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                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS"

                Marks Of Spiritual Immaturity (5:11-14)

INTRODUCTION

1. Just because one has been a Christian for many years, does not mean
   they are "mature"
   a. They may be like the person who had been teacher for twenty-five
      years...
      1) When she heard about a job that would mean a promotion, she
         applied for the position.  However, someone who had been 
         teaching for only one year was hired instead.
      2) She went to the principal and asked why.  The principal 
         responded, "I'm sorry, but you haven't had 25 years of 
         experience as you claim; you've had only one year's experience
         25 times."
      -- During that whole time the teacher had not improved!
   b. So it may be with many Christians; they have not grown, but 
      simply repeated their first year of spiritual life many times!

2. The lack of spiritual growth (i.e., spiritual immaturity) is a
   dangerous thing...
   a. For there may be blessings to be enjoyed in Christ that only the
      mature Christian can truly understand and appropriate
   b. If one remains spiritually immature, they do not come to fully
      appreciate their standing and blessings that they have in Christ!
   -- Deprived of a greater understanding, they are more susceptible to
      the wiles of the devil

3. The author of the book of Hebrews found himself faced with this
   problem...
   a. He had much to say about Christ as our High Priest
   b. But the spiritual immaturity of his readers made it difficult
   -- And so he thought it necessary to temporarily digress - He 5:
      11-14

4. How about you?
   a. Are you growing as a Christian?
   b. Or are you repeating your first year over and over again,
      remaining spiritual immature?
   -- Do you know how to determine whether you are spiritually mature?

[In our text we find some of the identifying "Marks Of Spiritual 
Immaturity", indicators that reveal when one is in need of "growing up"
spiritually.  For example, one mark of spiritual immaturity is...]

I. DULLNESS OF HEARING (11)

   A. THE HEBREWS HAD BECOME "DULL OF HEARING"...
      1. This prevented the writer from continuing with his argument at
         the moment
      2. While the material he had to share was "hard to explain"...
         a. It wasn't so much the difficulty of the material itself
         b. As it was their own inability to receive it!
      3. That they had "become" dull of hearing may imply a 
         regression...
         a. At one time they were not "dull of hearing"
         b. They may have been like the Bereans at one time, "who 
            received the word with all readiness" - Ac 17:11
         c. Indeed, most converts are truly "sharp" in their listening
            at the first
            1) They are excited about what they are learning
            2) They listen with great "readiness", and spiritual growth
               occurs
         d. But it is not uncommon for apathy to set in, making one 
            "dull of hearing"
         -- When one becomes "dull of hearing", they begin to regress 
            to a state of spiritual immaturity

   B.  ARE YOU "DULL OF HEARING"?
      1. Ask yourself these questions:
         a. Is the Bible dull?
         b. Are the Bible classes dull?
         c. Are the sermons dull?
         d. Is anything that is spiritual in nature (like singing, 
            praying) dull?
      2. If so, then you have become "dull of hearing"!
         a. If you listen at all, it will be to those who are willing 
            to "tickle your ears"
         b. And you will be susceptible to being mislead - 2Ti 4:3-4

[When one is "dull of hearing", it is only natural that the next "mark
of spiritual immaturity" will be evident...]

II. THE INABILITY TO TEACH OTHERS (12a)

   A. THE HEBREWS SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO TEACH OTHERS...
      1. They had been Christians for some time ("by this time you 
         ought to be teachers")
         a. They had time to learn, to grow
         b. A natural response to growth is to bear fruit
         c. One way we bear fruit is by teaching others
      2. In one way or another, they should have been able to teach 
         others
         a. Perhaps not in a formal sense, for not all are gifted in 
            that way - cf. 1Co 12:29; Ep 4:11; Jm 3:1
         b. But all can share the good news and hope they have with 
            others - cf. Ac 8:4; 1Pe 3:15; Tit 2:3-5
      -- Their need for someone to teach them again "the first
         principles" demonstrated their spiritual immaturity

   B. ARE YOU ABLE TO TEACH OTHERS?
      1. Assuming that sufficient time has passed, are you teaching 
         others?
         a. Either formally as a teacher instructing others in the 
            faith?
         b. Or informally by sharing your faith with others?
      2. Do you find yourself saying "I don't know what to say?"
         a. Then it sounds like you have forgotten "the first 
            principles"
         b. And you need to have someone teach you again!

[If one has not progressed to the point where they are somehow teaching
others about Christ, then they are still spiritually immature!  One 
reason why this may be true is also another indicator of spiritual 
immaturity...]

III. A DIET OF "MILK" (12b,13)

   A. NOW, A DIET OF "MILK" IS OFTEN NECESSARY...
      1. Certainly it is needed for those who are "babes in Christ" 
         - e.g., 1Co 3:1-2
      2. Also for those who have regressed (as with the Hebrews) - cf.
         He 5:12b
      3. Such a diet includes what is described as "the first
         principles of the oracles of God" (later called "the 
         elementary principles of Christ" in He 6:1-3)

   B. BUT OUR DIET MUST ONE DAY INCLUDE "SOLID FOOD"...
      1. Just as a physical baby must graduate to solid foods in order
         to grow to maturity
      2. So a "babe in Christ" cannot mature unless the diet goes 
         beyond the "first principles"
      3. Wiersbe offers an interesting explanation as to what may be 
         the difference...
         a. "milk" refers to what Jesus did on earth:  His birth, life,
            teaching, death, burial and resurrection
         b. "solid food" refers to what Jesus is now doing in heaven:
             e.g., His priesthood
      4. If our diet remains "milk only"...
         a. Then we will be "unskilled" (lit., without experience) in
            the word of God
         b. We will remain "babes" in Christ - cf. He 5:13

   C. WHAT HAS YOUR "DIET" BEEN LATELY?
      1. Has it been limited to "milk"? 
         a. Has it even included "milk"?
         b. Some Christians may not even be getting the "milk" of the
            Word!
      2. Are you getting any "meat"?
         a. Studying portions of God's Word that challenges your 
            understanding?
         b. Stay with us in this study in Hebrews, and you will be sure
            to get some!

[A "milk only" diet leaves one immature, and by default one who is 
"unskilled in the word of righteousness".  This will in turn produce 
another trait of spiritual immaturity...]

IV. THE INABILITY TO DISCERN (14)

   A. NORMAL SPIRITUAL GROWTH EXERCISES THE SENSES...
      1. Even the "milk" of the word is designed to train one's 
         faculties
         a. By exposing us to the difference between right and wrong
         b. In this way our spiritual sense is "exercised"
      2. Then "by reason of use" we learn to "discern both good and 
         evil"
         a. With clear examples set before us in the Scriptures, we 
            learn right from wrong
         b. We thereby develop the ability to "distinguish" between 
            good and evil
         c. We become able to apply general principles to specific
            situations
            1) Specific condemnation of a practice is not always 
               necessary
            2) We can discern when something is more like the good, or
               more like the bad

   B. SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY LACKS THIS ABILITY TO DISCERN...
      1. A babe in Christ often has difficulty discerning the 
         difference between:
         a. Good teaching (truth) and bad teaching (error)
         b. Good conduct (righteousness) and bad conduct (wickedness)
      2. Inability to discern leaves them open to being...
         a. "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of 
            doctrine" - cf. Ep 4:14
         b. Like "a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind...a 
            double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" - Jm 1:6-8

   C. DO YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO DISCERN?
      1. Can you apply general principles to a specific situation, or 
         do you require a clear "Thou shalt not" to determine if 
         something is wrong?
      2. Are you able to recognize when a doctrine is true to God's 
         word?
      3. Or are you dependent upon someone else...
         a. To "spoon feed" you?
         b. To "take you by the hand and lead" you?
         -- I.e., to tell you what is right and wrong, what is truth 
            and what is error

CONCLUSION

1. There are certainly other indicators of spiritual immaturity...
   a. E.g., behaving in a carnal way
   b. E.g., possessing strife, envy, and jealousy - cf. 1Co 3:1-4

2. But in our present text we have focused our attention on the four 
   presented here...
   a. Dullness of hearing
   b. The inability to teach others
   c. A diet of "milk"
   d. The inability to discern
   -- All of these should serve as "warning signs" that something is 
      amiss in our lives as Christians, for they are truly "Marks Of
      Spiritual Immaturity"

In our next lesson ("The Peril Of Not Progressing"), we shall see why
it is so important to grow spiritually.  As Peter warned, growth is the
"antidote" to falling away:
 
   "You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware
   lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away 
   with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge
   of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now
   and forever. Amen." - 2 Pet 3:18

Are you growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord?
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