We all need to understand that growing up is a process, both physically and spiritually. We must allow God to develop that process in us. You don’t become a full grown Christian overnight. You didn’t become a full grown human overnight.
In these lessons, we are going to talk about growing up – Spiritually. Some things that we will talk about might seem unrelated but it is those things that will help you to grow. It will locate where you are spiritually, then after you’ve located yourself, they will help you grow out of that stage into another stage – spiritually.
Do you know that it’s not God’s will for you to remain a baby or child spiritually but to grow up and become mature in Him?
Ephesians 4v8; 11-15
Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, [Amplified says; “that we might arrive at really mature manhood”] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting but speaking the truth in love, may GROW UP in all things into Him who is the head – Christ…
So we see in the above verses that God wants us to grow up in all things into Jesus. He needs us to grow up so that we can do the work of the ministry. The fivefold ministry gifts were given to the body of Christ to help them grow spiritually.
The Bible speaks of at least three stages in spiritual development which correspond to three stages in physical development.
They are: Babyhood, Childhood and Manhood.
So let’s look at the characteristics of each stage and see if we can locate ourselves.
1 Peter 2:2
As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby.
Here the Bible talks about newborn babes. No one is born a full grown human naturally and physically. They are born babies, and then they grow up.
Likewise, no one is born a full grown Christian. You are born a spiritual babe, and then you grow up. We all understand that babies in the natural cannot do much for themselves; we know that someone else has to be there to help them along. We don’t expect too much out of babies.
But when it comes to spiritual babies, they get saved on Sunday and by Wednesday we already expecting them to make no mistakes and live on a level that took us and others many years to get there. Our expectations of them are unrealistic.
You don’t deal with a baby Christian the same way you will deal with someone who knows God for over 20 years. You come alongside them, show love towards them and lead them in the right way they should go.
It is very important that we follow up on new-born babies spiritually; we must pray with them, encourage them and guide them because they don’t know any better. People that I followed up on through the EE3 evangelist course, the majority of them wanted to come to my homecell because I cared enough to visit and reach out to them.
We are responsible for babies because babies don’t know and babies can’t do much for themselves. In the natural, they can’t walk yet, they can’t dress themselves. In fact, all they do is just eat and all they eat is milk. So spiritual new-born babes, if they receive the pure milk of the Word of God, they will grow thereby.
The first thing that attracts us to babies is their innocence. People will say, “You sweet little innocent thing”. No one thinks of a baby as having a past. It doesn’t have one.
If you are a new born baby in Christ then you don’t have any past either. You may have been as mean as the devil. You may have been the most unreasonable person that ever walked. But no matter how you lived, when you received Jesus into your life and got born again, you instantly became a new person in Christ Jesus and you don’t have any past. God sees you now as an innocent babe in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.
Carl Bard – Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.
Now this is very important. Even though innocence belongs to the babyhood stage of Christianity, it is one characteristic we should never outgrow. You should always have the above scripture in the forefront of your mind and maintain this state of innocence, because if you don’t, you will fall under the condemnation of the devil and be defeated in your spiritual life.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Thank God we are in Christ Jesus. We are not taken out of Christ Jesus when we sin and mess up. Our relationship stays intact. If we miss the mark, we apply 1 John 1:9; we acknowledge our sin and our fellowship with Jesus is restored.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
But we don’t stay and live in that place of condemnation. You must learn to get up quickly. Your sin is none of the devil’s business. It’s between you and Jesus and as far as Jesus is concerned, He has already put sin away by Himself. (Hebrews 9:26)
When you confess your sin to God, He no longer remembers them.
....Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.
Well! if God no longer remembers your sins, then why should you. Forgive yourself and don’t allow the enemy to keep bringing it up to replay it over and over in your mind. And don’t keep reminding God about it either. It is not good taste to keep bringing your sin up before God. Just say, “Thank you God for my forgiveness.”
You overcame the accuser and all his accusations against you by the blood of the Lamb.
...for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony,….
So maintain your innocent spirit before God.
A new convert is simple, full of faith, ready and willing to learn. We should always maintain that teachable spirit. Sometimes when we grow older we sort of come to the place where we have a “know it all” attitude; a “You can’t tell me anything” attitude. Those people no one can help, including God Himself.
If you are not teachable, you are not reachable. You must add truth to your truth.
Keep an open and teachable spirit as well as an innocent spirit toward God and man.
A new born baby is always putting his hands in his mouth and as they grow a little older and learn to crawl, whatever they find on the floor tends to go into their mouths. Babies are ignorant concerning what should go in their mouths and what shouldn’t and some babies have died as a result of not knowing that.
The same thing is true spiritually speaking. We need to be careful what goes into our spiritual mouths. We need to be careful about what we read. There is a saying used in the area of man’s diet, “You are what you eat”. The same thing is true spiritually, “You are what you read”.
Christians many times think nothing at all of gulping down some poisonous doctrine which will poison life spiritually, rob them of their spirituality and ruin their testimony if they accept it.
Every now and then some person will rise up and claim that God is busy doing a different thing. They then begin to draw other people away from the fundamental truths of God’s Word. Don’t follow people just because they say they are Christians. Check to see what kind of spiritual fruit they are producing in their lives.
God will emphasize certain truths at certain times but God is still interested in saving people and seeing them grow in the basic fundamental doctrine of the Word of God.
But many times Christian people will feed on everything in the world except the right thing and become poisoned with feeding on the wrong thing.
Kenneth Hagin talks about a man who was a doctor of divinity. He had read so many books. One day he said this to Kenneth Hagin, “Brother Hagin, I’ll be perfectly honest with you. There are some things I’ve read that I wish I’d never read. They bother me. They hinder me, even though I don’t read them anymore, it hinders my faith and it hinders me in believing God today”.
And they were religious books. It would have been better for him never to have built that into his inner consciousness.
I will say like Kenneth Hagin says, “When I start reading something that takes faith out of me instead of putting faith in me, I have enough sense to lay it down right then”. So be careful what you feed upon. Be careful what you watch on TV. Be careful watch you listen to on the radio. Don’t put things in your spirit that will challenge the Word of God and cause confusion.
Babies are easily spoiled and when they become spoiled they become irritable. It’s easy to get them used to the light so that you have to leave the light on all the time. It’s easy to get them used to being handled and held.
The Bible also speaks about spiritual babies growing up. We need to get to the place where we hand over our baby bottles and baby beds to the other new-born babies who have arrived in the Kingdom of God. But many times the older babies don’t want to hand over their bottles or their beds in the spiritual nursery. They want you to spoon feed them and handle them all the time.
It should be a great day when Christians grow enough to get off the bottle. But no, instead it’s a cry day. There are other people that need to be helped. There are other new people to be visited and there are others getting saved who need to be taught.
Babies are easily frustrated, easily distracted, easily hurt. The Lord wants to bring us to the place where we are not so easily frustrated, easily distracted and easily hurt.
If you can just keep people on the pure milk of the Word of God, they will grow.
that we should no longer be children….
Paul is talking about us no longer remaining spiritual children but that we would grow up spiritually. Some characteristics of the childhood stage of spiritual development are similar to the physical.
Children have a tendency to be unsteady. In the natural children are unsteady, unreliable, impressionable, sporadic [irregular; occasional]. Spiritual children are the same way.
They will announce that they are with you, they behind you, they support you but as soon as you look for them, they cannot be found. These children jump from church to church. Meeting to meeting. They are always looking to hear something new. They have itching ears.
2 Timothy 4:3-4
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.
And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? “For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.”
For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.
Christians who are unsteady don’t stick with the Word long enough to see results. Learn to become steady in your walk with God by remaining submitted to the Word, to your Pastor and to your Church.
Children are full of curiosity. Curiosity is a characteristic of a child because they constantly wanting to know what is in the bag? What is happening now? Who are you talking about? Where are we going tonight? They full of curiosity.
Spiritual children are the same way. They always poking their noses in other people’s business. We need to grow out of this stage by learning to tend to our own business like the Bible teaches.
1 Thessalonians 4:11
that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,
He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears.
As soon as some gossip begins to spread, they want to know who and why. Watch out for people who constantly gossip to you about others. They will gossip to others about you.
Don’t be a backbiter. Don’t be on the gossip train.
A backbiter is a backstabber who left his knife at home.
Children are generally very talkative and have never learned the value of silence.
The same is true with people who are in the childhood stage of spiritual growth. You will find them always talking. They have never learned the value of silence yet. When a person talks too much, there will be some type of sin in their words.
In a multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.
For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words.
People who talk all the time are usually guilty of at least three sins.
Evil Speaking – talking about and discussing the faults and failures of people not present.
It is so sad that some spiritual children had so much time and opportunity to grow up in this area yet still choose to participate in speaking evil of others when they are not present.
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one…
Magdalene De Pazzi said
“Never utter in your neighbour’s absence what you will not say in their presence.”
Great minds discuss ideas, good minds discuss events, and small minds discuss other people.
Wives learn to cover your husband and speak well about him to your family and friends. Husbands learn to cover your wife and speak well about her to your family and friends. Don’t slander and speak evil of each other to other people. We need to be careful what we say around our children and other people as well.
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.
Vain Speaking – always talking about themselves.
If you are only looking out for yourself, look out!
It is nauseating to hang around people who are always bragging and talking about themselves. What I’ve done, what I’m going to do, where I’ve been.
Egotism is the only disease where the patient feels well while making everyone else around him feel sick.
John Ruskin: When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package.
We are all conditioned to think about ourselves. That is one reason 97 percent of all people will write their own names when they are offered a new pen to try.
It’s all right to talk about how God uses people and rejoice about what He does through them but we should not leave people with the impression that we are something big and something great.
Some people want to be bragged about all the time. We need to brag about Jesus because without Him we are all nothing.
Two donkeys were in the field nearby Jerusalem. The one donkey said:
“I don’t understand it, just yesterday everyone was throwing their clothes and palms on the road when I was carrying Jesus on my back but now I am back to
being a nothing. Those people don’t even see it’s me who was carrying Jesus.”
The other donkey said: “It works like that my brother; without Jesus you are nothing in this world”.
Let’s thank God for His blessings. Let’s be careful that we are not taken up with vain talking, talking about ourselves.
Foolish Speaking – jesting, joking and things that are unprofitable.
This is making fun, sport of other people and situations continually. Vulgar, crude jokes continually. Speaking things that do not profit; edify and build up.
Now it’s okay to tell something funny occasionally but it is possible to spend too much of your time doing that.
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
Now that does not mean you can’t tell something that is funny and clean but we talking about feeding your spirit and talking about things that hinder your spiritual growth.
The minute you start talking about spiritual things to some people and want to go just a little deeper, they flinch and become uncomfortable. It’s sad but you can’t find too many people that you can talk to about spiritual things, they want to talk about natural things all the time. So let us learn to give thanks continually instead of talking foolishly.
There are many scriptural characteristics of the Manhood stage of spirituality and these lessons are aimed at seeing this spiritual man.
But for these lessons we will discuss three characteristics:
Esteeming Earthly Things Lightly.
By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
Moses when he grew up and became a man, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter. In the world he was in line for the throne. He had honor, wealth and prestige. He had the things the earth and the world had to offer. But instead he chose Christ and the riches He had to offer than the riches in Egypt.
One characteristic of growing up is to esteem earthly things lightly. You cannot put earthly things above spiritual things and grow spiritually. Spiritually mature Christians understand that spiritual wealth is greater than material wealth.
God does not mind you having things, but God does not want things to have you. God wants you to have money but He does not want money to have you. He does not want money to be your master, your ruler. Things should be in your hand but not in your heart.
Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful for he had great possessions.
He went away sorrowful (grieved) and sorrow is associated with loss. He thought he was losing something when Jesus asked him to give and follow him.
Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
You never lose when you choose to follow Jesus and His way of doing things. You always gain. Jesus will reward you now in this time, in this life.
Determine in your heart to put spiritual things first. Esteem earthly things lightly. Even if it’s your own relatives, put God before them. Put God before your own self-life. You will be blessed spiritually and better off physically – both you and your family.
Deafness to Censure [Criticism] or Praise.
A Spiritually mature Christian is not in bondage to anyone. He is not influenced or affected by what others say or think of him.
Paul the Apostle grew up to such an extent that he sought only to commend himself to God.
1 Corinthians 4:3-4
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.
Paul was not concerned about being judged by people. The law of love governed Paul. He was not easily puffed up, nor was he touchy or resentful. His spirit, where the love of God was poured into – dominated him.
Immature Christians become very restless, uneasy and full of self-pity when they are criticized or even imagine that they are. On the other hand, if they are noticed and appreciated they feel lifted up and full of self-importance. Don’t let your life be dependent on people’s praises of you.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.
The same people who shouted, “Hail Him, Hail Him” is the same people who shouted; “Nail Him, Nail Him”.
Baby Christians are self-conscious and ever conscious of what others are thinking about them.
The mature believer is God-conscious and ever conscious of what God’s Word says about him and to him.
Now because he is able to testify with Paul, “It is a very small thing that I should be judged of you or man’s judgment”, he is free to walk in and voice his convictions.
Spiritually mature Christians do not make adjustments to please their critics.
To succeed in life you must overcome the many efforts of others to pull you down.
The first and great commandment of critics is, “Don’t let them scare you”.
When you allow other people’s words to stop you, they will.
Nothing significant has ever been accomplished without controversy, without criticism.
Criticism is a compliment when you know what you are doing is right.
Don’t internalize criticism or praise.
Ability to Recognize God at Work
A Spiritually mature Christian is able to recognize when God is at work. When you can see God at work in things, you can rejoice no matter what is going on in your life.
Those who can see God’s hand in everything can leave everything in God’s hands.
One of the best spiritual examples of this characteristic is Joseph.
Joseph had the ability to see God at work in his situation.
He was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. He went down to Egypt. He was then thrown into prison because he refused to bow to the wishes of his master’s wife. He then stayed in prison for seven years.
By this time most people would be bitter and twisted saying, “God has forsaken me”.
Joseph then interprets the butlers dream in prison, the butler comes out and Joseph asks him to please mention him to Pharaoh but the butler forgets all about Joseph. It was still another two years before Joseph got out.
In those two years most people would have grown bitter saying, “You see, you help people but when you need help, they are not there for you”.
But the time came when Joseph was brought out of prison and eventually he was made prime minister of Egypt.
Jacob did not know that his son Joseph was alive. Jacob did not understand what God was busy doing during that time.
And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me”.
Jacob thought all these things were against him yet all these things were for him.
When you can see God at work in your life, you can rejoice no matter what is going on in your life.
The Bible says for us to examine ourselves.
It does not say for me to examine you or for you to examine me. But examine yourself.
As we examine ourselves, we will find that in some areas we are growing pretty well and we are well matured but as we look at another place, it will seem that we are still babies in that area and if we look at another area in our lives, it seems as if we are in the childhood stage.
But don’t give up on yourself, don’t become discouraged. Allow the Spirit of God to keep creating a clean heart and renewing a right spirit within you.
God loves you the way you are but He loves you too much to leave you the same.
God has plans to prosper you and not to harm you; He has plans to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Ps. Lester Holland