We've all heard it said, "Once a baby, always a baby." Sometimes it is said about the youngest child, known as the baby of the family. Somtimes it is said about a child who is babied, protected from life's hardships, and not allowed to grow up. Sometimes it is said about a pampered child allowed to grow up with little discipline and not taught responsibility.
But, it should never be said of one of God's children, "Once a baby, always a baby." However,the Scriptures warn us that some of God's kids don't want to grow up spiritually. We are called to "childlikeness" in our faith, but it is a sad reality that childishness is seen more often in God's family then childlikeness.
The Scriptures speak to this often because God desires maturity for us. God also desires that our life energies, resources, and potential not be wasted in the childish pursuits of our world. When we grow up in the faith, we embrace the eternal, rather than the temporary as the guiding values of our lives.
Many Scriptures instruct us in this. If we are teachable, we will hear the Word, act on it, and grow. If we are unteachable, we will hear the Word and do what our own heart desires...much like children who hear their mother call, but ignore her preferring to play longer with their friends.
Let's look at some supporting Scriptures for our Hebrews text.
I Corinthians 3:1-4 "Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly -- mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not mere men?"
I Corinthians 13:11 "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."
I Corinthians 14:20 "Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults."
Ephesians 4:13-15 "...until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ." I Peter 2:1-3 "Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies crave spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."
Luke 8:14 The words of Jesus: "The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature." (ie. "they do not grow up")
The Scriptures say to us, "Grow up into Christ." We are not told to grow up to be a real man or a real woman...we are told to grow up into Jesus. I understand that to mean that being Christlike is the goal of growing up for God's people.
Last week in verses 7-10 we learned about the maturing process that Jesus went through. We saw that He experienced how hard it is to grow up in a sinful and selfish world. He had to learn how to obey, even when obedience brought hardship and discomfort. He had to learn about submitting Himself to God so that He could grow up to do God's will.
Now, in verse 11, we read: "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn."
ILLUS. -- I was working on a project in my basement, making screens for our third floor. Our Grandson Brendon was at the house, and decided that I needed help. So down the steps he came and announced to me, "I help Papa".
Now there is much I could say to Brendon about helping Papa, but it is hard to explain because he is not able to understand it because he has to grow up more before he can understand saws, and angles, and routers, and drills. Right now his response to explanations is "why?".
This is understandable when you are relating to a two-year-old. But these scriptures are written to people who should be mature, but have grown spiritually dull and returned to infancy. Instead of walking in obedience to the truth they have already learned, and having open ears and an hungry heart to learn more...they have regressed. Instead of saying, "Yes, Lord", they are back to the two-year-old stage, saying "Why, Lord?".
It's almost like some kind of spiritual alzheimers disease is affecting them and they are regressing to childdishness again.
The Holy Spirit pauses in the middle of this teaching on Jesus, our High Priest in order to challenge these believers to grow up. There is more they need to learn about Jesus, there is more they should have already learned about Jesus and applied to their lives...but they have gone backwards instead of forward spiritually. And instead of learning more about Jesus, they have closed their ears. Their ears do not respond any longer to truth.
The words, "slow to learn" in verse 11, mean "dull of hearing". The two greek words literally are "no push". The Holy Spirit is saying: There is a lot more you need to learn about Jesus but you have "no push".
Do you remember the "push", the spiritual hunger and motivation you had when you were first born into God's family? You couldn't get enough of God's Word, no pastor had to beg you to be in church, you were there whenever the doors were open. Witnessing for Jesus, serving, praying, giving, etc. just came naturally because they flowed from your obedient responses to the life of Jesus within you.
So how does a person get from growing spiritually, from spiritual passion and a burning flame of zeal for God...to "no push"?
"No push" means spiritual slowness, lacking spiritual desire, sluggish, low spiritual motivation, spiritual dullness, neglect, one who is difficult to teach, spiritual retardation.
ILLUS. -- When I was in elementary school, the students who were slow learners were in a separate class and they were called "retarded", which meant they were behind because of learning problems. Then in High School we were discouraged from using the "retarded" designation because the word "retard" had been perverted into a cultural slur used for name-calling. So the name "Special education classes" was used and we were taught to call these students "special". After additional changes, now we are told that the correct terminology is "intellectually challenged."
Maybe a 20th century paraphrase of these verses would say: "Once you were in the accelerated education class....really moving ahead and making spiritual progress, but now you have become spiritually challenged."
However, the problem for these folks in learning more about Jesus was not that they were not capable. The problem was that they had started out in eagerness and had become gradually dull. They had started out with push and somehow spiritual hardening of the arteries had set in and they had regressed to "no push". From "push" to "no push".
As Jesus observed in Luke 8, such folks have plenty of push for the things of this life. In the Luke 8:14 text, Jesus said that it is as they go their own way...their spiritual life is choked out. When a person has more push for the temporary than they do for the eternal, it's time for a spiritual check-up.
Another way this word is used is nautically. It is the picture of a sea-going vessel moving forward and gaining momentum. The oarsmen are all straining at the oars, giving it all they have. Then one by one they slack off. Soon momentum is lost. And soon the boat is dead in the water - "no push".
And that is the picture of what happens to some people spiritually, also of what happens to some churches.
What are the evidences of this spiritual condition called, "no push". Let's examine the Hebrew's text for some answers.
1. Verse 12 - The condition of "no push" is evidenced by spiritual unproductiveness.
They had been Christians long enough now and they should be capable of teaching others the faith. In other words, they should be involved in reproduction in the Kingdom of God....bringing people to Jesus and discipling others in the faith...but here they are mumbling through their ABC's again. That's what is meant by the elementary principles or truths.
When we are sharing Jesus with others, we are growing in our faith. When we are talking about Jesus, and living out Jesus, and being a witness through our words and our Christ-like lifestyle and character, we are growing in our faith. We are growing up into Christ.
And the more we share Jesus, and teach others Jesus, the more we grow...the more push we have spiritually because we realize that we have so much more to learn ourselves about Jesus.
Folks, this is spiritual reality. When I live and talk Jesus...people will ask questions, they will challenge me, they will watch my life, sometimes they will ridicule or try to mis- use God's Word. All of this spiritually forces me to draw closer to Jesus, to learn more about Jesus, to grow in my faith.
In contrast, spiritual unproductiveness indicates lack of growth or "no push".
2. Secondly, the spiritual condition of "no push" is evidenced by regression in their behavior. They are going back to "baby" behavior. Baby behavior is "feed me, feed me, take care of me, dress me, do for me, do more for me, what's in it for me."
This "do it for me--meet my needs--stroke me--spoon feed me" has nothing to do with the study of God's Word, but rather it refers to the digestive process and application of God's Word.
If we really want meat...then we digest the milk of the Word, apply it to our lives, and it becomes spiritual meat on our spiritual bones.
You see, Peter says, "crave pure spiritual milk", but Paul says, "I have to give you milk because you are not ready for solid food." There is no contradiction. It is all centered in behavior and application. The "meat" is growing in Christlikeness.
Look at all the supporting scriptures we read earlier. Note that proof of their childishness was their behavior. Behavior described as, filled with life's worries, goals in living are to "get ahead" and enjoy life, not perservering (quits easily), childish reasoning, lack of unity, chasing after every new teaching that comes down the broad road of Christendom (there is a difference between the broad road of Christendom and the narrow road of discipleship to Jesus.), not being truthful with others or using the truth in unloving ways, malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander, quarreling, jealousy, being disciples of men rather than disciples of Christ.
All proof of childishness. All proof of a lack of spiritual meat or muscle on their bones.
Yes, we need the milk of the Word, but we don't need to behave like babies any longer. The milk needs to be digested....applied in obedience to our lives. The milk, when digested by life application, becomes meat...spiritual meat and spiritual strength to us. The call of the Holy Spirit is, "Let's get some meat on those bones!" The call is to growing the spiritual muscle that comes about through life application.
One of the differences between spiritual infants and spiritual adults is what they are doing with the Word of God, how they are responding to the Word of God. If you want more meat, apply the Word to your life. The more you apply it, the more you will grow. The more you grow spiritually, the more you will understand. The more you understand, the more you will hunger for more. The more you digest it...through life application...the more Christ-likness people will see in you.
This is growing up into Christ!
3. Thirdly, the spiritual condition of "no push" is evidenced by a lack of holiness. "Not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness."
The growing child of God has a growing interest in how God teaches us to live our lives. Instead of being off on a search for happiness, or a search for pleasure or good feelings...or a search for good feelings about oneself; they are on a search for the good way...the joyous way...the holy way that God has called us to live our lives.
Our culture encourages us to find ourselves. The Bible says you will never really find yourself until you lose yourself in Christ.
ILLUS. - In a Ziggy cartoon; Ziggy is looking in a mirror and asking "Who are you?" Discouraged, that he gets no answer and making no progress toward self-discovery, Ziggy walks dejectedly away. The reflection in the mirror is watching him leave and says to him, "Get over yourself, Ziggy." Good spiritual counsel for us!
We "get over ourselves" by surrendering self to God. As we discover more and more about Jesus...losing our lives in living for Him....only then do we discover more and more about self and about the person we can be...the person God calls us to be.
The human problem is that we attempt to justify unrighteous and selfish behavior with excuses such as, "That's just the way I am. That's my temperament...you know how we cholorics/melancholies are. I'm an only child. I'm a middle child. I came from a broken home. I'm a redhead. I was born a homosexual, etc."
I am not suggesting insensitivity to real hurts that need healing, but we have to move beyond acting out and excusing sinful behaviors because I am a victim. We need to bring self to the cross. We need to give self to Jesus. We need to let Jesus touch the "self" and cleanse the selfishness and heal the wounds, and we need to embrace the way of God's righteousness as the only joyous way for self to live with meaning.
E. Stanley Jones - "Victory Through Surrender" - "Outer sins are only fruit -- the unsurrendered self is the root; the outer sins are symptoms, the unsurrendered self is the disease."
The proof of spiritual growth, of spiritual "push" in our lives is the fruit that comes forth. Verse 14 speaks to this. We develop moral judgment and are able to discern and accept the truth when we hear it. What is taught here is not living by rules or Christian legalism. What is taught here is growth in wisdom and discernment.
As we grow in Christ, we learn to distinquish between what is good and evil. Little children do not understand the difference between ant spray, cough medicine, lipstick, and apple juice. They are liable to stick anything in their mouths, even things that could kill them. They will touch anything they can reach, go anywhere they can climb to or crawl to...using their freedoms in unwise and harmful ways.
We are acting childishly whenever our freedoms and rights become more important than God's will and obedience to God's Word. Such childish behavior hurts us and hurts God's work because the Kingdom of God is built by spiritual adults, not by spiritual infants and children. Therefore we must grow mature in order to be the blessing God intends us to be in His Kingdom.
In contrast to the immature, mature Christians are able to see more and more through God's eyes. They are able to distinquish what is good for them and what is not. They understand that the soul can be fed poison through the eargate or eyegate. The goal here is living by Godly wisdom, not learning a bunch of rules.
Immature people do not see, refuse to see the ill effects and consequences of certain behaviors, attitudes, habits, impulses, speech, etc. They do not see that certain behaviors dishonor God and other behaviors honor God. How do we learn this? READ: Verse 14
This scripture is describing the process whereby God's Word sits in judgment on my thoughts and life. The solid food of His Word becomes so much a part of me that through its use I learn to recognize the spiritual origins of thoughts, ideas, and attitudes. I discern what is prompted by sin and what is prompted by God's Spirit. It is at this point of "thought", that battles are either won or lost for our spiritual welfare and growth.
"Constant use" means "trained by practice". What is being practices is the applying of God's Word to my life and letting the Word judge my life. It means that I am constantly using God's Word as the guide for life and decisions. This is how a Christian grows, becomes wise and fruitful. This means having a teachable heart. I am able to learn what God wants to teach me through the consequences of certain behaviors. I learn what is wise and unwise. I am applying God's Word to my life. I am growing into Christlikeness. READ: Philippians 1:9-11
In infancy, we go to church. In maturity we choose to be the church.
In infancy we exalt and become disciples of men. In maturity, we respect & submit to those over us in the Lord, but we exalt only Christ and His Lordship. We are His disciples!
In infancy we want people to feed us, serve us, and do for us. In maturity we see ourselves as servants of the Lord available to Him whenever He calls.
In infancy we think well of ourselves spiritually because of our head knowledge and our past spiritual experiences. In maturity we long for and push for true spiritual muscle to grow on our bones.
In infancy we are tempted to live by feelings and can give in to the "give up" temptations and become a lethargic spiritual baby with "no push". In maturity we "push on" or "press on" to know Christ better. The passion and fire and desire for Jesus burns in our soul.
In infancy we live unwisely and use spiritual freedom foolishly. In maturity we have been trained to walk the narrow path choosing wisely and discerningly.
In infancy we commend ourselves for being a better Christian than so and so. In matury we surrender ourselves to growth in Christlikeness.
Once a baby...now conformed to the image of Christ! That is what it means to grow up in Jesus.
People with "no push" in their spirits, need a fresh dose of "push on" in their spirits!
Other sermons by Pastor John.