Archive for August 30th, 2008

How Do We Get To Being Self-Feeders?

Happy Labor Day weekend everyone!

I’ve seen a few questions come up in response to my last study “You Need Solid Food, Not Milk”, one of them being “how does one become a self-feeder?”  I thought I’d take the time to post a few thoughts on how exactly people get to that maturity-level in Christ of being able to feed themselves solid food.  This is what I’ve found through personal experience to work very well, and what I think is a way to go about this process from a holistic (all things considered) standpoint of the New Testament.

In 1 Cor. 4 we find Paul writing to the Corinthian church about the example he has laid out for them, and the sacrifices he has made for them.  He writes about how he’s telling them these things to correct them and warn them about their behavior, which we already learned has been less than ‘mature’, to say the least.  Paul says in v.15 “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”   Paul was their spiritual father in Christ, the one who would grow them in to mature Christians, but he doesn’t stop there.  You see Paul is sending them Timothy, who is like Paul in every way, to remind them of Paul’s example which will spur them on to further maturity.

Timothy was a disciple of Paul, and Paul taught him everything he knew.  It’s apparent from Scripture that Paul spent much time and energy, literally pouring his life (and at least two letters!) in to Timothy, to disciple him and prepare him for the good works God had prepared for him.  Much like the rabbis of the Jewish religion (keeping in mind that Jesus was a Jew, along with the Apostles), the Apostles all had disciples who followed them, lived with them, traveled with them, and practiced their faith with them (along with learning from them).  Timothy was such a disciple of Paul, and now with all of this in mind we have in v.16-17 Paul telling the Corinthians that he was sending them Timothy.

“Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.”

Paul is urging them to follow his example, and because he’s so serious about them learning to become mature in this way, he’s sending them his “son” Timothy.  Timothy is going to remind them of Paul in every way.  Do you see the connection?  It’s a good to remember a principle Jesus taught His disciples as they followed Him…

“A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:40

Paul knows that people learn visually, and many times we end up accepting in to our lives what we see acted or lived out in front of us by others.  Paul knows that people learn best by following an example.  This is also how Jesus lived out His ministry in front of His disciples; a ministry of leading by example. Often Paul makes a request to the Christians he is writing to, a request for them to “follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).  It’s in this that we find the underlying principle taught in Scripture on how we should go about building each other up in to mature Christians.

The teacher teaches the student by the example of the teacher’s life and the teachings that were taught to the teacher originally.  But unless the practice of the teachings is present in the teacher’s life, it’s like the blind leading the blind.  The life lived by the teacher in accordance with the teachings give the teachings power and has an impact in the student’s soul.  When the student is fully trained, the student ends up looking a lot like the teacher, because he followed the teacher’s footsteps.  Ultimately Christ is every Christian’s Teacher; however we still have our earthly Christian teachers who lead us as they follow Christ.

So what does all this have to do with someone getting to the point of feeding himself spiritually? Well, let’s look at an example in the natural world: a baby first learns to take interest in solid food and tries to eat solid food by watching his/her parents do the same.  Babies are hardwired to learn to do many things as they grow, and one of those things is to learn how to stuff solid food in their faces.  A baby can learn this on their own by trial and error, but it can be dangerous, and it’s a much slower process, or it might never happen at all.  In fact there have been terrible cases of child abuse where babies have been left pretty much alone in their cribs for their entire lives.  These babies never get the interactions with and visual stimulation they need from their parents and their brains never mature.  These kids might be four years old but they have the minds of 10 month olds; can’t speak, can’t walk, can’t think.  Without a parent’s careful hand of guidance and example, babies don’t develop properly in to functional adults.  By parents leading the way and encouraging the baby, the baby figures out how to get solid food quickly and begins a journey that they will never turn back from their entire life.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be happening similarly with us Christians.  Instead, the ‘parents’ seem to continue to push the bottle of ‘spoon-feeding’ the Word to the babes, and they never get off the bottle, nor do they even seem interested in feeding themselves food.  This is a travesty!

It’s a travesty because the process is relatively simple you see.  We take what we have learned, and we pour it in to another person’s life, who will then put that teaching in to practice, and then that person goes out and finds another person to teach, and so on and so forth.  Look what Paul said to Timothy in one of his letters:

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” 2 Timothy 2:2

Getting someone to the point of self feeding is a messy process.  A lot of the time the baby will totally miss their mouth and make a terrible mess, become confused, or disheartened.  This is where the parent can step in and show them the better way.  It takes time and personal devotion to a Christian, as if they were your own son or daughter, to get them to the point of maturity.  And no, it can’t be done without the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives, so never count Him out, instead count on Him to guide you in this process of maturing yourself, and others.

Basically what it comes down to is leading by example. The teacher/parent takes the baby under their arm and leads him by showing him how to feed himself, pray, worship, serve all, and love etc. The baby will hopefully see the teacher reading the Bible every day and doing a Bible study (aka feeding himself), praying, fellowshipping and loving the brothers, and will follow that example.   This ‘witness’ speaks wonders in to affecting change and growth in the baby’s life. The teacher is also teaching and sharing with them what they have learned from the ones who originally taught them, and these teachings have relevance and meaning to the student because the teacher lives them out in front of him.

 It’s a great process and it’s worked wonderfully for us in our Bible study for years. I’ve seen myself, and other Christians I’ve had the honor of serving grow up so much in Christ, and it’s great. It’s all under the foundation of Jesus’ great commission found in Matthew 28:18-20: To make disciples and teach them everything Jesus taught us.

This isn’t the only way to get someone to the point of being a self-feeder, but it is a way I see consistently displayed in Scripture, and a way that has worked wonders in many Christian’s lives that I’ve lived around and loved. 

I hope everyone has a great Labor Day weekend!  Please don’t forget to pray for the people on the gulf coast in the path of Hurricane Gustav.  And also for us flyboys who are about to go fly out there and support those poor people in whatever way we can!  Thanks!!

Grace and Peace,
Joe

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