From American Vision’s “Moving on to maturity: a challenge to Christians”
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Something had been bothering me for a while, but exactly what was unclear until it leaped out at me in my studies the other day. Read this familiar passage, Hebrews 5:11 through 6:2:
About this 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 need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment (Heb. 5:11–6:2).
Does anything about this passage bother you? Read 6:1–2 again. Now?
What’s been eating at me for some time and I did not see it is that we have a large segment of Christians who are highly advanced in nothing but the fundamentals, and their leaders have never moved them on. Through an abundance of study and reading theology books, podcasts, conferences, etc., we have created an illusion of maturity without the substance of it.
An important question to ask, then, at this point, is, “What exactly is this “maturity” to which we are supposed to move on?” If most of the things we normally think of as “theology” are actually just the fundamental milk of it, what then is the meat?
This leads to a discussion of “how we should then live”—in the light of Jesus’ perfection for us and of us. It says this, in part:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:23–24).
Again, “good works.” Then follows the famous chapter 11: a long list of good works and exploits accomplished “by faith.” This includes everything from subduing kingdoms to suffering the worst of persecutions.
We could say more about chapters 12 and 13 as well, but the point is clear: moving on to perfection/maturity means moving on from the learning of basic, foundational Christian doctrines to application by faith of those doctrines in every area of life.
While I don’t think intellectual assent to these ideas will involve much controversy at all, I believe a truly honest assessment of ourselves in light of them will be much more difficult. The vast majority of even serious Christians today are considered serious because they read lots of books and go to conferences. But the vast majority of Christian books and conferences I see are far closer to the topics of milk than meat. And yet, we feel as if the milk books we read are in reality meat.
Worse yet, the vast majority of Christian ministries out there keep their followers unweaned with an endless supply of materials on the basic gospel level, or even apologetics that deal mainly with foundational truths. I see endless debates over milk, and Christians addicted to the nipple. When presented with meat, they don’t even think it’s Christian. They don’t know what to do with it. They scoff and turn up their nose. As a result, followers can spend years or even decades stuck I the infancy described in Hebrews 6 while thinking they are being highly trained.
What is sorely needed is for Christians to move on from their studies of tulips and empty tombs, systematics and solas, and begin to consider how they can apply biblical truth to all of life—that is, consider how we can provoke one another to love and good works. The end of the Christian faith is a maturity defined by good works and service. It’s great that others have labored to build good foundations; but we are called to build upon those and go further. Let’s embrace a view of ministry that advances Christian worldview in every area of life.
[If you would like to see my applications for moving on, you can start here.]
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So, what is needed to move from milk to meat?
You have to APPLY the commandments, compassion, righteousness, and truths of God.
You have to GET IT OUT of the Church, and GET IT INTO the world.
Joel McDurmon in his link points to a restructuring of American society — including government (i.e. the administration of Divinely-defined justice).
Public JUSTICE, as DEFINED by God, is DEMANDED by God.
And so, as representatives of justice and law, preachers should be expounding on the Commandments and the Case Laws, to actually APPLY the Will of God today!
Sure, if we need to start small, just with the Church learning to govern itself according to the commandments of God — inside and outside the church building — that’s not a problem.
But there MUST be APPLICATION!
“But it’s too hard! It’s too much work! The world is so sinful and dirty! Let’s retreat into our tiny and shrinking enclaves, and wait for the Rapture to take us away from this sinful world!”
Retreat, failure, faithlessness, even craven cowardice.
And a firm refusal to sacrifice anything, even suffer through the inconvenience of losing a job or teaching a child at home, to expand the Kingdom of Christ in time and on earth.
Why do we insist on giving Christ such insipid, fourth-rate service?
Why do we despise Him so?
“This did not Abraham.”