As children of God we are called to become the man or woman He has already planned and purposed for us to be. In a sense we are becoming who we already are in the mind and heart of our Father.
But we are becoming.
I was reminded this week of the verse in Ephesians where we are told to,
"speak the truth in love, (that we) may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Ephesians 4:15 KJV)
That we may grow up!
The Mistake People Make
A mistake people make is that they feel that they have to be 'there' before they can exercise themselves – some mythical level of spirituality that means we can finally pray well and hear God, or minister in some capacity.
More often than I would like to confess I have met Christians who have been in Church for decades, but if you asked them to share a message or bring a Word would insist that they need several weeks to prepare. What in the world have you been doing for the past 23 years while sitting in a pew?
Paul warned of this danger. He described it as,
“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7 KJV)
The antidote to this scourge of immaturity is plain spiritual common sense:
“…exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:7 KJV)
The way we grow and develop in any thing is to exercise ourselves in it. Essentially we learn and grow by doing. The devil wants to keep the saints caught up in a mire of inactivity, a passive pastiche of real Christianity, that is not Christianity at all.
James said to hear and not at the very least try to do, is to deceive oneself. We hear and see the truths of the new creation in the marvelous mirror of the Word and then walk away forgetting instantly who we jolly well are.
You are no longer a sinner saved by grace.
You were a sinner, but you ARE saved by grace.
That’s the point. You have become a new man or woman, freed from the shackles of your old identity, and now you are called to live according to the new creation.
Not just a cleaned up version of the old, clothed with religion. God forbid, no, you are a completely new person altogether. Old things have passed away and everything has been made new!
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV)
Oh, glorious truth!
Being born again implies just what it says. When my kids were born in the natural they did not come out as full-grown teenagers (much to my dear wife’s relief!).
We begin our spiritual life as children, and the intention is that we grow up into the men and women God has foreordained and designed us to be.
Exercise in the natural may be beneficial, but exercising the spirit is even better. And the only way to grow is by doing. Doing godliness. Flexing your inner muscles and lifting some spiritual weight. Taking faltering steps toward your aim.
The way to grow in prayer is to pray. Imperfectly.
The way to grow in hearing God is to listen. Imperfectly.
The way to learn to worship is to worship. Imperfectly.
God then partners with us in our stumbling, much like a patient parent rejoices over their child’s first steps.
The early years are certainly glorious. We see growth at an accelerated rate, just as the baby and child notably grow in the natural, ranging day by day, week on week.
Don’t be fearful to step out and have a go. Growth begins with play, so don’t be afraid to play and enjoy the learning curve.
The Danger of Knowing
The danger comes when we have some knowledge under our belt and few battle scars. The incremental growth to full maturity becomes more challenging as we go forward because Papa digs deep into our essence as a person.
The following section of Scripture is worth quoting in full. If you are reading this don’t be tempted to just skip over to the next paragraph. Again, that kind of habit indicates a familiarity that can easily rob you of the treasures the Holy Spirit wants to deliver. We think we know and pass over present precious truth…
“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Hebrews 12:4–11 KJV)
How delightful to see a toddler take their first steps. How warming to witness their first gurgled words.
But if at 21 years old that same boy is still gurgling and dribbling, if that girl is still stumbling along in diapers, there is something gravely wrong.
We expect children to "grow up”. We expect our teenage sons and daughters to become increasingly self-aware, and to take upon themselves more responsibility for their own well-being.
So it is in the spirit.
We grow up into Christ, the anointed one and His anointing. We exercise ourselves unto godliness, god-like-ness. We become increasingly acquainted with and like our Father.
The difficult path of a disciple is different to the road that a casual follower chooses to walk. The discipline to exercise ourselves in what we claim to know is the pathway to growth, and our dear Father has sent the Holy Spirit to guide us in every way toward becoming who we already are in the heart and mind of the one who designed our path, even before we took our first gasping breath.