Leaving Childish things 2
Rev. Denn Guptill
His name was Mickey Cohen.
And he was a crook. And not just
a little crook either, Mickey Cohen was the top man in the Los Angeles
underworld during the forties and fifties.
He had his finger into everything: gambling, extortion and
prostitution. At his word heads were
cracked, bones were broken and people were killed.
Cohen had risen up through the ranks, born dirt poor in New
York he became a punk and strong arm man in the New Jersey Crime scene. Later he moved to the west coast and became a
gangster in the style of his hero, Al Capone.
He was the number one bad boy of L.A., his life became a commodity and
he survived several attempts on his life including having his home bombed and
his car machine gunned.
Mickey was a menace to society. He could be charming one minute and as mean
as a snake the next. If he had of been a
dog society would have shot him. He
counted among his friends Jimmy Durante, Sammy Davis Jr., Humphrey Bogart and
then mayor of L.A. Fletcher Brown. He
loved to be seen with famous people and he jumped at the chance to meet the
young preacher everyone was talking about, Billy Graham. Billy shared the claims of the gospel with
Mickey and gave him a Bible; it gave Mickey something to think about during the
five years he spent in a federal prison for income tax evasion.
In 1955 Mickey Cohen was introduced to Jesus Christ, Bill
Jones a leading lay man in L.A. shared the gospel with Mickey and led the
gangster through the sinner’s prayer.
Jones was convinced that Mickey Cohen had made a genuine commitment and
news spread through the evangelical church, after all it was quite a coup. As a follow up to his decision Mickey flew to
New York and met with Billy Graham on several occasions as Graham sought to
explain the significance of the decision that Mickey had made. Time magazine quoted Cohen as saying “I am very high
on the Christian way of life. Billy came up, and before we had food he
said—What do you call it. that thing they say before food? Grace? Yeah, grace.
Then we talked a lot about Christianity and stuff.”
After his trip to New York Cohen returned to L.A. where he
dropped his contacts with Bill Jones and started hanging around with his old
underworld contacts again. Jones called
him up on it and told Mickey that he needed to be putting some distance between
his old life and his new.
“Jones” Mickey replied, “You never told me that I had to
give up my career, you never told me that I had to give up my friends. There are Christian movie stars, Christian
athletes, and Christian business men. So
what’s the matter with being a Christian gangster? If I have to give up all of that if that’s
Christianity, then count me out”
I remember when I read that story for the first time in an
autobiography of Billy Graham. I thought
that is the dumbest thing that I’ve ever heard.
How could Mickey Cohen possibly think that Christianity could not make a
difference in His life? But you know if
it’s dumb then there must be a whack of dumb people out there, because there
are a pile of people in the world who would use Jesus Christ as a fire escape
from hell and never think of it as a life changing commitment.
They ask Christ to forgive them, get their ticket to get
them through the pearly gates and then its life as usual. But the question remains, “Is that the way
Jesus wants us to live?” I don’t think
Last week we began looking at 1 Corinthians 13:11 in regards
to leaving Childish things behind us and focused on the fact that Paul was talking
about our spiritual lives and not our physical lives, that he was telling us to
grow up spiritually. But what does that
mean? What are the childish things that
we are supposed to be putting away?
As part of our message last week
we ended up at Hebrews
6:1-2 So let us
stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on
instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start
again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing
our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying
on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
In those two verses the Bible
discusses the basic teachings of our Christian life, the beginning, the new
birth. But it is those very things that
the Bible tells us to leave. The verse
next verse tells us Hebrews 6:3 And so, God willing, we will move forward to further
So the first thing is to make sure you’ve done what you need
to do to start. We need to make sure that
we have repented of our sins, have you done that? Do you have faith in God? Have you been baptised as a Christ
Follower? Last week I asked the question;
if you have chosen to follow Jesus but haven’t obeyed his commandment to be
baptised why not? There is no good
answer to disobedience . But those
things aren’t all there is to our Christian life, they are only the beginning, we aren’t always supposed to be new
Paul has told us that not only
do we need to have a new beginning, not only do we need to “get saved”, but we
need to leave that and go on to maturity.
We need to grow in our faith. And
how do we do that? Well one of the ways
is To look ahead to where we are going and take our eyes off where we have
been. Jesus tell us in Luke 9:62 But Jesus told
him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the
Kingdom of God.”
Yesterday is done, it’s
gone, salvation is called a new birth, and a new life in the Bible and that
signifies starting over.
Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who
belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has
begun! Is that a description of your Christian
walk? When you made a commitment to
serve Jesus Christ did the old go? Did
the new come? It’s not enough to simply
make a commitment, there’s a life change as well. Jesus tells us in Matthew 9:17 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For
the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the
skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”
You can’t take your new life style and pour it into your old
life, it will ruin them both. On one
hand the commandments of the Bible will make you feel guilty if you continue to
live the way you had before salvation.
And your actions will separate you from God and keep you from having the
fellowship with Him that you need as a Christian. The end result then is that you ruin both
lives. You are a miserable pagan and a
Instead Jesus said you have to put the new wine, or your new
life into a new wine skin, that is a new life style. You can’t be a Christian gangster. You can’t be a Christian thief. You can’t be a Christian adulterer, or a
Christian drunkard, or a Christian tax cheat, or a Christian murderer. Instead when you become a Christian part of
that repentance is putting the past behind you.
There are other people that take the first step but don’t go
any further. They’ve been converted,
they’ve left their old life behind but really haven’t gone any further. They may no longer be a new born Christian but
they haven’t progressed much beyond being a Christian toddler.
Brother Jones used to stand up and testify every Sunday in
church and he would say, “I’m not making much progress but praise God I’m
firmly established.” Well old brother
Jones was a farmer and one day he got his tractor good and stuck in the
mud. Two of the teens from the church
happened to be walking by and spied him and one yelled out, “Hey brother Jones,
you’re not making much progress but praise God you are firmly established.” The old man had been stuck in the mud for
years and didn’t know it.
Paul tells us to go on to maturity. That basically means, Grow Up. Those of us who are parents know that the
older our kids get the more we expect from them, right? In other words you wouldn’t expect them to
exhibit the same behaviour at six as they did at three or at ten as they did at
six. In the first year of their birth
you have to do virtually everything for them, and you don’t mind because you
know that a three month old isn’t really capable of much more than looking cute
and crying. By the way I have discovered
a long time ago why kids cry at that age.
It’s either too much moisture at one end, not enough moisture at the
other end or gas in between. So you
gotta pour it in, wipe it up or burp it out and things are usually cool again.
And God knows that when a person first gets saved that they
are like a newborn, pretty helpless in their faith, but in the same way that we
expect an infant to mature into a toddler and then a preschooler, a primary
aged child, an adolescent and finally an adult God expects that you will mature
in your Christian faith. But you know on
occasion I have met believers who have been on the way and in the way for
twenty years but are no further along the path then when they started.
I heard a story once about a teacher who applied for a job
as a principle and didn’t get the position and so he was lamenting to a friend
and said, “I don’t understand it, after all I have twenty years’ experience.” To which his friend replied, “Do you, or do
you have one year of experience twenty times?”
Strike a chord? Sometimes I think
that some people’s Christian experience has gotten stuck at salvation. That they have never gone on to experience
Christian maturity, they have just stayed where they were. They think that they have twenty years’
experience, but what they really have is one year of experience twenty times.
A little old lady ran into a police station yelling, “He
kissed me, he kissed me. I was just
standing on the corner minding my own business and he ran right up and kissed
me on the lips.” The desk sergeant said “That’s
terrible ma’am when did it happen?” “forty years ago” she replied “But it’s was
so exciting that I just love to talk about it.”
I know that the salvation
experience is exciting. The fact that
you were a sinner and Jesus saved you and washed you and made you new. But after that He expects you to get on with
life. That is why Paul said in Hebrews 6:1 So let us stop
going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on
instead and become mature in our understanding.
Growth is Not
an Option in our Christian Lives.
Did you catch it? We
are supposed to stop doing one thing and start doing another thing. Leave one and go to the other. Leave the basics and go on to maturity. They are two different places. If you are going to Saint John from here then
you have to leave Halifax. If you are
going to move on to maturity then first you have to leave immaturity.
I’ve spoken before of 1 John 1:7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light,
then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son,
cleanses us from all sin.
And when we mentioned
it we talked about the verb, living, it’s not stationary and static but it is
moving. There is an expectation that we
will be moving in our Christian faith because Jesus is moving. Remember the will of God is a beam of light
which we are in the centre of. It begins
with our repentance and at that point when we’ve come to the place that we’ve
asked forgiveness and accepted that forgiveness then we are smack dab in the
middle of the will of God. And then the
light begins to move and as it moves it reveals areas around us that need our
attention, perhaps a habit here or a fault there. And we have the option of moving with the
light and deal with those areas of our life or ignoring them. And if we stand still and ignore them then
eventually the light will move so that we are no longer in the centre of its beam, and pretty soon we will
be on the fringe and if continue to
ignore the light eventually we will be in darkness again. And that simply means you gotta Be Obedient.
A number of years ago back I developed the Guptill principle
of spiritual growth, and it’s based on the Peter Principle a principle first
expounded in 1969 by Canadian-born University of Southern California education
professor Laurence J. Peter, in a book of the same name, Peter stated: “In a hierarchy
every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence” Right?
So the part time sales man is good at his job and so he is given a full
time sales position. And he does an
excellent job in sales so he is made a store manager and he excels there and he’s
made an area manager and he is really terrible at that job, he just can’t seem
to get the hang of it, and so there he stays.
He doesn’t get promoted, but because of his seniority they can’t fire
him. He hates his job, it gives him
ulcers and grey hairs but he has a family to support and so he can’t really
quit and if he asked to be demoted to his previous position he’d lose face, and
so there he stays, miserable, unhappy, discontent and stuck.
Under the Guptill Principal of spiritual growth “Each of us
grows in our spiritual walk to our own personal level of disobedience.” So we get saved, we are obedient to
the spirit of God in our life, and we begin to grow and God shows us this and
we deal with this and he shows us that and we deal with that, and we continue
to grow. And then one day God says, “Hey
sport what about this area,” and it might be anger, or our language or habits,
or immoral behaviour or attitudes and we say “Uh-huh, you leave that alone.” And our spiritual growth stops dead in its
tracks. And because we know that we are
disobedient we are grumpy and miserable and unhappy. And at that point we have three options; one
is that we just stay there, miserable and stuck. God won’t take us any further in our
Christian walk then that point of disobedience.
Or we say “forget this” and we backslide, we just walk away from God.”
or we surrender to His will in our life and become obedient and move on in our
Christian life and continue to grow.
What is your point of personal disobedience? Where are you stuck? Or maybe you’ve come to the place where you
have sold out to God and you continue to grow and he continues to show you
areas in your life that need to be dealt with and you deal with them, no ifs
ands or buts.
Obedience is the bottom line of
Christianity, it really is and that is why Jesus said things like John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my
John 14:23-24 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say.
My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.
Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my
own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.
John 15:10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my
love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
Evidenced in Our Obedience to God
Pretty basic isn’t it, time and time again Jesus says if you
obey me you love me, if you don’t obey me you don’t love me. Do you love Jesus? “Of course I do, don’t be silly.” OK, then Jesus has said that the evidence of
that love is obedience to Him and to His word. The Word of God. And how do you know what is in the word of
God? Hang on because the answer is
really deep and you should write it down so that you don’t miss it, OK you
ready? “You learn what is in the word of
God by reading it.” Heavy isn’t it?
You see the word of God has all
kinds of instructions for being a Christian.
It tells us about things which we shouldn’t do and it tells us about things
we should do. Attitudes that we shouldn’t
exhibit and attitudes that we should exhibit.
For example Galatians
5:19-21 When you
follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual
immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility,
quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension,
division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me
tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not
inherit the Kingdom of God.
So here the word of God is tell us that these particular
things are not acceptable actions for his Kids.
On the other hand the rest of
the passage reads Galatians 5:22-24 But the Holy Spirit produces this
kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these
things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires
of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Therefore by reading the word of God in this instance we
learn of things we shouldn’t do and things that we should do.
And I know that I talk about that scripture a lot, but the
reality is this. If we didn’t do what is
mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21 and we did do what is mentioned in Galatians
5:22-24 we would be better Christians, better friends, better spouses, better
parents and better children. And that’s
why it’s there and that’s why I am constantly reading from it.
4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one
final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and
pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and
worthy of praise.
So here the word of
God give us guidance about how we think.
Neat huh? the Bible is not a book
of suggestions, God doesn’t say, “Hey it would be kind of neat if you did this”
or “It would be nice if you did that”
Instead He says if you love me you will demonstrate it by obedience to
Maturity is putting our will on the back burner and accepting
God’s will for our lives, not Denn’s will, but God’s will. Because God has our best interest in
mind. He is not a spoil sport who wants
to make our lives miserable, He is a loving God who knows what is best for us
because He created us. Maturity is not
only saying “yes God I will do what you want me to do.” Maturity is not
resenting doing God’s will.
You cannot be a Christian and be consistently disobedient to
the will of God in your life. The new
birth is supposed to make a difference in your life. And if it doesn’t make a difference in this
life then you have to wonder if it will make a difference in your eternal
Our Growth is Revealed
by Our Behaviour
“Pastor isn’t that being
judgemental?” Nope don’t think so, the
Bible tells us that the way to tell if a person is a Christian is by the fruit
that their life displays. Good fruit
good life. Bad fruit, bad life. Don’t take my word for it, Jesus tells us the
same thing in Luke
6:43-44 “A good
tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree
is identified by its fruit. Figs never grow on thornbushes, nor grapes on
James echoed his brother’s
words when he wrote in James
3:11-12 Does a
spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig
tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh
water from a salty spring.
And in the passage that was
read for us earlier the bible tells us Hebrews 6:7-8 When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the
farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is
useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.
The farmer was judging the
field based on what it produced and that’s fair. The purpose of the field was to produce a
good crop not thorns and thistles.
When we first moved to Australia our first home had a pile
of fruit trees in the back yard, we had bananas, mangos, mulberries, lemons,
mandarins and peaches. You could go out
back and pick fruit salad for breakfast.
Now I may not be a genius but if I was to go out back and look at a tree
that had mandarin oranges growing on it I would not be judging that tree if I
said that is not a mango tree it is a mandarin tree. That’s not making a judgement that is simply
making an observation.
When a person consistently
exhibits the fruit of disobedience and we say that person isn’t a child of God
we are simply making an observation, the same observation that Paul made when
he wrote in Titus 1:16 Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way
they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything
“Denn how could you
make a statement like that?” I didn’t
say it, Paul did but there are times I wished I did.
In the final analyse maturity means obedience. If we are to leave behind the basics and move
in the direction that God wants us to go it will entail being obedient to his
commandments. How you doing? Are you obedient to God in each area of your
life? Have you moved beyond the infancy
stage of your Christian life and moved on, growing as God leads you.
You’ve been born again, but are you growing up?