Further Illustrations of Growth
The primary illustration of Christian maturity in the Bible is Jesus Christ. He is our elder brother. He took the form of a servant, and obeyed the Father perfectly. He humbled himself through death on the Cross. Christians are to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. This is the goal of Christian maturity. The believer lives to do the will of Jesus Christ. This is revealed by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. The “likeness of Jesus Christ” applies to the physical, mental, and social parts of our lives as well as to the spiritual part.
But the Bible illustrates our Christian growth in other ways too. In this lesson, we will study several other illustrations. These will include the family, farming, and building. Our purpose is to see the concept of Christian maturity as clearly as possible.
Perhaps you have seen a great hill or mountain. From a distance, it looks rather close. You think you can reach it in a short time. As you approach it, the distance seems much greater. We sometimes call this perspective or point of view. We are trying to see our subject from several perspectives— several approaches. Allow the Holy Spirit to give you the right perspective.
WE GROW UP IN A FAMILY
Every human life is a product of parents. The human infant is born with a great need for care, and it is the responsibility of parents to provide that care.
Starting As a Baby
Have you noticed an infant recently? Think of the various things which must be done for the child to keep it alive and healthy. Parents gladly provide for the infant, knowing it will eventually mature. A new Christian has been “born again” (John 3:3). Scripture refers to him as a baby. He needs spiritual food in order to grow from spiritual infancy into spiritual maturity.
Changing Our Diet
It is clear in the Scripture that the believer is neither to remain a spiritual baby, nor to continue to use spiritual milk. Let us examine several Scriptures which we shall develop later.
Perhaps you are asking, “What is the difference between spiritual milk and spiritual solid food?” Milk comes from a body which has eaten solid food. Milk has gone through the digestive system of another: the mother, for example. Milk to a Christian is primary spiritual truth rather than more advanced spiritual truth. Understanding of more advanced truth comes through practical application of already known primary truth (see 1 John 1:6–7).
Paul continues in this verse by saying, “When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” Do you remember when you put away play things or clothes you used as a child? It was not always easy. Growing up can be painful.
Accepting Different Roles
God’s concern for the believer to achieve full spiritual stature is found in many places in the Bible. God is concerned that the believer knows His full purpose for His children. The apostles shared God’s yearning father’s heart. Paul and John particularly sought to move the believer through childhood into adulthood.
Do you remember the changes of your duties as you became older? Are you now a mother or father yourself? If so, your view of life certainly differs from that of a child or youth. The apostle John writes from the position of a spiritual father in 1 John 2:12–13.
You can see in 1 John 2:12–13 that the situations are different at each of the three levels of maturity. The children receive forgiveness for their sins; the young men do notable deeds in their victory over evil, and the fathers know God better than the others. The children are portrayed as the most dependent, the young men as the most active, and the fathers as the most mature. Fathers have fullest understanding of God and His purposes.
You have noticed that three levels of growth in God’s family are represented in this passage. Three things included in the process of growing up spiritually are reaching higher levels of knowledge, accepting more responsibility, and performing more significant duties. As we have seen, growing means “leaving,” leaving childish things to gain greater stature.
WE ARE LIKE A VALUABLE FARM
Some farmland is much more valuable than other land. Good land with rich soil and well-watered plains is precious. The farmer’s very life is built around his land. He clears and plows, plants and cultivates, waters and waits. The harvest is his reward. He has worked hard for long hours. He deserves the joy of a good harvest. How sad when his efforts are in vain and the land or climate robs him of his due reward.
Belonging to God
The Bible often refers to God’s people as being the Lord’s vineyard or field (Isaiah 5:1–7; Jeremiah 12:10). God has chosen us and we are His field. He has carefully planted His seed in the soil of our lives. He expects and deserves a harvest. He awaits our maturity as anxiously as the farmer awaits the harvest of his crops.
Ephesians 3:17–18 is a prayer by the apostle Paul that the believers may have their roots in love, so that they together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. To have our roots in God’s love denotes that we belong to God and continues the analogy between believers and a valuable farm. God’s love, like rich soil, will help growth. In this passage Paul is praying for what God awaits in us: Christian maturity
Carrying Out Responsibility
The believer is sometimes pictured as the keeper of the field of God. He has responsibility as a workman in God’s field. You remember reading in 1 Corinthians 3 that Paul sowed seed, Apollos watered, and so forth.
The answer to the preceding question means we can make the spiritual soil of our lives ready to receive God’s seed. Perhaps you ask, “How can I plow the soil of my life?” Plowing breaks up soil to eliminate its hard crust. Then both seed and moisture can enter the soil and cause growth. Brokenness in the believer’s life is a result of responding in humility to God’s conviction. Such response keeps the soil of one’s heart open. The Holy Spirit will faithfully tell or show (convict) our spirit when something is wrong.
Can you remember a recent time in your life when the Holy Spirit convicted you? Perhaps it was because of something you said. Or maybe you were angry or bitter toward a fellow believer. How did you respond? Did you excuse yourself? Did you resist the conviction? An attitude of brokenness in true humility responds with repentance to God’s conviction.
Repentance means “to turn away from.” An illustration of brokenness and repentance in response to God’s conviction is found in the following prayer: Thank You, Holy Spirit, for showing me this sin. I am genuinely sorry for this wrong. I repent and turn from this. Thank You that I am forgiven through Jesus’ sacrifice. Praise You, Father.
Through my brokenness and repentance, the soil of my life is kept open and permits spiritual growth.
WE ARE A BUILDING OF GOD
Perhaps near where you live is a grand building. Does it stand above all others in size? Is it made of more beautiful materials? No doubt it was built with the skill and care of dedicated workmen. Its perfection shows it was built to an exact design. People like to look at it. Other buildings are built more quickly, with less skill, and contain less costly materials. They are less durable. Anyone can tell the difference.
We saw above that we are both God’s field and the keepers of His field. Now we understand we are both His building and His builders. It is significant that man can exercise his free will in choosing materials he uses in building God’s building. In one sense, the great building we are working on is the church (the body of Jesus Christ in the world—not a physical building). In another sense, our bodies are like a church.
How to Build God’s Building
Every day, I must choose how and what to build. The foundation cannot be changed. It is Jesus Christ our Lord. The Father has a wonderful plan for what my personal Christian building should be like. He tells me in His Word of the right attitudes, habits, words, and character. He designed what a
Christian should be like. When I build to His specifications (the specific orders on His plan), the building of my life will be beautiful and durable. It will be like the grand building we talked about. If I neglect God’s plan and choose materials that do not please Him (wood, grass, or straw), my building will not survive fire and I will never become a mature Christian.
Perhaps you would like to pray this prayer with me: Father, Your plan is best. The materials You choose are best. I want the building of my life to be made to your standard. I want to be conformed to your Son Jesus Christ in my body, mind, and spirit. Amen.