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Episode 12 of Kindavangelical just released! The Art and Joy of Civil Conversation

Spiritual Growth

Are you an infant or a senior citizen? Something in-between? God calls us as believers to move from infancy into adulthood. But why do so many of us stay infants?  In this 5-day reading plan, Pete Briscoe challenges us to move on from the milk of infancy and to feast on the real meat of Spiritual maturity.

Day 1

How old are you Spiritually?

Over the span of a decade, kids transition from learning their ABCs to solving for ax = b. Truly, growth and maturity are marked by increased understanding. We know this truth instinctively; it’s the reason we don’t give kindergartners a hug and tell them, “Congratulations! Instead of first grade, we’re going to send you to college, honey.”

Can you imagine a six or 7-year-old navigating the enrollment process at a university? How about walking to that first chemistry class with a huge textbook in tow? And when the rush week came…Whew! That child would be longing for home, wondering what to do.

None of us have sent a 6-year-old to college, but some of us recently sent 18-year-olds. Let me ask: What age were they spiritually when they left for the university? Was your son or daughter a spiritual 6-year-old in an 18-year-old’s body?

When we’re young, we’re immature. We’re vulnerable. We can easily be led astray. It’s not an insult but rather a natural starting point for growth and maturity.

The author of Hebrews was acutely aware of the risk for those who are vulnerable. As he interacted with these churches and home churches—conversing about faith in Christ—he came to a conclusion: too many of them were immature. It was time to grow! If they didn’t grow, how would they continue to resist the invitations of family and friends to return to Judaism?

So the author calls out the issue in Hebrews 5:13-14,

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

In other words: learn to eat! Come to the feast that will grow and strengthen you – a feast of understanding and deepening of faith. Eat of this, and you’ll no longer be vulnerable.

The call to feast can be extended to us today. But how do we know if we’re still drinking spiritual milk or if we’ve moved on to the meat of faith? How do we know if we’re vulnerable or standing firm?

Father, how good it is to be Your child! You love me through immaturity to maturity, through vulnerable to strong. If I’ve been drinking the milk of a young faith, wean me. I’m ready for more. Amen.

Day 2

How can you pause growth? 

What if we could just push the pause button on growth? Would you choose to stay 16 forever? How about 39? Would you press pause at 60?

Aging is a grace we can’t stop. But maturity? Maturity is a different story. We can continue to live and behave with the same understanding at 40 that we had at 14. It’s awkward for those watching us, but we can do it.

This pause button is available in our spiritual lives too. Think back to when you became a believer—perhaps it was while you were in college. During that time, you probably dove into God’s Word and really grew. But after graduation, it’s likely that your career, marriage, and family seemed to consume more hours than the day held. Somewhere on your journey, you pushed the pause button on spiritual growth. There were those four solid years during college, but not much growth since then—which means you’re about a 4-year-old spiritually.

Perhaps you’ve pushed the pause button on spiritual growth at various times during your life. Depending on the various demands for your time and emotional resources, you’ve turned spiritual growth on and off like a switch. And if we were to combine all of the “on” years, you’d be about 12, give or take a year.

No wonder life can be so difficult! How can a 4-year-old navigate the world of business? How is a 12-year-old supposed to manage retirement from life’s work? Acknowledging our spiritual age enables us to realize just how vulnerable we are.

The author of Hebrews feels the agony of arrested development. But there is good news: He also gives us a standard of measurement regarding growth and maturity.

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. (Hebrews 5:13)

Is there much to be understood in our life in Christ? Yes. Definitely. Will it require a higher level of maturity to enter that understanding? Yes. Definitely.

And you’re ready for those deeper things if you understand the New Testament teaching on righteousness.

Lord, as I reflect upon our journey together, help me recall the times I’ve pressed that pause button on spiritual growth. More than that, duct tape the “resume” button for me, so it remains on! I invite Your Spirit to wean me from milk and introduce me to the meat of righteousness. Amen.

Day 3

Do you prefer milk or meat?

By design, our bodies cannot survive solely on liquids, no matter how many vitamins or minerals are present. Think about it: the body can survive on water alone for days until the metabolic processes start shutting down. Infants benefit from an exclusive diet of human milk, but there comes an age when human milk is no longer enough to sustain growth. Something more is needed.

We are designed for solid food. In fact, I’d even say that solid food becomes a gift to our human palate.

The same is true spiritually: When we first come to Christ, we are infants. Our first days and months with Christ are packed full of faith-filled nutrients. But there is more waiting for us. The Spirit desires to feed us meat—a greater understanding of who Jesus is and what’s to come. But the move from milk toward meat requires our willingness.

How does the author describe meat? “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness” (Hebrews 5:13).

“The teaching about righteousness” is the meat. Jesus invested much of His time teaching about a new righteousness. One of His parables speaks of two men—a Pharisee and a tax collector—who went to the temple to pray.

“The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people… I fast twice a week and I give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (Luke 18:11-13)

Jesus called the second man righteous. To a culture that esteemed self-made righteousness, Jesus said no more. From now on, righteousness came from God through Jesus; it was a gift to all who believe.

Are you a milk drinker or a meat eater? If you believe you can earn God’s favor by what you do, you’re sipping 2 percent milk.

But, if you recognize and live in the beautiful truth that Christ replaces your sin with His righteousness, then you’ve turned into a spiritual carnivore.

Jesus, what is my approach to righteousness? Do I follow a list of rules or surrender to the gift? Rid me of performance and open my eyes to grace. Show me the many ways I please You just by being Yours. Amen.

Day 4

Elementary graduation

A child who experiences trauma or loss often faces developmental challenges. As stress enters her life, large levels of cortisol affect her cognitive abilities. It’s as though the pause button is pressed on mental development, so her body can focus on emotional survival.

Something similar can happen to us spiritually. We can be growing and developing in our faith and understanding of Christ, but then our growth stops as we try to deal with life. We were growing spiritually, but now we’re not because we’re just trying to survive. These are spiritual development delays.

Hebrews 5:12 says, “Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.”

The author isn’t giving us a guilt trip, saying we should all be preachers or teachers already. Instead, the Church is reminded that it’s time to help others understand Jesus. But they aren’t ready.

Elementary truths can be translated as “first principles.” Essentially, the author is saying, “You should be teaching others, but you need to learn the ABCs again.”

While the ABCs are important, they’re supposed to be a tool for greater things! When writing a paper, we don’t think about what letter comes before F or after J. As we mature, we take the ABCs for granted. Do we stand resolutely upon them? Yes! But we don’t think about them.

This is how we’re to interact with what we first learned about Christ. When the Gospel was first given to us, we learned about sin, the need for a Savior, the gift of forgiveness, and the promised indwelling of the Spirit. But if 15 years later, that’s still all that we know, then we’ve been drinking milk for far too long. Am I saying you should leave the essence of the Gospel? Never. But I am asking you to stand on it and move forward.

Jesus, I am equipped and ready for what’s next, but did I know this before? Perhaps I mistook the adventure of faith as being for others but not for me. Today, I accept the invitation! Lead me into opportunities to teach others the ABCs of faith. Amen.

Day 5

Taken forward into Jesus

If you’ve talked with a college senior recently, chances are you’ve asked the following question: “What field are you going into?”

And the answer is usually something like, “I’m going into medicine,” or “I’m going into communications… law… education.”

As believers, we could ask ourselves the same question and respond by saying something like, “I’m going into Christ.” It’s a statement of expectation as we dedicate our lives to Him. But how exactly do we “graduate” into maturity? Is it like a degree, where we work and work to gain understanding? Or is there something more available to those of us in Christ?

“Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…” (Hebrews 6:1)

The phrase be taken forward to maturity isn’t in the active voice, but the passive. Moving forward to maturity is the work of the Holy Spirit. He carries us to maturity in Christ. Isn’t that incredible? This verse isn’t like someone’s wagging a finger at us, saying, “Grow up, now!” Rather, these verses are a collective invitation for us. We can all grow together. How? The Spirit of Christ carries us forward.

So if you want to grow in Christ, go into Christ.

  • Keep your eyes on Him and learn all you can. Fill your studies with Christ. If you want to go into the Old Testament, great! There’s much richness and explanation of New Testament culture to be found there. But don’t settle in the Law. The Old Testament is merely a precursor of the redemptive work of Jesus. Move forward into Christ.
  • Listen to sermons that are solid food, not skim milk. How can you tell the difference? Simple: Is the sermon taking you into Christ or not? We can hear a message and think one of two thoughts afterward: Wow! What an amazing preacher! Or Wow! What an amazing Savior!

If you want to grow, go into Christ.

Jesus, there is no place like You. You are my home, my nourishment, my strength. Carry me. Grow me. Teach me. Lead me into a rich community with others with whom You are maturing as well. What a Savior You are! Amen.

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