Friday, January 22, 2016

The Vision (1.22.16): That ye be not slothful

Image:  New members sign membership covenant at CRBC (1.17.16)

Note:  Devotion taken from last Sunday morning’s sermon on Hebrews 6:11-15.

“That ye be not slothful….” (Hebrews 6:12)

True Christians are not to be the equivalent of spiritual slackers or spiritual lazy bones.  The ethicists of the middle ages identified sloth or laziness as one of the seven deadly sins.  Warnings against slothfulness are especially abundant in the Proverbs (cf. Proverbs 12:24; 15:19; 19:24; 21:25; 22:13; 26:14).

These Proverbs are about the practical, earthly dangers of laziness.  It is, in part, attention to passages like these by Bible-believing Christians that resulted in what is called the Protestant work ethic.  It is a vice to be slothful, but it is a virtue to be diligent, alert, active, and hard-working.

Here in Hebrews 6:12 that sort of practical advice is turned to spiritual matters:  “that ye be not slothful.”  Some of the problems with the Hebrews to whom this letter was addressed, professed believers who were shrinking back from Christ, might well have been caused by fear brought about by persecution, by discouragement, and by doubt.  Some of it, however, might have been brought about by their own sheer laziness and lack of diligence.

The spiritually lazy person might well understand in theory the importance of corporate worship, of daily Bible reading, of constant prayer, of spiritual meditation, of secret fasting, of tangible expressions of love for the brethren and love of neighbor.  He might even imagine in his mind that he has been diligent about such things, when he has not.  I have sometimes exhorted persons who have forsaken the assemblies of God’s people without providential cause who have protested, “But I am there every Sunday!”  The spiritually slothful often lack critical self-awareness.

Consider this image in the Proverbs:

Proverbs 24:30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. 32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. 33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: 34 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

What does your spiritual house look like?  Is it cultivated, well maintained, handsome, sound, and circumspect?  Or, is it broken down, overgrown, dilapidated, suffering from lack of attention?

The counterpart to spiritual laziness is what we sometimes call the spiritual disciplines.  These are the ordinary practices of Christian discipleship, or what our catechism calls the outward and ordinary means of grace, including things like the intake of God’s Word, the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), prayer and meditation, to which it adds, “by all of which the believers are further edified in their most holy faith.”

These are the spiritual workouts which keep us lean and fit for running the race of the Christian life.  Consider the exhortations of the apostle Paul and his description of the Christian life as like running a race (cf. Phil 3:13-14; 1 Cor 9:24-27).

The Christian, then, is like an elite athlete who must always be training and submitting himself to the personal and corporate disciplines so that he might, by God’s grace, cultivate the stamina and the endurance needed to run and to finish the race that is set before him.

Friends, let us avoid spiritual slothfulness and be diligent to the end.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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