Summary: This sermon addresses the single most powerful catalyst for individual spiritual growth: Scripture reading
In his book, “Holy Sweat” Tim Hansell writes of a close friend who attended his 40 year high school reunion. For months he saved to take his wife back to the place and the people he’d grown up with. The closer the time came for the reunion, the more excited he became, thinking of all the wonderful stories he would hear about the changes and accomplishments these old friends would tell him. The night before he left, he pulled out his old yearbooks, read the silly statements and the good wishes for the future that students write to each other and wondered what ol’ Number 86 from his football team had done. He even tried to guess what some of his friends would look like, and what kind of jobs and families some of these special friends had. The day came to leave and Tim drove them to the airport. Their energy was almost contagious. “I’ll pick you up on Sunday evening, and you can tell me all about it. Have a great time.” When they returned, Tim watched them get off the plane and his friend seemed almost despondent. He almost didn’t want to ask, but finally he said, “Well, how was the reunion?” “Tim, it was one of the saddest experiences of my life.” “Good grief, what happened?” “It wasn’t what happened but what didn’t happen. It has been 40 years, 40 years!—and they haven’t changed. They had simply gained weight, changed clothes, gotten jobs…but they hadn’t really changed. And what I experienced was maybe one of the most tragic things I could ever imagine about life. For reasons I can’t fully understand, it seems as though some people chose not to change!”
That can happen to us too: relationally, emotionally and vocationally. But where it often happens is spiritually. Throughout my early appointments to churches I served, I used to ask people, “So how have you grown in your faith the past year?” The people would hem and haw and scratch their heads struggling for an answer and some sign or evidence of growth in their spiritually lives. It got so bad that I stopped asking the question. I think part of the issue is that it is so easy to put our lives and our spiritual journeys on cruise control. We get in the habit of attending church and a Bible study, giving a certain amount and even serving in one or more places in the life of the church but we never really take intentional next steps in our spiritual journey. And so in many respects, we just go through the motions, and even though they are good things, our faith can stall and we unknowingly stay the same people year after year. And yet, that is not what God wants for us. For Paul writes in 2 Cor. 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
This issue is not something new. 1 John 2:12-14 uses the analogy of the stages of human development for the three levels of faith.?The first level of development is as children. The Greek word he uses is literally translated “babies” meaning we begin as an infant in the faith. What is the first thing a child recognizes? His parents. A brand-new Christian realizes that he is a child of God. But just as toddlers try to mimic their parents, they try to mimic Jesus. Spiritual children know only the basics of the faith. The second level of development is a teenager. This level is strong in the Word of God and understands it but the challenge is in applying it and wrestling between what you want to do and what God wants you to do. The third level of spiritual development is as an adult. It’s one thing to know that you belong to the family of God and to know the word of God, but it’s another thing to know God intimately. Spiritual adults not only know the Bible, but they also deeply know the God who wrote it. Spiritual growth progresses from knowing you are a Christian to knowing about God and doing for God to knowing God personally and becoming like Him.
The writer of Hebrews speaks of our tendency to stall spiritually, “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 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! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature…”