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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Milk? Or Solid Food?
Text:Hebrews 5:7-6:12 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Jesus Calls Us; O’er the Tumult

Gracious God, My Heart Renew

Blessed Jesus at Thy Word

O For a Closer Walk with God

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

04/13/2016 - a.m.
Spiritual Maturity – I
Milk? Or Solid Food?”
Hebrews 5:7-6:12
Our church in Oak Lawn was built around the time some of our members were born. It was built during 1950 and 1951. Some of our older members were already children at that time and perhaps remember the workers laying the foundation for the building. The parsonage was built at the same time, as were a number of other homes in the neighborhood.
Now imagine if you can, that instead of seeing the Oak Lawn United Reformed Church building on the corner of 54th Avenue and 94th Street, you saw just the foundation to the building and nothing more. And as you stand on the corner and look at the foundation, imagine looking across the street kitty corner at where the parsonage is, and seeing not the house that is there but just the foundation, nothing more. You would probably say, “What were those builders thinking? Why would they lay the foundation without building the building?”  That wouldn't make any sense at all, would it?
Yet the author of Hebrews, as he addressed this letter, was frustrated that many professing Christians are like a foolish builder. He begins chapter 6 by writing, “Therefore, let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death and of faith in God,” and he mentions baptisms, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
He is saying that many professing Christians lay the foundation of the Christian life, but they are satisfied with living on the foundation and never build the house of faith upon it. There are many professing Christians who are satisfied to know the basics of salvation and nothing more. The author of Hebrews says that they are like babies who need milk and not solid food.
He expresses his frustration in chapter 5:11. In the previous verse he had talked about how Christ “was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” He wants to explain more fully about the greatness of our eternal great high priest. He wants us to understand the significance of Christ being the high priest who is after the order of Melchizedek. He wants us to understand the deep and wonderful things about our Lord that give us an ever-greater appreciation for our God and his gift of salvation to us.
Yet he expresses his frustration in verse 11 where he says, “We have much to say about this”­ specifically referring to Melchizedek, “but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn”, literally “dull of hearing” (ESV).
He goes on to stress that spiritual maturity – building on the solid foundation of Christ – is crucial, not only for appreciating the high priesthood of Jesus as our eternal high priest in the order of Melchizedek, but also spiritual maturity is needed in many other crucial areas.
The Necessity of Spiritual Maturity
The first area where spiritual maturity is so necessary, is in the ability to teach others. Verse 12: “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!”
In the body of Christ there is often a lack of teachers, not just in the corporate body, that is the church, where often it is hard to find people to teach – whether in Sunday school, catechism or midweek Bible classes. But there is also a lack of teaching on a one-on-one basis. And yet that is some of the most important teaching that we can give to each other.
For instance, you parents need spiritual maturity in order to teach your children the truths of Scripture. You need a knowledge of God's word yourself and also a willingness to live according to that word so that you teach by example as well by your words. Likewise, how can you teach your neighbor about their need to believe in Jesus Christ unless you have the spiritual maturity to articulate the gospel?
Teaching takes many forms, and if someone is always laying the foundation, without ever building upon it, they cannot be effective in teaching others. They are no different than an infant.  They crave milk, not solid food.
In verse 13 the Holy Spirit describes a second area where spiritual maturity is crucial. He writes: “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.” The teaching about righteousness is woven throughout the Scripture, as Scripture describes how only perfect righteousness is acceptable to God. The only perfect human person is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is both truly human and divine, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We are saved from our sin and enter into heaven by his righteousness, not ours. In the words of Ephesians 2:8, 9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” 
That is the teaching about righteousness in a nutshell. But once someone knows that they are saved from their sin and have a place in glory, won't they want to know more about the One who imputed his righteousness to them? Wouldn't someone who has been saved from their sin want to know more about Jesus Christ? Of how he offered himself as the only sacrifice and atonement for sin? Of how he is a great high priest after the order of Melchizedek?
But the people to whom the author of Hebrews addresses this letter were “slow to learn.” They were “dull of hearing” (ESV), and we all fit that description at times. I know that I do. Sometimes I read a passage in the Bible and come to the end of the chapter and realize that I don't remember what I read. My mind may have been on other things, or simply “dull of hearing.
One writer compares that dullness to when you drive a familiar route. Have you ever driven a familiar road and when you get to your destination you don't remember anything about your drive? You ask yourself, “Did I stop at that four way stop? Did I run any red lights? I don't remember getting them all green. In fact, I don't remember anything about the drive here.”
It gives you a strange feeling inside. But the author of Hebrews reminds us that when the word of God is read and taught, often the same thing happens. And because of that we miss out on the deep treasures of God’s word. Instead of growing with an ever-greater appreciation of our Lord, we simply lay the foundation over and over again.
A third area where spiritual maturity is crucial is described in verse 14: “Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” One of the many results of growing spiritually is that as we grow in our understanding of our Lord's grace, we see with increasing clarity the enormity of our own sin. And as we see with increasing clarity that God's grace is far greater than our sin, it gives us an ever-greater appreciation for our God.
As an example, many people believe that they have kept God's commandments. I could look at my life and say, “I never killed anyone. I never robbed a bank. I never fashioned an idol out of gold jewelry, like Aaron did in the desert. So, I've done pretty well with God's commandments.”
But with spiritual maturity, we see that we have broken every commandment God has given us, and we realize that we have broken his commandments in more ways than we could ever count. But as we confess our sinful condition before him, we also plead for his sanctifying Spirit to mold us more and more after the likeness of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Lord shapes and molds us – sanctifies us – by his Spirit through our growth in the knowledge of his word, the Holy Bible. Through faithful study of his word, we gain a better ability to distinguish good from evil. Spiritual maturity enables us to make wise decisions. Spiritual maturity guards us from going down those roads that will lead us into evil.
A fourth result of spiritual maturity, noted in this passage, is that spiritual maturity helps us to understand hard passages of Scripture. Verses 4 to 6 contain some of the most difficult verses to understand. These verses, (which we plan to look at more closely this evening), have fueled the fire of debate between Arminians and Calvinists, even long before those names came into being. They address the subject of whether a true believer can lose their salvation or not.
It is completely understandable that someone new to the faith would struggle with verses like these. But when a seasoned Christian – perhaps someone who laid the foundation for their faith back in 1950 or 1951 – still can't use basic biblical principles such as comparing Scripture with Scripture to understand hard passages, then verses like these will cause great harm.
The apostle Paul addressed the importance of spiritual maturity in Ephesians 4 where he stressed the importance of spiritual growth for this reason: “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4.13-16)
The apostle Peter also addressed spiritual maturity and the destruction that comes when professing Christians don't grow spiritually. 2 Peter 3:16 describes some of the writing of the apostle Paul and notes, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
The Constant Use of Scripture
Seeing the importance of spiritual growth, then, what can people like you and I do to make sure that we don't go over the same foundation, time and again, without ever building on it?
In this passage several ways are given to us to become spiritually mature. For instance, did you notice in Hebrews 5:14 how the author stresses “constant use”?  He writes: “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves...”  The context is in distinguishing good from evil, but the constant use of God's word is what gives us spiritual maturity.  God’s word – the Holy Bible – is food for our soul. We nourish our bodies several times per day with food. But do we have the same diligence – the “constant use” – when it comes to time spent in the word of God?
The constant use of God’s food for our soul – his word – requires systematic reading.  Some people find that constant use of God’s word is easier to attain by using chronological Bibles, audio Bibles, and a variety of translations. Many others use guides that enable them to read the entire Bible in one year.
No matter which method you use, as you read your Bible, mark passages that drive home the conviction of your sin and the grace and mercy of your Savior. Mark verses that promise the strength of God in the weakness of our human frailty. Mark other verses that are especially meaningful to you. Then, memorize those Scriptures. It is through memorization that we come to the place the Psalmist describes in Psalm 16:7, how “even at night my heart instructs me.”
It is through Bible memorization that the Lord also restrains us from further sin. Psalm 119:11 declares, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Don’t be intimidated by Bible memory. If you haven’t memorized Scripture yet, begin with a few short meaningful verses. As those become ingrained in your mind and heart, expand into passages that are longer. Although it is hard to memorize initially, the more you work at it, the easier it becomes. By keeping a written record of all the passages you have memorized, you can also review them periodically to keep them firmly in your memory.
Our doxology this morning is based on 2 Peter 3:18 which instructs us to, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” And the way that we grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is by our constant study and use of the word of God. That includes our personal devotions, our devotions as a family, and also our learning at church through the preaching of the word on Sunday and attendance at Bible studies throughout the week.
It is the preaching of God’s word that God uses for instilling faith, as Romans 10:17 so clearly declares. And the preaching of God’s word is also used for building that faith up on its foundation into a solid house. That is the analogy in this passage, as well was many others, including the well-known parable of the wise man who built his house upon a rock.
But you won’t get your house built if you only work one day a week. And the same is true with building our spiritual house. Be sure that your Bible is an open book throughout the week so that by constant use you will not only be able to teach others and to distinguish good from evil, but also you will grow in grace and in the knowledge of our merciful and gracious God.
A second key to spiritual growth involves putting our faith into practice. From chapter 6:9-10 we see that some of those to whom the author of Hebrews was addressing were workers. They were Christians who were putting their faith into action. In the words of verse 7, they were producing “a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed” and they received the blessing of God.  But those who do not show spiritual maturity by the actions of their lives are “like land that produces thorns and thistles, and is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. As verse 8 says “in the end it will be burned.”
As James 2:17 points out, genuine faith results in action; authentic, saving faith results in works, in good deeds. If there is spiritual maturity, then it will be evident in the good works that God has before ordained for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 teaches the same truth: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
To be spiritually mature you must put into practice what you believe. For me, I must practice what I preach, but the same is true for you. You must put into practice the truths of God’s word which you have heard, read, and learned. The reason that is, is that knowledge in our mind does us no good unless it is also in our heart. For it is out of the heart that all the issues of life radiate. (Prov. 4:23)
When spiritual maturity goes beyond head knowledge into the recess of the heart, then spiritual maturity will be evident by action. As Jesus said, “A tree is known by its fruit.” It is by our actions that Christ is seen in us. To be a letter from Christ, known and read by everyone (2 Cor. 3:2), the word of God must not just be in your mind and mine; it must be in our heart. Only then will it affect our volition – our actions – and radiate out to others.
A third way to grow spiritually involves guarding yourself from laziness in spiritual matters by imitating the good examples given to us. Hebrews 6:12, “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”
We are given many examples of people “who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” in Hebrews chapter 11. Their lives of faith still speak to us today, giving us encouragement to live out our faith in every circumstance of life.
And then after giving all those examples in Hebrews 11, the Holy Spirit points us to Christ. In the opening verses of chapter 12 he writes: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians the same thing. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 he writes, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Christ is our “all in all” – our everything. He is our Savior from sin, the Lord of our life, our perfect Prophet, Priest and King; he is even a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24). But he is also our example. We cannot follow perfectly, but every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ will strive to follow in his footsteps, looking to Christ with the eye of faith and following his example.
In chapter 6:11 the author speaks about “diligence to the very end.” Rather than becoming complacent about our growth in grace, rather than becoming complacent about spiritual maturity, we are to diligently build upon the foundation of faith that God has graciously given to us. We do so by the constant use of God’s word – not only on Sunday, but also in our day to day living as we put our faith into practice, living out the word we have immersed ourselves in, and focusing always on Jesus Christ, who is the focus of all of Scripture (Luke 24:27) and “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:3)
Our church in Oak Lawn was built in 1950 and 1951. Some of our members were around at that time and remember the workers laying the foundation for the building. Wouldn't it be strange if many decades later there was nothing here on the corner except the foundation for the church? Wouldn't it be strange if all the houses on the block were not built, but there was a slab of concrete for a foundation for each one?
Fortunately, a beautiful sanctuary was built on the foundation on this corner, and kitty corner is a well-built parsonage that we are privileged to live in. The builders on this block wisely and naturally built homes on the foundations that were laid.
But what about you? And what about me? What type of spiritual houses are we building? How much time do we spend consulting the Architect? By constant use of the word of God are we training ourselves to become spiritually mature? Or are we still infants needing milk, unable to digest solid food?
May it be said of you and of me that by God’s grace and sanctifying Spirt we are growing – becoming spiritually mature – feeding on the solid meat of God's word!  Amen.
sermon outline:
Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach
you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not
solid food! – Hebrews 5:12
                                       “Spiritual Maturity – I”
                                         “Milk? Or Solid Food?”
                                              Hebrews 5:7-6:12
I. The author of Hebrews leaves the subject of Christ being a high priest
    after the order of Melchizedek (5:6, 10) to stress the importance of
    spiritual maturity. After an interlude, he will return to the high priest-
    hood of Christ and Melchizedek in chapter 7. Meanwhile, he stresses
    that spiritual maturity is needed in order to:
     1) Teach others (5:12)
     2) Grow in knowledge of righteousness (5:13)
     3) Distinguish good from evil (5:14)
     4) Understand hard passages of Scripture (6:4-6)
II. Ways of becoming spiritually mature include:
     1) Constant use of God’s Word (5:14, 6:11)
     2) Putting our faith into practice (6:10)
     3) Refraining from laziness in spiritual matters by imitating the good
         examples given to us (6:12), focusing always on Jesus (Heb. 12:1-3)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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