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Understanding What Influences Christian Growth

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Intro:

1 Thessalonians 5:23 NASB95
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s uncanny to me how our spiritual lives and spiritual growth is so effectively illustrated in our bodily lives and growth. My assignment from God is not to pack the pews; my assignment is to mature believers. Scripture uses images of growth (such as seeds, plants and infants) to stress the dynamic nature of personal faith and the dynamic nature of personal faith and the kingdom of God. Growth is the evidence of life. Just as we begin as babies and grow to maturity in the natural; so, too, we begin as newborn babes in Christ but must grow into maturity. It is a joyous thing to have a full nursery in any church, but it is a sad and frustrating thing when the spiritual nursery is full. Many pastors cannot put forth meat on Sunday mornings b/c the people can’t eat it.

1 Peter 2:1-3

Examining the Text
The therefore at the beginning of v.1 not only ties what is about to be said to what has just been spoken, but also carries w/ it an idea of obligation.
In other words, b/c the word had been preached to them, they were then obligated to obey it.
Putting these things aside and craving the spiritual milk are simultaneous.
It’s like eating right and exercising.
Ridding ourselves of these things is an act of faith in obedience to the word we’ve heard.
Growing in our faith and spiritual growth are synonymous.
Peter said we are to “long for the pure milk of the word.”
The verb is imperative in the Greek meaning it is not a suggestion but a command.
It is a command b/c it is vital for growth.
The NIV’s rendering of this passage is actually more accurate.
1 Peter 2:1–2 NIV84
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,
The pure spiritual milk is not just the word, but the teaching of the word; it’s wanting and craving an understanding of it.
Spiritual in this verse is an adjective describing the quality and type of the milk.
Heb 5:11-14
I - The Place of Growth
The Word
There is NO spiritual growth apart from the word.
Notice that in Hebrews, the writer says, “by this time you should be teachers.”
As we mature we should be able to instruct others.
Some would say we grow in trials and this is true, but only as we exercise faith in the trial.
James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
The word perfect (τελειος) means to complete or maturity.
Bodily fellowship
Eph 4:11-16.
In v.15 Paul says “we are to grow up.”
The verb form here is conditional; it literally reads, “let us grow up into Him in all things.”
Environment is a key component here. You must be part of a fellowship (church) that provides an environment for growth.
II. - The Practice of Growth
We have a responsibility in our growth.
Our physical bodies are created by God to grow and to develop; however, if we don’t feed our bodies and exercise them, they will not grow but will be stunted.
Our spirit man is the same way; it has been designed by God for growth, but we are responsible to feed and exercise it.
We are responsible to feed on the word of God and to fellowship w/ other believers.
We are placed in the church for optimal development.
It is not just hearing or even reading the word that produces growth, but it is the application of the word.
It’s not just coming to church and going home, but it is uniting w/ our fellow believers in fellowship.
III. - The Progress of Growth
Growth is always progressive, never regressive.
I refer you back to Heb. 5 where the writer said “you should be teaches by now.”
This progression is not an instantaneous development, but a steady progressive growth.
300 Quotations for Preachers from the Modern Church Gradual Growth Taught in Scripture

Gradual growth in grace, growth in knowledge, growth in faith, growth in love, growth in holiness, growth in humility, growth in spiritual-mindedness—all this I see clearly taught and urged in Scripture, and clearly exemplified in the lives of many of God’s saints. But sudden, instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see in the Bible.

Any living thing that does not grow will be stunted, weak, and susceptible to infection and disease.
Far too many Christians suffer from spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical maladies b/c of a lack of spiritual development.
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