We have a gearbox repair shop near where we live. Many machines use a gearbox. The purpose of a gearbox is to regulate the speed of a machine. Built into a food mixer or a food mincer, built into factory machines, bicycles, motorbikes or motor vehicles is some form of gearbox or reduction box that regulates speed. The gearbox is a very important component. Consider a motor vehicle’s gearbox (be it a truck’s or a car’s). You could have an automatic gearbox or a manual gearbox. Let’s use a five-speed manual gearbox as an illustration. You start the engine. Engage first gear, drop the handbrake whilst easing your foot off the pedal brake as you allow the clutch to engage and press down on the accelerator. The vehicle starts to move forward. This gear has a ratio that permits the “heavy” vehicle to start moving but only at a limited speed. Then, the next gear is engaged, permitting the vehicle to move faster but limits the speed at a certain threshold. This process continues through all the gears until you get into fifth gear. This ratio is less limited, enabling the vehicle to reach higher speeds. Going through the gears, the engine initially revs higher and uses more petrol (or diesel) before switching to less and less. In top gear the fuel economy is the best yet, achieving the highest speeds. Should you ignore using the first and second gears, you will find your vehicle’s engine stalling and straining, spitting and spluttering … using excessive fuel with the possibility of doing damage to the engine, gearbox, clutch system and drive system. The gearbox has an important function for the vehicle to achieve optimal performance.
Spiritually, we have a gearbox too! Far too many of us tend to ignore this spiritual gearbox and race to get into spiritual top gear. Like the vehicle, doing this could cause untold spiritual damage which might take years to repair! It works like this … the gospel is heard and impacts the soul positively. Then, this person expects and desires to be like the seasoned Christian immediately … or a friend expects this of the one newly born in Christ! Let me illustrate. A lady comes to faith in Christ. She starts out slowly and cautiously until she meets a man. They “fall in love”. Because he is far more mature than she is, he puts pressure on her to study doctrine and theology. She does, but these studies have no time to work like yeast. They don’t touch the heart and shape her moral and ethical behaviour; they go straight to “academic knowledge”. She skipped the first few spiritual gears and got up to speed very quickly … but sadly, instead of the doctrine and theology warming the heart and changing her worldview to a Biblical one, it became nothing more that theoretical! In this true story, the lady eventually left her man and her church and returned to the world. (Maybe she learnt about election but her actions proved that election escaped her.)
This is not a new phenomena, for we read in Scripture:
Heb 5:11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
You see, babies require milk for a lengthy period before they start on solid foods. Once the spiritual solid foods start, the Biblical truth of righteousness is developed, and right from wrong, truth from error and holiness from wickedness is distinguished. Living for Christ is learned through years of moving slowly through those spiritual gears towards maturity. The problem with those this letter was written to was their slowness to learn (v11). They had been through much (Heb 6:1-2 says that they learned “… the elementary teachings about Christ … repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment”), yet they could not mature because they thought they could arrive without “learning”, without getting “acquainted with the teaching about righteousness”. They raced to get to top gear without getting “optimal spiritual speed” because they did not use the “spiritual gearbox” correctly. They were like the lady I mentioned above, running before walking and missing out on the first few spiritual gears.
One common mistake for many new Christians is to be like seasoned, mature Christians. They want their knowledge. They want to be able to quote chapter, text and verse verbatim. Yet the last thing they want is to endure the “disciple making” phase. Often this is not their fault. It could well be the church or the spiritual mentor’s fault if they neglect Jesus’ instruction of Matthew 28. Look at this passage:
Mat 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
They get the “go” right. They get the “make” wrong. The “make” is the most important part of these three verses. It is far more than leading a soul to Christ! It is the “teaching them everything I have commanded you”. Disciples must be taught the whole counsel of God … and this takes years! Have you ever wondered why Jesus spent 3 years on earth mainly to disciple 12 men? Or why Paul spent 3 years in Arabia and later returned to Damascus (Gal 1:17-18)? Teaching and learning means going through the spiritual gears slowly and properly!
Dear God, graciously prevent me from running before I can walk properly. Help me to spend time in Your Word. Give me a learning spirit. By Your Spirit, assist me to mature in the Scriptures properly, for Jesus sake. Amen.