Thursday, April 14, 2011

Awww, Grow Up! - Pilgrim's Regress

Click Here to Listen to the Sunday, April 10, 2011 Sermon by Pastor Chip Moody

Scripture Reference:  Hebrews 5:11-14 and Hebrews 6:1-3

“Grow Up. Baby!”                

If you never thought the Bible talked about baby food, think again:

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.      Hebrews 5:11 - 6:3 [NIV]

I learn some striking lessons from this passage.

It is possible to regress in our Christian walk with God.

I think it is probably also the case that if we are not progress and maturing in our obedience to Christ, we are, in fact, regressing.

By knowing and experiencing only the beginning stages of the Christian life, we cannot know how to live rightly in a wrong-filled world. 

The solid food that brings about maturity is for the purpose of helping us not only know right from wrong, but also how to apply the wisdom from God about right and wrong to our life, especially those areas of life that look gray rather than black and white. The spiritually grown up person is equipped to apply the God’s desires/his word, to extremely complicated situations in life that we face at home at work, at church, or with friends and family.

We are told to “leave elementary teachings.”

Well, like what? What teachings are elementary? Well, they are some surprisingly important doctrines and practices:
  • Repentance of sins and dysfunctions long ago forgiven by God
  • The beginnings of initial faith in God
  • Instructions about baptisms and the laying on of hands
  • The resurrection of the dead at the last day
  • Eternal judgment; heaven and hell
These are by no means unimportant doctrines. Yet the writer of Hebrews is saying that these are elementary (my dear Watson), and that we are somehow supposed to move on from these to another level of maturity. There appears to be spiritual food that is “age appropriate” for one’s progress in Christ.

It further seems that this “solid food” has something to do with applying the revealed wisdom of God to actual day-to-day living situations.

But why? 

Why indeed. Does it matter that we become people of holiness and faithfulness. We have our salvation. We have the reward of eternity in the presence of God. Why bother with holiness?  Is it worth the effort?  I’m saved; that’s enough for me. Why do I need growth?

I’m glad you asked that.

The answer has little to do with how good we can be or how much progress we make. The answer to why we should grow is about God himself; about his nature and his character. This can’t be yet one more sermon, in a seemingly endless line of them in our Christian culture these days, that is merely a moralistic admonition or ethical pep talk. The answer to “why grow” is a deeply theological one.

Here goes. God is alone worthy of our praise and worship. As the sovereign Lord of glory, he is Lord of our life, our world, our universe. Our transformation into the likeness of Jesus glorifies God.  That’s why we are to grow. It pleases our creator. My growth glorifies Him.

You see, it does not matter enough to ME to grow in Christ. I am lazy, willful, and prone to letting important spiritual matters slide by me in the rush of the urgent. But my growth DOES matters to God. And because I love him, honor him, obey him, I live to please him and enjoy him.  That is the only motivation strong enough to make me seek maturity.

God is glorified when we, his people, grow to resemble his Son.

So what does this mean for us?  

What is it that God is looking for in your life and my life?  I am reminded of what Paul writes in his letter to Ephesus:

“[God desires] that the body of Christ may be built up until we all ... become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching ... Instead, ... we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Eph 4:12-15)
What is the growth that God is looking for?  

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son . . .” (Rom 8:29)   

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory ...”  (2 Cor 3:18)

God's goal is that we become transformed into Jesus’ likeness, attaining His fullness.  Why?   Because God is glorified when we grow to resemble his Son.

So no more swearing at other drivers in rage.  NO WAIT! Let’s not trivialize this by being so shallow minded. Let’s think of what is most important to God as he has taught us in the scriptures and grow to make these the priorites of our spiritual life:

Help alleviate suffering in others.
Do something to help serve and lift up the poor and marginalized of our world.
Seek justice! No more tolerating public officials who are corrupt, or who oppress the powerless.
Seek reconciliation. No more broken relationships due to your own pride or stubbornness
Seek responsible stewardship. No more worshipping our toys, our money, our looks, our power. No more aggrandizing ourselves at the expense of others in the world who make our living-large possible.
Choosing freedom! No more choosing prisons of addiction or compulsions, or sexual irresponsibility, or out of control anger or lying, or stealing, or gossip.   

Wow. From this angle (God’s perspective), growth looks pretty good! Solid food is sounding really nutritious.

So seek the solid food!  And by your growth you, instead of being a baby on formula forever, will by growth and maturity become an example and coach to others on the Jesus road.

Years ago, Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, saw a sign by the road and said she wouldn’t mind its words being on her headstone: "End of Construction - Thank you for your patience."

There’s some wisdom there, I think.

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Here is the Drama skit about maturing in prayer, performed in the Sunday, April 10 Service by our Drama Troupe:

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