People Alive A.G.M., 09.10.2008
Going On to Maturity
All Christians want to grow in maturity. Why does this often not happen, especially in our time?
“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.” (Heb 6:1 -3)
1. Surprisingly perhaps,the writer to the Hebrews does not consider things like repentance, faith, resurrection and judgement to be matters of “maturity”.
Translation “go on to maturity” can suggest our effort, whereas the expression means “to be borne/carried along” cf. Heb 1:3 “he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
2. Need to ask what “maturity” means in Hebrews. In context it stands in contrast to the condition described a little earlier, “You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.” (5:12- 13) The writer goes on to explain what maturity involves; “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb 5:14)
I believe this text refers to the proper operation of conscience. Mature believers have the ability to know what Adam and Eve, in their lack of maturity, did not know, the difference between good and evil. They did know the difference between pleasure and pain (very least experienced hunger/thirst), but failed to discern the difference between good and evil i.e. that which was presented as pleasurable (Gen 3:6) was evil.
3. Key to understanding maturity is found in the book of Hebrews most intense description of Jesus, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb 5:7 – 9)
The word translated “perfect” here is of the same family as the one used for “mature” by the writer in our key text ( i.e. 6:1- 3.cf. its use for Jesus in 2:10; 7:28). The author associates the completion of Jesus sonship with the extremity of his sufferings by clearly referring to the agony of Gethsemane. Importantly, the word group is also used of Jesus final cry from the cross in John 19:30. “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
In what sense was the sinless (Heb 4:15) Jesus “made perfect”? I consider this refers to the absolute triumph of good over evil in the heart of Jesus. The inner being of Jesus himself could not be completely sanctified (“And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” John 17:19) without him experiencing the utmost limits of human suffering, not primarily in a physical sense, but in the spiritual sense of felt abandonment by God “My God, my God why….?”(Mark 15:34). This real experience of death –of his relationship with God as his Father, takes place without Christ passing judgement against God. We know this because on the cross Jesus repeatedly uses covenantal language in speaking of God as “My God” (cf. Ps 21:1). Jesus maintains his integrity before God by refusing to judge/curse/deny him. This is human perfection, to justify God (Rom 3:4). Even in his glory, the Father is still “my God” (Rev 3:2, 12) for Jesus.
5. This implies that for us all, the main source of healing, in the sense of maturation, is not primarily the deliverance from pain, but the consecration of suffering to the Lord. We must go through many deaths in following Jesus – relational deaths, deaths to ministry opportunities, deaths of vision, deaths of career etc. What he calls for in these circumstances is the offering up to him of our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1 – 2) in love and trust. It is this which alone turns scars into stars (DY card illustration, Jenny’s illness). These are the stars of integrity, depth of character, trustworthiness, true spirituality etc. i.e. the likeness of the one true human being – Jesus.
God today calls us to a personal surrender of our own lives and the ministry of People Alive to the work of God’s Spirit, so that we may be “carried along” to maturity.