Sunday, April 10, 2005

Top Ten Ways to Remain a Spiritual Baby

Modern psychological theory tells us that it is important to get in touch with our “Inner Child.” It is only by embracing the “infant inside” that we can adequately cope with the complex problems of this modern age. Since we in the Church do not want to be found to be following behind the world, perhaps we need to learn to pamper the spiritual toddler within as well. So allow me this morning to offer the top ten ways (with apologies to David Letterman) we can remain Spiritual Babies. Here we go...Number Ten...

10. Compartmentalize your faith. Like the little old lady of used car fame only drive your faith to church on Sundays. Allow Jesus Lordship over your spiritual life, but keep it separate from your day-to-day existence. Keep it nice and neat in a little box so as not to get it dirty with the worries and cares of the real world. By keeping your faith compartmentalized it will easy for you to manage and control.

9. Drink only “milk.” The scriptural variety I mean. Do your best to avoid the meatier portions of Scripture. These often cause indigestion and are too challenging to the Christian trying to avoid growth. Rather spend your time (but not too much) snacking on the high-calorie sweet parts of Scripture. Feast on the goodies while staying away from the responsibilities. Especially avoid passages such as "Take up your cross and follow me." By avoiding a balanced diet of Scripture, you will have some growth, but only as a fat baby.

8. Avoid new experiences. Realizing that new spiritual opportunities may provide a chance to stretch yourself, you should do your best to stay away from such things as retreats, bible studies, new forms of worship, different types of prayer and even changing seats at the Sunday service. When confronted by new experiences and chances to grow respond with these seven words: We never did it that way before! By clinging religiously to the old ways and avoiding the new, you can be assured that no possibility for growthwill ever sneak up on you.

7. Wait until you are “mature” to use your spiritual gifts. Just like the human body, gifts grow by exercising them. To avoid "pumping-up" as a spiritual giant put off using your gifts. Keep telling yourself you will start "working-out" when you have been a Christian a bit longer. Allow yourself to become a spiritual "flabby." Once you do discover you gift, only exercise it when you are asked. Never volunteer! Showing initiative is a bad habit to start if you are trying to avoid growth.

6. Isolate yourself from other Christians. Nothing breeds potential growth than interaction with other believers. By getting involved in their lives and allowing them to become involved in yours you run the risk of actually growing. While sometimes such interaction is inevitable (usually at the once a Sunday worship service), you can minimize the risk by coming in late and leaving early. Don't allow yourself to be roped into the dangerous area known as fellowship time. Such times are fertile ground in which you might actually discover that you like being around other Christians. To further foster this spirit of isolation, never avail yourself of various other opportunities to gather with others. Once you get involved the possibility of growth increases dramatically.

5. Never question or doubt. If curiosity killed the cat, it certainly can't be good for us right? Obviously we weren't meant to understand the ways of God, so why stretch ourselves by thinking too hard about such things. Accept blindly everything you hear from the pulpit or from the TV or Radio evangelists. Surely they wouldn't lead a person astray? Even if you hear contradictory information, it is better to live in confusion than to wrestle with the deeper things of the faith. Remember what happened to Job when he questioned and doubted -- God himself appeared. To avoid growth it is better if God doesn't pay to much attention to us. Live your life quietly.

4. Rely on your own resources. Foster a sense of independence from others and especially from God. Try to do as much for yourself as possible. Don't let others know you have a need -- they might want to help. Develop this spirit by listening to recordings of "My Way" by Elvis or Sinatra. Read Horatio Alger stories of how people went from rags to riches on their own. Remember that you can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and that God helps those who help themselves!

3. Live Legalistically. By reducing the Good News of the Gospel into hard and fast laws of conduct you too can become a modern day Pharisee. While growing Christians are enjoying their life of freedom in Jesus Christ, you can burden yourself with unattainable expectations and endless do's and don'ts. By immersing yourself in a rigid strait-jacket oflegalism you can effectively point out the "specks" in other's eyes while clubbing them with the log in your own.

2. Conform to the World. There are billions of them and only one of you, so you are better off just going with the flow. Besides non-Christians have more fun, right? Follow after the crowd, you will have more friends that way. Let the world make the decisions for you. This way you can blame others when things go wrong. Don't be different. People may ask you why and you might be forced to witness to them.

1. Let your feelings, not your faith, dictate your spiritual walk. Ride the emotional roller-coaster of life. Concentrate on you feelings of inadequacy to follow the plan of God. Keep reminding yourself what a horrible person you were. Memorize Romans 7:24 -- "Wretched man that I am -- Who will rescue me from this body of death?" Repeat this often, especially when the threat of growth presents itself. Base you faith on how you feel about God, not on how He feels about you.

If you follow these ten steps religiously, I can guarantee you will live an unsuccessful and ineffective Christian. Just like the thousands who have gone before you! Obviously the preceding was intended to be humorous in its approach. But that humor belies a deeper, more serious concern. Shirley Guthrie in his book “Christian Doctrine” asks some penetrating questions about where we are in our spiritual walk:
· Are you growing?
· Have you settled down comfortably with the growth you have behind you, or are you willing to keep up the constant struggle to keep changing?
· Is your Christian walk an attempt to simply hold on to what you have already achieved in your relation to God and other people?
· Or are you willing to risk what you already learned and accomplished to explore new and more complete ways of loving God and other people?
· Do you spend your life defending and protecting yourself as you are, or are you willing to subject yourself to the dangers of admitting that you are still immature in your beliefs and way of life and need to plow into new ways of thinking and living?

While many Christians would not consciously claim to be practicing the 10 Ways to Remain a Spiritual Baby, sadly their lives show evidence of being mired in one or more of these practices. I would challenge each of us this morning to honestly confront those places in our lives where we allow ourselves to back- pedal and retreat from growth. Many of us compartmentalize our faith; giving Jesus a portion of our lives, but not total control. Remember, if Jesus is not Lord of All, he is not Lord at all. Others of us have fallen back on our own strength and resources in order to grow. With grit and determination we tell ourselves we can become the person God wants us to be. But this self-sufficiency only leads to frustration and despair. We need to surrender to the power of the Spirit who provides the energy to really grow. Many of us leave our spiritual gifts unwrapped to gather dust upon the back shelves of our life, never realizing our great potential. Still others of us have become comfortable with where we are and aren't willing to try new things that might foster a deeper commitment. We are afraid to climb out of comfort zones and experience the deeper waters of faith. Some of us fall victim to the sights, sounds and sensual pleasures of the world and allow our walk of faith to be sidetracked into some dark side alley. By living in the strait-jacket of legalism, others miss out on the excitement of living a life of freedom in Christ. The spots where we falter and fall back are many and various. We need to be aware of them before we can really grow in our Christian lives. Only be avoiding the pitfalls and focusing on the road ahead can true growth be achieved.

And growth is the goal of the Christian life. So let the world embrace the “inner child” and wallow in its immaturity. We embrace the “Christ Child” who grew up into the God-Man Jesus who gave himself to save the world. And if we allow him to work the miracle of new life within us - “then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ.”

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