Focusing on the Message, Not the Messenger
Let’s address an issue that can hinder the spiritual growth of Christians – the tendency to chase after popular speakers, preachers, or teachers. The Apostle Paul confronted this immaturity in the Corinthian church, and his words resonate with my own Christian journey.
The Corinthian Church’s Immaturity
In the Corinthian church, divisions arose as some claimed allegiance to Apollos, while others aligned themselves with Paul. This attachment to personal preference caused Paul to address the immaturity among the believers. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul writes, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?”
Paul’s strong words expose the believers’ immaturity, likening them to infants who crave milk instead of solid food. He desired for them to mature and grasp the deeper truths of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, emphasized that the messenger’s importance pales in comparison to the message itself. Immaturity is revealed when we become fans of the messenger rather than focusing on the transformative power of the Message.
Personal Immaturity and Attachment to the Messenger
Reflecting on my own journey, I recall a time of spiritual immaturity. In my early years as a follower of Jesus, I immersed myself in Christian media, including radio, music, and teachings. One artist who captured my attention was Carman. His creativity, charisma, and thought-provoking lyrics resonated with me, making him a personal favorite. My enthusiasm even led me to create custom t-shirts for my family and me, proclaiming our love for Carman. Each of us wore a t-shirt that spelled out, “We ❤️ Carman.”
Excitement peaked when we attended a State Fair where Carman would perform, with another group, Avalon, opening the show. Clad in our custom t-shirts, we eagerly awaited Carman’s appearance from the backstage area after the concert.
We weren’t alone, but the few people that were there couldn’t out do our fanaticism. We were a walking billboard and we waited for him and his entourage to leave backstage. As other artists started to trickle out, we looked past them waiting for Carman. We waited and waited but he never walked out. Here we were, waiting to express our love to Carman with custom t-shirts and cute children and he went out by a different way.
Looking back at that moment and encountering Paul’s words, I realized the immaturity of my actions and the need to shift my focus.
Focusing on the Message, Not the Messenger
Christianity is all about Jesus – His redemptive work and His ongoing involvement in our lives. It is essential to grow up in our faith and prioritize the Message over the Messenger. Although we may be tempted to replace Jesus with other influential figures, we must remember that the Word of God holds utmost importance for our growth.
Jesus calls us to follow Him, yet we often substitute His teachings with the insights of others. While teachers and preachers play a significant role in our spiritual development, we should always prioritize the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We must recognize our responsibility as hearers of God’s Word, discerning and applying its truths to our lives.
Cultivating Maturity in Our Faith
To achieve maturity in our faith, we must begin by acknowledging our humanity. None of us are superhuman, but God’s Word is extraordinary. It surpasses our limitations and provides divine wisdom. By humbling ourselves and embracing the authority of Scripture, we open the door to transformation and growth.
Moreover, maturity is displayed when we prioritize the Holy Spirit’s teaching above all else. We must develop a deep hunger for God’s Word, seeking to understand it through the lens of the Spirit’s guidance. Supplementing our personal study with teachings from others who prioritize the Holy Spirit’s leading can further enhance our spiritual growth.
Here are some practical ways to increase your maturity:
- Prioritize Personal Study: Dedicate regular time to study and meditate on God’s Word, allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal its truths to you. (Psalm 1:2; Joshua 1:8)
- Seek Discernment: When listening to teachings or reading books by others, pray for discernment to recognize whether their message aligns with biblical truth. (1 John 4:1; Acts 17:11)
- Embrace Accountability: Connect with a mature believer or join a small group where you can engage in discussions and grow together in understanding and applying God’s Word. (Proverbs 27:17; Hebrews 10:24-25)
- Practice Obedience: As you encounter God’s truth, apply it to your life, allowing His Word to shape your thoughts, actions, and relationships. (James 1:22; Matthew 7:24-27)
It has been many years since that concert and looking at the pictures of that event, I laugh. I don’t laugh at my immaturity, but at how silly we must have looked to God and how silly we felt as we waited for someone who never showed up.
I have grown to understand that our spiritual maturity lies in our ability to focus on the Message rather than the Messenger. The Corinthian church’s immaturity serves as a reminder to seek growth in Christ, embracing the transformative power of God’s Word.
As we apply these lessons in our lives, we can cultivate maturity by acknowledging our human limitations, prioritizing the Holy Spirit’s teaching, and supplementing our study with insights from those who share this commitment.