Summary: One of the most dangerous places to find yourself as a Christian is thinking you are more mature than you really are. This was one of the main reasons the Corinthian church had so many problems and may be a reason you are not moving forward in your walk.
I have a granddaughter, little Maya. She is our first grandchild and, of course, she is the cutest baby on planet earth. Up until now Maya has only known her mama's milk as her food. She is just starting to eat puréed foods like bananas and the like. We saw the cutest video of her and she actually managed to get about 10% of the food into her mouth. The rest, of course, ended up on her face and hands. But as I was thinking about today's lesson in 1st Corinthians I was picturing her mom preparing her first meal of solid food-a nice thick juicy rib eye steak straight and hot from the barbeque. Hand her a steak knife and a bottle of A1® and she's all set, right?
No one would do that, of course. Maya wouldn't know how to cut the meat and would immediately choke even if she managed to get a bite into her mouth. Her teeth and her ability to masticate food is just not mature enough, nor her digestive system ready to receive this type of nutrients in this form. She'll get there, but not yet.
When it comes to being a disciple of Jesus Christ, Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3 that "you must be born again." This isn't reentering your mother's womb, but being born of water and then of Spirit-a re-birth as your sins are washed away and God takes away the heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh. (2 Cor 5:17-18 ) Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.
Typical of human flesh, we like to think that we come out of the spiritual womb as full, complete, and mature little Christs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as children need to mature, so do Christians. Human children are among the most helpless creatures on the planet. They rely on others to nearly everything for them. They come with four instincts: how to nurse, how to sleep, how to cry, and how to poop. Everything else comes with time, interaction, and training by their parents.
Trying to act more mature than you are is a recipe for trouble-and that's just the problem Paul faced with the Corinthians. So let's look at just four verses today. Let's read through them then come back and unpack this a little to see what it means to us. How do you recognize baby-behavior and how do you mature as a believer?
1 - 2
The Corinthians probably thought they were mature Christians. Most of us do. We've accepted Christ and attended church and heard people preach about the Word so we pretty much know everything there is to know. That's a mistake. What happens is that your mind fills in the blanks with the default programming known as "the flesh." The flesh is basically the pattern of attitude, thought, and behavior that was impressed upon us by the culture.
The work of the Spirit is a transformative process where our thoughts, intentions, and then actions begin to take on the character of Jesus rather than the character of the world. But if we are either unaware of that character or unwilling to cede ourselves to God's Spirit, we will not mature and remain fleshly-or "babies" as Paul says.
What is a Christian baby?
Hebrews 5:11-14 We have a great deal to say about this, and it's difficult to explain, since you have become slow to understand. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God's revelation. You need milk, not solid food. 13 Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature-for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil. (HCSB)
A baby is characterized by the inability to go beyond the basics-or even understand the basics of a relationship with the Lord.
In Hebrews 6 , the author goes on to describe what those basics are:
Hebrews 6:1-3 Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, 2 teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And we will do this if God permits. (HCSB)
Essentially the writer of Hebrews is saying that there comes a time to move beyond comparing the relative merits of the Jewish Old Testament system and Jesus Christ. Like them, we have a beginning point-where we must deal with our sin and God's provision for that sin in Jesus Christ. Beyond that comes the huge transformative work of the Spirit where we become sanctified-think, speak, and act like Jesus.