You Ought to Be Teachers! (6)
But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5.14
Practice makes permanent
Every disciple of Jesus is called to grow in the Lord, to press on toward maturity in Him, and to encourage and assist other disciples to do the same. So how do we move from believing the basics to living the basics and from there on to seeking the solid food of Christian instruction?
This much is certain: we’ll never be able to fulfill the Lord’s command to teach others the things of Christ if all we ever have to talk about is the milk of faith. Little children delight to get their evening bottle, just before they go to bed. Sometimes they may walk around with it as they drink, fairly reveling in the sheer joy of the milk. They’ll even offer their bottle to a parent for a swig. They are happy to be sipping on milk, and are growing strong from it. But they’ll fail to thrive as children, youth, and mature adults if all they ever do is sip happily on their milk.
Those who are maturing in the Lord, and delight to feed on the solid food of His Word, have no need to return to the milk of the faith. They have moved on from these basics and are pursuing more of Jesus in the solid food of His Word.
When the milk of Christian teaching is flowing into and fortifying our souls and bodies, we grow in the Lord. This growth is evident in lively good works, albeit only the kind of works we might expect of a newborn believer. As we grow in the Lord, moving on to the more solid food of Biblical instruction, we take up the more mature good works, by which, the writer of Hebrews says, we can be sure that we really are saved (Heb. 6.9). These include teaching the things of Christ to others.
But what is involved in taking up those good works? Consistency! Or as the writer of Hebrews puts it, “use.”
The challenge is to identify specific areas of our lives where we are not practicing the things we profess. There we lay aside whatever practices do not cohere with the Gospel and put on those that do. In other words, we need to make use of what we are learning from the solid food of God’s Word.
Paul writes about this in Ephesians 4.17-24. When we have added to the milk of Christian doctrine, feeding on more solid Scriptural food, our works will begin to change, and we will work hard at making sure that happens (2 Pet. 1.5-11; Phil. 2.12). Increasingly, we will “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ, and the works He did, we will do as well.
As we learn the things of Christ, we must be careful and diligent to live what we’re learning, to put our learning to good use in loving our neighbors as ourselves. Failure to do so will indicate that we haven’t really learned at all. And we won’t be able to teach what we haven’t learned in the first place. We’ve all heard the old saw, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” In the Christian faith we should rather say, “Those who can do, teach!”
And every one of us is called to this. It is a mark of every disciple of Jesus Christ that he or she is ready to speak about Jesus and His Kingdom at every opportunity, ready that is, to make disciples of others (Matt. 28.18-20).
A rail line to maturity!
What happens as we put into practice even the simplest, most basic teaching of God’s Word? We begin to learn, by reason of use, how to distinguish good from evil, truth from error, and right from wrong. The more solid fuel we put in the boiler of our soul, the more spiritual steam is generated to energize faithful Christian living. Each act of obedience, be it ever so small, drives a spike in the ties of a rail line toward maturity. We become more exercised in knowing what is good and true by simply doing whatever good and true things we’re able to in every situation of our lives. Consistent, faithful practice at doing good gets us the traction of truth on the rails of maturity, so that we grow strong and make progress in the life of good works, just as God intends (Eph .2.8-10).
The more we feed on the solid food of God’s Word in this way, the more we will mature in the Lord, and desire more of the solid food God has prepared for us. The more also we will grow assured of the reality of our faith, and bear the evidence of it in good works (Heb. 11.1).
Miss Manners was once asked by a high school girl preparing for her first prom how to walk in high heels. Her answer is most appropriate for our subject: “Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot.” In other words, one small but sure step at a time. Every next step of obedience is a growth step, in that by it we put into practice whatever we are learning, and so prove ourselves to be followers of Jesus Christ. This is the way we process the milk and meat of the Word into a life of good works in obedience to our King.
Getting ready for the solid food
As we continue feeding on the solid food, the good works and acts of faith it nurtures take the form of deeds and words. And part of the words indicating growth in the Lord will be teaching our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and reaching out to the lost with the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
The milk of God is not sufficient for this, although certainly eager new believers can bear effective witness to the Lord – offering those around them a swig of the milk they’ve come to know. But consistent teaching and witness-bearing, and living those good works which evidence the presence of Christ in us, is the fruit of solid Christian doctrine, and solid Christian doctrine is only for those in whom the milk of the Word is doing its work and creating a hunger for the more solid food of Scripture.
What about you? Do you believe the basic doctrines of Christian faith with such conviction that they are creating in you a hunger for the more solid food of the Word of God? And are you walking “right foot, left foot” to work out your salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2.12, 13)?
If so, then take heart: you’re walking the path which the followers of Jesus have walked since the earliest days of the Christian movement.
1. What kind of discipline should we adopt to get into the solid food of God’s Word?
2. Will it do us any good to press on in the solid food if we’re not yet making good use of the milk of God’s Word? Explain.
3. How can we know that we are maturing in the Lord? What evidence of faith (Heb. 11.1) should we expect to see?
Next steps – Preparation: What’s one thing you might do to improve your feeding on all of Scripture – the milk and the solid food? Begin today, and keep it up daily.
You can download all the studies in this series, “Disciples Making Disciples,” by clicking here.
Good words of truth and good works of love can be an everyday experience for us as we feed on the solid food of the Word of God. Our book, Small Stuff, can help be more alert to the opportunities for making use of your faith that are before you each day. Order your free copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.