Optional Maturity

October 22, 2023 | Jess Rainer

Passage: Hebrews 5:11-6:8

Opening Illustration: Not listening to the flight attendant.  I recently told you all the story recently about my kid’s airplane seatbelt that came unattached right before takeoff. I have now added that to my list of things to be afraid of when flying on a airplane. I thought about it this week that as much as I have some (rational and logical – at least to me) reasons to be afraid of flying, there is something I used to do when flying that I no longer do. Do you know that is? Don’t answer that out loud because I know some of you might make some sarcastic remark about me. I don’t listen to the pre-flight instructions from the flight attendant. I don’t listen to them because I’ve heard them several times before and I don’t feel like I need to listen. I feel like I know what I need to do. When I was scrambling to get my kid’s seatbelt attached the seat again, I had to remove the seat cushion. What I realized through that whole process is that if there was ever a situation on a plane that required me to do the things that are said in the flight instructions, I don’t know if I would know what to do. I think the life vest is under my seat, but I’m not entirely sure. I don’t know if you pull the cord or blow in the tube first. You would think that a person who gets nervous to fly, I would be locked in during the pre-flight speech. That I would eating up every word and even giving the occasional “Amen!” I’m not flying anytime soon, but if any of you try that, let me know how it goes…But instead, I’m hearing the words, but I’m not listening. I’m not listening because I either think I already know it all or I don’t think I’ll actually need the information.

I’m not an alarmist by nature. But if there is a spiritual deficiency we face in the church today, it’s our ability to tune out what God is saying to us. And why is that? Because if we are listening to God, He will take us new places and grow us in new ways. And that’s uncomfortable. This isn’t a problem that just for us today. This problem existed in the early church. Today, we come to a passage that diagnosis the problem of the recipients of Hebrews.  Their problem was their lack of listening and their lack of maturity. Here’s what we’ll see today in our time in God’s Word. Becoming spiritually mature isn’t optional. Go ahead and open your Bibles to Hebrews 5. We are continuing in our Sermon Series: Hebrews: The Complete Work of Christ. We are walking through the book of Hebrews as a church family. What have we learned so far? 1) Jesus is better – better than anything else this world offers; 2) Stay close to Jesus.  Let’s look at God’s Word. Let’s hold God’s Word with the weight it deserves. He’s speaking now. Read Hebrews 5:11 – 6:8. Pray.  

Up until this point, the writer of Hebrews hasn’t told the original recipients of this letter exactly what their problem is. He’s implied it in many different ways:[1] In 2:1 he said, Pay close attention to the message you've heard or you will you drift away. In 3:1 he said, Consider Jesus. In 3:8 he said, Don't harden your hearts like Israel did in the wilderness. In 3:12 he said, Take care, or you might have an evil heart of unbelief. In 4:1 he said, Fear, you don’t want to fail to enter God's rest. In 4:11 he said, Be diligent to enter God's rest lest you fall by disobedience. And in 4:14 he said, Hold fast to your confession. He’s only given the cure, but not the diagnosis. We are going to see they have lost their spiritual appetite. And that’s the question we have to ask ourselves: Where is your spiritual appetite? 

[1] Taken from https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/by-this-time-you-ought-to-be-teachers

1) Where is your spiritual appetite? (vs. 5:11-13)  Do you remember what we talked about last week? We looked at the Old Testament priestly system and how it relates to us today. We looked at how we all crave acceptance. We saw that Jesus is the only One who could satisfy the acceptance we are craving. Jesus is the only One who could become our final and full High Priest. And then at the very end of our passage last week, it ended with the statement that Jesus is our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. Now, look at what the writer of Hebrews immediately says after talking about Melchizedek: 11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. I can hear the sigh in his voice. He’s wanting to go deeper into what that means, but he knows he has to stop. He has to pause. And here’s why – here’s the diagnosis: 11 There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. When the phone call disconnects and you don’t know it.  This group of people lost their appetite to grow spiritually. The question is not what is the level of your appetite, the question is where did your appetite go? The Greek word used for “dull” has a deep meaning. “It means slow-moving in mind, torpid and understanding, dole of hearing, witlessly forgetful. It can be used of the numbed limbs of an animal which is ill. It can be used of a person who has the imperceptive nature of a stone.” – Barclay. They stopped consuming to God’s Word and stopped growing.

These were not new Christians. They had had known about Jesus for sometime. Look at verse 12: 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. At this point, they should have enough knowledge that they don’t need the basics anymore. They should be moving on from Christianity 101 to Christianity 102. And then we see the analogy of milk. 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.  I remember when my kids used their baby bottles. I would joke around with them and act like I would drink their bottle. Without fail, what did they do every time I would act like I was going to drink their bottle? They would laugh at me and grab their bottle back. Why? Because they know dad doesn’t drink out of baby bottles. They know they need the milk and dad needs more. It would be a disturbing sight to see me drinking baby bottles with my then infant kids. It’s the same way for us spiritually. And for some reason, we’ve become accustomed to letting spiritual infancy be normalized for long time believers. Perpetual spiritual infancy is not God’s design. 

There is a warning in these verses that every Christian, at any level of maturity, must take heed. Are you content being at the same spiritual maturity that you were a year ago? I’ll be blunt: If you are at the same spiritual maturity that you were a year ago, then you’ve lost your spiritual appetite. There is something that happens in you when you grow. It changes the way you view growth in your life and in other people’s lives. Growth recognizes growth. Growth celebrates growth. Growth wants to be surrounded with growth. If you are not recognizing growth in other people…If you are not celebrating the growth in other people…If you are not surrounding yourself with growing people…Then there is a good chance you’ve lost your spiritual appetite.  So what’s the remedy? Well, the writers of Hebrews has already laid out the cure several times in the book. But he says it again in verse 14 and then moving into chapter 6: Grow with what you got.

2) Grow with what you got. (vs. 5:14 – 6:3)  I think most of think that the remedy would be to put the baby bottle down and start chowing down on the steak. But that’s not what we read. What does verse 14 say? 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. The solid food is for those who are mature. You would never give a baby a big piece of steak and say, “Feed yourself.” What does 14 say to do? 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. The way the spiritually mature became spiritually mature is that they used what they had in their spiritual infancy. Through training, through growth, through maturing – they mature have learned what is right and wrong. They have learned what it means to obey God. And obedience starts first with your heart, not your intellect. What God wants you to do is take what you know about Him and His Word and live it out to the best of your ability. Consume what you already have.  The problem isn’t in the milk, the problem is how you are drinking the milk. The foundations of Christianity aren’t weak. The milk of Christianity is strong. The foundational teachings of Jesus are strong. Use those foundations. And that’s what we see in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 6: 1So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  

Let me pause for a moment. There is chance that as I read those foundational teachings, some of you may gone, “I don’t know all of those things.” If that’s you, let me say this, “That’s okay.” Now, if I come back and read this same passage in a year and you still don’t know what those things are, that’s not okay. What the writer of Hebrews does is lay out three core doctrines: You have to being a personal relationship with Jesus to be saved from your sins. The Church is to be used by God for His Kingdom and glory. Jesus is coming back and we will spend eternity with Him. Let your spiritual appetite grow from where you are right now. The complexities of Scripture should cause you to lean, not shy away. You don’t need to know it all. You just need to know more than you did before. Illustration:  Running 8 miles compared to running 3 miles. How to grow: Get in a Community Group. Grab a study Bible. Journal. Or sit down with another believe and read the Bible together – it’s amazing what you can learn by doing that!

And that’s what verse 3 is about: And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding. Becoming spiritually mature isn’t optional. There are no Peter Pans when it comes to Jesus.  I think sometimes we often struggle with the concept of maturing. We love to hold to adolescent ignorance. We try to capture that childhood happiness and never let it go. But what we don’t realize is what we are missing out on. The joy in maturity is far greater than the happiness in adolescence.  Grow with what you got. And then we grow into what you are next, you’ll find joy unspeakable because you’ll find a Savior unfathomable. Quote: “It is true that Jesus said the greatest thing in the world is this childlike spirit; but there is a tremendous difference between the childlike and the childish Peter Pan makes a charming play on the stage; but the man who will not grow up makes a tragedy in real life.” – William Barclay. 

The writer of Hebrews moves into a section of verses that show the burden of his heart. These final verses we are looking at today show why God is so concerned with our spiritual growth. Spiritual growth helps reveal that your faith actually belongs to you. And that’s what we see last: Make sure you own your faith. 

3) Make sure you own your faith. (vs. 6:4-8) These verses are among the most difficult in the New Testament to work through. I don’t want to take away anyone’s steak today, so we might have to come back to these verses next week because time is short. There are some big statements in these verses: For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame. When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.  

What’s happening in these verses? Whenever you come to a difficult passage, the best way to work through that passage is by using the Bible. Scripture interprets scripture. We know from other passages in the Bible (John 10:28) that once you have a true, genuine relationship with Jesus, you can never lose that. Who we see the writer of Hebrews writing about are those who have been so close to Jesus – they’ve learned things about Jesus, they’ve seen the work of Jesus, they’ve even been privy to the work of the Holy – but something is off with them. These people have come into proximity to Jesus, but never fully surrendered to Jesus. And this is dangerous because it reveals a reality for us. In some ways, it’s more dangerous for us because we’re a society that, for the longest time, that has made religious activity as part of our lives. Jesus wants your religious activity, but He wants a relationship with you first. You have to own your own faith. Your grandma’s faith can’t save you.  

There’s a big statement for those who have tasted God’s goodness and walked away. What did it say in verse 6? and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame. Those who taste and walk away are doing the same thing as the people who crucified Jesus. It’s pouring contempt on Jesus all over again. Do you see the significance of owning your faith? Illustration: The Last Battle by CS Lewis. One of my kids finished the Narnia book series recently. I’ve never read the final book, but I was curious about how it ended. In the end, Susan wasn’t in Narnia. She found other things in life more appealing. That scene depicts heaven. Everyone is there, but Susan. She saw all the other things that her siblings saw, but walked away. The story goes like this: “Sire,” said Tirian, when he had greeted all these. “If I have read the chronicle aright, there should be another. Has not your Majesty two sisters? Where is Queen Susan?” “My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.” “Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you try to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says ‘what wonderful memories you have fancy you still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.’”

I’ll close with two things...

  1.  If you don’t own your faith, starting owning it today.
    • If you have never surrendered your life to Jesus, surrender today.
  2. Whether you are in a place where you need spiritual milk or you need spiritual steak, consume it.
    • Don’t get caught up in where other people are.
    • Get caught up in where you are with Jesus right.
      • You’ll grow from there.

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Series Information

Sin causes us to experience shame, rejection, and pain.  This series highlights the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ in the Book of Hebrews—offering hope to all of those struggling with self-doubt and seclusion. By exploring the passages that connect Jesus' ministry to the fulfillment of the Law, this guide will help you not only better understand the Old Testament, but also how Jesus completes the story of God’s redemption. This is a great series to remind others of God’s love for them, as well as the sacrifice He made to bring them back to God.

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