Summary: Four suggestions for Spiritual growth

“Growth – The Evidence of Life”

September 17, 2017

2 Timothy 2:15

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

2 Peter 3:18

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

I heard about a pastor who went to a new families’ home that had just recently attended his Church for the first time. He wanted to meet with them and get to know them a little better. When he got there he got a chance to meet the son for the first time. His name was Johnny. The fellow came crawling around the room with a blue bib around his neck with the words “Mama’s little boy” written on it. He had a big diaper on and a bottle in his mouth. When the mom saw him crawling around the corner, she smiled and said, “aw look at my little baby boy”. Johnny smiled at me with a toothy grin. He said, ga, ga, goo goo.

You are probably thinking, “How cute is that!” But what if I told you that the little boy, as she called him, had to be at least 16 years old. How many of you very quickly would come to the conclusion, something is wrong with this boy and something is wrong with that mom and dad? We recognize something is wrong with Johnny, because he’s been doing the same thing for the past 16 years. He’s been a baby for sixteen years. Now the first year of his life all of this was normal - but not now. Something is wrong with the parents for accepting Johnny’s lack of growth as something normal. There is something wrong with a parent who is content with having a 16 year old baby boy. Everyone knows that if something is alive, it is supposed to grow. Growth is not an option for something that’s living. If it’s alive it’s going to grow. That’s part of the process. In this illustration, it’s easy to recognize that something is wrong with, not only the child, but also the parents. But do you know it’s very easy to allow Johnny and his parents to become an acceptable part of us in our spiritual lives.

When we give our lives to Jesus Christ, we are born again. If something is born, then we expect it to grow. At first, like Johnny, we have others around us to help us in our growth process, but at some point, we have to make some decisions on our own to begin to grow spiritually.

In New Testament times, the most important commandment in the Bible, Jesus said, was to “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” But Jesus quoted only part of that command. Let’s look at the entire command.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9

If you were to read this in Hebrew you would not find any periods, commas or colons. It was written as one instruction. You were to love the Lord and as an expression of that love you would teach your children to love and obey the Lord.

Today we live in a Christian society where it is acceptable to be babies spiritually. The majority of people who call themselves Christians are spiritual infants. Paul experienced some of that in the Corinth Church. He said,

“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” 1 Corinthians 3:1-2

He also rebuked the Hebrew Christians when he said,

“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though 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, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:11-14

I want you to understand that the role of every Christian is to be a teacher. We have different gifts and talents and abilities but the calling is for every Christian to teach others. First, their own families and then others. But to teach you need to study. You need to learn. Paul told the young pastor, Timothy,

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

2 Timothy 2:15

You need to understand that you, too, will have to present yourself to God. You will have to stand before Christ and give and accounting of your life. Part of that inspection will be how you hand the Word of Truth. Will you be ashamed or will you be able to stand confidently – knowing you did your best to grow in knowledge. Let me give you a little insight into Jesus’ boyhood.

On Jesus’, fifth birthday Mary got the little boy up early, before dawn. After a bath, she dressed Him in a simple scholar’s robe with blue fringes. Today would be the first day of school for the blessed boy. While it was still dark Joseph led the boy to school. It was a two-mile walk. We think we know where the synagogue school that the young Jesus attended was. It was on the outskirts of Nazareth. In those days you did not wait until school began in September. When your fifth birthday came you started to school. The ritual for the first day is well known. And we suppose that Jesus had the same experiences that every other Jewish boy did. The first stop on Jesus’ first day of school was at the reading desk. We know what they read for the Bible lesson of the day because it was always the same when a new student enrolled. The scroll of the Torah was opened to Exodus 20, the Ten Commandments. And the Torah came first—ahead of study, ahead of recess, ahead of greeting your playmates or even the teacher. So as Jesus followed along, the Ten Commandments were read with great reverence. At age five Jesus could already read. He could recite the Ten Commandments because Mary and Joseph had instructed Him in the Scriptures since before He was three. It was the same in every Jewish family where God and the Torah were taken seriously.

After the reading of the heart of the Law, the Torah, young Jesus was taken to the house of the teacher who usually lived next door. Meeting the teacher was a big moment. The teacher greeted Jesus just like he greeted every new student. He knelt on one knee, lowering himself to the little boy’s level. Then he “welcomed his new student by enfolding him in his arms.” Did you get that? The first duty of the teacher was to bend down to the child’s level and hug the new student the first time he met him.

Later in the morning the teacher presented Jesus with a slate tablet. On it, in abbreviated form, were written the Ten Commandments in chalk. The letters of the Hebrew alphabet were also written on it. At the bottom there was one sentence: “The Law shall be my calling.”

All the schoolboys watched. They knew what was coming next. They knew the new student would have to “eat the book.” They had all done it. Sure enough, the teacher brings out an earthenware jar. It is filled with honey. Carefully the teacher pours the honey on Jesus’ chalk-written slate. Carefully he spreads the honey over all the commandments and the sentence written on the slate: “The Law shall be my calling.” Then, he hands the slate to the five-year-old Jesus and says, “Now, my son, eat the book.” Jesus knows what to do. Joseph has told him all about this ceremony at home many times. Jesus is ready. All eyes are upon Him. Carefully the boy begins to lick the honey off the slate. The honey, along with the chalkwritten words, comes off the slate on His tongue. No snickers. No one laughs. This is serious business. As Jesus licks the slate clean, the teacher solemnly says to Him, “May the Law of the Lord be sweet as honey to you as long as you live.”

You remember, don’t you, that both Ezekiel and John the Revelator wrote something like, “And I ate the book, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.” They were both recalling the experience of their first day of school, and, of course, every Jewish reader of their words knew exactly what they were talking about.

Still later in the day, probably about noon, just before the school day was over—it was so hot there that school ran from dawn until noon—another special event awaited the young Jesus. It was the ceremony of the sweet cakes. The teacher brought out an expensive dessert made of nuts, raisins, figs or dates, and honey. A rare treat and only the first-day student received it. The sweet cake was prepared in a special way. Sometimes the teacher would make it in the shape of a “T” that stood for “Torah” or “Law.” Sometimes he decorated it with frosting or icing writing letters that symbolized the Law or Torah. The teacher explains the shape and symbols on the sweet cake. And once again, Jesus repeats after the teacher. “The Law shall be my calling.”

Once again, the teacher tells Jesus to eat the sweet cake. As He eats and the other kids watch, the teacher says, “May the Holy Law always be to you as sweet as the finest dessert. And as this food gives strength to your body, may your strength come from the Law of God all the days of your life.”

When the young Jesus finishes the sweet cake, it is time for prayer. The teacher puts his hand on Jesus’ curly little head and he prays the prayer of “Two Petitions.” First he prays and asks that God will open Jesus’ heart. Second, he prays that God will strengthen the boy’s mind and His memory so that He will never forget the day when He promised, “The Law shall be my calling.” And with the prayer of Two Petitions the first day of school was over for yet another Jewish boy.

Well, let’s move ahead some 28 years. Would Jesus, a quarter of a century or more later, still think that the Law was His calling? Jesus is preaching on the Mount of Beatitudes. He speaks. “Make no mistake,” He says. “Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law . . . I did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. Truly, I tell you that not one punctuation point of the Law shall pass away till heaven and earth pass away. And whoever breaks the least of these commandments and teaches men to do so shall be the least in the kingdom of heaven, but anyone who keeps the Law and teaches others to keep it, that one will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”

That first day of school was an educational experience that Jesus never got over. We must not ever get over our born again spiritual experience. We need to continue to “hunger and thirst for righteousness”.

I remember when I first came to the Lord. I devoured the Word. I worked in the iron mines in Minnesota and when I came home I read the Bible until I felt asleep. I read the New Testament through seven times that summer. That August I moved to Colorado Springs to spend the next three years studying at Nazarene Bible College. And still, I feel I know so little about God. He is a big, big, God. And He only reveals Himself to those who seek for Him with all their hearts. God said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

I want to conclude by briefly giving you four suggestions for spiritual growth. First, be a regular Church attender. The Word says,

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:24-25

Jesus gave us the example of being involved in regular community worship. It was a time to learn and teach and worship. We need to do the same.

Secondly, Jesus gave us the example of personal, daily devotions. The Scripture says,

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

(Luke 5:16)

It even tells us when. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

Mark 1:35

If you want to grow spiritually, you need to make personal, private, devotions a part of your daily routine. I think your spiritual power is like the manna in the wilderness. It was good for just one day. You needed to get more every day. We need to do the same spiritually.

Thirdly, we need to belong to a small group of seekers. Jesus often met with His disciples to teach them; to pray with them; to seek the Father with them. He taught the multitudes as well – but Jesus had a core of Peter, James and John and then He had the twelve disciples.

Lastly, we need to have a mentor or be a mentor – or both. Paul had Timothy; Peter had Silas; Elijah had Elisha. You and I need to find a soul friend that we can learn from and we need a soul friend we can help grow in the Lord.

Well, are you growing or dying. Someone said that you are doing one or the other. I am an old man with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, but I still want to grow. As much time as God gives me on this planet – I want to serve Him and minister to people. I pray it may be so in your life.

“Seek Ye First”