The Christian’s Pattern For Personal Development

1 Peter 2:1-5

 

When we are born into our families as infants,  we require many things that determine our physical growth and development into mature men and women suited to take our places in society. 

 

Babes need milk pure milk in order to grow physically, and be disease free. When we are born into our Christian families, we need milk  in order to grow spiritually mature. 

 

2as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile  that ye may grow thereby unto salvation”. 1 Peter 2:2 

 

The Greek here is picturesque the word “spiritual milk” ASV “sincere milk  KJV” and “pure milk” NKJV and NASV, means logical, pure and unadulterated, guileless milk. Literally God’s word without mixture with the philosophies of men. What great advice at any stage of our development.

 

Several years ago, a young lady responded to the Lord’s invitation, was baptized into Christ. The following week she stopped me and asked very sincerely, “Brother Ron, what am I supposed to do now?”

 

That is essentially the question we are concerned with this morning. “Now that I am a Christian”,  a film series we used to follow new converts into Christ with.  How we need to move back to what used to work. 

 

From our text  I refer first to 1 Peter 2:5

5Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. “

 

We are to remember, Who we are: a people of God, What we are, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, a chosen generation,   and, Why we are: to offer up sacrifices, and show forth the praises of Him, not only in our worship to Him, but we are to show forth His praises to others.

 

When Jesus healed a man possessed with demons. His words  to this man were "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you  (Mark 5:19). This too often is the forgotten command.

In God’s word, we learn that conversion to Christ is real change, not something superficial.  It involves faith,  really trusting God to save us and to use us to His glory. Such faith promotes love, humility and obedience on our part.

 

Conversion involves repentance, which the Bible pictures as a genuine sorrow for our sins, (2 Corinthians 7:10), and a real turning from sin.  It demands submission of our will to His in being baptized into Christ   (Gal. 3:26-27).

 

In John 3:3-7 we learn that such a conversion is spoken of as being born again,  hear the scriptures;

3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God! 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew.

 

This emphasizes  the wonderful change that is wrought when we become children of God,   born anew,  from above,   born of water and the Spirit   we were…… born of the flesh, now we must be born anew, from above, spiritually,  and as such, we are to grow in the spirit.

 

God’s Word further instructs us how as new converts to Christ we are to grow spiritually   Notice first again our text  1 Peter 2:2

2as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile , that ye may grow thereby unto salvation”

 

By our study of the scriptures we develop personalities  that show the fruit of the spirit   (Galatians 5:22-23).  This allows the world to see Christ is us and fit us for eternal life. Thus we can say that the Bible contains the pattern both for conversion and for the development of Christian personalities.

 

As we look about us, we can see people whose bodies are many shapes and sizes. Doctors and nutritionists tell us our physical development is to a great extent, determined “by the food we eat.” Likewise as we look about us we see many different personalities, some reflecting Christ, and others the direct opposite of all that a Christian should stand for. These too, have been largely determined by the spiritual food we eat. 

 

Many people live by a secular point of view, their lives limited to the here and now. There is  no thought as  to what lies beyond the immediate.  Others live by a humanistic philosophy,  thinking in terms of better living conditions, and social standards while they live,  with little or no consideration given to the fact that we are but pilgrims and strangers here  below.

 

But allow me to ask you,  what specific factors influence our personal development?  Customs no doubt influence us in our personal habits, such as: work, dress, morals, how we generally live. Television, movies, magazines all have their influence upon our lives, either for good or for evil.  Also our associations  are vital to who we are.

“Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15:33  Grandma was right when she warned us so.

 

The training in our homes is the is the first and perhaps the most important single factor contributing to our personal growth and development. I wish Christian mothers could appreciate how worthwhile the task of training their own children and not feel so useless because they are not in the job markets like their friends. Paul’s words to Titus were, “the young women are to love their children and be keepers at home”.  Titus 2:4-5 

 

An unknown author has penned the following poem called  

The Heart Of A Child”.

Whatever you write on the heart of a child,

No water can wash away.

The sand may be shifted when billows are wild

And the efforts of time may decay.

Some stories may perish, some songs be forgot,

But this graven record -  time changes not.

Whatever you write on the heart of a child.

A story of gladness or care,

That heaven has blessed, or earth has defiled

Will linger unchangeably there.

 

This is not to say the fathers are without responsibility:  And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”  Ephesians 6:4

Parents,  the home is  both a mission and battle field. The Home a training place for the children.  The wise preacher informs us Proverbs 22:6—“ 6Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it.

 

I don’t believe Solomon was just giving us a principle that may, hit or miss. Proverbs 22:6 is given by inspiration and like Paul reminded Timothy:  6Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. 17That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  The key word in Proverbs 22:6 is “train up”. Training involves more than carrying a child to church. Training involves an idea. There must be a purpose to training,  namely that our children grow up to become “saints of the Living God”.

 

But another thought.   How good to see people succeeding in life who have put their faith in God and who are seeking to pattern their lives after His word. From time to time we see or hear of faithful Christians who are chosen for outstanding citizenship awards, or outstanding mother of the year, receiving recognition.

 

But such is to be expected if we practice what we preach. As Christians our desire is to follow Jesus our Lord, Master and Teacher. Paul stated the principle thus: 1 Cor. 11:1  “Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.”   Recall the difficulties that Christians have fallen into when they cease from following Christ stating: “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas” (1 Corinthians 1:12). As in the past, so today when we as Christians follow men even the best of men, we will find eventually that they have but feet of clay.

 

But let us come back to our consideration of personal development, to the pattern God has given us – “God’s Holy Word”.

We  can be so grateful that God has understood our weakness and frailties to such an extent  that He not only gave us His word in written form, but He has given us the perfect example. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us  (John 1:14). The Word of God came alive and lived as flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ, and that is exactly what must take place again and again in our own lives as Christians. God’s word must be alive in us as we live day in and day our. 

 

Truly as Jeremiah foretold, God’s covenant today does not become our covenant until it gets off the pages of the New Testament and into our  hearts and practiced (Jere. 31:31-34).  

 

Real Christianity is not just theory it is practice.. New Testament Christianity includes; baptism for the remission of sins(Acts 2:38), weekly observance of the Lord’s supper (1.Cor. 11:23-26; Acts 20:7) and the practicing of good works (Eph. 2:10). These must be  translated into vital Christian behavior and character.

 

Beloved we are interested in the pattern that God has given, a pattern for the church, building strong churches is our business. But if we build strong Christians will not the church follow?  The Lord adds daily to His church those who are being saved: (Acts 2:47).

 

If we are to develop as Christians, then our lives must be in imitation of Jesus. Paul admonished, ”Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:”(Phil 2:5).  In the verses that follow, we learn that if we have the mind of Christ in us, we will humble ourselves before God and others just as did Christ.

 

 In the words of Christ: “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3-4

 

Another verse that comes to mind as we consider Christian behavior for growth; Philippians 4:8-9

8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

 

Why think upon these things?  Because if we think upon them we act upon them.  The wise Preacher also said: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he  (Proverbs 23:7).

O, to imitate our Savior as we study His life: the unselfish love He exhibited in giving up His life for others even for me and you,  the compassion He showed toward the poor, the troubled and the distressed. 

 

Listen to the apostle Paul again from 2 Corinthians 3:18 --

18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

 

A Christian psychologist has said: “The best way a church can promote the development of Christ-like character in children, is to have members with Christ-like character”.   What are we doing personally to develop Christ-like characters. Are we putting into practice things taught? Are we too busy in the affairs of our own  life to build lives in imitation of Christ?

 

What makes the difference?”  Here is John, unprincipled, not interested in spiritual things nor in community affairs, keeping the law, unfaithful to his wife and family. And here is Bill, interested in spiritual matters, keeping the law, loving his wife and family.  What is the difference between John and Bill?”  It is in what the two have been taught and have learned.

 

It may be Bill had Christian parents and a Christian home, John did not. Bill may have attended Bible school again John did not.  It may be in the associates each had, or the clubs they joined, the wives each married.   But basically we know,  that it lies in the influences for good or bad that have been brought to bear in their lives, and the reaction of each to these influences.

We are all blind until we see.

That is in the human plan,

Nothing is worth the making if

It does not make the man.

 

Why build these cities glorious

If man unbuilded goes? 

In vain we build the work, unless

The builder also grows.

 

         Edwin Markham.

 

I trust this lesson has been both profitable and interesting for you. If we can further assist you please contact us. 

 

Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ

email:  RonCope@chestnutmtchurchofchrist.com

phone:  (678)617-9658