A Terrifying Warning and the Full Assurance of Lasting Hope
by Robby Higginbottom
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, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding Him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for those sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for His name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
The way we respond to warnings reveals a lot about us. So when we hear a terrifying word like the one in Hebrews 6, how do we respond? It’s natural for us to bristle. The baby boy crawls near the electrical outlet, suddenly deaf to his mother’s cry, “Don’t touch that!” The teenage girl grabs the keys and heads for the door, rolling her eyes as her father pleads, “Honey, don’t text and drive.” In a humorous but poignant song called “Having Kids,” Dave Barnes writes,
Sometimes they’re little angels
Then they’re Genghis Khan
They think that they know everything
Then they can’t get their pants back on
We’re all capable of a “childish” response to warnings. We’re annoyed that other people think they know what’s best for us. If this is a troubling way to respond to human warnings, it’s a terrifying way to respond to divine warnings. The world partied while Noah built a boat in the middle of the desert (Matt. 24:38; Heb. 11:7). Lot’s wife looked back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:26). Pharaoh was playing games while the Lord was sending plagues (Exod. 5:2, 7:23). Why do we prefer to go our own way and pay the consequences instead of heeding God’s warning and avoiding the pain? Scripture has much to say about this prideful posture, but few verses knock us down as quickly as Proverbs 14:12—“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
What would a mature response to a warning look like? It begins with a change of perspective that only the Holy Spirit can bring. Our primary focus shifts from ourselves to the Lord. We remember that He is “the radiance of the glory of God,” “the exact imprint of His nature”, and “He upholds the universe by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). We remember that He is a high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses and who offers us mercy and grace in our time of need (Heb. 4:15-16). When we remember His perfect holiness, infinite wisdom, and everlasting love, we hear His warnings differently. As the Lord turns our eyes to Him, we no longer ask, “Can you believe that the Lord would give me such a warning?!” No, with grateful hearts we pray, “Lord, You love me and want the best for me. Change my heart, and help me to respond.”
The intensity of a warning corresponds directly to the danger of ignoring it. That’s why parents remain calm when their children don’t eat their vegetables, but they run and raise their voices when the same children wander too close to the street. When Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,” He is giving a terrifying warning that makes perfect sense in light of what is at stake (Matt. 7:21). There is no greater danger than spurning the Lord’s offer of life and salvation. The Lord’s warnings are like smelling salts to wake us up to reality. He desires for us to “go on to maturity”, to be like a well-watered land that bears much fruit (Heb. 6:1, 7). Like leaves on a tree, our growth is not the source of our life in Christ; it is the evidence of it. If there is no evidence of Christ’s life in us, isn’t He gracious to give us strong warnings? A mature response understands the heart behind the warning. The Lord wants us to be earnest so that we will have “the full assurance of hope until the end,” so that we will not “be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:11-12). Friends, today if we hear His voice, may we not harden our hearts.