Introduction: We never know what pressures or difficulties we’ll encounter in life. The recipients of the book of Hebrews were facing a time of testing (Hebrews 10:32-39), and an unknown writer—perhaps Apollos or Barnabas—wrote this book to cheer them up and spur them on. But he didn’t just give them a handful of uplifting Bible verses to think about. He pulled them into the heart of the Old Testament and gave them some very serious hours of Bible study. He said, in effect, “If you’re going to withstand this crisis, you have to get into the Bible and study it for all its worth.” And one of the subjects he emphasized was the high priesthood of Jesus Christ, who was a priest after the order of Melchizedek. But having introduced that theme he paused at the end of chapter 5 and took a time-out to exhort them not to zone out on him. Though his material might seem irrelevant or difficult to understand, it was very important. Understanding it would make them quite strong. In this passage, which runs from Hebrews 5:11 to the end of chapter 6, the writer used three different analogies to describe us.
1. Our Minds are Bodies that Need to Be Fed (5:11 – 6:3). This is what we studied this morning. I can’t tell you what this passage means to me. When I returned from overseas, it was on a Thursday evening. I slept well that night and had a good Friday. I slept well Friday night and had a good Saturday. I slept well Saturday and had a good Sunday. But I didn’t sleep well last Sunday night and I awoke like someone coming to from surgery. I was so jet-lagged I could hardly function. Knowing I had to tackle the sermon for this morning I sat down and begin to study this paragraph. As I saw what I shared this morning, the words of this text just flowed through me like energy. I honestly didn’t feel any better physically or mentally or emotionally; but by the end of the day I had this sermon finished and I was just exhilarated by it. This passage is about a subject of which I’m passionate—the sufficiency of the Scripture. Growing stronger and more mature means learning to feed on the deep and abiding portions of God’s Word. The writer says, “So let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again…” And now he lists the “baby’s milk” of the Christian faith – the rudiments or ABCs: the need for repentance and faith, cleansing of sin, the church and its leadership, the coming resurrection and judgment. Those are very important truths, but they are the basics – salvation, the church, the Second Coming. There are other aspects of the Bible to be routed out and studied too. As you do so, you’re feeding yourself with increasingly solid food.
2. Our Minds Are Fields that Need to be Cultivated (6:4-12). Now the writer is going to say the same thing but with a different image. Our minds are not only babies to be fed but also fields to be cultivated. His reference in verses 4-5 is interpreted by some to apply to apostate Christians; by others to pseudo-Christians. In either case, the writer warns us about being fields that produce thorns and thistles when we should be producing a crop. Verse 7 says, in effect, there are two fields. One drinks in the rain and sunshine and produces a crop useful to the Lord. The other field drinks in the rain and sunshine but shows no fruitfulness at all, only thorns and thistles. From a distance both fields look the same and both are in the same proximity, but a closer look shows the difference. Then he goes on to say in verse 9: “Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have show Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what was promised.”
In his classic little book, As a Man Thinketh, James Allen wrote that our thoughts are the most important thing about us. All we achieve or fail to achieve is the direct result of our thinking. Our thoughts are like seeds that produce crops. He said, “Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. This is but saying that nothing can come from corn but corn, nothing from nettles but nettles. Men understand this law in the natural world, and work with it; but few understand it in the mental and moral world (though its operation there is just as simple and undeviating).” He said, “A person’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.: If you are a true Christian and you want to be fruitful in your life’s habits and results, you have to sow your mind with the truths of Scripture.
3. Our Minds Are Ships that Need to Be Anchored (6:13-20). Now the writer is going to use Abraham as an example of someone who fed his soul with the solid food of God’s promises and cultivated his soul. Abraham, too, faced disappointment and discouragement, but he trusted the promise God had given him. God had not only given Him a promise, but God has sworn that His promise was trustworthy. (I wish I had time to go back and show you how God gave Abraham a promise in Genesis 12 and confirmed it with an oath in Genesis 15). God gave Abraham both the promise and the ratifying oath. “God did this so that, by two unchangeable things (a promise and an oath), we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” And now, ending his time-out, the writer is going to veer back into his original discussion as Jesus being our great high priest. “It (the hope in our soul) enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” I don’t know much about boats or ships, but a few months ago I was out on the Gulf of Mexico with a friend who owns a nice boat. I asked him about the anchor. “Can you just lower the anchor and let the weight of the anchor steady the boat and keep it from drifting. Can it just hang in the water or settle into the sand.” He replied: “Oh, no. The anchor has to snag something. It has to grip something on the ocean floor or the ship will be at risk.” Whenever I read this passage in Hebrews, I can’t help thinking of the old hymn we used to sing at my church in Elizabethton: “We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll, / Fastened to the Rock that cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.”
Conclusion: When I was in Vietnam and had the opportunity of meeting with church leaders last month, one of the men told me about being in prison. When the Communist North overran the country in 1975, he was imprisoned for his faith, as many of the believers were. I asked him what sustained him during his imprisonment. He said, “It was the numbers 333. We had three 333s. The first was Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” We knew we could pray, and when we prayed we could ask God to free us from prison and let us go back to our families and churches and work. And if He chose not to answer that prayer the way we wanted, we had another 333. It was Number 333 in hymnbook.” I asked them what the hymn was. What was its title? They couldn’t think of the words in English. They conferred with each other and just could not think of how to say it in English. Now we were sitting in the opening dining room of a five-star hotel in downtown Saigon. And we were surrounded by people at the various tables nearby. I was a little nervous over whether they were putting themselves at risk by even meeting me, but it was their idea and that’s where they wanted to meet. Still I tried to keep my voice low and my words discrete. So you can imagine my surprise when they suddenly burst out singing the hymn there in the middle of the dining room. Every voice of these men—there were about five of them. And as soon as they started singing, I recognized the hymn – “Face to face with Christ my Savior; face to face what will it be. / When with rapture I behold Him, Jesus Christ who died for me?” By the time they got to the end of the verse, I’d recovered my surprise to sing the last little bit with them in English. But their point was, they knew that one of those 333s would bear them through the evil days. They were anchored to the rock.