When we are children, our bodies physically grow, pretty much automatically. But growth does not happen in the same way spiritually. Spiritual growth isn't automatic with age, it is intentional. So, how do we intentionally grow ourselves? And how do I know where I am at in my spiritual maturity?
John answered many of these questions in 1 John 2 when he addressed his readers in three distinct categories. He addressed them as "children," "young men," and "fathers." It makes sense that he would compare our spiritual maturity to our natural maturing and there are definite characteristics of each age bracket that can cross over from our physical growth to our spiritual growth. To read some of these comparisons check out my last blog "How to Define Spiritual Maturity."
Although there are definite similarities in the process of our physical maturity and spiritual maturity, there are also some very big differences. The biggest difference is that our spiritual growth does not just happen with age, it will be sped up or slowed down based on our ability to face the battles at each level. Let me explain.
Once we become "born again" by confessing Jesus as God, we enter the "little children" stage according to 1 John 2. At this stage, John explains that our biggest battle is the battle over sin. We are all sinful people and fall short of God's standards, but once we accept Jesus as Lord of our lives, we become "saved" from our sinful nature and forgiven of all of our wrong doings. This is God's free gift to us, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. But there is a big difference from being saved and being free. Salvation, according to the Bible is immediate and automatic. Freedom, however, is a process.
According to the Apostle Paul, this freedom happens through the "renewing of our mind" (Romans 12:2). According to Jesus it is "knowing the truth" that will make us free. We must learn how to think differently. See as God sees and do as God instructs us to do. Some people have received an immediate miracle of freedom from an addiction when they were saved, but most of us had to go through a lengthy process battling against our sin natures to begin living as the Bible instructs Christians to live. This struggle is normal. In fact it is so normal that the Apostle Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament, penned these words when he was battling his own sin nature in Romans 7.
For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
Do these words sound familiar? Could you have written these exact frustrations? I know his words sound a lot like my own. Paul does a great job of capturing the frustration of this battle against sin. So how do we win this fight?
John gives us a hint in 1 John 2 when he describes the next level of maturity he calls "young men." Look at what he says in verse 14,
"I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one."
Their strength to overcome came from the Word. In other words, once they studied the Bible and deposited it into their hearts, they became strong enough to overcome.
Look at what King David said in Psalm 119:11, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."
David says it! If you get the Word into your heart, you will win against sin! This is the secret that will help you overcome and move to the next level of maturity.
In my next article I will look at how we can specifically use the Word to overcome temptation and therefore gain our freedom!
Question: On average, how often do you read the Bible in a week (not including Sunday morning at church)? Please leave your comments below in the "Leave a Reply" box.