The But Chapter: Immaturity and Independence

November 9, 2018 at 1:10 pm | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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In the last lesson we looked at Luke Chapter 9 and considered the “buts” of incomprehension, indecision, and ignorance. Now we will see:

4. The But of Immaturity

But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying. Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.

Luke 9:46

Rather than marveling at the greatness of their Master’s mission, the Disciples were asking what a distressing number of us often find ourselves asking: What’s in it for me? Instead of looking back at what God has done, and looking forward to what He will do, or looking up to Him, we’re looking around – and not to find a need to serve – but to compare ourselves to those around us. “Why can’t I have what he has?” “How do I measure up to her?” “I attend Sunday School AND I have family devotions – the Lord MUST like me more than so-and-so…”

Jesus responded by calling a child into their midst.

And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him,

Luke 9:47

Notice that the children were right there with the grown-ups when Jesus was teaching. He didn’t have to send someone to fetch a child from children’s church. The point of summoning this child was not to illustrate CHILDISHNESS. That was the Disciples’ problem: they wanted to follow Jesus, BUT they were exhibiting the “But of Immaturity.” “I’m greater than you.” “No, Jesus likes me more than you.” The child that Jesus took from the crowd wasn’t CHILDISH – He was CHILD-LIKE.

And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.

Luke 9:48

This child was child-like in the sense of being un-self-conscious. One of the paradoxes of the Kingdom of Christ is that child-likeness is a sign of maturity – because it seeks to please others, not self. Childishness is a sign of immaturity because it looks out for number one.

5. The But of Independence

And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

Luke 9:57

Note the play on the word “certain.” Here it means that a particular man is being referenced, but we also use the word “certain” to describe someone who is absolutely sure about something. This man was certainly gung ho about following Jesus. He didn’t just say, “I’ll go where You go.” He said “WHITHERSOEVER thou goest.” That’s the kind of followers Jesus wants, right? Hold on a second.

And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Luke 9:58

Just did not respond with, “Ha! I gotcha now – you made a commitment and that’s all we’re looking for. You’re on the right team now – just do what you can. Serve when you feel like it, and get your bucket ready. My Father’s going to pour out blessings so that you won’t be able to receive them all.” No, instead, Jesus told Him to count the cost – to make a sober assessment of his commitment to follow Christ. Following Jesus means following in discomfort as well as comfort. Jesus never preached a gimmicky gospel. He would have never raised enough funds to keep His TBN show on the air. He never promised a bed of roses as much as a crown of thorns.

And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

Luke 9:59 (emphasis added)

Notice the command: “Follow Me.” This man wanted to go, but he still wanted some independence. He wanted to go in HIS time.

Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:60

Christians preach to dead people – spiritually dead, not physically dead, people.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

Ephesians 2:1-5

Christians are not “independent.” We were and are completely dependent upon God for everything good we’ve ever known.

And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.

Luke 9:61 (emphasis added)

The But of Independence puts conditions on our service to Christ. We think that we will decide what’s important for ourselves, then serve within that framework, but Jesus says:

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:62

The Lord can’t use you if you’re always looking back at your “but.” Jesus sets the priorities and the agenda. We depend upon Him to let us know where to work, what to wear, what our schedule is, who our friends are. You can’t play follow the leader if you’re looking back, and you can’t keep up if your “but” is too big.

Knowers, Growers, and Showers

November 14, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Biblical farming, I Corinthians | 15 Comments
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The Knows sometimes behave like Know-Nots. This was another one of the chief problems in the church of Corinth. In I Corinthians Chapter 2 Paul had defended his method of preaching and the message he preached. In Chapter 3 he once again takes up the problem of factions and fighting among the church members. He ties the ideas together by addressing the accusation that his message (the Gospel) and his method (simple preaching) were too simple.

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

Paul said that he had spoken to them very simply with a very elementary version of the message because they were obviously babies. You may have heard the term “carnal Christians” or maybe not. It was very much in vogue for a while, but in more recent times it has come under attack. On one side are those who say every professing Christian who lives carnally must still be considered a true Christian because of his profession. On the other side are those who say that the profession of those who live carnally must be false. I Corinthians Chapter 3 has nothing kind to say about carnal Christians, but it certainly proves that there is such a thing (“brethren” who are “carnal”).

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

Milk is good for babies, but, whether good or not, it is necessary because it is all babies can handle. Basic Christian doctrine can be both milk (for baby Christians) and meat (for mature Christians), but there is also a sense in which it can be seen as needing to be controlled by the givers of the milk rather than offered freely and received according to maturity level by the receivers of milk. The Roman Catholic church grew apostate partly over this doctrine, known as the Disciplina Arcani, the doctrine of the “hidden essence.” Lay people shouldn’t be trusted, they say, with the unadulterated Word of God. God says otherwise.

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

Verse 3 sounds as if was written as a scolding – albeit a scolding-in-love. “Divisions” especially speaks of a spirit of “side-choosing” – factions or “parties.” Such divisions are not only troublesome among the church, and not only irritating and time-consuming for the leadership and those caught in the middle, but they ruin the testimony of the Church of Christ. Why would an outsider seeking an earthly representation of the Kingdom of Christ want to join your local church assembly if the members “walked like men,” meaning they lived just like every other worldly, non-Christian person? The distinction here is not a literal distinction between immature children and mature adults, but between regenerated spiritual believers who should be united around sound doctrine, and ungodly pagans who squabble childishly over personal recognition and preferences.

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I [am] of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

I Corinthians 3:4

Can you hear the sing-song connotation of childishness in Verse 4 as each petty party-member calls out his or her favorite church leader by name? Paul tries to put a stop to it in Verse 5.

Who then is Paul, and who [is] Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

I Corinthians 3:5

Paul, who, among all his virtues, really stands out for his humility, is not being falsely modest when he denigrates his own personality as being completely unworthy of any party allegiance, and he illustrates this with a familiar Bible example: a vineyard or a farmer’s field.

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

I Corinthians 3:6-7

Planting and watering are menial tasks compared with the power of God, Who actually gives the increase. Charles Hodge, in his commentary on I Corinthians, wrote that the Holy Spirit’s point here is, “Ministers are nothing.”

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

I Corinthians 3:8

Not only is the work of Christian ministers remedial and replaceable from God’s perspective, but their personalities are in a sense consumed corporately into the same goal: the fulfillment of the Owner’s plans and desires.

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, [ye are] God’s building.

I Corinthians 3:9

We are both the tools and the building. We are what God uses, and we are supposed to be the habitation in which He is pleased to dwell and show His glory. Remember, the Knows have only received their “know-how” purely as a gift.

Growth requires different types of workers (diversity), but diversity requires unity (working toward the same goal). Unity requires humility.

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

I Corinthians 3:10

We can be “wise masterbuilders,” but we must build on the foundation already laid, and we have to “take heed” to be careful how we build. We can put our “wisdom” to use in building relationships or even just gaining an audience, but we can’t deviate from the foundation of Christ or the foundation of His Person and work in the Gospel any more than a door framer can frame the door 30 feet from the slab, or than the cabinetry workers can build cabinets in mid-air above the slab.

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

I Corinthians 3:11

The foundations of the Know-Nots are false foundations, and they will be tested.

The beauty of God’s building is a byproduct of its strength. Its foundation is Christ and the Truth about Himself. This is the “rock” upon which He builds His church.

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 6:13-17

The building must have the right foundation, and only the right doctrine (precious jewels and materials) must be used to build it.

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

I Corinthians 3:12

Gold, silver, and precious stones like granite and marble were used in temples, but wood for the doors and posts, hay for the walls, and stubble or straw for the roof were used in common houses.

Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

I Corinthians 3:13

The day of the Lord will be revealed by Jesus appearing in fire. It will be a time of harsh testing, and then the wood, hay, and stubble will burn, and the gold and silver and precious stones will be purified. False teaching will be revealed. False doctrine will be exposed. There will be no disputing or confusion in that day of fiery judgment.

 

REVIEW

I. Knowers (I Corinthians 3:1-4)

A. New believers feed on Bible facts.

B. Mature believers feed on Bible doctrine.

II. Growers (I Corinthians 3:5-9)

A. Growth requires diversity.

B. Diversity requires unity.

C. Unity requires humility.

III. Showers (I Corinthians 3:10-13)

A. The beauty of God’s building is a by-product of its strength.

B. It must have the right foundation, and it must be built with the right materials.

C. False teaching will be revealed and false doctrine will be exposed in a future judgment.

When the Foundation Ceases to be Cute

October 20, 2015 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 3 Comments
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Most people, for the most part, claim to love babies. For some people, this is a basic emotional response. My wife and daughters, upon seeing a baby, will often say, “That baby is SOOOOOOOOO cute!” When I hear this, I take a look and see that the baby in question has one ear that is bigger than the other. He is screaming like a banshee. His diaper is leaking down one leg and onto his pacifier. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful he’s healthy and full of life and he’s a wonderful little fellow, God’s creation, created in God’s own image. But is he cute? My wife certainly thinks so, and when I ask her why, she says, “But he’s so little.” Apparently, for most women and girls, little things = cute – except for when it’s a “giant” spider.

Babies are generally considered adorable, even when their behavior is somewhat annoying or inconvenient. Babies wearing diapers are cute, but an eight year old wearing a diaper – not so much. Babies sitting in high chairs are cute, but finding a high school student sitting in a high chair would not be so cute. Similarly, a 47 year old living with his mother who can’t balance a checkbook, doesn’t know how to go grocery shopping, and sometimes calls late at night to say, “Mom, come bail me out of jail,” has zero cute factor.

The same principle applies to our spiritual lives.

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

Hebrews 6:1-2

New believers are still cute when they are still questioning some of the fundamentals of Christianity: how we were saved, why we’re supposed to be baptized, etc. When I coached tee-ball, we started with the fundamentals. It’s sort of cute when a four year old hits the ball and takes off running for third. It’s not cute at all when a when a ten year old does it.

Hebrews Chapter 6 starts off with six things you need to get straight, as a Christian, so you can start moving toward maturity:

1. Repentance
2. Faith
(Both of these deal with our relationship to God.)
3. Baptism
4. Laying on of hands (This deals with our relationship to each other.)
5. The resurrection of the dead
6. The final judgment (This deals with our relationship to the future.)

It’s Time to Grow Up

April 16, 2012 at 10:55 am | Posted in Bible Studies, I Corinthians | 18 Comments
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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.

DIET

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.

Honey:

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

Bread:

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.

Matthew 4:4

Meat:

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.

Hebrews 5:13-14

Milk:

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.

https://i0.wp.com/cache2.artprintimages.com/p/LRG/26/2679/7MZUD00Z/art-print/little-kids-sword-fighting-at-sunset.jpg

The Hard Work of Encouragement

May 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Biblical farming, Hebrews | 9 Comments
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Hebrews Chapter 6 is a good reminder to Christians to “grow up.” It’s natural to start off life as a child, and it’s natural for new believers to start off their Christian life as spiritual children. But there should come a point in time when every believer begins to mature. And, even beyond that, there should come a time when mature believers are actually aiding immature believers in the growth process.

Proper growth comes about from:

1. Feeding (on the Word of God)
2. Exercise (getting involved in Christian ministry or service)
3. Instruction (heeding warnings to stay away from what is dangerous)

I believe God is pleased when we show love and encouragement to new believers. First of all, it is the right thing to do. Second, it stimulates growth.

In order to encourage others to grow, we need to make sure we’re growing ourselves.

Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

Romans 2:21

If the people you are ministering to start to outgrow you spiritually, that is not the ideal situation. One solution for this is staying grounded in the Word of God. When you encourage someone, encourage them from the Word. Experiences can be good, but the standard by which we judge our experiences is the Bible. Study your Bible.

When you minister to immature believers it is also important to find out where their interests lie. If possible, find out what’s going on at their homes. This is especially true with children.

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right. The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.

Proverbs 20:11-12

God gave us eyes and ears not just to entertain ourselves, but so we can observe who needs to be encouraged, and then do it.

I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;

Proverbs 24:30

The “slothful” is like a farmer who is too lazy to work the field God has given him. He is purposely ignorant, willfully ignoring the vineyard.

And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.

Proverbs 24:31

The vines are not growing like they are supposed to because of all the useless weeds that have come up and stolen the nutrients that should be causing good fruit to grow. The wall around the vineyard is no longer in a condition to stop wild animals or vandals from coming in and destroying the crop.

Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

Proverbs 24:32-33

The farmer says that he will get around to it after he’s a little more rested – after his schedule clears up.

So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.

Proverbs 24:34

The lazy farmer will be robbed of his opportunity.

If you have been a Christian for a while, God has put you in a position to encourage someone. You have an opportunity to build someone up – to keep the fences of protection mended, to stimulate growth in someone, to feed someone, to pull out the weeds and thorns, to get in on the job of raising up mature Christians.

We’re not going to be able to do that if we don’t encourage them. And we won’t be able to do it by just checking in with them for one hour on Sundays. We’re going to have to call, to send cards, to invite them to activities, to visit them when they’re sick. Immature Christians tend to, for good or ill, base what they think about the Lord on what they think about other Christians. If I’m always late for church, I’m sending a message to someone that church is just not all that important to me. If I don’t know some basic truths from the Bible, I’m sending a message that preparing to live out God’s Word is not that important to me. If I only speak to my Christian friends on Sunday morning at church, I’m sending the message that I am only pretending to care about them.

Let’s strive to encourage other Christians, especially new ones.


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