Thursday, April 28, 2011

Five Principles of Spiritual Growth! Part 1

There are some who would prefer that a great majority if not all who are babes in Christ remain so in perpetuity. Those who would prefer this often have a vested interest, and most of the time it has to do with being able to feed a babe whatever you want to feed it. Even in the physical, I’m sure that if babies could talk they’d have a thing or two to say about the pureed carrots or string beans loving mothers around the world force down their children’s gullets every day. One can tell by the facial expression of the babies strapped into their high chairs, having nowhere to run, that the carrots and the beans wouldn’t have been their first pick if they’d had a choice.

The same goes for spiritual babes, even though they make the funny faces, they still consume whatever their preacher or pastor doles out week after week. A babe doesn’t put up much of a fight, it does not complain often, as yet has not been able to feed itself, and so does not realize that instead of graduating from the milk and pureed carrots to meat and solid foods, they have remained in a state of spiritual stasis for far longer than they ought to have.

What I fear is lacking in far too many lives is the desire to grow spiritually. Too many have resigned themselves to their present spiritual condition, sitting in the same high chair opening their mouths and waiting for someone to fill them with whatever they so choose.

If you have children of your own, or remember back to when you were a child, then you know that after a certain time has passed and the baby begins to grow their desire to mature seems to be all consuming. First they start to crawl, after a while they attempt to stand, a little while longer and they take their first step, they start reaching into your plate for a piece of chicken, throw a fit because they want to drink from the big boy cup, start saying they’re too big for diapers, and eventually that little bundle you held in your arms like it was the most fragile thing in the universe is off to their first day of school.

Whether desiring to grow physically or spiritually, effort, diligence and discipline on our part are absolutely necessary. This is also the first principle of spiritual growth: that one cannot grow absent these three things, effort, diligence and discipline. I realize nobody likes to put in the effort anymore, I realize the notion of discipline is reserved only for those in the armed forces, but this is our spiritual man we’re talking about, and yes, it is worth the effort, it is worth the diligence and it is worth the discipline.

Throughout the word of God, we see admonitions and encouragements to perceive this spiritual journey of ours as a race, one in which we are running not for a perishable crown, but for an imperishable crown. We are also encouraged by Peter, to be even more diligent to make our calling and election sure by adding to our faith virtue, to our virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. This is the recipe for spiritual growth, to build upon the foundation, to daily add to our constitution that we might mature, and go beyond the temporary phase of babe in Christ. Yes, spiritual infancy ought to be a temporary thing for us as believers, yet we readily accept its permanence in our lives.

The second principle of spiritual growth is that one cannot grow spiritually unless they have a true and consistent relationship with Christ. There can be no substitute for a relationship with Christ! No matter how many books you’ve read on spirituality, no matter how ‘spiritually aware’ you might think yourself to be, if you do not have a relationship with Jesus, then you can never grow beyond spiritual infancy.

John 15:1-7, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them up and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”

I realize it goes against our spirit of independence and individuality, but as a friend of mine is fond of saying, ‘the truth be the truth.’ We are dependent on Christ, He is the giver of spiritual life, and absent Jesus we cannot bear fruit. Now if we are fruitless, because we do not abide in Christ, then we become a withered branch which gets gathered up and thrown into the fire. In Christ, we grow, we mature, and we become fruitful. Absent Christ we are nothing more than kindling for the fire, a withered branch a dead thing waiting to be gathered up, destined to do nothing more than feed a flame.

Jesus also said something else that I must point out, the fact that there can be branches that are in Him, that do not bear fruit. The vinedresser takes away every branch in Him that does not bear fruit. This is why it is vitally important for us as individuals to mature spiritually that we might bear fruit. No one expects a young tree, barely planted to produce any fruit, but if you give it a few years, and its roots are deep, and its trunk is thick and it still produces no fruit, then there’s a problem. ‘Every branch that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.’

Being pruned is never fun, nevertheless God does it that we might bear even more fruit. Pruning by its definition is the cutting away of dead or overgrown branches or stems, but the vinedresser does it for a good reason. We are continually growing and maturing in God, and once we’ve borne fruit, we are pruned that we may bear more. It is the way of our spiritual journey, wherein God is constantly cutting away those things that keep us from producing to our full capacity, and when He does this all we can do is submit to His pruning shears.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

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