If you have watched, listened to, or read my first couple of sermons for 2023, then you have seen me focusing on improving for the better.  Something I learned growing up from my parents and through my many years of playing in the band while in school is that we should always be seeking to improve and to grow.  I believe this to be true especially when it comes to our faith; we must not remain stagnant in our faith — we must mature.

Being Dull of Hearing

In my sermon – When God Rebukes You – I focused on heeding God’s rebuke.  To heed means to pay attention or to give consideration.  Something that often happens when it comes to growth and to learning is that many of us will ignore wise counsel.

Why do so many of us ignore wise counsel?  Often it is because we believe we are always right and that we know everything; we get very defensive when someone challenges our interpretation of right and wrong and all that we think we know.  As Solomon stated in the book of Proverbs, many of us become like fools because we will despise wise wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7).

Stubbornness and even laziness, I believe, is a major problem in deterring growth; it was a major problem for believers in the early days of the church and it still remains as a hindrance for growth in the hearts of believers today.  Even more about stubbornness is the outcome of stubbornness. Those with a stiff neck, the proverb states, will be “broken beyond healing” (Prov. 29:1). This is not a good outcome, is it?

Slow to learn

So, let’s start off taking a look at some scripture in the book of Hebrews and in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  I want to first define dull hearing and essentially show you what is behind one being slow to hear and slow to learn.

In the book of Hebrews, the writer of Hebrews, which some believe to be Paul, wrote about being dull of hearing.  From Hebrews 5:5-14, because the writer desired for the Jews to commit their way to the Lord by having faith in Christ, began to speak about Christ as being the High Priest.  

This is a subject that we will go over in our Sunday School this week and, honestly, like many spiritual topics, it is not so deep that nobody can understand it.  Personally, I believe that anyone that is open to learning can learn and understand scripture and things of the spiritual.  The writer was talking to people who were choosing to be dull of hearing which, as we know, can make any subject difficult to understand.  Take a look at what the writer stated in the verses below:

11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

Hebrews 5:11-12 NKJV

The writer could only speak of the basic principles of faith to the people; they desired to go even further in teaching but felt they were unable to do so.  Why?  They simply said that going any deeper into teaching about faith would be too hard to explain to the people. Was the writer stating that they were incapable of teaching the subject any further?  Absolutely not!  The problem was that the people had a mindset that simply would have been unable to understand any deeper discussions about faith.  

Note:  Again, the book of Hebrews was written directly to the Jews.  The intention of the book was to get the Jew to put the old ways of living under the law behind them for living under grace as the Lord intended.  God intends for all people to live under grace – this is why He gave the world His only begotten Son.  Unfortunately, the Jews were incredibly slow in breaking away from their old ways for Christ; many practitioners of Judaism today do not believe that the Messiah has come and are still waiting on Him.

So, because these Jewish believers could not truly let go of their old mindset, it made them dull of hearing; they were slow to mature more in their faith. This is something that we actually witness through the many lessons that Jesus taught His disciples. On several occasions disciples like Peter, Thomas, and Phillip struggled to increase their learning because of their mindsets. On the rooftop of Joppa, Peter questioned the Lord when it came to what he could eat because his mindset was stuck on the ways of tradition rather than what the Lord was teaching him (Acts 10:9-16).

I want to make it very clear that the writer of this book was not calling the Jewish believer dumb; they just wanted to persuade the Jewish believer to mature more in their faith.  We have to remember, there were many Jews that believed in God but because they had not believed in the only begotten Son, they had not believed in the Lord fully. There were quite a few Jews that had began to accept Christ as their Savior, but, as we see in Paul’s letters, the law was holding many of them back from growing even more in the faith.

Notice that the writer stated that those who they had reached out to had “become dull of hearing”.  Do you realize what this suggests?

Note:  At one point in time, these Jews were open to believing in Christ; we know this because they had become believers.  The writer even states that by that point in time, these Jews should have been teachers of the gospel!  So what hindered them? Likely factors were laziness, stubbornness, or others persuading them to do otherwise.

There is a great deal of disappointment that we can sense from our writer because the writer desired to have deep discussions with the people about faith.  Yet, they could only be fed milk – the basic principles of the faith – like a baby rather than solid food. As someone who preaches and teaches, I tell you that it is sad when you come across one who has been a Christian for so long, but their wisdom in the way is that of someone who just became a believer yesterday.

So, if you truly desire to grow, you have to have the mindset for it; you have to be open to learning something new in order to increase our wisdom. If you and I are going to grow spiritually, we cannot be of a mindset to where we believe we already know everything.  

The Peril of Being Dull of Hearing 

I don’t know if you will recall this, but last year I did a study on the three different levels of faith.  The first level of faith are those who are of no faith, with the next level filled with those who are of little faith, and the last level being those who are strong in the faith.

Susceptible to falling out of faith  

The one who is dull of hearing is one who is of little faith.  Now, something I said about those who are on this level of faith is that they often waver back and forth between having little faith or no faith.  The goal should be for one to grow up from this level of faith to being strong in the faith.  The goal is not for one to waver back and forth because the chances are high that one drops out of having faith at all and that is not good. One that is dull of hearing, as we have seen, is one that is slow in spiritual growth.

The writer of Hebrews states, “Everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe (Heb. 5:13).”  Think about this statement for a moment, especially the part about being like a baby.  Babies do not start out by eating solid foods; they have no teeth and their body system is unable to handle solids so they must start out with liquids.

While starting out with liquids, babies eventually grow teeth and their bodies need better sustenance in order to function so they begin to eat solids.  Slowly over time, we begin to introduce solid food into the babies’ diet, and that is when they begin to grow even more; first into a toddler, then into child, then a teenager, and then on into adulthood.  

Note: The basic principles of the faith is good for getting us started on our journey. However, we will need to grow in our faith so that we are spiritually mature enough to handle all that we will face on our journey. Should we not grow and mature spiritually, it could spell out a catastrophe for us on our journey.

In my first sermon of the year – Choosing God Over Everything – I talked about how we must not just nibble off the Word of God but how we we need to consume it in its entirety so that it becomes a part of our being. We do not want to end up like the Jewish exorcists that thought they had power over the spiritual but came to find out that they did not (Acts 19:11-17); they were overcome be wicked spirits. When we live by the Word, the wicked will not have rule over us.

The carnal Christian

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we will see him touch on the subject of dull hearing just as the writer of the book of Hebrews did.  Through Paul’s writing, we will see just how one that has been slow to learn and grow in the faith falls to the snare of sin again.  Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 to see what Paul said on this subject.

We will see in the opening of this chapter that Paul, like the writer of Hebrews, desired to delve deeply into spiritual teaching.  Paul, we will see in the first verse states:

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:1 NKJV

So, Paul faced a similar plight to that which the writer of the book of Hebrews faced when trying to teach those in Corinth.  Now, the Jewish believers, we saw, were dull of hearing because they were stuck on their old ways and tradition of living under the law.  

The Greeks did not receive the Mosaic Law, so what was it that caused them to be slow to learn that they had to be fed ‘baby food’ by Paul?  Carnality.  Paul said, “brethren, I could not speak to you as to ‘spiritual people’ but as to ‘carnal’.” 

Note:  Carnal is what we would consider to be worldly.  Paul desired to speak spiritually to the Corinthians in great depth but felt he could not because they were so worldly focused; the worldly mindset came first for them over the spiritual.  Spiritual matters will always go over the heads of those who are more worldly focused.

So, we have essentially seen one manner of living – knowing everything – broken down into two aspects that can cause one to be dull of hearing the Word of God.  If you are not new here, then you have heard me teach and preach of the two principles to live by that is present in our world: worldly principles and spiritual principles.  The Greek believers, or Gentiles believers, were stuck on living by worldly principles; this kept them from maturing further in their faith.

Take a look at what Paul said in the very next verse:

I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able

1 Corinthians 3:2 NKJV

Paul, like the writer of the book of Hebrews, had to hold back what he could teach to the Gentile believers in Corinth because they would understand a deeper spiritual discussion.  Again, I want to make it clear, there is nothing wrong starting off with the basics of faith as all of us started at this point. However, when we have been in the faith for a very long time, we should not still be stuck on the basic principles as one starting out in the faith!

Like Paul, and even the prophets of the Old Testament days, we live at a time where people are only quick to listen and to learn what is sweet to their ears.  I remember being in school and subjects that I did not care much for were my worst subjects because I just did not pay attention. Our faith, I believe, should be a subject of the utmost importance; we should crave growing in our spiritual wisdom.

Sadly, some teachers and preachers feel like they have to shy away from deeper thoughts on faith because people will not understand. Some will even shy away from the Word of God for more of a worldly message just to fill up a church building or to gain viewers online. Rather than become teachers and preachers of carnality, we should always preach against it. Rather than living a carnal lifestyle, we should live a Christ-like lifestyle.

Paul states plainly that no good comes a believer that is carnal-minded in their way rather than spiritually focused.  Paul stated to the Corinthians, “For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men (1 Cor. 3:3)?”

Note:  The carnal Christian is one who, because they are still turning to the world, is one who lacks spiritual discernment; they do not truly know right from wrong according to the Lord.  They are, again, susceptible to falling quickly into sin and not being able to return from it.

The end result of being dull of hearing

As you can imagine, the end result of not growing spiritually is not good.  Consider this:  how often is a disobedient child rewarded for their disobedience?  I can tell you one thing for certain, my parents never rewarded the disobedience of my brother.  I cannot imagine that any of you would be one to reward disobedience as well.

So, if we would not reward disobedience, why would the Lord reward one who has chosen to ignore His word for their own word?  So, lacking spiritual discernment is a major blow that cannot be overcome.  

Therefore, we should certainly put our listening ears on when it comes to being guided by wise counsel so that we can mature and grow in our discipline to be able to discern things on a spiritual level.  Discerning right from wrong on a spiritual level leads us to either an heavenly eternal kingdom or an eternity without God’s presence.

Let us remember that the Lord has given us the tools to be able to discern right from wrong and grow in our maturity.  Yes, we have been given sound doctrine and we have been surrounded by wise witnesses who are our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ ought to be edifying us so that we can continue to grow and mature in our faith (Eph. 4:11-16).

Even more than this, the Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and guide us in our discernment (John 16:5-15).  The fool would despise the wise counsel of the Holy Spirit but you and I, because we know the end result of the fool, cannot be like a fool.  We must open ourselves to receiving the Word from the Holy Spirit as it will surely help us to grow and truly prosper, spiritually.  

Note:  So, because one is dull of hearing, we find that they: a) Cannot consume the Word of God in any real depth because it will be too much for them to consume and understand. b) The reason they cannot fully consume the Word of God is because they are more quick to heed worldly wisdom than the Word of God. c) Those that have not fully consumed the Word of God lack spiritual discernment. d) Because they lack spiritual discernment, the one that is dull of hearing – slow to learn – is more susceptible to falling in faith.

When True Growth Begins

There needs to be a movement to truly get into the Word of God. To truly get into the Word of God, and not just drink the milk of the Word or nibble off of it, one must truly commit themselves to the task.  To the Corinthians, Paul said, “Let no one deceive himself.  If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise (1 Cor. 3:18).”

The knowledge that the Lord has given to all of us  is of eternity – the spiritual – as this physical age passes away day by day.  We must be open to receiving this wisdom and then we must be diligent in our studies so that our wisdom can continue to grow.  In his second letter to Timothy, Paul encouraged believers not to be hung up on this world nor be carried about with words to no profit.  He encouraged us to be diligent in our studying of the word to show ourselves approved to the Lord (2 Tim. 2:14-15).

In order for us to grow, there are things that we will have to let go, especially our old sinful ways and we must not be stubborn in doing so.  As we have seen, stubbornness can lead one to being dull of hearing and this is of no profit to us.  Therefore, spiritually speaking, we cannot be so defensive when the Lord challenges us to mature and grow that we remain stuck.  Again, in order to mature and grow, we have to actually be open to doing so rather than being overly stubborn or being lazy as well.

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