I want to pick up on a topic I brushed up against in the previous entry – which has received quite a strong response. (Thanks for the feedback friends!). The topic is growth in spiritual understanding.
In Hebrews 5, the author warns the readers against making an unwise decision in their faith journey. In short, they were not grasping the doctrine (teaching) of justification. They were considering either bailing all together or maybe at least adding a little of their own efforts to what Jesus has provided.
There is nothing we can add to what Jesus has done to secure our forgiveness. It is total. Complete. Absolute. Finished. Done. When we seek to add to Jesus’ work we actually detract from it for it is a free gift received by trust.
Note what the passages states and the cause:
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:12-14
In short, to put this in a positive way, when we consume the solid food of God’s word on a constant basis and, by the Spirit’s empowerment, go forth to live it, progressively our “powers of discernment grows.” It is relational, it is grounded in the Word, and it is progressive – we mature over time.
Here is an example of the disciple’s displaying their lack spiritual understanding in Luke 9:44-45.
“Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
They did not perceive it. Hmm. It was concealed from them? Really? How?
Jesus is not speaking vaguely here. He could not say it any clearer. He repeatedly told them what the Gentiles would do, what the Jews would do, and yet they did not get it. If Jesus was not concealing what was about to happen, then what was causing the lack of perception?
In a word, bias.
The guys were biased in their opinion of what should happen. Jesus is the Messiah. And the Messiah is coming to crush Israel’s enemies and usher in peace and prosperity for his people. So they thought. But this is not what Jesus was saying would happen.
Besides, since when are the disciples afraid to ask Jesus to explain something? They asked Jesus to explain the parables a number of times. They asked him to teach them to pray. Why did they not ask for clarity on this one?
They were afraid of the truth.
The very next verse the disciples’ bias is exposed. They began to argue who ought be greatest in this coming kingdom. They did not want to talk suffering, they wanted to talk greatness.
Their powers of spiritual understanding were underdeveloped at this stage and it caused them to misunderstand what Jesus was saying in very clear, direct language. They could not grasp the truth spoken plainly to them.
Here is the point: It is possible to have clear teaching, specific guidance from the Lord, and still misunderstand because we remain underdeveloped in our spiritual understanding. Like those warned in Hebrews 5, we need our powers of discernment trained by intake of the Word and constant practice.
Thankfully God is committed to our growth in spiritual understanding. He is patient and gracious.
Next entry we will look at Romans 12:2, Philippians 1:9-10, and some other related passages that detail that we grow in spiritual understanding relationally and over time as we take in God’s word.
Until then, may the Spirit who is your constant companion and guide, lead you into all truth and encourage you in the Father’s love and Jesus’ constant intercession and advocacy on your behalf – personally, by name.