Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,now that you have tasted that the Lord is good- 1st Peter 2:1-3 NIV
Recently, I read a news article about a rare genetic disorder affecting children that results in speech delays, seizures and ultimately childhood onset dementia. The disorder is usually detected around age five. Sadly, the prognosis is terrible. None of the kids live to adulthood. In a very real sense these kids grow old before they grow up.
The article was fresh on my mind when I started reading Hebrews five:
By this time, you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.But solid food is for the mature- Hebrews 5:11-14
The ultimate aim of the Christian life is spiritual maturity (2nd Peter 1:3-11, Ephesians 4:15-16, Colossians 1:9-11).
Every Christian starts out in exactly the same place: spiritual infancy. No one is born a Jesus follower. Every single person begins their faith journey in a place where they understand little or nothing about the Bible or what it really means to be a follower of Jesus. A Christian is fully mature when they have committed to obeying the commands of the New Testament, can extend grace to others, forgive others, can control their own impulses and can teach and lead others (John 14:23-24, Philippians 2:12-13, Titus 2:11-13, Hebrews 5:11-13).
A Christian can stop bearing fruit or begin to develop weird spiritual confusion because they never grew up in their salvation and became a spiritual adult (1st Corinthians 13:11). In one sense Christian growth is simple, anyone can grasp the principles of Christian growth and achieve maturity. It wasn’t meant to be rocket science. Yet, in practice growing can be tough. In order to grow we have to fight our natural predispositions towards sinfulness, pride, laziness and the notion we can do it in our own power. We can’t. Christian growth is impossible without the continuous help of the Holy Spirit. We must ask the Holy Spirit daily to empower us to do six things:
Purposefully let go of wrong behaviors and attitudes-
A critical key to growth in our spiritual journey is the continued process of intentionally letting go of wrong behaviors and attitudes. Every behavior the Bible tells us to let go of is an ordinary, natural part of our fallen nature but antithetical to our new life as Jesus followers (2nd Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 3:5-10, Ephesians 4:20-32, 1st Thessalonians 4:3-8). Sometimes this process of letting go of the old is called “crucifying the flesh” or “taking up your cross” (Luke 9:23). Whatever you call it, it’s a critical first step after salvation in spiritual growth, without it, spiritual transformation is impossible.
Make a practice of distinguishing good from evil in everyday life-
Christians become mature through a purposeful practice of discerning good from evil in day-to-day life (Hebrews 5:14). We do this by taking every opportunity, situation, attitude, behavior, television show, podcast and relationship we come across and looking at it through the lens of the Bible. If the Bible indicates that thing is harmful we walk away from that thing for the sake of our spiritual health and growth (Colossians 3:5-13, Ephesians 4:17-32, 1st Corinthians 6:9-20). Doing this on a regular basis will not only make us mature but also wise and discerning (Hosea 14:9, Proverbs 18:15). Bonus.
Meet consistently with other Christians for worship and teaching–
Contrary to popular opinion, the “church thing” is not an elective activity for serious followers of Jesus. Christians need to bounce ideas off of each other. It keeps us from getting weird in our theology and thinking (Hebrews 10:24-25, Proverbs 27:17). Furthermore, Christians are a body (1st Corinthians 12:12-27). An arm (or any other body part) cannot continue to grow apart from the body it is supposed to be attached to. It will die. Spiritual growth works much the same way.
Let the word of God get into you-
The Bible was never intended to be a book we read strictly for information or knowledge. Knowing facts about the Bible is critical. Without a foundation of solid theology Christians get weird. That said, the ability to recite the Bible forward and backwards is futile if our knowledge does not have a transformative effect on our thinking and behavior. In order for the Bible to transform us we have to read, think about and meditate on the word of God constantly. It is the only way to change our behavior from the inside out.
Pray about everything-
I am convinced God wants us to ask Him for stuff (Matthew 6:11, Matthew 7:7-12, Matthew 21:22). However, I am also convinced that if all we ever do is ask God for stuff we will miss out on the most important aspect of prayer: connection with God (Mark 11:16-18, Acts 1:14, Acts 2:42). In order to connect with God, we must pray about everything all the time (1st Thessalonians 5:17).
We must encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13, 1st Thessalonians 5:11, 1st Thessalonians 4:18). When we choose to encourage others, we see the good in people and the world around us. When we see the good we inevitably see God’s hand in the everyday things going on all around us. Seeing God work increases our faith. Increased faith leads to increased maturity. Boom.