Summary: We may test our spiritual maturity by assessing who Jesus is for us, whether we live with a sense of victory, and whose opinions matter to us.
During our stay in England, we visited my wife’s cousin and his wife, who have a nine-month-old baby son. One night they needed to go out for a while on an errand, so they asked us if we would take care of the baby for a couple of hours. Of course we were delighted with the chance to do so, since it has been quite a while since there was anybody that young in our household. But I did quip to little Joshua’s mother, "Now he does come with an instruction book, doesn’t he?" She replied something to the effect that she was sure we would remember what to do, and left, fully confident of our care-taking skills.
However, later that night this young man decided to demonstrate his heritage: you see, his father, his grandfather, and his great-uncle are all preachers. In the family tradition, he exercised his lungs with great abandon! As we struggled to quiet him, I remembered that, so far as instruction books were concerned, we hadn’t even read the ones we had more than twenty years ago! We, like everybody in the sixties, had a copy of Dr. Spock on our shelves; but I don’t remember reading it except to try to find out what colic sounds like and what you do about it. We had just plunged into parenting by instinct, ignoring all the sage advice that somebody had written down for us. We didn’t read the baby book until long after the babies had grown up.
In fact, I still have on my shelves several baby books I’ve been meaning to read. One of them is entitled, "Give Your Child a Superior Mind". It is supposed to teach you how to get that kid doing fractions before he even enters kindergarten. But it’s too late for that. If we had read it, maybe my daughter would not have despised calculus so much! I wonder if it could help me do fractions forty-eight years after kindergarten! But, as I said, we didn’t read the baby book until too late.
Another book I’ve been meaning to read is called, "Guiding Your Child Toward College". Too late on that one too, unless it has a chapter on how to pay the accumulated tuition debts. But, once again, we didn’t read the baby book until too late.
It strikes me that that’s what Christians do all the time. We don’t read Dr. God’s baby book until after a whole lot of mistakes have been made. We don’t read Dr. God’s baby book until after the trial-and-error methods have broken down. We don’t read Dr. God’s baby book until it’s just about too late.
This is what I am calling Dr. God’s baby book. This is the instruction manual on life. The Bible is many things, of course: it is history, it is poetry, it is love story, it is genealogy, it is military strategy, it is music. Supremely it is the record of a searching God whose love will not let us go. But it is something else too; the Bible is an instruction manual on living. The Bible is a prescription for healthy living and for positive relationships. Today, as we emphasize the Scriptures, we are focusing on something which can instruct us in how to live every day, something which can nurture us out of our immaturity, something which can provide us tremendous insight about nearly every facet of life. We shared this truth together a few moments ago when we read from II Timothy: "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." The Bible is an instruction book on living.
There’s just one thing wrong. Just one thing wrong; what is it?
We don’t read Dr. God’s baby book until it is just about too late. It’s all here; but we just go out on instinct.
I have planned a series of three messages out of Dr. God’s baby book: this Sunday and the next two Sundays trying to get at some very basic principles of spiritual health. To do this I will be using the little letter we call First John. The First Letter of John reads like a baby book in many ways. It has the simplest language in the entire Bible; when I was a seminary student trying to learn Greek they started us on the First Letter of John, because the vocabulary is so simple. Besides that, the First Letter of John reads like a baby book in that John keeps on addressing us as children. "My little children" he says; "I am writing to you, little children." John is aware more than any other New Testament writer how much we need the basics.
So I want to challenge you to read and study the First Letter of John with me during these three weeks. Wherever you are in your spiritual journey, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned veteran, go back and read Dr. God’s baby book during this time.