Wednesday, June 25, 2014

P4 Growing up into spiritual maturity - Cultivating spiritual growth in Christ

Colossians 1:3-4 "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints."

Review & Illustration:
We looked yesterday at the three braided rope of spiritual maturity: inward maturity, upward maturity and outward-focused maturity.  We noted that the scriptures uniformly define spiritual maturity along the lines of how we are growing in Christ in our souls, in relationship to Him and in how we relate to others. When we started this series a few days ago, I shared an illustration about a little tree that my mother and me had to cultivate and bring back to health.  Today's post features that illustration once again to communicate the main point of today's post: cultivating spiritual growth in Christ.

I can recall growing up as a boy and receiving in my first grade year a little pine tree to plant in our yard. I asked my parents if we could plant the little tree near a big bush toward the back of the house. I felt in my little six year old mind that the bush would protect the little tree from getting dried out by the sun. Over the next ten years that little tree hardly grew. We knew something was wrong and that it was contrary to nature for a ten year old tree to be basically no different from a first year sapling. We discovered that the big bush was sapping up all of its nutrients and as the bush grew, the shade prevented the tree from getting the necessary sunlight. We decided to move the tree to another part of the yard that was adjacent to a creek that ran alongside our property. My mother had developed an interest in cultivating roses and aided me in staking the nearly dead little tree. We fed it all kinds of plant food and within 3 years the tree doubled in size and in 3 more years quickly grew to maturity. That little tree was designed by God to grow and mature, and it required nutrients, sunlight and our involvement in making sure it would maximize what it was created to do – grow!  Disciples of Jesus Christ are given in their new nature the inherent desire to want to mature in their faith.

How is spiritual maturity cultivated?
Think of the little tree illustration that we explained earlier – the requirement of multiple people was necessary to not only maintain but to ensure the tree’s natural maturity. Likewise, spiritual maturity operates on similar principles. Outside of sickness and emergency, Christians cannot expect to grow and flourish in their Christian walk without the ministry of the scriptures and the local church.

The presence of God’s word in Colossians 1:5-6 functions as the life sustaining food for spiritual maturity. 1 Peter 2:2 “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” 

Then, pastoral ministry and the local church is the support system for spiritual maturity in Colossians 1:6-8. Pastors like Epaphras in Colossians 1:7 have been called by God to do five things in the local church: love God, love their families, live out the scriptures, love the people & lead by example. All of those areas are not just for the pastor’s sake, but more so for the sake of His people. Furthermore, the pastor needs the local church body in order to fulfill the calling God has given to him. In other words, I need you and you need me and we need one another to pursue God’s calling to us to grow up into spiritual maturity.

Whatsoever is true in the pew applies equally well in the pulpit: none of us can expect to spiritually grow without one another. Ephesians 4:11-12 reminds us: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”

More  tomorrow......

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