Summary: Discover and rejoice in the seven signs of Christian maturity.
Steve Brown often points out that one is a Christian or he is not. One does not become more Christian over time. Likewise, one is pregnant, and does not become more pregnant over time. You either are or you aren’t pregnant, regardless of whether you are showing.
The Bible tells us in John 1:12, "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God -- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God."
While pregnancy comes from the union of the husband and wife, the birth of a Christian comes from the union of a forgiven sinner, made possible by receiving Christ into his or her life, and God Himself. And from the union of the forgiven sinner and God, new birth and gradual growth follows.
No matter how discouraged or depressed I am, when I hear about the birth of a baby, my spirit is lifted up. Parents, in a majority of the situations, rejoice at the birth of a child. Further rejoicing comes when the natural growth and development takes place. If, however, by age one year, the child still does not roll over or the child is not able to grab hold of a rattle, rejoicing turns into worry. If by age three, the child has not cut his first tooth or the child is not yet able to walk, rejoicing turns into worry.
In a healthy child, not only do the parents rejoice in the natural development and growth of the child, but the child rejoices in the growth she sees taking place in her own life. Esther, our daughter, can’t speak yet, but she laughs a hearty laugh each time she crawls right behind Susan or me. Esther is thinking about how wonderful it is to move around with such freedom, when seven months ago she could barely roll over. Esther is experiencing the joy of growth.
This morning, we will look at and rejoice over the Christian’s growth process as we study the prayer that Paul prays for the Philippians.
While the growth of a child can be measured in many ways, such as size, weight, shape, developmental skills, etc., the growth of a Christian can be measured in at least seven ways as noted in Paul’s prayer. Let’s take a look at them in the order Paul prayed for growth to be revealed in the Philippians.
First, we can measure the growth of a Christian by his or her love: (We see this in verse 9.) Paul is talking about agape love, the Greek word meaning "love that is not earned or deserved; charity."
John’s first short letter noted, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."
Agape love is to God as wet is to water or hot is to fire. But agape love is not something you and I can turn on or turn off. Agape love is not something we can grow by our own effort. Agape love is a by-product of knowing God, because God is love.
God came in human form instead of His awesome and majestic splendor, because God is love. God came as a child in a manger instead of a General with an army, because God is love. God came to serve rather than to be served, because God is love. God came to die on our behalf rather than to sentence us to die for our sins, because God is love.
Love does not take away freedom, so we have a choice to make. God not only forgives us but he befriends us, if we would only receive His finished work through Christ on the cross as the only solution for restoration of relationship between God and sinner.
A young man with nothing exciting to do on a lazy summer day decided to go and vandalize a church. He entered the church sanctuary and began to mark up the pews with permanent markers. Then suddenly he heard the slamming shut of the entrance doors. Before he could run away, he found himself between a wall and the center aisle with the pastor standing in the way.
That pastor took the young man into the side chapel, where a figure of the crucified Jesus Christ hung on the wall. That pastor told the boy that the only other option to having him arrested was for the boy to repeat the following sentence ten times while staring at the figure of the crucified Christ: "I don’t care that you died for me."
Then the pastor left the young man alone in the chapel to repeat the statement. The young man was rather relieved that he would not be arrested, and to humor the old pastor, he looked at the figure of the crucified Christ and began to repeat the sentence: "I don’t care that you died for me. I don’t care that you died for me. I don’t care that you died for me"