I have had a few thoughts rolling around in my head over the past couple of months. The first concept pairs with so many different other concepts and it challenges so many of the notions of maturity in our own lives as well as acting as a commentary on the church as a whole. I was thinking a lot on how the love of God is both milky and meaty; but is most satisfying as a steak dinner. Wait whaaaaat? Here's where I'm going with this.
Meat v. Milk
1 Peter 2:2 tells us that there is a time when we should, like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk. The reference here is to that of a small child, new in the world, learning about everything, whose digestive system is not developed or mature enough to handle anything else than liquid sustenance. That makes sense, right? We don't give our newborns cheeseburgers on Day 1. Not even on Day 365 at times. As young Christians, new "born again" children in the spirit, we have to take it easy.
I've watched so many times as young Christians, who don't even fully understand salvation and God's redemptive work in their lives chase after the deeper understanding of faith like interpretation of end times prophecies or the subtle nuances of whether or not a Christian should be drinking alcohol. Those things are much harder to digest and require a developed and mature spiritual digestive system, if you will, to process them. No wonder so many (spiritually) young believers get sick! They're just not ready for that meal yet. They will be though. Everything in order. Like the proverbist mentions in Ecclesiastes, "under the Sun, there is a time for everything". Oh yeah, years on Earth do no equate spiritual maturity.
Fast forward. Now we have the Christian who has been in the church for five, six, ten, twenty years. They seem unable to communicate their testimony, tell any stories of what God has done in their lives nor discuss the implications of Christ's redemptive work on the cross. In fact, many of these same Christians are the same ones that clog up meetings with small issues that seem like they should be obvious to someone who has been in the faith as long as they have.
The author of Hebrews pens what should be a slap in the face for many (including myself), yet he also expresses the reason why. Take a look:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
- Hebrews 5:11-14
So what happened? The author states that simply, they have "stopped trying to understand". In other words, they just don't care anymore. They have fallen complacent, Side note - I hate the phrase "grown complacent" because it does not speak to how complacent really works. When you're complacent, you do not grow. You remain the same and inevitably start to go backwards. Complacency is step one toward decay. Towards putrefaction.
"When you're complacent, you do not grow. You remain the same and inevitably start to go backwards. Complacency is step one toward decay. Towards putrefaction."
So, what is the answer for someone to get out of the death trap of complacency? Hunger. You've got to want it? Are you tired of the same ol' same ol'? Do something different. You cannot expect spiritual transformation and continue to do the same things you've been doing. If they have not produced spiritual fruit and maturity yet, they don't work. You have to do something else. A person will not doing 'something else' until they want to; until they're hungry for it. Pray for people to have experiences that make them hungry. Be prepared for things to get tough.
Ending there, this brings me to the last part. I was listening to the Bible, as one does, on the way to work and 1 John 4 came on. After a talk about God's love, in verse 18 it reads, "Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love."
I reflect on my own thoughts and struggles. So many, like me, go through times when we feel 'less than' or 'not good enough'. How valuable then is the understanding found in verse 19 here? If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love."
For me, this reminds me that at the exact moment I feel fearful of divine retaliation or that I am somehow unqualified for God's love and grace, I can simply recall this verse and know that these thoughts are not only false, but also a direct attack on my identity as a redeemed, blood-bought, justified, rectified, made righteous, made holy and beloved child of my Heavenly Father.
We move past drinking spiritual milk into eating spiritual steak when we can understand that these truths are absolute; that they exist no matter how we feel about them or ourselves. At the moment we have fear from our sin, we only need to recall that we are not experiencing God's perfect love.
The message of the Gospel is simple: Christ, Son of God and One with God, gave his life and paid the price for sins past, present and future for anyone who places their faith in him. Period.
Paul drives this point further:
"Oh I wish you could understand how deep and how wide is the love of God for you..."
"Oh foolish Galatians, will you now finish what was started in the Spirit (your salvation through the grace of Jesus) by going back to being perfected through the flesh (doing things and earning things by your own power)? Who has put a spell on you?"
Are you hungry or have you become lukewarm?
Do you dine on spiritual milk or spiritual meat?
What season of maturity are you in in your spiritual walk and relationship with Christ?