Pastor Jerry Gillis - August 25, 2019

Community Group Study Notes

  1. Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
  2. What is one thing from Sunday’s message that was encouraging to your own walk with Christ?
  3. Read Jude 1:20-21. Have someone in your group pray that each of us would be built up in the faith, and would remain in Christ’s love.
  4. Read Jude 1:22-23. Have someone else in your group pray for those who may be doubting, that God would give you opportunity to demonstrate mercy to them so that they would embrace the Truth.
  5. Read Jude 1:24-25. Have one more person pray that God would keep each of you from stumbling, and that He would use your community group as one way to answer this prayer.
  6. What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard on Sunday?


Sermon Transcript

Like many of you, I try to keep up with what's going on in kind of the Christian world, not only nationally but also globally. Not the least reason is because this is part of what I do, this is part of what I pay attention to. Some of you, when you look at some of the happenings, whether you're reading stuff online or whatever in the Christian, there are times that maybe you, like me, are so encouraged by what you're seeing, what you're reading about whether it's happening here in the United States in particular things or whether it's something happening around the world. Then, there's other times where I'm perusing some of those news sites, and I am frustrated or really heavy-hearted, like this past two weeks has been, for me, a little bit, as I've looked at some of those things.

Here's part of the reason why, is because there have been a couple of prominent people in recent kind of weeks who have been a part of ministry, one who was a pastor for a long time and also an author who wrote a bestselling book years and years and years ago and another who was a songwriter, a worship leader in a kind of pretty famous worship group, who have both, in essence, denounced their Christianity. They're no longer Christians. One, a pastor, said, "Point blank, by all measurements of what a Christian is, I am not one." Then, the other, the worship leader, started in that direction and said, "I've lost my faith," and those kinds of things. He's walked that back just a little bit and obviously is wrestling and struggling. Some of us kind of think to ourselves, "How could this be?" This is a pastor, and this is a worship leader. We may have read their books or heard messages or been influenced by them or may have sung their songs.

How could this be? It's not new. This kind of thing has happened before. My mind goes back into the 1940s, the mid 1940s. There was this evangelist at the time. His name escapes me. Oh, yeah. Billy Graham, who was really famous, super popular. He was working with Youth For Christ at the time when he started out in his ministry in the 1940s. Working alongside of him was a man named Charles Templeton. There's a grainy black and white picture of them back in the mid to late 40s. Billy is on your right, and Templeton is on the left. They started out ministering together, both preaching Youth For Christ rallies. In fact, right after World War II, in kind of a post-World War Europe, they held some incredible crusades, saw many people come to faith in Christ.

The truth is, back then, what you may not know is, of the two of them, Chuck Templeton was actually known as the more gifted and more talented preacher between he and Billy Graham. Some years later, actually just a handful of years after that timeframe, Charles Templeton started asking some questions about himself, started pursuing some additional education, started challenging and thinking through some things, and started asking questions about the Bible, and then not believing the Bible. It descended to the point where he declared himself clearly an agnostic and maybe borderline atheist, though he never outright said that. Some people ascribe that to him. In fact, in 1996, just a few years before he was going to pass away in 2001, he wrote a book, a memoir, called A Farewell to God. How could this be? You're talking about a guy who hung out with Billy Graham, who saw all these people come to faith in Jesus Christ, and that's what happened.

Some of you maybe have been impacted by some of those stories, but maybe it's even more personal because, in your mind, you go back, and you remember that friend that you had, either growing up in church or somebody you knew from school who was really engaged in church. She was really bubbly, and she was super lively. She was at all the events, and she went to all the camps. She was always saying, "You need to read your Bible, and I'll be praying for you," and all those kinds of things, only to find out through social media a number of years later that she has declared she is no longer a Christian. She rejects that. She doesn't believe any of it. You're thinking to yourself, "How can this be? I don't understand how these things can actually happen."

Well, at the end of the day, I don't know what all of the variables are as to why people are in places that they're in, nor am I ascribing or saying full-well that I know about these kind of celebrity famous Christian people who have said they kind of reject their faith. I don't know all of the variables and all of the details. That's not really my place. What I do know is this, is that the Bible actually describes a category of people who knowingly kind of understand and even embrace the faith but then reject it. The Bible actually speaks to that idea, and there's a word that's used to describe that. It's the word apostacy. Now, apostacy may sound like a word that you're going, "Man, I don't really know what that word is." That's because we've really taken a Greek word, and we've made an English word out of it. It's the same thing we've done with the word baptism. Baptism is just another way in English of saying the Greek word baptizo. We just say baptism because that comes from that word.

Same thing. Apostasia is a word in the Greek language that we have taken and just said we're going to make this word English-sounding and call it apostacy. That word, apostacy, if I were defining it for you, it would be simple. It just means this. Apostacy means to abandon, forsake, to rebel, to fall away. That's the idea behind the word. You're only going to find this word, apostasia in the Greek language, you're only going to find it in the New Testament two different times. You're going to see it in Acts 21, and you're going to see it in 2 Thessalonians chapter two, but what you find is that the concept of apostacy is actually throughout the context of the New Testament. That's why, at times, you see all these warnings in the New Testament about false teaching. You see them over and over and over and over again, and there's a million reasons for that. Right? One of those is so that people don't fall into a place of apostacy because they've been building on a wrong foundation.

You can imagine when the early church began, when it started out, it's starting out in these places where you've got all kinds of Pagan religion. Now, you've got these people who are saying, "We believe in Jesus, that he's the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him." You've got this kind of burgeoning group of people who are gathering together to worship Jesus who've come out of this Paganism. You can imagine with all of the influences and all the cultural influences that are there that there would be times, even in the early church, that there would be people within what we would call the confines of the Christian community who would end up leaving that Christian community and who would reject out of hand the truth that they had heard.

We have New Testament writing about that. We've got New Testament examples about that, so this isn't a first of its kind when we see stuff like this, when you've got kind of Instagram famous, people who come on Instagram and say that they've rejected the Christianity that they've been a part of and that they've embraced for a long time. There's a number of places that we could turn in the New Testament to look at this, and we'll highlight maybe a couple of those, but I'm going to camp out in one particular space today in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews is in the back part of your New Testament. If this is new to you, if you're picking up a Bible for the first time, if you're getting one that's in your seat back or one that's on the table in the East Worship Center, and you're opening it up, go toward the back. It's toward the end of the whole New Testament.

Hebrews is a book that's written to struggling Hebrew Christians, thus the name. Hebrews is not a commentary on males who make coffee. Hebrews is actually about struggling Jewish believers who've come to faith in Jesus Christ and maybe are wrestling with some of those things. As a result, you see a lot of Jewish teaching in the book of Hebrews for that very reason, because, contextually, that makes perfect sense. I want us to look in Hebrews chapter number six because, in that, we're going to see some dense and sometimes thorny passage of scripture that's often times not easy to understand and to unpack. I'm hoping that we make some sense of that today to be able to understand it as both a cautionary tale and a warning, but you'll also find that it will serve to encourage us as well if we'll pay close attention.

Hebrews chapter six beginning in verse number one says this, "Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so. It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace."

Now, what I want you to understand is that, yes, we're seeing a really deep, rich, sometimes tricky passage of scripture here in front of us that can maybe take us down avenues that we ought not go, but I want you to understand not only the context of this being written to struggling Jewish believers who have put their faith in Jesus, but I also want you to understand the immediate context. You see, what's being talked about here, particularly in verses four through six, when we begin to unpack that, this is not talking about believers who have come to faith in Jesus Christ and who now have no faith. This is not talking about people who once were saved and now are not. That is not the context of what's being said here. There's a reason for that, because if you were reading this text, and you see that it's talking about these particular characteristics, what you don't see is you don't see salvation language around all of these things.

You don't see the word saved or salvation. You don't see the word born again. You don't see the word redemption. You don't see the word atonement. You don't see the word reconciliation. You don't see the word justification. You don't see any of that salvation language that's located right here because that's not the point of what's being described here. What is being described in verses four through six is what can be true of someone and they still not be an authentic, regenerated follower of Jesus Christ. That's what you see in this passage of scripture. Now, why I know that is because the author himself is actually writing to a specific group of people. He's writing to believers. His assumption is that the people that he's writing to are authentic, but he's actually talking to them about some other people.

Now, if you begin to read in chapter five beginning in verse 11, even if you have a Bible with you, I'm not going to show it to you, but you begin to read, what you start to see in chapter five verse 11 all the way until you get through chapter six verse number three is you see the writer talking in we, you, and us language. We, you, us. We, you, us. Why? He's writing as a believer to believers, we, you, us. Then, in verses four through six, it's them, their, those. Then, he begins to pick back up in verse number nine we and us. This is very important. I know that sometimes we move right beyond these kinds of things, but it's very important for us to be able to understand because he's not making an argument about those who were saved and are not saved. He's arguing about these people that he's kind of...

Think about it this way. You know when you're having a conversation with people, and you're talking about we, us, you, and all that stuff, and then you want to talk about a different scenario, about a philosophically group of theoretical people. You talk about them, those, and their. It's we and us, and then it's them and those, people who aren't represented here. The reason that I know that the writer believes better things of the very people that he's writing to, and he believes that they have genuinely been converted, is because of what he says after saying all of this stuff. Look at what he says in verse number nine, "Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case, the things that have to do with salvation." See, he's using we and your conversation here, and he's talking about things to do with salvation.

This is not talking about people who were saved and then who weren't saved because the Bible's really clear. Salvation is of the Lord. God is the one who gives salvation and, by the way, the one who began a good work in us is who carries it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. You didn't do anything to get salvation. You don't do anything to lose salvation because this is an act of God. God is the one who seals his own. God is the one who cares for his own. God is the one who sees us through to the end. Now, this, however, is talking about a cautionary tale of that which we need to understand, not talking about those who were saved and then who were not saved but those who, even though experiencing all of these things, were still unregenerate, were still never truly followers of Jesus Christ.

You know, Jesus said these people would come, by the way. You do know that. Right? Jesus said these people would actually come anyway. Listen to the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapter seven, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I,'" what's the word here? He doesn't say, "You know, I knew you, and then I didn't." He says, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers." You see, Jesus was talking about people that had never actually had a real, born from above, spiritual birth experience but instead had just experienced kind of the superficial side of all of this. They had participated. They had seen, but they'd never really been transformed.

The writer in Hebrews six is helping us to understand this very truth. He starts out in verse number one through verse number three talking about some foundational things. We just read about them a moment ago, repentance from sin, faith in God, baptism and filling of the Spirit of God. Then, he talks about resurrection from the dead and eternal judgment. These things are foundational. Why? Because they speak to the person and work of Jesus, that Jesus, listen to this, Jesus is the one who came and died for sin. Why? Because we were sinners who needed to repent so that we could be reconciled to God. The only way that that could happen is that if one satisfied the justice of God. That's why Jesus went to a cross to die in our place, to satisfy the justice of God, so that if we would turn from our sin and put our faith in him, we could be reconciled to the Father. This is about the person and work of Jesus.

You see, we are saved by the grace of God and his gift of Jesus through our faith in that. That is how we are saved. It is not by our works, lest any of us should boast. It is by grace through faith. That's why this is about foundationally the person and work of Jesus that the writer is talking about. He also talks about how we identify with Jesus in baptism through obedience, by saying our old life is gone because of what Jesus has done on the cross, and we have been raised like him. We, because he is raised from the dead, will not only be raised to a new life spiritually in this life, but he has promised us that when we die, that when he returns, we will be raised from the dead physically, immortally like he. This is an extraordinary promise. Now, when we stand before God to give an account of our lives, we no longer have to stand there in fear because what Jesus has done.

The Father, God, does not look at us based on our sin any longer but looks at us as people that are in Christ and sees us as he sees his Son. That is such good news. Now, all of these things are foundational. Listen carefully. If those are rejected, we are doing nothing less than rejecting the person and work of Jesus. That's why this is such a cautionary tale and a reminder to us, because what he says is, he goes on to say that there are some characteristics of people that can be true of them, yet they not be authentic believers in Jesus, never truly been born from above as Jesus talked about, never truly been regenerated. What are some of those things? Well, the text tells us. The first one is, he says they've been enlightened. Remember, he's using they terms. They had been enlightened. We get that out of Hebrews six verse number four. He says, "It's impossible for those who have once been enlightened."

Now, you say, "What does that term mean, to be enlightened?" Well, you probably have an idea of what it means, but in the second century, actually, in the early church, it came to be synonymous with baptism, actually. It came to be known in line with being baptized. They have been enlightened. The idea there is just that we have come to an embracing of the truth and understanding, at the very least, an understanding of the truth. They've been enlightened. Then he says here's another characteristic. They've tasted of the heavenly gift. Here's what it says in verse number four, "It's impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift." Now, specifically what that means is it's talking about the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, communion, the tasting of the heavenly gift, but maybe more generally it's talking about kind of the totality of the spiritual blessing that can be experienced in life.

Then, third, talks about they shared in the Holy Spirit. Notice what it says, verse number four, "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit." This term, "shared in the Holy Spirit," was probably indicative of those whom the apostles had laid their hands on and prayed for them to be empowered and/or filled with the Spirit. That was a common phrase that was used at that time. Let me give you a last thing. They knew the word, and they saw God's power. Let's look at verses four and five altogether, "It's impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age."

I mean, that speaks for itself. Right? They knew God's word, and they've seen God in action. They've seen the power of God on display. I don't know what that might have been, but in the early church, could that have been seeing people healed from disease? Could that have been people who were rescued from death? Could that have been relationships that were put back together that were absolutely hopeless, but God did something remarkable and extraordinary? Absolutely could be any of those things. They've seen the power of God at work. All of these things true of them. They've been enlightened. They've tasted the heavenly gift. They've shared in the Holy Spirit. They knew the word, and they had seen God's power. What does the writer say about them?

Listen, "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace." It's sobering when we begin to read that because think about it this way. If someone has participated in all of those things and yet never truly given their lives to Christ and rejects outright the claims of the gospel after having been enlightened to the truth of the gospel, maybe they even got baptized, really what they got is wet.

Maybe they were sitting and listening, and they were part of the community. They shared the meal of the Lord's Supper together with other people as well. They saw God at work. They saw the power of the Spirit of God in the community of God and what he was doing in the people of God. They saw all of it, and they say, "No." They reject that truth. Listen to me. What else is left to say to them? What else is there? What do I have then to say to them? They know what the gospel says. They know the truth of all these things. They've seen God in action, and they say, "No. I reject that. I forsake that." Do you know that that word, apostasia, is also where we get the word divorce? They've said, "No, no. I'm divorced from that truth. I have forsaken that. I'm rebelling against that. I'm turning away from that. I'm moving away from that. I'm saying no." What else is left to say?

At the end of the day, at that point, it's impossible for me to be able to say anything to those people that's going to cause their repentance. Now, the good thing is that the Bible tells us very clearly that with God all things are possible, and nothing is impossible for the Lord. Both of those statements come right out of the scripture. God can do whatever God chooses to do, but, for us, in terms of our ability to be able to do anything along the lines of any of these people, no. There's nothing left for me to say. There's nothing left for me to do. I mean, certainly to pray. Sometimes we kind of think about that, and we think, "This is just hard to imagine. Somebody who's experienced all of this, and yet they say no, that's just hard for me to imagine."

Well, there's a number of places in the scripture that shouldn't be that hard for us to imagine because we've seen them. I mean, if I walked you into the book of Acts, I could take you to a man named Simon the Sorcerer or Simon the Magician or Simon Magus maybe we would call him. Do you know what happened with this guy? He was really into kind of all the black magic and dark arts and whatever. He was Voldemort. I don't know what he was. He was doing all that stuff. Then, he sees what Philip is doing and his preaching and the power it has when he lays hands on people. They're filled with the Spirit, and God does something remarkable there, and they're coming to faith in Jesus. He wants that, and so he believes.

In fact, notice what it says in Acts eight verse 13, "Simon," talking about Simon Magus here, "Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw." Then, notice what happened when he had interchange with Peter in verse 18, "When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, and he said, 'Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.' Peter answered, 'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money. You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.'"

Do you know what historians tell us and early church historians tell us? Simon Magus went on to be, over the next decade or two, one of the staunchest opponents of apostolic Christianity. He saw it. He went through some of the motions, even got baptized, and rejected and opposed. How about Judas? Walked with Jesus for three years. You're thinking to yourself, "Man, how could Chuck Templeton, after being with Billy Graham for that time?" How about Judas who's been with the Son of God over three years? He's seen all of this has been in truth. Judas been enlightened? Yep. Has he tasted of the heavenly gift? Yep. In fact, where was it that his betrayal was known? It was actually at a Passover meal. Wasn't it? Has he shared in the Holy Spirit? He's seen all of this. Right? Did he know the word of God, and had he seen the power of God? Are you kidding me? What had he not seen? Jesus called him a devil, never regenerated.

We find out after the fact that even though he was a treasurer and looked at as many of the other disciples, going, "Judas is trustworthy. He should keep the money," that Judas was actually in it for the money. He was bagging some of that stuff himself. He was greedy. We find that out kind of after the fact. We see people like Simon Magus, people like Judas. What about the spies of Israel? Think about the children of Israel coming out of bondage, and they come through the baptism of the Red Sea, watching the mighty power of God right in front of them. They are provided for, and they taste of the heavenly gift of manna that comes down upon them to nourish them when they didn't have anything. Then, the spies are sent into the land of Canaan, the land of promise. They go in, 12 of them, and they come back, listen, with the fruit of the heavenly land coming back in. Yet, 10 of those 12 never walked into the land of promise because they did not believe.

Then, what about the other churches of the time? I mean, this writer is writing to these struggling Hebrew Christians, but there were other local churches in other places in other cities that were going through some of the same things. In fact, when the aged apostle John was kind of finishing up his ministry by pastoring the church at Ephesus, think about Ephesus. Man, their pastor lineage is pretty awesome. Paul founds it. Timothy pastors it. The apostle John pastors it. I would have hate to have been the next guy. Right? You are no Paul, Timothy, or John. I know. I'm just Jerry. Sorry to mess everything up. Nobody's writing any stories about me, but there's John pastoring in Ephesus.

Notice what he says when he writes this in 1 John two, "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you've heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." You see, we see all of these things in the context of scripture. I could talk about more. I could talk about Demus who left Paul and who may have left his faith. I could talk about Hymenaeus and Alexander whose faith was shipwrecked, and they left that, that Paul writes to Timothy about. What the writer is doing in Hebrews chapter number six is he's capturing for us what these apostates did. These things could be true of them, yet they were going to reject. They were going to say no. They were going to join.

Listen to this. They were going to, in effect, crucify Jesus all over again just like the religious leaders did in the day of Jesus. Think about this. The religious leaders, were they enlightened? They're speaking to the truth personified, Jesus. Did they know the word? Yes. Did they see the power of God and the evidence of the Spirit? Yes and yes. They saw all of that. Listen to this. They saw all of that in Jesus. They saw the truth. They rejected the truth. They crucified the truth. What this writer is saying is apostates join them in doing the same thing, rejecting the truth. Functionally, what these religious leaders did to Jesus is they called the truth, Jesus, a lie. That's what they did. They called the truth a lie. They said, "You're a devil. You're a blasphemer," when, in fact, he was the very Son of God. That's ultimately what an apostate ends up doing.

Now, it's sobering. What it means is this. There are people that are in the community of believers who are not like them. In fact, the writer of Hebrews describes them in an agricultural way in verses seven and eight. Here's what he says about them, "Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it's farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned." See, this is the idea that he's giving us. He's basically saying... It reminds me of the parable that Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 13 of the wheat the tares or the wheat and the weeds when he said that these things grow up together, you can't really tell the difference between them until harvest time. I've heard some talk about the difference there was that the wheat, when you cracked open the head, it actually had grain inside of it, but when you cracked open the weed, it had nothing.

It was empty. They look the same growing up together, and you can only tell the difference at the harvest. What it means is this. There could be people that are sitting in these chairs, in this room or in the East Worship Center or listening to us on a radio or watching online or watching on television, wherever it may be. There could be people sitting in these chairs who ultimately have never been born from above. They participated in the community of faith, have seen God at work, have watched God in the lives of other people. They've heard the gospel. They know the truths of the gospel. They've seen the power of God on display in a number of different ways, and yet where their heart is is going to ultimately be rejection. That can be true.

Now, I want you to understand something. Doubt is not the same thing as denial. Backsliding is not the same thing as denial. I want to make sure you hear me say that because whenever something's going on in someone's life, my heart is always to just try to minister, to try and take them where they are, and try to do whatever I can. You're doing the same thing in the lives of your friends. It's not about standing in judgment because we don't always know what's going on at that point. God knows, but we don't. Understand this. Sometimes we do doubt. I'm going to talk about that in just a second. I get that. The church community should be a place where we can wrestle with some of the hard issues of our faith. This should be a place where we're able to kind of turn those over, but there's a big difference, ladies and gentlemen, between, listen to this, doubting in faith or doubting without it. Big difference in those two things, but what do we do with all this?

We've been sobered by what's said here in this passage of scripture, but what do we do with this? I think the same thing that the writer of Hebrews tells them to do because I think that these warnings certainly can stand as a warning but can also, for those of us who truly believe and who've truly been transformed, can serve as an encouragement. Let me show you what I mean. How do we use these and how do we take these warnings and let them encourage us? Here's the first one. You should know this, that God knows you. Now, for some of you, go, "That's kind of a warning." Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen. Very clearly, make no mistake, if you are showing up to church, just punching a clock, acting like you can just show up and that somehow you're a Christian or, when asked, "What are you?" "I'm Christian. My family was Christian. I'm Christian," and you think it's just something that's passed through your genes.

You think it's something that by osmosis just happens to you, "I was born into a Christian family, so therefore I'm Christian," no, you're not. Walking into a garage doesn't make you a car. Going into McDonald's doesn't make you a Big Mac. These things don't just happen. It should be a warning to you. Listen, God knows you. He knows if your faith is not genuine. He knows if you're just punching a spiritual timecard. You're not doing it because you believe in Jesus so deeply, and you want to surrender your life and walk with Jesus. You're doing it to maybe hope that the big man upstairs gives you a couple of blessings, some additional bucks and some stuff, maybe a woman or maybe a man. Right? That's not authentic apostolic Christianity that is formed at the heart of the gospel. That's not what that is. That's religiosity, and it's institutional. It will damn us. It will kill us.

It should be a warning to us that God knows you, but for those of us who've been transformed, it's really good news. It's really good news. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says, "God is not unjust." After he said all of this stuff, he said, "God's not unjust. He will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." Isn't that good news? Isn't it good news that God knows the truth and the authenticity of the faith of our hearts? Listen to this, he says, "I haven't forgotten that. I haven't forgotten that you love me. I haven't forgotten that you love my people and that you've ministered. I haven't forgotten." That's really good news for us. We can see this warning, but we can also be encouraged, first of all, that God knows us; but, secondly, there's kind of an exhortation that we need to be diligent to know God. Yeah, God knows us, but we've got to be diligent to know God.

Notice what the writer says here. "We want each of you to show this same diligence to the," what? "... very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized." Did he say, "I want you to show this same diligence while you're at camp, get super fired up, and then forget about it all. I want you to show this same diligence early on when you're married but then later on forget it. I want you to show this same diligence for a short period of time"? No, no, no. He says to the very end. What's he talking about? Whole life, to the very end. Why? Because what we find out, ladies and gentlemen, is this. When we come to matters of our faith, those who persevere to the end will be saved the scripture says. How do we know who's saved? Because those who are saved will persevere to the end. Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved. Those who are saved will persevere to the end. That's how you understand that.

You're going, "I'm still confused." Don't be because, here, if we continue in faith, if we hold to the teaching of Jesus, if we continue to diligently know God, that is where we can rest in assurance of our childhood in God. That's where we rest in that. You see, there's so many places in the scripture. I'll give you two, one that Jesus says. Notice what he says in John eight, "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, if you persevere, if you continue in my teaching, you are really my authentic disciples.'" There are going to be some that are going to latch on and go, "Man, this is awesome. I'm going to follow Jesus for a while, but really what they're looking for is they want some more fish and bread and some more tricks. They're not my authentic disciples because they're not holding to my teaching." Since, when you do that, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Paul says it this way in Colossians chapter one, "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation, if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel." True believers will hold tightly to Jesus and find out at the end that they were holding tightly because he was holding tightly to them. This is what we find out. Those who persevere to the end will be saved. Those who are saved will persevere to the end. Now, I want to give you one more. It should be an encouragement, and it's this. Imitate lives of faith.

Notice what the writer says here, verse number 12, "We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised." We don't want you to become lazy, but we want you to by faith and patience to imitate those who inherited what's been promised. Now, I think that this passage of scripture here is talking about dead people, people who've already walked with Jesus and who've died. The reason I believe that is because Hebrews six, this exhortation, is actually setting up Hebrews 11 where you've got this role call of faith of people who have walked faithfully with Jesus, and then they have gone on. You see, what he's trying to do also is he's trying to put up a contrast to those who heard the same message, who heard the same truth, who heard the same gospel, and then just didn't act on it, just said no.

In fact, you read about that. If you back up two chapters into Hebrews four, here's what it says, "Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed." You see, we should imitate those whose lives of faith have been obedience to the gospel for their whole lives, and then they've died. Why is that? Well, I remember talking to a friend and mentor in ministry. This was a number of years ago, well over, I don't know, maybe 10, 12, 13 years ago, 15 years ago. I brought up a book that I had just read. I said, "Man, have you read this book?" He's like, "No, never heard of it."

I was like, "Never heard of it? Man, everybody's reading it. What are you talking about?" He said, "I just read dead people." I went, "What?" He said, "Yeah, I just read books by believers who are dead." I laughed. I was like, "Oh, that's cool. Funny." A few years later, I realized it's brilliant. It doesn't mean that I never read books by people who are still alive, but, you know what, I'm so done with reading books by this 28-year-old guy or this 27-year-old woman who's telling me all about life, and then they end up, 15 years later, rejecting Jesus, and their life falls apart and all that kind of stuff. Do you know why I read dead people? Because I can trust them. They testified to the glory of God. They died in faith, and they're with Jesus now. You know what? Their words just jump out to me. I'm going, "Yes, yes."

By the way, no offense to a 27 or 28-year-old. They can certainly contribute to the conversation and have wonderful things to say. I love upcoming generations, and I like to hear from them, but, at the end of the day, this writer I believe is telling us we pay attention to those lives of faith who have walked faithfully, who've obeyed the gospel, and they've gone now to be with Jesus. You can trust that. You can trust that model right there. I'll be honest with you. I've seen apostacy. I've seen it in my ministry. I've seen apostates. It usually goes in a pattern. It's like a progression that happens. It usually begins like this, not all the time. This isn't a formula, but it usually begins this way.

It usually begins with, "I'm doubting." Listen, no problem, as I already told you. Doubting happens in our lives, but here's what I want to make sure you understand. These people start doubting the wrong things. They're doubting the wrong things. See, there's a reason the writer of Hebrews started off with talking about things that were foundational. He was basically talking about the person and work of Jesus. When people start doubting the wrong things, they start heading down a path that leads them to a second step. You start doubting the wrong things instead of... There's things to doubt. Right? Man, we go through a time in our life where there's sickness in our lives or in our spouse or in our boyfriend or our girlfriend. It's serious. We're praying, "God, we want you to heal them. We believe you can, but we don't know if you will." Then, we doubt. We struggle. We wrestle. Right? Yes.

We've lost a job, and we're like, "I don't know how. I know, God, you provide. I know you got cattle on 1,000 hills. I wish you'd butcher one for me right now because I need one. I know you've created everything, that you're the provider, and all that stuff. I need a job, and I don't have one. I'm struggling, and I'm doubting." You walk through a season of doubt because all that stuff. I get it. When we start doubting the person and work of Jesus, and I'm talking about not doubting in faith where we just ask. Let's wrestle with some of the hard things. That's okay. We do that. I've done that. I do that, but when we're doubting without faith, we start doubting the wrong things. That leads us, here's what the second progression of that is, people start sitting in judgment on the word of God.

I see it all the time. You start by doubting the wrong things, and then you start judging the word of God as if you now become the arbiter of ancient truth, of people who died for the very message they're proclaiming. You're like, "Eh." That usually leads to a shipwreck of some kind and, at best, a rejection. It could be an antagonism. Sometimes it's not. What leads you to that? I don't know. There's a million different things. I can't sort them all out. Is it because we just don't, in our heart of hearts, we just don't want to be under the authority of God? If we believe these things, he asks us about some things, and we just don't want to do that. We want to give into our flesh. We want to do whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it, and that's that. Or maybe it's the cultural pressure. How can a pastor check out and say, "I'm no longer a Christian"? I don't know.

Is it the cultural pressure that's constantly beating on us, saying, "Everything you're saying is craziness. You're so narrow. How could you even say that Jesus is the only way to the Father"? I don't know, because he said it. Your problem's with him, not with me. The culture becomes so pressure-packed and pressure-filled that people just punch out. They're like, "I just don't want to do this anymore. I don't want to take this anymore. I'm not doing this. I just reject it out of hand. I'm just going to go with the flow. They must be right." Broad is the way that leads to destruction. Narrow is the way that leads to life. I don't know. I don't know why people punch out. Is it because they saw the person that influenced them on Instagram who was a pastor or a guy who wrote songs who now says no, and so you punch out because they did? What does that say about your faith? It says it was nothing from the beginning. Right? A faith that falters at the finish was flawed from the first. Try say that again. It's true.

Here's what I want you to know. Know this. Regardless of whether it's a pastor or a worship leader or somebody like that, some Instagram Christian famous celebrity who rejects Christianity and says no to the gospel, just know this. It doesn't change the fact that there was a virgin-born boy named Jesus in Bethlehem, conceived of the Holy Spirit, who lived a sinless life, who saw from the echos of eternity that humanity could not rescue itself from sin, so took on flesh so that he could not only identify with us but actually end up going to a cross as a sinless substitutionary sacrifice to take upon himself the justice of God for sin that belonged to you and me but he instead took upon himself as a sufficient sacrifice. It doesn't change the fact that he got up from the dead on the third day and appeared historically to hundreds of people who documented his appearance. Paul even wrote and said this. He said, "If you don't believe it, go ahead and ask them because they're still alive even as I write these words."

They have seen the resurrected Son of God. This same Son of God who appeared in his resurrected state ascended to the Father in front of his disciples, sent the power of the Holy Spirit to indwell his church, has now encapsulated the glory of God in the world. He is promising to return. No matter what anybody says or no matter what anybody rejects, I don't care who they are, they're not Jesus. The historical fact remains he is who he said he is, he does what he says he'll do, and he will do what he has promised, period. I'll add to that glorious set of truths that is historically viable and true regardless of whether anybody believes it. Let's get ourselves off of the bumper sticker mentality, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." God said it. That settles it. It doesn't matter whether you believe it or not. It's not about you. God said it. That settles it, period, full stop. Right?

Listen, part of the reason that I can add to these glorious truths is because I once was lost but now am found. I was blind, but now I see. My eyes have seen too much. My heart has felt too much. I have seen my own life go from the bowels of the kingdom of darkness to the glorious rock of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of light. I have seen it time and time and time and time again in the lives of other people as well. Regardless of what anyone anywhere ever says about Jesus and rejecting him, Jesus remains, and he always will, and no one that anyone ever says, nothing that anyone ever does is ever going to change that fact. Now, what I want to do is I want us as a body to affirm that with our mouths by confessing our belief. I want you to ask this question. I want to sing something, and then I'm going to come back and close this. Then, we'll be gone.

I want you, as we're singing this, I want you to ask this question in your heart, "Do I believe this or do I not?" I want to come back to that in just a moment. Father, I pray you would speak to us by the power of your own Spirit and write your word on our hearts. Your word is a strong, strong corrective agent and also a balm to our souls. I pray, God, that you would make real to us and encourage those of us who have been transformed and that you would expose, God, the hearts of those who haven't, but remind them that you love them, that you desire to know them. God, this is not because of any lack that you have but because of how gracious you are. May you do that in our hearts even now as we confess our belief in you. We pray in Jesus' name.

Why don't you stand with me? Let's confess this as we sing with all of our hearts, and then I'll come back and share a final word in a moment. Confession of truth by the people of God is good for our soul. Let me say this to you. I understand sometimes that people walk through seasons where they wrestle with hard things, where they wrestle with doubts, where they struggle sometimes. I got it. This should be a safe place for you to be able to do that, and you should be able to do that in the context of community. Doubting is not the same as denial. Backsliding and stepping into sin on occasion but feeling the deep sense of repentance is a birthmark of a believer when we feel that correction, when we feel that repentance, because God disciplines those he considers his children.

He's not walking around the grocery store disciplining other people's kids. He disciplines his own. That happens in our lives from time to time. It's actually a mark. We know we've grieved the Father's heart, and we know that the Father has lovingly and graciously called us back to a place of what life with him looks like. These things happen. That's not denial, but my prayer is if you know in your own heart that maybe you've just checked some religious boxes in your life, but you've never been born from above, you're like, "I met Jerry. I met the pastor." I didn't ask if you met the pastor. I've asked you if you've met the master. The question is not whether you are on our church role but whether you're on God's scroll, the lamb's book of life, because people can sit in the pews, they can even get baptized when, in fact, all they're doing is just getting wet.

If you've never been born from above, my prayer is that God the Spirit is drawing you by his own grace and his own love, and when we dismiss in just a moment, you'll, as we say in the South, you will hightail it across the atrium into the Fireside Room and talk to somebody about what it means to begin a faith journey with Jesus, to have your sins forgiven, your life made new. There's nothing more important you'll ever do in your life. Father, I pray that you would give us a sense of the truth of your word and that you would build up our faith even when the world around us sometimes seems to crumble, that you would remind us that we don't set our eyes on people.

We set our eyes on the cornerstone, the solid rock. God, when we build on foundations of sand, it is inevitable that tides will come in and sweep it away, but when we build upon the rock, nothing will ever move it, the rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ, the living stone, the cornerstone. May we build our lives on the rock, that even when storms come, and we feel battered, and we sometimes feel overwhelmed, our foundation holds. Thank you that you see to it that that happens because of your power, which is so richly at work in us, that you are the one who will keep us until the day of Christ Jesus. That is glorious and beautiful for our hearts to behold.

Would you do your Spirit's work in the lives of people, either confirming and encouraging or through the convicting power of your Spirit, will you draw men, women, boys, and girls to yourself, that they may be transformed, made new, set free? Help us to be authentic believers in a world of inauthenticity so that the world may see Jesus in us. For your glory, we pray in Jesus' name. Amen. I really love you folks. These are messages sometimes that are hard to preach, but because I love you, I will tell you the truth before God and pray that I continue to do that because your eyes are not fixed and should never be fixed just on me. Ask my wife. I have not done my job if you don't learn how to fix your eyes on Jesus, period. I love you. Have a great week.

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