There’s a Stirring # 7
If you give a baby Gerber’s baby food, that is cute. If you had to give me Gerber’s, that would be a tragedy. Something catastrophic would have occurred.
If you are a new Christian, you need to be on Gerber’s spiritual baby food. If you have been in Christ for a while and still need Gerber’s, something is wrong.
We have too many Christians in pews today who are still feeding on Gerber’s baby food. This is not good.
First, let’s build a bridge back to something we talked about two weeks ago. If you remember, the Preacher channeled Jesus and said, to paraphrase, “If you are going to fear somebody, fear God.”
So how did he apply this? He applied it by going to the heart of the matter; whose opinion did those early Christians value?
Why is it we Americans typically don't care what people in New Guinea think about us? Are they any less human?
Why is it that we Texas Rangers fans do not care what St. Louis Cardinals’ fans think about us? Are they any less human?
In both cases, we understand that the citizens of New Guinea and citizens of St. Louis are human. However, we assign credibility to people. The higher the credibility, the more we care about their opinions.
If I like you, if I fear you, or if I respect you, if I know you, or if I want to know you, chances are I want you to have a high opinion of me; I certainly have a high opinion of you. I want to know what you think, how you dress, what movies you like, and more. Your opinion matters.
That is another way of saying that your word matters. Back then, the Christians in Hebrews were concerned about the word of various people or groups. They were not concerned enough about the word of God.
They got that wrong. Here is how he phrased it, 12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12–13.)
Don't worry about Shriners’ word (or anyone else’s), he would tell us today, let’s concern ourselves with God’s Word.
The Christians in Hebrews were not doing that; they were too busy listening to the word of somebody they respected, feared, or revered more than God.
After attempting to explain the greatness of Jesus, the preacher writes, 5:11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 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! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
6: 1 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, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.
In 5:11, “slow to learn” literally means lazy. This is interesting. Laziness is certainly talked about the Bible. Ever heard the seven deadly sins?
Back in the dark ages, monks compiled the list of sins they considered particularly deadly to one’s spiritual health. On that list were sins such as pride, envy, gluttony, and laziness.
I am certainly not a big fan of laziness. None of us are. This preacher is not a fan of spiritual laziness. And so that's what this passage is about. He is attacking the problem of spiritual laziness.
The word he uses for the term we translate “slow to learn,” is the same word he will use in chapter six verse eleven, which many translations term “laziness.”
The Preacher is attacking the problem of spiritual laziness. These Christians are drifting away and they have become spiritually lazy. He attacks that problem.
That got me thinking, what are signs of spiritual laziness today? If you made a list of the symptoms of spiritual laziness, what would you put on it? I've got some for you:
What about not spending time reading or studying the Bible?
What is the difference between a pagan who lives a moral life and does not spend time growing closer to Jesus and a Christian who behaves well but does not spend time growing closer to Jesus?
What about coming to worship or Bible class without a Bible?
It seems to me pretty obvious: for one to study the Bible one needs the Bible. (I personally consider a cell phone that has the Bible translations to be a Bible. I am referring to function, not appearance.)
What about listening to a sermon or Bible class without ever opening up a Bible?
Is this not the spectator mentality?
What about limiting the Bible we study?
I am blessed at my church to be able to preach out of any book of the Bible. If it is located in the Bible, it is fair game. Do you realize how many preachers cannot do what I do? They cannot preach out of the Bible.
And what about Bible classes? Isn’t it an irony that some churches frown upon studying the Bible in Bible classes?
I am attempting to say this in love. These Christians in Hebrews were losing their faith; if you don’t have your faith, what do you have? Therefore, the Preacher addresses their laziness when it comes to interfacing with the word of God.
Their spiritual laziness was caused by a lack of respect for God and for his Word. They are not growing in Christ because they don’t care what God says.
Let me offer you one final translation of Heb. 5:11. It is from the God’s Word Translation, and I like it a lot: We have a lot to explain about this. But since you have become too lazy to pay attention, explaining it to you is hard. [GW]
This preacher of Hebrews has a two-pronged solution to spiritual laziness:
1. He chews them out for what they are doing wrong.
2. He challenges them to do right.
Christianity, from the beginning, has been a religion that has been taught. We Grow in God’s Word to Grow in God.
To put it another way, let’s devote ourselves to seek God’s approval and God’s values, and let’s allow our spiritual family (the church) to affirm us.
There is a lot to faith and to being formed into the image of Christ. Last year in Revelation, our church talked about worship. Growing in Christ is not just memorizing facts about Him. It is worshipping Him. It is communing with Him. It is praying to the Father through Him. It is putting into practice what we read about Him. But somebody’s word is going to be heard, respected and obeyed. And it had better be God’s.
WITH THAT RESPECT IN MIND, we go to scripture—all of it—and we dig in. We hear, and we obey. And that leads to growing up.
This preacher says in Hebrews, “If you respected God and fed on His Word, you would be at a different place now.”
Make no mistake—this preacher goes on the attack. So let's pause here. He is telling them, “I want to go deep with you, but you are spiritually lazy.”
What do you think he is going to do at that point? What would some churches today do at this point if they had his problem? What would some preachers do today?
Well, I can tell you, at some churches they have had this problem. And I have had a chance to assess through the years the manner in which these churches have dealt with this challenge.
Some churches say, “Let's take Christians who have been in Christ for ten, twenty, thirty years, and let's continue to give them Gerber baby food. We will make our Sunday assembly a therapy session. We will have a Christianized version of social psychology. Anything that is of depth biblically, we will chew it up for them and then pass it along like Mama birds feeding their babies.”
They will tell their preachers to quit preaching 30 minutes, and get them to preach only 20 minutes-max. (The exception is those churches in the evangelical world, who expect their preachers to preach 45 minutes–or even more!) Basically what leadership is saying is, “Let's give sermonettes for Christianetts.”
Some churches say, “Let's find out what the secular people of our community are thinking, and let's organize our entire worship service around the data that we find.” So every song has the non-Christian in mind, every prayer has the non-Christian in mind, every sermon has the non-Christian in mind, and the entire assembly, which in the New Testament was for the Christians, is built for the non-Christians.
Now, I am not against our recognition of the non-Christian. Paul said as much in first Corinthians chapter fourteen. Nor am I opposed to an occasional sermon series with the young Christian in mind. Yet, it is critical to recognize that this writer, after lamenting how these Christians had been drinking spiritual milk, proceeds to give them spiritual meat. We cannot neglect the periodic need to offer meat to our assemblies.
Consequently, let me address one more trend in modern Christian worship–the pep rally. A lot of churches today organize their assemblies as spiritual pep rallies.
I don't want to diminish the role of emotion in the Christian assembly. Indeed, in many cases, I am sure there is not enough allowance for emotion. That should be addressed in an appropriate text. Here, the message is: never forget the role of substance.
Think of athletic teams. Is emotion important? Definitely. Do teams have pep rallies? Yes, mainly in high school and college. However, assess the amount of time these teams spend in intense workouts and in mental study. The comparison between the pep rallies and the intense work reveals a heavy emphasis on the commitment and the mental aspect of these athletic pursuits.
At the professional level, the amount of work is heavily skewed toward the mental side. Much less is done with the emotional facets, or with the physical aspects either.
In the church, balance is important. And in this passage, the preacher emphasizes the importance of the commitment of the will and mind in the pursuit of what God is trying to teach his people.
We love God with all our heart, strength, soul, and mind. We grow in Christ. We grow up in Christ.
My last day of my first semester of college, I was eating lunch with a fellow counselor from Camp Deer Run, and she introduced me to a girl from another state. We hit it off great.
My counselor friend left and this girl and I talked, and we talked for three or four hours. We had a connection there. It went on into the next semester.
I, however, had this unspoken uncertainty, and she did too. We were from different states and different cultures, so we had some hesitation on both of our parts to going farther.
I went home during spring break and was talking about this with a mentor. He advised me, “Mark, relationships grow, and relationships die, but relationships never stay the same. I never forgot that.
Apparently she didn’t either, because when I got back from Spring Break, I found out she was engaged, to a guy she had gotten to know on a Spring Break Campaign.
Okay, that is an extreme, but the principle holds true: relationships grow stronger or weaker, but they do not remain the same. This principle applies to our relationship with Jesus—and to out Heavenly Father.
Either, I am growing closer in my relationship to God, or I am distancing myself. Our relationship is not remaining the same.
You and I can choose to grow closer to God. We can cultivate habits that will lead to this. One place to begin is by diving into the word of God.