April 10, 2014.
This weekend we are going on spring retreat and out theme is “Christian Carnivores.” We are going to be talking about getting off the milk and transferring over to the meat of Christianity. This concept can be seen in different parts of the New Testament (and even in the Old Testament some), but perhaps one of the inspiring passages for this weekend comes from the Hebrew letter:
“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
I am very excited about this weekend as this is my forte. I love diving deeper into scripture, learning more and piecing more of the grand narrative together, showing the miracle of the bible. I love long, deep religious discussions that are thought provoking and go beyond the shallow worldview that it seems so many Christians linger in today. We will have three sessions, the first about why we should get off the milk and on to the meat, the second on how we can accomplish this and the third on the results of maturity in Christ. I will be tackling the third, so I thought I would give a preview of one of the points of my lesson.
Being mature in Christ in part means having a deeper understanding that produces a different view on life and the situations in which you are (yes, I rearranged this sentence so I wouldn’t end it on a preposition…). I have four situations that we should have a different out look on than the world and even than younger Christians (for the record, when I say “younger Christians,” I am not specifically referencing the number of years since someone has been baptized into Christ, but rather their actual spiritual maturity). My last point will be our follow through.
I have a friend who would tell me “You know, I’m not the best when it comes to biblical knowledge. I really need to work on that and study more. My prayer life is great, but I just need to get into the word more often.” I think this is great. It is important to recognize our downfalls so as to focus on them and work on them. As the old saying goes, the first step in overcoming something is admitting you have a problem. But here is where I think he went wrong. I would hear him tell me that over and over. Every time the subject would come up, that would be his response. After a while, I started to ask myself, “Well, when is he going to work on it?”
That’s the question. See, it is indeed good to recognize our faults, but if we don’t do anything about them, what does it profit us? Nothing. Paul writes to Timothy in the second letter we have:
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
(2 Timothy 2:15)
The King James Version says “study to show thyself approved.” I believe they both hold the same concept. Diligence implies effort. It is not a suggestion. If we just continually say, “Well, I need to study more,” and do not actually start to study more, then we are accomplishing nothing. I’m not saying that it will be a breeze and we will never stumble again. But I am saying that the effort must be made.
And this goes for everything else we say we need to do better or work on as well. We will never be perfect, but we should always be striving for perfection. To be imitators of Christ is to make an effort to model perfection, as Christ was perfect. I don’t know if all Christians have made this connection yet. We can no longer dwell in our sins, for if we do, we are not following Christ. We must put our heart and soul into everything we do. Listen to the words of Paul:
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
The view of many Americans, myself included at times, is that we just need to do enough to get by. I met the minimal requirements. I’m not going to do any more than I have to. That’s someone else’s job. I think the Christian worldview excludes these thoughts. We are taught a work ethic in the Bible that we don’t really like to carry out. We are not working for men, but for God.
The first and second chapters of the book of James deal with this concept of being hearers only versus being doers of the word. I will let you study that further in the suggested daily reading. When you do, see if you can answer the following questions (hint for those going on the retreat: you may see something like this again):
What is James saying? What is the context? Ephesians 2 and James 2 may be seen as conflicting ideas as Paul says we are not saved by works (v. 8-9) and James says we are saved by works and not faith alone (v. 24). Can these two passages be reconciled? Are they talking about the same types of works? What is the context of Ephesians 2? Who is correct? Paul? James? Or are they both correct?
Suggested Daily Reading: I Corinthians 2-3, Ephesians 2, Hebrews 5, James 2.
The Lord guide you into all wisdom.