|Vol. 13 No. 9 September 2011||
Sunday afternoon, I took my 15-month-old grandson out in the backyard. His little hand wrapped neatly around one of my fingers for a few minutes. Then, he took off on his own. I could not help but be amused when I watched him come to a little bitty stick that had blown off of one of our abundance of pine trees. If he stepped on a stick, it would throw him off, and he would nearly fall, or sometimes he would fall. As we walked, he got to the point that when he came to a stick, he would lift his little leg way up, and step over the stick with what was, for him, a giant step. As I watched him, I told my daughter (his mother) that an article was forming in my mind, based on his actions. Well, here it is.
You see, as his mother and I walked along, we simply stepped on those little sticks, never thinking about them at all. They were not obstacles to us. However, for him, they were major obstacles that could make the difference between standing and falling. Being the preacher that I am, I could not help but think of the biblical application that this helped illustrate.
The Scriptures often make reference to the fact that new Christians are like “newborn babes.” For instance, Peter says, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:1-3). The new Christian has to grow and mature. Paul rebuked Christians who should have grown but did not grow (1 Corinthians 3:1-2; Hebrews 5:12-14). So, the concept of “babes in Christ” is a clear concept. Watching Thomas made me think of some things.
We must practice patience, because for the newborn Christian there may be some things that are major hurdles to overcome that are not significant hurdles for mature Christians. When one becomes a Christian, he must learn to leave behind ideas and concepts that have been drilled into him all of his life. That is a process. It begins with an acceptance of the Word of God and the authority of Jesus. The application of this determination to follow God will lead to changes in thoughts and actions. The newborn Christian (as true of every Christian) is not perfect, but is saved by the blood of Jesus. All of this means that from time to time especially babes in Christ are going to come upon a “stick” over which they must carefully step to keep from falling. That stick may not be a major obstacle any more, as they mature in the faith.
We must continue to strengthen and teach after a person obeys the Gospel. We feed the newborn infant. I still walk with Thomas, ready to grab him and help him if he falls, and to help him avoid the dangers of the world around him. We must have the same attitude toward our newborn brothers and sisters in Christ. I believe that is why Jesus instructed us to make disciples, baptize them and then continue to teach them “all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). If we neglect the newborn, the newborn will die; if we neglect the newborn Christian, the newborn Christian will die spiritually.
Out in the yard where I was walking with the grandbaby, there were several larger limbs that I had to watch out for. There are also holes in the ground that I had to avoid or I would fall. The little sticks do not bother me like they do Thomas, but the big ones pose a danger to me. My point is that while we grow more mature, we will leave behind some obstacles that can cause us to fall, and hopefully we do not any longer have to worry about the “little sticks,” yet we never get to the point that we no longer have to watch out for where we are going. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Spiritual maturity is important. However, it is important to understand that we never quit growing, and that we will always have to overcome obstacles that will try to keep us from standing firm. The same principle was applied as Paul wrote about restoring one who has fallen. He noted the “spiritual,” in other words those who are spiritually mature. He said, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:2).
I want to hold little Thomas’ hand and to help guide him over the little sticks and also the major obstacles in his life. His mother and father feel the same way. We need to have the same concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are still babes in the faith.
Last Sunday morning, I listened to a sermon on TV in which the preacher said, “You can tell Christians by the way we act.” How true that is! A true Christian lives a dedicated life in which he strives to “follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21) that is, in the steps of Christ, our Master. The earlier part of that same verse says that “He left us an example.” Christ was totally devoted in His service to God, and even though we are not able to give what Christ did as He gave His precious blood for the redemption of man’s sins, we must live in such a way as to reflect our love and devotion to God. What must we do to show our love for God? He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). However, let’s look at just a few things in the book of 1 Peter alone to see what we must do so that our lives reflect that we are, in fact, living Christian lives.
Christians must study God’s Word and live by its instructions: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow by it” (1 Peter 2:1). If one truly loves God and wants to please Him, one must know what He wants of us and expects us to do. The only way we can do that is by reading and studying His Word and doing what it says. We have no other means of learning what God’s will is. We read in 1 Peter 1:25, “The word of God endures forever and this is the word of the gospel that is preached to you.” God gave men the “good news” of the Gospel and it guides us in all our religious endeavors. Christians must follow the direct commands that are given in God’s Word. Let’s itemize just a few of them from 1 Peter:
1. “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). A Christian will respect all men. He will love those who have a like passion for and devotion to God. He will honor the rulers just as he is to honor and respect all men.
2. “Refrain your tongue from evil and your lips that they speak no guile; turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11). A Christian will control what comes out of his mouth by not saying evil things. We are not just speaking of cursing, but it is included. Evil speaking includes saying filthy things, gossiping, spreading rumors, etc. It seems that sometimes those who speak evil are in a contest to see who can outdo another. What a shame! Those same tongues could be used in serving God!
3. “All of you be subject to each other and be clothed with humility for God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). This is a hard one! We are commanded to be humble and show deference to each other! We are not to “lord it over” those around us. God will not honor mean pride!
4. “Be sober, be vigilant because your adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Carefully guard your behavior because the devil wants your soul, and he will be aggressive about claiming it for his own. Have you ever watched a lion eat its meal? Enough said!
5. “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Here we are back to acting like God’s people because we are trying to live like we belong to Him. We are able to tell others why we are God’s children and encourage them to become His children.
6. “If any man speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:10). Teach by the Bible, not some man’s teachings or creeds.
7. Christians must “commit the keeping of your soul to Him” (1 Peter 4:19). One cannot be dedicated to the world and to God at the same time. Trust God and “Cast all your care on Him for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
These are a lot of instructions, but there is so much to be gained by keeping them. Peter names a couple of things that make us understand the importance of keeping them: “They will see your good works and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:12) and “Receive the end of your faith, the salvation of your soul” (1 Peter 1:9). A brother voiced a prayer recently in which he said, “May our lives be a reflection of Your will.” That’s exactly what our lives must be. The end result of “acting like Christians” is that others will see our good works and glorify God, and we will receive the salvation of our souls by being faithful to Him. May God bless all of us in doing that!