified body in heaven until we are all caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess 4:13-18). The spirits of Ã¯Â»Â¿OTÃ¯Â»Â¿ saints are already perfect in the presence of the Lord (Heb. 12:23), but their bodies will not be raised from among the dead until the Lord returns for His people. Then they will enjoy the perfection of resurrection glory."  KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1994, S. 2570 OT Old Testament ] ["Made perfect" means "made complete." This completion, the realization of all of God's promises in Christ's coming kingdom, awaits all believers." Radmacher, Earl D. ; Allen, Ronald Barclay ; House, H. Wayne: Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary. Nashville : T. Nelson Publishers, 1999, S. Heb 11:1]
So if we want to follow the example of this "great cloud of witnesses" seen in chapter 11 and the witness of our Lord Himself as a Man, how do we do it; how do we press on to maturity? The author of Hebrews tells us: "Fix your eyes on Jesus." (Gr. aphoraÃ…Â – to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something)
We fix our eyes on Jesus both as God and as a Man who ran the perfect faith race, as our brother/companion, as our power to resist temptation, as our soon coming king who will reward us for our faith and obedience to Him. (See attachment -why spend time alone with God – This document refers specifically to the Day Alone with God at Ignatius House but many of the principles apply to us as individuals; e.g., our quiet times, etc.)
THE DEITY OF CHRIST – God has revealed Himself through creation (Rom. 1:18-20; Psalm 19), our conscience (Rom. 2:14-16), patriarchs and prophets, Scripture and many other ways but the greatest revelation of God is seen in His Son. "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." (Heb.1:1-3) God the Father says this about Jesus His Son: "LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM." "But of the Son He says, "YOUR THRONE, O GOD (the Father speaking of Jesus), IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. "YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS." (See Heb. 1:6-10) "No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known]." (John 1:18) "Jesus replied, Have I been with all of you for so long a time, and do you not recognize and know Me yet, Philip? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say then, Show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me?" (John 14:9-10)
THE HUMANITY OF JESUS – "For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them (you and me – all believers) brethren, saying, "I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN, IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE." "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, "Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. (See Heb. 2:11-18) 'In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death (resurrect Him from the dead),and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. (Heb. 5:7-8) "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Heb. 12:2-4)
"But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you. Grace be with you all." (Hebrews 13:22-25) Engage deeply with God's truth, with God's people who know the truth, and reach out to the lost who need the truth.
"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. What is your main take away from the message and table discussion and how can you apply it to your life?
2. Have someone read Tozer's prayer in the second paragraph. "Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted." The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer. How would you rate your level of desire for greater intimacy with Jesus and greater likeness to Him?
3. Spiritual drifting by default(Heb. 2:1) or spiritual growth by discipline (Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Tim. 4:7-8) – Please read these three Scripture passages and evaluate yourself on the drifting or growing scale.
4. The risk of faith – Why do some press on to maturity and others don't? We are all basically motivated to pursue happiness, pleasure, profit, etc. The risk of faith challenges us to believe (with all our being) that pursuing God and His will for our life will ultimately bring us the greatest joy now and especially in heaven. Are you "betting the farm" on Jesus and eternity, or hedging your bets? (hedging – 'equivocate; avoid commitment')
5. How can we "fix" our eyes on Jesus, His Deity and His humanity? (See attachment- Why spend time alone with God?)
6.1) Engage deeply with God's truth, 2) with God's people who know the truth, and 3) reach out to the lost who need the truth. E&E- Edification (1&2) and Evangelism (3) make for a healthy Christian. Evaluate yourself on these three critical factors of your Christian walk.