KJV = King James Version
TEV = Today's English Version
Attaining Christian Maturity
Let me describe two scenes. In the first, a woman cultivates the ground in her garden plot. She removes all the weeds and stones; she breaks up the remaining clots in the soil, and plows neat straight furrows. Finally, the gardener plants her seeds and, adding a bit of fertilizer, covers and waters them. Then she performs a strange ritual: falling to her knees, she wails, tears streaming down her cheeks, "Grow! Oh, please, please grow; how I beg you to grow. Please, oh, please, won't you grow for me?" Each morning and evening until harvest season, she performs the ritual. After the harvest, she tells her long-flabbergasted husband, "It I hadn't been out there weeping and begging the plants to grow, we wouldn't be enjoying these fresh vegetable today."
In the second scene, a married man in his forties, with children of his own, pays one of his twice-weekly visits his mother's home. As he enters the door, she heats up a baby bottle, orders him to lie on the sofa. Then she places the bottle filled with infant formula in his mouth and props it under his chin to prevent it from falling.
We no doubt find these two scenes humorous because they are so ridiculous. Growth is the natural law of life, instituted by God. That which has life must grow! Genesis 2: 9 reads that "God made every tree to grow . . ."
I have noticed that the life force in tree sprouts in so powerful that, when covered by sidewalk cement, the sprouts actually crack the sidewalks in their struggle for growth. Our city is one with many trees. In spring, summer and autumn, driving down the length of Villa Avenue is like passing through a canopy of forestry; on either side of the avenue, the branches at the tops of the trees arc over and meet at the center, making for a scenic stroll or drive. Some two years ago, our city of trees began a project of installing new sidewalks because the old ones had been badly cracked by the growth of fallen seeds from the trees. The city fathers now propose removing the trees and the residents are protesting against it.
The urge to grow in not unique to the natural world; spiritual life also demands growth. And similar to the natural world, if growth is not accomplished, stunting occurs. Christians must grow to not experiencing stunting.
Most often, humanity concerns itself with only two aspects of growth:
The physical aspect of growth is of primary concern to mankind. America has devoted much of its resources to the physical well-being of its citizens, especially that of children and the elderly. Even those who hold high office are anxious regarding our well-being, as attested to by the Presidential councils commissioned with focusing the attention of the nation on the necessity for physical fitness. This is commendable; a government should be concerned for the welfare of its citizens. Since the Bible also exhorts Christians to care for their bodies, we should be the first to laude our officials for such efforts and cooperate with them. "Don't you know that your body in the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you . . . so use your bodies to God's glory," the Apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthian church (1st Corinthians 6:19-20; TEV).
Paul also wrote this solemn declaration: "Surely you know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you! So if anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you yourselves are his temple" (1st Corinthians 3:16-17, TEV).
Yes, we must care for our physical bodies here on earth; but the time shall come when, at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, they shall be transformed like unto His glorious body.
Until then, our eyes scan the skies!
The intellectual growth of humanity is more subtle than its physical growth. From among all of God's earthly creatures, only humanity has an infinite intellectual capacity. It has been assessed that the human brain has in infinite capacity for knowledge and that in our liftimes, we use only one tenth of that capacity. This is understandable, since God originally designed man to live forever, a gift we lost by Adam's fall in the Garden of Eden. It is my assumption that vestiges of this infinite brain capacity are evident in the stunning inventions of our race, many - if not most of them created for the waging of war. It is heartbreaking to realize that, if all of humanity's expenditure of brain-power had been dedicated to the alleviation of human suffering, instead of warfare and destruction, man-kind possibly could have made for itself an existence similar to the fabled Shangri-La. However, man's sin nature never would permit it.
So the Christian's heavenly "Shangri-la" shall begin at Christ's return!
Christians should primarily be concerned for the spiritual aspect of growth. The words of Jesus, when He was tempted by Satan to turn stone into bread, attest to this: "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." The Lord thus inferred that, though man's physical requirements are important and must be addressed, man's spiritual requirements are of the utmost priority. Humanity requires earthly sustenance to realize physical growth; Christians require spiritual sustenance to maintain spiritual growth.
Without it we cannot grow up!
The Apostle Paul called upon Christians to grow up. He wrote: "But speaking the truth in love, grow up into him in all things" (Ephesians 4:15; KJV).
The Apostle Peter also advocated Christian growth. "Desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby" (1st Peter 2:2; KJV). Milk is required for a child's growth. I have been informed that milk is the almost perfect food, especially mother's milk. All of the ingredients required for a newly born child's sound growth are contained in milk. This is also true with "the milk of the word." Just as no person is born fully grown, new Christians are not born again spiritually mature, though some think they are, expecting to have a "Jack and the Beanstalk" experience. Remember the story? Jack's mother sent him to town to sell their only cow. Jack returned with a handful of beans, which his angry mother tossed out a window. In the morning, they found that a colossal beanstalk had sprung up overnight. Jack climbed it, accosted a giant whom he defeated, and was made wealthy. But there are no "Jack and the Beanstalk" experiences in the walk of a Christian; we experience a gradual, steady maturing.
The Lord Jesus categorized the order of spiritual growth. "The Kingdom of God is like this. A man scatters his seed in his field. He sleeps at night, is up and about during the day, and all the while the seeds are sprouting and growing. Yet he does not know how it happens. The soil itself makes the plants grow and bear fruit: first the tender stalk appears then the head, and finally the head full of grain . . ." Mark 4:26-29 TEV).
If you are a new-born Christian, remember these words of Jesus. Ask yourself, "What stage of growth am I in?" Truthfully answer that question and go on from there. Remember, even human babies feel insulted when they are called babies, but this does not transmogrify them into instant adults. They remain babies for a quite a while. No Christian - not even clergy of long standing - was born again full-grown; it took time, study of God's word, prayer, and the fellowship of mature Christians. So take advantage of the strategies God has provided for you to acquire spiritual maturity, the first of which is to locate a Bible-preaching church. Tragically, not all churches preach Bible truth. Should you have concern over whether a church you find interesting does so, contact a mature, knowing Christian who can assist you with this concern.
Any church one attends should be caring of new Christians. Such care is demonstrated by the church being geared for spiritual growth. The pastoral staff, board members and the general congregation should be warm, friendly and welcoming of visitors. The church also should conduct a new believer's class in which basic Bible doctrines are taught and where you are prepared for water baptism and the taking of the Lord's Supper. If these characteristics are lacking, stagnation is produced and spiritual stunting occurs.
Stunting takes place when there is a lack of growth. A man once formed a business to produce miniature dogs. He produced the miniatures by feeding them nicotine when they were puppies. The nicotine stunted their growth and the business thrived.
Satan attempts to introduce the "nicotine" of carnality (worldliness) into a Christian's diet. Should he succeed, that person's spiritual growth will definitely be stunted. There is a nation [best left unspecified] that once was a land of many rabbits, but no longer has any. Many decades ago, the country was harassed by an over-abundance of the rodents. Because they destroyed crops, spread diseases among farm animals and were a general nuisance, thinking to control them on his farm, someone in desperation introduced a small vial of rabbit-killing germs - and inadvertently annihilated the nation's entire rabbit population. Since there no longer were rabbits on which to feed, predators went after farm animals.
It took just one small vial!
Let that be a spiritual lesson to all of us! What we may consider one small sin, may be detrimental to our entire spiritual well-being.
I realize that I'm completing this article on what some may consider a negative note, but Bible truth never is really negative, is it?
Let's aim for Christian maturity.
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