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©Douglas Beyer 2000

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GROWING with CHRIST
Hebrews 5:11-14

TreeOnce upon a time an angel entered the storehouse of heaven and announced, "I've run out of the fruits of the spirit — love, joy and peace — can you restock me?"

"Oh no!" said the guardian. "We don't stock fruit here. Only seeds!"

In this day of instant coffee, instant pudding, instant replays, instant pictures, instant loans and instant debt, some Christians want to skip the growth process. We want instant sainthood — not seeds, but fruit! We want to be grown up, but We don't want to grow up.

Other Christians want to skip the growth process in a different way. We prefer to remain in the raw, unprocessed state in which Christ found us.

The Reader's Digest section entitled "Pardon, your slip is showing" quotes a church announcement: "Spiritual growth is postponed until September." They said more than they intended. What do you say? Are you postponing Spiritual growth?

If there were a yardstick to measure the spirit,
And you could record all the past;
I wonder what answer you'd find to this question:
Are you taller this year than last?
          (anonymous poem paraphrased)

Christ does not intend that you be saved, sanctified, and petrified. He gives you freedom to be what you are with the hope of becoming what you were meant to be.

You can't even know what you are until you know what you are becoming. You can't know the tadpole unless you know the frog. You can't know the caterpillar until you know the butterfly. You can't know the Christian until you know the glorified saint (1 John 3:1-3).

Beware of postponing the growth process until September — or until you die. Don't count on death to do for you then what you are unwilling to do for yourself with God's help here and now.

Analogies Of Growth

The writer of Hebrews gives us two vital analogies of growth. "There is much we have to say about this matter, but it is hard to explain to you, because you are so slow to understand. There has been enough time for you to be teachers — yet you still need someone to teach you the first lessons of God's message. Instead of eating solid food, you still have to drink milk. Anyone who has to drink milk is still a child, without any experience in the matter of right and wrong. Solid food, on the other hand, is for adults, who have trained and used their tastes to know the difference between good and evil" (Hebrews 5:11-14 TEV).

Children are born to grow. InfantThey are cute when they drink milk and say "Da-da," but not when they are entering high school. They are born to grow.

There are too many spiritually retarded Christians who are hooked on religious pabulum. They are especially frustrating to pastors. If pastors don't constantly nurse their babies, they complain, drop out, or find another church that specializes in elementary nursery care.

What they are looking for is a church that practices infant baptism of adults: Fred Elder, for example, is tired of tithing, and visiting, and serving. So he applies for infant baptism. If his request is granted, he could be baptized and welcomed into the cradle roll department. You say there is no such church. Well I hope not, but peopleís behavior suggests there must be a market for one.

The biggest misunderstanding of growth occurs not in our churches, but in the sleazy areas of our city. Signs proclaim "Adult bookstore," or "Adult movies." Don't you believe it. They pander to people whose moral judgment has become so infantile that they no longer distinguish between right and wrong (verse 13), good and evil (verse 14). Far from being "adult," they refuse to grow up.

After the writer of Hebrews reminds us that Children are born to grow he points out that…

Foundations are laid to build on. Blueprint(Hebrews 6:1-3) "Therefore" he says, "let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And we will do this, if God permits." Here are listed five great building blocks in lifeís foundation. First and foremost , it begins with salvation by faith, not "dead works". Then comes baptism and laying on of hands (i.e. spiritual gifts), then finally the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.

Foundations are laid to build on. You can make two mistakes: On the one hand you can build your life without these foundational truths. Thatís a big mistake. Unless you know and believe these things you are not a Christian!

"How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word."

Building without a firm foundation of scriptural truth is a big mistake. But there is another mistake to avoid: to build the same foundation again and again. Hebrews says: "Let us go on toward perfection." What good is the foundation of a building that is never completed? Thatís like being born, but never growing up.

Hebrews gives us two analogies of growth: babies who are born to grow and foundations that are laid to build on. Jesus gives us two alternatives of growth…

Alternatives Of Growth

When Jesus said, "Be perfect" (Matthew 5:48), he meant you must prepare for the complete process. C. S. Lewis reminds us that it may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird, but it is a far sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. You are like an egg at present. You can't just go on indefinitely being an ordinary decent egg. You must be hatched or go bad!

Although I do not know you personally, I know one thing about you for sure. You are a different person than you were ten years ago. Physically, almost every cell in your body is new — for better or worse. And spiritually, you are also different — for better or worse. Neither you nor I know what you will be like ten years from now, but both of us know you won't be same ó and neither will I.

That leaves us with two alternatives: 1. We can take responsibility to direct the change toward positive growth, or 2. we can blunder aimlessly without purpose or direction in our lives. We are like the lightening bug.

The lightening bug is brilliant, 
But it hasnít any mind,
For it blunders through existence 
With its headlight on behind.

Hebrews gives us two analogies of growth. Jesus gives us two alternatives of growth. And Paul gives us three activities of growth.

Activities Of Growth

"If you give these instructions to the brothers" Paul tells Timothy, "you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, as you feed yourself spiritually on the words of faith and of the true teaching which you have followed. But keep away from those godless legends, which are not worth telling. Keep yourself in training for a godly life. Physical exercise has some value in it, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for now and for the future. This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed. We struggle and work hard, because we have placed our hope in the living God, who is Savior of all and especially of those who believe" (1 Timothy 4:6-10 TEV).

Diet is the first activity of growth. Paul warns you to avoid the junk food of "godless legends" which have no nutritional value, but instead, to "feed yourself spiritually on the words of faith and of the true teaching which you have followed." To feed yourself spiritually on the words of faith means something more than mere Bible reading. If you have a headache, you can put an aspirin on top of your head, and you'll still have a headache. It must be consumed and digested. Likewise, you can read the Bible and stay the way you are. Or you can feed on it — take it in and live it out. Spiritual growth begins with feasting your soul on the strong meat of Godís word. Beware of substituting the junk food of worldly philosophy.

ExerciseBe strong in your faith! is the second activity of growth. Paul concedes that physical exercise has some value in it, but he argues that spiritual exercise is valuable in every way. As important as tennis, handball, golf, jogging and aerobics may be, there is something even more important. Lack of spiritual exercise produces flabby faith.†

Hard times are the Christian's calisthenics. They are designed not to punish us but to strengthen us. To use the old exercise clichť, you must "use it or lose it."

"Ill fares the church to hastening ills a prey
When life gets easy and people decay." (paraphrased proverb)

Christians are like tea — their real strength is not drawn out until they get into hot water. Spiritual exercise builds strong muscles not only for life now, but for life hereafter. The day will come when your body will lie in the grave, but your spirit will live forever.

Hope is the third activity of growth. Paul says, "We struggle and work hard because we have placed our hope in the living God" (1 Timothy 4:10). All natural growth ends in decay, but Christian growth ends in glory and immortality. The dullest people you know may one day become creatures so glorious that if you saw them now, you would be strongly tempted to worship them. John on Patmos knelt to worship an angel who said, "Don't do it! I am a fellow servant of yours, and of all those who obey the words of this book. Worship God!" (Revelation 22:8-9).

We shall grow greater than the greatest angels in the heavenly hosts: we shall become like Jesus! "My dear friends, we are now God's children, but is not yet clear what we shall become. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him" (1 John 3:2 TEV).

Paul agrees: "We shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God: we shall become mature people reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature" (Ephesians 4:13 TEV). That's growth beyond imagination.

You have incredible growth potential!

Are you old enough to remember the ninety pound weakling who had sand kicked in his face until he sent off for the Charles Atlas body building course? Charles Atlas was the model of every puny kid in our block. But there is a better model — Jesus Christ. He is our hope and our help.

 

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