Saturday, June 18, 2005

"Baby Man" -- a sermon illustration come to life

When I would preach on Christian growth, and particularly Hebrews 5:11-14, I'd often use an illustration. (Yes, the same one; yes, all preachers do it; yes, even the Lord re-used parables.)

I would say that one expects a baby to do -- well, not much. Hard job, really: all he has to do is sit there and be cute. Now he giggles and coos, now he cries. He's either taking in food, processing it, or disposing of it. Sometimes all those things in combination.

It's adorable, in a 6-month old.

And we love our little toddlers, wobbling around in their huge diapers, emotions on their sleeves. They're really actually learning at an astonishing rate, but it doesn't look like it: they just teeter and totter, explore, make demands, and bless the house simply by being there.

Now, I say, picture a twelve-year-old in the same state. Or at eighteen, twenty, thirty: still in diapers, still helpless and dependent, still in infancy.

Well, of course (I preach) we'd all immediately know something was severely, seriously, terribly wrong. But then (I go on to say) suppose you were to find out that, no, there was nothing wrong with that man's brain. Perfectly healthy. No injuries, no diseases; nothing physically wrong whatever.

He'd just decided not to grow up.

And then I point out that what would horrify us in a marketplace apparently doesn't cause the slightest stir in church.

How so? How many people think they've been Christians for five, ten, twenty, thirty years, and haven't yet read the whole Bible through even once? How many could not name the books of the New Testament in order, let alone the whole Bible? In fact, how many could not even name the four Gospels?

(Aside: a fellow I knew once surveyed several dozen professed Christians, asking them just to name the four Gospels. Either none could, or only one could. And these were long-time Christians, including leaders within their churches. Were they embarrassed at their own astonishing ignorance? No; they were offended at him for asking.)

Poll after poll reveals those who claim to be born-again Christians to be stunningly ignorant of the Bible, or rebellious against it. On Biblical teachings as basic as the deity and bodily resurrection of Christ, the reality of the Devil, salvation by grace alone through Christ alone, low numbers recur constantly.

And even among those checking the right doctrinal boxes, if you ask them to demonstrate their faith (on which they claim to base their lives) from the Bible, even if only by one or two apposite verses, you're likelier to be disappointed than not.

How can this be? No age, and no country, has had more abundant access to the Bible than ours. No age, and no country, has had available the helps for Bible study that ours has. None has had greater freedom to use and exploit that access.

Yet I daresay that, for all the impact the Bible has on the average professor, the Bible might as well still be in Latin and chained to the pulpit at the local Roman Catholic Church.

We have churches filled with folks who, if their spiritual condition could be seen, are fully grown adults lolling about in diapers, trading off one "binky" for another. It's a horror, but it's a horror we live with without being horrified.

I tell this as an illustration.

Enter "baby man."

"Baby man" is the flesh-and-blood embodiment of my illustration. He is a 54-year-old man who "sleeps in a crib, eats in a high chair and does it in his diaper -- by choice." Click on the link, look at the pictures, let your jaw drop in revulsion...

...and next time you excuse yourself for not reading your Bible, not studying, not memorizing, not going to rigorously Bible-preaching churches, not knowing what the Bible teaches as well as you know your favorite hobby, not growing, not bearing fruit, not being one who could teach others instead of standing in daily need of having the basics repeated to you, in spite of your decades of professed Christian faith -- next time you find yourself doing that, I say, think of Hebrews 5:11-14.

And think of William Windsor. Think of "baby man."

Because that's you.

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