Spiritual Development

Textbook Christian or Student of Christ?

Have you ever had a teacher tell the class to open up their textbook to a random page and then begin teaching from it?  Probably not many.  Teachers follow a lesson plan with a specific scope and sequence to ensure their student’s progress throughout the school year.  While we as believers can open up and turn to any page in our bible and have God use the words on the page to speak to our hearts, our progress as a student of Christ will greatly be stifled.  A lesson plan is required in order for an individual to move from a textbook Christian, one who is satisfied with attending class and occasionally remembering to bring their textbook, to a student of Christ, one who longs to grow in becoming a disciple and greater image bearer of Christ.

Milk or Meat?Bottle_or_Fork

Even though I nursed all four of our children at birth, it would be absurd for me to still be providing them the same nourishment as teenagers.  Milk alone will not sustain a growing child and when the time comes the child must learn to eat solid food.  This process, however, can be difficult and uncomfortable at times and without a plan and goal in mind, moving from milk to meat can be messy.

Just as some children do not want to be weaned and are content with the milk they are receiving, so we too can be content as believers with the milk we have been given and not willing to move on to solid foods.  However, this has never been the plan God has for His children.  He desires for them to hunger and thirst after Him and to grow in the image of His Son.  Apart from God’s Word and the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life this does not happen and grieves our Father.  The apostle Paul too experienced this same thing with his spiritual children at the church in Corinth.  You can hear Paul’s utter desire for his fellow believers to grow in their relationship with the Lord and not remain as babes in Christ or even worse to act as unbelievers.

Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ.  I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it.  In fact, you are still not ready, because you are still fleshly.  For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like unbelievers? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

It would be easy to remain in kindergarten and play games and take naps each day, but that does not mature the child.  Nor does reading a small portion of scripture, a text message, or devotional excerpt grow the student of Christ to the fullest God has for him.  While, encouragement from devotionals, text messages and cards from fellow believers is useful and beneficial for encouraging and edifying the body of Christ, it is not the primary tool for a student of Christ’s growth.  The primary lesson plan God has for His students is the consumption of His Word.  Oswald Chambers says it beautifully in his book Approved Unto God:

Am I learning how to use my Bible? The way to become complete for the Master’s service is to be well soaked in the Bible; some of us only exploit certain passages. Our Lord wants to give us continuous instruction out of His word; continuous instruction turns hearers into disciples.

Disciples, students of Christ, are transformed from the continuous instruction from God’s Word.  But how is one weaned off an occasional reading from the textbook and into the glorious discipleship relationship found in God’s Word?  Through a plan

God the Master Planner

God has always had a plan and Satan has always sought to thwart it.  Thus, when a student of Christ sets forth to follow the plan God has for them, it is not a surprise that they often encounter difficulties and lies from the enemy.  A student of Christ must be disciplined in their time with the Lord and this is often times perceived by outsiders as well as fellow believers as legalistic.  I came across this tweet this week which states the true lie behind walking in discipline.

Satan desires for us to believe the lie that we do not have to put forth any effort in our walk with the Lord.  In fact, he often stirs up outsiders to condemn us for our “legalism” if we try to follow the lesson plans of God.  If that doesn’t work, then he just tells us that we live under grace and there is no need for us to put forth any effort because God does it all for us.  This concept was stated by my husband early in the week during his time of study:

Yes, we should guard our hearts against making time with the Lord a simple checklist.  Tricia McCary Rhodes in her book, Sacred Chaos: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life You Have, warns against the same thing by challenging the believer to not look at time with the Lord as a quiet time but as a relationship.  If we are not careful we can treat the learning as a task instead of the personal relationship God longs to have with us.  However, without a set plan in place, the student begins to daydream and disrupt those around them instead of encouraging greater growth in the classroom.  The Holy Spirit has never just moved me about here and there.  He has always guided me to and through The Word.  It has been through a consistent time in the Word, that God has spoken and changed and moved me.  It has never been apart from the Word.

Christ Himself modeled for us as a child what it looked like to grow in the Lord.  His willing and obedient attitude moved Him to eagerly sit in the classroom consuming all that was said and asking questions.  Afterward, He did not stop in His learning but continued to walk in the plans God had for Him.

After three days, they found Him in the temple complex sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  And all those who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers.  When His parents saw Him, they were astonished, and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You treated us like this?  Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You.’

‘Why were you searching for Me?’  He asked them.  ‘Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house?’  But they did not understand what He said to them.  Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them.  His mother kept all these things in her heart.  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.

Moving to the Next Grade

next grade levelWhen one is born again spiritually (John 3:1-18), it is only natural to begin with milk.  But, there comes a time when it is necessary for the child to begin digesting solid food.  We should be willing to move up and take on the responsibility required to follow the lesson plans God has for our lives.  We should all pray for a continual desire to hunger and thirst after God’s Word as a deer pants for water (Psalm 42:1).  Just because it will take time and discipline to work through God’s lesson plans for our life, does not mean we are being legalistic.  Instead, we should guard our time in God’s word and seek out the relationship He has for us instead of the task thus turning from textbook Christians to students of Christ.

Homework:

  • Pray and ask God to direct you to the “lesson plan” He wants you to implement for the next month, 6 months, or year.  There is not a lack of choices.  You can find just a few listed below.  The point is to listen for which one God wants you to begin.
  • Write down the plan He gives you and place it with your Bible
  • Start your plan today!!  When you miss a day, don’t feel condemnation, but instead thank God for His grace and start right back where you left off.
Related Scriptures:

Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Hebrews 4:12-13, Isaiah 49:2, Ephesians 6:17, Romans 10:17

Worship Song:

Word of God Speak

Related Resources:

Bible Study Tools

One Year Bible Online

Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

My Utmost for His Highest

Professor Horner’s Reading Plan

Professor Grant Horner’s ‘The Ten Lists Bible Reading System


There are other school supplies a student needs besides a textbook.  Pen and paper help tremendously.  Don’t miss next week as we explore these supplies.  Click below to receive Faith Steps Journey posts straight to your inbox and receive the free 4 day Personal Bible Study, Walk with God by Alicia Zbylot

**You will receive a confirmation e-mail with a link to the bible study**

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