The Challenge To Grow Spiritually

 

 Our Text:  2 Peter 1:5-11

 

5But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

One of the most common activities we see is growth, It seems the whole universe is alive and growing.  Our children grow far faster than most of us parents would wish.

 

Through the years I have been impressed with the suddenness with which the tiny babies of this congregation develop into the little children who sit on the front row on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. Then, almost overnight, they are in school. Almost overnight, again, they are in high school and college. This growth is natural and beautiful to watch.

 

Many of our families also have pets. A little puppy becomes a full-grown dog within a few short months. Trees grow. Flowers grow. Institutions grow. Nations grow.   —Growth is Universal—

 

But more important than any other growth is that which takes place in humanity. People grows physically in body, intellectually in mind, and spiritually in soul. It is the last of these that is supremely important.

 

In most instances growth is almost automatic.  In the physical realm, for example, we eat because we are hungry, we sleep because we are tired, and we exercise because we like to be active.  Then, growth just happens. It is not really sought but  yet inevitable.

 

In some areas however, growth is not automatic in the spiritual realm for instance, growth does not take place without plan and effort.  It can be achieved only by conscious desire and diligent work. As Christians, our greatest desire should be to grow into the likeness of Christ.

We often sing the beloved hymn, “O, to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer, This is my constant longing and prayer. Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures, Jesus Thy perfect likeness to wear.”   Much of the time this is our earnest desire, but often it is crowded out by the trivia of the day.

 

We find ourselves striving for the same goals and in much the same manner as non-Christians. Our problem is that we live in an increasingly secular age, and often the sheer mass of secular, non-spiritual activities crowds out the deepest longing of our hearts.

 

The Bible is replete with passages which emphasize the importance of spiritual growth.   In 3RD John there are these impressive opening sentences,  & 3RD John 1-4

 

1the Elder, To the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth: 2Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. 3For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

 

In this passage the aged apostle is writing to a younger Christian who is growing and developing spiritually in the way which the apostle had hoped. He commends him, and then expresses the wish that he may prosper and be in health to the same degree that he is prospering spiritually. What a wonderful wish, What a fine compliment.

 

There is a negative warning in the Hebrew letter,   & Hebrews 5:12-6:1

 

12For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. 1Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity,

 

A positive emphasis is given this same theme in Eph. 4:11-15, 

 

11And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love

 

Still another admonition to spiritual growth is found in our text for this period of study: 2 Peter 1:5-8

 

5But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ

     

We are all aware of the spiritual giants of whom we read in the scriptures.  By what means did the early Christians achieve their spiritual strength? The answer is a very simple one. They grew by their associations.

 

Take the apostles for an example. They were very ordinary men, fishermen, tax collectors, and the like. Yet, after three years of close association with Jesus they were the great apostles who established the Lord’s church.

 

The book of Acts has this very revealing sentence concerning the reaction of some of the enemies of Christ, (Acts 4:13).

 

 13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.

 

This little band of men accompanied Jesus wherever he went, observing Him under strain and stress. They watched him react to angry critics and answer their questions in love. They observed Him in nights of prayer. Their reaction.... “Lord teach us to pray.” They ate with him; they traveled with him. These apostles grew spiritually through their association with Jesus.

 

But, we might ask, “How did the apostle Paul grow to be such a spiritual giant?”   We remember that he came too late to know Jesus during his earthly ministry. Paul spoke of himself as “a child untimely born,” meaning that he was not a part of the original band of apostles. The answer, however, is exactly the same, Paul grew through association with Jesus.

 

In Galatians the apostle tells of his early experiences as a Christian. He said,        Galatians 1:11-12   15-19

 

11But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ...... 15But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. 19But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.

 

 After his conversion, Paul spent three years in the deserts of Arabia alone with the Lord, and during this time the Lord directly revealed to him the message he should preach throughout the remainder of his life. Paul grew through this intimate relationship with Christ.

 

He would later write 2 Tim. 1:12

 

12For which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

 

The extent of his conversion is seen in another of his statements,  of Galatians 2:20

                                              

20“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Without any sense of sounding self-centered at all he could also say, “Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (I Corinthians 11:1).

 

But Paul’s method of spiritual growth by personal association  was not limited to Christ and his apostles. It is interesting to note in Acts 20:4, where the apostle Paul is returning from his 3rd missionary journey, that he is accompanied by eight different men. 

 

All of these men were learning how to preach through observing the apostle Paul. They were growing into the great evangelists that helped to spread the kingdom during the first century.

 

In this 21ST century we also grow by association. We grow by association with Christians of our own day.  By being with fellow Christians in our homes and in our recreation and at other times we develop spiritually. By worshipping and studying together we mature.

 

It is a fine experience when young couples meet together for a dinner or even for an outing. - The conversation often turns to spirituual matters, the church, the world’s need of the gospel, and what they can do about it. They are growing through such association and such conversations.

 

We also grow spiritually through association with those in need.....  the sick and bereaved, the poor. By knowing of the problems and needs of others, and by helping them with those problems we grow and develop. We grow as we share in the suffering of others.  This is one reason we are commanded to “2Bear one another’s burdens”  Galatians 6:2

 

We also grow spiritually by association with Christians of other generations, Through our association by reading from such men as Foy E Wallace,  N.B. Hardeman or Guy N. Woods we develop spiritually. One cannot read these writings and other spiritual giants of our day, without being drawn closer to the Lord.  Through the means of reading we can associate with many of the great Christians of other generations.

 

 We also grow through association with people of the long ago whose lives are described in the scriptures. Instead of reading chapters, or spending just so many minutes a day in reading, let us associate with the characters in the Bible of whom we read.  Through our mind’s eye let us actually be part of the crowd, feeling the tension of the crisis, and participating in the events about which we are reading.

 

In such a manner we can make the story of Joseph’s life become real and its lessons meaningful in our own lives. By living with Moses, with David, and with the prophets, we can drink in their spiritual strength.

 

 As we read the New Testament we can travel with the apostles, feel the yearning of their hearts, and be built up by their examples.  Think of what it means to associate with Timothy, with Titus, with Mary, with Dorcas, with Lydia, and with the rest.

 

We can also grow spiritually through our association with Christ. as we live with him through the events of his ministry.  We, like the apostles, grow spiritually. 2Corinthians 3:18 says it beautifully,

18But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

 

In the Roman letter Paul had this to say, (Rom. 12:1-2).

 

1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

 

We also grow spiritually through our association with God.  Through periods of prayer and times of meditation on his word we develop spiritually. Likewise, we grow in inner strength as we contemplate the works which he has created in our world and our universe.

 

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” (Ps. 19:1).

 

I conclude with this story:  The Greek traveler Ulysses returned home to say,  I am a part of all that I have met.” How true! Our associations in school, at work, in marriage, in reading, in recreation, and in worship will largely determine what we shall be.

 

All of us are part of all we have met.   Our lives are so full of the wrong kind of associations--people, influences of the mass media of radio and television, sensual music, and the like--that it is no wonder that we often do not grow spiritually.

 

We need to remember the words of the apostle Paul in

I Cor. 15:33, where he stated:

 

33Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

 

Fortunately, the whole matter of spiritual growth is ours to decide.  We can grow spiritually, if we want to. The formula for such growth is very simple--carefully choose our associations.  Let us then desire this greatest of all virtues. Let us arrange our associations accordingly. Let us begin by becoming Christians and letting Christ be our constant companion and guide.

 

If you would like to learn more about becoming a Christian,

contact:

Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ

email:  RonCope@chestnutmtchurchofchrist.com

phone:  (678)617-9658