Pastor, New Life Church, Nashville
Some people fondly recall the days of their childhood, reminiscing with great appreciation the slower pace of that bygone time. A glance in your rearview mirror would reveal different recollections than anyone else’s, but you would discover one link that connected all children. Whether urban or country, rich or poor, easy life or one filled with struggle, all kids shared a common goal: we wanted to grow up.
Age and height put kids at a severe disadvantage, but growing up would remove the barriers to an entire world that was off limits to children — the more thrilling rides at the carnival, going to school, staying up later, getting a driver’s license, dating, college, a job with lots of money, etc. All of these things, and more, would be magically within our reach. We just had to grow.
Your parents fulfilled all your early childhood needs, and later they nurtured and helped you achieve physical and emotional maturity. Likewise, reaching spiritual maturity comes from the efforts of both the individual believer and the Christians around them. Becoming a Christian includes the expectation that we grow up to a standard “measured by Christ’s fullness” (v. 13). Jesus’ full intent was the purposeful, mutual progression of Christians, and Luke 2:52 captures how the Master Himself demonstrated such development by increasing in wisdom and stature.
I have known couples whose marriage disintegrated because one person pursued college or specialized training while their mate did not. After a period of time, the educational and professional gap became a point of extreme contention. The gifts Christ gave (v. 11) create and build up one body in unity. While the church will always have varying levels of spiritual adulthood, an ongoing discipling process brings the newborn Christians and the more advanced saints closer. Making the journey together allows believers to connect through both the successes and the struggles the church will encounter.
Are there obstacles to spiritual growth within you or within your church? Preacher Robert Mitchell shared a humorous twist on Psalm 23 that might provide a revealing and uncomfortable truth for some. His version of verse one: “The TV is my shepherd, My spiritual growth shall want; It makes me to sit down and do nothing for His Name’s sake.”
Mitchell’s lighthearted rendition reveals a cause-and-effect whose outcome is in direct opposition to God’s desire. When Mitchell’s spiritual growth was wanting, it made him sit down and do nothing for His Name’s sake. When our growth is wanting, there is no training of the saints in the work of ministry (v. 12), no building up of the body of Christ (v. 12), no reaching unity in the faith (v. 13), and other believers will not grow into spiritual maturity (v. 13). When we plateau, other believers are affected.
In John 21:17, Jesus asked Peter for the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” and an exasperated Peter responded in the affirmative yet again, saying, “You know that I love You.” Jesus replied, “Feed My sheep,” a firm directive to tend, care for, and provide spiritual food for God’s people, from the youngest lambs to the full-grown sheep. The need for a well-fed, mature, and unified church has never been greater than today.
Christian singers Mark and Lisa Gungor announced they no longer believe the Genesis accounts of man’s creation or of Noah and the flood. Victoria Osteen delivered an incredibly disturbing message when she said, “… when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself.” False prophets or spiritual immaturity? You decide, but clearly, this is the situation God foresaw when He spoke through Paul in verse 14.
As Southern Baptists, we need to share a child-like common goal: to grow up. Continue your spiritual growth journey, and ensure you take others along on the trip.
— Richmond is pastor of New Life Church, Nashville.