Leaving Childish Things Behind
February 7, 2010
Can you remember being a kid? Can you remember the thrill of each new morning and the wonder of each new day? Can you remember when a week seemed like an eternity, and it was a lifetime between Christmases? Can you remember nursery rhymes and fairy tales, and thinking that all stories had a happy ending and the world was full of handsome princes and beautiful princesses? Can you remember when your father seemed like the smartest man in the world and your mother the most beautiful woman? If you close your eyes and let your mind drift back what memories come to you from your childhood. I can remember riding my bike with David Fader when I was ten, and playing softball with Rob Courtier when I was eleven. I remember my dad taking me out into the surf off of Barcelona when I was seven. And having my mother all to myself when I was five. I remember wanting to grow up tomorrow and never wanting to grow up at all. Can you remember being a kid?
If we share nothing else in this life we have shared childhood. Before culture bends us and shapes us and pushes us into our particular mould we are children. Rich, poor, black, white, in Canada or Australia or Ghana or Afghanistan children are children are children it is our one common and shared experience. We may end up in different places but we all started at a common place and that was birth.
Indeed it was such a natural starting point that when Jesus was looking for an analogy with which to explain the new life of the Christian to Nicodemus in John chapter three he latched onto that common shared experience and told that teacher of the law, “you must be born again” . You must start over; begin fresh, experience a new birth. And the Apostle John said in
John 1:12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. children of God, not teenagers of God, not adults of God but children of God. The scriptures tell us we must start over, be born again, become as children, but what are children?
Well Lionel Kaufman said “Children are a great comfort in your old age, and they help you reach it faster too.” Someone else stated that “a boy is noise covered in dirt” Kate Wiggins said “Every child born into the world is a new thought of God, an ever fresh and radiant possibility.”
One proverb summed it up when it said “There is only one pretty child in the world and every mother has it.” and in 1675 Lord Rochester wrote “Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children, now I have six children and no theories.” my favourite is “A baby is a small member of the home, that makes love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, the bank balance smaller, the home happier, clothes shabbier the past forgotten and the future worth living for.”
But I know as well as anybody that children aren’t as good as they used to be. I mean they certainly aren’t as polite and well mannered as I was as a child and my parents let me know that my behaviour wouldn’t be tolerated when they were children and I’m sure that my grand parents must have told my parents the same thing. One writer summed it up when he wrote, “Our youth love luxury, they have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect for their elders and would rather talk then exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of the households. They no longer rise when their elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, talk in front of company, gobble their food and terrorize their teachers.” Of course that was written twenty three hundred years ago by Socrates.
But whatever else we agree on or disagree on we are on common ground on one area is that the natural thing for children to do is to grow up. Most do, some don’t. But they are supposed to. Indeed when Paul chastened the early Christians his complaint was that they were still infants in Christ.
Why was that a complaint? Because for all the good points that children have they also have their faults. A good majority of those faults are excusable in children but intolerable in adults. I’m sure that your children some times exhibit behaviour that you would be disappointed in if they behaved that way as adults. Whether good bad or indifferent there are characteristics in children which are not normal reactions in adults. And there are characteristics in new Christians good, bad and indifferent which are not normal reactions in mature Christians.
The believers in the Corinthian church are referred to on at least two separate occasions as spiritual infants by Paul. In both instances the Corinthians are urged to mature, to put childish things behind them and to grow up. What are some of the areas that we need to change in our physical life and spiritual life as we mature?
1) Babies Are Short Sighted At birth we are told a newborn’s point of focus is eight inches. Just about the distance to mom’s face when the baby is nursing. It’s not that the child wouldn’t like to see further, but it can’t. It’s natural sight is limited to that distance.
Often new Christians can only see from day to day or from Sunday to Sunday. They can’t see the big picture. But as children mature they are able to focus on objects further and further away until their eyes are able to focus on objects at any distance. As Christians mature they need to be able to see beyond next week, they need to be able to determine where they want to be in their spiritual life a month, a year or ten years from now.
Just as most of us plan our lives and set goals in our personal and business affairs we need to do the same in our Father’s business. When do you want to have read your bible through? When do you want to have developed a consistent prayer life? When do you want to become a soul winner? The reason we establish goals is to establish direction. Once you know where you’re going you can establish which direction you need to head. If you want to go to the Rockies you don’t start by getting on a boat and sailing east. In your personal life and in you spiritual life costly mistakes can be made without careful planning.
That’s why Yogi Berra said “You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”
2) Babies Can’t Tolerate Solid Foods. You know babies have a very interesting diet, milk. Boring but hey that’s not their fault, they’re just babies and they can’t tolerate solid foods I’m sure that they would like to chow down on a big Mac or Whopper with cheese but they can’t. The interesting thing is that mother’s milk or formula will provide everything infants needs right now to grow.
New Christians need what Paul and Peter call spiritual milk. They need to focus on the gospels, on reading Mark and John. Those books provide everything a baby Christian needs to grow. But you put a new Christian in Revelation or Ezekiel and you are going to have one confused believer.
Now the teen guys in the church are different then Grace. They can eat almost anything and depending on how hungry they are they will eat almost everything, if you don’t believe that than come on out tonite to the Super Bowl party and watch them graze. If all you gave your teenagers was milk you would have one sick kid. As parents we know that as our children mature they need a more varied and solid diet. Why then is it that so many Christians refuse to take in anything but milk?
People say things like “I don’t want to get into that because it involves doctrine.” or ” I don’t know anything about theology, and it’s beyond me.” But think about it if God didn’t want us to have it then he wouldn’t have put it into the book. This is the greatest best seller of all times. It has suspense, crime, romance, international intrigue, mystery, philosophy, poetry and prose. You need more then simply John 3:16 to get through your spiritual life.
As you mature you need the meat of the word. How much of the bible do you know. After all you are betting your eternal life on the validity of this book. Have you studied it? When I preach do you take notes? Are you involved in a bible study? Do you get involved in “Discover the Word”?
Reading a selected verse each day won’t help you learn the bible anymore then opening a math text book and reading one equation each morning will help you to learn math. Or opening one of Shakespeare’s plays and reading a passage every day will teach you much English. If you are going to grow and mature in your Christian walk you will have to learn what God’s word says for you. Remember what Paul tells us in
Hebrews 5:13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.
3) Babies Need To Be Catered To. An infant can do absolutely nothing for themselves nothing. You need to feed them, change them, bathe them, carry them, pick them up and put them down. They are totally helpless, and without parental attention they will die. But you know there comes a time when mom and dad have to let go and let the child do things for themselves. No honest, you really do have to let go.
Christians, that is new Christians, need to be guided through their early life by the hand. Somebody more mature in the Lord needs to disciple them and help them. But there comes a time when baby Christians have to start doing things for themselves. Too many Christians are quite content to be spoon fed on Sunday and allow the pastor to run interference for them keeping an eye on them to keep them out of trouble.
But there comes a time that we have to say it’s time to fly on your own, time to sink or swim, time to fish or cut bait. Talk about a medley of metaphors. But the fact remains that you cannot be nursed forever in your Christian walk. Christ even tells us that we will be identified by our behaviour or as he puts it in Matthew 12:33 “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. And the only person who can produce fruit for you is you. I can’t, the only person who can is you. And you can only do that when you take responsibility for your own Christian walk.
4) Children Can Be Critical And Uncaring. The cruellest people in the world can be children. They have this uncanny knack for singling out the one who is a bit different and then watch out. Whether it is weight or colour or a handicap, children can be some of the most malicious and cruel creatures on the face of the earth.
Even Christian kids, check out the Christian schools, youth groups, Sunday school. There are the in kids and the out kids, the popular kids and the unpopular kids. And life isn’t much fun when you are outside the circle for whatever reason. If you’re not good at sports, if you don’t have the right clothes, or toys, or hair cut.
Wouldn’t happen with adults would it? Well maybe, but not in a church would it? Why is it that there are churches that people never go back to because they don’t feel welcome? Is it because they can’t break into the family? When service is over do you speak to all the visitors or are there some that you don’t feel all that comfortable with and really wouldn’t be that comfortable if they were in the church.
James talks a little bit about that in the letter that bears his name. We are noted for being a friendly church. But it won’t take much change for that to end. It’s easy to just talk to our friends, after all it’s been all week and we haven’t seen them and we have so much in common and they are friends. Each one of us needs to be intentional about saying hello to people on Sunday morning. There should be nobody who looks like a wall flower standing by themselves off to one side.
You ever watch how kids can be the best of friends one minute and not talking the next because of some slight either real or imaginary. Never happen in a church right? How about when a brother or sister stumbles and falls? What is our first reaction? Do we stoop to help them up or do we stand over them and shake our heads.
Our task isn’t to be harsh and critical it’s to encourage. Ephesians 4:29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
5) Children Can Be Selfish. Most children for at least part of their lives are mainly concerned with the one person who occupies the centre of the universe and that is them. An action can be wrong for the rest of the world but if it benefits that one child hey they’ll vote for it every time.
When you ask a child to do something how many times do they ask: “Why?” And what they mean is “what’s in it for me.” How about around the church, in all the areas there are to serve are you serving? On the back of the connection cards there are areas in which you can serve, which ones are you involved in? What could you do at Cornerstone, greet people at the door? Help in the Nursery, or in Jr. or Children’s Church? Read scripture or pray in the morning service.
I guess the question is this: if Cornerstone is your regular church home and you aren’t doing something to serve here, how come? Does your tithe come off the top or the bottom of your salary is it a sacrifice or whatever is left on Sunday? Hey I’m only asking the questions. When you are asked to serve in the church is your first thought; how will it fit into all my other commitments? Pastor I just haven’t got time with all my other commitments. I thought that Christianity was a commitment. I hope that Cornerstone is a commitment.
You ever stop to examine your motives and why you do things? It’s something each of us has to do, are we doing it to benefit me and mine? Are we looking out for number one, hey that’s what we are told to do isn’t’ it? In his book “Improving Your Serve” Chuck Swindoll talks about going on a canoe trip and how he made sure that he and his son had the best seats in the van, and when they got to the launching place that they had the most experienced guide and the best canoe. It was only on reflection that Swindoll realized just how unchristlike his actions had been. All too often we are guilty of looking for the best seat, the best parking lot and the best deal for ourselves. Doesn’t sound much like Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other. When the church decides to go in a particular direction are you usually for it or against it? Why? Is it based on what is best for me and mine or what is best for the kingdom? Looking out for number one isn’t Christ’s policy it’s the world’s policy and supposedly we aren’t of the world.
These are some of the childish things that we need to put behind us. Some of the things that Paul warned us about. He said it was time to grow up, how about it how grown up are you in your Christian life? Are you further along then you were last year, are you growing or are you just stagnating? Ephesians 4:15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
In my next message we will be looking at some of the childlike things that we need to keep as Christians. Things like love, trust, faith, dreams, vitality, life and honesty. Those are the things that we had better not lose or we’ll be the real losers.