Spiritual Passivity

Read: Hebrews 10:19-39

We’ve all known people who have been rescued out of spiritual darkness and brought into the glorious kingdom of Jesus. We often say of these new converts that they are “on fire for the Lord.” They put us all to shame with their enthusiasm for “all things Christian.” But if you were to catch up with those same believers two or three years down the road, the “fire” has often diminished. 

Why is that? There are a lot reasons for the drift into “spiritual passivity.” Maybe they see few responses to the gospel, and decide all the energy spent in evangelism isn’t worth it. Or maybe they have been deeply hurt by other believers—people they trusted and expected something different. Yes, the spiritual fires may have weakened, but the real question is this: how do we restore spiritual vitality? 

We haven’t used the above expression in our journey through the Book of Hebrews, but the writer was actually dealing with “spiritual passivity.” Apparently persecution was increasing among some of the first century Jewish believers, and they in turn started to think that the “faith-life” was just too hard. So they retreated. They considered other spiritual options. And little did they know that in choosing passivity over faithfulness to Christ they were actually endangering their very souls.

It is interesting that the writer to the Hebrews responded to spiritual passivity by approaching all aspects of time. What I mean is that in vv. 19-21 he tells us what Jesus accomplished for us in the PAST. Then in vv. 22-25 he calls for action in the PRESENT. And finally in vv. 26-39 this same writer points to the FUTURE to remind his readers of two possibilities for their lives. In fact, this great span of time in the author’s mind (PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE) leads to an important principle that will help us in dealing with spiritual passivity. INSTEAD OF ACCEPTING SPIRITUAL PASSIVITY, GOD WANTS US TO EMBRACE AN ACTIVE FAITH. 

“So what’s an active faith?” you ask. No, I’m not talking about getting more involved in activities labeled as “Christian.” And I’m not talking about trying to impress God and others with what we do. An active faith is one that rests in Christ and all that He has done for us. We are primarily trusting in the actions of Christ in ways that will impact our own actions. Three things characterize this “active” faith according to our text for the week.

With respect to the PAST, an active faith is courageous (10:19-21). According to verse 19 we have “boldness” to enter into the very presence of God. The idea is that instead of fearing God and wallowing in sin-induced guilt, we can be confident that God accepts us and longs to have us come to Him. And it has nothing to do with what we have done, but everything to do with what Jesus has done for us. Imagine that! We have access to God anytime, anyplace, and in any circumstance. 

With respect to the PRESENT, an active faith is relational (10:22-25). The writer introduces three exhortations that build on the finished work of Jesus introduced in vv. 19-21. The first appeal is a call to relate to a holy God. And we can relate to Him because Christ has made us holy (v.22). The second appeal is a call to relate to the promises of God, because God is faithful to do what He says He will do (v. 23). And the third appeal is a call to relate to other believers, so that we can encourage them to engage in love and good deeds. According to the inspired writer, this final appeal will only become a reality when Christians continually meet together. So an active faith is relational with respect to God, to God’s promises, and to God’s people.

And then with respect to the FUTURE, an active faith is reverent (10:26-29). On one hand the believer realizes that God not only overflows with grace, but He also holds people accountable when they turn away from His abundant grace. That is the essence of the warning passage that is articulated in Hebrews 10:26-31. But there is another side to reverence. Active Christians also realize that King Jesus is coming back. According to verse 37 He will not delay. Therefore, living in the shadow of God’s judgment and His imminent return, we should want to choose to live everyday for the glory of our great Savior, Jesus the Messiah.

Passivity is a cancer on our souls—a spiritual disease that robs us of joy and spiritual progress. But passivity need not be our lot in life. We must realize that the struggles of today are only momentary in comparison with eternity. Therefore, we must reject passivity and pursue the active life that God offers to each and every Christian.

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