From Milk to Maturity
“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” – Hebrews 5:13-14
As we have seen from our sermon series on the Book of Hebrews, the author exhorts Christians who are still drinking “milk” to grow up into Christ-like maturity by moving on from the elementary truths of our faith to the “meat” of solid spiritual food and teaching. The challenge is to dig deeper into God’s Word and grow in our capacity to live as committed disciples of Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?
To understand the character of Christ-like maturity and what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus, let us look to the teachings of Jesus himself. The first sermon Jesus ever preached is called “The Sermon on the Mount” as recorded in Matthew 5-7. Jesus ends Matthew 5 with the challenge: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (vs. 48). The word for perfect here refers to a person coming of age, someone who is no longer a minor. They are now adults and growing spiritually mature.
Are you spiritually mature, and eating solid food, per Jesus’ standard of spiritual maturity? Peter Scazzero, former senior pastor of New Life Fellowship in Queens, New York, and founder of the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality movement, outlines seven characteristics of spiritual maturity based the teachings from Jesus in Matthew 5:17-47. Borrowing from Scazzero, allow me to outline them briefly here. I invite you to use them as a mirror to examine your own spiritual maturity. According to Jesus, mature disciples – those transitioning from “milk” to “meat” – are to be demonstrating at least seven things: Maturing disciples …
1) Love to Obey Scripture (vv. 17-20).
Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. Living God’s Word is an important mark of discipleship. How’s your obedience to the Bible? Are you a doer of God’s Word, or just a hearer?
2) Banish Resentments & Anger (vv. 21-26)
Jesus has harsh words for anyone who harbors anger: “I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” Are you holding on to a grudge or harboring anger toward someone?
3) Fight Off Lust to Protect Peoples’ Dignity (vv. 27-30)
Jesus raises the bar when it comes to inner fidelity of the heart. In fact, he says that anyone who even looks at a person lustfully has committed adultery in his/her heart. Do you see persons or bodies?
4) Live with Integrity in Marriage and Home (vv. 31-32)
The teachings of Jesus regarding marriage and divorce may not be popular today. But they are the teachings of Jesus. Are you growing closer to your spouse, or further away? How about your children?
5) Speak and Live the Truth (vv. 33-37)
Jesus said let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” Don’t be wishy-washy. Live your commitments with integrity and clarity. Do you speak and live the truth with love and decisiveness?
6) Are Non-Defensive, Poised, Creatively Loving (vv. 38-42)
It’s natural to want to get back at someone when they do you wrong. But Jesus says, “turn the other cheek,” “give him more than he asks for,” “travel the extra mile.” How do you react when hurt by others?
7) Love and Pray for Enemies (vv. 43-47)
It’s easy to be good to those who are good to us. But Jesus calls us to do good to those who are mean to us – who persecute us even. How are you doing in demonstrating love to your enemies?
These are the tough teachings of Jesus on spiritually maturity. I guess we’ve all got a long way to go. A warm bottle of milk sure would be soothing; but it doesn’t help us grow-up. The teachings of Jesus are solid food and not for those with weak teeth, heart, or stomach!
Growing with You,
Pastor Dave Van Netten