The Young Man And
Mr. Donald K. Steele of Peterborough, Ontario, favors us with still another practical study in his series on “The Young Man.”
Human physical growth ends when we reach maturity. Because of this, we have a tendency to assume that mental, emotional and spiritual growth somehow also have an end. It seems so easy to think of arriving at ‘spiritual maturity’ and simply remaining there in ease and comfort. In reality, we need to look at trees, or even reptiles such as the alligator, which continue to grow as long as they live, for a proper example on which to pattern our spiritual growth. Joseph Shore has said:
“People, like trees, must grow or die. There’s no standing still. A tree dies when its roots become blocked. A human being becomes mentally and spiritually, and eventually physically, dead when the circumstances of his life keep him from achieving. Psychologists and sociologists spend their lives trying to patch up individuals and institutions that have stopped growing.”
Unless we grow mentally and spiritually, these abilities will wither and die. While physical life may continue, we will find our lives stagnant, stale and boring, without incident or progress. What Christian really wants such a life for himself? Surely it is the ambition of each one of us to experience a vital, vibrant life of ever-expanding horizons as we exercise ourselves and grow in the spiritual dimension. Today the ‘cult’ of jogging and physical exercise has people into individual and team sports as never before. For some these physical pursuits become almost a religion, and the fitness of the body is the supreme good. I would not deny that physical exercise is important, but all the exercise one needs can be achieved in three periods of fifteen minutes each per week. The important thing here is to keep a proper perspective and not to indulge the physical at the expense of the mental and spiritual exercise which we also need desperately. Paul’s comment on this is in 1 Timothy 4:8.
The Word of God uses the principle of growth as the means by which the Christian develops in the spiritual dimension. Growth is important. Growth is needed. The question is, “How do we grow? What is the means of spiritual growth?” No apostle has answered these questions more clearly than Peter. In 1 Peter 2:2 he addresses the new believer, the babe in Christ, and he advises this new Christian to “desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby.” Thus we see that the means of growth, the spiritual food of the new babe in Christ, is the Word of God. Spiritual growth cannot occur without spiritual nourishment. Peter identifies the primary source of spiritual nourishment as the Word of God. How much of our time does it get each week? If we actually give less time to the Word of God than we do to television viewing, or jogging it is quite possible that we may be spiritually undernourished. We will then grow very slowly, if at all. If we must grow or die, if we cannot stand still, as so many have said, are you growing? Am I growing? This is the vital question.
Nowhere is the principle of spiritual growth more strongly expressed than in 2 Peter 3:18. In this last verse of his last letter, Peter tells us all to “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.” Here we see several aspects of spiritual growth. The first command is to grow in grace. Grace is a deep subject. God’s grace brought Christ down from heaven to die for our sins, when we were totally unworthy. There is a tremendous study in the word grace, as it applies to our salvation and our Christian life. Here we are instructed to grow in grace. Surely this must include all those areas of our character and personality which involve kindness, graciousness, consideration for others, and all similar qualities. Are we growing in grace? Are we easy to live with? Is the indwelling Spirit of God, together with the Word of God, able to make us more Christ-like? I believe that all of this can readily be seen in Peter’s “grow in grace.” Thomas Edison once said that “Grouches are nearly always pinheads, small men who have never made any effort to improve their mental capacity.” Could anything be more contradictory than a Christian grouch? Yet we can all become curmudgeonly old men, if we fail to grow in grace, and to demonstrate in our lives the love that is kindness in action.
Peter did not stop with grace. He also asks us to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This is a tremendous challenge, for our growth in this area can be limitless! The Lord Jesus Christ combined in His physical person all the attributes of the Godhead — bodily. In Him are found all the characteristics of God, perfectly displayed. Consider His moral glories — as exhibited in His earthly ministry. Not once did He ever speak a word out of turn. Never did He act contrary to the will of Father. Every word, every act, every thought and deed were perfectly in character with the One who was the living Son of God clothed in human flesh.
When anger was required, He could be angry. When compassion was needed, He was compassion itself. Always conducting Himself in perfect harmony with the Father’s will, He lived and walked among men without ever once compromising His sinless character. We could spend years just in the consideration of His moral glories, but this is only one aspect of His person. Let me challenge you, as I challenge myself — how are we growing in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Is this an area in which we are daily or weekly acquiring some new insights? Regardless of age, whether you are seventeen or thirty-seven, there will always be more to learn about our glorious Saviour. What a sweet and pleasant area this is for growth! Who would not wish to take the time to grow in this area, to seek to know Him, ever more intimately?
Does it not seem to you that growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, must go hand in hand? We cannot gain one without the other. As we come to know our Lord Jesus Christ better, to appreciate more deeply what He has done for us, we should automatically find ourselves being transformed from grace to grace, more and more into His lovely image. Selfishness, ill-temper, pride, envy, and a hundred other foolish and hurtful lusts of youth should fade away as we see more and more clearly the beauties and perfections of our blessed Lord.
2 Peter 3:18 ends with a note of worship: “To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen.” As we grow spiritually, we should become better able to worship our Lord Jesus more intelligently and fervently. His many glories in eternity past, with the Father, were partially laid aside when He assumed the fleshly mantle of the human Jesus, but He is in glory again today, fully restored to all the glories that He once had, plus the glory of His finished work at Calvary for your sins and mine. We have been left here to glorify Him in our daily lives. Our job is to show a sinful and dying world that Christ truly transforms sinners, and that He is able gradually to reproduce Himself in us. Perhaps the great tragedy of modern evangelical Christianity is that so few realize our responsibility to become images of Christ on earth, to grow spiritually into His wonderful likeness. If I could challenge you today, it would be to look at your life, even as I look at mine, and consider our progress toward this goal. Moment by moment, and day by day, by reading, prayer, meditation, study and worship, we can grow into mature Christ-like men whose lives will count for God in a wicked and perverse generation.
Paul urges us in Romans 12:1-2 to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, which is your spiritual worship. In the second verse he tells us that this process of being no longer conformed to the pattern of this world, but being transformed, is by the renewing of our minds. Does not this verse show that spiritual growth and mental growth are closely related? The exercise of my spirit is by the renewing of my mind. The mind is renewed by feeding on the Word of God, the spiritual milk and meat by which we grow. If I fill my mind with worldly trash, it will not be renewed, but will be clogged with impure and harmful material. No young believer can make spiritual progress without spiritual and mental exercise in the right direction. The key to all growth resides in the will: If we WILL to do the things needed to grow, then the result must be growth. If we WILL NOT exercise ourselves unto godliness, but rather fritter away precious hours in entertainment and other pursuits, growth will be very slow or non-existent.
As believers, we have come to know a little about the Saviour of the world, the incarnate Son of God. We have a real duty to come to know more and more of His perfections, to grow spiritually and mentally, and to apprehend and understand the deep things of Christ, which have been revealed in His Word. How wonderful it would be, if it could be said of each one of us, as it was of Samuel of old: “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Sam. 3:19).
May God richly bless you as you seek to grow into the maturity of Ephesians 4:13.