Ministering to the Back-Sliding

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We’ve all known someone with a solid Christian history but currently seems to be waning, apathetic, or getting lazy. You know, the person whose history was so grand you would happily read the biography. She was knowledgable, loving, gracious, obedient, endured trials, and encouraged others. But something has happened. A life once marked as mature seems to be waning. We wrestle with concerning thoughts, doubt, and “Is he really saved?” It’s like maturity has stopped and the Lord isn’t there anymore. ¬†We wonder, “Will he persevere?” If you’re like me, you wonder, “How do I minister to this person?”

The good news for us, there is a biblical blue print for us in Hebrews.

Similar Situation

The Hebrews church had an epic – movie-esque history.

But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one (Heb 10:32-34).

That’s quite a history. The story of government persecution fascinates us in and of itself. But then they respond in a way worthy of Hebrews 11 Hall of Fame. They did not respond with whining, crying, law-suits, or hash-tag wars #SufferingForChrist. Instead they accepted it joyfully. Joyfully. Wow. They ministered to those who lost their property and were imprisoned. Charity and love fully on display encouraging the saints and honoring the Lord. The story of John G Paton ministering to the cannibals has nothing on this church.

The Back Slide

But this trial wasn’t the only one the Lord wants them to endure. As life progressed, something happened. They became like our friend we’re concerned with.

Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food (Hebrews 5:11-12).

The church has become “sluggish” or “dull of hearing.” The Greek could be translated either way. In fact, it’s translated “sluggish” in 6:12. Their maturity was in question and therefore even their salvation is in question. Believers are growing people. Why isn’t this congregation growing? This had to concern the author greatly, just like it would concern us. So what is the solution?

The Solution

Persevere! If you thought this, you would be correct. After all the author says this to the congregation, “You have need of endurance” (10:36). All believers must endure and persevere. We of course know God will preserve His children and they will make it to the heaven by God’s grace. But this doesn’t negate the other side of the coin. Believer, you must persevere.

The Starting Point

So, then, we have our answer. We need to tell our brother to endure and persevere! Well, kind of. Notice, what does the author open his letter with? He knows the congregation’s situation. He is concerned. So what is the first thing he says to them? Jesus Christ.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 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. 3 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, 4 having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they (Hebrews 1:1-4).

This text, the one we often use as a polemic against Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, or anyone else who defames the Lord’s character. It was instead the introduction to a letter meant to encourage by reminding them about our Savior. What is the most encouraging truth for a Christian? Christ! Have you ever met a believer who says, “Enough with our Jesus Christ!”? No, of course not.

Focus

In this world, with our heart, we so often want to take our eyes off of Him. We get easily entangled in our sinful pursuits. We lose focus on Christ. But a reminder about our Savior Christ Jesus is like twisting the focus dial on our binoculars. Dwelling on His glory, His work, and our redemption is a dose of hope good for the soul. Commentators note the “better than” theme of Hebrews. What we have in Christ is “better than” ______ (insert anything). Remembering Christ helps to take our mind off of the trivial, worldly, sinful desires and puts our focus where it should be.

Of course the answer is endurance. But why can I endure? Because Christ is greater! He is the author and perfector of my salvation. Looking to Him encourages the soul. It reminds us of where our worship and affections should be. Look to Christ. He is the fuel for endurance.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, 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, 2 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. (12:1-3)

Hebrews is a tapestry of great doctrines surrounding the glory of Christ. The author ties Him, holiness, endurance, the church, and our great salvation together around the spine: Christ. Hebrews also provides us an important ministry solution. How do I encourage someone waining in his faith? Remind him about Christ and His glory.

 

 

 

 

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