I was watching an online clip not too long ago that featured a woman in her 20’s that has literally not grown since she was 5 years old. She looks and acts like a toddler, leaving doctors mystified about her condition. More than once the narrator used the term “frozen in time” to describe the lack of normal aging and maturing .*
We tend to see only the physical, but we are both physical and spiritual. In much the same way as someone born with a physical abnormality, it is possible to never get out of our spiritual infancy. This is shown in the Apostle Paul’s writing in1 Corinthians 3:1-3:
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly.”
Let me break down this scripture:
“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ”
Paul was talking to the Corinthian church, pointing out that although they were Christians, they showed no signs of spiritual growth. He “could not speak to [them] as to spiritual men, that is, they were acting more like “men of flesh”, a term used to describe someone who does not know God, or knows little of God. They were “babes in Christ”.
“I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it.”
Babies drink milk, a substance that’s easy to take in and handle to a baby’s body; it’s contains the basics of nutrition. Using the illustration of a baby drinking milk, Paul draws a spiritual analogy. The “milk” he provided them was the basics of the gospel. Like many Christians today, the Corinthians seemed content to stay on milk. They don’t want their teachers to give sermons that had a lot of “meat” on them, that would get “too deep”, or “too specific”. The problem with this is that once you have heard the gospel and believe, then what? Do you just keep listening to the same evangelistic message? How do you learn the myriad of principles in God’s word? How do you apply it to your life and soul? Like today’s listeners, they may have claimed that teachings of any substance had “too much doctrine” or on an unspoken level, exposed their sins and godless lifestyle.
Living off of spiritual milk is like nodding my head at a sermon that skims the surface of the gospel, understanding the truth in concept alone. I’m content to being passive and spoon-fed, not just because it’s easy, but because I don’t have the spiritual muscle mass that would crave solid food because I haven’t flexed them. I haven’t burnt too many spiritual calories so I can’t get strong. My spiritual self is flabby and plump from inactivity.
On the other hand, what does it mean to crave solid spiritual food? When I think of solid food, I think of a substantial, wholesome meal, not sucrose filled, junk food –like messages we often hear today. These messages taste good at first – they offer nothing but prosperity and ego-boosting self-motivation, but have little to do with the gospel (they are neither “milk” nor “meat” but false, misleading teaching!). Solid spiritual food is grounded in the word of God, given through careful study of the text. It exposes sin and challenges the believer to godly living, establishing him in the fundamentals of the attributes of God, man, sin, salvation, judgment, and eternity. It gives the basis for each. It may not always feel good going down, but it is necessary for the healthy believer.
“Indeed even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly.”
Even then, we can’t leave our growth (or lack of growth) on the shoulders of our teachers and pastors. If we are going to grow beyond the baby bottle, we must take the responsibility to take in God’s instructions on a daily basis. We have to exercise our spiritual muscles by reading the Bible ourselves. Together with the Holy Spirit, this will begin to create the appetite for solid food. Then we can’t be called “fleshly”, as those who have no desire to grow.
Believer, where do you think you are in your growth chart today? Are you a new believer starting out on “milk”? Are you weaning yourself by learning more and surrounding yourself with good teaching? Are you stuck on “milk” and should be eating “meat”? Do you remember a time when you were…or are you enjoying a full course meal on God’s word?