Do you consider yourself a skilled Christian? Yes, that question struck me as odd as well when I first read it in the book of Hebrews but as I pondered it I began to appreciate it. We do a lot of listening, learning, studying but not a lot of practice. Certainly we all try to be kind but there is a lot more to Christianity than being kind. In some ways, our spiritual development is somewhat like school in that you do not get to advance until you demonstrate that you are able to apply what you have learned. In other words, there are many of us Christians who are still stuck in kindergarten.
While we are serving Jesus in this place we should understand that his goal for us is spiritual maturity. Everything we do, that we face, that we learn is suppose to move us forward in this maturity. To put it in the terms of my opening question, we should be improving our skills, advancing to the "master" category. The writer of Hebrews observed this:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (Hebrews 5:12)
This provokes a humorous picture in my head of a bunch of 25 year olds playing with nursery toys, stuck in kindergarten. They should be teachers but they have not yet gained the skills to leave kindergarten. We learn about, even study, concerning prayer, but we don't pray. We learn and study about evangelism but we have never been brave enough to try. We hear about the importance of hospitality but never invite anyone over. And these are the simple things:
For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. (v.13)
Righteousness is important but few of us understand it. We are unskilled to apply it. Righteousness crudely is the understanding of good and evil, right and wrong. There is a right path and there is a wrong path. There are right choices and wrong choices. The more that we allow the Spirit to guide is in the right choices the more familiar those things become, the easier it is for us to recognize. But if we don't understand this then how could we ever apply the Word of God to our every day practical living? Then we hear Jesus' question, why do we call him Lord if we don't do what he has instructed? (Luke 6)
When athletes train they are conditioning their bodies to perform in a certain manner. Each sport requires different skills. A hockey player would not make a great snow boarder. He may be good at it but he will never be great because his body is conditioned for hockey. With practice he has gained skill in his chosen sport. Christians also train their heart, mind, soul and strength under the guidance of the Spirit to gain great spiritual skill to be able to apply the Word, to walk in righteousness.
But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (v. 14)
I am not talking about gaining our salvation by our own works. I am speaking to those of you who have already received Jesus and are under that promise of salvation. I am speaking to those who are on their walk with Jesus but can't seem to get any traction to advance. Our great desire should be to mature in Jesus, to walk in his righteousness. At first it will be difficult, just like learning to physically walk, but with practice we gain skill and we will eventually be running. We will be mature, growing into the fullness of Jesus.
It means when we are faced with decisions, we learn to die to our desires and choose what honours Jesus. It means, every day our thoughts are of Jesus and we use him as our measuring rod in our conduct and choices. We learn to hear and obey the Spirit as he constantly guides us and teaches according to the righteousness of Jesus. It means we learn to die to ourselves a little bit every day as we become skilled in the word of righteousness, moving from milk to glorious solid food. It is where the Word of God moves from a document of theory to the Living Word inside of us, embodied in our words and actions. It is gaining skill to do what Jesus has instructed us to do as we apply it in everything in our lives. So let's make every day a practice day.