Summary: How to avoid spiritual defection and to end well in the Christian life.
Shiloh Bible Church
No Shrinking Violet
Jo Frost is a British nanny. And she stars in a reality TV show called Supernanny. Basically, she enters a home where the children are out of control and the parents don’t have a clue. And then she teaches the parents how to discipline their children and how to restore harmony to the home.
I’ve watched the show a few times. And I noticed that one of the principles that Supernanny stresses in child discipline is encouragement. After you discipline a child, you need to encourage him—encourage him with the fact that you love him and believe that he will do better. And that, in essence, is what the writer of Hebrews does in Hebrews chapter 10.
Last Sunday morning we were introduced to the 4th encouragement passage of the book—Hebrews 10:26-39. Now, you’re probably saying to yourself: “Encouragement passage? That passage didn’t sound too encouraging to me!” Well, it is true that the writer of Hebrews introduces the passage with a rather strict warning against apostasy. You’ll remember that we summarized verses 26-31 by this statement: A believer who abandons the faith will face the temporal discipline of God.
But the writer of Hebrews doesn’t stop there. In verses 32-39, he goes on to encourage us. He encourages us by telling us how to avoid apostasy and to end well in the Christian life.
And we accomplish this by looking in 3 directions. First, the writer of Hebrews tells you to …
1. LOOK BACKWARD—AND RECALL YOUR PAST SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
I begin reading in Hebrews 10:32: “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.”
These Hebrew Christians had suffered past persecution for their faith in Christ. And now they were being threatened again with persecution. This upcoming persecution is probably the one launched by Emperor Nero in Rome in AD 64. It is believed that Nero had a new urban development plan for Rome. So he sent out accomplices to set fire to the city. When fingers began to point toward Nero as the culprit, he needed a scapegoat. And so he blamed the Christians.
Now, the persecution that the writer of Hebrews refers to in this passage was an earlier persecution. Most likely, it was the persecution launched in Rome by Emperor Claudius 15 years earlier in AD 49. Claudius had issued an edict expelling all Jews from the city. Rome considered Christianity a sect of Judaism so these Hebrew Christians suffered persecution as well.
They were publicly humiliated, they identified with fellow believers who were imprisoned, and they were expelled from Rome and had their property and possessions taken from them. But through all of this, they maintained their stand for Christ. They didn’t abandon the faith. As a matter of fact, after Emperor Claudius died five years later in AD 54, they returned to Rome and continued their testimony for Christ in that city.
And so the writer of Hebrews encourages them to look back and recall their past spiritual journey. And we need to do the same. It’s a healthy spiritual practice to take time to look back—to remind yourself of how God has worked in your life.
In Joshua chapter 4, we read of the children of Israel crossing the Jordan River. And God commanded them to take 12 stones from the river and to set them on dry ground. So whenever they saw those stones, it would remind them of God’s faithfulness in parting the waters of the Jordan and bringing them into the Promised Land.
Memorial stones are significant and powerful reminders of God’s faithfulness in our spiritual journey. Do you have any memorial stones? Let me share with you one of mine. [Show New Testament.] You say, “What is that?” It’s a New Testament—a Gideon New Testament. I got it right around the time I got saved—35 years ago. As you can see, it’s old and worn and torn. The cover fell off long ago, pages are missing from it, and you can no longer read the notes I wrote in it. I don’t use this New Testament any more. But I don’t want to throw it away. That’s because I have so many fond memories bound up in this little book. I remember carrying this New Testament with me everywhere I went. I remember the thrill and delight I had reading it as a new believer. I remember learning new spiritual truths from it that are so familiar to me now. I remember using it to memorize Scripture for the first time—I memorized John 3:16 from this New Testament. I remember using it to share the gospel with my friends in high school. And then I remember taking it to Bible college with me and using it until it became dilapidated. I cut my spiritual teeth on this New Testament. And every time I see it, I am reminded of my spiritual past and God’s faithfulness in my life as a new believer.