Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).
Discern Good and Evil
In an era of moral relativism, it is important to remember that there is a difference between good and evil, right and wrong. Many evaluate their actions based only on whether or not they feel good, and whether or not they physically hurt others.
God’s rules are not random hoops to jump through for His entertainment. His own divine nature is the basis for the moral values He has imposed on the universe. He reveals His value system through His word. God, the Creator, has the privilege of defining what is “good” and what is “evil.” People may attempt to cast sexual immorality and abortion and even lying in a positive light, but God overrules, saying, “because of these things the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience” (Colossians 3:6). God says through the prophet Isaiah, “woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20-21).
Have Their Senses Trained
Such moral maturity does not come automatically. To be admissible as evidence in court, a police officer’s radar gun must be calibrated from time to time against a known quantity. Similarly, people must train their “senses” according to the truths of God’s word to be able to tell the difference between right and wrong. Otherwise, we find ourselves like those in Judges 21:25, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
Hebrews 5:14 is the only time this Greek word aisthêtêria is used in the Bible. It describes more than the five senses; it means “mental faculties,” the ability to truly perceive what the organs of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch take into the mind. Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words says it is “the capacity for spiritual apprehension.” Every person can look, but mature Christians can see.
New Christians may still stumble into Satan’s traps. But mature Christians have learned to spot evil a mile away (though, whether or not we will swerve appropriately is another matter!) Mature Christians consider a situation and appreciate the spiritual danger present. They hear a questionable teaching and rebuke it, for they know where it eventually leads. They no longer try to shrug off the words of a song because the beat is catchy, but switch the station before doing damage to their hearts or others’ hearts. Mature Christians appreciates Jesus’ words:
The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:22–23).
Cling to what is good (Rom. 12:9) and stop laughing at and winking at what is bad (Rom. 1:32). Learn to lovingly admonish others (James 5:19-20).
Because of Practice
Successful training of the senses comes “because of practice.” Again, this is the only time this Greek word, hexen, appears in the New Testament. Vines’s Dictionary says that it “denotes habit, experience, or use.” F. F. Bruce says in his commentary on Hebrews that it is “experience acquired through practice.” It is not something that comes overnight, but rather through diligence.
Some lessons take time. For example, I used to be polite with ad callers. I finally learned that I wasn’t doing them or me any favors by waiting for them to take a breath so that I could squeeze in a, “Sorry but I’m really not interested,” just so they could start asking invasive questions and try to rope me in. Now, I instantly hang up. I’ve built good habits to protect myself.
Getting to a strong point of spiritual maturity takes more than just a cursory glance at the Scriptures, more than just the easy liquid of childhood Sunday school lessons. Milk is the first step in every Christian’s training (1 Peter 2:2), but “everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant” (Hebrews 5:14). Participate in meaty Bible classes in order to gain some of the powerful lessons of God’s revelation! –John Guzzetta