Retrogression

Retrogression

We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. – Hebrews 2:1

Hebrews 5:11-14

 11 You have become dull of hearing.

 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.

 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.

 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

Normally, the planets move west-to-east through the stars at night. This is referred to as prograde motion. However, periodically the motion changes and they move east-to-west. This is called retrograde motion.

Retrograde motion is an apparent change in the movement of the planet through the sky. It is not real in that the planet does not physically start moving backwards in its orbit. It just appears to do so because of the relative positions of the planet and Earth and how they are moving around the Sun.

Retrograde describes moving backward, reversing or deterioration. It is retrogression rather than progression. It is all about entropy. The second law of thermodynamics includes the concept of entropy. Entropy is a trend to disorder, running down or process of degradation. Entropy is the general trend of the universe toward death and disorder (James R. Newman).

Living in our fallen world, it is easy to lose momentum and forward motion. We slow and stop and perhaps even go backwards and retrogress.

Sadly, many of the children of the King feel like they are not where they need to be in their walk with the Father. Coming face-to-face with this reality can be a real slap in the face. This was exactly the case for the messianic believers, the Jews for Jesus, to whom the book of Hebrews was specifically written.

Hebrews 5:11-12

 11 You are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen.

 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.

“As we grow in the Word, we learn to use it in daily life. As we apply the Word, we exercise our ‘spiritual senses’ and develop spiritual discernment. It is a characteristic of little children that they lack discernment. A baby will put anything into its mouth. An immature believer will listen to any preacher. . . and not be able to identify whether or not he is true to the Scriptures.”

“Just as our physical bodies have senses without which we could not function, so our inner ‘spiritual man’ has ‘spiritual senses.’ For example: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalms 34:8). ‘But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear’ (Matthew 13:16). As we feed on the Word of God and apply it in daily life, our inner ‘spiritual senses’ get their exercise and become strong and keen. Paul called this process exercising ourselves unto godliness (1 Timothy 4:7–8).”

The ability to discern good and evil is a vital part of Christian maturity. The nation of Israel in Moses’ day lacked this discernment and failed to claim its promised inheritance. The readers of this letter were in danger of making the same mistake. It is impossible to stand still in the Christian life: we either go forward and claim God’s blessing, or we go backward and wander about aimlessly.”

“I once heard a preacher say, ‘Most Christians are ‘betweeners.’’

‘What do you mean by that?’ I asked.

‘They are between Egypt and Canaan—out of the place of danger, but not yet into the place of rest and rich inheritance,’ he replied. ‘They are between Good Friday and Easter Sunday – saved by the blood but not yet enjoying newness of resurrection life.’

Are you a ‘betweener’?” (Wiersbe)

REFLECT & PRAY

Drifting and atrophy are part of our natural part of our fallen world. It is incumbent upon us to resolve to reverse the natural deterioration.

Father how many times have I become dull and drifted from the vortex of Your truth? Encourage me to renew my commitment and not only regain, but exceed what I have lost.

INSIGHT

Hebrews 5:11 You have become dull of hearing.

The Greek term translated dull is nothros. It means sluggish, lazy, remiss, indolent, and often indicated culpable negligence (O’Brien). The Greek word translated hearing is akoais. It refers to the ability to hear with understanding and act accordingly.

In this case, knowing something about Greek verbal tenses is helpful. The Greek verb translated become is gegonte (from ginomai – to become). This Greek verbal form is the perfect tense. The perfect tense in Greek is a past tense which connotes something which has occurred in the past and the results remain in the present. In other words, there was a time when they could hear perfectly with complete understanding and comprehension. But they became dull of hearing and now still are. They retrogressed.

It is crucial for them to recognize and acknowledge that they had gone backward, retrograded. An excellent word picture is the atrophy of a muscle. When a muscle is used, it remains strong. If a leg or arm bone is broken, it is set and put into a cast for a period of time. When the cast is removed, the muscle has atrophied and lost part of its size and function.

But this is more than simply mental laziness. It is in fact spiritual resistance. There is no eagerness or desire for the spiritual nourishment derived from the Scriptures. Rather, there is apathy and profound dullness. Their sluggishness is reflected in their reluctance, or perhaps their inability to listen, remember, or teach. They are now unwilling to do the hard work of exercising their spiritual muscles. They are no longer willing to study the Word of God, reflect on it, memorize it, or implement it in their lives.

They have retrogressed and suffered a loss of understanding and the capacity to teach. It is both ironic and tragic. They do not lack intelligence, but they are no longer able to use their intelligence to adequately comprehend the deeper, meatier aspects of the Word of God because they are lethargic and obtuse.

However, there is good news. Spiritual degeneration is not permanent. They can choose to stop their downward spiral. The basic principles of the Word of God can be relearned and practiced. A renewed commitment is required to regain their understanding of the basic principles and go on to even deeper insights.

How do we get there from here? We choose to no longer be dullards. We choose to awake from our slumber and regain our spiritual vitality and hunger and thirst for the pure milk of the Word of God. As we continue down this path, our spiritual vitality will be reinvigorated. We will renew our journey to grow to spiritual maturity.

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