Thursday, 15 January 2015

Still on baby food?

I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly - mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready... 1 Corinthians 3:1-2

It was my turn to host the ministers’ fellowship - there were about ten of us who used to meet regularly to talk, pray and enjoy a bit of banter. We had finished the formal part of the meeting and it was time to put the kettle on. I rummaged about in the kitchen to see if we had any biscuits to give my guests. Ah, yes! I had never seen these particular biscuits before, so I assumed my wife had found something new in the supermarket. Anyway, very nice they were, and we managed to chomp our way cheerfully through the lot.

It was a couple of hours later when I heard my wife’s anguished voice from the kitchen: “What’s happened to all the baby’s rusks!”


I’m afraid that the Sedgwick marriage underwent a brief period of strain...

Adults should eat adult food, not baby food. 

In the scenario Paul is outlining here he obviously feels this isn’t happening in the Corinth church - and he doesn’t see any funny side to it: “My dear friends in Corinth - yes, I fed you pure spiritual milk when you first came to Christ, and that was fine. But I don’t expect to have to go on doing so now! What’s wrong with you?” He is disappointed and frustrated.

God doesn’t expect ordinary church members to be theological experts. Not at all. But he does expect us all to grow and mature in our understanding of our faith. So the question is: Is our faith deeper, richer, more knowledgeable, more solid and developed than it was, say, a year ago? Or are we still in our spiritual nappies?

If you go to Hebrews 5:11-13 you find that the writer there has an identical complaint: “... by this time you ought to be teachers!” he says. That's quite a challenge.

How competent are you when it comes to explaining your faith to someone who knows nothing much about it? Shame on you if you take refuge in that old cop-out, “I think you’d better have a word with the minister”! 

This hurting world desperately needs confident, mature, balanced Christian people who are able to represent Jesus in their day-to-day situations. How about that as an ambition to set yourself?

The problem, of course, is time. “I just haven’t got the time to do any kind of serious study,” we say, and so we make do with a few hurried moments and a few hurried verses. To which there is only one answer: don’t find time, make time. I imagine all of us manage to make time for the things we enjoy doing, whether it’s a favourite television programme, a hobby which interests us, or just making ourselves look the way we like in front of the mirror.

So the next question is: Do the things of God matter enough to me for me give them the time they need? (And if, in honesty, they don’t, should I be taking a hard look at myself?)

Don’t get me wrong. Yes, time is an issue in our busy world, and God knows that endless hours just aren’t available. But it’s amazing what can be accomplished in, say, just a focussed half-hour each day. (Not to mention, of course, a firm commitment to a regular house-group or Bible-study meeting: this is absolutely vital.)

Here’s a practical suggestion. As well as that special daily time, how about making a slightly longer time once or twice a week? And why not use that longer time to turn yourself into a mini-authority on just one Bible theme or book? A short book like Philippians or Amos might be a good place to start, or a theme like the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. 

Read it in depth, underlining, scribbling in the margin or making notes as you go. Use a couple of practical commentaries. Take time to digest and absorb - to think not just what the passage means, but how to apply it to your own situation. This is something that can’t be hurried, but little by little it will bear fruit.

Over the years I’ve paid a couple of visits to friends in Texas, where the steaks are simply “something else”, as the Americans say: tender and unbelievably succulent. I can only think what I would be missing if I were still on milk (not to mention rusks). I’m so glad I’m not!

What’s your spiritual diet like today..?

Lord God, give me a real desire to go deeper day by day into the things of Christ, so that I am equipped to teach and guide others and to witness convincingly for him in the non-Christian world. Amen.

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