Saturday, December 16, 2006

Bible Study: Essential to Growth

Bible Study: Essential to Spiritual Maturity

"Concerning Him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oraclesof God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil" (Hebrews 5:11-14 - New American Standard Bible - emphasis mine).

I was with this certain kid in Army basic training who was a goof-up and a goof-off. He just didn't seem like he wanted to advance. I was ordered to "buddy up" with him and help him along. This young man had spent several weeks in a weight loss unit before he was allowed to come into our unit. I don't know what they did there, but it must have been easier than what we went through! It seemed to me that this young man wanted to stay in basic training forever, because he didn't put forth much effort. That was until something happened. About half-way into our training a young man joined our unit that had been "recycled". This meant that he had flunked out of another basic training unit. As a matter of fact, we were his third group. He'd been in basic training for four months. In case you don't know...that's not good! When the young fellow that I'd been assigned to help realized that one could be "recycled" he tightened up! He didn't want to stay in boot camp forever!

I find four kinds of people who stay in the same place in their spiritual maturity. The first kind is the person who plays church. You've seen the type. They don't know the Lord and don't want to; they just go to church because it's the thing to do. The second type is the one who "THINKS" they are saved because they grew up in church, walked an aisle and were baptized. They've never really committed themselves to full trust in Christ nor repented of their sins. The third type is that one who is too lazy to grow or too occupied with things of this world...or grow. The fourth kind is the one who wants to grow and just needs someone to help them along. I KNOW God can give grace to all of these situations and this devotion is perfect for the fourth variety.

The above Scripture says there is "much to say" but people are "dull of hearing." Put in lay terms, that means many people are slow to learn. Call me an optimist, but I think there are a LOT of believers out there that want to learn; they just need a little help getting started. This verse does that! It shows some keys that will help one on the road to spiritual maturity! (Call me a pessimist, but I think some Christians have adopted the slogan of "Ignorance is Bliss" and simply avoid Bible study.) If you want to open the lock of Bible understanding pay special attention to the next few thoughts.

Before we move on, let me say that the writer of Hebrews was directing these thoughts to people who had been believers for quite some "time". They should have been in college level Bible study and were still in preschool. The writer gives some very simple helps that, if heeded, will fast forward them into the University of Bible.

There are three key words to understand in this passage that will really get a person moving; they are "practice", "trained", and "discern".

The first word has as its root word the Greek word meaning "habit". The key to growing in spiritual maturity is making a habit out of looking into God's word. Like any thing you want to become proficient in doing, practice makes perfect! I believe there are many who want to understand and simply become frustrated. Here's a challenge; set aside fifteen minutes a day and simply read a short passage several times. I suggest something like John 1:1-14. PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!

The second word, "trained", comes from a Greek word meaning to "practice naked". Now, wait a second, don't strip off your clothes to read the Bible! That's just silly! It's a picturesque word that described how Greek athletes trained for the games. (They didn't have a bit of shame!) They had no hindrances to their exercises. To become "trained" in the word we must strip ourselves of things that hinder us as we approach the word. No TV. No radio. No whatever. We must exercise without anything that would prevent us from getting into shape. Think about it like this; a person would be foolish to jog with a piano on their back. Find a quiet place and exercise your mind in the word! That may mean that you need to set aside those fifteen minutes (fifteen minutes is the starter kit for spiritual health) FIRST THING IN THE MORNING. I have one friend who began their discipline by studying in the bathroom. They said, "It was the only quiet place where people would leave me alone!"

What will we benefit from this "practice" and "training"? We will gain the ability to "discern". This means we will be able to use "judicial estimation" in telling what is right and wrong (good and evil). THAT is the key! When we train in the word we will find the heart and will of God; as we DO what we learn we will easily be able to tell what is good and what is not.

The mark of spiritual maturity is not how much you understand, but how much you use. Dr. Howard Hendricks said, "In the spiritual realm, the opposite of ignorance is not knowledge but obedience." It's not how many verses we can recite but how much we can employ; put into action.

None of us wants to remain in Bible preschool. None of us wants to stay in spiritual boot camp our whole lives. We've GOT to become a little disciplined. We've GOT to practice, train, and USE what God has given us. That does not require us to be geniuses; it requires us to be serious and faithful.

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