Gummy Bears or Green Beans?

Hebrews 5:11-14

Warning Against Falling Away

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 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! 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.

Dear Friends in Christ,

I think we would all agree and have probably experienced at some time or another that we never quite know what is going to come out of the mouths of babes.  Sometimes it’s embarrassing.  Sometimes it’s enlightening.  Sometimes it’s frightening.  And sometimes it’s just downright cute.  Consider some of these interesting insights that appear on a list that has made its rounds on the Internet entitled “Great Truths about Life That Little Children Have Learned:”

  • No matter how hard you try you cannot baptize a cat.
  • When your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair.
  • You can’t trust dogs to watch your food for you.
  • Don’t sneeze when somebody is cutting your hair.
  • You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.
  • Never wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts, no matter how cute the underwear is.

Well, even though all of those statements carry a certain degree of truth with them, there is a better place where we can learn the great truths of life.  And that is in this holy Book that we call the Bible which we are currently studying in a sermon series that I have entitled “The Foundation of Our Faith.”  The goal of this series is quite simple, and that is to get people interested in and excited about reading the Bible, not just once in a great while or on a hit and miss basis, but regularly, frequently, preferably daily.  And just to refresh your memory as to what we’ve talked about so far in this series, we began by looking at 9 reasons why people don’t read the Bible.  Then we followed that up with some excellent reasons why we should read the Bible.  And now we’re in the part of this series where we’re looking at some of the problems that can arise when we fail to read this book that was given by divine inspiration, this book that was “God-breathed,” as 2 Timothy 3:16 puts it.

The first problem that we looked at was this: Biblical illiteracy leaves life’s key questions unanswered.  We spent a couple of Sundays pondering some of the big questions of life and how the Bible answers them.  And if you weren’t here those Sundays and want to find out what we talked about, you can access those sermons on our church’s web site at salemlc.org where you will find them in both printed and audio form.

This morning we want to tackle another problem that can arise when we don’t read our Bibles.  And that problem is this: Biblical illiteracy hinders spiritual growth and maturity.  You know, when you think about it, our spiritual life is not really that different from our physical life.  For example, both have a beginning.  Our physical life begins at the moment of conception and is especially evidenced when we are born.  Our spiritual life begins when we are born again, that is, when we are brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Then there is also a point at which both will end.  Our physical life ends when we breathe our final breath and die.  Our spiritual life ends when we breathe our final breath and die in the Lord, as believers in Jesus Christ, at which point a whole new life begins for us as we then have the privilege of dwelling in his glorious and heavenly presence for all eternity.  But sandwiched in between the beginning and end of our spiritual life we have the grand privilege and responsibility of growing and maturing in our faith and our Christian walk.

Think of it this way.  How much did you weigh when you were born and how much do you weigh now?  I know that’s kind of a personal question, but you need only answer it to yourself because the question is, how did you get from 7 lbs., 6 oz., or whatever your birth weight was, to the 150 to 200 or more pounds that you are today?  You did it by feeding your body, by giving it the nourishment, nutrition, and sustenance that it needs to grow and develop and mature.

Well, the spiritual part of us is no different.  It too needs to be fed.  In fact, that is exactly what the writer to the Hebrews is talking about in our text for today when he kind of scolds his audience for not doing a better job of feeding their faith.  He says: “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!”  Because they had failed so miserably to tend to their spiritual lives, the writer was in essence calling them “baby Christians,” when in fact they should have been fully developed and mature disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So let’s spend some time this morning talking about the importance of spiritual growth and maturity that can only come through faithful reading and study of God’s Word.  And the first point I want to talk about is how important it is that we consume a balanced spiritual diet.  Now what do I mean by that?  Well, experts in the dietary industry tell us that we need the daily nutrients that come from 6 basic food groups.  And no those groups do not consist of McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Rather the 6 basic food groups are whole grains, vegetables, fruits, milk and other dairy products, protein, and oils.  If you include a proper balance of those in your diet every day, the odds are that you’re going to have a much healthier life than if you don’t include them.

Well, did you know that the Bible offers us 5 basic spiritual food groups and that when we partake of those in a balanced way, we can’t help but become spiritually stronger and healthier?  And what are those 5 groups?

  • History, which would include books like Genesis, Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, and Acts.
  • Prophecy, which would include books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Revelation.
  • Poetry and Wisdom, which would include books like Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.
  • Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
  • Epistles – which would include books like Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, and I John.

Now please understand, you don’t need to eat from these 5 groups every day, but if you really want to experience some good growth and maturity in your spiritual life, it would do you well to partake of each of them at least periodically.

And that’s the problem, for a growing number of 21st century Christians are not doing that.  Instead, they are settling for the spiritual junk food that is being offered today.  And trust me, there is plenty of it out there.  In recent years lots of programs have popped up on the History Channel, the National Geographic Channel, and the Discovery Channel with very spiritual sounding titles that contain the name of Jesus.  But just because they have the word “Jesus” in them does not mean that they are Jesus-friendly.  The same thing holds true with many books that can be found in the religious section of a Barnes and Noble or some other bookstore.  Just because those books are in that section does not necessarily mean that they line up with the Bible, which is our ultimate standard of truth.

Some years ago when Marilyn and I were attending Worldview Weekend Conferences in Branson, one of their speakers by the name of Woodrow Kroll made an interesting comment that I have never forgotten.  He said that too many Christians today want to feed themselves on Gummy Bears when what they really need is green beans.  Gummy Bears are tasty and sweet.  They’re cute and squishy.  They’re bright and colorful.  They’ve got a lot going for them, except for one thing.  They have absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever.  Green beans, on the other hand, may not be as tasty or cute or as colorful as Gummy Bears, but they are packed with a lot of nutritional value.  Now it’s not wrong to eat an occasional Gummy Bear or two, but if that’s all you eat, if that’s all your diet consists of, then sooner or later your body is going to suffer.  And if all you settle for in your spiritual life is the equivalent of Gummy Bears – a shallow and superficial knowledge and understanding of God’s Word – then your spiritual life is going to suffer too.  As Woodrow Kroll puts it: “Gummy Bears make great snacks, but green beans make a great life.”  So devour the green beans of God’s Word and you’ll be amazed at what it does for your life.

That takes us to a second point I want to make today on how we can become more spiritual mature: Don’t treat the Bible like a fire extinguisher.  When is the only time you reach for a fire extinguisher?  When there’s a fire, right?  Any other time it’s ignored.  It hangs there on the wall or sits in that cabinet just waiting to be used, but it won’t be used until there’s a fire.

Well, sadly, that’s how many people treat the Bible.  It sits on the shelf or their coffee table or their night stand right beside their bed and is virtually ignored.  But when there’s a fire – a life threatening illness, a financial setback, a marriage gone sour, a child gone astray – that Bible is one of the first things they reach for.  Then they start thumbing through its pages, hoping to find something that will magically speak to their situation, though they often times have no idea where to begin.

Wouldn’t it make a whole lot more sense to read the Bible regularly, to underline or highlight favorite passages and perhaps commit them to memory, to maybe keep a journal of where to go in Scripture when certain things go wrong or when things go right because the Bible isn’t just for bad times?  It offers some great passages of praise for the good times as well.

I remember the night that Marilyn’s dad died back on Sept. 23, 1995.  As we sat in that waiting room at Missouri Baptist Hospital in St. Louis trying to process what had just happened and trying to envision a future that did not include this godly man who was such an integral part of our lives, I found myself calling to mind and then leaning upon passages of Scripture that I had committed to memory and shared with other people during similar situations.  And I was amazed at how wonderfully they spoke to my heart and comforted me.  Listen, my friends, the more you get into the Bible, the more the Bible will get into you.  The more you read God’s Word, the more familiar you’re going to become with it, and the more you’re going to be able to use that Word as God intended, as a refuge in the midst of the storm, as a compass when you’re searching for direction, as a weapon when you feel the devil’s hot breath on your neck.

And speaking of the devil, I came across this quote from a well-respected theologian by the name of J. I. Packer who wrote: “If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folks from digging into the Bible…I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalents of pits, thorn hedges, and man traps, to frighten people off.”  And isn’t that exactly what the devil does, my friends?  How many times have you resolved that you were going to read the Bible all the way through from cover to cover, or maybe just read a chapter a day, only to get started and then have thoughts like these enter your mind: “It’s so big.  It’s so thick.  It’s so difficult to understand.  I’m so busy.  I don’t have time.  I’ll get to it later.”

My friends, if those thoughts hit you when you see your Bible lying there on the coffee table, practically begging to be read, understand that you’re not alone.  That is one of Satan’s greatest and most popular ploys.  And the main reason it is is because he knows that when you open that book and start reading it, sooner or later you’re going to have a personal encounter with his biggest arch rival and enemy, the One who died and rose again for us, the One who can make the difference between spending eternity with him or eternity with Satan, the One who alone can save us from our sins: Jesus the Christ.

So more than anything, read the Bible to get to know Jesus better.  But also read it so that you’ll grow and move on from being a baby Christian to a fully developed and mature disciple of Christ who can stand strong against the attacks of the evil one and be used by God in ways that can make an earthly and eternal difference in the lives of others.  Amen.