Christians on the Grow

 

Things Worth Knowing
Christians On The Grow
I John 2:12-14
 
A lot of interesting stories are found around the birthing of babies. I read this one this week: 
 
Nine months pregnant and married to a fervent Bears fan with tickets to Sunday's NFC Championship game, Colleen Pavelka didn't want to risk going into labor during the game against the New Orleans Saints.
 
Due to give birth on Monday, Pavelka's doctor told her Friday she could induce labor early. She opted for the Friday delivery.
 
"I thought, how could (Mark) miss this one opportunity that he might never have again in his life?" said Pavelka, 28, from the southwestern Chicago suburb of Homer Glen.
 
At 10:45 p.m. Friday, Mark Patrick Pavelka was born at Palos Community Hospital after close to six hours of labor.
 
While her husband watched the Bears play the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field Sunday, Colleen planned to watch in the hospital with the baby wrapped in a Bears blanket — a Christmas gift from his grandmother.
 
The couple named Mark after his father, who wore a "Monsters of the Midway" shirt during the delivery.
"If he wasn't born by Sunday and the Bears won, I would have named him Rex," after Bears quarterback Rex Grossman, joked Mark Pavelka, 28.
Mark is the couple's second son.
 
I know you women are thinking, “What a jerk!”, but us guys are thinking, “What a woman!”
 
The birth of a baby is the easy part. The hard part is taking a little baby and turning that baby into an adult. The Lord Jesus talked about this matter of being saved and He put it in the terms of a birth. Jesus said to Nicodemas, "Ye must be born again." 
Just as a person is born physically by means of a physical birth; we are also born spiritually by means of a spiritual birth. 
 
John, in this little letter, also uses the same terminology. In the 5th chapter, 1st verse he says, "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." He is talking about being born again. He is talking about the new birth. He is talking about being born spiritually.
 
In verse 12 of this chapter we have read when he talks about "my little children" literally he is saying, "My little born ones." He is talking to all of you in this building who have been born again who are members of the family of God by means of a spiritual birth. Birth is the easy part. The hard part is taking a spiritual baby and changing that baby into a full-grown mature, born again adult child of God.
 
There is one thing that every born again child of God has in common with every other. We find it in verse 12.  He says, "I write unto you little children because your sins are forgiven you for His name sake." 
If you are in the family of God there is one thing in common with you and all other believers -- that is that your sins have been forgiven. What a wonderful thing it is to know that your sins have been forgiven. 
 
The Bible says all of us are sinners. All of us have sinned and we need to be forgiven of that sin.   Jesus, 2,000 years ago, went to the cross of Calvary. 
On that cross He paid the price for our sins with His own blood and through Him it is possible now to have forgiveness of sin. Jesus Christ died for our sins and because of what He did we can be forgiven. We are forgiven, this verse says, "for His names' sake." Not because of anything we have done, but because of what He has done.
 
When I was a little boy I used to sing a little chorus in Sunday School that had a line like this:
 
        Gone, gone, gone, yes my sins are gone.
        Now my soul is free and in my heart's a song.     
        Buried in the deepest sea,
        yes that's good enough for me.
        I shall reign eternally
        Praise God! my sins are gone.
 
Can you testify that you are a child of God? The
Bible teaches then that your sins have been forgiven. 
Birth is the easy part. The hard part now is for a baby believer to be developed into a spiritual mature
Christian. That's what these verses are about. 
 
Notice in a somewhat repetition way he mentions the stages of spiritual development.
 
 
 
I want you to circle some things in your Bible as we move through and I want to share with you these stages of spiritual development.
 
I. Spiritual INFANCY.
 
 "Little children."
 
In verse 13, last part of the verse he says, "I write unto you little children, because you have known the father." It's a different word now for little children.
 
It is a word that means a baby that has been born. A baby now that has life and is capable of growing and maturing in that Christian life. He says to those who are in spiritual infancy, "You have known the father."
 
When a little baby is born about all that baby knows is that there is a new experience here and some new faces in its life. There's the face of a mom, a dad. They are making faces at the little baby. They are cooing and taking pictures. They are acting silly. This little baby just knows that there are new faces in its experience.
 
Many of you came to know Christ as a little child. And if you would be honest, you didn’t know a whole lot about it when I came to the Lord. If you had been asked me to discuss justification, you couldn't have done it. If you had been asked me to explain
repentance and faith, you couldn't have done it.
 
All you knew was that there was a new reality in my life. Someone had come into your experience you didn't know previously. Jesus Christ came into your life, and you now had a new spiritual father. 
You didn't even have spiritual teeth. 
 
That's why in Romans 8:15 it talks about a baby Christian saying, "Abba, father." Not able to pronounce all of the niceties and all of the intricacies of Christian doctrine, but we know that we have met Christ. We know that God is our Father. We know that heaven is our home. That's the beginning stage of spiritual growth. That's what you call spiritual infancy. You are a babe in Jesus. 
 
The Bible says there are two kinds of spiritual babies. There are babies that are just now born. Then, there are babies that for some reason remain babies. 
 
The Bible talks about being babes in Christ. Paul wrote one time and said I can't write unto you as unto spiritual, but unto carnal, unto babes in Christ. 
It's a sad thing when a baby doesn't grow.
 
It's a sad thing when a baby doesn't
grow normally.
 
In a case fraught with ethical questions, the parents of a severely mentally and physically disabled child have stunted her growth to keep their little "pillow angel" a manageable and more portable size.

The bedridden 9-year-old girl had her uterus and breast tissue removed at a Seattle hospital and received large doses of hormones to halt her growth. She is now 4-foot-5; her parents say she would otherwise probably reach a normal 5-foot-6.

Some ethicists question the parents' claim that the drastic treatment will benefit their daughter and allow them to continue caring for her at home.

Right or wrong, the couple's decision highlights a dilemma thousands of parents face in struggling to care for severely disabled children as they grow up.

"This particular treatment, even if it's OK in this situation, and I think it probably is, is not a widespread solution and ignores the large social issues about caring for people with disabilities," Dr. Joel Frader, a medical ethicist at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital, said Thursday. "As a society, we do a pretty rotten job of helping caregivers provide what's necessary for these patients."

The case involves a girl identified only as Ashley on a blog It is possible for a person to be her parents created after her doctors wrote about her treatment in October's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The journal did not disclose the parents' names or where they live; the couple do not identify themselves on their blog, either.

Shortly after birth, Ashley had feeding problems and showed severe developmental delays. Her doctors diagnosed static encephalopathy, which means severe brain damage. They do not know what caused it.

Her condition has left her in an infant state, unable to sit up, roll over, hold a toy or walk or talk. Her parents say she will never get better. She is alert, startles easily, and smiles, but does not maintain eye contact, according to her parents, who call the brown-haired little girl their "pillow angel."

She goes to a school for disabled children, but her parents care for her at home and say they have been unable to find suitable outside help.

An editorial in the medical journal called "the Ashley treatment" ill-advised and questioned whether it will even work. But her parents says it has succeeded so far.

She had surgery in July 2004 and recently completed the hormone treatment. She weighs about 65 pounds and is about 13 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than she would be as an adult, according to her parents' blog.

"Ashley's smaller and lighter size makes it more possible to include her in the typical family life and activities that provide her with needed comfort, closeness, security and love: meal time, car trips, touch, snuggles, etc.," her parents wrote.

University of Pennsylvania ethicist Art Caplan said the case is troubling and questioned how preventing normal growth could benefit the patient. Treatment that is not for a patient's direct benefit "only seems wrong to me," Caplan said.

He called it another example of the "slippery slope issue, with other parents thinking the way to deal with my kid with permanent behavioral problems is to put them into permanent childhood. It's not the right strategy."

But Ashley's parents say keeping her small will help reduce risks for bedsores and other conditions that can afflict bedridden patients. Also, they say preventing her from going through puberty means she will not experience the discomfort of having periods or growing breasts that might develop breast cancer, which runs in the family.

"Even though caring for Ashley involves hard and continual work, she is a blessing and not a burden," her parents' blog says. Still, they wrote, "Unless you are living the experience ... you have no clue what it is like to be the bedridden child or their caregivers."
saved and be a babe in Christ and for whatever reason
not really get on the grow to develop and mature and
become what they ought to be spiritually. A church is
intended to be a maternity room, but it is not
intended to be a rest home. God wants Christians to
grow. God wants babes in Christ to grow.
 
        How does a spiritual baby grow? What are the
things that cause babies to grow? I think the things
that cause babies to grow physically are basically the
same things that cause babies to grow spiritually. 
You have to have food if a little baby is going to
grow. You have to feed it. The same thing is true in
the life of a spiritual baby. Turn back to I Peter
2:2, "As new born babes desire the sincere milk of the
word that you may grow thereby."   The word - the
Bible. The first thing a new baby needs when they are
saved is the Word of God. A baby needs the Bible. A
baby needs to be fed the Scriptures, to be fed the
milk of the word. Babies aren't ready for the meat of
the Word.  If you are a young Christian I would
recommend you begin in your New Testament. Probably
it wouldn't be best to start in the book of Ezekiel.
You might wait until you develop some spiritual teeth
for that. Start with the simpler portions - the milk
of the Word. Then, as you begin to grow and develop
you can move into the meat of the Word. Of course,
babies like adults, like sweets so all along you can
enjoy the manna of the Word. The sweet truths of the
Gospel. But food will help babies to grow.
 
        Air is important if babies are going to grow.  
You have to be sure they have plenty of air. For the
baby Christian prayer is air. Prayer is the breath of
the Christian life. When you read the Bible God talks
to you. When you pray you're talking to God. Babies
need food; babies need air. Babies also need
exercise. They need to begin to move the limbs of
their bodies. They need to learn to walk and move
around. The same thing is true of a baby Christian. 
Begin telling others about Jesus. Begin sharing with
others what Jesus means to you. Start being a witness
for the Lord and sharing what God has done for your
life. You'll begin to mature and grow spiritually. 
 
        Babies need a good atmosphere. When babies are
born you don't just put them out on the back porch and
say, "okay, kid, do the best you can. We're pulling
for you." No, you take that little baby home from the
hospital and put it in a bassinet.
 
        I remember when our first was born of our 4. 
About 18 months later our twins were born. For a
while I thought they were all going to be born in the
first year. Got to coming pretty quick there. When
our first little baby was born - my what a father I
was going to be. I got that little baby on a rather
warm day when we took her away from the hospital. I
wrapped her up about seven times in a blanket that
day. I got her in the car. I'm not sure how Janet got
home from the hospital but I was taking care of this
baby. Then we got home and we had a little bassinet
prepared right there by our bed. I was going to be a
father like you never saw. I was going to feed this
baby. I was going to clothe this baby. I was going to
powder this baby. I was going to do everything you
were supposed to do with the babies. There in that
little warm house of ours that baby was. About three
o'clock in the morning that baby cried. I said,
"Janet, your baby is crying, you better see what's
going on."
 
        But we brought the baby into a warm place. We
got the baby into a good atmosphere. That is exactly
what ought to happen to spiritual babies. When people
come to know Christ as their Savior then you need to
get them into the atmosphere of a church. You need to
get them in an atmosphere of love where there is
warmth and support. I think one of the reasons more
churches don't have more people saved and more people
born into the kingdom in their churches is that the
Lord knows that the church is so cold that if anybody
did get saved there they would freeze out and never
grow spiritually. God wants a warm atmosphere. If
you have received Christ as your Savior you ought to
join our fellowship and get in a Sunday School class
and be a part of the ministries here and enjoy the
fellowship and the warmth and the growth opportunities
that are here.
 
        I was looking at our church training program in
the Open Door. What an atmosphere of opportunities to
grow here. My, what a wonderful place to begin to
develop as a Christian. So, he says in verse 13, "I
write unto you little children because you have known
the Father."   Spiritual infancy - babes in the Lord. 
There's a second category he mentions twice -
 
II. Spiritual ADOLESCENCY: Young men."
 
        "...young men because you have overcome the
wicked one." That's the stage of spiritual
adolescency. The stage of youth. The stage when you
were growing and developing and maturing. You are no
longer a baby in the Lord. You've made some progress
now. You're qualified for what the Bible calls a
young man (or a young lady). He says you have overcome
the wicked one. What does he mean? In verse 14 he
explains it. "I have written unto you young men
because you are strong and the Word of God abides in
you and you have overcome the wicked one." Those
three statements here describe the stage of spiritual
adolescency. He says, "Young men, you are strong. 
Young people, you are strong." Youth is the time of
strength. Youth is the time of boundless energy. 
Young people are lifting weights - pumping iron. 
Young people are running races. Young people are
expending tremendous amounts of energy - burning up a
lot of calories because they are so strong.
 
        I think sometimes as I look at young people how
boundless their energy is. Sometimes people say,
"wouldn't you like to have the energy of a young
person?" I says, "Heavens, no. I wouldn't want that
energy. To put their energy in my body would be like
putting a Cadillac motor in a T-model automobile." My
body couldn't stand what they go through with. But
Christians need to get to the point that they are
strong also. The Bible says that we can be strong in
spirit. The Bible says that we are to be strong in
the Lord and in the power of His might. You do not
have to be a weakling Christian. You do not have to
be an anemic Christian. You can grow and become
strong in the Lord.
 
        How do you get strong? Look at the next
statement. "I've written young men because you are
strong and the Word of God abides in you." That's how
you get strong. The Word of God ABIDES in you. Look
at the word, abides. He's already used it one time in
this chapter. Back in verse 6 he said, "He that says
he abides in him." That is the Christian that says I
am in fellowship with Jesus - abiding in him. Now he
uses the same word and says the Word of God abides in
you. When you abide in Jesus you are in fellowship
with Him. When you let the Word of God - the Bible
abide in you that means that you are filling your life
with the source of spiritual strength. He's talking
about the role of the Bible in your growth as a
Christian. 
 
        There are multitudes of people who would never
even dream of picking up a copy of the Bible and
reading it. It's amazing to me that we have a book
here which professes to be the very Word of the Living
God. That the God who created this universe, the God
who made the sun and the moon and the stars and
everything in this universe and the God who made you -
friend - claims that He has given us a book and in
that book He reveals Himself to us and yet people for
the most part just pass this book by and never read
it. They read books about finances and how to predict
the stock market. They read books about celebrities
and their lifestyles. But it never occurs to them that
here is a book that can put strength in your soul. 
Big Christians are Bible Christians. Growing
Christians are Christians who are abiding in the Word
and the Word abiding in them. You start living in the
Bible and the Bible will eventually start living in
you. You start possessing the Bible and the Bible
will eventually start possessing you. You start
taking hold of the Bible and the Bible will eventually
take hold of you.
 
        I will never forget when I was a 16-year-old boy
and the Bible got hold of me. I was saved at the age
of 9, I didn't grow the way a Christian ought to grow,
but when I got to the age of 16, through a series of
events I'll not go into - I started taking a copy of a
New Testament with me to school. I was a little
ashamed and didn't want anybody to see it and make fun
of me so I stuck it down in my pants pocket. When I
would get a little break I'd reach in and begin to
read that Bible. I had no idea what I was doing. I
had no idea the kind of trouble that was going to get
me in. I had no idea what God was going to do. I was
saved but wasn't growing. Then I began to get the
Bible in me. I began to take in the word and read and
study the Word. It changed my life. I was saved but
now I started growing. The Bible laid hold of me. It
changed my life. 
 
        I want to give you a challenge. Let me challenge
you to begin right now on this second day of February
and for the remaining days of the month of February,
let me encourage you every day to begin your day by
reading a few verses from your Bible. Start over in
the Gospel of John. That would be a good place. 
Start in the gospel of Matthew. That would be a good
place. Every day read a few verses - a chapter if you
can do that conveniently or half a chapter. That
won't matter. The distance, the length of it is not
the point. But every day begin to read a portion from
God's Word. Don't expect lights to turn on. Don't
expect cannons to go off, but every day just begin to
read a portion of that Bible. As you read, begin to
pray and ask God to speak to you. Ask God to work on
your life and do something in your life. Make up your
mind you'll begin your day that way. If you have to
miss anything, miss your breakfast, but don't miss
your Bible - do it for a month. One month from now
you come back and you tell me what has happened in
your life. This is not a dead book; this is a living
book. This is a Bible that can speak to the heart. 
Martin Luther said, "The Bible is alive. It speaks to
me. It has legs; it runs after me. It has hands, it
lays hold on me." You can get involved in a spiritual
growth program. In a soul building program.
 
        In III John it says "I wish above all things that
you may prosper and be in health even as your soul
prospers." I wonder if God would make us as healthy
physically as we are spiritually. I wonder if God
would make our physical bodies as strong as our souls
are. People can get pretty strong physically. I
watch these boys around church who start pumping iron. 
You can always tell them because when you walk up to
them they start flexing. You feel their arms and it's
just as hard as a rock. You say, "Hey, man, you must
be pumping iron." They flex a little more. Sometimes
you see them around town with tank tops on so they can
show off. But you can be strong like that physically
and be absolutely puny spiritually. There are some
folks physically who are mammoth people and yet
morally and spiritually they are weaklings. It
doesn't have to be that way. You can be a strong,
growing Christian. You can be strong because you let
the Word of God abide in you. Get the Bible in you
and you will be surprised what it will do.
 
        He says, "You are strong, the Word of God lives
in you and you have overcome the wicked one." He's
talking about the devil. There are two words for
wicked in the Greek Language. One of the words means
a person who is content to go down in his own
corruption and degradation. This word is the word from
which we get the word, pornography, which means an
aggressive kind of degradation which is not satisfied
to just go down in its own degradation but to drag
someone else in. You have an enemy. There is a
wicked one out there who is on the way to the pit
himself. He is not content to go alone. He's after
you. He wants to drag you down and wreck your life.
But Jesus Christ has said in the Bible that there is a
way where you can overcome the wicked one. John says
as a spiritual growing Christian in spiritual
adolescency you can overcome the wicked one.
 
        Tomorrow you are going to meet the devil
somewhere. The devil is going to tempt you and he is
going to try to make you fall. The devil's lies are
going to be hurled at you and they will be very, very
subtle. What are you going to do when the temptation
comes? If you have been putting God's Word in your
heart you have been storing up spiritual ammunition. 
So when the devil comes with his temptations tomorrow
if your heart is full of the Word, you can answer the
devil with the Word. That's what Jesus did. When the
devil came to Jesus three times in the wilderness and
three times when the devil tempted the Lord, Jesus
said all three times, "It is written." He responded
with the Word of God. The Bible says the devil left
him. Jesus won the victory over the devil in the
wilderness. When Jesus was on the cross He cried, "It
is finished." It means He won that final victory over
the devil that will be consummated when He returns
again and the devil is thrown into the pit. It's the
Word of God that causes you to be victorious over the
devil.
 
        Are you growing? Are you getting victories? II
Cor. 2:14 says, "Now thanks be unto God who always
causes us to triumph in Christ." Our victory is the
victory of Jesus. We conquer because Jesus conquered.
 
        When I was in grammar school there was a bully in
our school, about two grades above me. This was a big
boy. He systematically picked on folks. He would
just pick out one a day and beat them up. One morning
he walked up to me and said, "Vines, I'm going to see
you after school today." Talk about unnerving a
little kid. I was in about third grade and he was a
fifth grader. I was so uneasy all day long. So
nervous. School got out and I headed home. I looked
down at the corner and there he stood, looking at me. 
I was scared. My heart was jumping.   As I got closer
and closer to that bully, the more and more afraid I
became. Then about that time there was a boy in our
class who was also big for his age. He turned out to
be quite a college football player. He was a big,
strong boy. Donald said, "Hey, Vines, how about me
walking down to the corner with you?" I said, "O,
yea, I'd like that." So, old Donald is walking right
by my side. He walked right up there and looked that
bully right in the eye and said, "What can I do for
you this afternoon?" The bully just kind of backed
off and said, "Nothing in particular." I said, "Yea,
what can we do for you this afternoon?" You know
what? Old Donald and I walked on home and I had the
victory. 
 
        The devil is stronger than you and I are. I have
good news for you we have a Savior named Jesus who is
stronger than the devil is. He's already defeated him
and the Bible says we can grow in the Lord and have
His word in our hearts and overcome the wicked one.  
How you coming on your growing these days?
 
        There is spiritual infancy - little children. 
There is spiritual adolescency - young men. Then he
gets to spiritual maturity.
 
III. Spiritual MATURITY: 'fathers."
 
        "Fathers, I have written unto you because you
have known him that is from the beginning.," He is
talking about Christians who have come to spiritual
maturity. I Cor. 4 gives us two characteristics of
what it means to be spiritually mature. How you grow
into spiritual maturity. Paul called himself a
father. Paul led people to Christ so he says, "I'm
your father." Verse 15, "For though you have 10,000
instructors in Christ yet have you not many fathers
for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the
Gospel." One of the characteristics of a father is
that the Father has brought life into the world.
That's what a father is. He has children.   If you
are sitting in this building and someone can call you
father that means you have brought forth children into
the world. The same thing is true spiritually. You
are on the road to spiritual maturity when you are
leading others to Christ and others are your spiritual
children. Paul talked to Philemon about Onesimus - "I
have begotten him in bonds." He became my spiritual
child. He said to young Timothy, "You are my own son
in the faith." He was a spiritual father. Are you a
spiritual father?
 
        A few years ago in Mobile a boy came up to me and
I was in my thirties at the time. He was in his
twenties. He said, "Preacher, I just want to
introduce myself to you, you're my grandfather." He
told me the story. One of the preacher boys I had led
to Christ had led this boy to Christ and he said,
you're my spiritual grandfather. You can be a
spiritual father. You can be a spiritual grandfather. 
When you are leading people to Christ and you are
becoming a spiritual father you are on your road to
growing spiritual.
 
        There's a second thing fathers do. Look at verse
16. "Wherefore I beseech you, be followers of me." A
father is not only capable of reproduction, he's
capable of illustration. He leads the way for others.
Have you lead anybody to Christ? Are you leading the
way? Are you being an example? Are you illustrating
to them how the Christian life ought to be lived. 
Very important that fathers lead spiritual children in
the right direction.
 
        I want to say to the Gaskins this week on a
rather unusual occasion of the birth of little
Cleburne III. Folks, birth is the easy part. The
hard part is turning a little baby into an adult.
Christian if you are here today, I want to encourage
you to start growing in the Lord. Get in the Bible,
get in church, be a witness and start growing for the
Lord. If you are here and you have never been saved
you can't grow until you've been born. If you have
never received Christ as your Savior you need to be
born again this morning.
 
 
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