A Call to Persevering Faith

March 3, 2024 ()

Bible Text: Hebrews 6:4-12 |


A Call to Persevering Faith | Hebrews 6:4-12
Brian Hedges | March 3, 2024

Let’s turn in our Bibles this morning to Hebrews 6.

We all know that in every election year there are certain battleground states, states that could swing either way in an election. A lot of time and energy goes into campaigning for those states. In the same way, there are in the Bible certain battleground texts. There are passages of Scripture that can be interpreted in different ways depending on the theological presuppositions that are brought to the text.

The passage that we’re looking at this morning, Hebrews 6:4-12, is one of those passages.

This is a passage that has haunted many believers and that has confused many more. It has to be one of the more difficult passages in the book of Hebrews and, in fact, one of the most difficult passages in Scripture. So we have our work cut out for us this morning, and I hope that you will continue to pray that God will speak to us through the word, that he’ll give me clarity in trying to make clear what this text teaches, and that God will use it in our lives not to confuse us but to actually strengthen us in our faith.

This is part of our ongoing series through Hebrews. Hebrews proclaims that Jesus is better. It is, the author tells us, a word of exhortation, using that phrase in Hebrews 13:22—a word of exhortation, a letter which is intended to warn his readers of dangers, to comfort them with the superior realities of the new covenant blessings that are theirs in Jesus Christ, and to exhort them to continue in the faith.

All of those themes really come together in Hebrews 6. We’re going to read together Hebrews 6:4-12, and then I want to point out three things in this passage. Let’s read.

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

“Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

This is God’s word.

In this passage we see:

1. A Warning (vv. 4-8)
2. An Assurance (vv. 9-10)
3. An Exhortation (vv. 11-12)

Let’s look at each one of those three things.

1. A Warning against Falling Away

First of all, there is a warning, and it is a warning against falling away, which we see in Hebrews 6:4-8. These are the verses that have plagued so many people, that have haunted so many people. What in the world is this passage teaching?

I want to make a couple of statements to clarify what I genuinely believe is the teaching and the intention of this passage of Scripture.

(1) We could say, first of all, that this is a warning to believers, not to hypocrites. It’s important that we understand what these descriptions of these persons in Hebrews 6:4-5 are. He says, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance.”

In this description, he says five things about them. This description is a description of believers. I want to show you that as we just look through those briefly.

He says, “They have once been enlightened.” This means that they have received the light of truth, the light of the gospel, and that their eyes have been opened. I think we can be sure that this is describing the experience of a believer, because the same word is used in Hebrews 10:32-34, where the author says,

“But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.”

He goes on to talk about how they had compassion on those who were in prison and visited them and cared for them.

He says this happened “after you were enlightened.” It’s a description of their conversion, their salvation, when they first came to faith in Christ. They received the light of truth.

Of course, Scripture often speaks this way. It speaks of how the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ shines into our hearts so that we begin to see, we begin to know God. He says they have been once enlightened and they have “tasted the heavenly gift.”

Some people have supposed that maybe this means they tasted, they just kind of sampled something without really taking it in, without really digesting. “Maybe this is a person who hasn’t really fully taken in the gift of salvation.”

But this word “tasting,” according to one commentator, David Peterson, implies experiencing something in a manner that is real and personal, not merely sipping it. It’s a real taste.

I think the confirmation for that is that the very same word is used of the Lord Jesus in Hebrews 2:9, where it says that “Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for everyone.” Jesus didn’t just sip death, he really tasted death. He really experienced it to the full. As fully as was possible for a human being to die, Jesus died. When he died on the cross, it was a real death.

So when the author says here that they have tasted the heavenly gift, he means that they really have tasted this gift of salvation, the gift from heaven that God has given them.

Then he goes on to say that they have shared in the Holy Spirit. Again, this word “shared” is a word that is used in Hebrews to describe those who have shared in some way in the blessings of the gospel. Hebrews 3:1 describes those who “share in a heavenly calling, Hebrews 3:14 those who “share in Christ,” Hebrews 12:10 those who “share in God’s holiness.” To share in the Holy Spirit means to have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, to have received the Holy Spirit.

Of course, this is the definitive mark of the Christian. To be a Christian is to be someone who has been born of the Spirit, who is indwelt by the Spirit, who is sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption, has received the Spirit as a guarantee, so that the Spirit bears witness in their hearts that they are children of God, sons of God, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. The Spirit is the agent of our sanctification in the Christian life. He’s called the Spirit of adoption, and it’s by the presence of the Spirit in our hearts that we cry out to God, “Abba, Father!” To be a Christian is to be someone who has received the Holy Spirit.

He says they have tasted the goodness of the word of God. This is, in Hebrews especially, the word of God revealed in the Son. In times past God spoke to our fathers in many different times, in many different ways. He spoke through the prophets, Hebrews 1 says, but now in these last days he has spoken through the Son. It is the word of the gospel, the word of salvation, given in Jesus Christ. Then he says they have tasted the powers of the age to come.

Hebrews 2 says that the message of this great salvation was declared by the Lord, it was attested to by those who heard as God bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are the powers of the age to come.

You put those five descriptions together, and I think Charles Spurgeon was right when he said, “If the Holy Spirit intended to describe Christians, I do not see that he could have used more explicit terms than there are here.” These descriptions are descriptions of Christians, not of hypocrites. That’s just important for us to understand so that we will know how the warning is meant to function. It is a warning to Christians; it’s a warning to you, it’s a warning to me, it’s a warning to us, a warning to the church.

If we’ve experienced all of this and then fall away, then it is impossible to be restored to repentance. So this is a warning to believers, not hypocrites.

(2) And it is a warning against falling away, not just falling into sin. Here’s an important distinction to make. This word “falling away” is a word that carries the idea of a total apostasy. In fact, the word is only used in here in the New Testament, but it’s used in the Greek Old Testament in the prophet Ezekiel to describe apostasy. Ezekiel 18:24:

“But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live?”

That’s the word: he turns away.

Various commentators have pointed out that there are different senses of this idea of falling. Calvin says there’s a twofold kind of falling. He says that all sins are falling, but not all sins are falling away. This is a warning not just about sin in general, but it is a warning against the kind of continuance in sin that leads to apostasy, a complete falling-away from the gospel. It’s not a partial fall, it is a total renunciation of God and his grace, a complete and a total fall.

Spurgeon describes the difference between falling and falling away as the difference between fainting and dying. A person may faint, and yet they get up again; but a person who dies is not going to rise again. In fact, Proverbs 24:16 says, “The righteous man falls seven times and rises up again.”

So Spurgeon clarifies. This is not falling into sin through some sudden, surprising temptation. This happens to us; this happens to us more regularly than perhaps we would like to admit. We get off our guard, we’re not watchful, we’re not careful; a temptation comes, we’re not really paying attention, and before we know it, we’re deep into it. We’ve said something we shouldn’t have said, we’ve thought something we should not have thought, we’ve allowed our hearts or our desires or our affections to go in a direction they should not have gone.

That’s not what this is talking about. It’s not even talking about someone who goes into a temporary pattern of ongoing sin. Think about David in the Old Testament—King David. He committed adultery with Bathsheba. He actually committed murder to cover up his sin and he continued in this state for some period of time.

Yet we have his great prayer of repentance in Psalm 51, where he prays that God would restore him, that he would restore to him the joy of his salvation, that God would have mercy on him, that he would wash away his sins, and cleanse him from his iniquity and create a right spirit within him. And surely if in the old covenant someone like David could be restored, so in the new covenant believers who sin, even who sin in very grievous ways, can still be restored.

That’s not what this passage is talking about. It’s not even talking about someone who, in a temporary lapse of faith, renounces Jesus. Don’t you remember Peter on the night of Jesus’ crucifixion? He swears three times, “I don’t even know the man.” And yet when the Lord looks at him from across the courtyard he remembers what Jesus had said. Jesus had prophesied this would take place. Peters goes out, and he weeps bitterly, and we have the beautiful record of Peter’s repentance and his restoration in John 21.

This passage in Hebrews 6 is not simply talking about falling into sin or falling down, it’s talking about a complete and total falling away, an apostasy from Christ and from the gospel. And it says that in such cases it is impossible to restore them to repentance since they are crucifying—present tense—they are and they go on crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding—once again present tense—they continue to hold him up to contempt.

David Peterson says,

“Such people reject the Son of God as deliberately as his executioners did and openly put themselves in the position of his enemies who mocked him. This suggests a public repudiation of the Son of God and a continuing denial of any need for the salvation he has accomplished on the cross.”

So this is a warning to believers. It is a warning to believers against falling away—a total apostasy. And Hebrews 6:8 tells us that in such cases that they are like ground that has been watered but only bears thorns and thistles, and the ground is therefore worthless and is fit only for burning.

This word “worthless” is used, over and again, in the New Testament for those who are seen to be disqualified on the last day, the day of judgment. I can give you the references for it—2 Corinthians 13:5-7, 2 Timothy 3:8, Romans 1:28, 1 Corinthians 9:27—all these verses use this word “worthless” or “disqualified” or “rejected” in this way.

(3) So, this raises a question, doesn’t it? This raises a question. Is it then possible for a genuine Christian—someone who has been justified and forgiven, someone who has been born of the Spirit and given new life, someone who has been indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit and adopted into God’s family and made an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ—is it possible for them to lose their salvation? That’s the burning question.

My first answer is that that’s not really the question this author is trying to answer. That’s actually not what is in his mind here. He is instead, speaking to believers to warn them, and the warning has an intention. The warning has a purpose. He is warning them so that they won’t fall. He’s warning them so that will continue in the faith. The warning is a means to keep them from falling away.

Charles Spurgeon, in a wonderful sermon on this passage, explains this in a very helpful way. I want to read the quotation. He says,

“What is the use of putting this if in, like a bugbear to frighten children or like a ghost that can have no existence? First, O Christian, it is put in to keep you from falling away. God preserves his children from falling away, but he keeps them by the use of means. There’s a deep precipice. [A cliff, right?] What is the best way to keep anyone from going down there? Why, to tell him that if he did he would inevitably be dashed to pieces. Our friend puts away from us a cup of arsenic [a cup of poison]. He does not want us to drink it, but he says, ‘If you drink it, it will kill you.’ Does he suppose for a moment that we should drink it? No, he tells us the consequences and he is sure that we will not do it.”

This is the first thing I want you to get. The purpose of the warning is actually to keep us from the consequences that he’s warning us of.

So here’s the application. The Lord’s warnings call us to watchfulness, not to paralyzing fear. The purpose of the warning here is not to scare you in such a way that you are paralyzed by fear: “What if I lose my salvation?” That's not the purpose of the warning. The purpose of the warning is to call you to watchfulness; watchfulness against sin, against danger, against slothfulness, and spiritual sluggishness, as we saw last week. In fact, this passage is continuing with that concern. He’s concerned that they’ve become dull of hearing and they’re not growing, they’re not maturing. And then he warns them that this kind of sluggishness, if left unchecked, could lead to this kind of falling away, which is a total apostasy. And he wants to stop them in their tracks and to call them back to watchfulness and carefulness in their lives.

It’s like when you’re driving on these curvy, mountain roads. Right?

About once a year our family drives down to Georgia to see family down there. We drive through the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. And we are in those mountains, and I mean, those roads are curving every which way. Those are dangerous roads; there are warning signs everywhere. You know, “Watch for falling rocks.” Sometimes, you know, you feel like you’re a little close to the edge. You’ve got cars coming at crazy speeds all around you. What do you do? Well, it makes you pay more attention. Makes you be more careful so that you don’t have an accident; so that you don’t crash. And the warnings in Scripture are meant to function in that way. That’s what this warning is here to do. It’s here to call you to watchfulness.

So just pause and ask yourself, is there this kind of watchfulness in your life? Not a paralyzing fear, but rather, a carefulness and a concern, a vigilance, spiritual alertness so that you’re on your guard and you’re taking seriously the dangers and the threats to your faith in this world: sin and temptation and the enemy and so on. Heed the warning. There’s a warning in this passage. It’s a warning against falling away, but, here’s the second thing I want you to see.

2. An Assurance

There’s also assurance. There’s an assurance that they won’t. Alright? And that’s what you immediately see in Hebrews 6:9-10. He’s warned them against falling away, and then in verses 9-10 he assures them that they won’t. Look at what he says.

“Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.”

It’s an assurance. I want to say a couple of things about this assurance. First, just focusing on assurance right here in Hebrews 6.

He says, “We feel sure of better things.” And I think the “better things”—you might ask, “Better than what?” I think it means better than the worthless land in verse 8 that is fit only for burning. I don’t think he’s contrasting “better things” with the spiritual experiences of Hebrews 6:4-5. He says, “We are persuaded of better things—[in your case] things that belong to salvation.” Then he lists two of them.

First of all is their continuing work and love for God expressed in service to the saints. These are the fruits of God's grace. He looks at their love. He looks at the way they are living. He looks at their changed lives. He looks at their devotion to serving other believers and he says, “This is something that accompanies salvation. This is one of the better things that accompanies salvation. This is fruit.” In contrast to the ground that doesn’t bear fruit in verse 8, this is the ground that does bear fruit, verse 7. “And here’s fruit in your life.”

And of course, these are the fruits of God’s grace in their lives, and he calls attention to this and he says, “God is not unjust so as to overlook these things.” So he actually calls attention here to the justice of God and he says, “Here’s another reason you can be sure. If these things are true in your life, God is not unjust to overlook these things or to forget these things.” And he’s envisioning the day of judgment, when, instead of being condemned, they will be rewarded by God’s grace.

Now, he doesn’t mean here that God owes us anything. It’s not that anything we do puts God in our debt. But to paraphrase St. Augustine, when God rewards our works he’s crowning his own gifts. He’s crowning the gifts of grace in our lives. He’s produced these things in us by his grace, and when he rewards us in the day of judgment he is crowning his own gifts.

I think this is essentially what this passage means. It’s that the fruits of God’s grace in your life as seen in your love, in your service, in your hard work for the saints and for the sake of the gospel—God will remember it, God sees it, and these are the better things that accompany salvation. That’s the assurance here from Hebrews 6.

Now, some of you are thinking, “You know, when you asked that question a minute ago, ‘Can a Christian lose their salvation?’ you kind of took a punt. You didn’t really answer the question.” So I’m going to answer the question. Okay? And this is the task of systematic theology. Alright? This is what we have to do in interpreting the Bible, we have to interpret Scripture with Scripture. We have to see what the whole Bible says about something in order to rightly interpret a passage like this.

Now I think the answer to the question—“Can a Christian lose their salvation?”—I think the answer to the question is no. And I want to give you some reasons, some assurances from other passages of Scripture. It’s not the focus of this passage. I don’t think it’s the question this author is trying to answer. But other passages do answer that question. Let me give you a few really quickly.

First of all, John 10:27, 29. You have there the promise of eternal life. And the very nature of the promise guarantees that those who have it will not perish. Jesus says,

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish, and no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

If you have eternal life it’s eternal, and you cannot perish.

Then you have the intercession of Jesus Christ in John 17. The whole chapter is Jesus praying for his disciples and then praying for those who will believe through their word. And what does he pray for them? He says, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. Sanctify them in your truth; your word is truth. I’m praying, Father, that you will keep them.” And the very prayers of Jesus Christ—that you be kept in his word—are prayers that will be answered. They are answered.

And, in fact, Romans 8 tells us that even right now Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for us. He’s praying for you. What is he praying for you? He’s praying that your faith will not fail, just as he prayed for Peter. Peter fell into sin. Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail. His faith didn’t fail—not ultimately. Peter was restored, and I think Jesus prays those same kinds of prayers for us. The intercession of Christ, then, guarantees the salvation of all who believe.

And then you have Romans 8. If we had time we’d go through it—Romans 8:28-39. It’s this wonderful passage on the security of God’s love where Paul says that those who are foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ have also been called, and justified, and glorified. And nothing that is laid against their charge will stand, because God justifies. There’s no one who can condemn them because Christ Jesus has died, and has been raised from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of God, and is interceding for them. Nothing can separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And then you have the faithfulness of God, Philippians 1:6. Maybe the one verse that, I think, confirms this truth—that the Christian cannot lose their salvation. Phillipians 1:6, Paul says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” If God has begun this work in you, he will bring it to completion. He’ll be faithful. He’ll do it. He’ll do the work. Therefore, for all those reason—and there are even more—we can have an assurance as Christians, that God will not let us go.

Sometimes we sing that wonderful song, “He Will Hold Me Fast.” Right? No matter what we face in this life, no matter what the temptations are, no matter what trials, he will hold us fast. He keeps us by his grace.

But we have to understand how these assurances are meant to work. Just as the warnings are meant to call us to watchfulness—not paralyze us in fear—so the Lord’s assurances are meant to give us spiritual comforts, but not carnal security. And there’s a difference between those two things. There’s spiritual comfort. There’s real comfort that’s given to us through the promises and assurances of God’s word; comfort that God will restore us, that God will keep us, that God will be faithful to us, that God will forgive us, that God will pardon us. And those are comforts for the humble believer who turns from sin and who repents and who lives this life of dependance on the Lord. But if you take them as a kind of fire insurance—get out of jail free card—and you use it as an excuse, a license, for continual indulgence in sin, you’re misusing the promises of God, you’re abusing the grace of God, and you’re putting yourself in spiritual danger.

Let me give you an illustration that I’ve found helpful. I’ve used it many times over the years. It’s from that wonderful allegory of John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress. You may remember that there’s a scene in The Pilgrim’s Progress where Christian is walking through this house, the house of the interpreter.

He sees many different images in this house. He comes to this one room where there’s a fire that’s burning in a fireplace. It’s burning bright. It’s burning hot. But there’s somebody with a pail of water who keeps throwing water onto the fire. You would think the fire would be extinguished. You’d think the fire would be put out. The water’s a threat to the fire. It would seem like the water poured on the fire would put the fire out.

So Christian asked the interpreter, “What does this mean?” And this is what the interpreter says. He says, “The fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart. He that casts water upon it to extinguish it and put it out is the devil. But you see the fire, notwithstanding, burns higher and hotter.”

And Christian says, “Why is that? Why does the fire keep burning? Why doesn’t it go out?” And in answer, the interpreter takes Christian to the adjacent room with a fireplace on the other side of the wall. And there he sees someone with a pail of oil who’s throwing oil onto the fire. And he says, “This is Christ, who continually, with the oil of his grace, maintains the work already begun in the heart; by the means of which, notwithstanding what the devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still.”

Both of those things are realities, folks. We live in this world where there are threats to our faith. The devil’s trying to throw water on the fire. There are threats to your faith, and the warnings are there to guard you and make you watchful so you don’t throw yourself into danger. But the assurances are there to remind you, in your weakness, in your ongoing sinfulness even as a Christian, that God is sustaining the work of grace that he has begun in his people, and in your hearts, and therefore, is an assurance. So there’s a warning and there’s an assurance.

3. An Exhortation to Persevering Faith

And then thirdly, briefly, in Hebrews 6:11-12 there is an exhortation to persevering faith. Look at verses 11-12. He says,

“And we desire, each one of you, to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises.”

(1) It’s an exhortation, first of all, to earnest zeal. This is an important word. We want you to have the same earnestness—to have the full assurance of hope until the end. This word, earnestness, is the word for zeal. It’s the word that’s used in Romans 12:11 where Paul says, “Do not be slothful in zeal, but be fervent in spirit. Serve the Lord.” It’s the word that’s used in 2 Peter 1, where Peter says, “Make every effort to supplement your faith.” Make every effort, okay? That’s a form of this word.

“Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, steadfastness with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

It’s a call to grow. It’s a call to maturity. It’s the same idea we looked at last week. There is this call, this exhortation, in the life of a Christian to not just sit still, to not just coast, to not take it easy, but to actually give some holy, sanctified effort to spiritual growth. It’s a call to earnestness.

It’s like a coach. It’s the bottom of the ninth, the bases are loaded, the other team is two runs ahead, and the coach, in that critical moment, is saying to his team, “Don’t quit now. Let’s leave it all on the field. Right? We’re right at the cusp of winning, but you’ve got to play to the best of your ability. This is what we trained for. This is what we’ve been working for all year long. Let’s give it our very best shot. There’s a chance to win this thing. Play to win. Give it everything.”

And Scripture exhorts us in that way—to run the race that is set before us, fight the good fight of faith, to not quit, and to be zealous and to make every effort in our Christian lives. As you can see, it complements the warning and the assurance. Here’s the exhortation. These three things have got to go together. We need all three. We need the warning, we need the assurance, and we need the exhortation.

(2) It’s an exhortation to earnest zeal, and then secondly, it’s an exhortation to enduring faith. Verse 12: “So that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience [or endurance, or perseverance], inherit the promises.” And probably the word “patience,” or “endurance,” is meant to modify “faith.” So it is a call here to enduring faith; to faith which endures. Remember how Jesus said, “He who endures to the end will be saved.” It’s a call to enduring faith—persevering faith. And really, he’s calling them not only to have enduring faith, but he’s calling them to imitate those who, through enduring faith, inherit the promises.

Who’s he talking about? We’ll see next week, he’s talking about Abraham. And when we finally get to Hebrews 11, you have this whole gallery of Old Testament saints who lived by faith. Noah, waiting for God to fulfill his word even though everybody mocked him. How did he do it? How did he build the ark? He built it by faith. Enoch walked with God by faith. Abraham waited for the promise by faith. Moses forsook Egypt and all the sinful pleasures of Egypt and led the people into the promised land. How did he do it? He did it by faith.

I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again this morning. Don’t misunderstand these passages. They are not calling you to earn your salvation. They are not calling you to salvation by works. They are calling you to salvation by faith, but it’s a faith that continues. It’s a faith that endures. It’s a faith that abides. It’s a faith that perseveres. It’s a faith that goes on.

So, here’s the application. The Lord’s exhortations call us to diligence, not to spiritual sloth. And there’s the contrast. “So that you may not be sluggish [or slothful, or lazy], but imitators of those who, by faith and patience, inherit the promises.” It’s calling us to diligence in our spiritual lives.

So, once again, I’m just suggesting the application. But let me encourage you, work this out in your life. Spend some time thinking about this, this week. What should it look like in my life for me to show earnestness and to imitate those who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises? What does that look like? What does earnestness look like in the spiritual life? Am I earnest? Am I as earnest now as I have been in the past? Am I more earnest now than I was last year at this time? Have I let my foot off the pedal and am I not giving my Christian life everything that it deserves, everything that God calls for?

You can examine the different categories of your life. Look at your spiritual affections. Look at your worship. Look at your devotional life. Look at your prayer life. Look at your connection, and service, and devotion to the local church. Look at the way you’re treating your family. Look at whether you’re exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit. Look at your effort to put sin to death. Look at your efforts to cling to the promises of God. Ask yourself, Am I showing diligence?

Again, you don’t do it out of fear. You do it by banking on the assurances, the promises of God’s word. But you don’t let those assurances lead you into apathy.

So, here’s a summary: there’s a warning against falling away; there is an assurance that they won’t; and there is an exhortation to persevering faith. At the end of the day, this passage should both stir us up—get our attention—but it should also be an encouragement and comfort to us.

I want to end with these wonderful words. Maybe you recognize these words from James Rippon—a wonderful old hymn—where he said,

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes.
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

If you are clinging to Jesus, if you are resting in Jesus this morning, God’s promise is he will not forsake you. Instead, keep the oil of his grace coming into your heart and keep that fire burning brighter and hotter. Let’s trust him for that grace. Let’s pray.

Lord, we thank you this morning for your word. We thank you that your word addresses us in all of these different ways: warning us, comforting and assuring us, exhorting us and stirring us up. We pray this morning that you would give us the kind of ears to hear, that we would receive all of these different aspects of your word, that we would heed the warnings, that we would take comfort in the promises and the assurances, and that we would respond with faithful obedience to the exhortations.

Lord, would you guard us from all of the errors? Guard us from carelessness that would cause us to just stray into sin. Guard us from a paralyzing fear that would keep us from resting in the comforts of the gospel. Guard us from indifference. Guard us from laziness and sloth, and instead, stir up our hearts with this right balance and mix of watchfulness, and assurance, and comfort, and zeal, so that we can run the race that you have set before us.

Lord, this is the work of your Spirit through the word, and we pray that you would do it in our hearts and in our lives this morning. As we come to the Lord’s table, may the table also be for us a means of grace. Just as the word calls us to faith in Jesus, may the table call us to faith this morning, and may the response of our hearts be full devotion to Jesus Christ. We ask you to draw near to us now in these moments as we seek your face. And we pray it in Jesus' name and for his sake, amen.