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Home The Light Articles from 2010 Spiritual Growth

Spiritual Growth

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Immaturity is a problem in many areas. Fruit removed from the tree or vine before it has matured is not as desirable as that which is fully ma­ture and ripe. Mental immaturity causes people to act in an irresponsi­ble manner. Spiritual immaturity causes many problems in the church.

We are told in 2nd Peter 3:18, "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." The lack of spiritual growth is not a new problem. In Hebrews 5:12-13 we read, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe."

We understand that one newly baptized is a babe in Christ. However Paul expressed displeasure in those who had been Christians for some time and were still immature. This is a matter of attitude or lack of desire. As one preacher said, "They want to come into the church and sit on the stool of do little and whittle on the stick of do less." For this cause they do not grow. They do not under­stand that Christ wants laborers in his vineyard. Is it laziness or a shortage in our teaching? We must have zeal in our teaching to inspire zeal in our listeners.

A baby needs much tender loving care for it to grow and be healthy. The same is true of baby Christians. In 1st Peter 2:1-2 we read, "Where­fore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby."

The desire for food comes early in physical life. This should also be true in spiritual life. Jesus said in Mat­thew 5:6, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." The food needed for spiritual growth is the Word of God. At first as we read the Word, we may not fully understand it. You might say we are only able to grasp the milk. The more we read, study, and meditate, the more we understand. The more we understand, the more we grow, and the more we improve as servants of God. Paul told Timothy, "Study to show thyself approved unto God."

It seems the growth of the Corin­thian Christians was being hampered by the things Peter said to lay aside. In 1st Corinthians 3:1-3 Paul wrote, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for where­as there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not car­nal, and walk as men?" When we repent we turn from the carnal ways of sin and turn to the ways of Christ. He obeyed God in all things. This act requires a positive and determined effort on our part. It is not easy to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. The mind is a very difficult part of our body to control. It can travel away a thousand miles in half a second and that is the reason Solo­mon said, "Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life." This is the beginning of Christian growth.

In Ephesians 4:13 Paul wrote of how we should come to the unity of the faith through knowledge unto a complete man, and measure up to the stature and fullness of Christ. Then in verse 14 he wrote, "That we hence­forth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, where­by they lie in wait to deceive." The devil never ceases his attack on those who desire to please God. He really concentrates on those newly con­verted.

It was immediately after his bap­tism that Jesus faced Satan in the wilderness. In John 15:20 he said, "Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also." Our Lord knew what his apostles would have to endure. They devoted their lives to the spreading of the gospel. All of them except John died by the hands of those they tried to save from sins.

When someone hears the truth of the gospel and becomes interested, the devil launches an attack. He does all he can to do what Jesus described in Luke 8:12, "Then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts." It seems that any time the gospel is preached the devil is there doing things to interfere with it being heard. In 1st Peter 5:8 we are warned, "Be sober, be vigilant; be­cause your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."

When someone has been baptized, they are a babe in Christ. They need protection. We could take a lesson from geese. When their babies leave the nest, the flock surrounds them. They are kept inside the circle. The old geese will quickly convince you that their children are protected.  Baby Christians are vulnerable to attack. The devil knows their weak­nesses. If they have stopped smok­ing, all their erstwhile friends will offer them cigarettes. If they have been given to parties and worldly entertainment, the devil will make that available. Their former associ­ates will be offended by their refusal to participate. Peter put it this way in 1st Peter 4:4, "Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you." This is hard to overcome especially for young folks. Peer pres­sure has brought many people down. It takes strength and courage to change their lives. Baby Christians need encouragement and love. Their faith and prayers will give them the determination to remain faithful.

Older Christians sometimes do not realize how fragile a newborn Chris­tian may be. We want them to grow and make progress, but we can push them too hard. Some young men were taught to sing as children and have studied the Bible. They are ready to lead songs and be active in the worship. Others need to be gently led. There is no substitute for home training by God fearing, Bible read­ing Christian parents. They set an example of Christian living before their children. The younger training is begun the more effective it will be.

We used to raise horses for our own use. When a colt was still young, we taught it to be led, han­dled, and obey. We did not hook them to a load till they were two years old. Even then, we did not give them heavy work. Only when they had been trained to pull, did we put them to the plough.

We need to use the same ideas in training baby Christians. Remember a baby Christian can be ninety years old physically. In this case, age does not mean maturity. One man who was baptized late in life became dis­couraged and quit going to church because he was pressured to immedi­ately take part in public worship. He was old in years and strong in body, but young and weak in Christianity. He felt unable to give what was re­quired of him. It is a wise congrega­tion that has weeknight meetings for the purpose of teaching young con­verts to sing, pray, and teach.

It is a real blessing when young folks are like Timothy. Paul wrote in 2nd Timothy 3:15, "From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." Paul gave credit where it was due for Timothy's faith. In 2nd Timothy 1:5 he wrote, "I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also."

I remember walking up to my grandmother's little log cabin and hearing her reading the Bible aloud to herself. She was always reading or singing. Her influence was for good. My father spent much time reading the Bible. The children of Bible read­ing parents will read. The children of praying parents will pray. There is nothing more beautiful than the un­questioning faith of a little child when they pray. Jesus said in Mat­thew 18:3, "Except ye be converted; and become as little children, ye shall not enter inio the kingdom of heaven."

A young man like Timothy is ready, willing, and able to help in public worship. Again we must   remember how fragile and easily hurt a young person can be. One teenager who aspired to become a preacher was hurt and discouraged by the harsh and unkind words of an older brother in the church. He lost his aspirations and stopped studying. Gentle, kind, loving criticism can be helpful. We must watch our tongues and remember we were young once and made mistakes.

Young folks, don't be too easily offended. Have respect for those older than you. In 1 st Peter 5:5 we read, "Likewise ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." Paul wrote in Romans 12:3, "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."

Inflated self-esteem can cause one real problems when it comes to sub­mission. Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprof­itable for you." Rebellion is the op­posite of humility and submission. In 1st Samuel 15:23 we read, "For re­bellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry."

We who are older in years and in the faith carry great responsibility. Job 32:7 says, "Days should speak, and the multitude of years should teach wisdom." Sometimes we old folks may not be as wise as we think

we are. Then sometimes we are wiser than you think we are. If you are about to make a mistake, we may be able to tell you what it will cost you. Experience leaves both scars and memories. Many times we've been there and done that and suffered for it. We try to set the proper example before others.

Age does not give the right to be overbearing or unreasonable. In 1st Peter 5:3 the elders are told, "Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." Paul told the elders in Acts 20:28, "Take heed therefore unto your­selves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."

We must take heed that we teach sound doctrine. Then take heed that we live it. Jesus said in Matthew 23:1 -2, "The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: all therefore whatso­ever they bid you observe, that ob­serve and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not." Then in verse 13 he said, "Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypo­crites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in." Stay aware that the God we serve looks on the heart.

As Paul laid out the qualifications for eldership in 1 Timothy 3:6 he wrote, "Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the con­demnation of the devil." This is un­derstandable. No general would put an untrained, inexperienced soldier in command of his troops going into combat. We are at war with the forces  of   evil. Our opponents are cunning, crafty, and determined. There is need for trained, seasoned warriors. As Paul described the elder in Titus 1:9 he wrote, "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to con­vince the gainsayer."

There is good reason to exclude from the eldership those newly con­verted. They may not have learned the value of humility. Pride can cause serious disagreements over opinions. This would be like the man who hooked two young untrained mules to his wagon. They ran off the road and went on opposite sides of a tree. This brought all forward progress to a halt and damaged the wagon.

Nothing stops progress and dam­ages a congregation like disagree­ment among their leadership. There is no justification for a verbal battle between two leaders in the presence of the whole congregation. The hear­ers will take sides, which plays right into the hands of someone like Paul described in Acts 20:30, "Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."

The young and newly converted are the ones most endangered by false teaching. Somehow they admire the proud, loud, and arrogant who promote liberal ideas. We are warned of such teaching in 2nd Peter 2:19, "While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage."And in verse 2 he wrote, "And many shall follow their perni­cious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of."

A skilled soft spoken deceiver can quickly destroy the unity of a congregation. Jesus warned in Matthew 7:15, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's cloth­ing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Just as wolves go after the little lambs, false teachers go after the young folks.

There have always been and will always be men like the one described in 3rd John 9, "I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not." John goes on in verse 10 to say, "Neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church."

Can you imagine the pride and arrogance of this man who rejected the words of an inspired apostle of our Lord? How many young Chris­tians do you suppose he either dis­couraged or led away from the truth? Is he much different than those today who hold the ideas and doctrines of men and reject God's Holy Word? In John 12:48 Jesus said, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." So then, let us desire the sincere milk of the word that we may grow thereby. -105 W. Jefferson, Richland, MO 65556

 

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