It is spring and we see signs of growth all around us.
The crepe myrtle in the backyard is just now beginning to open with a promise of beautiful flowers in the near future.
Outside the bedroom window is the rosebush with the first rose of summer.
The azalea bush in the backyard astonishes us each year as it blooms with a plethora of gorgeous flowers in a glorious display of color.
There are other signs of growth, however, that are not part of the natural ebb and flow of nature. I am referring to cranes.
I’m not talking about birds — rather, I am referring to construction cranes.
Construction cranes seem to be ubiquitous in some communities. Everywhere you look, you can see a crane hovering over a building site.
While there are folks who will be inconvenienced by the construction indicated by the crane’s presence, a realistic view of the crane is that there is growth in the area. Someone is building something because of their confidence in the community that the investment will be rewarded based on the community’s growth, population, revenue, … all sorts of indicators that go into the decision for new construction.
In short, the presence of construction cranes are an indication of a healthy, growing community.
Growth is observable not just in plants and communities but also in human kind. It is easy to see the changes when the baby grows into the toddler, the toddler into the young child, the child into the teenager, the teenager into the adult, the adult into the senior citizen.
Changes in our physical growth are fairly easy to see. There should also be growth in our spiritual life as Christians, but sometimes that is harder to see!.
Paul made the distinction between infants and mature Christians when writing to the church at Corinth:
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 [ESV]
While not the only harbinger of immaturity, according to Paul, jealousy and strife between Christians are an indications of immaturity, and such actions reveal that the individual is still acting through the flesh and not following Christ. This type of behavior is allowing our human character to control – it is not an indication of control by the Holy Spirit.
The writer of Hebrews also talks about Christian maturity.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:12-14 [ESV]
According to these verses, the Christian who is mature in the Lord is one who has discernment that has been trained by the word of righteousness, that is Scripture or the Word of God. Further, the writer says that this discernment is trained by constant practice. While the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian and is available for illumination of the Scripture, the Christian must read and study the Word and must pay attention to the instruction of the Spirit. In other words, the Christian must work and practice to train their power of discernment. When this is done, the resulting discernment enables the Christian to distinguish between good and evil.
So, what are the indicators of growth in our Christian life? How do I know if I am growing from an infant into a mature Christian?
There are many indications of growth in our Lord, including obeying His commands and loving each other.
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Perhaps the best identification of virtues indicative of growth in our Christian life is the listing is found in Galatians 5:21-22 [ESV].
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
This is no ordinary fruit. While the words sound like things we talk about every day, the imprint of the Holy Spirit on the words takes them to an entirely different realm than that of our world. For example, the fruit of the Spirit of love is way more than casseroles and cards!
On Friday we will begin consideration of the fruit of the Spirit in a separate series on The Ruminant Scribe. In order for us to grow in Christ, we need to understand the work of the Spirit, and praise the Lord and our Almighty Father for the Spirit’s presence in our lives.
I pray that you will follow the Fruit of the Spirit Series and that it will be enlightening and encouraging to you in your Christian walk. Please leave your comments and thoughts about how the Spirit is speaking to you through His Word on this topic. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
We are called to grow in Christ – we are not to remain infants, we are to mature. May I not be satisfied with milk, but may I seek to obtain the meat of the Word.
Praise the Lord, oh my soul!
Father, Thank you for giving us your Spirit Who encourages, teaches and empowers us to grow toward the likeness of your Son. Thank you for loving us so much that you provide the Spirit to do that which we cannot do for ourselves, and thank you for sending the Lord Jesus Christ to take our sin upon Himself so that we could become children of God. Enable me to show forth your Spirit as I interact with people who you bring into my life.