Spiritual Growth: From Immaturity to Immortality

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Spiritual Growth

From Immaturity to Immortality

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The purpose of this temporary human life is to seek and prepare for life after death in God’s eternal Kingdom (John 3:15-16 John 3:15-16 15 That whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
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). If you haven’t already, God wants you to make this the number-one goal of your life (Luke 12:31 Luke 12:31But rather seek you the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added to you.
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). So use your understanding of His spiritual tools and get started toward that goal! Or maybe you started but got discouraged or sidetracked, or relapsed into old habits. Read on, and we’ll show you how to enjoy solid, steady progress.

Physical life is evidenced by ongoing growth and development, and so is spiritual life. We must always be learning, changing, overcoming and serving to become more and more like Jesus Christ. For those spiritually dead or asleep, God’s Word says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and . . . [make] the most of the time” (Ephesians 5:14-16 Ephesians 5:14-16 14 Why he said, Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light. 15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
American King James Version×
, Revised Standard Version).

Don’t feel overwhelmed. God doesn’t expect giant leaps. What He is looking for is that our steps, no matter how small, are going forward and not backward. Don’t dwell on past mistakes or future worries. Focus on what you need to do today and thank God for each bit of progress (Philippians 3:12-14 Philippians 3:12-14 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brothers, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
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; Matthew 6:33-34 Matthew 6:33-34 33 But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.
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).

When we are first “baptized into Christ,” we are as “babes in Christ” (Galatians 3:27 Galatians 3:27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
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; 1 Corinthians 3:1 1 Corinthians 3:1And I, brothers, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as to carnal, even as to babes in Christ.
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). But we must not remain as spiritual babies. “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2 1 Peter 2:2As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby:
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, emphasis added throughout).

Christ didn’t say that following Him and thereby entering the Kingdom would be easy. He compared it to squeezing through a narrow gate, saying that few in this age would be able to do so (Luke 13:24 Luke 13:24Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say to you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
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). But what is most valuable deserves the highest price. Jesus compared God’s Kingdom to a treasure and a “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:44-46 Matthew 13:44-46 44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to treasure hid in a field; the which when a man has found, he hides, and for joy thereof goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
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). God’s Kingdom is worth any and every possible sacrifice (Luke 14:33 Luke 14:33So likewise, whoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.
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).

God doesn’t expect us to rely on our own human strength. He does expect us to work diligently as if success all depends on ourselves, but to pray regularly and earnestly, knowing that success will depend primarily and ultimately on Him (Philippians 2:12 Philippians 2:12Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
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; 2 Timothy 2:15 2 Timothy 2:15Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
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; Proverbs 3:5-6 Proverbs 3:5-6 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.
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).

Spiritual tools and weapons

Paul compared God’s “tools” or strategies for entering the Kingdom with armor and weapons, because anyone trying to be a follower of Christ is automatically involved in spiritual warfare with our archenemy, Satan the devil (Luke 10:19 Luke 10:19Behold, I give to you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
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; 2 Thessalonians 3:3 2 Thessalonians 3:3But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil.
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).

We are not defenseless if we are courageous and use God’s equipment. “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11 Ephesians 6:11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
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, New International Version). The next few verses list God’s protective armor.

Verse 17 defines the primary offensive weapon— “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”—which means our need to study, understand and live by God’s Word, the Bible. This is linked in the next verse with prayer.

God’s weapons and armor are mighty (2 Corinthians 10:4 2 Corinthians 10:4(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
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). The question is: Will we put on the armor and will we wield the weapons?

And will we use the spiritual tools that were explained in the previous articles in this series?

To recap the main points of this series, make your goal to pray and read your Bible, as well as meditate, every day. Just as we begin to feel weak when we miss meals, we begin to weaken spiritually when we miss a day of spiritual nourishment.

We need to fast occasionally for the reasons explained in the article on fasting. We need to sincerely repent toward God every time we realize we have been guilty of a sin. To receive God’s forgiveness and to come under His grace, we need to be baptized (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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). Then we can receive the gift of His Holy Spirit, which puts us into the Body of Christ, the Church (1 Corinthians 12:13 1 Corinthians 12:13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
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).

Then we need to be actively involved in the Church the rest of our lives—for the many benefits we receive and for the opportunities to serve God by serving His people.

We must grow to maturity

We mustn’t let up, but must keep growing! In Ephesians 4, Paul beautifully explains the purpose of God’s Church and its leaders: “To prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity . . . and become mature . . . Then we will no longer be infants . . . Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (verses 11-15, NIV).

Perhaps the best definition of spiritual maturity is the godly love described in “the love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13.

Kindle or rekindle your zeal

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he had reason to believe that Timothy’s zeal was cooling off, like a campfire starting to die out. Paul wrote, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6 2 Timothy 1:6Why I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands.
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). If your fire is dying, stir it up and fan it into flames!

When the author of the book of Hebrews, apparently Paul, wrote to the Jewish Christians who had been in God’s Church for many years, he knew that many of them had quit growing and had “become dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11 Hebrews 5:11Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull of hearing.
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). He said they were so immature spiritually that they still needed “milk, not solid food” (verse 12, RSV). He said, “Let us . . . go on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1 Hebrews 6:1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
American King James Version×
, RSV).

Finish the race

Paul compared the life of a believer with a race to win a valuable reward: “Run in such a way that you may obtain it [eternal life]” (1 Corinthians 9:24 1 Corinthians 9:24Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain.
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). He said, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me” (Acts 20:24 Acts 20:24But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear to myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
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, NIV).

Hebrews 12:1-2 Hebrews 12:1-2 1 Why seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
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tells us, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

It’s not enough to train for a big race. It’s not enough to start a race. What really counts is crossing the finish line. Ultimately, the only thing in this life that matters is crossing from mortal life to immortal life.

When Paul knew his “departure” was near, as he would soon be executed, he said: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8 2 Timothy 4:6-8 6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Let’s hope we can say the same thing at the end of our lives. We can if we use God’s tools for spiritual growth, are faithful to Him and keep growing! GN

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