Growing Up in Christ :: By Gene Lawley

After birth, what comes next in our physical lives? Growing up, of course. It is automatic—hunger, feeding, body development toward maturity. It is parallel in the spiritual life, too.

Peter writes in his first epistle, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). At the end of that first chapter of the letter, he writes, “…having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.”

Why the emphasis on the Word of God? Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes from hearing the Word of God. It is our faith, then, that must “grow” toward maturity. (I say “toward” instead of “into” because the development of one’s faith is ongoing until it becomes sight. It is an interesting development that as one grows in faith, it seems that attention to the level of our faith becomes unimportant, and realization of God’s faithfulness becomes the most important issue of our spiritual lives. That seems to be the prominent thought in 1 Timothy 2:13: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”

However, the writer of the Book of Hebrews discusses the matter of maturity having to do with moving onward from “milk of the Word” to a maturity that comes to the believer as he remains obedient. It swings on the issue of application of the principles of faith into one’s life:

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).

A couple of thoughts are worthy of consideration more fully. “By reason of use,” what does that mean in common terms? Basically, it means “believing the promises of God and stepping out on that belief.” Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Thus, a belief that is confirmed by the Word of God and affirmed by the Spirit of God within you is locked in and only awaits its fulfillment in reality.

Secondly, that discernment between good and evil and being made available by that choice of Adam and Eve in the Garden, is embedded in the conscience of mankind. It is the foundation for all decisions man makes in regard to his moral integrity, or lack of it.

This is where those who believe one can lose his salvation by some act of disobedience. That is a delightful plight Satan revels in, for he is one who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking those whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). No one is saved by his own ability to achieve what is acceptable by God for righteousness in His kingdom. Self-achievement amounts to a total rejection of the power of God to keep that which He has purchased by the price of His blood on the cross of Calvary. Peter writes in his epistle, 1 Peter 1:5, that believers are “kept by the power of God unto salvation.” If that is a lie, then there is no hope for any kind of redemption from our sinful existence. But God is faithful, He cannot deny Himself.

It is extremely important that the issue of assurance of salvation be settled in order to move on to a fullness of life in Christ. The Apostle John wrote, in 1 John 5:11-13, that a believer can know that he is saved, and thus is able to stand on the promises of Christ:

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

Note how this passage points one forward to a life of trust in the promises of God and not reverting to a belief that Jesus has departed from them for some reason they cannot name but “feel like” they are no longer saved. Look at verses 14-15 following those quoted above. They continue the context of those preceding them, that one’s prayers based on those truths have confidence in being answered. It is paramount that the whole counsel of God be considered on any issue of interpretation of the Scriptures.

The Lord has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you!” (Hebrews 13:5b).

All deviations from a right relationship with the Lord can be traced to having looked away from the truth. Therefore, the relentless adherence to the Word of God is the key to growth in spiritual life. For example, the psalmist wrote, “How can a young man cleanse his way?” and answers his own question with, “By taking heed according to Your Word. Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!” And then he gives a clue as to how to be sure we can do it: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9-11). As it has long been noted, “sin will keep you from God’s Word, or God’s Word will keep you from sin.”

Note how Jesus quoted the written Word of God to rebuke Satan in that encounter of temptation He had with that evil deceiver, as reported in Matthew 4:1-11.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:11-14 that God has ordained specially prepared individuals who are to teach believers the truths needed to overcome the Adversary and live a victorious life: “He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.”

Note the next two verses, “But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

Finally, look at Philippians 2:12b-13 for a very vital aspect of “growing up” in Christ:

“…Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

That term, “work out,” can be a troublesome thought because of man’s desire to do “something” to accomplish his salvation. Note that it reads “your own salvation,” something you already have. Then, why mention “with fear and trembling?” Perhaps a look at Proverbs 10:9-10 will help: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Because our choices can turn us away from God’s pathway for us, a healthy concern for those choices to be guided by His wisdom, that “fear of God,” the reverence and respect for His holy character and His attribute of justice, His wisdom is totally necessary to partake of that working of God in us.

By means of the new Spirit He has given the born-again believer, the Lord works in the obedient believer to accomplish God’s will in his life. That is truly “amazing grace”!

One other caution the Scriptures repeat is to beware of false prophets and teachers. The policy of the Bereans whom Luke wrote of in Acts 17:11 again points us to the Word of God for verification of the truth: “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” That is, does the considered presentation fit into the whole counsel of God without contradiction?

Peter gives one last directive at the end of his second epistle: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

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