Growing up is not always easy. Abuse is more rampant than we would like to admit. Parenting seems to be harder than some would like to admit. Growing up is natural but as the seedling pine needs to be “staked out” as it grows, even so the child needs teaching, guidance and discipline along the way.
Growing up spiritually is pretty much the same. So why have so many missed this much needed process? When a person gives their life to Jesus, having repented of sin and been born of water and Spirit (as Jesus says in John 3), the past is forgiven, the present is a new beginning in Christ, and the future is a walk in grace. How far is the walk? God only knows (cf. Matt. 20.1-16). However, all are walking, growing up in Christ at different rates.
Growing up “in Christ,” is a step by step process. Legalism doesn’t help the process. Liberalism doesn’t help the process. Growing up in Christ isn’t a “hit or miss” process, it is a combination of “fearing God,” “loving God,” and “desiring God.” The babe in Christ may not realize all of this, and this is why good disciplers are needed. Avoiding the extremes of legalism and liberalism and just seeking to know the Lord and follow the Lord and as newborn babes drinking of the milk of the Word without all the traditions of man. “I just want to be a disciple,” is on the heart of all new believers. So the process begins.
Taking baby steps means taking steps which probably involve making mistakes. What baby doesn’t throw up or poop their diapers. Question: Where are the ones who will lovingly feed, help and clean? Often what happens when one is immersed into Christ is we give them a Bible and in essence say, “Good luck!” No wonder they get discouraged. We expect them to simply come to church and go through the same motions weekly and hope they will be “raised in church.” Church does not take the place of parents physically nor spiritually. The one who brought and taught them should be the one(s) who stick with them and help them grow. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes spirituality and gentleness (Galatians 6.1-5).
Growing up in Christ is also very exciting. A new life (old things are passed away) (2 Cor. 5.17), and what a life it can be. What could possibly hinder the new Christian? In a word SIN. It takes time to understand and learn how to appreciate the armor God gives the Christian (Eph. 6.10-17). It takes time for the babe to understand the blessing of the indwelling of the Spirit, what grieves Him, what quenches Him, what He wants or doesn’t want. The new Christian will have “baggage” from the past, and it takes time to deal with this. It takes a caring spiritual parent who understands the dangers that lie ahead.
Growing up in Christ can take some real twists and turns. Sometimes a Christian gets side-tracked, and falls, doing something just wrong. Is this the end? Is this a time for dis-fellowshipping? Is this a time to disown or turn our backs? Is this a time to give up on them? Of course this will not help. Growing up in Christ means growing up in the relationship the Christian has in Christ, and it is hard to lose that. While trying to grow up in a legalistic system “in Christ” is easy to fall from, because we can never seem to “do enough,” “give enough,” “pray enough,” “Sing enough,” “be good enough.” What is needed is a healthy balanced understanding of God’s grace. This is so because a Christian cannot, must not ever come to think of himself as sinless, and thus outside the need of God’s grace. While Christians do sin, and prodigal sons/daughters are found not only in Luke 15, they certainly should not enjoy, boast or gloat in sin. It should grieve them, hurt them, for they have sinned against God. Repentance is to correct ones direction, and it is not just a one time thing, just as growing up is not just a “one time thing.” What is needed is more understanding of the process, as well as encouragement, loving discipline in some cases to bring the fallen back on course. Ignoring the fallen will not help. Gossiping about the fallen will not help. “Black-balling” will not help.
Growing up in Christ may be summed up in the phrase “be patient with me, God isn’t finished yet.” Parents don’t quickly dump a child, pre-teen, teenager, or even a child grown up… “Blood is thicker than water” as the old saying goes. Even when a child has sorely hurt his parents, and caused their hair to turn grey prematurely, they still love. Even when a parent must discipline the “child” the parent will often say or think, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” The Hebrew writer records,
Growing up in Christ means beginning, continuing, falling, getting back up, going on to the end in grace! You cannot get many to heaven with fear (of punishment), but you can with love. love can and should be tough and tender, for we all need it.
Dad once told me that back years ago when I wanted to marry, “I wanted to kick you in the pants.” I often think now how I could have used a kick or two. If I had received it, I would probably not liked it at the time, but looking back, it would have been the best thing. The only way this could be is if I knew that Dad really loved me, and I did and do.
Don’t give up on brethren. “Mark” carefully. “Correct” with love. “Avoid” sparingly. Encourage, correct, lift up, help liberally. Who knows, one day you may need it as well. Pine trees need to be ‘staked out” when they are young, but then sometimes even later when the storms come and are too great for the tree, weakness appears, and it’s time to get to work brethren. It is important to win the lost to Christ, but even more, we are to keep the saved.
Grow in grace!