Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Necessity of Spiritual Growth

“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. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those are full of age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

The passage before us today discusses the necessity of progression in our understanding and application of the Christian faith. This progression is both intellectual--an understanding of the oracles of God--and ethical--the ability to discern between good and evil. God expects His people to grow intellectually and ethically. We are not to be stagnant.

The applications of this text are numerous. Let us highlight four. First, note that there is such a thing as progression in the faith. Not all believers are to be at the exact same place--there are infants and there are aged in the body of Christ. This observation should serve to quell unteachableness, on the one hand, and haughtiness on the other. Babes in Christ need to recognize that they are babes and that they have a responsibility to be receptive to the wisdom and instruction of the aged. The aged in Christ must be conscious of their own growth in grace and extend grace to those who are now growing into adulthood. Rather than looking down on younger Christians and noticing every pimple that mars their appearance, they must lift them up and speak to them words of encouragement.

Second, notice that the possibility of regression also exists. Our passage remarks that the readers “have come to need milk and not solid food.” By virtue of their sin and doubt these saints had regressed in their knowledge of God. Though once growing and blossoming Christians, their leaves were withering. Hebrews warns us--beware of spiritual regression. Pray for the renewing grace of the Spirit; ask God to prune the dead branches.

Third, note that God expects progression from His people. The author of Hebrews rebukes his audience for though they ought to have been teachers they were still in need of milk. Christians, Hebrews says, are to grow in grace to such an extent that they can nurture new babes. Have you ever met someone who has been in the church for 10 or even 20 years and still describes himself as a babe? This is deplorable! For a babe to fail to develop over the course of 10 or 20 years is not something praiseworthy but a cause of genuine concern. Christians are not to remain stagnant so that they are in constant need of spoon feeding. The author of Hebrews expects growth, expects that those who have been in the faith some time will lead those who are just entering the fold. And one particular need in our congregation is additional elders and deacons. And so my question to the men in the congregation is--what are you doing to prepare yourself for these offices? God expects growth, he expects wisdom--are you striving for it? Or have you become complacent in your Christian walk?

Finally note that this requirement of God that we progress in grace would be particularly cruel did He not also provide a way for us to progress. But He does provide such a way. He has not left us ignorant. Progression in wisdom comes as we consistently resort to the Word of God in an effort to train ourselves to discern good and evil. Spiritual progression, Hebrews tells us, is a result of determined usage. Solid food is for those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. God does not bestow wisdom by osmosis. Just as physical training is necessary in order to fine tune one’s body, so spiritual training is necessary in order to train one’s soul. Couch potatoes do not form huge triceps--and neither do Christians who fail to seek wisdom in the Word of God.

Reminded of our failure to progress in the school of Christ as we ought, let us confess our sins to Him – we will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. Let us kneel together as we confess.