How to Drink Milk

John Piper, in a sermon on Hebrews 5:

milkWhat this means is that if you want to grow up and feast on the fullness of God’s revelation, you don’t do it by jumping from milk to meat. You do it by the way you drink the milk. The milk has to make you a certain kind of discerning person before you can digest the meat. This is so important because in our highly technological society we are prone to think that education—especially intellectual development—is the key to maturity. This text makes clear that it isn’t. There are many Ph.D.’s who choke in their spiritual immaturity on the things of God. And there are many less-educated saints who are deeply mature and can feed with pleasure and profit on the deepest things of God’s Word.

So the key to maturity (and the remedy for dullness of hearing) is not jumping from milk to meat. The key is the way you drink the milk—what you do with the milk of the Word. So let me close with three steps in how to grow with milk to maturity.

  1. First you drink in the milk. That is, you listen to the milk of the Word—the message of God’s promises in the gospel. You read them yourself in the Bible and you sit under the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. And you give heed. You are earnest and diligent to apply your heart and mind to what is being said. You are not passive and cavalier and indifferent—babes long for milk, and are incredibly focused when they are thirsty.
  2. Savor and swallow and digest and be satisfied. This is crucial. If this doesn’t happen, the next stage of discernment will not happen. Here is the miraculous spiritual event of loving what once you hated. You love the taste of the milk: “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). And when the promises of God and the God of the promises are tasted, the milk satisfies. And when it satisfies, it transforms your values and priorities, which leads to Step 3.
  3. With a heart satisfied with God now, discern good and evil. There are hundreds of decisions that you must make day in and day out which are not spelled out explicitly in the Bible. What to watch on TV, political positions to take, investment strategies, vocation, insurance, retirement, business tactics, where to live, what to drive, whether to own a gun, how to discipline your children, what to wear, where to volunteer, how much to give, etc., etc.

It doesn’t take discernment to know what’s wrong if you have a list from God. Knowing when to murder and when to steal and when to commit adultery take no discernment if you believe God gave the Ten Commandments. So verse 14 is talking about decisions that are not laid down specifically in a list.

And it says that there is such a thing as discernment between good and evil. How does this discernment come? It comes from habitually (by regular practice) nourishing and shaping your spiritual senses (the word in verse 14 doesn’t mean physical senses) by the Word of God until that word becomes a “word of righteousness”—a discerning power, a word producing righteousness in the mature. Discernment is what you do naturally when the milk of God’s promises is so savored and so satisfying that it gives you the mind of Christ.

This is the remedy for “dullness of hearing.” Drink with delight until the desires of your heart are so transformed as to become the discernment of good and evil. Then you will be mature and ready for meat.