Sermon:  The Danger of Stalled Faith


Summary:  We need to avoid stalled progress in spiritual growth because it leads to dulled hearing/understanding of the deeper things of God, which can lead to abnormal immaturity, spiritual senselessness, which can ultimately lead to permanently falling away and spiritual death.  In order to avoid stalled progress, we need to be disciplined disciples that truly listen, learn, practice, and bear fruit.


Know:  To be a disciple, one must grow through being spiritual disciplined


Feel:  Hungry to grow


Do:  Discuss and understand the progression from faithfulness to apostasy, identifying the potential causes that lead to apostasy and ways to avoid it.  Also discuss and understand the progression from spiritual immaturity to maturity, identifying the various disciplines that will help the disciple grow strong in Christian faith, and reflect on which way you are progressing and what God is calling you to do.


Text:  Heb 5:10 - 6:8


Scripture Reading:  2 Pet 3:17-18



1.  Lesson reminded me of a car that sat for years not being used

            a.  Stalled one day, so it got left in the yard for years

            b.  No one used it, so it should be just like new right?  Wrong

            c.  Had all kinds of OTHER mechanical problems, it was no good

2.  Some things in life are like that

            a.  If you ignore them, they get progressively worse

            b.  But if you tend to them, they get progressively better

            c.  A lot of things are like this

                        - Upkeep on house, or other items

- Continuing education for your job

- Could be marriage relationship

            d.  Some things in life, if they keep still, get worse.  They need progress

3.  The same is true of our Christian faith as well

            a.  If let our personal growth in Christ stall, it will get progressively worse

                        - Kind of like riding a bicycle

                        - When learning to ride, most important thing - keep pedaling!

                        - What happen if you stop pedaling?  You fall down

                        - So we do not want to stall

            b.  Many things can cause our faith to stall

                        - For the Hebrew Christians, it was persecution and resistance

                        - For us, it may be the opposite, comfort, selfish ambition,

                        - Whatever it is, there are all kinds of things that we can let stall our

   progress in personal growth as a Christian

4.  (Heb 5:10 - 6:8) - We need to continue to grow as Christians and not stall

            a.  The text gives us several reason we need to avoid stalling

            b.  We will notice that stalling can lead to a backwards, downward

      progression in our spiritual growth.  We either grow, or shrivel 

c.  Here are the reasons we need to avoid stalling...


I.  Stalling can lead to dull hearing

            A.  The text says that they had become dull of hearing

            B.  What does this mean?

                        1.  "Dull" of hearing in Greek - nothros = lazy, sluggish, hard

                        2.  Problem was not with the teaching

                                    a.  Not that the teaching was too deep, too hard

                                    b.  God would not provide teaching we can't understand

                        3.  The problem was with the hearers

                                    a.  They were still at an elementary level in their faith

                                                - They needed to learn elementary principles again

                                                - Literally says, "elemental" or "fundamental" things

                                    b.  It is like saying they needed to learn "ABC's" over again

                        4.  Some people say the Bible is "simple" and do not go deep

                                    a.  But there are levels of teaching

                                    b.  1 Cor 2 reminds us there are levels of teaching

                                                - v.1-5 - The simple Gospel

                                                - (v.6) - Yet we do speak a wisdom among those who

   are mature

                                    c.  If you don't master the basics, you become dull of hearing

            C.  ILL:  Ever study a foreign language?

                        1.  Someone said 1st year like hammering each finger with hammer

                                    a.  First year of a foreign language is no fun

                                    b.  But you have to master the ABSs, fundamentals

                                    c.  If quit after first year, never move on

                                    d.  It will always seem strange, will be dull of hearing

                        2.  Like learning ABCs of anything

                                    a.  Whether it is language, math, any skill

                                    b.  It will be strange and unfamiliar if not master basics

            D. The same is true with the Christian life

                        1.  Cannot stall when learning the basics

                        2.  Need to master the basics of the Christian life

                                    a.  How many of us can summarize the biblical message?

                                    b.  Not just talking about a doctrine here or there.

                                    c.  What is the big picture story of scripture?

                                    d.  What is the high point?

                        3.  If you don't master the basics of the Christian faith, then it will be

     strange and unfamiliar

            a.  Eyes may glaze over when someone speak of the biblical

     doctrine of Christ

b. Yes, people use big words

            - Christology, incarnation, kenosis, kerygma, etc.

            - These are words theologians use to describe

   various parts of the biblical teaching of Christ

            - That is not what I am talking about

                                                - Only way you know these terms and issues around

   them if you read reflections of theologians

                                    c.  I am talking about simply understanding what the Bible

     teaches about Christ

            d.  If my mind wanders when talk about this, can't follow

                  biblical teaching, maybe I have become dull of hearing

                        4.  If dull of hearing, will not be able to move toward maturity


II.  Stalling leads to abnormal immaturity

            A.  I say "abnormal" because there is both normal and abnormal maturity

                        1.  If you have a five year old, expect them to act and think like 5

     year old

                        2.  But if you have a fifty year old that act and think like 5 year old,

     then you have a problem

            B.  The text is dealing with this abnormal immaturity

                        1.  They had been Christians for a long period of time

                                    a.  There should have been growth and maturity

                                    b.  They should be able to receive solid food

                                    c.  They still are only able to take milk

                        2.  They should now be teachers

                                    a.  If had been learning all along, should be able to teach

b.  It was like being in graduate school - very different

            - Not a whole lot of lecture as in undergraduate

            - Huge reading assignments

            - Students teaching

c.  These Christians should have been able to teach others

            - Should have been able to articulate fundamentals

            - Should have been able to guide others

            - Should have been able to be an example

                        3.  Instead, they are starting to atrophy

                                    a.  Atrophy:  The wasting away, shrinking, weakening of a

     part of the body due to disuse or poor nourishment

                                    b.  Disuse or poor nourishment causes atrophy

                                                - When we cease to live as a Christian

                                                - When we do not receive spiritual nourishment

                                    c.  These Christians were in danger of spiritual atrophy

                        4.  Because dull of hearing, they never moved past milk

                                    a.  As you grow, you need solid food, can't stay on milk

                                    b.  If not, you can become malnourished

                                    c.  Spiritually, you become weak

                                    d.  Eventually, it could lead to starvation

            C.  ILL:  Have you ever seen what starvation does to a body?

                        1.  Everything atrophies,

                                    a.  Usually think of physical effect

- Tissue shrivels up, bones become weak

- No hair, no strength

- Disease comes very easy, no immunity

                                    b.  But there are emotional and mental effects too

                                                - Brain doesn't develop

                                                - Mind for many stays the mind of a child

                                                - No smiles, no joy, just misery

                                    c.  Can't fight off disease of the body and of the mind

                                    d.  Can wind up having someone the age of an adult, but the

      body and mind of a child

                        2.  This is what happens to people spiritually

                                    a.  Spiritually they become weak

                                    b.  Can't fight off spiritual disease

                        3.  Become abnormally spiritually immature, weak, helpless

            D.  Abnormal spiritual immaturity is a silent disease

                        1.  You don't often notice it at first

                                    a.  Starts with becoming dull of hearing

                                    b.  In other words, selective hearing

                                    c.  God's voice becomes drowned out by other things

                        2.  Gradually, start investing emotional energy in other things

                                    a.  If you had been involved in ministry, you pull back

                                    b.  Less and less time serving and ministering

                                    c.  Still busy, but God is not in your business

                        3.  Start to pray less, read less, think about God less, life

                        4.  The final step, you start coming to worship less and less

                                    a.  It didn't even hurt

                                    b.  In fact, the transition was so gradual, you barely felt it


III.  Stalling leads to senselessness

            A.  We have senses with which to discern the world around us

                        1.  Seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, touching

                        2.  There is also a spiritual sense connected to all this

                        3.  You can get to the point your senses become dull too

            B.  Does the text teach this?

                        1.  (v.13-14) - Senses are trained through solid food and practice

                                    a.  Have to have solid food - moving past ABCs

                                    b.  Have to have practice

                        2.  What do we mean by "senses"?

a.  Noun:  A feeling or perception through your senses, a

     faculty of the mind, such as a "moral sense," mental

     discernment, intelligence

b.  Adj:  (sensible) Showing sound judgment, to be keenly

     aware of

c.  Syn:  Intelligent, rational, observant, understanding

d.  Ant:  Senseless, stupid

                        3.  Greek:  aistheterion -  "power of discernment"

                        4.  The word "senses" is our ability to perceive and discern things

            C.  ILL:  Start learning as a baby to perceive and discern things

                        1.  At first, you have to baby proof the house.  Why?

                                    a.  They get into everything

                                    b.  Put stuff in their mouth

                                    c.  Want them to learn without getting injured

                                    d.  They learn through teaching and especially practice

                        2.  What if someone blind, and received sight as adult?

                                    a.  They see, but do not know what they are looking at

                                    b.  Can show them apple, not know what it is

                                    c.  They touch it and say, "Oh, this is an apple"

                                    d.  The sense of sight needs to be trained to discern things

                        3.  Same way with our spiritual "sense"

                                    a.  Need to learn to "see," discern, and perceive things

                                    b.  If not, we can wind up injuring ourselves, our relationship

                                         with God, and with one another

            D.  We gain power of discernment through theological training & practice

1.  We recognize when something is evil, ungodly, wrong

            a.  Whether it is premarital sex, abortion, cloning,

     homosexuality, communism,

            b.  Recognize injustices as being offensive to God, love

     truth, equity, and other qualities that stem from God

c.  Means we have ability to evaluate all things through the

     eyes of the creator

                        2.  Not so if you become spiritually dull of hearing and abnormally

                              immature spiritually

                                    a.  You can become spiritually "senseless"

                                    b.  Not recognize something as sin, evil, wrong

                        3.  When you become senseless, you become part of the herd

                                    a.  Ever seen a herd, they all go the same way

                                    b.  Instead of evaluating all things by God, follow the world

                                    c.  Dull of hearing, immature, and now senseless part of herd

                                    d.  Doesn't even feel all that bad that you leave God

                        4.  If we become part of the herd, we are in a very dangerous place


IV.  Stalling can lead to permanently falling away

            A.  You can fall away and never come back

            B.  (6:4-6) Here is a dire warning

                        1.  There is a debate about the meaning of this passage

                                    a.  Some start with conclusion that if saved, never be lost

                                    b.  Have to contend with this passage

                                    c.  Some come up with creative ways to deal with this

                                    d.  Best just to let scripture determine conclusion rather than

     other way around

                        2.  Look at what it actually says

                                    a.  Speaking to those who have already been a Christian

                                                - Enlightened

                                                - Tasted heavenly gift, partook of the Holy Spirit

                                                - Tasted the word of God

                                                - If have Holy Spirit, they were real Christians

                                    b.  Then they have fallen away

                                                - Didn't say they stumbled, or strayed

                                                - Says they have fallen away

- They are in rebellion against Christ

            = Crucify to themselves the Son of God

            = Put him to open shame

            = Just like those who spat on, humiliated, and

    crucified him

                                                - Not talking about the stumbler, but the apostate

                                    c.  Impossible to renew them to repentance

                                                - This causes a lot of concern, "impossible?"

                                                            = Does this mean there is no hope at all?

                                                            = Jesus say with God all things possible?

                                                            = Some fall away and return, what about them?

                                                - Some say it a hyperbole to make a point

                                                - Either way, the warning is still a dire one

            C.  ILL:  Like what happens in a marriage that ends in an affair/adultery

                        1.  Started invest self emotionally more into the other person

                                    a.  Seemed so innocent in the beginning

b.  One thing leads to another

c.  Pretty soon, find selves in full blown affair

                        2.  Many would say marriage is damaged beyond repair

                                    a.  Adulterer sometimes does not want to go back to wife

                                    b.  Has a new person in his life

                                    c.  Comfortable there, not want to go back to wife

                        3.  Say it is "impossible" for him to come back

                        4.  That is kind of what this passage is talking about

            D.  If you have become dull of hearing, this is a serious warning

                        1.  Don't say it could never happen to you

                        2.  Statistics for college aged people, the age of largest drop outs

a.  Barna in 2006 - 61% of twenty-somethings fall away

                                    b.  UCLA - 52% college students attend church before

     enrollment, only 29% continue after junior year

c.  Flavil Yeakley - 85% Church of Christ members drop out

     of church when leave home for state schools

                        3.  From my own experience

                                    a.  I know of many people who dropped out over the years

                                    b.  Some were middle aged with families

                                                - Some of the people I remember were very active

                                                            = Fred - The bus program, bible classes

                                                            = Charlie - Service, fix it man, repair at church

                                                            = Steve - Song leader, bible class teacher

                                                            = Keith - Worked with teens, on boss program

                                                - No one would dreamed they would have fallen away

                                    c.  To my knowledge, non of them ever returned

                                    d.  Their lives are solidly invested in things other than God

                        4.  If you have become dull of hearing, this is a serious warning

                                    a.  (v.7-8) - Instead of bearing fruit, ends up being burned

                                    b.  Don't say it could never happen to you

                                    c.  It could be happening right now



1.  Where are you in progression?  Dull hearing, immaturity, senseless, apostasy

2.  Maybe you still need to accept Christ as your Lord and savior (inv)

            a.  Remember this is a first step

            b.  You begin a life of growth, and do not want to stall in it

3.  What can you do to avoid stalling?  Text indicates what we can do

            a.  Need to be a growing disciple

                        - Word that is related to disciple is "discipline"

                        - A disciple is disciplined

            b.  The text implies several disciplines and results

                        - Listen instead of being dull of hearing (rest of Hebrews - listen)

                        - Learn instead of becoming abnormally immature

                        - Practice and become discerning rather than senseless

                        - (v.7) - Then you will bear fruit and receive blessing from God

4.  Christian life is like a bicycle, you have too keep pedaling or you fall down


Small Group Notes:  The Danger of Stalled Faith


Summary:  We need to avoid stalled progress in spiritual growth because it leads to dulled hearing/understanding of the deeper things of God, which can lead to abnormal immaturity, spiritual senselessness, which can ultimately lead to permanently falling away and spiritual death.  In order to avoid stalled progress, we need to be disciplined disciples that truly listen, learn, practice, and bear fruit.


Open:  (choose one)

- What things do you feel contribute toward maturity?

- When do you find it most difficult to get started or motivated?


Explore:  (Heb 5:10 - 6:8)


1.  Why did the author stop abruptly when beginning to expound on Jesus being a High Priest after the order of Melchezidek? 


2.  Discuss and identify the problem the text identifies among the readers.  Where were the characteristics of their problem?  What were the apparent causes of this problem?


3.  What ultimate danger were the readers in jeopardy of?  Was it truly impossible for them to return if they got that far, or is it a hyperbole?  What effect was this warning supposed to have had on the readers?


4.  Extrapolate from this text what the solution to their struggles was.  What disciplines did they need to engage in and why?


5.  Discuss the implications this text has on the importance of deeper doctrinal study and theological reflection.




6.  What kind of progress (or digress) are you making as a Christian?  What things are contributing to this?


7.  Which disciplines do you engage in as a disciple?  Which disciplines do you need to engage in more?  Are there other disciplines not mentioned in this study you need to be more disciplined in?


8.  What would be the result of these disciplines in your life (since they are not an end in themselves)?


9.  What commitment do you need to make today?