This morning we walk through John 5:31-47.
He’s a growing boy. I’m the youngest of four children. And when I was little I used to go to the grocery store with my mom. And she would get one of those big grocery carts and pile it up, heaping all the food on top. And week after week she did this because she knew that she had growing boys at home. They needed meat to eat. So she bought it. But my dear friends in Christ, what if it looked different than that? What if you had a teenager on a sports team and when he came home, instead of eating meat or solid food, all he did was drink milk? You would wonder what was wrong. Because it’s just not enough. It’s not enough to fill him up and stay with him. It’s not enough to give him the nutrients and energy he needs. Here, this morning we read about the same sort of scenario in the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 5, we read: “11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!” (Hebrews 5:11–12 NIV)
Instead of being grown-ups who ate meat. They only drank milk. And here, of course, he makes it very clear that he’s not really talking about milk and meat. He’s speaking about growing in God’s word. And in this congregation that we read about we find a sin. The sin is hatred of solid food. The sin is not wanting to grow up in God’s word. The sin is simplicity at all costs.
And this sin is a danger for us too. There is this danger in us of hating growth, hating bible study and learning. And when you go down that road there are some horrible consequences. You end up tackling complex problems with simple and wrong solutions. Years ago, there was a man who told me, “Pastor, everything went down hill when they took prayer out of public schools.” My brothers and sisters in Christ, do you realize how shallow and stupid that statement is? Prayer is not a means of grace. Prayer is an act of worship in which people are united in what they pray about and whom they pray to. And it’s not the government’s job to do our work—the work of the church. It’s wrong for a teacher in a public school to pray with the students at the beginning of the school day because that is not her call. That teacher’s call is to teach reading, writing and arithmetic, not to preach and teach God’s word. That is our job.
But that’s what happens when you hate solid food. When simplicity at all costs is your goal you end up despising God’s word. And so we grow from milk to meat. This Hebrew congregation refused to. And that is our temptation as well. But there was another area they needed to grow in as well: “13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:13–14 NIV)
Because they refused to read and grow in God’s word they remained in infancy instead of maturity. They focused in on and fixated on one or two favorite teachings in God’s word and wouldn’t move past them. They were like the scratched CD that you put into the CD-player. It gets halfway through the song and then can’t go any further. That’s what they were like. And we too run into that same danger. Years ago, there was a pastor. And for him there was one pet, favorite teaching. His favorite teaching in the bible was that women should dress modestly. So it didn’t matter what part of the bible he was preaching on, that was the guaranteed application and preaching in the pulpit.
Are you like that preacher? One of the problems of not coming to bible study class is that you end up focusing in on and fixating on one teaching in the bible. And all the rest don’t exist to you. So when Satan comes along, twisting all the other parts and teachings in the bible, you are like an infant in a grown-up’s fight. You need to grow. You need to grow from milk to meat. You need to grow from infancy to maturity.
Now, when I share this teaching in God’s word with people, there are objections people throw down. Objection 1: “Pastor, your sermons are enough.” No, they aren’t. The purpose of a sermon is not to thoroughly teach. The point of the sermon is to crush you with the knowledge of your sin and show you your Savior, Jesus who takes away your sin. And even if I were to take on the task of teaching here from the pulpit, this would be a horrible place to get that task done. First, there isn’t enough time. I can’t teach in twenty minutes what deserves two hours. Second, the pulpit isn’t the best place for teaching. Real teaching is a two-way street. When was the last time you saw a person in the middle of a sermon say, “ooh, pastor, I have a question?” That right there should tell you that the sermon isn’t enough. You need bible study class.
Objection 2: “I don’t fit in your Sunday morning class.” If the people on Sunday morning seem to know more about the bible than you do, then there is a solution to that. It’s called “Adult instruction Class.” There we cover the building blocks and the basics. And at the end of it you’re ready for any bible study class in this church.
Objection 3: “It’s not fun.” I haven’t ever heard anyone say this objection. But I know it’s there because I, along with you, have to fight against it all the time in my heart. It’s always so much easier and so much more fun to watch a movies than to open up my bible and read it or to come to a bible study class. And, at least for me, the reason movies are so much more fun is that they ask such good questions, don’t they? What is a hero? What does a hero do? If you ever watch a good movie you have a hero. And then the hero realizes that his role is to sacrifice himself for the greater good. So, for example, you have the soldier on the battlefield in WW II. He willingly lays down his life for his brothers on the field and his country back home.
But you watch a movie like that and you realize that movies like that which are supposed to be fun are actually terrifying. What happens to that soldier after he dies? When you ask that question suddenly movies aren’t that fun anymore. Because they don’t answer the question. They avoid it at all costs. But God’s word does. God’s word tells us that all those who die not knowing, not believing in the Triune God will be in hell forever. And those who know their Savior will be there in heaven. All of a sudden, the movies that were fun are frightening. And the bible that was boring is fun.
There are so many objections we pile up when it comes to studying God’s word and growing in it, aren’t there? Isn’t is shocking and shameful to see how easily we hate solid food and how thoroughly we avoid bible study?
We get to this time of the year when we focus on Christ growing in us. And that’s important for us to do. But it’s also so very important for us to focus on the other part of the church year. It’s also important for us to focus on Jesus growing for us. Here we are in the heat of summer. But every year, in the cold of winter we meet the 12-year-old Jesus in the temple. And there, even at 12, we see a grown up, don’t we. We pretend that a sermon will be enough for growth, and what does he do? He talks for hours with the teachers of the law. We say, “I don’t belong there with those who know more than me.” But what does Jesus do? He craves and hungers to learn more. We think that bible study isn’t that fun. But he found no greater joy than to learn about his Father from God’s word.
And all of this Jesus does for you. Jesus was perfect in your place. When Jesus’ Father looks at you he sees Jesus obedience in your place. Martin Luther once said that being a Christian is like this: Someone comes and knocks on your door and says, “where is that old, sinful Martin?” And in reply, Luther said, “He’s doesn’t live here anymore. Instead, Jesus lives here.” My brothers and sisters in Christ, Because Jesus was perfect in your place and punished in your place God doesn’t see your sin. You are forgiven.
And that, my friends is a freeing fact. Since we learn from God’s word that we are forgiven, that is the very place we will grow in. And so what is your plan going to be? From this day on, what is your game-plan to grow in God’s word? Let me give you some options. We have mediations. Y0u can read them. You have bibles. You can read them. You have three bible studies offered in our congregation. You can attend them.
But as you begin to plan out the tools you will use to grow in your faith and the times you will do this, remember the words God speaks to you in our final verses: “1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.” (Hebrews 6:1–3 NIV)
As you study God’s word here at church and at home, know that you are not alone. Notice first the word, “we.” We will do this. You are surrounded by your fellow Christians who will be growing right along with you. And second, notice the word, “permitting.” Every now and then a translation just gets it wrong. When we say, “God permitting” in english it has this idea that God might not be in favor of what we are doing. It’s in doubt. And that’s not the case here. Your Father in heaven really wants you to grow. And your Father will really be there to help you grow. In God’s word he will give you truth to combat the lies. In God’s word he will give you joy to fight the fear. In God’s word you will give you forgiveness for each and every sin. So my dear Christians, grow up. Grow from milk to meat. Grow from infancy to maturity. Amen.