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Topical - Growth - Spiritual Growth

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Life by its very definition is a growth process. That which is alive is growing.

1)     For example, seedlings grow to be trees, in some cases to heights of several hundred feet. Even when they reach their full height, they exhibit regular growth through the production of new leaves, branches, or fruit.

2)     The principle of growth also holds true in the spiritual realm. An essential, inherent characteristic for everyone in the Body of Christ is individual spiritual growth.

3)           Ephesians 2:1-5 We were dead, but now we are alive, we have been given life

a.        Christ has given us abundant life (John 10:10).  Here is a taste of the abundant life Scripture describes in terms of our fellowship with the Lord:

The “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3); “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10); the God who supplies all [our] needs according to His riches in Christ (Phil. 4:19); the God who leads us to speak to one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to Him (Eph. 5:19); the God to whom we cry “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15) like little children to the daddy we adore; the God we draw near to in time of trouble (Heb. 4:16)—He Himself so greatly enriches us. Our fellowship with Him is the abundant life we experience.

b.        Therefore we must grow in our walk with Him (John 17:3; 6:63)

A.     Spiritual Growth Is Mandatory.

1.       A Lack of Spiritual Growth Is Unnecessary.

a)        All Christians Have All Spiritual Resources Needed for Growth.

To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness… (2 Peter 1:1-3 NKJV)

1)        We Must Grow In God’s Grace (2 Peter 2:18)

(a)      Spiritual growth is essential & possible; it is a command not an option.

1.         Philippians 3:10, 8—All Christians must pursue a deeper knowledge of Jesus.

2.         John 17:3—eternal life consist of a growing knowledge of the only true God

a.         Eternal life, as defined here by Jesus, involves the experience of knowing the only true God through His Son (cf. Matt. 11:27).

b.         It is a personal relationship of intimacy which is continuous and dynamic.

¨        The word know (ginoµskoµsin) here in the present tense, is often used in the Septuagint and sometimes in the Greek New Testament to describe the intimacy of a sexual relationship (e.g., Gen 4:1, “lay”; Matt. 1:25, “had . . . union”).

¨        Thus a person who knows God has an intimate personal relationship with Him. And that relationship is eternal, not temporal.

2)        Remember, We Are Not Left Solely To Our Own Resources (Phil.2:13).

(a)      Scripture is the mirror in which we look into (2 Corinthians 3:18).

1.         As we open the Word of God, God’s glory reflects off and manifests itself to us through the pages. When that happens, genuine spiritual growth takes place, and we “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

a.         Moses – Exodus 33:8-23; 34:29

¨        Exodus 34:29—Moses’ face shone from the presence of the Lord.

¨        Psalm 34:5 we must look unto Jesus (Heb.12:2).   

2.         As we faithfully look into His Word, God through the Holy Spirit causes us to grow in ever-increasing levels of maturity toward Christlikeness.

3.         But we must be careful not to forget what we see when we look into God’s Word (James 1:22-24)

(b)      Paul prayed that the Corinthians would “be made complete” (2 Cor. 13:9).

(c)      Paul earnestly desired such growth for all believers.

1.         In Galatians 4:19 (niv) he wrote, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you …”

2.         In Ephesians it was his desire that the believers grow “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).

3.         John wrote, (3 John 1:4) I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth

4.         All believers are continually being called to spiritual maturity (Phil.3:13-14).

5.         And this ongoing command has no middle ground, no place of neutrality—we are either growing spiritually or we are regressing.

a.         The price for regressing is inevitably that we have to regain spiritual ground—ground that we once gained but now have lost.

b.         Therefore the ideal is that we obey Paul’s words to Timothy and “pursue [keep growing in] righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11).

B.     Levels of Spiritual Maturity.

       1 John 2:12-14 reveals three basic stages of spiritual growth. First there are “children” (v. 13), who are different from the children of verse 12. John refers to a subcategory of believers by using a word that means “spiritual infants.” Then he mentions two more-advanced levels of development, “young men” and “fathers.”

1.       Spiritual Infants (1 John 2:13)

a)        Lack of Discernment.

1)        Children Are Not Yet Trained Enough To Recognize Life’s Hazards.

               They may pick up something dangerous & put it into their mouth. 

               I also don’t see Brittany begging me for carrot sticks with salad dressing, she wants candy.

2)        New Believers or Immature Christians Lack Also Lack Discernment.  

(a)      Ephesians 4:13–14 calls us to maturity and discernment.

1.         Deepening your knowledge of Jesus Christ will progress you from a childish level of understanding to a greater level of maturity.

2.         Spiritual infants are vulnerable to doctrinal error (v.14).  

a.         False teachers find it easy to seduce spiritual babies by perverting the truth.

b.         New Christians must be plugged in to a strong church feeding on the Word of God, which will protect them from spiritual harm.

3.         So the dominant negative characteristic of the spiritual infant is lack of discernment. But 1 John 2:13 does identify a positive characteristic:

a.         Even though infants do not know & understand many things, they do know their parents & come to them for love, warmth, food & protection.

b.         Spiritually, new believers know the Lord as their source of blessing, joy.

c.         But again, unless he is protected from harmful and destructive doctrinal influences, his joy will soon disappear. To rejoice in a basic knowledge of Jesus’ love is a wonderful starting point for God’s children, but they all need to press on in the goal to be more like Christ.

2.       Spiritual Youth (1 John 2:13)

a)        Young Men Who Have Overcome the Evil One.  The Greek for “have overcome” is in the perfect tense, which means we can reach a point in our spiritual development where we have already overcome the evil one, Satan. And this victory will have ongoing results in our life.

1)        Overcoming Satan, However, Is Not the Same Thing as Getting Rid of Sin.

(a)      Satan puts temptations in our path but he does not make us commit the wicked deeds.

1.         Satan is a liar (John 8:44; cf. Gen.3:4); & is busy developing all kinds of lies through: various ideologies, philosophies, religions, and all sorts of deceptive schemes (2Cor.10:3-5; 11:14).

2.         Satan wants to keep young believers in spiritual infancy & prevent them from having an impact for the kingdom of God.

2)        Overcoming Satan Involves Being Strong In the Word of God.

(a)      Reaching This Level of Maturity Takes Much Effort on Your Part.

1.         We must “work out” our own salvation (Phil.2:12).

a.         No pain, no gain, study involves sweat.

b.         Definition: To work on to the finish, to completion, to perfection, to complete the effort & the work begun

c.         Working out was used for working a mine getting out of the mine all the valuable ore possible.

d.         The verb indicates that Paul is saying to “continue to work out.”  Are salvation is a process, that is sanctification, it is a pursuit, a following after, a pressing on, a contest, fight, race (Phil 3:12; Rom. 14:19; 1 Cor. 9:24-27; 1 Tim. 6:12.)

2.         It is a simple matter of knowing the truth (2 Peter 3:18)

3.         The only way to know the truth is to study the truth (2Tim.2:15)

4.         Knowing the truth & continuing [abiding] in the truth will make you free (John 8:32).

a.         Someone who is active in the church but is not interested in & involved in the study of the Word, is actually dangerous to the church

5.         As you mature as a spiritual youth, your theology will come into focus. You can use the Word to discern the times and trends in our society and thereby deal with the important life issues all around us.

(b)      Jesus Grew Physically & Spiritually (Luke 1:80)

1.         Jesus knew the truth & used the Word of God to Fight Satan (Matt.4)

3.       Spiritual Fathers (1 John 2:13-14)

a)        The Mature Believer

1)        This Person Progresses From Knowing Facts, to Knowing God Intimately.

(a)      This person has experienced answered prayer, & has gone through many trials & learning to trust in God & realizing God is always there to sustain them.

1.         This person sees everything from God’s viewpoint.

2.         This person has a settled character & a depth about them because they really know their God (Daniel 11:32), & they will do great things for Him.

3.         Remember, these levels of maturity are not guarantees, they are linked to our obedience.   

C.     The Key To Growth.

1.       Scripture is the Key to Growth (2 Timothy 2:15-17)

a)        The Genuine Path of Maturity Comes by Means of the Word of God.

1)        The Roles Scripture Plays.

(a)      Scriptures Role in Salvation (v.15)

1.         John 5:24; Romans 10:17

(b)      Scriptures Role in Teaching (v.16)

1.         Scripture is able to meet every spiritual need (Jos.1:8; Ps.119:9-11; Col.3:16)

2.         The Holy Spirit instructs us through the revealed Word (John 14:16–17; 16:13; 1 John 2:20, 24, 27). That is what Jesus said sanctifies all believers: “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

3.         No matter how deep our understanding of Scripture, we must desire God (Ps.42:1)

D.     Desiring Scripture (1 Peter 2:1-2)  

       How strong is your desire for the Word?  Do you have to exert effort to open the Bible and read it, or is your heart drawn to it?  

       Do you have a hunger for the Word? Do you meditate on it? Do you feed on it daily? Can you say with Job that you love the Word of God more than your necessary food (Job 23:12)?  Are you growing?  

       We grow by feeding on the Word of God. We don’t all have the same capacity to grow, but whatever capacity we do have, we should use to the fullest.

1.       A Desire For Growth.

a)        To Grow We Must Deal With Sin In Our Lives (v.1)

1)        We must Confess it & Forsake it.  

(a)      The way to grow in grace is to walk in obedience, and to be very thorough in doing so.

1.         Just one sin practiced habitually will suppress your spiritual prosperity and will diminish the growth and strength of grace in your heart.

2.         It will grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). It will prevent the good influence of God’s Word. As long as it remains it will be like an ulcer, keeping you weak and lean, though you be fed the most wholesome spiritual food.

3.         Desire the Truth (v.2) – Psalm 119:10; 1:2

Supposedly a young man once came to the ancient Greek philosopher and teacher Socrates and asked him, “O master Socrates, will you be my teacher?”

Socrates replied, “Follow me,” and turned and walked into the sea. He kept walking and walking, and the young man kept following and following. He wanted very much to have the master Socrates as his mentor.

They eventually reached the depth at which the water was just touching their lips. Socrates then turned around and put both hands on the young man’s head and pushed him under. The man, wanting to be a compliant student, stayed underwater for a while.

But soon the young man began to spit and sputter and flail around as he gasped for air. All the while Socrates, who apparently was quite strong, held him under the water. Soon the man began blowing large bubbles and thrashing more madly. Finally, Socrates took his hands off his would-be student, who popped to the surface of the water.

Gasping for air and spewing water out of his mouth, the young man frantically asked the philosopher, “Why did you do that? Why?”

Socrates answered him, “When you want to learn as much as you wanted to breathe, I will be your teacher.”

1)        When believers want to find and know the truth the way some people look for natural treasures, when believers crave the Word as passionately as an infant craves milk, they will grow and mature and become like Jesus Christ.

2)        Joshua 1:8 provides a fitting summary to our study of spiritual growth.

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