Let us run with endurance…
– Hebrews 12:1
The Christian life is not a one-time decision for Christ or a profession of faith. Rather, it is a holding fast until the end. It is a persistence; a continual turning to God and pleading before his throne of grace. Any faithful reader of God’s Word will understand this basic truth. As we follow Jesus and seek to shape our lives according to his, there can be no delusion that we have arrived and only need to maintain the status quo.
Yet, we often default to this type of thinking. We might tend to view faith in Jesus Christ as a ticket to heaven and nothing we do subsequent to a profession of that faith can alter our destination. Or, having made a sincere statement of faith in Christ we slip into the faulty reasoning that we can never fall away from Christ. It is like thinking a fantastic start to a race is enough to guarantee victory.
The author of the book of Hebrews warns his readers against this kind of approach to the Christian life. He writes to those who have professed faith in Christ, yet are in danger of ignoring or neglecting the command to persevere in their faith. Their circumstances and temptations may not be exactly the same as our own today, but the warning is every bit as applicable. Here is just a sampling of the words which the writer of Hebrews uses to encourage and rebuke his audience towards a persistent faithfulness:
We must pay attention all the more to what we have heard so that we will not drift away.
How will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?
Watch out, brothers and sisters, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God…For we have become participants in Christ if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start.
Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience.
Let us leave the elementary teaching about Christ and go on to maturity.
Now we desire each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the full assurance of your hope until the end, so that you won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance.
For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised.
The point is clear: A one-time profession of faith will not do. What is required is a persistent pursuit of conforming our wills to the will of God. What is necessary is a faith which grows, matures and bears fruit pleasing to the Lord.
The danger in a lazy, immature approach to the Christian life is that we would become ineffective ambassadors of Christ, bearing little fruit, and remaining as infants who cannot make disciples of Jesus. But what is deadly is the possibility that we would fall completely away and fail to enter into the eternal life to which we are inheritors in Christ. Indeed, this is a serious warning, but it is needed because we are all prone to wander. We are all susceptible to a view of Jesus which sees him only as a way to salvation, not as a way of being fully and newly human. We need to press on ever nearer to God lest we lag behind and give Satan a foothold for temptation.
A profession of faith is a beautiful thing, but it should not be a one-time thing. Rather, a profession of faith should be a public declaration of one’s commitment to live in the light of the great salvation we have received and to continually renovate our lives according to God’s blueprint for his new humanity. Within such a mindset there is no room for complacency or a haphazard pursuit of holiness. Let the Holy Spirit provide encouragement when he writes, through the author of Hebrews:
Let us lay aside every hindrance that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.