Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Growth Opportunities: From Children to Young Men

Yesterday we looked at children and their level of maturity.  There are many aspects of baby Christians that can mimic our human children.  One of the things that stand out to me the most is the selfishness of children.  Everything is about them and they don't like to share.  Most children do not put the needs of their peers ahead of them and they do not start each day asking what they can do to make someone else's life a little easier. 

There are teachings in the body of Christ that help to foster this selfish behavior in baby Christians instead of helping them learn to put away selfish ideals.  The most popular teachings include believers standing firm on the promises of God and getting ready to receive their blessings from above.  These teachings keep the believers' focus on what God will do for them not what they can do to help further the Kingdom's boundaries and initiatives.  Always looking to get and not looking to give does not promote maturity nor does it promote a "die to self" attitude either. 

Please don't get me wrong.  We most absolutely should stand on the promises of God our King.  It is His promises that help us to build our identity and learn how to grab hold of the victory we have in Jesus and to understand we are truly overcomers in Him.  But as with anything else, we cannot swing to any extreme and must find balance in the path we walk.  Balance and the guidance of the Holy Spirit is what will keep us protected from being prey to deceptions and false teachings.  We must put ourselves in positions in which we can learn and grow.  As children, it is necessary for us to be disciplined or chastised for our behaviors. 

Heb 12:5 - And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons, "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked by Him;
Heb 12:6 - for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and He scourges every son whom He receives." 
Heb 12:7 - If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons, for what son is he whom the father does not chasten?

So there, we have it.  God, our Heavenly Father, will chasten and discipline us as children so we may grow in the things of Him.  Chastening and discipline help to bring out knowing the spiritual "rights" and "wrongs" of our walk with Jesus Christ.  As we grow, we function and behave differently.  My teenagers act much differently than they did as toddlers and children.  Now, they are invincible don't you know!  They are all confident young men and women trying to make their way through the world.  They believe they can take on anything and overcome it.  From school, to relationships, to bad situations, to disappointments....they know they can handle them.  They have hit their teenage years and now they want to be self sufficient with mom and dad less involved in their decisions, with the exception of advice from time to time and guidance when necessary to prevent them from making a life altering bad decision.  My husband and I do let them make mistakes.  We have to for them to learn how to seek that guidance when necessary and when to trust in their own faith and knowledge.  The "young men" addressed in the scriptures are not unlike our physical children:

(Refer to 1 John 2:12-14)

Young Men

Overcome the Evil One
Word of God abides

The next logical phase in Christian maturity is to begin to stand on one's own "two feet" so to speak.  Hopefully, as infants, we have watched God provide for our needs, shower us with love, attention and affection, and seen our faith grow as a result.  Hopefully, we have learned enough of the Word to understand that we are in a daily battle to crucify our flesh and learn how to live within the parameters of the mandates of the New Covenant.  We should be able to see our strength grow as we learn more and more of the nature of the Father, grown closer in our relationship with Christ.  Having seen and done all of these things will begin to establish the characteristics of the New Man.

Characteristics of The New Man
Colossians 3:12-17
Tender mercies

Notice the above is similar...yet differs from the Fruits of the Spirits given to us at salvation.  Each of the character traits are getting us ready to move into the phase of maturity in our spiritual walks.  Notice I said getting ready to move...we are not fully mature as Young Men in the Spirit.  We still require guidance, we still require discipline from time to time to help keep us focused and on the right path.  The difference is now the above character traits should begin to be noticed by others around us.  Watering our spirits with the Word of God and allowing the fruits of the Spirit grow in us as small baby Christians begins the process of building the character traits of the New Man. 

Ephesians 4:22 For you ought to put off the old man (according to your way of living before) who is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,
Ephesians 4:23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.
Ephesians 4:24 And you should put on the new man, who according to God was created in righteousness and true holiness.

We must be willing to PUT ON the New Man.  We must be willing to put away childish things and grow into maturity.

1Co 13:11 - When I was an infant, I spoke as an infant, I thought as an infant, I reasoned as an infant.  But when I became a man, I did away with the things of an infant.  

Our goal should not be to stay in an infant state of mind. An infant's state of mind wants someone else to fight its battles for it.  We cannot fully receive everything God has for us.  We cannot fully function in our role in the Body of Christ as an infant.  We cannot fight off the things of the enemy as an infant.  We must continually strive to learn and grow so we can grow into the fullness and purpose of what God's Will for our lives on this earth is. 

We must grow from infants to young men to take our places among the ranks of the Lord's Army. We have to be able to put on the armor of God mentioned in Ephesians Chapter 6. We have to have the understanding that we do not fight against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Children don't understand where their fight should be. They get mad at mom and dad for saying no and for not getting their way. They don't understand that sometimes "no" is the answer required to keep them out of harm's way. Parents still fight children's battles.

Young men (and women), on the other hand, are sent to the front lines to fight wars. America's military troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and so many other places around the world give proof to that statement. So many young men and women give their lives in the ultimate sacrifice. They are well trained, well equipped, and are experienced in the use of their weapons. They do not enter a fight without a strategic plan. Spiritual young men and women are no different.  They receive training (teaching) and learn how to battle the enemy and how to use the weapons and armor provided them.   

The Young Men we are to grow into spiritually should be no different than our military service men and women. As young men and women, we are on the front lines of battles. We are armed, dressed for battle with the enemy and we have a strategic plan. In fact, we also have our enemy's battle plan. (John 10:10) With the advantage of the battle plan, we can overcome the evil one. We are strong. Youth has its advantages sometimes. ;) 

But our maturation process does not end here.  Youth need leadership.  Youth need mentors, teachers, and most especially...Fathers.  Tomorrow, we will look at growing from Young Men into Fathers. 

AS always....write to me!  Let me know what God is doing in your life.  What are your prayer requests?

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