As each of us starts out in our journey following Jesus, we do so like newborn babies.
- John 3:3-6 "In reply Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.' 'How can a man be born when he is old?' Nicodemus asked. 'Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!' Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.'"
- Mark 10:15 "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
- 1 Peter 2:2-3 "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."
But the Bible has a built in expectation for growth and maturity.
- Ephesians 4:13-14 "…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming."
- James 1:4 "Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
- Hebrews 6:1-3 "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so."
- Hebrews 5:11-14 "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 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. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."
- 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 "Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready."
Disciplines for Growth: God desires us to grow in knowledge and relationship with him. This is not passive growth, but growth that requires us to engage in disciplines as a disciple and grow to maturity. Luke 14:27 "And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." (mathētēs - a learner or pupil.)
Discipline implies the practices employed by a pupil or learner to master their subject. Some of the basic disciplines new believers must engage in to grow include:
1. Bible Reading
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
- Psalm 119:105 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
Knowing where to read in the Bible can be difficult. Bible study tools such as a reading plan or devotional can be helpful. Elevate uses the LIFEJournal Reading or YouVersion – see website for more details - http:www.youversion.com.
2. Prayer - Prayer is the primary way that we communicate with God and should be an active part of any believer's life. There are four basic aspects of prayer. Consider:
- Praise - Psalm 59:17 "O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love."
- Thanksgiving - Psalm 100:4 "Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!"
- Petition - Psalm 20:5 "May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!"
- Repentance - Acts 8:22 "Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you."
3. Participation in Church Life - Ephesians 4:11-13 "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
4. Coaching – consider partnering with someone more mature in their walk with Jesus on a structured basis.
- 2 Timothy 2:1-2 "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
- Ecclesiastes 4:12 "And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
5. Serving - Romans 14:17-19 "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building."
BEWARE: Enemies of Growth
Just as unhealthy foods can be an enemy to good growth so are there many things that will inhibit the growth of a believer. It is important that we identify and understand enemies of growth. Consider:
- Luke 8:5-15 "'A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.' When he said this, he called out, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear.' His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, 'The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, 'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.' 'This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."
3 Enemies of Growth
1. Unbelief - Hebrews 3:12 "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God."
2. Testing - James 1:2-4 "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
3. Choking - Luke 14:15-24 "When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, 'Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!' But he said to him, 'A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, "Come, for everything is now ready." But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, "I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused." And another said, "I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused." And another said, "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, "Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame." And the servant said, "Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room." And the master said to the servant, "Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet."'"