Sunday, December 6, 2009

got milk? get steak!

00010865 got milk? Masi Oka and Hayden Panettiere, stars of the TV show Heroes are just the latest of many celebrities to appear in these popular milk ads which over the years have featured everyone from Michael Jordan to Superman to Dr. Phil. Masi Oka's ad says drinking milk can make you leaner and help to build muscle. Is milk the answer to fitness? Milk may do the body good, but let's be serious, milk by itself is not enough if you want to be healthy and strong, certainly not enough if you want to be a hero!

If you're growing in your Christian life, there comes a point at which drinking milk alone is not enough! It is to such a group of Christians that Hebrews 5:11–6:20 was written. The author is getting into some pretty serious teaching, about how Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered (5:8), but before he gets into how we too might learn obedience through what we suffer, he suddenly stops the sermon, saying:

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 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!drinking_milk-300x199 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature... (Hebrews 5:11–14a)

I take him seriously. The author is speaking to people not unlike us, people who have been Christians long enough now that they ought to be teachers, but instead they seem to need someone to go over the ABC's (elementary truths of God's word) all over again. What are the first things we learned as Christians? Verse 12: "You need milk, not solid food!"  Do you really suppose this is a serious prescription for them? for us? Do we really need to relearn the ABC's? Is more milk the answer?

No, of course not! It's ironic: "You poor babies need milk, you're not ready for solid food." Hint: Just a moment before, the author said to them, "by this time you ought to be teachers." Too much milk is their problem, not the solution! What they need now is solid food and motivation to grow. It's too easy for us to become sluggish, slow down in our Christian lives, and settle for just drinking milk. Popular preaching promotes a perpetual pablum problem. But a milky diet is not enough! If we can see the author's irony, understand that it is actually a rebuke, then we can own the truth that we too have settled for milk instead of craving solid food.

Bring on the steak! Let's get beyond the ABC's of being a Christian. I want to grow. Hebrews urges us to stop drifting along (2:1), to really focus on Jesus who is our Hero and Champion (2:10, 3:1), and to recognize that if Jesus is our Forerunner (6:20), we better get moving! And it warns us what will happen if instead we choose to walk away (6:4–6).

Last week in the blog, I wrote about Hebrews 6:4–6 which warns us of the danger of walking away from Christ. And, yes, I said that John MacArthur does not believe that John Piper could ever lose his salvation, but I do. MacArthur and Piper do not believe Heb. 6:4–6 applies to Christians, but to those who are close to becoming believers. MacArthur fails to see the irony of Hebrews 5:12! I guess his Bible does not end the verse with an exclamation point! He writes, “The term [infant] in Hebrews 5:13 describes an unbeliever... who was hanging on to the ABC's... The mature person talked about in verse 14 is one who grows up by putting his faith in Jesus Christ...” By missing the irony, he misses the point! It makes no sense to call these immature Christians non-believers. These are Christians being addressed, Christians who have become sluggish, who have slowed down in their faith and who have settled for just drinking milk. Verse 12 is actually saying “Enough milk already!” You know the ABC's! That's why the author, including himself in the group says, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity” (6:1).

milk_FullWhat is the milk we settle for? Devotional guides that give us a verse or two of Scripture per day but have us spend more time reading the guide itself? Sermons we can listen to rather than Bible studies we can do? [Why not post a comment on what you think is the milk we settle for?] I know the two basic ways to grow as a Christian: read Scripture and pray. And yet, today, I am not where I would like to be. Why? Too much milk has made me sluggish. I settle for getting by and drinking milk rather than craving solid food. My own experience confirms milk is not the answer. I'm ready to move on to maturity; it's time for some steak!


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