Staying Babes in Christ – Hebrews 5:11-14

We Are To Mature, Not To Stay Babes In Christ!

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 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! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Spiritual Splendor

The word of God is full of the spiritual meat.  It provides guidance for every aspect of life, in every situation.  And while the word of God does not specifically say, “I want you, <Your Name Here>, to go to such and such a city and get such and such a job and do such and such a ministry…”, it does provide guidance for every area of our lives.

Psalm 119:105 says that the word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path.  There is just enough light to see the cliff, or where to put our next foot.  We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit through faithful and fervent prayer to God to get anything close to a longer-term indication of what we should be doing (further than our next footstep).

In the word of God, as we mature, we begin to understand the deeper truths of walking in step with God in our spiritual life.  God reveals wonderful nuggets of truth that help to transform our lives from merely adoring children into prepared adults, making mature decisions, walking confidently in His guidance and being resources to those who are still maturing in Christ.

Stop Shuffling

Everyone who has been walking with God for more than five years (and for many, perhaps even fewer years…) should begin to mature in Christ.  Paul says something very interesting here.  He gently scolds the Hebrews (and us!) for their passivity in failing to pursue a more complete understanding and comprehension of the spiritual truths of God, and even says, they are no longer even trying.

Many people believe simply that since they are saved, God will take care of their spiritual feeding through divine revelation through the Holy Spirit.  But God says to seek Him with ALL of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  God greatly desires that we mature, just as parents everywhere, wish that their teenagers WOULD JUST GROW UP ALREADY…

There is a great frustration among parents when they watch their 18, 19, 20, 30 year old children act exactly like that – CHILDREN.  There is an expectation that their children would mature, and then do something productive with their lives, not live in their parent’s basement until they are 50 only eating junk-food, watching TV, and playing video games all night with their friends.  In the same way, God desires that His children mature, stand strong, and do the works that He has prepared for them to do since before the foundation of the world.

Fabulous Feast

The good news is that as we mature, we have a veritable feast available to us to feed upon.  As a child, we grow and develop feeding on the rich milk of our mothers.  But there comes a time when we need additional nourishment in order to grow our bodies.  ONLY drinking milk (or not eating or drinking anything else at all…) will eventually cause malnourishment in our bodies.

In the same way, by feeding upon the “meat of the word”, we become nourished, strong, and able to do the work that we need to do.  Those of God’s people who are not seriously seeking him through prayer, reading his word, and seeking out an understanding of his word (its meaning and application in our lives, as well as implementing it as part of our daily routines) are on the path to spiritual malnourishment, as well as being weakened for the enemy of our souls, to pounce upon us, overpower us, and devour us.

As we feed upon the word of God and pray, we grow strong.  There is an amazing cornucopia of delights as we delve deeper into the word, and our lives are transformed by its principles and guidance.  Cheetos and milk duds may taste good for a snack, but what is better than a ten course meal with all of the trimmings to satisfy your hunger?  The word of God is like a good Amish buffet – wholesome, tasty, satisfying food, always with new varieties, to fill us, tantalize us, and give us strength as it satisfies our hunger.

Delightful Discernment

Those who truly are babes in Christ should feed on milk until they begin to mature, being able to distinguish the difference between what is good and what is evil in the sight of the Lord.  Just as adults don’t exclusively drink milk, we don’t feed steak to a baby that has no teeth!  As we train ourselves, though the transforming and renewing of our minds in the word of God, we are better equipped to understand and implement the deeper truths of the word of God.

We should all seek to want to feed upon the meat of the word, so that God would be able to use us in a greater capacity.  God is able to use anyone in Him in any way that He chooses.  He, however, is more easily able to use those who are mature in greater ways than the infants.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I as mature as I should be for the length of time that I have spent as a child of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for your patience, mercy and grace.  Give me a heart that constantly seeks after You, and greatly desires to grow and mature towards holiness.  Help me to get out of any spiritual ruts that I may be in, and to pursue You as the cheetah pursues its prey.  Provide me with strength, guidance, resources, and good mentors so that I can become who You desire me to be.  Help me to overcome any strongholds in my mind that may be keeping me from seeking to grow.  Help me to turn my eyes more fully upon Jesus, and look full in His wonder face so that the things of this world will grow strangely dim.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Spiritual Warfare and Fasting – John 9:14-29

When Confronting Certain Spiritual Powers, Prayer and Fasting Are BOTH Required

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting*]”

Mental Mayhem

The modern world, especially in the West, has turned a blind eye to its roots, and now discounts the validity of demonic possession and oppression among people.  It was once said that if the Gospel were told to those in psychiatric wards, most of them would be healed and set free (author unknown).  Paul indicates that spiritual battle is not with people, but with the spiritual ranks of the enemy:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Here we see the evidence of demonic activity:  A demon was causing a young boy to do things that were detrimental to his and other’s safety.  The father of the boy even identifies the source of the issue as a “spirit”.  Since God’s spirit is a spirit of love, this is obviously a spirit of the enemy – of the nature of Satan.

Fact Finding

Most people would think that the first thing that Jesus would do is just command the spirit to leave the boy.  But since Jesus is our teacher, He guides us in how we should address the issue.  Jesus knows the truth about this (“I am the way, the truth, and the life…”), but for our benefit (just like He asked John to baptize Him even though He never sinned, to set an example for us to follow) He shows us the first step – engage in a little fact-finding.  Jesus asks the father about the boy to get a better understanding of what is going on.

Be a Believer

Notice that it Jesus was looking to strengthen the faith of the father of the boy.  Even in the midst of this, Jesus is on a mission to seek and save the lost.  Jesus reassures the father of the boy that all things can be done for those who believe.  We need to remember that when confronted with the activity of the enemy of our souls that has manifested in such a sinister way, we are to use these opportunities to help others to strengthen their belief and trust in God, or to instill a trust and belief in God.

There are two ways that demons can directly afflict people:

  1. Demonic POSSESSION
    • If a person does not have the Spirit of God within them, they are subject to the god of this world, Satan.  Once a person is freed from the control of any demons, they need to seek God to fill them with His Spirit:
    • 24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

  2. Demonic OPPRESSION
    • Christians are sealed with the blessed Holy Spirit.  Once the Spirit of God has taken residence in a Christian’s body, He locks all the doors and keeps everyone else out.  This does NOT mean that Christians cannot do things to give the devil a foothold in our lives.  For instance, if Christians willingly participate in divination (witchcraft, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, casting of lots, etc.), this can open a door through which the enemy of our souls can torment us and cause us much grief.  This is not demonic POSSESSION, but rather OPPRESSION.  While it may FEEL like demonic possession, the Holy Spirit of God seals us against such an opportunity.  Turning towards the occult can make us vulnerable to believing the lies of the enemy, which can then cause havoc in our lives.

The enemy of our souls can also indirectly afflict us by sending thoughts into our minds to try to influence us.

Name the Name

The name of something is very powerful.  It reveals the nature of it.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t just say, “demon come out of him”.  Jesus commands the evil spirit by its very nature.  This is important, because it more specifically identifies who/what is causing the issue(s).  Jesus elsewhere has commanded evil spirits to name themselves for this very purpose:

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Command and Control

Jesus then commands the evil spirit to come out of the boy.  He doesn’t ask it, he doesn’t plead with it.  He commands it.  We are to do the same in the name of Christ.  All authority and power resides in Jesus, not in us.  Jesus has said that we would do what He has done and even greater things.  All authority has been given to the disciples of Christ to do these very things to glorify the Father.  When people who are not God’s try to do this, they do not have Christ’s authority, which can be detrimental to their well-being:

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

Fasting Faithfully

So, what to do when faced with an evil spiritual entity that won’t listen?  First remember that where two or more are gathered, there God is in the midst.  Make sure that you have at least two mature, prayed-up, and fasting disciples present when confronting such a one as this.  Fasting draws a person closer to God.  By denying the flesh its wants and desires, the spirit of a man can draw even closer to God.   Make sure that when fasting, and especially for this purpose, that all known sin is confessed and repented.  Let there be nothing that any evil spirit can charge against you.  While a water fast is good, a hard fast (no food nor water) may even be better.

We cannot make ourselves any more presentable to God, for the righteousness of Christ does that.  By fasting, we are crucifying the flesh so that the spirit can draw even closer to God to do God’s will.  When a person has fasted and prayed up, the demon may even flee in the presence of the holiness of God as He shines through you.

Once the person is in their right mind, and the demon or demons have left the person (either come out of them or fled from their presence), talk with the person to have them identify what issue has occurred that allowed this in the first place (sin for the disciple of Christ, or lead that person to the Gospel of Christ, who is probably now in a better position to hear, understand, and accept that God needs to be in control of their lives rather than the enemy of our souls).

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I drawing close to God as I should?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have promised Your children that You would never leave them nor forsake them.  Forgive me, Most Holy God, for my every sin.  Reveal to me where I have been disobedient to You, so that I may confess my sin, renounce any spiritual activity that is not of Your nor approved by You, and please close every door that I may have opened in this process.  Help me to live in Your freedom, for if the Son sets me free, I am free indeed.  Help me to draw as close as I can to You, that I would be as far as I can from doing what the enemy of my soul desires for me to do, so that You would be honored and glorified.  Prepare me as the sanctuary for Your Spirit, pure and holy, set apart for You and You alone.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


*Notes: This blog has been edited for formatting and punctuation.

“And fasting” does not appear in all the texts.  However, this is a tried and true method to draw the disciple of Christ closer to God.  When the flesh is crucified, the spirit can flourish.  In spiritual warfare, this is especially true.  The value of fasting is very evident in the life of Jesus AND His disciples – “when you fast…”  When confronting these issues, engage a more seasoned Christian who has experience in this field.  Or contact a Christian group who can point you to someone who can guide you in how to proceed (Focus on the Family offers counceling and assistance with all manners of Christian issues – 1-800-A-FAMILY / 1-800-232-6459)

Spiritual Maturity in Christ – Hebrews 5:11-14

Crave The Milk, But Move To The Solid Food

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 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! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Move to Maturity

When the letter to the Romans was written, there was a serious issue going on with that body of believers.  Although they had been walking with the Lord Jesus Christ as His disciples for some time, they were not maturing.  While this may seem odd, we see the same thing today in the Western Church.  We have people who have been walking with God for more than a decade who still call themselves baby Christians.  They should be at a point where you should be able to call on any one of them to come up to the front of a Sunday School class and lead it, but instead, they barely know enough to keep themselves spiritually alive in Christ.

This is the equivalent of a child who is sixteen years old and is still obtaining nourishment from his mother’s teat.  Most people would find it odd that the child has not been weaned from his mother’s milk and onto solid food (it’s a bit creepy as well).  Paul saw Christians in that same position.  These people cling to the promises of God but are not challenged by the word to grow.  They memorize passages like, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  However, they have not taken the time to dig deeper and to allow the word of the Living God to penetrate their minds and challenge them to be holy as their Father in Heaven is holy.

If the congregation is doing their job right (delving deep into the word of God and applying its principles and guidance in their lives) and the pastor is doing his job right (going deep and wide in the word of God, imparting the deeper truths about spiritual growth and development and how to implement them in everyday life), they should have the equivalent experience of a Seminary degree after five to ten years of instruction.

If your pastor is still preaching the milk of the word, and you desire the solid food of the word, talk to him and ask him to bring it to the congregation.  Most likely, the pastor will decline, citing that the congregation isn’t ready for it.  And that may indeed be true. In that case, ask that a course be developed that goes deep into the word, and be faithful in attending it.

If you have ever fasted for an extended period of time, coming off the fast requires a progression of dietary changes to prepare the body for the food.  First, liquids are introduced (broth).  After a while, more solid food is introduced with the liquid (such as well-cooked vegetable soups).  Then the body is slowly given solid food (meat is added to the soup, as well as complex starches such as beans and grain-based items).  Moving directly to solid food after an extended fast will cause issues with your digestive system (it’s bad on the Good/Bad scale).  In the same way, people who don’t want to eat solid food will try to maintain their liquid diet.

Develop Discernment

As people are weaned from the milk of the word to the solid food of the word, they need to develop discernment so that they can distinguish what is good from what is evil.  Romans 12:1-2 discusses this very thing:

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When we submit ourselves to the word and the Holy Spirit, we grow in truth and righteousness, able to test and approve what is good and what is evil.  Our minds are transformed, and we begin to see life from the perspective of a holy, eternal God, who is perfectly complete and balanced in every aspect of His character.  We will then be able to discern what is good and righteous from what is evil and offensive to God.

If we stay with the milk of the word, and don’t move on to solid food, we are like the sixteen-year-old who still suckles his mother, acting like a baby, when he should be growing into adulthood.  It is the trials of this period of life that enable us to take on additional responsibility and develop the ability to think and make well-informed decisions.  We learn about how actions cause reactions and what is needed to move forward in their life.  It is a harsh awakening for people when they are not prepared for the world and thrown out into it to survive.  Coddled young adults generally tend to continue to act like children, and when given responsibility and privilege, abuse it as a child would.

The law in the United States allows sixteen-year-old young adults (or so we hope) to apply for a driver’s permit.  Let us hope that when the time comes, and we are called upon to learn how to drive the more difficult vehicles of life such as marriage (and procreation by implication), operation of a motor vehicle, firearm ownership, and the rights to smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, and vote for who will be in authority over us, that we will be mature enough to do these things responsibly.

In the same way, we should be learning and growing in truth and righteousness, learning discernment, so that we can rightly handle the word of God and mature into the people who God desires us to be.  One last thing to remember – milk is still good for us, but solid food is better.  Peter tells us to crave spiritual milk so that we can grow up in our salvation.  Milk is just the primer, the jump-start, and starting point.  Our goal is maturity in the solid food of the word.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I able to digest the solid food of the word of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us Your word to help us to know You and to guide us as we walk with Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Give me the ability to digest the solid food of the word, that my testing, I would develop discernment in righteousness, abstaining from what is evil, and growing in Your knowledge and grace.  Help me to mature, regardless of where I am currently in my spiritual maturity.  Show me how to better apply Your word to everyday living, and give my heart a great desire to be more obedient to You in all things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Prayer with God – Colossians 4:12-13

It’s Time To Wrestle With God

12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Selfless Servant

Paul commends his fellow worker in Christ, Epaphras, in this passage.  He  commends this saint in Christ, and tells the Colossian church that he sends greetings.  This was common in Paul’s letters, and was an encouragement to the churches.  In the dark times in which we find ourselves today, it is a blessing to hear from disciples in other church plantings and to know that they are thinking about us.  After all, the church is not any specific group of believers, but rather all disciples taken as a whole.  Let us not forget that when one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers with it.

Strenuous Struggle

Epaphras was a prayer warrior.  He was engaged in a type of prayer that we should all be engaged.  He wrestled in prayer.  The Greek word for wrestled is agOnizomenos.  This can be translated as wrestles, struggles, or contends.  We get our English word agonize from it.  Epaphras agonized in prayer for the saints.  The burden on his heart was so great, that he was agonizing over the other disciples, and was noted for his burden with the church in Colossi.

This level of prayer goes way beyond the simple thankfulness prayer, or general request for something.  This is a type of prayer where the heart is deeply moved and dedicated to seeing a specific result.  This is the type of prayer where you are praying for the very life of your child to survive some terrible injury or illness.  Epaphras was gifted with the ability to feel that way about the saints, and was commended by Paul for doing so.  Such prayers can be cathartic, but are very demanding and difficult, and take a lot out of the person.  Epaphras was commended for ALWAYS contending in prayer for the brothers and sisters in Colossi.  That IS commendable.

Sturdy Stand

The first aspect of discipleship that concerned Epaphras was that the church of Colossi stand firm in the will of God.  It is so easy to be distracted by the call of culture and duties that we can take our eyes off of the goal.  We are bombarded daily with the call of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We need to be focused more upon the will of Almighty God as the day of reckoning approaches.  Each of us needs to fill our lamps with oil, so that we will not be caught unprepared.  We each need to put on our wedding clothes in preparation for the return of the groom so that we may join Him in the wedding celebration.

Made Mature

One of the characteristics missing from Western Christians is maturity in their faith.  We are called to grow in Christ, and to draw close to Him.  However, there are many who believe that they are good where they are.  They are happy with the spiritual progress that they have made so far, and think that this is good enough.

However, even Paul had said that he had not yet arrived.  If the writer of most of the New Testament, martyred in Rome for his faith, stoned to death and resurrected, did not arrive, why should any of us think that we have?  There are Christians (and I am specifically using this word rather than disciples) who say that they are baby Christians.  Some of these “babes in Christ” have been walking with God for more than a decade, but are still only ready for the milk of the word.

Not only are we to eagerly desire the milk of the word, we are meant to grow up and mature, tasting and chewing on the meat of the word.  We are to grow into mature disciples, fully and firmly rooted in the word of God.  Staying a babe in Christ for so long is much like living well into adulthood as a child in your parent’s basement.  There is no impetus to grow – as long as the behavior is coddled or ignored, the person never reaches maturity, and as a result, is not productive in society.

While it should not be taken that extended families are in some way wrong as living arrangements, we should have reasonable expectations for our children to grow up and mature, and be useful, productive members of society.  How does the family benefit when a 35-year-old man sits in a basement playing (the latest version of) Halo, doing nothing else but eating their parents food, buying clothes with their money, and ignoring them and everyone else for the enjoyment of a video game?

Maturation is a difficult, time-consuming, arduous endeavor.  It comes with a lot of bumps and bruises, but also with intentionality, discipline, and purpose.  And discipline is the key.  The child does what pleases the child.  The adult does what is good for the family.  It is time that the “babes in Christ” wake up, and take a serious look at their spiritual lives.  There is much to be done, and the rest of the body is trying to cover for you.

Serious Striving

Paul further commends Epaphras for working hard.  This is a characteristic of the mature Christian disciple.  Jesus tells us that we are not worthy if we look back from the plow at what was left behind.  We are to keep our eyes on the goal, and to strive with great purpose towards the way and will of God.  For the path is straight through the narrow gate to life, and broad is the gate and wide is the road towards destruction.  We each need to choose our path.  Paul urges us in the example of Epaphras to choose whom we will serve this day.  Make that choice, and press on towards the goal.  Set your sights upon hearing these words from your Lord and Savior: Well done, good and faithful servant.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I becoming the person that God has called me to become?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for the examples that You have provided to me in the Bible.  Help me to research and understand the life of Paul and the ministry of Epaphras.  Guide me and instruct me in the ways that I should go.  Help me to be more intensely engaged while I pray to You.  Give me the heart of a servant, that I may be Your bond-slave.  Stir my heart for my own spiritual development, as well as the spiritual development of the rest of the body of Christ.  Give me a burden upon my heart for the awakening of your disciples who have taken their eyes off of You.  Help me to greatly desire their maturity, as well as my own.  Place upon my heart the desire to spend more time with You each and every day in prayer and study of Your word.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?