“Feasting on Solid Food” – Hebrews 5:11-6:12
Listen to the Sermon:
If you have your Bibles, please open up with me to Hebrews 5:11 through 6:12. I
11 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.
6 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. 4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 5:11-6:12, ESV
This is the word of the Lord.
About a year or so before World War 2 broke out in Europe in the late 1930’s, attentions on the European continent were already at a fever pitch and war looked inevitable. Yet there was a glimmer of hope that war could somehow be avoided. Then on September 30, 1938 the United Kingdom and Germany entered into a non-aggression pact with each other. At the time when that agreement was signed, along with another agreement known as the Munich Agreement, in the city of Munich I presume, it looked as if this was going to be the breakthrough that would at last bring resolution to the threat of war, at least war between the United Kingdom and Germany.
Apparently this is what the prime minister of the time, whose name was Neville Chamberlain, thought too. As the story goes, when Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, arrived back in London after signing this non-aggression pact with Germany, Londoners were ecstatic. They cheered for Chamberlain as he hopped off the plane. Chamberlain went to visit the king at Buckingham Palace, and he got cheered once again.
Then he held up the signed document to shouts of joy and then he addressed a crowd just outside of 10 Downing Street basically the British version of the White House, where the prime minister lives. This is what he had to say, “My good friends, for the second time in our history a British prime minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”
Unfortunately this paper that Chamberlain held up and flaunted as this great success between Germany and the UK was not to be. In fact if anyone had assumed that they had now arrived at some lasting peace with Germany and now they could sit back and relax because the threat of war was over, well they’d be mistaken. In less than a year the United Kingdom and Germany would be at war with each other.
Well when we turn to our passage this morning our author is addressing a similar threat in the Christian life. In short it’s the threat of assuming that we’ve arrived. That we’re walled off from any kind of spiritual battle and we can therefore, spiritually speaking, go home and sleep in peace.
Now of course it is true that when we become Christians, when the Holy Spirit works on our hearts and minds to draw us to Jesus Christ and brings about regeneration, we are in fact secure. There is in fact peace, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. At the same time, as I’m sure we could all attest to, our struggle with sin continues in this life under the sun.
Spiritual threats we know are real and the imperative to tend to the care of our souls is something that we cannot set aside at any point in our spiritual sojourn. Ultimately it’s true that the Lord preserves his people, but if there’s no desire in the Christian life to grow in spiritual maturity, or if status quo or static Christianity is what characterizes your walk with Christ, or if you’re honest with yourself and you realize that you’ve really only been living as a Christian in name only; well friends those are all signs that it’s time to wake up to recognize that you and me are very much engaged in a spiritual battle of sorts. We’re not in a truce with our very real spiritual enemies and instead we need to pursue spiritual depth and spiritual maturity.
So, our big idea this morning is this, spiritual maturity is the only path forward.
As we look at this passage we’re going to explore it in three points.
1. A Concerning Diagnosis
2. A Treacherous Warning
3. A Hopeful Encouragement
A Concerning Diagnosis
Now there’s a story that my mom likes to tell about my grandfather, in this case this would be my dad’s dad who I never really knew. Unfortunately he died when I was quite young. Apparently my grandfather was a brilliant man, and his brilliance was often intimidating to people in the family.
So, as the stories go he would get going on a certain topic in family conversation. He’d begin pontificating about this topic or that topic, whatever it was, often it was something way over your head. You’d sit there and you’d smile and nod, according to my mom, as if you knew exactly what he was talking about, even though you had no idea what he was talking about. Then he would pause in the conversation, he would corner you, and he would ask you questions about what he just said. I guess to see if you’re really paying attention and to get your opinion on it too.
Now as my mom tells the story, it was a pretty intimidating thing to be in the presence of my grandfather in those environments. It would often jolt you awake and really make you think, “I’ve got to pay attention next time that he’s talking about whatever the case may be.”
Well this is perhaps the effect that this passage is intended to have on us too. In the passage that immediately preceded this one, the author of Hebrews was unpacking for us some rich theology about the high priesthood of Jesus Christ. He talked about first what a high priest was. Then he talked about what a high priest did. Then he talked about how Jesus Christ is the perfect embodiment of the high priest from the Old Testament.
Now these are all important things to know and believe, but before he goes any further he wants to make sure his audience is tracking with him, because he has some concerns that perhaps they’re not in the best spiritual place that they could be. So he gets personal and without pulling any punches he corners his audience and specifically he points out to them three troubling signs that he sees among them.
The first of these spiritual signs troubling signs is found right off the bat in verse 11, where he accuses his readers of being dull in hearing. Another way this could be translated, depending on your Bible translation you have, is lazy in hearing or sluggish in hearing. In summary while the author is brimming with excitement over what he has to say to the church, the rich theological truth he wants to expound for them, they’re either too distracted or too apathetic to care.
I remember many years ago, I got thrust into teaching a first grade Sunday school class at a previous church I was in. I remember going into it really excited to teach all the kiddos about this gospel story that the lesson called me to teach. Yet less than 15 seconds into my teaching of these kids, I could tell that their eyes were fixed on anything but me. They were too distracted to listen and much of that was my own fault.
While that’s understandable for kids of course, for Christian adults, especially those who have been Christians for some time, this kind of response receives a serious critique from our author. You see they have the capacity to pay attention, they have the capacity to listen, and yet they’re not willing to pay attention either because they’re dull or lazy or sluggish or probably all of the above. So that’s the first critique, the first troubling sign our author points out of his audience, they’re dull of hearing.
Then second and closely related, we also learn that they’re far behind where they need to be in their spiritual growth. We read in verse 12,
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. Hebrews 5:12, ESV
The situation is that the church and the people that he’s addressing should be leaders by this point. They should be spiritual leaders ready to instruct other people in the basics of the gospel. Yet they themselves are all the way back to the starting line.
In my studies this week, one commentator pointed out that this troubling sign is actually a sign of selfishness too, because they didn’t care to give back what they have received. All they were concerned about was taking and receiving, without a care in the world for turning and then investing in the younger believers in the church.
Then the third and final troubling sign of spiritual immaturity we come across is a lack of discernment. Whereas the mature, in verse 14, they’re able to distinguish between good and evil. The implication here is that the spiritually immature don’t do that. The spiritually immature are said to be those who are quote, “unskilled in the word of righteousness”, and as a consequence they don’t know how to distinguish good teaching from bad teaching or good doctrine from poor doctrine or even good decision making from sinful decision making. There isn’t as bountiful spiritual fruit as there should be. In the end these three troubling signs that our author points out in verses 11 through 14, are all captured under the image of someone subsisting on milk rather than solid food.
Now of course that’s not to say that milk is bad. It’s not to say that there isn’t a time in everyone’s life where milk is our primary nutritional source. Yet just as it would be silly for a grown adult to grab a bottle of milk and subsist on that as their primary nutrition, so too those who have been Christians for some time cannot subsist on milk alone. They need solid food because there reaches a point in all of our lives where milk just won’t fill us up in this way that it once did when we were spiritual infants.
This is the author’s point when we get to verses one through three of chapter six, where he then offers, in light of these critiques in light of these troubling signs, a pathway forward. Again in 6:1 we read, therefore in light of all of these troubling signs that he just pointed out and marked that they were getting wrong he says,
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, Hebrews 6:1, ESV
“Let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity,” now again it’s not as if these elementary doctrines of Christ are bad or it’s not as if those things don’t have their place, they very much do. The issue though is that you can’t read and write at a third-grade level when you’re in college. In the same way there comes a time in the life of every Christian when we need to build on what we have earlier received, namely the elementary doctrine of Christ. That’s the pathway forward he offers for spiritual maturity, don’t get stuck in elementary school when you should, proverbially speaking, be in high school or college.
Of course this raises the question then well, what are these elementary doctrines of Christ that our author exhorts his readers, exhorts you and me, that we need to build upon? Well in verses one through two, he tells us six things that these elementary doctrines consist of. We notice, and you can probably see this if you’re looking at your Bibles we see; one it consists in repentance from dead works, two faith in God, three instructions about washing (that could also be translated baptisms), four the laying on of hands, five the resurrection of the dead, and six eternal judgment.
In the early church these would have been the core doctrines. When I say doctrines that’s just another word for teachings, these would have been the core teachings that a new believer would have received upon entering in to the church. They would have been instructed in these things. Although some of the particular doctrines here that are listed aren’t entirely clear about what exactly he’s getting at, with washings for example or laying out of hands, these can basically all be boiled down into the basic things one needs to learn about Christianity.
If you’re looking at the list, notice that these first two items in the list, repentance and faith, tell us in summary how you become a Christian. To become a Christian you need to repent of your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ. The second items in the list we read, the washing and laying on of hands, well that tells us what empowers the Christian life. After all baptism points to regeneration in the Spirit, and a laying out of hands in the Bible often signals the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. To live the Christian life we need the Holy Spirit. The final two things in this list, resurrection and eternal judgment, tell us about the hope that we have after death.
So in summary our author is telling us the basics these elementary doctrines of Christ are the basic things we need to know about the beginning of the Christian life. How you become a Christian. Then the middle of the Christian life, well what empowers the Christian life, how do you live the Christian life? Well you can only do that by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then third, the end of the Christian life, the hope that we have to look forward to in the end, which is captured with eternal judge or judgment and resurrection.
These are really important things to know. If you’re here and you haven’t learned these elementary truths of Christianity, we’d love to talk to you about what it means to repent of your sins and to put your faith in Jesus Christ. We’d love to tell you about the work of the Holy Spirit who draws us to a recognition of our sins and then helps us live more and more in accordance with God’s word. Then we’d love to also tell you about the eternal hope held out for us in Jesus Christ. There’s a hope of eternal life for all those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Friends, this is the bread and butter of Christianity and our author is in no way pretentious towards these things.
Yet if you’re a Christian and these are things you know and these are things that you’ve known for some time, if you’re not building on the basics, if you’re not diving deeper into the basics, well then you’re also losing out on enjoying God as much as you could. You know one of the things my family always teases me about, whenever we go to a restaurant is that I always like to order the same things. I’m a creature of habit. I know what I like and so why would I venture out and try something different when I when I know what’s going to fill me up and what’s going to satisfy me? Yet occasionally there are times when I give into the peer pressure of my wife, or the peer pressure of friends, and I try something new. It just so happens that nine times out of ten when I try something new, I really like those new things that I tried. Those things often then become my new staple at those restaurants too.
Well friends, in the same way that I don’t like to stretch myself when I go out to eat, but it’s often very good when I do stretch myself, are you stretching yourself in the Christian life? Are you stretching yourself by being involved in things like disciple groups at church, or in Sunday school, or in plunging yourself into the deep end of theology even though that’s sometimes really hard and intimidating for us to do? In the same way perhaps that there’s a hesitancy to deepen your theological foundation or maybe you’re not even sure it’s worth your time, these are very good things for us to do.
You know one of the common questions we sometimes ask ourselves when we dive into the deep end of theology, or when we’re when that’s a proposition for us to do, we ask ourselves the question do I need to know this in order to be saved? While that’s a really good question to ask ourselves so that we keep our priorities theologically speaking in order, there’s sometimes a cynical attitude that also attends that question. In other words, sometimes we rule out deeper theological reflection or we set aside certain questions because we don’t see any immediate tangible or practical payoff. Instead we only want to know enough to survive spiritually speaking.
Yet if we took the time to stretch ourselves, if we took our time to plunge ourselves into the deep end of theology, I think we’d be surprised at the spiritual flourishing that often follows. Again this doesn’t mean that we set aside the basics of the faith at any point. We all have to start somewhere and sometimes we need to come back to the fundamentals periodically in the Christian life to remind ourselves what the priorities are.
Yet let me ask you this, are you growing in an upward trajectory? Are you pursuing spiritual maturity? Kids are you paying attention when your mom and dad tells you all of the good things that are found in the Bible when they teach you the Bible? Are you paying attention to your teachers in Sunday school too?
Well, this is the opening challenge in our passage, to pursue spiritual maturity. Just as we’re called to pursue spiritual maturity, in the next part of our passage our author underscores for us just why this is super important for us to do so.
When we come to verses four through eight in our passage, you may notice a warning. In fact this is the third warning passage in Hebrews. We’ve come across in our study of Hebrews, a number of times, these warning passages. This won’t be the last one that we encounter either, we’ll reach a few more by the time we finish the book. These warning passages are intended to wake us up and warn us of the dangers of failing to persevere in the Christian life.
Essentially the logic between these verses and the ones we just studied goes something like this. You see we all need to grow in maturity and while that looks different for all of us, if we’re not growing in maturity, if we’re static in the Christian life, and if you have no desire to draw near to God, if your love towards God and your love towards one another has grown cold, well friends that might indicate something troubling about your heart. It may even indicate that you don’t know the gospel in the first place. If that’s the case, know that to turn your back on Christ and to reject the gospel puts you in a perilous position.
Now you may be familiar with the phrase that the best defense is a good offense, it’s a sports phrase that’s sometimes used. Well in a similar manner if you’re not growing in maturity and you have no desire whatsoever to do that, well friends it may only be a matter of time until you find yourself crumbling under the pressures of the world. Again in verses four through six this is what we read.
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. Hebrews 6:4-6, ESV
So who are those here who have fallen away that our author has in mind? Who are those who have apostatized? This word apostasy is just a word that refers to those who were once seem to be walking well in Christ, but then completely turn their back on Christ and on the church. So who are those in our passage who have apostatized?
Well notice how they’re described. Again, they’re described as those who have been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come. However, then after experiencing all of those benefits they decide that they don’t want anything to do with Jesus Christ or his body any longer.
Now on the one hand, one of the doctrines, again doctrines meets teachings, one of the teachings that we gladly confess here at Harvest in the so-called reformed tradition, is a doctrine known as the perseverance of the saints. Now this is a doctrine that teaches us that everyone who truly believes in Jesus Christ, all who truly receive and rest upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation, can never lose that salvation. That’s true that Christians, and we’ve experienced this in our own lives too, Christians we can fall into this sin or we can fall into that sin. There may be times in our lives where we grow cold in love towards God or towards one another, but perseverance of the saints tells us that all true Christians will eventually repent of those sins and they will not ultimately fall away from Jesus Christ. It’s a doctrine that we profess, a doctrine that we love, perseverance of the saints.
Yet on the other hand this passage that we’ve just read may appear at first blush to describe a genuine believer who’s experienced a genuine salvation and who then falls away for good. So how do we make sense of this? Is this passage in tension with this beloved doctrine of perseverance of the saints? Well the short answer is no.
If you’ve been with us for some time at Harvest for our study of Hebrews, then you may be aware that one of the stories that our author loves to reflect upon are these stories from the so-called wilderness generation in the Old Testament. All the way back in the beginning in the book of Numbers specifically, we hear about Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the desert. You see in in the book of Exodus, the Lord led his people out of slavery and captivity in Egypt. Then he led them into a desert wasteland, but in the desert wasteland he fed, and he nourished his people. Yet repeatedly the wilderness generation grumbled against the Lord. They experienced a number of benefits and yet even still many Israelites who experienced those benefits failed to trust in the Lord and in his promises. They may have sojourned all as one people in the desert in their 40 years of wandering, they may have had all had the same Israelite driver’s licenses, but some of them didn’t actually believe nor trust the Lord in their heart.
Well this is the background to the imagery we come across in our passage in verses four through six. You see in the desert the nation of Israel, they were enlightened, they quite literally were guided by a pillar of light as they wandered through the desert. They also tasted the heavenly gift as the Lord rained down manna bread from heaven on them each day. They also shared in the Holy Spirit who rested on Moses and on the elders who in turn taught and shepherded God’s people in the wilderness.
Understand that the wilderness generation experienced all of these external blessings of being God’s people and yet not everyone among the wilderness generation was saved. Not everyone among the wilderness generation truly received the Lord, rested in the Lord, and trusted in the Lord. As the apostle Paul says much later in the book of Romans 9:6, “not all who descended it from Israel belonged to Israel.”
The same is true, brothers and sisters, in the church today. The unfortunate reality is that there are some who hear the word, who receive the word it seems, who speak the same Christian lingo that we speak, but who then one day say to themselves that they want nothing to do with others in the church. They want nothing to do with Christ and they walk away. In verses seven through eight, our author provides an illustration of this sobering reality.
In summary he tells us that rain falls on the land. Rain falls on all the land, all the land receives the same blessing, but some land produces fruit whereas other land produces thorns. It receives the same blessing, that all receives rain, but some of the land is fruitful and others turn out to be fruitless. The same is true in the church. Understand that all of us are privy to the same external benefits. We’re all sitting here hearing the word of God, we’re going to come to the table later and receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, we all get to participate in the fellowship of the body. Yet how many of us know people, maybe even people in your own family, who have said to themselves, “I want nothing to do with Christ any longer.”
What’s especially devastating about those examples is that, should that rejection of Christ persist in perpetuity, should those individuals that we so love never return to Christ and never return to the church, what that reveals is the heart-wrenching reality that they never really understood the elementary principles of Jesus Christ in the first place.
As an aside, if you know people who are in that kind of condition that kind of spiritual state, what I have to offer you is to pray for them. Pray that they would return to Christ. Pray that they would return to the church. Pray that they would repent of their sins, that they would come back to know the Lord, and that they would then grow in spiritual maturity. Ultimately we don’t know those who have seemed to walk away, and have done so in a final kind of way. But for those who once with walked with us, but no longer do, pray for them. For you see, those heart-wrenching examples as examples of all the more reason why we need to pursue spiritual maturity in our own lives too.
Now that our author has issued this sobering warning that may have caused much alarm amongst his readers. He then turns to comfort them, and he addresses them with words of encouragement and hope.
So in verses 9-12 this leads to our final point hopeful encouragement. Again we could imagine that after hearing these words in verses 4 through 8m that they might have been overcome with anxiety and anxiousness over their spiritual state. The author of Hebrews, though he has concerns, also encourages them in what he knows to be true of them. Again in verses 9 through 12 we read,
9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10 For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:9-6:12, ESV
So here our author provides encouragement to his readers, but it’s encouragement based on the real fruit that he sees in their lives. He doesn’t just issue encouragement because he said something hard and now he feels the need to balance it with softer words. Sometimes maybe that’s our intent, that’s sometimes my intent as a non-confrontational person. But for the author of Hebrews, he balances his warning with encouragement because he sees real spiritual fruit in their lives that they should be encouraged about. Notice that he commends them specifically for their love towards each other and their love in serving each other.
Now later in the book of Hebrews, in Hebrews chapter 10, the author of Hebrews will return to that same kind of encouragement where he lauds his readers for suffering reproach with each other and for having compassion on those who have been unjustly prisoned for their faith. He’s encouraged because they’re not just looking out for themselves, they genuinely love each other.
Brothers and sisters, that’s a mark of spiritual maturity that we should pursue as we grow in our faith too. We should love each other just as Christ Jesus loved us and gave himself for us. Not only should we seek to grow in theological knowledge, although that’s really important, but we desperately need to grow in love as well, that’s a mark of spiritual maturity.
If you can look at your life and you can genuinely say I love God and I love other people, although of course we all do that poorly from time to time, if we can look at our lives and we can see then spiritual repentance characterizing those times when we fail to love well, then be encouraged that Christ is at work in your heart. Even more than that Christ forgives you and still loves you when you mess up and you fail to love God and other people as you should.
Yet as our author leaves this passage to move on to the next, he also doesn’t want to coddle his readers such that they don’t continue to pursue spiritual maturity. Yes they have a lot to be encouraged about, but in his parting words he reminds them to continue imitating people of the faith who have gone before, people like Abraham. That’ll be the connection he draws in our next passage that we’ll look at in a couple weeks, but also to continue imitating Jesus Christ as we put our faith in Jesus Christ. We receive him as a gift, we’re then called even to imitate Jesus Christ. Then to continue waiting on the promises of God with patience and to continue pursuing spiritual maturity rather than falling back into a lazy or complacent attitude towards God or towards his people.
It’s most certainly true that we are justified by faith in God. We are made right in the eyes of God not based on anything we have done but solely based on the work of Jesus Christ. Our work is evidence of a justified life. For as long as God gives us on this earth, we are called to be a people who press forward to spiritual maturity and get to work at being the kind of people that he desires we would be.
Once we prepare to close I want to leave us with two applications two things to think about a little bit more as we think about our own spiritual maturity.
1. The first application point is this, worship with intentionality. Let me ask you a question, how much preparation do you typically give before you come to church on Sundays? Do you pray beforehand that the Lord would bless the preaching of the word of God and the those who lead the worship service? Do you pray that the Lord would soften your heart so that you can receive the ministry of the word? Do you ask the Lord that the Lord would help you resolve any conflicts or bitter feelings you have towards anybody else in the church before you enter into this assembly?
Understand that coming into worship isn’t like coming to a movie theater where you can be indifferent towards the people around you and be entertained by what’s on the screen. Corporate worship is in fact a very heavy thing, and as entertaining as Jacob and I are, we’re not here to entertain you. To enter into worship then requires that we prepare our minds, that we fight to stay engaged in the process, and that we learn to love and repent of those times when we fail to love the other people we’re participating with in worship.
Remember one of the primary concerns our author raises is that the church not be sluggish or lazy in hearing. So does that describe you? Now one of the challenges I think we face in the church today, and especially at Harvest and in the so-called reformed tradition where preaching just tends to be a little bit heavy, we’re well aware of that is that. We’re also being taught through a medium that we need some training in.
In other words, when we sit in front of a television at home and we consume entertainment, nobody really needs to tell us how to do that, we sit down, and we absorb. To receive something auditory, to receive something heavier, requires intentionality on our parts. It requires even that we prepare ourselves physiologically before we come into worship. That we get a good night’s sleep. That we eat a good breakfast. It requires that we do our best to focus and follow along.
As we’re engaged in worship too may mean that we take notes to help us focus, it may mean that we keep our Bibles open, and we move back and forth from text to preacher and back again so that we stay engaged in the process. Now of course it’s also true that many of us are trying to wrestle kids in the pews, even right now and it’s really difficult to pay close attention like you’d like to when you’re trying to keep your kids under control from crying out or screaming. However there’s grace in that and the Lord will be faithful towards those of you who are struggling in that right now.
There may also be times in worship service where Jacob and I get a little bit too heavy from the pulpit, where we’re a little bit too difficult to follow and that’s something that we need to work on too when we come into the pulpit making the word of God accessible and understandable for everybody who’s here and listening.
All of us though need to prepare ourselves in one way or another. It’s not just the preachers, Jacob and I, who prepare. All of us need to do our best to prepare to come into this assembly, so that we are not sluggish or lazy in hearing the very word of the living God. So that’s our first application, don’t be lazy or sluggish when you come into the assembly worship with intentionality.
2. Mature with intentionality. Beyond corporate worship which, we call the pinnacle of our week, which it’s something all of us I think should give a careful attention to. Let me ask you this, what other disciplines or habits do you have in your life for spiritual maturity?
First think about some of the personal habits you have in your life. Do you have structures and habits in place for Bible reading? Moreover do you have an outlet to serve and to fellowship with other people in this church on a weekly basis? Or would your weeks be characterized more as a lone wolf endeavor?
Then second, do you take advantage of other opportunities at the church for your spiritual maturity and growth? Yes it’s really important that we establish personal habits and personal rhythms in our lives for our growth. It’s also true that sometimes it’s safe and convenient and it’s an easy way out when we don’t have to engage with other people, when we don’t have to study and learn with difficult people or even serve with people who we might not ordinarily want to serve with.
At Harvest we’re always trying to think through our discipleship ministries and service opportunities and provide you with opportunities, whether through Sunday school or disciple groups or Bible studies, so that you can mature and grow along with the rest of the body. So that just as you receive the word of God, so to you can also help other people and bring other people along as they are learning the elementary truths of the Christian faith as well.
So are you maturing with intentionality? Are you taking advantage of opportunities for solid food, even if those opportunities are more challenging than you would choose for yourself? Whatever you give thoughts or attention to, very simply friends, pursue spiritual maturity. Pursue things that stretch you in the process. In the end pursue spiritual maturity with intentionality and don’t get lulled into a false sense of security like Chamberlain was, who thought there was peace for his time, and they could all sit back and sleep.
Understand that we are already engaged in a spiritual battle of sorts. We are not in a truce with our three sworn enemies; the world, the flesh, and the devil. Therefore we do not have the luxury to sit back. We are secure in Jesus Christ absolutely, but because we are secure by faith in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, friends press forward with freedom and fight the good fight.
Let me pray for us. Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank you for your word. We thank you that even though you have hard things to say to us at times, where we need to sit up and pay attention and maybe get on with the hard work of maturing in our faith and maturing in love, that we’re also reminded that you love us too. That you don’t forsake us. That you don’t give up on us. That you’ve united us to Jesus Christ through faith and that we can never lose our salvation. Lord would we be encouraged by those things, empowered by those things. As we are, would we pursue spiritual maturity, and would you help each and every one of us learn how to do that, and then to help each other in this body learn how to do that too. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.