Title: A Book of Better Things - A Better Maturation

Sermon Summary -This message delves into the subject of maturing in Christ. There are foundational doctrines we must know and understand, but those doctrines have a goal, an end result that is to be achieved. God wants us to not only know His Word, but to live His Word by exercising and practicing the principles of His Word. In order to do this we must study and learn the teachings of the Bible, but if we never put them into practice we will remain immature, baby Christians and will be unable to serve God and bring the glory to Him He deserves! Others miss out as well because they are not witnesses of our ministry or recipients of our ministry. We also miss out because we loose the blessings God has in store for those who faithfully serve Him. Included in this message is a brief discussion and explanation of the passage in Hebrews that talks about people "falling away" from the message of grace.

Community Group Discussion Guide 

1. What are your thoughts on the following questions Pastor Larry introduced his message with: "Are you willing to let God speak His truth into your life? I ask myself that question often. Am I really searching for God's truth or simply trying to find support for the beliefs that make my life comfortable? Are we willing to hear and receive God's Word of truth?

2. We expect certain things of a baby, but as a person matures, he or she, must begin doing things on their own. It's only natural. Spiritually speaking, the same is true. We start out as baby Christians hungry to know what it means to live a Christian life and how we are supposed to do that. But if we never apply what we learn we remain spiritual infants. Why is this such a problem?

Hebrews 5:11-14 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 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! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

3. Exercise is vital to a person's physical maturation and also maintaining their physical health. What do you think the Hebrew preacher was talking about when he said the following?:

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:14 (NIV)

4. Being saved by grace and not by good works does not exempt us from doing good works. In fact we were saved so that we could do good works. Explain why this concept is so important to Spiritual Maturation.

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:14 (NIV)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)

5. Jesus had something to say about putting our knowledge and faith into action. Read the following verses and discuss what this adds to the subject of spiritual maturity.

Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV)

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Full Sermon Notes

A Better Maturation

"Here's my heart Lord, speak what is true!" Here's a big question? Are you willing to let God speak His truth into your life? I ask myself that question often. Am I really searching for God's truth or simply trying to find support for the beliefs that make my life comfortable? Are we willing to hear and receive God's Word of truth? The Hebrew preacher will challenge us today in no uncertain terms to get out of our Christian easy chairs and begin living what we say we believe. You see, real Christianity is not simply a set of philosophical beliefs. Real Christianity is a way of life to be lived. It's not just a religion to believe in, it's a wonderful relationship with God through Jesus Christ to be expressed and experienced in our daily lives! Let's pray for God to teach us!

Today we will discover the truth about Christian maturity. Jesus brought to us an example and a way to have a better spiritual maturation. Let's look at the definition of maturation...

Maturation
a : the process of
becoming mature

Ok, duh, you've got to be kidding! We got dat! But the second part of Webster's definition is amazing and the one we need to really look at...

b : the emergence of personal and behavioral characteristics through growth processes

Now I know Webster's dictionary is not God's Word, but understanding the definition of our english word mature is important. Webster says mature means...

Mature: Based on slow careful consideration

1. having completed natural growth and development
2. having undergone maturation

What kind of personal and behavioral characteristics does God want us to have? What growth processes will it take for us to develop into a mature follower, and disciple of Jesus?

The Hebrew preacher was so concerned about his hearers becoming mature followers of Christ. Let's read the first part of our text...

Hebrews 5:11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.

(By the way, the Hebrew preacher is letting them know the problem was not a complication with the message, but a problem with the hearers. They were slow to learn!) He goes on to say...

Hebrews 5:12 (NIV) 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!

Hebrews 5:13 (NIV) Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.

In other words, personal and behavioral characteristics had not developed due to a lack of exercising or practicing the things they had been taught. As a result they were unskilled in doing, and therefore, unable to teach! I say this because he goes on to say...

Hebrews 5:14 (NIV) But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Who by constant use have trained themselves! That's so vital to the Christian life! Knowing the Word of God is the first step! You can't use what you don't know! That's why Bible study, meditation, even memorization are so important! Paul put it this way in his second letter to Timothy…This is the King James version…

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

But if you never put the principles into practice you will never mature! Exercising the principles of God's Word will train you and build you and mature you! Let me sum up these verses in a statement...

It's Not Wrong to Be a Baby, It's Uncool to Stay A Baby

Baby's need milk and they don't really do a lot of exercising! They don't go through rigorous training! They eat, sleep, they can't really communicate, so they just cry when they need something! When they're not crying they just look around and take everything in and listen to our silly baby talk, which they love until they get hungry or tired, or need something, then they cry again! A six month old baby is cute! A two year old baby is cute! A 30 year old baby is not cute or natural, or fun to be around!

The same is true spiritually. A new follower of Jesus is fun to be around. They are hungry for God's Word and are filled with questions. They are crying out for answers. It's a good thing, a beautiful thing. But at some point a follower of Jesus must mature, and grow, and begin practicing the principles! At some point a new believer needs to learn to walk! They need to learn to understand and accept certain things by faith and then exercise their faith by putting into practice the teachings they have learned.

Jay is going to preach a whole sermon on faith next week when he teaches on Hebrews chapter 11. Here's what I'm saying: If a person comes to Christ but never matures, that person will not be pleasant to be around. This person never gets involved in ministry, serving God and others, but gets extremely upset if their needs are not not met! They shop for a church like they shop for a car. Which one has the most bells and whistles and comforts. Rather than, how can I plug in and serve and make a difference and use my gifts and abilities to advance the mission of the Body of Christ. Did you notice what the Hebrew preacher said? Listen again...

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! Hebrews 5:12 (NIV)

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. Hebrews 5:13 (NIV)

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:14 (NIV)

Do you see that the goal of Christian maturity is that we become doers of the word, and not hearers only? That we move from student to teacher! And what is this "teaching about righteousness" our Hebrew preacher is talking about?

The Basics We All Need to Know

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, Hebrews 6:1 (NIV)

instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. Hebrews 6:2 (NIV)

And God permitting, we will do so. Hebrews 6:3 (NIV)

Here's what was happening as far as I can discern. Both Jewish and Gentile listeners of this Hebrew preacher had heard the gospel over and over. They had heard the truth about salvation being found in Jesus and no other. They had heard that only the righteousness of Christ could save and that self-righteousness amounted to nothing when it comes to eternal salvation! But some of them were about to make the decision to go back under the law! We'll see that in just a minute. But first I want us to look at a couple of the basic and elementary teachings the preacher mentions that are essential to our foundation for maturity in Christ.

Elementary Teaching "repentance from acts that lead to death"

It is an essential first step in following Jesus that we repent. Repent means to admit our wrong doing and turn away from those things that lead to death and turn to the only one who can save us from eternal separation from God! In fact Jesus once had a talk with the chief priest and the elders of the people who had failed to repent. Listen...

For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. Matthew 21:32 (NIV)

And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. Matthew 21:32 (NIV)

Jesus' first words after He began His ministry were these...

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15 (NIV)

And Peter preached these words on the Day of Pentecost...

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38 (NIV)

But you must not only turn away from sin, you must turn to God! Our preacher reminds them of another foundational truth...

Elementary Teaching "and of faith in God"

We must believe. We must place our trust in God's work in Jesus on the Cross for us! This is basic. We must accept that Jesus was and is our forever High Priest in the order of Melchizedek!

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, Hebrews 10:19 (NIV)

by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, Hebrews 10:20 (NIV)

and since we have a great priest over the house of God, Hebrews 10:21 (NIV)

let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 (NIV)

That pure water of Baptism was a symbol of the pure blood of Jesus that washes away our sin. The Hebrew preacher put it this way...

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:12 (NIV)

We don't have time to talk about each of the foundational things our Hebrew teacher mentioned, but the important point he was making was this...

A Decision To Believe Must Be Made

It was time for his hearers to make up their mind on the basic things so they could mature and move on to other things. And how do I know some of them had not fully made up their mind? It's from what our preacher said next...

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, Hebrews 6:4 (NIV)

who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, Hebrews 6:5 (NIV)

if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Hebrews 6:6 (NIV)

Whoa!! That sounds so hard, so harsh, so final! Let me explain something to you. Our Hebrew preacher had evidently been teaching these people for sometime and pleading with them to accept Jesus as their Savior. I believe there were both Jewish and Gentile seekers in the congregation who had been on the fence about this whole Jesus thing. They had been enlightened with the truth of Grace verses the Law. They had been taught about the priesthood of Jesus and His sacrifice. They had even tasted the heavenly gift and as such had shared in the experiences of seeing The Holy Spirit do amazing things in peoples lives. He goes on to say they had tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of God, but they evidently had only tasted. There's a difference between tasting and eating, hearing and receiving, seeing and believing.

I think he's talking about people who were getting ready to make the decision to reject salvation by grace and go back and live under the letter of the law and attempt to earn their salvation by their own merit. He's not talking about someone accepting Jesus as their Savior and then making a mistake and committing a sin and therefore loosing their salvation. Let me remind you: You are saved by grace and stay saved by grace! And let me say this: If you have ever worried thinking you've committed the unforgivable sin, let me remind you of the words of Jesus...

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40 (NIV)

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” John 6:41 (NIV)

They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” John 6:42 (NIV)

“Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. John 6:43 (NIV)

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:44 (NIV)

So from Jesus' own words we know that it's God's will for anyone who looks to the Son and believes to have eternal life and no one comes to Jesus unless The Father draws them. So if you have any desire at all to know if this Jesus we're talking about is the real deal, that's God drawing you! God wouldn't draw you if there was no hope for you. He wouldn't be that cruel. But you have to make a decision. We have several commercial fishermen in our church. They sometimes have to cut bait. But if all you ever do is cut bait, you're not going to catch any fish! You have to put the bait in the water. These people needed to make up their minds on whether or not to trust Jesus for their salvation and righteousness or go it on their own. Remember what our Hebrew preacher said?

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. Hebrews 5:13 (NIV)

The Teaching About Righteousness

Let me acquaint you with the teaching about righteousness.

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Hebrews 10:1 (NIV)

If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. Hebrews 10:2 (NIV)

But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, Hebrews 10:3 (NIV)

because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:4 (NIV)

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, Hebrews 10:5 (NIV)

but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Hebrews 10:6 (NIV)

Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll —I have come to do your will, O God.’” Hebrews 10:7 (NIV)

And if you ever wanted to know what this teaching of righteousness is all about, Paul nailed it in his letter to the Corinthian Church...

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 2 Corinthians 5:18 (NIV)

that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.                 2 Corinthians 5:19 (NIV)

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NIV)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

And Paul gives us a wonderful hint concerning spiritual maturity in those verses concerning righteousness. He says the old life is gone, and the new has come. We have all been called into ministry, not just preachers! We all have a message to share, not in a pushy, condescending way, but in a loving, compelling way. In fact that's what the Work as Worship event will help you to understand. Please sign up for this if you can!

Ok, our last point...

Maturity is also a Decision

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:14 (NIV)

By Constant Use Have Trained Themselves

"who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Constant use. In other words it's not just enough to know the Word of God you've got to practice the Word of God! You've got to live it! The writer of Hebrews makes it plain that maturity is not just knowing the Word of God but putting it into practice. Immediately following his warning to those who are thinking about turning away from Christ he says..

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. Hebrews 6:7 (NIV)

But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. Hebrews 6:8 (NIV)

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation. Hebrews 6:9 (NIV)

In other words, works don't save you but they do accompany salvation! He continues...

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10 (NIV)

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. Hebrews 6:11 (NIV)

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 6:12 (NIV)

I've had people tell me they wanted to go deeper in the Lord. They want the deeper life. Not a bad thing, but if you're not practicing the things you already know to do why would God give you something else to do! It's not knowledge for knowledge sake. It's for God's sake. It's for God's Kingdom sake. It's so we can serve the living God. As you've heard me say many times, receiving Jesus as your Savior is a one and done. Allowing Jesus to be your Lord is a daily decision and sometimes more than once a day. And allowing Jesus to not only be your Savior, but also your Lord is where you find the strength and motivation to constantly use the Word of God and so train yourself to begin living a new Christ-like life. It's the New Covenant life! Our Hebrew preacher got a little excited about this and I can imagine he might have gotten a little passionate as he spoke these words from God...

This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Hebrews 8:10 (NIV)

And what was the purpose of God putting His laws in our minds and writing them on our heart? Is it not so we could express our love for Him and bring Him Glory by living and practicing the Word of God in our daily lives? He goes on to say

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:14 (NIV)

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15 (NIV)

The Hebrew preacher then eloquently describes someone who is now embracing the mature life of a disciple of Christ...

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 (NIV)

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)

I'll leave you with this definition of Christian maturity...

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— Ephesians 2:8 (NIV)

not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:9 (NIV)

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

Let's pray!!