“ You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.” V. 12 (NLT)
Any conscientious consumers will shop for value; all good parents desire the best for their children and strive to nourish their growing bodies, minds and spirits. Regardless of which area of life we look at, to settle for less is simply wasteful. Yet, unfortunately that is the natural pull, to move to what is convenient and easier. Unfortunately, that same mindset permeates the lives of many born-again Christians, who are living defeated, empty lives, simply because they “cling” to their old ways and refuse to mature in Christ.
The book of Hebrews was written by Paul and was addressed to his countrymen, who have been brought up as Jews and eventually surrendered their lives to Christ. The late Dr. Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute, wrote about it on his best-selling book “The Kingdom of the Cults”: “the Book of Hebrews was written by a Hebrew to other Hebrews telling the Hebrews to stop acting like Hebrews”. These were Jews who knew of the promised Messiah who was foretold by the Old Testament prophets, understood and accepted that those prophesies were fulfilled in Christ; however, because they would not let go of their Jewish culture, they remained contaminated by man-made beliefs and therefore, they were immature in their faith.
These Jewish believers were supposed to be teaching others, but they were not even applying the basics to their own lives! They were reluctant to move beyond their Jewish traditions and established doctrines. In order to understand the supremacy of the high priesthood of Christ, these Jews would have to move out of their boxed up beliefs and comfort zone and beyond their traditions, cut their Jewish ties and stop trying to blend in their culture. Instead, they found themselves slipping back into their old ways.
Does that sound familiar, anyone?
Undoubtedly, the process of maturing in our faith takes time. Daily commitment and service produces maturity. We don’t believe and become unwavering giants of faith immediately and automatically. It takes time, commitment and discipline to see our faith grow and our lives bear fruit for the kingdom. God knows that and His patience is great. To some of His children, He gives chance after chance, year after year, to come closer to Him and finally start living out the life He has planned for them. I certainly can relate to that truth. Although I have known the Lord for 17 years now, I can honestly say that only in the past seven to eight years have I developed a true hunger and desire for “meatier” feasts of His Word.
In 1993, the California Milk Association Board created the beloved “got milk?” brand. As you the flip the pages of just about any magazine in the United Stated, you will see an adult, usually an athlete or anyone whose image is connected to good health and strength, wearing a cute milk mustache. It has been a famous and powerful campaign to instill in adults the desire to drink something that is usually a kid’s favorite. The smart marketeers behind the campaign knew exactly what they were doing. Adults don’t generally drink much milk. Children do. Adults like substance. Something they can bite into. Like meat.
So, why do we, Christians, have such a hard time giving up the bottle? Why do we desperately cling to the easy-to-swallow food, whereas God has laid an unbelievable feast before us? Why do we often settle to live defeated, when He has promised life abundant? (John 10:10).
I would like to suggest some of the reasons I believe some Christians stubbornly remain living as babies in God’s sight:
1) Serving God and Man –
“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” 1 Jo 2:15-17(NASB)
The Jews of Paul’s time had a heart divided between Christ and Judaism; not to mention the fact that, after their conversion, they became instantly associated with a faith that was highly persecuted. Our temptations today are very similar. Many Christians dangerously remain in the sidelines of their faith because they are afraid to be intimately associated with a God who demands very serious sacrifices. The other reason may be that, although we are far from having the threat of being crucified upside down for being a Christian in America, there is a blunt and cruel attack against Christians today in the media, schools, workplaces and even within the church! Thus serving Christ faithfully and “living by the book” means to reject what our society preaches as acceptable and normal. It means we choose to say “no” when all our peers are clapping their hands as the ungodly take the political and cultural stages in today’s society. Renouncing the world is a painful decision that requires courage and steadfastness. But most of all, it requires CONSISTENCY. There is no room for serving anyone, other than God, or for any compromise of His Word if we are to mature in Christ.
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other.” Luke 16:13 (NLT)
2) Neglect of studying God’s Word –
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” Psalm 119:105 (NASB)
I don’t know about you, but I seem to be always “doing” something these days. The fast-paced lives we live seem to leave very little room for God. I seem to always be working: on my job, at home, even when I lie down to sleep, my mind tends to be planning something that needs to be done. So, for many years, I honestly was not consistent with my time with God in His Word. I would do it – maybe twice, three times a week. I would go to church, sing in the choir, and honestly love God with all my heart. But I did not put much consistent effort to truly KNOW God.
I believe the same is true to many Christians. We have time for everything else – even other “more glamorous” studies: politics, literature, science, arts, MBA’s and PHD’s. But when it comes to the Bible, we have little time. To some of us, most of the Old Testament is kind of “Sahara’s desert”. Perhaps we cling to some isolated verses and don’t even study them in the context of the entire text. Therefore, we get what we get – by merely scratching the surface of God’s endless wisdom, we miss the encouragement and strength to withstand our trials and the power to resist temptations and the devil. The Psalmist clearly connects the power to overcome our troubles and resist evil with meditating upon God’s Word:
“Guide my steps by your Word, so I will not be overcome by evil.” Psalm 119:133 (NLT)
3) A Corrupt Heart –
Slowness of spiritual comprehension often is connected with a heart full of sin. A pure heart and the ability to perceive spiritual truths are very closely related:
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matt 5:8
So it may be that the slowness in maturing as a Christian is due to some “pet sin”, deeply rooted in one’s heart, which breaks the fellowship with God. Note that the pure of heart will “see God”. It may be unforgiveness, or bitterness or a vice, which sometimes may seem so “innocent” and “harmless”, but which breaks the fellowship with a Holy God, thus hindering one’s process of maturing in Christ.
4) Church – “To Go or Not To Go, that is the question” –
I could not resist it – I had to amuse you with a small twist of William Shakespeare’s famous opening line of Hamlet’s third act. In that monologue, Hamlet struggles with whether or not he should kill himself because of the events that had depressed him greatly. I can’t help but think of some Christians I know who have stopped attending church regularly. Not only did they stop to mature and remain as “babies” in the Word, their lives are full of depression, bitterness, unforgiveness and defeat. I truly believe that “To Go or Not To Go” is a matter of (spiritual) life or death for all Christians. It is in the church that we are taught in the “more excellent ways” of God. It is there that we can expect to feel uncomfortable when confronted with our sin. It is there that we have the optimum opportunity to use our spiritual gifts to further God’s kingdom on earth.
“Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.” Heb 10:25 (Amplified)
We can’t expect to be an effective member of the body of Christ if we stand alone on the sidelines. God has called us to assemble and be instructed in His Word:
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ”. 1Co 12:12 (NIV)
5) Church – Where to Go –
A person living in the South of the United States could never claim that there are no options of churches. It seems like we have a church in every corner. The right question to the Christian wishing to grow in love, devotion and knowledge of God is not whether or not to go to church. It is WHERE to go. The church should not appeal to you as a mere “social club” and it should not be a place to be “entertained”. So how do we know where we should go to church? Below I suggest some of things that should be considered when choosing a home church.
– Prayer – the first thing a Christian should do is to pray and ask God to show them where they should attend. God is willing and will show His children the congregation where they will be more effective. There are many wonderful churches out there, but there will be one that will feel like home for you. As you visit churches that your friends attend or close to home, ask God to reveal where you should attend. He certainly will!
– Preaching – The exposition of Scripture from the pulpit, when skillfully and wisely done, trains the congregation into experiencing the “Word of righteousness” (v.13). Christians who don’t ever receive instruction of this kind can be expected to become “dull of hearing” (v.11). Your Pastor should preach from the Word of God alone and not leave any of its truths out. God could not be any clearer regarding His disgust of those who “add” or “cut” the content of the Word of God. It is amusing to me that He left that instruction spelled out on one of the last verses before He closes His revelation to the church. Hear God’s somber word to those who “add and cut” from His Holy Word:
“I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.” Rev 22:18-19 (NASB)
There is another important detail about your Pastor: if his preaching is filled with “feel good” messages and “self-help” concepts and if he does not open his Bible during his sermon, we have a problem. There is nothing wrong with a pastor who exhorts his flock and encourages them with the wonderful promises in the Word of God; however if his preaching NEVER leaves you convicted of your sin and “hungry” for knowing God in a deeper way, I would say: “keep looking”.
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NASB)
– Missions – A Bible teaching church will be a giving church. This church will be highly involved in missions and will call you to get involved in mission. The Great Commission was not an “option” for Christ’s disciples. It was a commandment of Christ Himself:
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matt 28:18-19
Whatever reasons you may have for remaining as a child in God’s sight; it is not too late to start growing. If you feel discouraged, swept by the winds that assail every believer’s life or if you see yourself drifting away from God, He is waiting, open arms, to nourish your spirit and help you become the person He has designed you to be. Don’t settle for less than God’s best. And even if you are a regular church memer, don’t bite into the devil’s lie that it is enough to just attend church. There is nothing that the enemy of our souls wants more than to keep a Christian from maturing and reaching their full potential. He will do whatever it takes, send whatever temptations your way to make you quit, stop trying and remain a dwarf in the faith. However, God is in control, not him. And He is calling you today to partake in His feast. It contains all the spiritual vitamins, minerals and nutrients to help you grow and mature in Christ.
How do you do it? Make it a daily commitment: search Him in prayer every morning, open your Bible every day, buy reference books, commentaries to help you dig into His Word. Finally, find a church where you will find the guidance and encouragement to grow in Christ. If you are already part of one, praise the Lord! Then commit to practice what you are hearing every week.
Lord, thank you for reminding me that you have not called me to remain as a child in my faith. I know your desire is for me to mature in knowledge of You, Your ways and Your truth. I thank you that I can find all the nourishment I need to grow in Christ in Your Word. Set my heart on fire for You, Lord! Stir my Spirit that I may hunger for the meat that is found in Your Word and help me keep my heart pure, that I may see You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.