Dear Father in Heaven, we bow before you this evening with thankfulness for the love you have shown in allowing your only begotten Son Jesus to become sin for us and die for all mankind. Help us to love you more in return.
We know that at the heart of our heavenly hope stands the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on a cross. We know that His death on the cross provides the answer to our sin problem and frees us for heaven. We are thankful that we can boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to us, and we to the world.
In these days of constant hand washing, help your saints to spiritually keep our hands washed and purified by the blood of our Saviour. Reward us, dear God, according to the cleanness of our hands. Help us grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. In His precious name we pray. Let us all say, AMEN!
The King James Version of God’s Holy Word, the Bible says, “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: 3 if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is" (1 Peter 2:1-3).
It is very evident from that passage that Christian growth is a Christian duty. Give another passage, found in Peter's writings, commanding us to grow. “18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen" (2 Peter 3:18). So God wants His children to grow.
A failure to grow is contrary to both the law of God and the law of nature. Give examples showing that growth is a normal thing. A little plant will break the surface of the earth, and, barring hindering causes, will grow until it is grown. A normal animal, properly cared for, will grow until it reaches maturity.
The parents and friends of a little child would become alarmed and heartbroken if he did not grow. It is natural for a child to grow until he reaches the climax in physical growth. Then old age comes, and the outward man becomes weak and ready to perish. We can thank God, however, that in spiritual growth there is no necessary weakening, for we read, “…Yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16). This daily spiritual growth enriches life, and takes the sting out of old age.
REQUIREMENTS FOR GROWTH
First, there is the New birth. No one can grow as a child of God unless he has been born again. The new birth is fundamental. Jesus said, “3 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… 5 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5).
A man once took unusual interest in the church. Strangers thought he was a Christian, but he was not. He explained, saying, "I am testing myself, and if I can live the Christian life, I am going to become a Christian." How futile, for no person can live the Christian life when he is not a Christian. It is impossible for one to be a new creature outside of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Second, freedom from sin is necessary for one to grow in Christ. Disease will stunt and, if not cured, will kill a child. Likewise, sin will check and maybe kill spiritual growth. We have seen examples of both.
Peter teaches us to put away sin, if we would grow: "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings" (1 Peter 2:1).
May we ever remember that “6 our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Romans 6:6).
We all can know whose servant we are by noticing who we are obeying. "16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" (Romans 6:16-18).
May we daily be consecrated and penitent, and daily watch and pray to keep sin from dwarfing our souls. ''The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
Third, food must be eaten for the Christian to grow. “Desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2); hence, no food, no growth.
In unfortunate countries, many little bodies are puny and dwarfish due to an insufficient diet. But how much more nearly universal is this picture in the spiritual world, because many of God's children have starved their souls.
The Bible is milk and meat—milk to the newborn babe and meat to the older Christian: “12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
By living on the milk of the word, one grows and becomes able to digest the more difficult things in the Bible. Nothing will take the place of the divinely appointed food of God. We are commanded to desire this food. This means we are to long for it like a hungry baby desires to be fed . How many of us have this longing? We feed our bodies twenty-one times a week. How often do we feed our souls?
Fourth, exercise is needed. If you have ever spent any time with physical exercise, you know it strengthens the body. Therefore, in the spiritual realm, we are commanded to: “7 Exercise thyself rather unto godliness. 8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come " (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
The Christian life is a life of "faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6). We are workers together with God (2 Corinthians 6:1). "He that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11).
We learn to do by doing. A baby learns to talk by talking and to walk by walking. We learn to sing by singing, pray by praying, preach by preaching, and win souls by winning souls.
Unfortunately, some do not want to do these things until they learn how. But how are they going to learn without trying?
If you will study the Bible, pray to God, visit the sick, welcome the stranger, encourage the faint-hearted, restore the fallen, and win the lost, you will become stronger in Christ.
Activity strengthens; inactivity weakens. Our faith can be exercised only by our works. We show our faith by our works (James 2:18); hence, little work is evidence of little faith.
Fifth, a proper climate and environment is needed for growth. What’s the difference? In the physical, we call this factor climate; but in the spiritual we call it environment. Climate may affect physical growth, and environment may retard spiritual growth. “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Corinthians 15:33).
Name a king who was influenced to sin by evil associates (Herod and Solomon). Environment was one of the factors that caused Herod to order the execution of John:
" 9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. 10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison" (Matthew 14:9-10).
The influence of heathen wives pulled Solomon away from the true God. “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4).
In speaking of influence, Paul said, "Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened" (1 Corinthians 5:6-7).
In the presence of some people, it is easy to be spiritual; while in the presence of others, it is very difficult. Many Christians have been weakened and led astray by evil associations. Examples are many.
Sixth, time is a requirement for growth. Neither a baby nor a Christian is born full grown. It takes time for the growth and development of both. Relative to Christian growth, we read, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers…" (Hebrews 5:12). A realization of this fact is a source of encouragement to the young in Christ.
What are two EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIAN GROWTH?
Since we are commanded to grow, we should be anxious to know whether or not we are growing; for if we are not, we are sinning. But how can we tell?
1. Growth is like learning in school. We cannot see it day by day, but later we can look back and see it. As we look back over our Christian lives, can we see that we have grown? Grown in the knowledge of God's word? Grown in faith and obedience? Grown in good works?
2. When we act like men rather than children, we know we have grown.
Paul said, "11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11).
There is a big difference in the behaviour of a child and a man. It may be that if you were to do some of the things today that you did back during the early days of your Christian life, it would smite your conscience deeply. Did you once do things that you would not dare do now? If so, you have grown.
3. When we begin to produce fruit we know we are growing. When a fruit tree begins to bear, you know it has grown. Growing Christians “beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matthew 13:23).
Are the fruits of Christianity evident in our lives? If so, we have grown; if not, we are abnormal Christians. May we grow and bear fruit lest we be cut down by God's axe. John the baptizer said to the pharisees and Sadducees, "10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Matthew 3:10).
Christ said, “2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away" (John 15:2).