Spiritual Growth: (2) Grow Up

March 9, 2003 / No. 3140

Dear radio friends,

     Grow up.  That is something, perhaps, that every one of us has had said to us at one point or another in our life.  Leave your childish ways, be mature, and be wise.  So also God speaks to you and to me as we are born again in His Son Jesus Christ.  He says, “Grow up.  Be no more children, subject to being led astray, but grow up into Jesus Christ.”

     I read from Ephesians 4:14, 15:   “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him (that is, Christ) in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”

     Sometimes Scripture, when it calls us to grow up, is using those words as a rebuke.  (Cf. I Cor. 3:1-3, where the Corinthian believers were behaving as carnal, that is, living their church life in envy, strife, and divisions.  They were acting like a bunch of kids.  And the Lord said to them that He was ashamed of their childish, sinful behavior.)

     But in the verse that I read from Ephesians 4, where we are told that we must grow up into Christ, there the Scriptures are not rebuking us.  But that is the heartfelt desire of the child of God.  Paul, under inspiration, is writing this verse.  And he says, “That we henceforth be no more children, … but that we may grow up into Christ in everything.”  He is expressing the heartfelt desire given to us from God.  When you are spiritually healthy, you want to grow, you want to add to your faith, you want spiritual maturity.  Is that not your desire?  Once again, the only other alternative is that we would be backsliding.  We either grow up into Christ or we slide back into our own sins and back into the ways of the world.  But, by the grace of God, we want to grow up into Christ.  Notice, that is God’s will for us.  Notice that, not only is that God’s will but, in the context of Ephesians 4, you will find that the Lord has provided the means whereby we might grow up.  In the beautiful context of Ephesians 4you will learn that the ascended Lord Jesus Christ, when He left us and went up to glory, did not leave us or abandon us but He poured out His gifts upon the church.  One of those gifts was the gift of the pastoral ministry, of ministers.  And the purpose of this gift of Jesus Christ, says the apostle, is for the edifying of the body of Christ.  Or, as he says, so that the body of Christ might grow up to the measure, or stature, of the fullness of Christ.  The ascended Lord Jesus Christ, then, has poured out upon His church His gifts, has given to the church the office of the ministry, in order that through the ministry of God’s Word we might grow up in the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

By the grace of God, we want to grow up into Christ.

     But the apostle knows that we have not yet arrived and that there is always so much more that must be done in each one of us.  He says, really, that we are like little children, but that we must not stay that way.  We must constantly be growing up.  Be no more children, says the Word of God, but grow up into Christ in everything.

     What does that mean?  Once again, the fact that we are referred to as the children of God means that a Christian is one who has been born by the Holy Spirit.  We emphasized this in our message last time.  What is a Christian?  What is the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian?  Are they both basically the same — the only difference being that a Christian has added to his life certain religious things?  Is a Christian someone who is decent, good, family-oriented, respectful?  Is that what constitutes the essence of a Christian?  The answer is, No.  A Christian is one who has been born by the life of Jesus Christ.  By the grace of God he has been raised by Christ, risen with Christ out of the death of his sins.  That life that Christ has given into us, or planted in us, must grow.  It must always be developing.  For always there remain within us the tendencies of a child.  The apostle says, Now as God has granted to you by grace the life of Christ, we must constantly then be maturing in Christ.  Each one of us must do that.  We must grow up into Christ.

     The apostle knows that this is a necessity for us.  Spiritual growth, as we read this passage in Ephesians 4, is not a luxury but a necessity.  The apostle brings out the necessity of spiritual growth because, he says, if we remain as a child, if we do not advance and desire that our faith become mature, then, as a child, we will be subject to being led astray.  We will remain unstable, gullible, fickle in our faith, and then be prey to all types of false doctrine and to men who are beguilers and deceivers, who will rob us and lead us astray without even our own perceiving or knowing that it is happening.

Spiritual growth is not a luxury but a necessity.

     The apostle brings out two characteristics of a child.  He says that we henceforth should be no more children tossed to and fro.  There he is referring to the characteristic of a child, that a child is changeable and fickle.  A child cannot help that.  That is the nature of a child.  The apostle says, “tossed to and fro.”  He has in mind the ocean and a ship or vessel on top of that ocean being pitched about, up and down, agitated.  That is characteristic of a child.  A child is subject to changeableness — from smiles to tears.  A child cannot help that.  A child is easily frightened, easily depressed, easily made happy, confused, or frustrated.  So also as children of God we are subject to violent mood swings, ups and downs.

     Think of Peter.  One moment, when he sees the Lord walking on the water, he says, “Bid me walk to Thee on the water.”  And He does so.  The next moment Peter looks to the waves and begins to go down.  He cries out, “Lord, save me.”  Think of Peter.  At one moment he is saying that he confesses Christ.  When all others are confused, Peter says, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus says, “Blessed art thou, Peter.”  And the next moment?  We find Peter rebuking Jesus when Jesus says that He has to go to the cross, and the Lord says to him, “Get thee behind me, Satan.  Thou savorest not the things of God.”  Remember Peter.  Peter said to the Lord, “Lord, I’ll never deny you.”  Then, just a few hours later, “I don’t know that man!”

     That is our character, as children of God, in ourselves.  We are fickle.  We are up and down.  We are subject to impulse and mood.  Self-control and self-discipline are not in a child.  A child wants something and wants it right now and shows its temper if it does not get it.  A child is fickle and changeable.  We must not remain spiritual children.

     Not only does the apostle say that a child is unstable, but he says a child is also liable to be misled or deceived.  “Be no more children,” says the apostle, “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”  When he says “carried about by every wind of doctrine,” he means “carried about in every direction,” just like a weather vane will follow the changing wind.  A child is gullible.  A child will believe almost anything if it is said in a convincing manner.  A child does not have experience, is not able to exercise discrimination, does not know enough yet to test and to evaluate what he is hearing.  A child lacks judgment.

     Even more, a child has an inward irritation at being taught and does not want to be taught.  “Don’t tell me, I know.  You don’t need to tell me.”  A child is impatient and does not want to exercise the discipline that is necessary to be taught.  Like taking your music lessons.  You sit down as a little girl and have visions of being a grand pianist.  But the way to become a great pianist is through many music lessons.  And you do not want to do that because that is hard.

     These are the characteristics of a child.  Now the apostle is saying that spiritually we must not remain children, we must not remain unstable, we must not remain liable to be led astray and deceived.

     What about you?  Speaking spiritually, now, are you stable or unstable?  Are you a child?  Do you crave novelty?  Are you easily swayed?  Do you find yourself believing one thing after you talk to so-and-so, but then you talk to another person who has a decidedly different opinion and you believe what he says?  Are you stable?  Are you able to discern through the truth of Scripture?  Do you know the truths of Scripture?  Are you steadfast on those truths?  You see, this is important because, apart from spiritual maturity, we are subject to be carried away with every wind of doctrine by the cunning craftiness of men who lie in wait to deceive, says the Word of God.  There we are taught that false doctrine is not a placid thing but an active thing, and that it is always working to seduce or to lead astray the child of God, that it lies in wait to deceive us, to ensnare us.  Do you know your position as a child of God in this present world?  False doctrine, evil living, heresy is something that is planned out and that is often carried forth with extraordinary zeal.  And it can come from every direction.

     Are you one in the church who says “Oh, we don’t need all these negatives about doctrinal differences and evil living that we need to be warned about.  Please don’t give me any more negatives.  Love is incompatible with denouncing error.  You should not denounce error.  We all have a little truth in our own way.  It really doesn’t matter what we believe or what we say the Bible teaches.  It all ends up the same anyway.”  You talk that way?  The Word of God (not me, the Word of God) says to you as a child of God, “You must not remain a child.  You must not remain unstable.  You must not remain easily led astray, but you must grow up, you must know the truth.”  The apostle puts it this way, “You must speak the truth in love, that you may grow up into Christ in all things.”  That is the way of spiritual maturity.  That is the way of gaining stability and steadfastness.  The truth — you must speak the truth in love.

     Literally, we read, “having” or “holding” to the truth, “professing” the truth.  The apostle has much more in mind than just speaking the truth.  Yes, we must speak it.  But he means we must profess it, we must lay hold of that truth.  Understand that he is not simply saying this:  “Now be nice and loving.”  This text is repeatedly used to support the idea that doctrinal correctness is not important.  The only important thing is to be nice and loving and never criticize another view too strongly because, as was said, the popular idea is that there is a little truth in everything.  No, Paul is not saying that.  God is not saying that in that verse.  But He is saying, “Hold on to the truth in love!”  He is not saying, “Smile on every doctrinal teaching no matter what it is and never condemn or reject any other view.”  He is not saying that.  He says, “If you are that way, then you shall remain as a child, tossed to and fro.  You will not know what direction the land is.  You will be out in a ship not knowing where you are.”  But, he says, “Speak the truth, profess the truth in love.  Hold on to the truth, profess the truth.”

     That means that the truth of holy Scripture is knowable, it is certain, and it is unchangeable.  I cannot hold unto mist.  I cannot hold on or sink my grip into something that is forever changing.  If I am to hold on to the truth, then the truth must be definite.  How am I to be stable in this present world?  How am I to judge things that come into my life?  I am in a college class and there are different teachings being thrown at me.  How am I to discern unless there is one absolute, fixed truth?  There isthat absolute, fixed truth.  It is the infallible and holy Scriptures.  How am I to stand at work when different influences come to me?  How am I to discern when I watch the TV and the news reports and all these different ideas are blowing around me from every direction?  How do I know that what I hear, which often sounds so good, is right or wrong?  I need a standard.  I need the correct standard.  And that standard is the truth, the truth of the Scriptures — the Christian faith.

     That is the truth.  The Reformed, biblical faith.  You see, the Christian faith is not a nebulous, vague, indefinite thing that is constantly in the process of being defined as to what it is, and changing, rolling over from age to age to take on new appearances.  No, the Christian truth is steadfast.  It is fixed.  That is why it is the power of God unto a holy life.  It is the truth of the infallible Scriptures.  And it is expressed in creeds and confessions.

     The modern attitude is that, “Well, everybody is seeking truth in his own way.  Everyone looks for different routes to the same summit.”  This is a denial of Scripture.  This is a denial that the truth of the Scriptures can be stated and can be known.  That is what a creed is.  The creed is the work of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit guides the church to understand the Scriptures and to say, “This is what the Scriptures teach.”  The modern idea is arrogance.  The modern idea is that creeds are men trying to push ideas on the church.  No, that is not true.  Creeds flow from the very nature of the Bible itself, because the nature of the Bible is that its truth can be known and confessed and professed before the world.  Jesus said in John 17:17, “Thy word is truth.”  The apostle Paul says to Timothy (II Tim. 1:13), “Hold fast the form of sound words.”  That is a very important chapter.  There Paul is saying “good-bye” to Timothy.  He is bringing to Timothy something from his heart for Timothy’s future ministry.  What does he say to Timothy?  Does he say, “Now, Timothy, as I am leaving I hope you can imitate my spirit.  I hope that a little bit of the fire that burned in me burns in you.  I hope, Timothy, that you can join my quest for a truth that I was on.  I hope that you will also join the quest for the truth”?  No, he does not talk that way to Timothy at all.  This is what he says, “Timothy, hold on — take a firm hold by faith — on the form of sound words that I imparted to you, the truth that came through revelation of God which I received not of man but the revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11, 12).   Hold on to the truth!  You cannot be lazy.  You must hold on to the truth.”

The Christian faith is not a nebulous,

vague, indefinite thing that is constantly

in the process of being defined as to what it is….

     You must come under a ministry where the minister is trained in the truth of the Word of God.  You must attend a church where elders are committed to the truth of the Word of God.  And you must hold on to that truth in love.

     Oh, yes.  Love.  Love for the truth.  As we speak and confess that truth among ourselves we are to speak that truth in the love of God.  That is very important.  We must not have the truth and speak the truth in a self-righteous manner.  We must not use the truth simply to prove everyone else wrong and ourselves right.  We must not use the truth simply to win an argument.  The Word of God is saying to us that we may not use the truth out of a party-spirit — to advance our own name and reputation.  And we must plead guilty to this.  We may not use the truth for the exaltation of ourselves.  But we must speak it in love.  When we speak the truth to those who differ with us, when we speak the truth to those who are unlearned, we must so speak the truth as to win them.  We must speak in humility.  We must speak having sympathy and compassion for them.  It is the truth which is the power that will bring others to understand it.  We must speak that truth in love.

We must not use the truth simply to win an argument.

     That does not mean that we compromise the truth.  But it does mean that we speak the truth wisely, carefully, that we are slow to speak and swift to hear.  In this way we grow up into Christ, grow up deeply into Christ, into Christ who is the person, the Son of God, at God’s right hand, that we become more and more like Him in everything, everything.  We want a balance in our Christian life.  Spiritual growth is a balanced growth.  Would you say it is growth if the arm of your five-year-old boy in the coming year grew a foot?  Would that be growth?  No, you would say, there is something wrong.  Yes.  Growth must be entire, balanced, in everything.  Are you growing up in faith, in love, in truth, in love for Christ?  Do you walk like Christ?  Do you desire to be like Christ before the world?  Are you crucifying your sins, crucifying your malice, your lust, your hatred, your envy?  Grow up!  Grow up in the body of Christ.  Grow up into Jesus Christ.

     Let us pray.

     Father, we thank Thee once again for Thy Word.  We pray that Thou wilt use it as the power of God unto our salvation.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.