Sermon by Duurt Sikkens
I have been thinking a lot recently about the words in the Bible, “become as a child” and what they mean. So this morning I want to consider one aspect, and that is what food a child is given. And when that child has just been born, and is breast-fed by the mother, then that is the mother’s milk.
First of all I want to read from the first letter to the Corinthians chapter three verse one: “But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it.”
“You are not ready”, Paul says “because you are still of the flesh. While there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving like ordinary men? One person says “I’m a follower of Paul” and another says “I adhere to Calvin, and another says, I prefer …………. Well, just fill in any name you like. And then there are the very pious who say, “I’m a follower of the Lord Jesus”. Well, it’s quite clear that all these people are passing judgement on these preachers, while they all preach the same gospel.
Next I want to read from the first letter from Peter. Chapter two, verse one. “So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander, and” and this is the important part, “Long, like newborn babes, for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation”.
Do you want to be happy? Yes? Well, he says, ask for the mother’s milk. And then there’s a really lovely sentence following, “for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” Through this milk, this spiritual milk.
And then another text from the book of Hebrews, chapter five verse eleven. The writer of this letter says here: “It is hard to explain, for you have become dull of hearing”. I once heard someone say, ”I haven’t heard anything new in my church for years”. Well then all I can say, is that you must be spiritually as deaf as a post. You have, so to speak, no ears with which to hear.
‘Dull of hearing’. Actually the real meaning of the original word is numb. You know it all. It has no impact on you any more. Some people can reel off all the details of the foundation of their faith, if asked. But the question is, have they experienced it all as well. Have you just learned part of the Bible off by heart, or have you experienced it? But more about that later. ‘Dull of hearing’ we read. Numb. In the parable of the foolish and wise maidens the word used to translate ‘foolish’ also means numb.
And then verse twelve : By now you ought to be teachers … What is a teacher? Someone who preaches? Make no mistake. That’s not a teacher. Someone who teaches you to live a life where theory is put into practice, that is a teacher. Some like that is hard to find. Some who can teach you how to live, so that you really feel alive. So that you don’t just know things, but experience them fully too.
Jesus is called a teacher. He was in the temple every day to learn. The Holy Spirit is also called a teacher and is in the temple every day too. ………
And so we can learn from each other.
Iusually learn most in conversations. If you are good at listening, then you have an ear to hear what the spirit in the church says. So it’s not just from someone who stands on the platform preaching. The Holy Spirit is the teacher, and teaches us not only to pray, but also to listen. That’s a wonderful thought. The holy spirit teaches you to be busy with the things of the Father. In reality He teaches you life.
And so, as we were reading in Hebrews chapter five verse twelve, ‘although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need some one to teach you again the first principles of God’s word’. What does he mean by that: the first principles of God’s word. That’s something to give some thought to. What are the first principles of God’s word. What was it He said first? And what did He think before he said it. Because before you say something you think it. And that’s what we have to learn. How God thinks, so that we may be part of that and think like God thinks, and understand his plan.
“Before one mountain was created, before God drew a circle over the surface of the sea”, it says in Proverbs chapter eight from verse twenty-two: “The Lord created me at the beginning of his work. Before the mountains came into existence I was brought forth. That is not just written to be poetical. It’s the truth. It’s a beautiful expression to describe the reason for your existence. A reason for living. Because who IS the “I” he refers to here? The Christ. God’s partner, the church of which Jesus is head. The new human race according to God’s original plan, busy with all the wonderful things of God. And He will support and encourage you in all these things.
In verse thirteen of Hebrews chapter five it says: you still need milk. Milk, not solid food. Because anyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, he is still a baby. Well, I can tell you, that when I became a baby again, spiritually speaking, all those years ago, that’s when I first experienced real joy. For the first time I felt real joy at being alive. When I was converted in the sixty’s I was ecstatic. I was SO happy, but I noticed that after a while the feeling faded. The excitement, the bubbly feeling was gone. And that happened, I think, because I got bogged down in all the new doctrines that were evolving at that time.
I didn’t have time to be a baby, or even a toddler. Yes. I had a head full of knowledge, but I’d lost track of the basic gospel. And that is the gospel which is focussed on teaching people how to live in freedom.
“As a baby”, we read, “you are unskilled in the word of righteousness”. Literally it says: “you have no experience with the word of righteousness”. You never actually spent time as a child listening and understanding as a child. Spiritually you had to grow up too quickly. So when they say you are just a baby, that is not meant as an accusation. It is in today’s society. If they say to me, hey, baby, then that’s not very nice. But in the Kingdom of God I don’t mind at all. It’s not an accusation, it’s a statement of fact. It is wonderful to discover, after all these years, how wonderful and pure the spiritual milk is. Then jealousy will disappear Peter says. Envy and hypocrisy and pride. It will all disappear. Wonderful, to be free of all these rotten feelings. You taste that God is good. In other words God is love. So do that. Taste and see that God is good.
However, when I was newly converted end enjoying my spiritual milk, I also drank a lot of fear mixed in with the milk. Big brother is watching you! That sort of thing. And all the old religious past came back to haunt me. For example, if you were ill, then it must be because you had sinned. The joy disappears. And you have to suppress your emotions too.
No father would say to his newborn baby: “we are going to lay a foundation in your life”. That is absurd. So let’s just forget about that word foundation, because that originated in the building trade. Use the words, “first principles”, because that is what is actually written here. The first principle is love, because you are a child who is loved and wanted by God your Father.
Now take a look at chapter six verse one: “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ” (and it doesn’t actually mean a doctrine here, but the first principles of life as God had planned), and literally it says: “The word about the beginning of Christ”. Just think about it: “The word about the beginning of Christ”………..
That means that from before the foundation of the world, God had already thought about his plan for the Christ. For a spiritual people. Sothat’s what’s meant by the first principles of life, that we were just talking about.
‘The word about the beginning of Christ’. It is described in Psalm a hundred and thirty-nine. The very first beginning. The embryo. And how that is formed. It’s all there. And it doesn’t refer to a physical birth on earth. It is an image of the reality in Christ. That’s how I planned it would be, He says. You are formed in the womb. The Hebrew word for womb means: ‘tender love’. You are surrounded by tender love during your formation. You are safe and cherished there. Cherished as it were in HIS warmth.
The word about the principles of the life of God. Divine life put into mankind. And just look at what emerges. It is a mystery formed in the Christ. And the Christ in us. That is His Kingdom. That is so much a part of me, of my life. And then my heart starts beating faster. Because now I realise that this kingdom has come in us, and will quietly grow and develop. It will take shape. You will see it. Take a good look at each other, spiritually I mean. And see what is developing and emerging. That is the Kingdom. Which kingdom? Yes. The Kingdom of God. Okay. Good term of phrase. A bit worn maybe. But in Colossians one verse thirteen there’s another phrase. “The kingdom of His beloved son.”
That is Jesus. And Jesus said, ‘my Father has given everything to me. I may work out his plan”. So the expression, “Jesus lives in me is not biblical. The Christ lives in you. That’s what it is. It is being the divine child, the godlike child. Christ in us, the hope of glory: and hope means you are expecting. Expecting the Christ in us. Through the Spirit, and the spirit is from God, and from the Son, and has found a place. First of all in Jesus. And then He breathed on his disciples. A beautiful thing to do. To breath life into someone. That’s the spiritual meaning. And then the Spirit also came into John and Peter and Paul. They are just a few names. Timothy, Apollos, Maria they all received the anointment of the spirit too. Abraham by now too, and David, and you. You can mention all our names, because that’s what the word Christian means, ‘anointed’.
Wonderful isn’t it, that you are in the Christ from the very beginning. It’s all there, in Ephesians chapter one. It says at least ten times ’in Him’ or “in the Son’.
Paul couldn’t even form proper sentences when he wrote Ephesians 1. He stuttered from excitement. So beautiful. And so I don’t mind any more how I say the things. I just think, that’s wonderful, to be ‘in Him” from before the foundation of the world. In heaven, that is in the invisible kingdom of our Father, our kingdom.
Milk. We’re talking about milk, and we live in the land of milk and honey. But you wouldn’t want that served on your plate every day, would you? What are we having for dinner today? Milk. And anything else? Oh yes, honey. Try keeping that up for a week. No, it’s only an image. An image of the Kingdom of the Son of God’s love.
And then God gave that kingdom to the Son, because He knew it was safe there. And that’s why it is said of Jesus: “He is sitting on the right hand of God.” That too, is just an expression. He IS the right hand of God. He IS His right hand. And if He is God’s right hand then WE could be his hands and feet. To do his work. That’s a wonderful thought too, isn’t it?
By the way: There is also an antichrist. He exists as well, you know. He does. He also sits on the right hand of someone, but that someone is the devil. He’s going to do a lot of work soon too . Whatever Satan wants. There will come a time when He will give Him all his power, Revelation 1thirteen verse four. That awful image where the devil is on the beach and calls the beast out of the sea, out of the depth of the kingdom of death. And then he gives him all his authority. ALL the power and authority that he has in heaven and on earth. That means he will rule over all the people and the political power. And he will become the right hand of thedevil, while talking about God and Christ, it says in verse eleven.
The love of God, that is the first principle. You have been conceived in love, haven’t you. You weren’t conceived in sin and born in iniquity. You were conceived in love. That is the love, the agape, of God. This love is the reason why you receive milk. That is the first sort of food you are given. Think of a mother who breastfeeds her baby. That’s such an intimate and loving picture. If you see how the child is cherished in it’s mothers’ arms, while sucking at her breast. And then Jesus says, I lie at the bosom of the Father. You can’t get any nearer than that. These principles are full of love, and when you realise that, and you look at everything with loving eyes, then you look at everything differently.
I mean, if your head is full of knowledge and you can explain all of the Revelation of John, then your head is probably so full that there is no room left for reflection about it all,or to do anything with this knowledge, and in that case it is lifeless knowledge. You can’t do anything with it. There’s no life in it, and doesn’t bring life. So you may know a lot, but are you alive, are you living it out?
You have a lot of knowledge, but if you do not have love…. You probably know the text by heart, but what does it mean, what does it mean ‘to have love’. If you do not know that you are loved, if you don’texperience it, then all the knowledge is meaningless. Because you are loved, so very much. You are so precious to God. Like a child at the breast. So intimate. If you have never experienced that feeling before, do you know what you do feel then, abandoned. Unloved. And that is scary.
If a child doesn’t know if their mummy and daddy love each other, then that’s very bad for that child. It’s being fed the wrong food, and it’s not the right atmosphere in which to bring up a child. It is so important the two are one. In that situation a child feels safe. If the two are not one, then the child doesn’t feel one with them either. Then he feels torn apart, double. So a good relationship is very important and that’s why the devil is the so focussed on breaking up relationships.
Let’s take another look at Hebrews chapter six verses one to three. At the elementary principles.
Verse one. Repentance from dead works.
Let’s start by looking at the things around us through the loving eyes of God. That is the first thing he said. So forget for now the word foundation. It begins with looking through the eyes of the Son. Look with your own eyes, because if you look with love, then you look in the right way. Anyone who shows love looks in the right way. And when can you show love? When you know that you are loved. Repentance from dead works. In the Greek it says “ech nekros”. That’s dead alright. Dead works.
Let me give you an example. Paul did his very best for the Lord. At the time he was still called Saul. And Jesus saw that. He saw how hard he was trying, and He thought. ‘Oh, in his heart he is longing to do good, but what he does is wrong. The good that he wants to do, he doesn’t do, and the evil he doesn’t want to do, he does. He persecutes people and throws them into jail, and stones them to death.” And do you know what I think Jesus thinks. He thinks. ‘What a great guy’. I do, I mean it. And then He goes and stands next to him as it were, just like a Father would, and He says, ‘Hey Saul, whatever are you doing? What do you think you’re up to? I feel so sorry for you. You think you are doing your best, with all the good works you think you are doing for the church and community.
Always rushing around for the church and for God. You’ll have a breakdown if you go on like that. You have no rest. And then He appears to Saul, who is blinded by God’s light and he actually becomes physically blind. That is an image of a slave, you know. If you are blind then you are a slave and not only can’t yousee your lord, you don’t know even know who your lord is, or what he does. You work hard, sweating away. And for what? Thorns and thistles. There is no real life there ’You are busy with dead works, Paul!’
And so Paul comes to the conclusion, after three days of reflection, that he is indeed busy with dead works. However sincere and religious he was. And then Jesus tells Ananias to tell Paul to open his eyes so that he may see again, because spiritually they had already been opened. I wonder what went through Paul’s head in those three days? He probably didn’t sleep a wink. But at last he was back on the right track.
Once I heard a girl say: My father says that he has been born again, but I don’t notice any difference. He was domineering, and he still is. So what about this repentance from dead works? If it is a theoretical statement: I have been born again, then I just think, well, in time we’ll see if it’s true. But if, in time, there is no change to be seen, then the question is: have you really changed your way of thinking? Because in the Greek, the word for conversion, being born again, is “metanoia’ and that means changing one’s way of thinking.
So the first of the elementary principles in verse 1 was repentance from dead works. The second is faith in God.
Literally it says, and I think that’s much nicer, faith ‘toward God’.
In the Greek is the word épi’ and that is not faith in God. It is toward Him. In his direction. That makes you think doesn’t it? It also means “with”. Believing together with God. In his direction. You turn to something better.
I mean, if you have ideas that are not so good any more, you only exchange them when you discover something better. So repentance from dead works means moving in the direction of God. I think that’s automatic. Imagine God standing behind you saying: Duurt, what are you doing? I ask myself the same question sometimes. So just let go and turn toward the person who asked you the question. Start moving toward Him and believing in HIS direction, because that gives you peace. You no longer have to preach about peace. You have it. Wonderful isn’t it? Believing means trusting.
Third is baptism. God has always believed in you. Faith of God and of Jesus. That word is often translated with the word IN, but it is actually OF. So they both had faith in you, had faith that they would be able to save you. And all they ask is ‘give us just one hand and we will pull you up’.
And you might say: I can hardly believe that’s possible. So they say: WE believe it is possible. So what do you think of that? That you have a Father and a brother like that. “I believe it is possible” That’s what my Father said. Tremendous words. “I believe in you too.” He says. And what about the baptism in the spirit. That is the most intimate and most dear part of God that he gives to a human being. That has nothing to do with noise. With massive worship services. Personally I think that’s all very exaggerated. That’s not what a marriage is like. Marriage is between two people. God and man. Jesus and His wife. That is quiet and reserved. The most intimate part of God, His spirit. I cannot think of a more touching moment than that, because then the Christ is born in you. A deep mystery. God has never given up on His plan, from the very beginning. And then He puts it in you. That fills me with wonder. There is a third baptism, the baptism in fire, but I won’t discuss that now.
Then the doctrine of the laying on of hands. That is not a ritual. It is an act of love. Because that’s how God can reach out and touch people. Let’s look at that with new eyes, with new enlightened eyes. Then I think to myself ‘what are enlightened eyes?” Well, they are eyes that look in love to the other. So if there is no love accompanying the motive for the laying on of hands, and it is not enveloped in love, then the laying on of hands won’t function properly.
And then there is the resurrection of all of mankind. The resurrection of the dead. You have already been resurrected haven’t you? Do you know that all people will be resurrected? Right AND wrong. Everyone, because the resurrection began with………….? God. It began with God. When He looked at all the works of His hands that had been beaten to death by the enemy He thought: I’ll bring that all back to life. I will resurrect it. Revival, New life begins with God. He revives you. And which hand does he reach out with? To lift you up out of all your trouble? His right hand. And who is His right hand? His son. He is the right hand of God. And through His Son he says: Take my hand. Accept Him. Take hold of Him ’Whoever believes in Him believes in Me”. And thus you are lifted up, out of all your misery, out of all the dead works. Wonderful isn’t it?
And the last point is the eternal judgement. Well, I’ll keep this point very short. The word ‘krima’ is written here. And ‘krima’ means separation. The word judgement has always been the cause of a lot of fear and anxiety. It begins in the house of God. And the first house of God was Jesus. God lived in that house. And there the separation took place between good and evil. Right? You are set free, because it is a legally binding decision. The word comes from ‘administration of justice’. Everlasting separation, liberation that lasts for ever. You are free. Free from feelings of guilt, free from sin, free from the incorrect self image.
Free, What more could you want.
Well, I have tried to explain in a few words what these elementary principles of the Word of God are, that are mentioned in Hebrews chapter five. I’ll try to summarize them with the following thoughts and illustration.
All you dear people. Do you see God standing behind you? How sad you are. Always struggling and working hard. Look at me, He says. Turn and look at me. I will put my arms around you and pull you up out of death, and bring you into My life, the life that I want to share with you for ever. Because I care so much about you, I will give you my Spirit. My loving Self. Will you come to me? I will lay my hand on your fragile existence. Come with me into new life. You are free. You are really free to be yourself. And that is our life. Together in love for each other for ever.
Brothers and sisters, I am not going to close in prayer this time, but I want to read Psalm a hundred and thirty one, which is in itself a prayer.
Lord, My heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high. I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul.
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and for evermore.