Monday, May 13, 2013

Growth Opportunities

Over the last few months I have shared quite a few things that have been on my heart, including the lack of spiritual maturity among Christians and the Body of Christ. I have taken some flack for some of the things I have posted.  That is okay.  I am only interested in sharing what I believe God has given me to share.  I am going to continue this week and I know what has been on my heart will be unpopular for many again. 

I have been reading the scriptures and doing quite a bit of study on the maturity levels of Christians.  What are the phases we need to grow into?  How do we grow from level to level?  Is each level obtainable?  These are all questions I have asked myself over the last several months.  I have come to this conclusion, based on the Word of God:  There are three levels of spiritual maturity and each level has its own characteristics.

Levels of Maturity:
  1. Children
  2. Young Men
  3. Fathers
The levels of maturity also come with their own set of character traits. 
  1. The Fruits of the Spirit
  2. The Characteristics of the New Man
  3. The Characteristics of a Citizen of the Kingdom of God

The first level is children. When we have children, as parents we provide them with everything they need. We provide milk, warm clothes, a bed, lots of love and we hold them a lot. We might even rock them and sing them to sleep. Our children are dependent on us providing them to sustain their life.

Our Heavenly Father is not unlike we are when we are new Christians. In fact, we are drawn to Him through the fact that He loves us. John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

This verse of John is probably one of the most well known and quoted scripture in the entire Word of God. Once we come to the saving knowledge this scripture, God then begins to feed us the Word slowly so we begin to grow.

1 Corinthians 3:2 I have fed you with milk and not with solid food, for you were not yet able to bear it; nor are you able even now.

1 Corinthians 3:3 For you are yet carnal. For in that there is among you envyings and strife and divisions, are you not carnal, and do you not walk according to men?

As baby Christians, there are still things in our lives that we have not rid ourselves of. We have not yet fully put off the old man nor have we put on the new man. 
Eph 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,
Eph 4:23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.
Eph 4:24 And you should put on the new man, who according to God was created in righteousness and true holiness.
We have not grown into the fullness of our identities as adopted heirs to the throne and Sons of God. In fact, Paul told the Hebrews they were unskillful by partaking of milk.

Hebrews 5:13 For everyone partaking of milk is unskillful in the Word of Righteousness, for he is an infant.
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, even those who because of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Children need reassurance and love and acceptance and attention.  Grace teaching and faith teaching do a great job at enouraging, reassuring, and providing the new believer with a lot of attention.  Just as babies, those teachings consist of "I need" "I want" "You promised." God's love and unconditional acceptance and endless grace and mercy are available to all, and are traits of His character every new Christan needs to hear regularly to set a solid foundation beneath their feet.  But Paul told the Hebrews that partaking of milk is unskillful in the Word of Righteousness.  If there is continued need or continue teaching of basic foundational principles then baby Christians remain infants and children and are unable to grow into young men.

Children and infants still require a stroller when they leave the comfort of their home and familiar surroundings.  Children and infants still require mommy and daddy to carry them, change their diapers, potty train them, protection, etc.  They are unable to care for themselves at any stage of early development.  As infants, we are given the Fruits of the Spirit which are ours to cultivate and grow on the milk we partake of until it is time for us to graduate to more solid foods. 

Fruits of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-23
Kindness or gentleness

None of the things above are inherent to our sinful nature.  They are given as seeds to us upon salvation and it is up to us and our responsibility for these fruits to grow.  It is our responsibility to read the Word, ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and learn how to grow the fruits above.  Fruit trees do not bear their fruit the day after planting.  The area around the tree must be weeded, fertilized, watered, and cared for regularly to be certain nothing chokes or stunts the growth of the tree.  It is no different with the fruits of the Spirit.  The part of us we feed and cultivate will be the part of us that grows. 

I will be looking at this further and the other levels of maturity and their characteristics more throughout this week.  Check back tomorrow to see what is new and to weigh in on what you think of the series.

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