Are You Growing?
Growth is one the surest signs of a healthy life in the plant and animal kingdoms and it is no different in the realm of grace. Growth, therefore, we expect to see in every Christian. Of course, in nature, at a certain point, growth stops and decay sets in, but with the believer it should continue all his earthly days.
No sensible person expects the convert of yesterday to be anything but a babe, but we do not expect him to remain a babe. With a keen appetite for wholesome spiritual food, a good digestion, plenty of heaven’s fresh air and exercise, he is bound to grow. The Scripture, “grow in grace, and in [the] knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”, (2 Pet. 3: 18), applies to every one of us. So what is growth?
Growth has no direct connection with age. A man may be white with years, and have passed many a milestone since his conversion, and yet spiritually be a stunted child. Some of the Hebrew believers were like this: they were stumbling over the Christian alphabet when they should have been teachers, and needing milk when they should have been fit for strong meat, (see Heb 5: 12-14).
Growth is not necessarily connected with what we do. There may be much earnestness and activity, yet no growth. The Ephesian Christians sadly exemplified this in their later years. When the Apostle Paul wrote his epistle, they were like a tree planted by rivers of water - green and vigorous. When, however, the Lord Jesus addressed them through His servant John, though He recognised their works, labour and endurance, He had to tell them thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, (see Rev. 2: 1-7). The top shoot of the fair young tree had been nipped by frost and growth was stopped.
Growth does not even depend upon what we know. Our mental development may far outstrip our spiritual. An infant prodigy, whatever he may be in musical or educational circles, is a pitiable object in the Christian sphere and often comes to a bad end. The novice, if capable of seizing abstractions, may speedily grasp much truth in the letter, but he should not assume that he has therefore become a giant and able to instruct his grandfather!
Under this delusion some of the Corinthian believers fell. They were enriched in “all knowledge”, (1 Cor. 1: 5); they assumed to be wise, (3: 18); they were attempting public ministry, (14: 26); they even began to let their minds run riot with the cardinal truth of resurrection, (15: 12, 35). As a matter of fact, they were ignorant, (6: 2-5, 9, 15, 19; 8: 2; 10: 1; 12: 1; 14: 38; 15: 36), fleshly and but babes, (3: 1-3). They used their ‘knowledge’ to the damage of some of their brethren, (8: 11). Such knowledge only puffs up, whereas love builds up, (8: 1).
Growth is a question of character. As we grow we are moulded more and more into conformity to Christ. The little seedling when first planted may exhibit few of the features of its parent, yet as it develops, these become increasingly obvious until complete likeness is achieved: “Until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at [the] full-grown man, at [the] measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ”, (Eph. 4: 13). The purpose of God for the Christian is that he might be “conformed to the image of his Son”, (Rom. 8: 29), and that process has already begun. As each day passes we should become more like Him. Growth in knowledge there certainly should be, but that knowledge should be reflected in our lives. There should be a moral likeness to Christ. Thus Peter in his second epistle exhorts us that “using therewith all diligence, in your faith have also virtue, in virtue knowledge, in knowledge temperance, in temperance endurance, in endurance godliness, in godliness brotherly love, in brotherly love love”, (2 Pet. 1: 5-7). His desire in saying this was that there might be solid, genuine Christian growth, that is that the features of the beautiful life of Christ should be reproduced in the believer. Notice too, that these things are to be “existing and abounding in you”, (v8). They are not to be put on as a man puts on a coat, but to be produced inwardly in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that they become part and parcel of ourselves.
Growth is dependant on food. The malnourished child will not grow, and the plant rooted in sterile dust will not develop. The food of the Christian is in one word - CHRIST. As He himself said, “I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger….for my flesh is truly food and my blood is truly drink”, (John 6: 35, 55). If you want to grow, then feed upon Christ. Do not fill your mind with worldly rubbish - fill it with Christ. Read the Scriptures, and read them with Christ in view.
When the Lord instructed Peter to feed “my sheep”, (John 21: 17), the food He had in mind was nothing other Himself. The point of all Christian ministry is the presentation of Christ to the soul. Just as we need natural food in life to grow, so we need the “living bread” in order to grow spiritually.
It should be noted that the Lord Jesus in His instructions to Peter distinguished between the lambs and the sheep, (John 21: 15, 17). The Apostle John later speaks of little children, young men and fathers, (1 John 2: 13). Obviously account must be taken of the stage of growth at which we are. A full-grown man cannot be sustained on milk, and nor will a babe digest meat. The fresh convert is to be fed on what is basic, “the pure mental milk of the word”, (1 Pet. 2: 2), “but solid food belongs to full-grown men”, (Heb. 5: 14). Where conditions are right, there will be food for all.
Food must also be digested. Take time to meditate and turn things over in your mind. It is recorded of Mary that she “kept all these things [in her mind], pondering [them] in her heart”, (Luke 2: 19). If you are reading the Bible, allow God to speak to you - the point is not to get through as many chapters as possible. Time for reflection is as important as time for reading. When the cow chews the cud it generally lies down, and in a similar way, spiritual digestion is greatly helped by a little quiet, with the knees bent in prayer.
Growth must also be of the right sort. Put a seedling in a dark cupboard, and it may well grow at a rapid rate in a vain attempt to find light. The resulting plant, however, will not be pleasant to look at - its stalk long and stringy, its leaves yellow and horrible. Christians too can experience the wrong sort of growth. Some appear to increase rapidly in knowledge about spiritual things, and yet lag behind in the expression of Christian character. Others are much occupied in works of Christian kindness, and yet are very slack about Bible study. Such unbalanced growth is of little pleasure to God.
Growth, according to the Second Epistle of Peter is to be “in grace, and in [the] knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”, (2 Pet. 3: 18). The two things go together. There is to be growth in both grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, it can be said that the one flows from the other, so that there can be no genuine spiritual growth without growth in these two going hand in hand. Growth in grace is surely the result of growth in the knowledge of Him, and if we are growing in grace, then we are also growing in the knowledge of Him.
What is growth in grace? We have all been saved by grace, and that grace should be expressed in our lives. Grace is the soil in which we have been planted, and our roots must be sent down deep if we are to grow in it. Then as we expand in our appreciation of the grace expressed in Christ, we grow in graciousness of spirit. Thus Paul can exhort the Colossian saints, “[Let] your word [be] always with grace, seasoned with salt, [so as] to know how ye ought to answer each one”, (Col. 4: 6). A little earlier he says “Put on therefore, as [the] elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any should have a complaint against any; even as the Christ has forgiven you, so also [do] ye. And to all these [add] love, which is the bond of perfectness”, (Col. 3: 12-14). When such a Scripture is considered, who would deny that there is much need for “growth in grace”?
What is growth in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ? It is what flows from acquaintance with Him. It is not simply knowing about the Lord, helpful and profitable as that may be, but knowing Him. Paul’s wish was not to simply know about Him, but “to know him”, (Phil. 3: 10). It is one thing to “know the Bible”, quite another to know the Lord Jesus. Intellectual knowledge will not do - there must be an increasing personal knowledge of the Saviour. Enoch had no Bible, no ministry to read, and probably no fellowship, yet he “walked with God”, (Gen. 5: 24). He knew God because he lived in His company. It is growth in that kind of knowledge which is so desirable.
Much more could be written on the subject of growth. Enough has been said however, for the question to be asked Are you growing? Too many of the Lord’s people remain as “babes in Christ”. The crying need of the day is for “full-grown men”. May there be many who set their hearts on growing in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus - for the good of the Church, and for the glory of God.