David Jeremiah - Peter Pan Christians
Hello, I'm David Jeremiah, and welcome to "Turning Point". Do you remember Peter Pan, the hero in the children's fantasy story who never wanted to grow up? Well, you know, some Christians are just like Peter Pan. They refuse to grow spiritually, content to remain in spiritual grammar school instead of moving on to graduate school. Well, today I'd like to talk to you about something I call Peter Pan Christians. In fact, that's the title of the message I'll share in our series called "Jesus Is Enough", a study from the New Testament book of Hebrews. And in today's program we'll examine what God's Word says about Christians who never want to grow up. And we will discover the causes and the cures for spiritual immaturity. So, stay tuned to this very important edition of "Turning Point".
In recent years, social scientists and psychologists have noted the increasing difficulty that 20-somethings are having in making the transition from adolescence to adulthood. This has become known as the Peter Pan Syndrome, a disease that causes someone to believe that he or she can remain in childhood forever.
Now, this disease preys upon young adults especially, and those afflicted with this syndrome believe that Never Never Land actually exists. It's called college. "Peter Pan Syndrome is the pandemic of our generation", wrote this young man. "Manifestations of Peter Pan Syndrome include a refusal to grow up. Symptoms include a refusal to go on dates, spending hours upon hours playing video games, and eating pizza for every meal of the day. In short, it's a refusal to take responsibility for life. Undiagnosed and untreated, Peter Pan Syndrome will result in years wasted in the pursuit of things which do not matter", end of quote.
Now, the writer of the book of Hebrews is about to remind us that the Peter Pan Syndrome reaches into the spiritual part of our lives. And so we begin in the 11th verse of the 5th chapter with what we call the condition of immaturity. Listen to the Word of God, "Of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing". The phrase dull of hearing comes from a Greek word which is made up of two words. And if you were to say it exactly like it is in the New Testament Greek, the two words would be like this: no push. They had no push.
Isn't that an interesting way to say it? They were just lacking in any motivation. They were sluggish, lethargic, literally you have become sluggish in your ears. And this term describes the state of mind of a person who is no longer interested in hearing anything more about his faith. And most of us in this room today have literally watched that happen to people that we know, people who started out really excited about the things of God, really wanting to go forward. And somewhere along the way, they get this dull of hearing disease. They become lethargic, they don't want to go any further.
And before I am finished today, some of you here are going to say, "Pastor, why couldn't you just leave me alone? Why couldn't you just leave me alone? I am happy with where I am. I mean, I show up here as often as I can, I put a little money in the offering plate, I don't cause any trouble. Why can't you just leave me alone"? And the reason I can't leave you alone is because the writer of Hebrews won't leave me alone. And so if he's not going to leave me alone, I'm not going to leave you alone. Because this is important message for all of us, is it not?
It's so easy for us to take what we have in Christ for granted and little by little, to drift further and further away from what is important. These early Jewish believers were taken with a sort of spiritual inertia. They were anesthetized by the attractions of the world. Maybe they were caught up in the ritualistic observance of their Judaism. But whatever had gone on in their life, they, like so many of us, simply became uninterested in spiritual truth. Their ears were dulled to the deeper truths of the Word of God, the condition of immaturity.
Now, in the next couple of verses, he's going to give us the cause of immaturity. Why are they the way they are? The first thing that happens to us if we are headed in that direction is we experience unproductive days, unproductive days. Notice verse 12, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers". The verse actually says, and I'm going to translate it literally, "For when, considering the time, you ought to be teachers".
Just as in the physical realm, so in the spiritual realm, it takes time to come to maturity. The writer of the book of Hebrews is indicting his readers because they had been followers of Christ for a long enough time that they should themselves have been teaching others what they had learned. They had received a great deal of instruction, and they should have been able to be instructing others. But like so many of us, they had not come to that place. He's not addressing his comments to professional teachers. No, no, no, he's saying that all of us, no matter who we are, if we're followers of Christ, we're teachers. We're teaching by our lives, where we work, and in our communities where we live.
We're all teachers. And he is saying that by this time in their chronological journey with the Lord, they should have been teaching others. They should have been involved in instructing others. And yet the instruction that they had received had not taken hold in their lives, and so they were not capable of teaching anybody anything. And the reason for this is they had not grown, they had not used their days to grow in Christ. The time had gone by, and they had stood still.
How many of you know you just don't automatically grow in Christ? There's a little bit of diligence and effort that's involved? So, if you get saved back here, and you don't do anything in your life to grow in Jesus, by the time you get over here, you may have lived some more days, but in terms of your maturity as a Christian, you're still back at square one. You see, in the Christian realm, there's three stages you go through. The first stage is when you yourself need to be fed by somebody else. That's normal and true. The second stage is when you get to the place where you can feed yourself. And the third stage is when now you're prepared, you can feed somebody else.
The writer of Hebrews is saying the problem with his readers is they should be in stage three, and they're stuck back in stage one. They are in a place where they need somebody to come and teach them, and they should have been at the place where they were teaching others. Unproductive days, and then unheeded doctrine. Notice, "You need someone to teach you the first principles of the oracles of God". Notice the word "again". You need someone to teach you again. They had already been taught this once. And they had not absorbed the teaching. In fact, the Bible says they needed to be taught again the first principles of the oracles of God.
Now, what does that mean? The first principles of the oracles of God is like saying they needed to go back and learn their ABCs all over again. So, we have unproductive days and unheeded doctrine. And then thirdly, an unhealthy diet. Notice what it says at the end of verse 12, "You have come to need milk and not solid food". When the writer says that they have need of milk, he is simply restating the fact that they need to go back to the ABCs of their Christian faith. Unproductive days and unheeded doctrine and unhealthy diet, which results in unnatural development.
Notice verse 13, "For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a baby". Spiritual babyhood is natural, it's beautiful. And you know, there's a kind of an awe in new believers, too, in young baby Christians. They're wonderful to be around. They haven't learned Christianese yet. They don't know all the stuff they're supposed to do and not supposed to do. They just know one basic thing, they love Jesus. It's so refreshing, there's not anything wrong with being a baby Christian.
All of us started out in our walk with the Lord, we were all at one time baby Christians. Just like you cannot be born into adulthood as a person in the physical realm, you're not born into adulthood as a Christian. You have to grow, and there's a process. In fact, over in Peter, in 1 Peter 2:2, Peter writes these words. "As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby". In other words, it's good to want to milk as a young baby in Christ, to want to know the early things, to learn about the assurance of your faith, to learn about the importance of baptism, to learn about all those important things that you learn about when you first become a Christian.
As newborn babes, desire the milk of the Word. But it is unnatural to stay in a babyhood throughout your life. So many of you have come to me over the years that I've been here as your pastor and told me of some of the escapades you've gone through in churches where you've gone before, where there's been church splits and church fights and open hostility and suits and countersuits. And I mean, the stories are unbelievable. No wonder the world doesn't want what we have, we can't seem to get along with each other.
Now, I want to tell you something, if you ever walk into a church and you see that going on, you see strife and envy and fighting, let me tell you what, you've just been given the opportunity to peek into the nursery. You've just peeked into the nursery. That's what it says, isn't it? What is the result of spiritual babyhood? All of these things, what do you know about a baby? They want their own way. Can I get a witness? They don't want you to say, "I'll take care of your problem in the morning when I got some sleep".
They want it now, they want it the way they want it, and they won't be quiet until they get it. They're totally absorbed on themselves, and rightly so. But when you have a church full of people like that, brother, you don't want to be there. Lord save me from the nursery. So, that's the condition of immaturity and the cause of it, but I don't want to close our Bibles today till we talk about the cure for it. What is the cure for spiritual immaturity? And once again, the writer of Hebrews has given us some clues in this text. Let's go through them one at a time. It says in verse 14, "But strong food belongs to those who are of full age, that is those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil".
Now, here are four things that mark maturity in a believer. These are very insightful. I didn't make these up, they come right from the text. Number one, exposure to teaching that goes beyond the basic. Notice in the text, there are two words to describe the kind of diet that is necessary to sustain you if you are no longer being fed with milk. It's called solid food and meat, solid food and meat. We should never read anything in the Word of God and ever say, "Who cares about that"? Because if it's in the Word of God, it's there on purpose.
It's possible for us as Christians, if we're not careful, to come to Christ, to go through the new believers class, to go through the membership class, to join the church, and then say, "Well, that's that". And think that somehow we are now gonna just be fine, and we'll just kind of float on into eternity the way we are. And the writer of Hebrews is not going to let us do that. The whole thing about the book of Hebrews is, "Let us go on. Let us not stay where we are. Let's be challenged". And you know, in life, none of us wants to just stay where we are. Health is not like that.
If you're here today and you just say, "Don't bother me. Don't wake me up. Don't move me off where I am. I just want to be where I am, do what I am. I don't want to learn anything more, I don't want to grow anymore", you're already gone, you're dead. And the same is true in our spiritual lives. The question is am I growing, am I moving forward? So, the first thing you should ask yourself is this. Am I getting any exposure to teaching that goes beyond the basics?
Now, I'm going to say something here that will be misinterpreted by some, but I hope you won't take it in the wrong way. There's nothing wrong with churches where they just give you the same message every week in a different suit of clothes. And believe it or not, there are many churches like that. You go, they preach the gospel, and they revel in the fact that they're giving the gospel. And we need to give the gospel, it should be a part of everything we do. But if you get the same message every week and there's nothing else but the gospel, you may revel in the fact that people are being saved, but let me promise you you will not grow. 'Cause you cannot grow if all you get every week are the ABCs of the Word of God.
It is never my intention to come to this church and stand in the pulpit and talk about things that don't resonate with you. It's never my desire to get up here and just try to impress you that I know something about the Bible that you don't know. But I should be able periodically to challenge you to go to a different place than where you are, or I'm not helping you as your shepherd to grow in your faith. That means I got to be ahead, I've got to be out there on the cutting edge. And that's true in my life as well. I don't want to look back over my shoulder at the end of this year and say, "I'm the same place where I was last year. I don't know any more about God and his Word than I did before".
And the difference between that and this is what happens in between. Have we got that? Exposure to teaching that goes beyond the basics, too, evidence of growth in the knowledge of Christ. Notice it says, "To those who are of full age". By this time, they should have been teachers. That means they had been saved long enough to have matured to that level. The problem was they hadn't matured.
So, the second thing that's involved in spiritual maturity is that you are moving forward in the progress of time. Peter wrote at the very end of his second epistle one of the challenging verses of the Bible that says, "But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". Here's the question. Not am I where I should be or where I want to be, but am I growing toward maturity in Christ? That's all God is asking us to consider in this message today. Are we stuck where we started, or are we moving forward with the Lord?
Number three, engaging the challenges of life. It says here, "Who by reason of use". And that means you're involved in the Christian experience. You don't just come to church on Sunday, hear the message, throw your Bible on the back shelf oF your car, and check out until the next week. But you're involved, you're engaged, you're using your faith. Here in verse 13, we are told that the immature Hebrew Christians were unskilled in the word of righteousness. Why are we unskilled? We're unskilled because we don't practice. If you want to be more skilled, you got to practice more. You got to, what we call in sports, you need repetitions.
The way you become a better basketball player is you shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot, and repetition is the key. The way you become mature as a Christian is you take your faith into the marketplace, you engage the people of God, you engage the people around you, you live the Christian life. You're not just somebody on the sideline, you're engaged in the conflict which is life. And how many of you know that for us as Christians in this day and age, that means we deal with problems a lot? Can I get a witness? Life is about problems, And life without problems is not a growing life, because God uses problems to cause us to grow.
And then fourthly, not only exposure to teaching that goes beyond the basics, and evidence growth in the knowledge of Christ, and engaging the challenges of life, but number four, exercising discernment about good and evil. "Having their senses exercised to discern both good and evil". I don't know how to say this any other way, but he begins to give you a sixth sense about stuff. Some stuff you don't even have to pray over very much if you've walked with the Lord. He just gives you this sense there's something not right about that, or there's something very right about that. He gives you this discernment so you know what is good and what is evil. But that's not usually where the issues are for us as Christians.
It's about what is best and what is better, what is good and what is better. And he tells us in his own way through the infusion of his Word into our heart, we get this sense of discernment. I pray for discernment, do you do that? Because our lives today are so hard. I mean, we are facing stuff we've never faced before. Do we not need discernment? I mean, this is unprecedented stuff we're dealing with, and we need to pray that God will give us the discernment. Here's the Scripture. The Scripture says that when we grow and we become mature, the Bible will make it possible for us to have discernment so we know the difference between good and evil.
Two people were planting trees on a mountain that was in a wind tunnel. On one side of the mountain, the older farmer was planting trees in a very strange way. He would just dig a hole, put the tree in the ground, and go onto the next one. No fertilizer, no water. On the other side of the mountain was a young man who was planting trees, and he was planting trees and carting water by the carload in to water the trees, and built little moats around each tree where water would be so the tree could drink of the water. When he noticed what his elder was doing, he asked him, he said, "Those trees are going to die, there's no water". Said, "No, they'll be fine". He said, "Well, how are they". He says, "Well, what will happen is when the water isn't available on the surface, they will push their roots down until they hit the water, and they will be okay".
And the young man didn't believe it. And they watched, and over a period of time, the trees on this side of the mountain at first looked pretty scrawny, not much life, not much foliage. Over here, the trees were blooming and everything looked great. But then the first storm came to the wind tunnel. And when it was all over, if you walked on one side of the mountain, the scrawny trees were still there hanging onto life. And over here, the trees that had been given so much at the beginning were laying on top of the ground with their roots up on top of the ground. Because you see, they had so much at the beginning, they had such ease at getting what they needed, they never were forced to put their roots down deep. And so when the storm came, they weren't capable of surviving the storm.
Here's what I'm learning in my Christian life. God sends to us opportunities for us to get our roots down deep because he knows the storms that are coming. He knows the challenges we're going to face. And he knows if we have a surface relationship with the Lord, if it's all up on top, then when the storm comes, we will be victims instead of victors. This says a lot about the way God deals with his children, and it says a lot about the way we deal with our children, too, doesn't it? I don't know about you, but I always wanted to make life easy for my children. I'm not sure that's a good thing. Maybe we should let it be hard for them some, because if the roots don't get down deep, they aren't going to be able to face the challenges that inevitably come.
So, my challenge to all of us today is this, not to go away from here feeling guilty because I'm not as mature as I wish I were, not as mature as I should be, but to go away from here saying wherever I am, Pastor Jeremiah has challenged me that I can still go on, I can still grow, I can become more than I am in Christ. I can not be happy with my situation enough so that I will take on some new challenges in the Word of God, in service, and in ministry, and go on to depth in my life.