Several weeks ago I preached a message from Hebrews 5:11-14; a text I chose because I believe it reflected several truths that I wanted to convey to my own heart, as well as the hearts of the hearers at Oak Park. One such truth is that it is the will of God that we grow in our understanding and application of who God is and what He has done and subsequently, what we are to do in response to those two aforementioned issues. And despite the fact that God does the growing (1 Cor 3:6-7 and other passages) the author of Hebrews writes to a group of Christians and essentially calls them out for not pressing onto maturity. Specifically, he writes in verses 11-14
about this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. 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, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Concerning this passage, I sought to bring out three points. The first point is that all of us need to “acknowledge our immaturity.” Immaturity not in the sense that we have a childish faith but that we have a childlike faith that continues to see and understand that there are areas in our lives where need to more faithfully represent what God has said in His Word; there are sins that we need to more diligently and seriously mortify through the power of the Spirit of God. Though the recipient of these words were Christians who were not pressing into maturity, I do believe there is application to Christians across the spectrum of maturity who willingly acknowledge they have not “arrived” in their faith.
Secondly, I believe you see implicitly an admonition from the author to “repent of laziness.” Evidently, these Christians were lazy due to the fact that he says they were “dull of hearing.” The phrase “dull of hearing” can mean slow to learn, sluggish, negligent and lazy. In extrabiblical literature it was used of a slave with ears “stopped up” by laziness who was not obedient to his master. It’s also a phrase that was used in athletics referring to an athlete who was out of shape, lazy or sluggish. Hence, my point that he’s admonishing them to repent of their laziness.
Lastly, I believe he’s calling them to “grow up.” These Christians need milk instead of solid food. Now the metaphor of milk is used elsewhere but it’s used in reference to new Christians who should long for the pure milk of the Word (1 Peter 2:2). In the context of Hebrews being a “milk-drinker” has a negative connotation because they should be eating solid food, meaning that they should be teaching others truths about the faith but instead need someone to teach them.
What’s the purpose in me sharing these words from Hebrews? My purpose is to draw out some implications for my own life. Specifically, I want to address some areas of my life where I need to (1) acknowledge I’m not where I should be, (2) repent of laziness or negligence that has manifested itself in several spiritual and physical areas and (3) “grow up” or press onto maturity in these spiritual and physical areas. With that being said, here are some areas that have been front-and-center on my mind lately:
- I need to be much more intentional about meditating on God’s Word. To meditate is to ponder and think hard about God’s truth. Too many times my devotional reading is cursory. I need to stop and take time to really mull over the truth that I am reading.
- I need to be more disciplined about memorizing God’s Word. The Psalmist said in Psalm 119:9-11 “how can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” I have several discipleship-relationships going on right now and scripture memorization is always in some capacity a part of my time with them, and therefore I need to be “practicing what I’m preaching” at the very least much more faithfully that I’m currently doing.
- I long to romance my wife more faithfully, passionately, and consistently. After my January seminar I’m going to be reading through “Date Your Wife” just as a means of accountability for my own heart to not relegate the dating of my wife to one particular stage in our relationship but rather to continue to pursue my bride as I did when I first laid eyes on her April 29, 2001. You can watch a short video about this book here.
- I want to take my sin more seriously. This will start with seeing God as infinitely holy. Any other starting-ground puts someone or something at the center, which will always be deficient. With that being said, for most Christians there are certain sins that seem to have their number. There are sins like that in my life. And as I’ve struggled and fought to be holy as the Lord is holy there are times where I more faithfully take hold of the grace and power that is mine in the Spirit of God, whereby I walk in victory and there are other times I do not take hold of this grace and power and I walk in defeat. This life-long struggle against sin and the Devil is a familiar one. And this familiarity quite often breeds contempt where I do not have the respect for God’s holiness and His words about and against sin that I should, as well as a healthy understand of the danger and cost of sin. There is a direct correlation between ascertaining the holiness of God and living holy (i.e. taking sin seriously, whereby you run from it and/or crucify it).
- I want to relax more. I’m going to be more intentional about relaxing in a lot of ways. One such way that I believe will help me is I’m going to read a book called Margin that comes highly recommended by a friend of mind who is busy, probably a lot more busy than I am. Here are just a few take-aways from the book from my friend’s blog on restoring sanity to your schedule: expect the unexpected, learn to say no, turn off the television, prune the activity branches, practice simplicity and contentment, separate time from technology (technology is responsible for much of our time famine), short-term flurry verses long-term vision (don’t be short-sighted), thank God, get less done but do the right things, enjoy anticipation and relish the memories (plan trips and then about them later), don’t rush wisdom, for type-A’s only: stand in line (this is hard!), create buffer zones, plan for free time, and be available. On another note, several weeks ago two faithful, godly friends issued a mild rebuke to me, specifically related to the busyness of my life. As a result, I’ve put more concrete parameters in my life that will help facilitate me relaxing more. Practically this looks like turning my cell phone off when I get home and then turning it on after the kids go down for the evening; having definitive “finish-lines” to each day where I’ve communicated to my bride and other individuals that I’m going to be home at such-and-such a time; I’m going to defer meetings, discipleship-relationships, marital counseling, etc., etc., etc., to my fellow elders of Oak Park who will “shoulder” many of the responsibilities that I have been carrying.
- I want to take better care of myself physically. I enjoy eating. I enjoy eating too much. I’m not obese or grossly overweight or anything like that but there are some pounds I’d like to shed. And to be real transparent I’ve been lazy in the area of physical exercise. I have the “will-power” necessary to be disciplined to work out but I incessantly chose not to “exercise” that will-power and instead focus it on other things, like Moe’s homewrecker burrito and a whole host of other unhealthy food items found at fast-food restaurants that I frequently visit.
- I want to more faithful to encourage and affirm brothers and sisters around me as I see God’s grace in their life. One such book that had a profound impact on me concerning affirmation was Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree.
- I need to talk less and listen more. Proverbs says where words are many foolishness is soon to manifest itself and James even writes to be quick to listen and slow to speak. I struggle with this mightily. The reason I struggle with the practicing of listening and talking less is due to pride; I really think I have some wonderful things to say and most of the time I think I’m pretty intelligent and rather than listen to someone else talk (i.e. not listening) I’ll interject with my statements of profundity or be concocting my response in my head not listening to a darn thing they’re saying. I want to do better in this area.
- I desire to be more intentional with my neighbors about pointing them to Christ. At my previous residence I share the gospel with two of my neighbors and had several other good conversations with them but in all honestly I really wasn’t a very good neighbor. When I came home I was home, which isn’t bad but there was not a real intentionality to befriend them and get involved in their life. This needs to change and I want to do better in this area.
- Lastly, I want to more faithfully, consistently, and passionately talk to the Lord. There are a lot of things I could say about this spiritual discipline in my life but suffice it to say I desire for this discipline to be more prominent in my life. One such book I’ve read and one that I’m going to work my way through again is A Praying Life by Paul Miller – a must have for anyone serious about prayer or someone who longs to cultivate a more God-honoring prayer-life.
In conclusion, each of the aforementioned bullet-points highlight an area of my life where I have been deficient in some form or fashion. As a result, it is my desire to repent of laziness in these areas and work diligently to “grow up” to see that I have a better handle on these areas rather than them handling me or falling by the wayside.
What areas in your life do you need to stop being lazy or negligent and instead chose to “grow up”?