Four Signs of Spiritual Immaturity

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In our sermon from Hebrews 5:11-6:12, Pastor Eugene explained how these verses highlight four signs of immaturity. It helps us to also consider what maturity looks like.

Here's an extract from this sermon. 

Last week, we were introduced to this truth about Jesus: He was appointed by God to be a high priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:6,10). Who is Melchizedek and why does it matter to us? Hebrews wants to take us on a deep dive into the depths of the gospel, to show us the glories of who Jesus is and what he has done. By knowing Jesus better, we will be better equipped to apply the gospel to our lives. 

But there is a problem: The hearers have no appetite for these rich gospel truths: “You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature. (Heb 5:12b-14a)” For children to grow, they have to eat solid food. Milk alone is not enough. We’d be concerned if a child only drank milk. Yet this is what these Christians are like. They are spiritually immature not because they are new Christians, but because they don’t want the solid food they need to grow up. 

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These verses highlight four signs of spiritual immaturity. Firstly, we don’t want to listen. The author would like to tell us more about Melchizedek and Jesus, but will we listen? Hebrews 5:1 points out that the issue is not a lack of intellectual understanding but a lack of desire to hear. To be dull of hearing means to be spiritually sluggish (same word in Hebrews 6:12), careless, and disinterested. When the feast of God’s word is offered to us, do we say, “Not hungry”? We have so many opportunities to hear, read, and study the Bible. We can read the Bible in our own language. We have sermons, Equip classes, Wednesday Bible studies, small group Bible studies, 1-1 Bible reading, etc. We have good Christian books and resources. We have all this and more, but are we good listeners? Be an active, not passive, listener. Here are at least five ways to listen better:

  1. Pray and prepare;

  2. Open your Bible, follow along, take notes;

  3. Listen and talk with one another;

  4. Be consistent and patient;

  5. Pray to trust and obey. 

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Forgetfulness is the second sign of spiritual immaturity (c.f. Heb 5:12). They are no longer new Christians. They ought to be teaching others to know and follow Jesus. But instead, they need others to teach them the fundamentals of the faith again. They keep having to go over the same ground. They can’t (or won’t) grow up because they let good Bible teaching go in one ear and out the other. We may have heard numerous sermons and countless Bible studies. We may be a long-time regular churchgoer. If we have received teaching, then how are we teaching others? Maturity means speaking God’s truth to others to encourage them in Christ. How are we helping one another to grow in the faith? Consider reading the Bible one-to-one with someone else. Spiritual immaturity is not only harmful to ourselves, but also hurts the church. When we refuse to pull our weight, other members have to shoulder our load as well. So, for the sake of the gospel and the church, don’t remain immature. Be a contributor, not a consumer. 

A third sign of spiritual immaturity is to be unskilled (c.f. Heb 5:13). When we learn a new sport, we need to practice consistently to improve, otherwise we’ll always be a beginner. To be unskilled means we haven’t put into practice what we’ve heard. Being skilled in God’s word doesn’t mean we all have to be Bible scholars; it just means that we must commit to learning and doing the truth. We must apply and obey God’s word. After reading or hearing God’s word, ask ourselves, “So what?” and “What now?” How will God’s truth make a difference to our lives?

Hence, the mature are “those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:14). By contrast, a lack of discernment is the fourth sign of immaturity. The immature are easily led astray. If we are not growing, we will naively believe whatever we watch online or read in chats. To tell right from wrong, true from false, we must grow up in Christ, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine. (Eph. 4:14a)”

A mature Christian is one who listens well to God’s word, disciples others, knows and practices the truth, and is spiritually discerning. Pursue maturity. Hebrews admonishes us to go on and grow up (Heb 6:1a). Leaving the elementary doctrine of Christ doesn’t mean we leave the gospel behind and move on to other things. Because Jesus is better, He must always be at the centre of our lives. We must establish a firm foundation in the gospel to build on and grow to maturity. 

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Our foundation will be shaky if we don’t get the basics right. We can’t go on to maturity if we keep having to rebuild the foundation. Hebrews 6:1b-2 lays out the fundamentals of the faith: “Not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” The first four have to do with the start of our Christian life. Repentance or turning away from sin and turning to God through faith in Jesus. Washings refer to baptism when we become a Christian. Laying on of hands represents receiving the Holy Spirit when we believe in Jesus. The final two have to do with the end where we will be raised from the dead and be judged by God.

Hold fast to these fundamentals. Grow in Christ by building on them. For the gospel to be the A to Z of our lives, we must know the ABCs of the gospel. Learn to explain the gospel clearly. A faithful explanation of the gospel should include truths about God, man, Jesus Christ, and our response: God is our holy Creator, who made us to worship Him. Man is made in God’s image, but we have sinned and turned away from God. Because God is righteous and just, sin must be punished. But God graciously sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save sinners like us. Jesus is fully man and fully God. Unlike us, he perfectly obeyed God, even to death on the cross for sinners. Jesus bore God’s wrath in the place of all who would trust in Him. Through the cross, our sins are forgiven, and we are brought back to God. Jesus rose from the dead to give us new life. We cannot do anything to save ourselves. We simply repent and believe in Jesus to save us. Have we believed this gospel and trusted in Jesus?

The gospel can be simply explained, yet the riches of Christ are unsearchable and inexhaustible. To paraphrase a well-known saying, the gospel is shallow enough for a child to wade in and deep enough for an elephant to swim. So, don’t be content with a bare minimum understanding of the gospel. Be child-like, not childish, in our faith. Be a life-long learner, willing to stretch our minds and open our hearts to God’s truth. Mature Christians are those who keep pressing on towards Jesus. So, go on to maturity. May we say with Hebrews 6:3, “This we will do if God permits.” Trust in God, who gives the growth.  


If you'd like to listen to the rest of the sermon, you can find it here. The other sermons in our series in Hebrews titled "Jesus is better" can be found here.