As schools around our community start back, joyful parents and reluctant children recognize the unofficial end of summer. This Sunday, August 13, First Baptist Church will observe Promotion Sunday for our children and youth. This is the day each year when students move up to a new grade. As they do so, they’re joined by familiar friends and have the opportunity to meet new teachers. They also have things to remember from their previous grades and new things to learn in the coming year.
This is a reminder to all of us that there are some things — some truths — we should never outgrow, and there are other things that should change as a part of the maturing process. The journey of life, and especially of faith, is marked by particular milestones as we grow and mature. One particular passage from the Bible addresses exactly this issue.
We have a great deal to say about this, and it is difficult to explain, since you have become too lazy to understand. Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food. Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature — for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil. Therefore, let us leave the elementary teaching about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And we will do this if God permits.
— Hebrews 5:11 – 6:3
These Christians had become apathetic and stagnant in their growth as believers. Rather than being diligent about learning and living out God’s Word, they’d managed to neglect and even forget the basics like repentance and faith, baptism and calling leaders, and resurrection and judgment. They’d been believers long enough to have become teachers but, instead, were less knowledgeable than a novice. Apparently, they’d missed a few Promotion Sundays.
This passage is not a call to forget the basics but to build on that foundation of basic truths. I’m reminded of the songs I sang as a child growing up in the church, like Jesus Loves Me and Read Your Bible, Pray Every Day. The words of these songs are just as true for me now as they were then, but I’ve needed to add to my knowledge since then in order to mature as a Christian. According to Scripture, every follower of Jesus is expected to mature in their grasp and understanding of God, what it means to follow Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit in their life. Furthermore, Christian maturity is manifested in both knowledge and action.
As we touched on this past Sunday, this process of maturing as a follower of Jesus is called sanctification. Through your submission to the Holy Spirit, you should become more and more like Jesus as you seek to follow His example and obey everything He’s commanded. He is the ultimate measure of maturity — the goal we aspire to meet. And it’s not enough to be more like Jesus than when you first came to faith. You should be more like Jesus than you were this time last year. In other words, every year you should qualify for a Promotion Sunday.
Because of the rhythms of life, August is really the beginning of the year for many of us, rather than January. Once Labor Day passes, we hope to establish routines that will carry us through the next summer. That said, I want to encourage you to consider how you might grow in godly wisdom and virtue this coming year. Determine how you can heed the words from Hebrews and grow in the knowledge of God’s Word and personal sanctification. As we do so, we’ll grow as both individual believers and as a church — the body of Christ — all by His power and for His glory.