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. Hebrews 6, verses 1-3.
Just after Christmas, these are hard verses to understand. I mean, here we are, fresh off celebrating a time of hope, family, peace on earth and goodwill towards men, and we’re talking as if these things are second-best. Moreover, the verses seem to pour cold water on ‘the fundamentals’ of what one does when one is new to the faith. Repenting, faith, instruction, prayer, resurrection, understanding judgment: is the author of Hebrews saying these are meaningless things, or things we can forget?
Not hardly. Indeed, I’d submit that the author is saying “you already know these things. Let’s take them to another level.”
My NIV concordance says we should pay attention to six truths that these verses highlight: repentance, faith in God, instruction, laying on of hands, resurrection, eternal judgment. How surprising it is that these are the same things that the author seems to be deriding…except he isn’t. Reading through the verses in the context of those before them (where the author talks about how the Hebrews need solid instruction in ‘the basics;’ they need milk, not solid food), then it seems that the author is building a bridge between identifying how his readers have only begun to grasp simple truths about Jesus while working to actually become more mature believers. The way to do that is by going back to the basics and applying them to where you are now.
Think about it. When you’re struggling in anything, it’s good advice to remember first principles. My friend, Alan Louie, has always said that. When analyzing any problem, issue, or challenge at work, the first step in troubleshooting should be to remember and evaluate first principles: what’s the why behind the what. Why was something done in the first place? What are you trying to accomplish? What’s the purpose, mission, or reason for doing something? Chances are, whatever solution is decided upon must satisfy those first principles if it is to be effective in addressing the situation at hand.
Or think of athletics, football in particular. When a quarterback wants to improve, he practices simple repetitive motions and plays. Practicing with a receiver, pass routes, mastering the snap, effectiveness in the pocket: the way to improve on all those complex skills is to practice the most basic skills. Excellent quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning know this and constantly remind themselves of it.
It’s no different with our faith. When we struggle in our walk with Jesus, or when we are trying to grow, when we want to get to the root of the struggle, we should focus on the basics of faith. Is there something of which we need to repent? Do we feel adrift in our faith? Are we struggling with finding meaning in our lives? Does our prayer life need an injection of ‘oomph?’ Name your issue and the resolution to the problem begins with addressing first principles.
And those are? Jesus died for you because He loves you. Jesus rose from death to gain for you life eternal. Jesus is the only way, truth, and life into that life. There’s nothing we do, say, think, or anything else that makes us worthy of those things, or earns our way into them, or makes Him love us more. He has done it all already, and He loves us perfectly despite all the miseries and shortcomings in our fallen lives. More Jesus, less me, and things will start to work out.
Yet it is the last seven words – And God permitting, we will do so – that are, perhaps, the most imperative ones of all. As mentioned, it’s just a few days after Christmas and I hope yours was as good as mine. To take Christmas to the next level, now is a good time to want more of the Christmas spirit, of the things that draw us together as family and friends. It’s a good thing to want more of the baby in the manger in our lives. It’s a good thing to begin to understand the agape love that brought Him here and caused both wise men and shepherds to worship Him together. God permitting, we will do so. If God ends our time here today, then glory be and all praise to Him. Yet if He permits us both today and tomorrow, then let’s use these times to brush up on the basics and learn by using those fundamentals. God-permitting, we will continue to do so.
For further reading: Luke 2:14, Philippians 3:12-14, Hebrews 5:12, Hebrews 9:14, John 3:25, Acts 6:6, Acts 2:24, Acts 17:24, Acts 18:21.
Lord Jesus, I praise You for the fundamentals, for the basics of my faith in You. Put them always in front of me, I pray, and help me to cling to them as tools to help live this wonderful gift of a life You have shared with me.