PARTNERS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART XCVII
Does a Christian ever grow up and reach full maturity? Let us explore what our New Testament writers left us to cope with. Let us begin with Jesus who treated his disciples (students) as if they were babes and had much to learn; yet, it was to such that God sent His Son and the Son of man (Luke 10:21; Matthew 11:25). Jesus treated them as if they were fragile and weak. Jesus made “His Work” look easy and light to them. He could not tell them how it all would end and scare them off before He had a chance to become acquainted.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).
JESUS ADVOCATED A CHILDLIKENESS ATTITUDE
My mother and grandmother taught me the basics of my faith in God and Christ that has served me ninety years. It was when I was led off these basics principles that my return was troubling and difficult. And as I became older and educated, I had too many questions, which delayed my understanding of my parent’s faith, who had very little and no education. My folks were like children and had a childlike attitude and faith in Jesus their Lord. Both of my parents taught themselves to read the Bible and tried to live by it, and passed on in their nineties. They survived two world wars. And in both wars, they lost everything, which included properties and lives. They even were taken to Siberia while my grandfather served in the Russian army during the first war. And my father served in the Polish Army during the second world war. Like their Lord, they too did overcome the world (John 16:33).
Jesus’ disciples were similar to my parents (Acts 4:13). However, when the disciples were told that they would be leaders in the “Kingdom,” that was coming down from heaven, they began to elevate themselves and aspired to greatness. They even dared Jesus! The disciples even wanted to know whom he would put first in the “Kingdom?” It is not likely that the answer Jesus gave delighted the disciples.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the breates in the kingdom of heaven.”
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great milestone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptations comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:1-14).
THERE IS A DISTINCT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING CHILDLIKE AND BEING CHILDISH
Being childlike is being attentive, humble, and willing to learn and obey. Being childish is being unattentive, disobedient and unwilling to improve. Unfortunately, some of us are childish at times. Jesus had that problem with his disciples because they were not childlike, and they were not ready for the “Kingdom” (Matthew 5:20;18:3). Then, after Jesus had given them a long lesson on being childlike, the discipled did this:
Then children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away” (Matthew 19:13-15).
Paul had a serious childishness in Corinth over who was more Christlike, similar to what we encounter among ourselves. The Apostle John’s people were in a constant childhood stage over sin and how to live right; and so did the people of the writer to the Hebrews. In our time, grace even stops many of us from growing up. Our efforts are being regarded as interfering with our redemption. God appears to need no help. Could such thinking be ironic and childish?
I (Paul) appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissension among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I am thankful that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius; lest any one should say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any one else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (I Corinthians 1:10-17).
“My little children, (John) am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says,’I know him,’ but disobeys his commandments is aliar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: he who says he abides in him ought to walk (live) in the same way in which he walked (lived)” (I John 2:1-6).
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, with instruction about ablutions, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this will do if God permits. For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. For land which has drunk the rain that often falls upon it, and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed; its end is to be burned.
Though we speak thus yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation. For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:1-12).
GRADUATES ARE EXPECTED TAKE ON RESPONSIBILITIES
Jesus was apprehensive about his disciples’ readiness. They could not heal (Mark 9:19), they were slow to understand! Why their Teacher had to die (Luke 24:25-27)? They could not connect the Son of man with God, His Father (John 14:8-11). And they could not separate the “Kingdom of God” from the earthly Israel (Acts 1:6). The disciples did not move as expected after Pentecost. So, the Holy Spirit prompted new people, who were educated — men like Stephen, Philip, Barnabas, Silas, John Mark, Paul, Luke, and proselytes from all over the Roman empire, and they took the “Message of Salvation” into the world (Acts 2:5-11). These people were hard to replace. Paul, John, and the writer to the Hebrews had grave concerns over the lack of leadership in their Churches and Synagogues. The lack of self-control was a major concern. The cleaning up of our lives and keeping them clean is our responsibility and not God’s. The Holy Spirit can keep our conscience aware of our need to make amends and repairs. Jesus will not clean after us; he left it to us!
“But I (Paul), brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, and not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men?” (I Corinthians 3:1-3).
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14).
“Yet among the mature we impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him, God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit” (I Corinthians 2:6-13)
“About this (High Priest Jesus) we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to touch you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14).
WHAT ARE THE COMMANDMENTS THAT CAN KEEP US CLEAN?
John hinted at Jesus who had come to restore the Law of Moses and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17-18). Hence, for John, the old Commandments have been renewed and are vital for the survival of the followers of Christ in the world. The Commandments are eternal and universal! And the Commandments are good for all ages. A healthy Church should serve all ages and that was precisely what John Zebedee believed and did. John treated all ages as God’s children with different abilities and understanding to live in a community that had things in common, based on Christ’s principle of love waiting to be taken to the new world:
Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling. But he who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever. (I John 2:7-17).