Sermon: A Case Study in Christian Immaturity (Hebrews 5:11-6:3)

A Case Study in Christian Immaturity

Hebrews 5:11-6:3 (ESV)

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  [12] For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, [13] for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of

righteousness, since he is a child.  [14] But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,  [2] and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  [3] And this we will do if God permits.

I remember when I would preach in Bible College and seminary around at various churches.  Whenever the sermon topic would be directly evangelistic, after it was finished, I would be assured that the sermon topic was well picked and exactly what the church needed to hear.  I want to share with you today that the Gospel should make an appearance in every sermon in some form or other.  However, if all the church hears is the basics of the Gospel and it never hears any more than that, the church will be at best filled with baby Christians.  Immaturity will be the mark of the church.  Consequently, whenever I would preach on a doctrine from the Bible I would often get blank stares.

The dynamic that was at work was this:  A simple message on the Gospel could be understood by the Christians and they liked it because they didn’t have to do anything.  There was really no application for them.  They especially liked it because “Old Joe over there really needed to hear that”, so they thought.  There was no challenge for them.  Their toes didn’t get stepped on.  Their thinking was not changed.  They almost always commented that it was a great sermon for them to hear…

Why?  Because they were immature.  A sermon that takes the gospel a step further, one that challenges with truth and application for the believer often isn’t received well.  It’s too difficult or it requires too much thought.  Often people may have the attitude, when they gather for worship that I’m here to relax and let everyone else do the work…I am not interested in thinking hard or being challenged at all.  When Christianity requires hard work, many folks would rather be like a baby in bed getting its diaper changed and drinking formula from a bottle than move on to maturity.

I didn’t get patted on the back when those sermons were preached; most often they turned their heads the other way and walked out.

The difference is found in this text before us today.  It’s the difference between maturity and immaturity or milk and meat.

The Scriptures don’t know of a Christian who isn’t growing.  The idea of the carnal Christian just doesn’t originate from the Bible.

The Scriptural truth of the matter is you are either pressing on to maturity or going backwards or not even a believer at all, there is no standing still.

The question I’d like to ask everyone is this…Where is you in your maturity as a Christian compared to a year ago?  Would you consider yourself more mature than you were a year ago?

1.  Marks of Spiritual Decay (Hebrews 5:11-14)

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  [12] For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, [13] for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of

righteousness, since he is a child.  [14] But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

A) Laziness

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.

The mark of a new believer is usually a deep desire to learn everything possible about Christ and Christianity.  When we first become believers we read everything we can get our hands on, we listen to sermons on the radio.  We’re like sponges soaking it all up and taking it all in.

I think this is how these Christians were at one time.  They were probably earnest and zealous once because it says since you have become dull of hearing.

Their spiritual decay was a new development.  How were they lazy?  How had they become dull in hearing?

It seems as if they had stopped moving forward and began looking back at where they had been.  Judaism still had a grip on them.  That’s why the author has spent so much time already in the Book of Hebrews proving that Jesus is superior to all aspects of Judaism.  He’s superior to the prophets, to Aaron, to angels.  What caused their decay was that they were not moving forward, they had become lazy and had stopped moving forward.  They were no longer pressing into the Kingdom but had put their spiritual life and maturity on auto pilot.

The writer is pointed and very clear when he wrote…

Hebrews 2:1 (ESV)

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

Hebrews 3:7 (ESV)

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

Hebrews 3:15 (ESV)

As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

Hebrews 4:7 (ESV)

again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts.”

Are you moving forward or going back?  Do you feel as if you’ve been closer to the Lord than you are now?  Do you feel as if you’re stuck and not advancing like you should?

A clear mark of spiritual decay is laziness when it comes to spiritual issues.

Another mark of spiritual decay is a lack of influence.

B) Lack of Influence

[12] For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,

The truth here is that these Christians should be influencing others with the truths of Christ but they were not.  In fact, they didn’t even have a handle on the basic truths themselves.  They were spiritually immature.  They should have been influencing others but couldn’t because of their lack of understanding themselves.

This is like the person today who always gets caught up in the latest greatest thing.  The newest program or the latest discipleship DVD set that comes out.  They are being influenced by so many things but they never get the important stuff down so that they can move ahead.  Their stuck on some of the most trivial minor points but miss the big picture.  They really don’t understand the gospel and cannot communicate it.  For them, they’re more concerned with should women wear dresses and men wear ties.

The writer is wanting to move on to the deeper and more profitable truths but has to start all over again because they’re just not willing to leave the milk of the gospel and move on to at least baby cereal.  Rather than moving on to solid food, these folks are like 45 year olds that still need sipper cups.  He is using some very sarcastic language with them, trying, as it were, to almost shame them into moving past baby food to adult food.

The question to ask ourselves here is: Am I currently influencing others or am I stuck with barely getting the basics? Or, Is there someone who is currently benefiting from my Christianity?

Don’t miss what we’re being told in this text.  The basics of the Gospel are vital.  They are of utmost importance.  They are the foundation on which a growing Christian builds.  The superstructure must have a rock solid foundation.  But, once the foundation is in place, don’t continue to build it, start on the actual building.

I can’t get past the sarcasm in this verse.  He is literally trying to get his people fired up and motivated to move on.

A third mark of spiritual decay is…

C) Dull Discernment

[13] for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  [14] But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Spiritual decay is marked by a lack of spiritual discernment.  The writer of Hebrews wants to take his folks to a deeper level of understanding but he cannot because they just can barely understand the basics.  He’s essentially saying, You cannot digest what I need to feed you.

He’s comparing milk to the basic teachings of the gospel and meat to the deeper things of the gospel that they should already know but don’t.

Because they cannot digest or comprehend the needed deeper things, they are unable to discern good doctrine from evil doctrine.  They are being led back into Judaism because of their dull discernment.  Every idea or belief sounds just as good as the next to them.

Have you ever been listening to a sermon or reading a book about Christianity and thought to yourself, I don’t think what he said or what a certain author wrote is right. Then you went home or did some investigation and found out what the problem was.  It’s this sort of work that these folks were not doing.  The Jewish teachers were convincing them that what they had left was a whole lot better than what they are currently experiencing.  We must not be taken in by the latest convincing teacher that we’re swept away by every new doctrine taught.  We must be diligent at learning so we can stand firm in the day of trial.

He tells them…

[14] But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Because of their lack of discernment, the writer needs to spend the next 5 chapters teaching them about the High Priestly Office of Jesus Christ.

2. The Remedy for Spiritual Decay (Hebrews 6:1-3)

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,  [2] and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  [3] And this we will do if God permits.

Understanding the basics of the foundation which is repentance and faith is vital to every believer.  That’s the foundation that all Christians should build their maturity upon.  Then he writes about building on what they’ve already been taught.

Basic Foundation– Repentance and Faith

Basic Instruction– Baptism, Receiving the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection, and the Judgment.

When the author writes that we are to leave these truths, he doesn’t mean we should totally forget them but that we should build upon them. Review them occasionally in order to press on ahead.  Advance in the Christian faith is a must for all believers.

Let me explain what I mean.  The ABC’s are an important concept for the preschooler.  Singing the ABC song is vital.  Learning how to say and write each letter is important.  Years later this former preschooler is now a nuclear engineer.  He uses the ABC’s everyday but he doesn’t sing the ABC song and doesn’t practice making the letters.  Likewise, we should review the basics of the gospel and learn them well but then we should move on to mature truths.  These truths give us the ability to discern between good and evil.

Take the truth you know and practice it and put it to use.  Stop singing the ABC song and begin writing words and sentences.        

I wish there was laid out for us here a three step plan to leaving the elementary doctrines but there simply is not.

The remedy is God’s grace…[3] And this we will do if God permits.

Could it be that God requires something that we are unable to attain without His divine aid?  Could it be that God wants His children diligently at work in seeking to understand and apply truths and relying on His aid for it to be accomplished?  I think that is clearly what this text teaches.

go on to maturity…literally is to be carried on to maturity.

Study good theology.  Read good books.  Pray hard.  Speak to your neighbor or co-worker or family member.  When

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