“For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God, but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.”
In verses 7 and 8 we have the two alternatives illustrated for believers after salvation. The background is from agriculture. In verse 7 we have illustrated, spiritual maturity; in verse 8 we have the alternative illustrated, which is reversionism. All believers are pictured in this illustration as the ground. The objective of the ground is to grow something, to produce something. The ground producing useful vegetation is a picture of spiritual maturity and divine production.
The rain is used to illustrate Bible doctrine. The rain (Bible doctrine) is absorbed through the study of Bible doctrine. Which often falls upon it illustrates Bible doctrine taught over some period of time and the listeners exposing themselves to it consistently. If the ground (believers) accepts the rain (Bible doctrine) there will be divine production, which is represented by the vegetation.
When a person trusts Jesus Christ as personal Savior, a potential is established for blessing from God. Salvation is based on the grace of God, apart from any human merit, as is the Christian Way of Life. (Titus 2:11-12) Therefore, the potential for blessing is based on the grace of God. A blessing is a benefit bestowed upon the believer by God.
Why does God bless or bestow benefits on believers? Since blessings were given to us in eternity past and based on the grace of God (Ephesians 1:3), it is impossible for the believer to earn or deserve the blessings of God. In others words, God does not bless you because of your works, even if they are legitimate divine production (i.e. witnessing, giving, praying, etc.). God blesses you on the basis of His righteousness resident in your soul (Matthew 6:33, II Corinthians 5:21). This allows God to be just and in keeping with His grace policy (even if you are not living your spiritual life). You cannot coerce God into blessing you by what you do or do not do. However, it is your choice to access or appropriate these blessings. The way to access divine blessing is to increase your capacity to receive blessing by learning and applying Bible doctrine under the control of God the Holy Spirit. And remember that the production of divine good is itself a divine blessing.
Increasing capacity in your life is a grace function. Under your right pastor-teacher, you study and apply Bible doctrine, which produces growth and increases capacity. God is not going to give you more than you can handle. Therefore, divine blessing comes as a result of compliance with God’s system of blessing. Is your volition involved? Absolutely! You are the one who must choose to trust Jesus Christ as your Savior, you must choose to study and apply the accurate teaching of God’s Word to your life, and you must choose to allow God the Holy Spirit to control your life. Accordingly, God is waiting to send blessings to each of us. (Isaiah 30:18)
In order to understand the concept of increased capacity, we need to review the Royal Priesthood and the Royal Ambassadorship of the believer. Here’s an illustration. Your spiritual life is represented by a vertical line (which is your relationship with God), as a Royal Priest. A horizontal line represents your Christian life (which is your relationship with other people), as a Royal Ambassador. Together we call this the Christian Way of Life. As a Royal Priest, we represent ourselves before God, which is always a private matter. When we sin and remove ourselves from fellowship with God, we are able to go directly to the throne of God in prayer and utilize I John 1:9, which restores our fellowship. The more time you spend studying and applying accurate Bible teaching under the control of the Holy Spirit, the faster your capacity will increase. This translates into spiritual advance and eventually leads to spiritual maturity (our goal as believers). The only way that we are going to increase our capacity to receive God’s blessings is to develop our relationship with God.
As a Royal Ambassador, we represent the Lord Jesus Christ to the world. (II Corinthians 5:17) This, of course, involves interaction with others. This representation is a spiritual service and does not contribute to your spiritual growth or your capacity for blessing as a believer. It is a result of your growth. It is a blessing in itself and a means for you to be a blessing to others.
The ground producing thorns and thistles is the picture of reversionism and human good. If the ground (believers) rejects the rain (Bible doctrine) there will be human production only represented by thorns and thistles. Reversionism is the condition of a believer who is negative toward or neglects Bible doctrine and as a result has stopped growing spiritually and all they can produce is human good which is worthless and will be burned up at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is failure to follow God’s plan of executing the Christian Way of Life. The reversionist is a believer in perpetual carnality, out of fellowship with God and controlled by his sin nature. (If you are not advancing toward spiritual maturity as a Christian, you are retreating into reversionism).
The reversionist is said to be an enemy of God, an enemy of the Cross, a child of the devil, double-minded and unstable in all his ways. He does not abide in the teaching of Christ, he deludes himself, he lacks faith, he faints in his mind, he is a prisoner to sin, he has come short of the grace of God, his soul is tortured and he is subject to divine discipline. The reversionist has left his first love, fallen away from his spiritual life and has become a lukewarm believer. (James 4:4; Philippians 3:18-19; I John 3:10; James 1:8, 4:8; II John 9; James 1:22-24; Romans 7:23; Hebrews 12:3-15; II Peter 2:7-8; Revelation 2)
Some believers start their Christian lives very well, under sound, accurate doctrinal teaching from their pastor-teacher and stick with it. Others wander off immediately after salvation, and remain in a state of carnality until they die. Then we have the reversionist who begins well but finishes poorly.
“But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.”
Having now exhorted them to change their minds about keeping the Law of Moses and the traditions of Judaism, the writer now had confidence that they would respond to his teaching. These believers had just received a very severe disciplinary exhortation, but now he calls them “beloved” to remind them of the fact that they are the objects of God’s love, that God loves them with a perfect love, and even though they have been “chewed out,” they were to profit by it. And the writer was writing from a prospective of his own impersonal love for them.
But better things means higher things, more advantageous things. Moving toward spiritual maturity is moving toward higher things, moving to higher ground, moving toward preferable things. It should be preferable to glorify God and avoid all of the horrible things of reversionism. Every believer has the potential of reaching spiritual maturity and glorifying God. This was why the human writer was optimistic here.
It is absolutely necessary for the pastor to be faithful in teaching the Word of God regardless of how his congregation responds to that teaching, as in the case of these believers in Jerusalem. It is the pastor who teaches the other members of the Royal Priesthood concerning the objective of spiritual maturity. It is the pastor who warns the Royal Priesthood of becoming casualties in the Angelic Conflict through reversionism.
“For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each of you show the diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Even though these believers had been duped into returning to law-keeping, they had in the past demonstrated their love for God by ministering to other believers, perhaps even the writer of Hebrews. The writer therefore commended them for their former divine production and encouraged them to return to their spiritual lives by remembering their former spiritual life and by following the example of those who had demonstrated their love for God by the execution of the Christian Way of Life.
The desire of every pastor is that all the members of his congregation be devoted to Bible doctrine. Show the diligence means that it was the writer’s desire that the readers show the same devotion to doctrine that he had shown in his teaching. He had personally studied and taught. Now he was dealing with reversionists and he wanted them to begin the recovery process. He wanted them to have devotion to doctrine, and that’s what they needed. It is your desire for the Word of God that causes God to provide you with a right pastor-teacher to communicate it to you so you can reach spiritual maturity. The communicator must be devoted to doctrine before the recipient can be devoted to doctrine. He demonstrates his love for Jesus Christ and his congregation by taking in doctrine and by teaching doctrine.
So as to realize the full assurance of hope means not just assurance of hope but it means complete confidence of hope. Complete confidence comes one way only and that is from the consistent study and application of Bible doctrine. Hope is defined as confident and absolute expectation and anticipation with regard to the future. The difference between confident expectation and absolute expectation is your spiritual status. If you have walked through the door of hope (a personal sense of destiny) with God’s agenda, then you have converted confident expectation into absolute expectation. Hope therefore is confident expectation parlayed into absolute expectation about the future as you begin to use the Problem Solving Devices. Hope is the monopoly of the believer who is positive to Bible doctrine. (I Thessalonians 4:13, “that you may not grieve with the rest who have no hope”)
The Greek word for sluggish is “nothros” meaning to be dull or to lack diligence. We saw this same word in Hebrews 5:11 where it indicated apathy, indifference or negative volition toward Bible doctrine. The basic way in which apathy develops is through reactors in the life. For example, the frantic search for happiness leads to emotional revolt of the soul causing a believer to react negatively toward doctrine. Once the emotion revolts it intensifies other reactor factors. This combination always results in neglecting, becoming indifferent or apathetic toward Bible doctrine. It is the negative volition toward doctrine that starts all the trouble as far as Satan getting into the picture. A vacuum is opened up by negative volition. Emotional revolt closes the portal in your soul to the frame of reference, the memory center, the vocabulary, the categories, the norms and standards causing them to malfunction. Through the vacuum comes the “doctrine of demons” which puts a believer under demon influence. A believer cannot be demon possessed but can come under demon influence bringing the doctrines of Satan into the soul and replacing the Bible doctrine that existed previously. Then the norms and standards are changed and you get all kinds of applications that are erroneous. As a result, there is a total blackout of the soul which is called blackout (darkness) and hardness of heart.
The writer also encouraged these Jewish believers to remember the greats from the Old Testament and to follow their examples. They had great men and women from their heritage to emulate and the writer was reminding them of that heritage. Abraham, Moses, David, Ruth, Rahab and Esther were among some of the great believers of the Old Testament who had inherited the promises of God’s blessings. The application of faith and patience toward God and His Word, which produced capacity for blessing, made it possible for God to pour out blessings to these great believers in the Old Testament. In like manner, God is able to pour out blessings to us when we develop capacity to receive them.