Imagine me sitting in my living room with my two great grandchildren. The oldest is a boy and he is a year and a half old and the other is a girl who is six months old. They are really great grandchildren in more than one way, but imagine me trying to explain to them the gospel story of how God made us in his image and likeness and gave us a beautiful paradise to live in and oversee. Even though he only had one rule about something we shouldn’t do, to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, our ancestors gave in to Satan’s temptation and ate of that tree. The result was our ancestors were driven from that beautiful paradise and had lots of problems that came on them and on every human since then as a result. Yet God still loves us and made a way through the giving of His one and only Son for us to be saved. Jesus entered the world by virgin birth and went through the same trials and temptations we suffer without ever doing wrong. Then he took our sins on him and paid the price for our sin by dying on a cross so we can be saved. When we by faith submit to his will God puts the righteousness of Jesus on our account so that even though we fail we can still be saved and look forward to the ultimate paradise with him when this life is over.
Now my grandkids are smart, I know that. But how much of that story do you think they would get? What was that you said? You say they are still babies and can’t be expected to understand the gospel story yet. You are exactly right. Thank God, when a baby enters this world they are innocent before God. Jesus even said unless we are converted and become like those little children we can’t be saved. So those babies don’t need to do anything to be right with God. They are innocent. Even things they do that are wrong aren’t counted against them until they reach that time when they have the capability to understand right from wrong and make the decision as to who they will live for and how they will live.
But, let’s push the age button forward for 20 years or even 30 years and they have made their commitment to Jesus and in faith turned from their sin to God in repentance and been baptized into Christ to begin new life in him. Now they have been Christians for a lot of years and I’m sitting with them. (Of course by that time I’ll be past the age of telling anything most likely). But in imagination I can stay the same age and they can grow older so that now I tell them the same story. Suppose they still look confused and declare they just can’t understand the whole thing. Will it be the same situation then?
The writer of Hebrews was trying hard to tell these Christians who have been followers of Christ for some years and are now struggling with faith, that he has many things he really wants to tell them, but realizes that they can’t understand them. “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer understand. 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. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God.” (Hebrews 5:11-6:1)
If our great grandchildren reach the age of 5 or 6 and still can’t talk our family will be deeply concerned. But, so often in spiritual life, a person who gave their life to Christ several years ago and still can’t teach his word or message to anyone else or can’t even understand the fundamental truths of the gospel well enough to share them effectively with their children, and we don’t get all that concerned. To often we tend to think of that as normal. When a person who is educated and has been a Christian for some time but still says, “I try reading the Bible but I just don’t understand what I’m readying” something is desperately wrong in that person’s spiritual life. Physically we need to grow up. Emotionally we need to grow up. But spiritually we also need to grow up.
What does a mature Christian look like? The Holy Spirit led the writer of Hebrews to describe that mature Christian as one who is teaching the word to others. It is one who by their use of the message of God’s word have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. It is a person who isn’t still trying to lay the basic foundations of the gospel again but is building on that foundation and growing for God in their life. So, if I look at the standard God gave to the people here, I can pretty easily decide whether or not we have grown up in our spiritual lives. Focus on the three marks again. Mature Christians are teachers of the word of God. They have trained themselves by constant use of Scripture to distinguish between good and evil. They have moved beyond the basics of faith and are building on that foundation as they grow deeper and stronger in their faith and devotion to the Lord.
What happens if a person doesn’t grow up spiritually? Listen to God’s answer to the Hebrews. “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Hebrews 6:4-6) It is absolutely amazing how seriously we take it when a child doesn’t grow up physically or even emotionally and how lightly we take it when they fail to grow up spiritually. Let me make something abundantly clear. God doesn’t take it lightly when we fail to grow up spiritually.
If you are still hovering around immaturity in your spiritual life even though you have been a Christian for years, it’s past time to grow up and get serious about your faith. It is time to give training to you spiritual life by constantly using His word and learning to distinguish good from evil. It is time to become that teacher of his word to those you are around every day. If not now, when? If not you, who? If not where you are, where?