Got Spiritual Milk?
Building Strong Bodies Twelve Ways – It Does the Body Good
Crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may [continue to] grow in [the Body]. (1 Peter 2:2)
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive. (2 Peter 1:8)
It’s Saturday, time to change things up a bit, and take a weekend break from a “Dad’s Devotions,” which will resume on Monday. “Got Spiritual Milk” is an illustrated Bible study that I wrote about twelve years ago. As you may have guessed, the title is a take-off on a popular advertising campaign from several years back that promoted milk sales. While approximately 96 percent of U.S. consumers believed that milk was healthy, and that they should drink more, sales had long been in decline. The campaign was an effort to reverse that decline.
From this, the idea for this Bible study on Discipleship was born. While most Christians believe that spiritual disciplines (Bible study, prayer, church attendance) are important for growth in the “Body,” in many cases these disciplines are in decline.
Over the next several Saturdays, I will cover twelve (an interesting number, don’t you think) vital steps to Spiritual growth from that study (condensed a bit and minus the illustrations). I wrote the study for those Christians who want to reverse that decline in their own walk of faith. We begin, naturally, with the introduction. Please feel free to click and comment so we can all help each other grow in Christ.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The Holy Bible,
New International Version (NIV). Copyright 1973, 1978 and 1984,
International Bible Society.
Introduction – Growing In The Body
To this you were called…that you should follow in His steps. (1 Peter 2:21)
A: Discovering the Truth – Daddy, Where Do Disciples Come From?
To grow physically and learn the things in life that they need to know in order to get along, children initially rely upon others. At first it is mainly the responsibility of their parents. As time goes by, they also learn from other teachers, older siblings and peers who may be further along the learning curve than they are. Eventually they learn to teach themselves through reading, observation, experience and application. At some point, they become teachers of their own children and the cycle of life begins anew. It is the same with our spiritual life. We want to grow up in our faith and become disciples of Jesus, who are mature in our faith. We initially learn from our spiritual parents (those who led us to the Lord), from pastors, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders and from fellow believers who are more mature in their faith than we are (our older siblings in the Lord). The more we learn from them, the more we are able to learn for ourselves through reading God’s word, prayer and meditation, experience (sometimes we fall and skin our knees) and through God’s still small voice (the Holy Spirit). And, as with our physical life, there comes a time in our spiritual life that we become spiritual parents or older siblings who are able in turn to teach others. But whether we are being discipled or whether we are being the discipler, the goal is the same: to become like the Master, to follow Him consistently and to help others do the same.
B: Exploring the Truth – Are You Following The Savior?
A disciple is someone who follows a mentor, teacher or other leader. For Christians, that leader is Jesus Christ. The call to be Christ’s disciple was not limited to the initial twelve. It is a call that goes out to all who have been “born again.” Being born again was an event that happened in an instant of time. Growth and maturity, on the other hand, is a process that takes place over time. Like any newborn the process starts with milk that will nourish and nurture us. We need this as a sure foundation before we can move on to solid food and develop into faithful disciples that walk in His steps. And yet, as we move on to solid food, we never stop craving pure spiritual milk.
Discipleship to Christ has at least four guiding principles. First, one must believe in Him. Second, they must accept instruction from Him. Third, they must commit to a life of following His teaching. Fourth, they must pass this along to others who will begin the process themselves. These principles are all interdependent upon each other. One does not accept what they do not believe. They do not commit to what they do not accept. Finally, they do not pass on what they are not committed to themselves.
At each point along the way, a person chooses to either continue with and build upon the Godly truths that they are being taught, or they turn back and become enslaved by the old worldly principles that they use to follow. With discipleship to Christ, continuing on involves holding to His teaching, denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following in His steps. Permanently turning back, on the other hand is likely an indication that one never belonged (never genuinely accepted Christ) in the first place. How are you doing, are you following Jesus?
C: Knowing and Understanding the Truth – The Ultimate Twelve Step Program?
In this study we will look at twelve key “steps” that are essential to following Jesus and realizing our full potential as His disciples. An interesting number when you think about it. These steps are: desiring what God desires, having a Christ-like attitude, developing a spirit-led lifestyle, choosing the role of a servant, being illuminated by the Word, praying on all occasions, learning Spiritual wisdom, being engaged with the Church, suffering with Christ, holding out against sin, being involved in evangelism and proving our discipleship through love for one another. They are, in essence, the ultimate twelve step program. But they are more than a program. They are a transformation, a chosen lifestyle, a process, a cycle that continues as we grow in increasing measure – because we should never stop growing.
Growing, because it ends in “ing,” is what is known as a present perfect progressive tense verb. It indicates an action that began in the past (accepting Christ), continues in the present (our everyday walk with Christ) and will continue into the future (in increasing measure). Our walk with Christ begins with uncertain and tentative baby steps on a smooth and level surface. As our walk progresses, we take bigger and bigger steps and are able to navigate steeper and rougher terrain with greater confidence and assurance.
Each of these twelve steps are briefly described on the following page, and will be discussed in detail as we focus on one each week over the course of this study. To some extent, each step involves the four guiding principles that are illustrated above: believing, accepting, committing and sharing. As we continue to grow we will be better equipped to hold to His teaching, deny our old sinful motives, take up our cross and follow in His steps.
It is said that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. We all took that first step when we accepted Christ. This study includes twelve more as we continue to move onward and upward. Not only is the destination worth it, so is the journey.
D: Weighing the Truth – How Are Things In Your Walk?
Discipleship involves not only following Christ, it also involves faithfully serving Him. It is service that is forward-looking, not backward-looking. Because looking back indicates less than full commitment. How well we serve Him in large part will determine whether we are likely to be confident or ashamed in His presence when He returns or calls us home. Which way are the scales tipping in your life?
E: Questioning the Truth – For Musing On Your Own
1. When you think about the word “disciple,” what images come to mind?
2. Why do some people grow in their faith while others seem to be trapped as “newborns”?
3. In what ways are holding to His teaching, denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following in His steps dependent upon one another? Or are they independent of each other? Explain.
4. Are all “twelve steps” necessary to growing a strong and healthy Christian life? Why or why not?
5. Which of the twelve do you believe are easiest? Hardest? Why?
6. Which do you believe are the most neglected? Why do you think that is?
7. What do you think it means “they did not really belong to us”? How does this differ from being a “carnal Christian”?
8. In what ways do we “look back” with our “hand to the plow”? How does this make us “unfit for service”?
9. Why is it important to be “confident and unashamed before Him at His coming”?
10. In what ways can we receive instruction? In what ways can we give instruction?