Spiritual Babies

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Spiritual Babies

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

 

In my day job, I manage people. I am the General Manager of a retirement community, so we provide housing, transportation, housekeeping, and three meals a day for 115 to 120 residents who currently range in age from 57 to 102. Yes, my residents can be trying at times, but many of them suffer from various forms of dementia and can’t help the way they are. I understand this and see my job as being able to help these people enjoy the final days of their lives. I am honored to have the opportunity to care for them.

So, my problem isn’t with the residents as much as with my employees. I oversee 30 adults, and I use the term loosely, in various aspects of the community. It never ceases to amaze me how juvenile people can be. I recently had an employee sitting in my office crying because the Chef got upset with her. She even admitted that he didn’t raise his voice, but she said, “he made me feel uncomfortable.” You don’t know how hard it was not to tell her that life can be uncomfortable and that she needs to grow up and deal with it like the adult she claims to be, but I didn’t. I was caring and concerned and transferred her to a different job, so she won’t have to work with the Chef anymore.

Some people have to be treated like children, and sadly, our society is creating more and more of those people. This whole political correctness movement coddles people and makes it impossible to correct an employee that is doing wrong. They expect a trophy for participating and think they are doing you a favor by just showing up for work. The problem is, when you can’t correct people, they will never learn and consequently will never grow up.

Paul ran into this same problem with the church at Corinth. He told them at the beginning of chapter 3, 1Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready,for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?” 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.

You see, Paul wanted to teach them, to correct them, to see them filled with the Holy Spirit, and to live fruitful and productive lives for Christ. Like he told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” He wanted to talk to them like adults and use the scripture to shape the rest of their lives, but all he could do is give them a bottle and spoon feed them strained peas. Notice what he said in verse 1, “I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people.” The church at Corinth was not spiritually mature; they were spiritual babies. He said he had to feed them milk because they weren’t ready for anything stronger.

Look what Peter said in 1 Peter 2:1-3, 1So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment,now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” Peter is telling these believers scattered all over the east exactly what they need to do. He tells them to get rid of all evil behavior. Don’t be deceitful, don’t be hypocrites, don’t be jealous, and even to stop talking unkindly. Then he tells them to be babies…for a while. He says to crave the milk of the Spirit of God and to grow. Then they can fully experience God’s salvation. He even says to cry out for nourishment.

This is the problem with the church at Corinth. They didn’t CRAVE that spiritual milk. They didn’t CRY OUT for nourishment. They were satisfied with being spoon fed. They would get just enough to stay alive, but never enough to thrive, never enough to grow up.

There are so many people today that are just like that. They don’t want to do the work, so they sit in their pew and let the pastor spoon feed them, then complain if they aren’t “getting fed” at their church. They accept Christ as their savior; then they go about their lives as usual. The only difference is, now they give up an hour of their Sunday morning to go to a building, drop a few dollars into the offering plate, and listen to a man tell them what the Bible says. These people live the rest of their lives as babies. They never grow, they never mature, they stagnate, and sadly, this is the majority of believers today.

If you are one of these people, you need to recognize it and start doing something about it. Stop playing church and start craving that spiritual milk. Spend time with God every day. Read His word daily, all of it! Reading about 3 chapters a day will get you through the whole Bible in a year. Reading it for about an hour a day will get you through it in 3 months. But don’t stop there! Also, take time to study it in the context of the entire Bible. Look at the original language and definitions to the keywords. When you have questions, ask your pastor or another spiritually mature Christian, make them do some digging with you, it will help you both. I love it when people bring me questions about scripture; it makes me dig deeper. Then pray! Pray for your spiritual leaders, pray for your country, pray for each other, and pray for me that God will use me and this little blog to bring the Church back to Him. Then you will start growing and becoming mature in Christ. For more help, check out my first blog series from about a year and a half ago titled, How to Put on All of God’s Armor. If you would rather listen, I also did a podcast on that one. You can also pick up a copy of my book, Cathedral Made of People, on Amazon. But always remember, if you are reading anything that is not scripture, test it against scripture.

Foolish Preaching

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Foolish Preaching

1 Corinthians 2:13-16

 

I have a friend who is older than me; we’ll call him Ron. I see Ron almost every day at work, and we have great conversations. We talk about the hikes that Michelle and I go on every week, about sports, politics, and the Bible. Ron is not a believer, although he is very religious. He is blinded by his religion as well as his intellect and thinks he knows more than everyone else, including God. He doesn’t believe that the Bible is the word of God; he believes that it’s a book written by theologians throughout history. He believes that the Old Testament is nothing more than a book about the history of the Jewish nation and has no significance. He says the God of the Old Testament was an angry God who was constantly destroying people and says he wants nothing to do with a God like that. I had challenged him to read the Old Testament, all of it, specifically paying attention to those times when God took out His wrath on His people and to look at how many chances, He always gave them first.

The last time Ron said this, I asked him if I could read my favorite verse in the Bible. When he said I could, I took him to Zephaniah 3:17 which says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” I then asked him, does this sound like an angry God to you?

But here’s the thing about Ron. No matter how many times he reads the Bible, or talks to pastors, or tries to reason it out, he will never understand the thoughts of God until he has been indwelled by God’s spirit.

In 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 Paul says, 13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” You see, when we speak by the Spirit, the world cannot understand us. Years ago, I knew two pastors in the same town who both pastored in the same denomination. One of them was a great man of God. He preached from the Word, discipled his people, taught them how to win souls, and ministered all over town. The other stood up every Sunday and read the sermon that had been sent to him that week. When I would speak about spiritual things with that one, he would stand there with a blank look on his face. You could see it went right over his head.

When I tried to speak with Ron or that pastor about spiritual truths, they both saw it as foolishness. As we just read in verse 14, that’s how the world will respond. 1 Corinthians 1:18 also tells us this when it says, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” So, if people see spiritual things as foolish, how can they be saved? Paul goes on to say, just a few verses later, “Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21. People will be saved through our foolish preaching. You see, we can’t save anyone! Throughout my life, I have heard so many pastors saying things like, “I saved 200 people this year.” No, you didn’t! If they were saved at all, it had nothing to do with you. God used your foolish preaching to reach people and bring them to salvation. When we preach, or blog, or do a podcast, or even witness to someone, we need to remember that all we can do is share the gospel and pray that the Holy Spirit does the rest.

Now, that doesn’t mean we say whatever we want and leave it up to the Holy Spirit; we must be prepared. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” And, then again in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” You see, the Lord will only bless our foolish preaching if we are prepared. We must study, work hard, and be prepared to give an answer. Look at the end of that last verse where it says, “who correctly explains the word of truth.” We must be ready to explain the word of truth CORRECTLY. The KJV says “rightly dividing,” and the NASB says “accurately explaining.” The only way you can accurately explain the word of truth is to know what it says. Read it, study it, meditate on it, and be ready to explain it. We must put aside everything men taught us and study the word by taking it literally and keeping it in the context of the whole Bible. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t listen to pastors or read commentaries. What I am saying is when you do, test it against scripture, even what I am writing. God doesn’t want any of us to sit back and coast. He expects all of us to do the work.

In my book, Cathedral Made of People, I dedicated an entire chapter to this subject. Read Ephesians 4:11-16. In this passage, Paul says that God has given a gift to the Church in the form of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. These people were given to the Church to equip them to build the body. A trainer for a bodybuilder doesn’t do the work for them. The trainer provides the proper equipment and teaches them to use it. In the same way, your pastor isn’t there to do the work for you; he is there to teach you how to use the equipment you have properly. So, let’s get to work and be prepared!

We Can Know!

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We Can Know!

1 Corinthians 2:10-12

 

Growing up, I never really got to know my grandfather. It’s not that he lived far away or anything like that, he just wasn’t around much. There were a few times as a teenager I went to his house and helped him with a yard sale or something like that, but we didn’t just hang out.

Then, when he was 90 years old, my granddad had a massive stroke, but he lived five years after that. My mother took care of him during that time, so we were able to see him on vacations and just sit and talk with him. Then, I was privileged to be able to help mom care for him the last year of his life. During that last five years of his life, I was able to get to know my grandfather for the first time truly. We would get him talking about his childhood and couldn’t believe the stories. He talked about his life growing up in Arizona during the Great Depression. He told us how, when he was 14 years old, his father put him on a train to San Diego, California to live with his older brothers because there was work out there. He told us how, at the age of 16, he hopped a freight and road it to Mobile, Alabama looking for work, and by the way, he said they couldn’t ride inside the freight cars as you see in the movies, you had to ride on top. I did the math, that trip is about 1,935 miles, and those trains ran at about 45 miles per hour, so that was about 43 hours of just riding time, not to mention the time waiting for a connection at train stations, so I’m guessing that trip took him about a week, give or take.

I don’t know if it was that granddad was a great storyteller, or that his early life was so interesting, but I could picture every bit of it in my mind. His stories have inspired me to write a book series for middle schoolers called The Adventures of Malcolm, which is still in the works.

Here’s the thing, we can’t know another person’s thoughts or see the things they see. The best we can do is try to describe our experiences to other people and hope they get it. That’s what I try to do in my writing. It doesn’t matter if I’m writing a fictional story or one of these blogs, I try to convey it so my readers can see it in their mind.

Last week we talked about how we can’t even imagine the things that God has in store for those of us who love Him. You see, we humans can’t see what God sees unless we can see through His eyes. Look at the next 3 verses, 10 But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” 1 Corinthians 2:10-12.

So, we humans can’t even imagine what God has in store for us, but here’s the thing, we have received God’s Spirit, not the worlds. Because of this, we can know the wonderful things that God has given us. We can’t know what He has in store for us, but we can know what He has given us.

Growing up, I was always taught that the minute we are saved, the Holy Spirit indwells us. And, yes, we do receive the Holy Spirit when we truly believe and give our lives to God, but what about the power of the Holy Spirit? Look at Romans 19. In verse 1 Paul asks the believers in Ephesus if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed, and their answer was NO. In the next few verses, they explain that they didn’t know anything about the Holy Spirit and that they had just received the baptism of John. We then read in verse 4, “Paul said, ‘John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.’” So, John called them to repent, but that wasn’t enough. There are a lot of people out there who believe, but that isn’t enough. I was reading this morning in the book of Daniel how King Nebuchadnezzar believed that Daniel’s God was the one true God, then set up a 90-foot idol for the people to worship. You can believe in God, but as we learned in the book of James, faith without works is dead. If you believe, but don’t change and give your life to the will of God, your belief is worthless.

Let’s go on to look at the next 2 verses in Acts chapter 19, As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied.” You see, receiving the Holy Spirit, and receiving the power of the Holy Spirit are two different things. We see this throughout the New Testament, in passages like Acts 8:18, 1 Timothy 4:14, and 2 Timothy 1:6 to name a few.

So, here’s how it breaks down. You can believe in Christ, give your life to Him, live a great life for Him here on earth, then die and go to Heaven. But, if you want to experience the Power of the Holy Spirit, if you want to truly be filled with the Holy Spirit and experience His gifts, you must seek after Him. You must ask a spiritual leader who is filled with the Holy Spirit to lay hands on you and pray over you that you may receive His power. You will then experience the fullness of the gifts that He has for you. Now, this does not mean that you will necessarily speak in tongues, or prophesy, or have the gift of healing. There are many gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in the New Testament, but Paul does encourage us to seek the gift of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14, we’ll talk more about that at a later date.

What it comes down to is this. If you want to know the wonderful things that God has freely given you, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal them to you…He will!

You Can’t Even Imagine

 

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

You Can’t Even Imagine

1 Corinthians 2:9

I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was 19 years old and traveling across the country with a Christian musical drama team. We had just spent a week ministering at a small Baptist church in Cedar City, Utah and had a couple of down days before our next stop, so we decided to go to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

It was about a 4 1/2 drive, and I remember all the way there just trying to imagine what I will be experiencing. Of course, I had seen pictures of it, as well as scenes on TV shows and movies, but two-dimensional pictures can’t do it justice. The entire trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and talking about it to my friends. Some of them had been there before and did their best to describe it, but even that didn’t prepare us for what we were about to see.

As we stepped down off that last step of that 1969 GMC coach we were traveling in, I remember being awestruck. I walked across the parking lot and right up to the edge of the canyon. I had been working on overcoming a fear of heights that year but didn’t even think about how high we were up. The view was breathtaking; it was so much more than I had expected. I stood there for what seemed like hours just soaking in the majesty of this creation that God had made just for us to see.

This is the way it is with God. If you read last weeks blog, you will remember we were talking about speaking wisdom. Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians 2:7-9 to say, No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’”

So, the wisdom Paul was speaking of in verse 6 is the mystery of God. This plan, the mystery of God, was made for our ultimate glory, way back before the world began, but He kept it hidden until the time was right. That’s the thing with God; He knows the end from the beginning. Isaiah 46:9-11 says, “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; 11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.” Before God created the world, before it was even without form and void, He knew that man would sin, that Jesus would have to come to earth to be our savior and that I would be sitting in my office tonight writing this blog. The best way I’ve heard it described, in human understanding anyway, was to think of time as a line, and God is outside that line. He sees the beginning of the line, the end of the line, and everything in between, all at the same time. He sees the end from the beginning.

Paul goes on to say that if the rulers of this world, the wise, the elite, could have understood the wisdom of God, they would have never crucified Christ. You see, that’s our problem as humans. We think we are so smart; we think we know everything and no one, not even God, can tell us anything.

He then says that all this is what is meant in scripture when it says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” This came from the prophet Isaiah when he said, When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations. And oh, how the mountains quaked! For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! You welcome those who gladly do good, who follow godly ways.” Isaiah 64:3-5.

There’s a great song that I’m sure most of us know very well. It’s a song by the group MercyMe called, I Can Only Imagine, and the lyrics say:

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I love this song, but the truth is, as this verse says, we can’t even imagine what it will be like. There have been several people lately who say they got to go to heaven. They have written books about it and talked about it, and while I don’t think they are lying and I’m sure they truly believe that is what happened, I have one problem with it. Every one of them that I have heard or read keep talking about the beauty of heaven, the streets of gold, and the pearly gates, but let’s take a minute to look at the word of someone we know actually got to see heaven.

Let’s look at the book of Revelation, Chapter 1 and starting at verse 12. John said, 12 When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands.13 And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. 15 His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. 16 He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.’” Do you see what I’m getting at? John didn’t talk about the beauty and majesty of heaven; he only talked about the beauty and majesty of Jesus. In fact, throughout scripture, anyone who got to ascent to heaven only talked about the beauty and majesty of Jesus.

One last thing, there is a qualifier. He said that we couldn’t even imagine what God has prepared for who? For those who love Him. So, we need to ask ourselves how much we love God. Do we love Him as much as He loved us? If we’re being honest, most of us, and I include myself in this, will have to say we don’t. This is for what we must strive. We must remind ourselves daily how much He did for us. We must love Him above all else.

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