Cheesy Fingers

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. ~ 2 Timothy 4:4

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. ~ 2 Timothy 4:4

You have probably heard the humorous observation of how Christians sometimes pray to ask God to make up for our bad choices. We’ll grab a bag of cheese puffs and a high-sugar, high-caffeine soda and then pray to ask God to bless it to the nourishment of our bodies. If we truly want our bodies to be nourished, apart from a transformative miracle from God, then we must dramatically increase the quality of food we are feeding our bodies.

While that is humorous and hits closer to home than we would like, I wonder how often this is true of our spiritual lives. How often are we snacking on spiritually equivalent cheese coated puffs of air while praying and hoping that our souls will be nourished somehow? One place this is very apparent is our approach to church.

God has designed the church to facilitate the spiritual growth and maturation of its members. This is not the only purpose of the church, but it is a very important purpose. Paul taught this in his letter to the church at Ephesus:

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
~ Ephesians 4:11-16

One of the consequences of “the edifying of the body” is “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” The apostle has spiritual maturity in mind. He wants to see the Christians grow up and become men and women of the Word.

So the church is one of the means of sanctification in our lives, yet so few people think of it this way. Many want a church just like they want their snacks—sweet and light and causing a momentary good feeling. A person cannot live on snack food, at least not very long or well.

Paul put this craving this way:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4

Paul warned Timothy that people would not endure sound teaching, but would seek out snacks for their cravings. He described these people as having “itching ears.” You would think he was talking about America, because we certainly have itching ears. Apparently, we are scratching those ears with cheesy fingers.

We Are Growing Trees

Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. ~ Matthew 13:32

Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. ~ Matthew 13:32

“You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion.”

So said G. K. Chesterton in Tremendous Trifles. Dissent if you wish, but he was right.

Young men are often impetuous and young preachers particularly so. Their zeal is admirable but they are easily discouraged when they have not the whiskers to match the length of their vehemence. So they have to tarry at Jericho (2 Samuel 10:5), but that is time well spent if they learn the lesson.

Pastors are tasked with “perfecting the saints” (Ephesians 4:11-12). They are charged with a flock, which they must lead and feed so that they grow and mature. Growing things don’t typically grow in great leaps all in a moment. They grow slowly and consistently over time. If we are not paying attention, it might seem they grew overnight, but that is not the case.

Christians are compared to growing things in the Scriptures such as wheat. They are more often figured as trees—palms, myrtles, cedars, and willows. The maturing child of God is likened to a tree in Psalm 1. It takes time for trees to grow tall and strong. There are no real short-cuts.

I once had a boss who liked to say, “The best time to plant an oak tree is twenty years ago. The next best time is today.” Growing up with mine reclamation has taught us that grass can be grown quickly. You can spray the hydroseed on the mountain side and have grass very quickly. I guess if you are interested in quick results, hydroseeding is the way to go. But, brothers, we are not growing grass. We are growing trees.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not whither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

~ Psalm 1:2-3

The maturing Christian is a tree with deep roots that drinks from the rivers of water. His leaves are green and he bears fruit in season. He grows through the Word of God and little by little he is stronger and taller. It takes time to grow trees and it takes time to grow saints. Patient plodding is the only way.

Young pastors are frequently discouraged because they overestimate what can be accomplished in one year and underestimate what can be accomplished in five or ten. Sometimes they erroneously conclude there is nothing more they can do and they must move on to somewhere else after a short while.

Take heart and have patience. We are growing trees. Trust in the Spirit to do His work and trust in the Word of God. Be committed to faithful exposition of the Word and know the Spirit will take the edge of that sharp sword precisely where it needs to go. Jonah’s gourd came up in a day, but it was also withered and gone the next. Desire fruit that will remain to the glory of God’s name.