It’s Time to Grow UpApril 16, 2012 at 10:55 am | Posted in Bible Studies, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
Tags: 1 Corinthians 3, 1 Peter 2, baby Christians, carnal Christians, Christian maturity, Hebrews 5, Matthew 4, Psalm 119, spiritual maturity
During the months leading up to the birth of our first daughter, my wife and I had many long discussions about all the plans and goals we had for her life. We talked about education, development, character, spirituality, even sports. I wanted to be the best dad in the world. However, that first night home from the hospital was an eye-opener. All the visitors and well-wishers had left, we were exhausted (and when I say “we” I really mean my wife was exhausted), and we were ready for our first peaceful night as parents. Our daughter had different plans though. She didn’t want to nurse, she didn’t want to take a bottle, and she didn’t want a pacifier. Most of all she did not want to sleep. What she wanted to do apparently was cry all night (and when I say “cry” I mean scream at the top of her brand new lungs). To say that my wife and I were freaked out is putting it mildly. I tried to remain calm for her sake, but the truth is I spent most of the night pacing, praying, holding the baby, trying to sing soothing lullabies through gritted teeth, and (even though I’m embarrassed to admit it) even crying a little myself. I also drastically altered my main goal as a parent that night. My main goal no longer had to do with making sure I had a daughter who would graduate from college or excel at sports or have tons of friends. My new main goal changed to just making sure she stayed alive.
About 7 1/2 months later I considered myself successful. She was still alive – and it was easy to prove because she still cried almost all night every night – and throughout most of the day unless she was being intensely entertained and stimulated. Then she started walking, and I changed my main goal as a parent again. This time my new main goal was to keep her from busting her head open. That goal lasted until she was 18 months old, at which point she took a head first dive from her stroller onto a concrete sidewalk and busted her head open. Thankfully, God protected her and she survived with a few stitches and a very small scar. My friend, Pastor John Wilkerson, once told me that it’s far easier to have a baby than to raise a child. He was talking about the challenge of evangelizing the lost and then discipling new believers, but the thought really resonated with me.
Eventually most parents realize that one of their main goals is to help their children become “mature.” When the Lord used the Apostle Paul to found the church at Corinth, the new Christians there were like spiritual babies. They had been “born again” by trusting Christ, but they were not yet mature. They were what are sometimes called “carnal Christians.”
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
I Corinthians 3:1
Physical size is often an indicator of maturity in the natural sense. We can tell a baby from a grown-up partly because of how big he is. But that doesn’t work in the spiritual sense. A person can become a Christian as a young child or as a full-grown adult. However, there are other ways of distinguishing children from adults that do apply to Christian maturity.
New-born babies have a very limited diet: milk or baby formula – that’s about it. Grown-ups can eat “meatier” food. The spiritual version of food is the Word of God – the Holy Scriptures. Several kinds of food are used to illustrate the Word of God.
How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
I Peter 2:2
The Word of God nourishes Christians, and helps us grow, and we should be getting more mature in our understanding of the Word. We should not only be reading the Word, but heeding the Word.
I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
I Corinthians 3:2
INTERACTION WITH OTHERS
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
I Corinthians 3:3
These kinds of statements are to be somewhat expected from immature children:
-“Would you stop touching me!”
-“She stuck her tongue out at me!”
But these kinds of statements are pathetic and unacceptable coming from grown-up Christian believers:
-“Somebody sat in my pew!”
-“The preacher had better not be too busy to call me back or I’ll find another church!”
Immature children frequently fuss and fight (what I Corinthians 3:3 calls “strife”).
This is what you expect to hear from little kids:
-“I had it first!”
-“Sally got a cookie and I didn’t – that’s not fair!”
This is what we should not expect to hear from mature Christians:
-“I would tithe, too, if I had a good job like him!”
-“It’s easy for her to have faith – she’s never been through what I’m going through!”
Children tend to think they should have whatever the other children have (what I Corinthians 3:3 calls “envying”).
We might think it’s somewhat cute to hear little kids saying:
-“I’m not going to be your best friend any more, I’m going to be Suzy’s best friend!”
-“Don’t let Jimmy join our club!”
But it’s not so cute to hear grown-ups saying:
-“We can’t invite Billy Bob to the retreat – he’s difficult to deal with.”
-“Oh sure, if I had a fancy car like so-and-so, maybe the preacher would like me, too.”
Children like to exclude some and include others as a way of being mean (what I Corinthians 3:3 calls “divisions”). Two signs of maturity are what we eat, and how we act. Another sign of maturity is who we follow. Children tend to have “heroes.”
For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
I Corinthians 3:4
The baby Christians in Corinth were identifying themselves with Paul or Apollos or Peter or other church leaders, and they were making a sinful issue out of it.
Little boys brag: “My dad can beat up your dad.” But Christian men should not be dividing over which famous evangelist or TV preacher they follow. Mature believers look to Christ as our role model.
I Corinthians was written to church members who weren’t getting along. They were acting like little babies when, time-wise, they should have been growing up. These were people involved in ministry. They had talents and spiritual gifts, but they were ignoring the reason for these gifts. God gives us spiritual gifts to bring lost folks into the Kingdom, to do the work of bringing people to Jesus, to make disciples, to help others grow up, to build up the saints. Many times, though, like little bratty children, we’re misusing the gifts and talents which our loving God gave us. We’re playing with them. Or we’re fighting with them or over them. Or we’re bragging about them, and trying to show off, as if we earned them, or did anything to get them for ourselves.
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
I Corinthians 3:9
The spiritual gifts and talents given to us by God are not weapons to fight with. They are not toys to play with. They are not trophies to brag about. They are tools, and we ought to be using them, as humble workers, to build with.