The Apostle Paul confronted the believers in Corinth with these words: “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2)
Evidently in Corinth there were a good number of believers who remained spiritual infants. To Paul it was incredible that followers of Jesus would no go on to maturity but would be willing to settle for remaining babies in the faith. He longed to take them deeper into God’s truths and for them to experience more of the abundant life Jesus promised, but for whatever reason they would not grow up.
The story of Stanley Thornton, Jr. gained attention some time back when NatGeo featured him in a program called Taboo. He is an adult man in his 30s who choses to live much of his life as a baby – being bottle fed, sleeping in a crib, wearing diapers, etc. It is an incredible story – and I do not mean incredible in a good way! He blames abuse as a child for his condition and his inability to keep a job. He is on disability although is able to drive, do woodworking, and run a website. If this strikes you as a disturbing story, it should. This is not the way life was meant to be lived. God designed us to grow up. Babies should be babies, but adults should be adults.
Is it any less disturbing for believers to remain spiritual infants when God has called us on to maturity? The writer of Hebrews echoes Paul’s astonishment at spiritual immaturity among Christians. “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 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! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.” (Hebrews 5:11-13)
Why are so many Christians content to remain in spiritual play pens being fed with milk? Many reasons could be posited. It may be that some professing believers aren’t truly believers, in this case, their lack of spiritual maturity is understandable. It could be that spiritual growth has been stunted because the believer has conformed to the pattern of this world. It could be that the lure of comfort and security keeps a Christian from moving on toward maturity. It could be that pastors and churches have not set the expectation for growth – and there could all kinds of reasons for this. It may be that growing up carries with it responsibility, so the less mature a person is the less likely it will be that he or she will be asked to serve or sacrifice. Or possibly it’s some combination of all of these! Whatever the reason, it just isn’t right!
This world surely needs more spiritual infants, but the growth in the Christian nursery should be because of new spiritual births. But this world also needs believers who are committed to moving out of the nursery and into God’s army. We need men and women of faith who are maturing, growing, and getting out of their comfort zones. Paul said that he was pressing on to take hold of that for which Jesus Christ took hold of him. He didn’t say he was still holding onto a baby bottle!
Where are you? If you drew a line and numbered it 0-10 with 0 being spiritual infancy and 10 being spiritual maturity, where would you be? Are you in the same place you were a year ago, two years ago, ten years ago? If a spiritual photograph could be taken of you, would it show something like the picture above?
May God convict the hearts of every believer, myself included, that we should grow up to become more like Jesus daily in our attitudes and actions!