Hebrews 6:1-3 ( TNIV )
1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites,[or about baptisims] the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.
Last week Pastor Phil shared with us the difference between the what the writer of Hebrews meant when he was talking about our spiritual growth–the difference between living on “milk” and living on solid food or “meat”.
Hebrews 5:11-14 ( TNIV )
11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truthsa of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Pastor Phil cleared up the misconception that “milk” is the lightweight or simple teachings about our faith and the “MEAT” is the deep theological teachings about our faith.
The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us that “Milk” represents the elementary truths, some of the most basic things that you know…..who Jesus is….what He did for you on the cross, what baptism means…..and on and on.
And that “Meat” represents simply the teachings about righteousness–the way we live our lives–putting these elementary truths into practice. The solid food is being able to distinguish between good and evil–putting into practice the wisdom of God–indeed, the wisdom of Jesus!
Let’s look closer at this maturity……maturity in Christ. How many times have you said, “If I knew then what I know now……things would be different…things would be so much better!”
Here is a little background about the book of Hebrews and why the writer was writing this. The Jewish believers to whom this letter is written were drawn to the rituals and practices of their ancient faith. The writer pictures them constantly reexamining–wondering–rather than accepting the basic teachings of Christianity and growing toward maturity.
So, let’s dig in, let’s first examine these basic teachings, the MILK that Pastor Phil and the writer of Hebrews was talking about:
This next part of the Scriptures in verse 1….. I found particuraly intriguing!
Hebrews 6:1b ( TNIV )
1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death and of faith in God,
This first prase, “repentance from acts that lead to death”, which in Greek is “metanoia apo nekros ergon” is simply repentance…….a change of mind from inanimate, lifeless things that we do that are wrong….sin.
This next prase, “of faith in God”, which again, in Greek is “pistis epi theos” is simply a trust, belief and conviction in the truth of and in God.
TOGETHER: these two thoughts equal “salvation”…..an eternity with God
Salvation is defined in Meriam Websters Collegiate Dictionary as “deliverence from the power and effects of sin (The wages of sin are death), liberation from ignorance or illusion, preservation from destruction or failure–deliverance from danger or difficulty”
This is the begining of the journey……this is the milk. The next basic teaching the writer of Hebnrews mentions is “instruction about cleansing rites”. Now this phrase uses the Greek word, “baptismos”, which of course is where we get the word “baptism”.
Baptism is simply an outward sign of an inner reality in our life and in our hearts. Baptism first begins with a decision in our lives–the decision to follow Christ. This is the inner reality. The outward sign is the action of being immersed in the water. This symbolizes our old selves dying and being buried with Christ. The action of coming out of the water pictures Christ’s resurrection and a new life. Baptism is that symbol of a Spiritual cleansing in our life:
Acts 22:16 ( TNIV )
And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away,…..
The writer now mentions “the laying on of hands”. There are three primary purposes for the laying of hands. The first is to transfer sin. In ancient Israel the Hewbrews, or the Jews, would lay hands on an animal to transfer their sin. This, of course, was all changed with the new Covenant. Jesus was the sacrifice that has taken away our sin. The second purpose for the “laying of hands” is to confer a blessing. We do this often as an Elder team when someone is sick and we pray for them or as a congregation when somone is leaving and we pray for them. The last purpose for the “laying of hands” is to set someone apart for ministry. We do this when we ordain a pastor or an elder in the church.
The writer now moves on to “the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment”. Both of these doctrins have to do with the future teachings about the end times. While all the basic teachings mentioned by the author are important, these last two are both basic as well as more difficult concepts in God’s Word. I believe that the author is basically saying to us….”Okay, we’ve talked plenty about the basic believs of our faith…the basic beliefs of Christianity……BUT WE MUST GROW BEYOND THESE TEACHINGS. A life in Christ is more than just believing……a life in Christ is about following…..”
NOW: Let’s look at what it takes to grow in Maturity. Let’s look at the MEAT that Pastor Phil and the writer of Hebrews talked about from Hebrews 5:11-14.
In order to find true fullfillment in life, in order to find peace in who we are, we need to do two things:
1. We need to GROW as followers of Jesus Christ! Jesus, the fullfillment of OLD testament law, is the key here! We will grow as we apply the wisdom of God, indeed Jesus, to our lives and WRESTLE with each and every aspect. When we do this we will grow and we will mature!
2. We need to move on –keep moving–not stop! Jesus didn’t stand still. Jesus walked everywhere He went and He kept moving on!
I am so passionate about this Scripture, why? Because once I experienced this and embraced it my life changed! If I knew then what I know now……
Let’s talk some here about growth:
First, here are some false assumptions about growth & Maturity
1. It’s a false assumption that Growth is automatic. Growth is not an automatic thing. Just like our body needs nourishment to grow, that nourishment must be digested and the nutrients applied to the cells in our bodies before we can grow and grow strong.
My son- in-law, Tim, is in his twenties and is considering moving here to live with us so that he can go back to school and finish his degree. He recognizes that in order to grow in a career he must gain the knowledge and experience. It’s not just an automatic thing. You cannot sit back and wait and expect it to happen. It takes planning, commitment and work. And you don’t grow as a Christian automatically.
2. It’s a false assumption that Growth comes with experience. In fact, I belive some people stop growing because of their experiences. We all have experiences, but they don’t necessarily cause us to grow. We can all attend church regularly, go to Bible study and retreats, read good books, and be involved ministries, but that doesn’t guarantee growth. These things are all important and they can add to growth but they don’t guarantee growth. In order to grow we have to make the decision to learn and grow as a result of our experiences. If we don’t apply what we learn through these experiences we are only experiencing, we are not growing or maturing.
3. It’s a false assumption that Growth is the result of age. Getting older doesn’t require any effort at all –it’s simply automatic! But maturing in Christ is more than just aging. It calls for personal discipline, continual determination and spiritual desire.
4. It’s a false assumption that Growth comes from information. If I knew every thing there was to know about the guitar–how a guitar is made, chords, strum patterns, the notes of each string– I wouldn’t just be able to sit down and play. I would have to apply this information and work at it. It would only be after I practiced and practiced and put this knowledge into action that I would eventually be able to play the guitar and eventually maybe be able to play it well.
There are a lot of people in this world that know a lot about the Bible. They know a lot of theology and they know a lot about doctrine and the law, they know a lot about God. But that doesn’t make them mature. It just makes them informed. It’s the application of the information that leads to growth.
Next, Let’s look at some facts about growth & Maturity:
——————- X (GOD) = GROWTH & MATURITY
Time + Change
1. Growth & Maturity take Effort. We have to set goals and direct our energies toward achieving them. We need to train ourselves and develop our skills. We need to work hard to apply the wisdom and teachings of Jesus to our lives. Let’s look at a poem that is a take off on the poem, “Footprints”.
One night I had a wondrous dream,……..
One set of footprints there was seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord,……
But mine were not along the shore.
But then some stranger prints appeared,……
And I asked the Lord, “What have we here?
Those prints are large and round and neat,……
But, Lord, they are too big for feet.”
“My child,” He said in somber tones,…..
“For miles I carried you alone.
I challenged you to walk in faith,…..
But you refused and made me wait.”
“You disobeyed, you would not grow,…..
The walk of faith, you would not know,
So I got tired, I got fed up,…..
And there I dropped you on your butt.”
“Because in life, there comes a time,……�
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,…..
Or leave their butt prints in the sand.”
— Butt prints in the Sand by A.C. Rose
2. Growth & Maturity Take Time. Children are not born full grown and I am glad they’re not. They need time to learn, experience things , make mistakes and learn from them–they need time to grow in their experiences.
Hebrews 12:10-11 ( The Message Version )
10 While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best.
11 At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
3. Another fact about Growth & Maturity: Growth & Maturity Take Change. We all like change, right? Actually, many people don’t like change and resist it. In truth, many of us resist change at all cost. Why? Because change means leaving something behind, the familiar. Sometimes it means leaving people or places or things behind. Now change can also mean seeing new things, meeting new people, going new places. Change can be very exciting! Change doesn’t necessarily equal growth– but growth always equals change. There can be no growth without change.
So what changes must take place to grow as a Christian? Well, it depends. Maybe you need to change your schedule around so you can consistently spend time reading the Bible and talking with God. Or maybe you need to work some form of service or ministry into your life–helping others. Mabe you need to implement some spiritual disciplines in your life…….like worship….maybe solitude….. maybe trusting in your finances through tithing……maybe prayer. Maybe it’s something specific that God has impresses upon you. I don’t know. All I know is that if you want to grow you will have to change some things in your life.
4. Growth & Maturity Take Help. We can’t grow any more on our own than our bodies can grow without food. We need help from each other. We need to care for each other. We need to encourage each other. We need to be accountable to each other….to study together…to share life together.
Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)
Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
We need help from God
Romans 12:2 ( TNIV )
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
This is what it really all comes down to. The spiritual growth that really matters isn’t the growth that we achieve on our own, it’s the growth that God Himself works in our lives. This means we need to be open to Him, obedient to Him, and available for Him to do whatever He wants to do in our lives.
And finally, here are some tips on growing and maturing in Christ— and not just sitting stagnant spiritually in our lives:
1. Read your Bible–not just on Sunday. Read a little each day throughout the week. Maybe just 5-10 minutes, 4-5 times a week. Start in the New Testament, the book of John or James or the Old Testament, Proverbs. You’d be amazed at how much you’ll get out of it. Discuss what you learn with others……ASK QUESTIONS…… seek answers……get involved in a Bible study of some sort. Most importantly….apply those things you learn when you study!
2. Talk with God–spend time in prayer. Figure out when this will best work for you……first thing in the morning? During a break at work? Driving in your car? Before going to bed? Pray sporatically during the day. But pick a time during your day to spend more than a few seconds talking with God.
3. Serve others….both inside the church family as well as outside the church family.
4. Participate in the church. Do you know what this means? “Ekklesia”….the Greek word translated as church…..a group of called out PEOPLE. Church is not the building but IS the gathering of people who are called out to be used by God in the restoration of this world.
At this point in the Scriptures the writer of Hebrews simply tells us that once the foundation is layed, we need to move on and grow and mature.
I want to leave you with this thought out of the book of James:
James 1:22-25 ( TNIV )
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
23 Those who listen to the word but do not do what it says are like people who look at their faces in a mirror 24 and, after looking at themselves, go away and immediately forget what they look like.
25 But those who look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continue in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.