HEBREWS 5:1-14

Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.

In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

(New International Version)

Can I just be “ALL GROWN UP” now???  I want to be “all grown up!”  I mean seriously, I’ve been walking on this old earth long enough that it’s time, no it’s way past time, for me to let go of my childish, immature, self-absorbed attitudes.  It’s time for me to move on to a new way of thinking, of living, of being.  I know my walk with God is a life-long growth process; that I will never fully get there – you know, to the point where I can say that I have arrived, that I am fully mature now, and that there is nothing more for me learn now…  I know that, so long as we are in this world, we will never stop learning, or stop growing, or stop maturing… at least, I hope not!  Still, why do I so often feel like, “man, I’m way behind the curve on this spiritual maturity thing”?

I’ve been meditating on the book of Hebrews Chapter 5 for the past day or so, and I’m thinking that it has much to say to me regarding my spiritual growth and maturity.  I’m convicted by the Hebrew writer’s description of Jesus when he says, “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.  Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation, being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek” (verses 7-10).

Please notice with me a couple of things… First, things are not always as they seem; in fact, the spiritually mature understand that things are seldom as they seem.  People of the world, unbelievers, and even believers who are still “babes in Christ,” typically see only the surface of things.  They don’t see deeper into what may be going on behind the scenes.  So here is Jesus, and He is righteous, He is holy, He is innocent of any crime – yet, He stands condemned to death.  And the mortal, human, fleshly side of Jesus is saying, “No, no, no I don’t want to die!”  I don’t want to have to go through with it!  Father, if there is any other way, let’s do it the other way.”  The actual Biblical text says: “Father, if possible, let this cup pass from Me.  Yet, not My will, but Your will be done!” (Luke 22:42).

Just looking at the surface of things, one might think that Jesus’ mission had failed.  One might think that Jesus’ plea had gone unheard, unattended by the Heavenly Father because, after all, Jesus was still going to die on that cross, and He did die!  And yet, this passage of scripture informs us that Jesus was heard.  He was heard because of His piety – that is, His righteousness, His innocence, His holiness, His sanctification.  God the Father heard and honored the Son.  But still, still, He had to go through with it.  The price for sin still had to be paid by somebody; and He was the only One, because of His piety, Who could do it. What was happening on the optical level, the level that people could see and witness, was only the surface.  There was soooo much more going on behind the scenes.

You know, a very beautiful passage of scripture in the Old Testament reads:  “Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:30-31).  It takes a certain measure of spiritual maturity to “wait upon the Lord,” to not grow weary and impatient, to not lose hope in times of desperation or crisis.  It takes spiritual maturity to look with the eyes of faith at what may be happening behind the scenes and to know that God is in control; that He hears and that He moves according to His will.

The other thing we see in this passage of scripture concerns Jesus and His relationship with the Father.  It is immensely interesting, the statement, “although he was a son, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”  I think, when the Bible says, “He learned obedience,” it means that Jesus tasted the full measure of what it really means to become “obedient.”  Jesus was always obedient to the will of His Heavenly Father.  In fact, Jesus one time said, “I always do what pleases Him” (John 8:29).  But when Jesus, that night in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His crucifixion, took upon Himself the sins of the world, and then after being mocked, ridiculed, crowned with thorns, and mercilessly flogged to within an inch of His life, then went to a cross to taste the death, the hell, that I deserve, and that you deserve, He demonstrated an understanding of the word “obedience” beyond anything that you or I can even begin to imagine.

But now… What about me?  What about you?  Surely, God wouldn’t ever want us to suffer, would He?  Surely God would never have it in His plans that you or I should have to endure heartache, or sorrow, or humiliation, or scorn, or physical violence perpetrated against us in some way, would He?  Well, I don’t know, He allowed His own Son to suffer, didn’t He?

I want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, but I don’t want to suffer?  I want to follow Him, but I don’t want to walk where He walked, or stand where He stood, or face even a smidgeon of what He had to face?  Wise is the person who spiritually mature enough to understand that suffering is going to be very much a part of living a sacrificial life.  I claim that I want to live sacrificially, but apparently without the sacrifice.  I don’t want to sacrifice very much of anything, yet I claim to walk in obedience to the will of God?  There seems to be a bit of a disconnect there, I’d say.  Am I missing Jesus’ point when He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23)?

But then the Hebrew writer moves on to finish his thoughts in this little section saying, you have become dull of hearing. You ought to be teaching others, but you still need someone to teach you some of the very basic things regarding your walk with God.  You’re like a baby who still needs milk to drink. You can’t handle solid food. Solid food is for those who have grown up, at least a little bit, and who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

In light of this passage, and after much contemplation, I’ve come to the conclusion that to “obey” Christ is so much more than simply following a basic set of doctrines that, for us, helps establish our comfort zones and helps us identify our “Christian fellowship” In fact, I have come to the realization that many of the so-called “basic doctrines” that we seek to adhere to are really not Bible doctrines at all, but only our own traditions based on human opinion and men’s interpretations of the scripture.  Furthermore, I find it sad that we tend to think of the spiritually strong and mature as those who most vehemently defend the traditions of the church which have sprung up over the last several hundred years or so; while what does, in fact, mark spiritual strength and maturity is walking so close with God that we have our “senses trained to discern good from evil.”

The spiritually mature have a firm grasp on God’s will. The spiritually mature are surrendered in their hearts to God and seek to demonstrate His righteousness through obedience to His will. The spiritually mature, therefore, have a positive impact on the world around them; they have an authentic effect in other people’s hearts and lives; by the love the show, by stands they take, by the message they declare, by the examples that they set, and just by being who they are—His children.

The spiritually mature are those of whom Jesus said: “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).  May God grant us the wisdom, the insight, the maturity to live like that because these are the grown-ups; these are the people who are really making a difference for good in this old world… and a difference for eternity!

Oh Lord, my God, by Your grace, through the mediation of Your Son, and the intercession of the Holy Spirit, I lift my plea to You this day… grow me up!  I want to please You, O God.  I want others to see me becoming more like Jesus my Lord day by day. I want to exude some measure of the grace and wisdom that speaks of one who walks close with the Lord. I want to be able to look with spiritual eyes beyond the surface of things to see the spiritual and eternal importance of what is happening in my life and in the lives of others living all around me. I want to have my senses trained to truly know good from evil and to seek that which pleases You and makes You smile. And Lord, I want to learn obedience. So, do whatever it is You need to do in my life to conform me to the image of Your Son and to walk in obedience to Your will like He did.

Lord, I know that I am called to sacrifice. But I also know that You know that, regardless of what I think about myself, still, I’m not very good at that. Any sacrifice that I have ever made for the sake of Your holy name, or for the cause of Christ, pales in comparison with the sacrifices You and Your Son have made on my behalf. But God, I am also reminded of, and I am grateful for, the words of my Lord Jesus when He told the religious leaders of His day, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  So, Lord, while I want to learn obedience, and I want to be willing to sacrifice whatever I need to sacrifice for the sake of others who need to experience Your love and grace, most of all I ask that You work in my heart to cultivate a compassion toward others, the kind of compassion that Jesus had and that reflects Your great love for me and for each and every one of us.

Copyright © 2023 Philip R. Stroud

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