GROWTH METER: MERE INFANTS OR MATURE IN CHRIST?
Series : PART III
About the series
A lot of us have come to the point where we believe in Jesus. Some of us are also dedicated to go to church, participate in church activities, and sometimes even lead groups, worship, children’s ministry and so on. But, when it comes to our walk with Jesus, we move on with life and watch ourselves constantly going back and forth with the core aspects of our faith like overcoming sin, our very belief and faith in Jesus, indecisive about what is good and evil and so on. Why is that? It is simply because we are not making efforts to GROW, to MATURE in Christ. There are three portions of Scripture where our growth in Christ is compared to the growth of an infant to adulthood – and this is a great growth meter for us to see where we stand in our life. In this three-part series, we are going to learn why we should not be infants and instead become those who are mature in Christ and how to do this.
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. Nevertheless, solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.
Hebrews 5:11 – 6:3
Training – we come across this word so often in our lives – be it school, college or work. Any training is to help one grow from knowing very little or nothing to excelling in a particular task or subject. Today, laypersons are taking up training classes and becoming professionals in so many things.
Think about it. If a layperson needs training to grow in a particular field here on earth – how much more do we, believers, need to grow in Jesus Christ to become like Him? We repeatedly say that we want to be like Jesus – but the truth is, we cannot become like Him unless we train ourselves in His character, mind and ways. And, this is a training that will not be rewarded here on earth alone, but has its reward in eternal life.
One of the sign that shows us that infants are growing up well is in their ability to digest food from liquids to semi-solids and then solids. An infant needs to be gradually trained to digest semi-solids after liquids and then gradually fed solids until the child can actually chew and swallow solid food. It is a process, yet it is an intentional process that parents undertake to help the infant grow and mature.
Training yourself to maturity in Christ is a training that will not be rewarded here on earth alone, but has its reward in eternal life.
Therefore, while addressing a group of believers, the author of Hebrews tells them that they cannot be fed solid food because they still need milk. While they ought to be teachers, they still need to be taught.
The author is pointing out at their lack of growth in the Lord. So, he is telling them how a mature person is someone who has trained themselves to distinguish good from bad by constant use of what they learnt from the beginning. Whereas, a person who is an infant still needs to be trained in elementary teachings of the faith. What are these elementary teachings? The author mentions it – repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites (baptism), the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
This is the clearest distinction between someone who is still an infant in the faith and someone who is maturing in Christ. Are you constantly going back to the essence of your faith in Jesus? Doubting and questioning your faith in His life, death and resurrection? Are you thinking twice about being baptized? Debating about leaders or mentors or if gifts exist in the first place? Confused about how those who pass away in the Lord will live eternally? Or not sure about heaven and hell? Well, if these are questions you keep going back and forth with – you know you are still an infant in the faith and need to be taught these elementary teachings.
Yet, if you train yourself in these elementary truths day after day, minute after minute – you will be taken forward into maturity where now the elementary teachings will become a sure and firm foundation and you will be able to discern good from evil. What this means is that you will slowly and steadily grow in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and becoming more and more like Him.
Maturing in Jesus Christ is an option for all of us. It requires an intentional effort of knowing Him more, practicing what we learn from Him and obeying Him in every decision – be it big or small. One cannot be going to church Sunday after Sunday and maybe even serving in church, but not practicing what they have learnt from the Lord, and expect to grow in Him. No! Growing in Him is by consciously training yourself by knowing Him through His word and through prayer and being completely obedient to Him – in the easy as well as tough decisions. As the author of Hebrews says, by constant use train yourselves – Are you constantly meditating on God’s word to know Him deeper? The Psalmist says in Psalms 1:2 – Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. Are you prayerful and praying in the Spirit at all times? Paul says in Ephesians 6 : 18 – And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Are you acknowledging God always and in every area of your life? Proverbs 3:6 says, ‘in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’ This is how we need to train ourselves to become mature in Christ.
Being taken forward in maturity in Christ would mean that now you are not questioning God’s existence when trouble strikes you, but you trust in Him and are actually thinking about how to share about Him to others even in the midst of a storm in your life. Maturity in Christ means you are not fighting people who do something against you or hurt you or treat you badly, but you are fighting against principalities and powers of darkness in the spiritual realm through prayer. Maturity in Christ would mean you have left your petty ways of gossiping, fighting, and arguing and instead you are focused on loving everyone the same way.
We know we are growing in Maturity when we are growing –
- In Jesus’ Character –
Hebrews 1 : 3 says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word…”. Jesus is like the Heavenly Father in every way – compassionate, kind, patient, loving, zealous and more.
The more we grow in a relationship with Jesus, the more we will grow in His likeness and character. That is why John says in 1 John 2:6, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” Ask yourself every single day if you are growing in His likeness, imitating His character.
- In Jesus’ Ways –
Jesus said He came to save the lost (Mark 2 : 17). In fact, when we read the gospels, we see that Jesus preached the good news about the Kingdom of God and healed all who came to Him, drove out impure spirits. He moved in the power of God.
When Jesus was talking to the disciples about ascending to heaven, he said this in John 14: 12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
He said we would do greater things than Him. What does that mean? He wants us to move in the power of God. He wants us to save the lost, to heal the sick, drive out impure spirits. Are we moving in the power of God? Are we maturing to become more like Jesus in the way He moved and did things?
- In Jesus’ Mindset or Thinking –
One of the things that Jesus spoke about a lot was about the heart and mind. In fact, He said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. He also said that the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (using the example of trees and their fruit). He talked about how what comes out of you is what defiles you rather than what you eat.
You see, Jesus knew that everything we think and understand decides what we believe and how we act. That is why He spoke about our thinking and the place of our hearts so much.
In fact Paul tells us to become like Jesus is our mindset or thinking, who being in the likeness of God did not consider equality with God (Philippians 2 : 5-7). Are we growing in thinking like Jesus? Are our thoughts aligned to His word?
Like the author in Hebrews said in Hebrews 6 : 1 – “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…”