We will be talking about ‘Spiritual growth’ (every believer’s fruit) for the next couple of weeks. Today we are going to look at the baby stage of our faith that occurs after our redemption. We know from our Book of Ruth series that every redemption has a purpose. Matthew 23 tells us that we will ‘indeed’ bear fruit as our purpose. John 15 points out that Jesus chose us to have particularly abiding fruit.
Read on to verify your growth or realize a stunted-growth…
It is not fair to talk about spiritual growth in the life of someone who is not a believer. There is no fake-it-till-you-make-it principle for the unbeliever. Behavioral modification will never lead to salvation. So, this blog will assume that the reader is a believer.
3 Stages of Christian Evolution
The Baby Stage
…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
You’re not supposed to stay a baby. Infancy is a very fragile state. You can easily succumb to evil. Paul says there are those in the church, people who are always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7).
The Young Man (or Woman) Stage
The next stage of maturity is where you:
- understand enough of God’s teachings so that…
- you can easily abide in the faith…
- and are strong and able to overcome the devil.
- The devils primary weapon is lying, twisting the Word; but you don’t fall for it anymore. He can’t confound and confuse you anymore. The deception that might lead a believer into unbelief is overcome by understanding very quickly at this stage.
Mature Manhood (or Womanhood) Stage
Now, you’re not reading the Bible to find out truth about God. You are reading the Bible to know the living God; who He is. You have a vital living relationship with God. You stop wrestling with God. You seek to really know Him. This is where you find true liberty and freedom in the faith.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18
But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
What Spiritual Growth Is NOT
1. A person doesn’t grow into position or standing with Christ.
Position with Christ is a gift, given freely and in full measure, at the time of justification. 2 Corinthians 5 – anyone in Christ is a new creation. Nobody gets short changed. You don’t grow into position. You benefit from Christ’s precious promises and are partakers of the divine nature because of your already-sure-position in Christ. You begin to look like Christ and you have escaped the corruption of the world because of sinful desire.
2. A person doesn’t grow into being lovable in the eyes of God.
Romans 5:6-11 tells us that when we were/are at our most unlovable God gave us everything. Before the feast of the Passover, John 13:1 tells us that He loved His disciples “to the end” even though He knew they’d run scared and even betray Him.
3. A person doesn’t grow passively once born again.
Hebrews 5:11-14 tells us that if we stay too long as a baby Christian, we might get choked on “solid food”. In other words, when the real tests of our faith come, we will not be able to handle what the Bible says about that thing. We will become open prey to the devil’s schemes because we are “unskilled in righteousness”. There is a real shame to the Christian if we find ourselves here. We must understand we don’t just grow to maturity naturally. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 Paul tells the people at the church of Corinth that after the eighteenth months that he’d been there, feeding them milk, he still had to talk to them as baby Christians because they were not showing signs of maturity.
“Sanctification is a cooperative program between the abiding Spirit of God in the believer and the active will and intention of the believer to behave in a certain way.” Pastor Steve Wilson
You can’t just sit there in your pew and imagine that this ‘Christian’ thing is going to permeate somehow by osmosis. Just showing up at church and warming a pew will only bring shame, not growth. The lack of spiritual fruit will be evident to other believers who move in your world.
4. A person doesn’t grow only by knowledge.
Just reading your Bible and going to classes won’t mature you. Having a PhD in some Christian discipline won’t seal the deal on spiritual maturity and advance you in the kingdom either. Knowledge by itself will only bring growth of your pride and arrogance. It just makes you puffed up and boastful. You’ll be of no use to anyone because no one even wants to be around you. You’ve surely encountered people who you say a happy, “good morning” to and they start telling you how it is only ‘good’ because, “God made the morning”; as if you could never have known that without their telling you.
This know-it-all-Christian is such a turn-off to unbelievers and believers alike. They are a terrible example of spiritual growth. They bring great ridicule on themselves that has nothing to do with suffering for the cause of Christ.
1 Corinthians 8:1-3 tells us that our knowledge must be combined with the necessity of love. It is not loving to constantly be telling people how intelligent you believe you are and trying to impress them with your spiritual activities because that message gets translated as a condescending, “I’m better than you”. This level of pride often leads the boastful person into gossiping about others so that they can point out how prayerful or forgiving they will be.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
5. A person can’t just grow by doing activities either.
Being a busy worker in the house of the Lord will not cause spiritual growth. It doesn’t matter how may trays of food you make, groups you host or hours of your time you give in labor or mentorship.
And all our deeds of righteousness are like filthy rags
Busy does not equal spiritual growth and we should not take the command to not be lazy to an extreme. You could have a booming local church, with a 3000 head-count on Sunday, and 50 ministry opportunities to choose from, and still never see those Christians mature out of babyhood because they believe they have to prove their spiritual mettle with busy, busy, busy. Nothing less will do.
So, how do I grow?
In John 1 we learn that God causes us to be regenerated (mystery) from death to life in a spiritual conception. Romans 10, tells us the Word will then be in our hearts and will flow out (birth) of our mouths in public confession that Jesus is Savior. That is how other’s will know we are Christians. This is the first step, the baby step of spiritual growth. This is non-negotiable. You are not saved or in the process of being saved if this has not happened. You must confess Jesus Christ as born of the virgin, lived a perfect life, crucified for sins, resurrected and presently making intercession for you. It’s the object and substance of our faith that saves us. It’s the confession of our faith that invites us into the fellowship of believers here on earth.
You can’t just see Jesus as your Savior (Baby Stage); as the one who got you a ticket out of hell. You have to confess him as ‘Lord of your life’ on earth as well (Young Man Stage). That means you actively and literally must do what he tells you in the Bible, even if it makes you the target of others wrath. To do this, you must know what is in the Bible.
You can call Him ‘Jesus’ and not follow Him. Even the devil calls Him ‘Jesus’. But you cannot call Him ‘Lord’ and not follow him.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Next week we are going to take spiritual growth to the next level and see where it is we should be to please God and get to hear, “…good and faithful servant”. You can listen ahead to Pastor Wilson’s lesson here: Growing Steps, October 22, 2017.
- YouTube: What causes Sanctification – Catholic vs Protestant – Todd Friel explains the difference between ‘works’ to become saved (a catholic perspective) and works (fruit) that come after salvation that is our spiritual growth.