One night, I had a wondrous dream;
One set of footprints there was seen.
The footprints of my precious Lord,
but mine were not along the shore.
But then some stranger prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, "What have we here?"
"Those prints are large and round and neat,
But Lord, they are too big for feet."
"My child," He said in somber ones,
"For miles I carried you alone.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait.
You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith you would not know.
So I got tired and fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt,
Because in life, there comes a time,
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their butt prints in the sand."
A.W. Tozer said “All things as they move toward God are beautiful, and they are ugly as they move away from Him.”
Jesus likened knowing God through Him as being “born again.” Paul expanded on this idea when he wrote that if we are “in Christ, we are a new creation.”
Like any newborn baby – babies in Christ are expected to GROW. It is not a requirement for entering the family, but it is the expectation that each baby grows towards maturity. Babies grow at their own pace. Some learn to crawl and then walk by the time they are 8-12 months old. Some crawl for a long time before they take steps while some never really crawl at all but pull up and begin to take those steps. They grow at their own pace – BUT THEY GROW! When a newborn does not grow then we begin to worry because something isn’t right and the same is true with us spiritually speaking.
Paul is concerned that the Corinthians had stopped growing like they should have when he writes… “Brothers, don’t be childish in your thinking, but be infants in regards to evil, and adult in your thinking.” (1 Corinthians 14:20)
So as believers the expectation is that we will grow towards maturity. The churchy word for this is SANCTIFICATION. Paul says in Romans that as believers we are to be “conformed into the image of Christ.” This process will last our entires lives. Philippians 1:6 “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.“
So what does this mean for us? How do we grow?
According to Paul, we are measured by the fullness of Christ. You can’t look around and compare your spiritual growth to anyone else. The comparison is not “how much do I look like Jim?” (or Nancy or Steve…). The question is “how much do I look like Christ?” He is the standard – the measuring stick for our growth. Being a disciples and making disciples is not about reproducing another likeness of ourselves but helping people look more like Jesus as we look more like Him ourselves. So what is the gauge of Christ-likeness?
When Jesus left His disciples, He said that he had to leave so that He could send the Holy Spirit which would be better for them. Can you imagine anything better than having Jesus right beside you? Jesus knew that His Spirit living INSIDE was better. One of the main purposes of the Holy Spirit is to constantly remind us of Jesus. So, if Jesus sent us the Spirit, then to really look like Him, we can go to Galatians 5 to see what that looks like lived out. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control…” This is a great maturity measuring stick as we strive to be Christ-like.
Is what we are saying or doing filled with these above mentioned qualities? If it is not, it is probably not of the Spirit. The more we have the qualities of the Holy Spirit “fruit” the more our lives will look like Jesus. Now the “fruit” in our lives does not make us a Sunday school cutout, but rather they are powerful traits that seep into our relationships, work lives, family and every part of our world. These are a aspects of Jesus that we need to hold up as a standard for our lives. So as we mature by studying His Word, prayer, church attendance and service, God begins to transform our heart.
As children grow they are able to distinguish the voice of their father and mother from all other voices. It is the same way with us. The more we grow in knowledge, prayer and fruit, the more we are able to distinguish the voice of our Father over the voices of this world. We will be in the Word so that we know the voice of truth. We live in a culture that says a lot of gentle-sounding but dangerous things and we must be aware of those false voices. That is why preaching and teaching is so important when you find a church to plug into. The Word has to be foundational. The more we know the truth – the more we know what isn’t.
The job that got me through college was being a teller at a bank. As I went through training, they taught us how to recognize counterfeit bills. They did not do this by showing us counterfeit bills. They made us count the REAL thing over and over and over and over until we knew what real money looked and felt like so that if anything even remotely questionable came through our hands, we could recognize it instantly.
Little kids don’t know how to blend truth in love. Example: a little kid will tell you you are fat if you are fat. (don’t ask me how I know this!) It is a mark of maturity when we are able to help people realize the truth of their situation in a loving way as to help them. I heard someone say one time, “Truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.” We all need those in our lives that will speak this truth to us. We need those who will call us out, spur us on, make us think all with the purpose of making us look more like Christ.
Speaking the truth in love takes much discernment and wisdom. We have to remember that we are all journeying toward the same thing (Christ-likeness), but we are not all at the same place on that journey. We grow at different rates so we must be patient with each other as we grow together.
Ephesians 4:16 From Him (Christ) the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.
We are responsible as we grow. We are responsible to Christ – the head of the body, and we are responsible to the rest of the body. The body grows as the individual members grow. Notice again in this verse above that pesky word LOVE. LOVE IS THE CIRCULATORY SYSTEM OF THE BODY.
It has been discovered that isolated, unloved babies do not grow properly and are especially susceptible to disease, while babies who are loved and handled grow normally and are stronger.
Same is true with the child of God. An isolated Christian can’t minister to others, can’t be ministered to and keeps the body from growing as a whole like it should.
Do you strive to grow to be more like Christ? Are you in the word? Do you know the truth and pursue it? Are you accountable to someone? Are you an ACTIVE part of the body?
A sure sign of immaturity is the belief that “I have attained maturity.” Maturing as a believer means becoming more and more like Jesus. We will never “arrive” this side of heaven. So don’t speak of your maturity but let your maturity speak for itself.
Maturing believers are followers of Jesus. So we have to get our “butts” out of the sand and get moving.