Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Steady Diet of Milk Makes Overgrown Babies

So why do so many of us compromise on God's Word and think we know better?  I gave several examples this week, but I think they are all expressions of a greater issue.  I think the core of the problem is the pulpit.  Far too many preachers today shy away from a complete message and focus only on grace and blessings.  While those are a great and important messages, you can not raise up a body of believers by feeding them milk week after week.  Preachers may think that their job is to only talk about grace and blessings, but, once again, we have a case of preachers thinking they know better than the Word of God.
I charge [you] therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season [and] out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  1 Timothy 4:1-2 NKJV
Paul begins with a serious charge.  He is not just requesting or instruction Timothy on how to lead his church, but he is giving him a charge before God and and our Lord, Jesus Christ.  This is serious business.  This is a command before God.  Any preacher or teacher should take this charge seriously because God recorded this letter as Scripture not just for Timothy's sake, but for any man who would stand behind a pulpit. 

What is the charge?  "Preach the word!"  I can hear the argument now that those who refuse to preach about righteous living, accountability, sin, and the like would claim that they are preaching the word.  Unfortunately, they are not.  They are using the word to support their teaching, but they are not teaching the word.  They are taking their preconceived ideas and finding parts of the Bible to support their position.  In general, there is nothing wrong with that.  That is called topical teaching and something practiced by all pastors (though for some it is more the exception than the rule).  The problem, though, is when the topic controls the teaching instead of the word controlling the topic.  The point I am trying to make is that the word has to define the message.  For those who say that the word only supports only teaching the message of grace, they are in disagreement with Scripture.
All Scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV
If one is teaching the complete word, there will be profit.  That profit will be sound doctrine, reproof (conviction of sin), correction (of bad doctrine and behaviors), instruction in righteousness (that is righteous living), and the final product should be men (and women) of God who are complete and equipped for every good work.  This requires teaching more than "Jesus saves."  Jesus does save, and that is an essential message, but Jesus also changes and it is that new creation we are changed into that the preacher now has to train to be the mature man of God he is called to be.  Again, there is Scriptural direction to support this.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need [someone] to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes [only] of milk [is] unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 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 5:12-14 NKJV
If you remain at "Jesus saves" in your teaching, you are raising a congregation of babies.  The writer of Hebrews is clear that if one only partakes of milk, he will be unskilled in the word of righteousness  In other words, he will lack maturity, he will fail to grow, and he will never become complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.  This is evident in the spiritual immaturity in such a church.  They act likes babies in that they are all about wanting from God and rarely for submitting to His will.  They show little change in their lives but remain in the same practices and behaviors they were in before Jesus found them.  They rarely become spiritual examples to others.  They never reach the level of being able to complete the good works God has for them.  Milk is essential for babies, but as a baby grows so must his diet.  There are people who have been going to church for years but still drinking from milk from a bottle and show zero maturity whatsoever. 

Getting back to 2 Timothy 4, Paul continues with " Be ready in season [and] out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching."  In other words, a teacher should always be at the ready to  teach.  A teacher needs to convince (in this case hear, the Greek word implies the shame felt by conviction of sin), rebuke (that is speak out against sin), and exhort (that is to teach).  This must be done with patience as growth often takes time, but a preacher is called to press on with longsuffering to do the work to raise his charge up to maturity.  

Now Paul will share why this is so important.  
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, [because] they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn [their] ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  2 Timothy 4:3-4 NKJV
Sadly, this is largely coming true.  So many preachers have amassed huge crowds teaching sweetened milk to babies who never grow.  They talk about living your best life now, they tell you that if you take communion a certain amount of times a day then God will heal your illness, they act drunk, laugh uncontrollably, fall down backwards, tickles ears promises of riches and prosperity, and many other foolish behaviors and doctrines that have no basis in Scripture whatsoever.  Everything taught is to tickle the ears and satisfy the flesh.  They wrap their fleshly doctrine in Scripture taken out of context and false spirituality.  Some even claim their messages came from angels and even more prop up false prophets.  Their doctrine is unsound.  They preach to justify their own desires.  And people prop these charlatans up because they want the same.  They want money, health, power, and they do not want to have to give up anything (including sin) to get it.  They are babies, but not in the cute lovable way, but in the obnoxious selfish way.  Babies are inherently selfish, they have no capacity for anything else, and these Christians are the ridiculous expression of adult babies crying out for more toys.  That is the end result of the many pulpits who turn their sanctuaries into nurseries and serve nothing but milk raising nothing but babies. 

I urge anyone who is charged with sharing the Word of God to share the complete Word of God.  Move away from milk and begin to serve solid food to raise up your congregation to be the men and women of God they are supposed to become. Train them, equip them, raise them, teach them, and correct them.  Do not just stand week after week and remind them of the salvation they already know that they have with no instruction on what to do with that new life they have as a result of that salvation.  They all know that Jesus saves, now it is time to learn that Jesus changes.  They have died to the life they have and are now beginning a new life in Jesus Christ.  They need to learn what that means.  Take the example of Paul.  His epistles were meant to be read to the churches and all of them touch on right doctrine, right behavior, reproof, and correction.  Our teaching should be the same.  Some may fall away because the cares of the world choke out the root that is trying to grow, but the ones who stay will become the men and women God has called them to be.  What an amazing church that will be! 
And He Himself gave some [to be] apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.  Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV

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