In the next few weeks, the subject of our Wednesday evening services will be growth in the Christian life. Last week’s article concerned sanctification which is the name for this doctrine. Every Christian no matter his physical age begins his new life in Christ as a baby. We are born again through the operation of the Holy Spirit, and at that moment we are new to the faith, new to the kingdom, and new in understanding. Paul said we are a new creation in Christ. Our former lives have passed away, and the born again baby wakes up to a new world (2 Cor. 5:17). His desires are changed, his friends will change; his view of self and of the world has changed. The new Christian immediately begins to wrestle with all these differences while at the same time he is under attack by Satan to compromise and mitigate the effects of those differences.
It is at this point the new Christian is most vulnerable. Since his understanding of the new life is minimal, he is easily susceptible to false doctrine. Like a young child, he is impressionable and trusting of anyone that carries a Bible and purports to speak for God. This is the earliest stage of his sanctification. The foundation of faith that he receives at this point may indeed shape him for the rest of his Christian life. If he is bound by false teachings or even lack of teaching in this early stage, his growth will be seriously stunted. This is truly a problem since it is very hard to find churches that care much at all about doctrine. Some do preach truth but the scope of truth is limited.
Some years ago I had two men from a local Baptist church come to my door to invite me to church. One of the men was a deacon and I was thrilled these two had come to see me. They were vocal and unintimidated in their faith, which I found to be very refreshing. I looked forward to sitting with them for a few minutes to discuss the Bible. While I commended these men for their zeal, I soon learned discussing the Bible with them was not much of an option. They knew very little about scripture. This was understandable if they were novices and new to the faith. However, as I stated, one of these men was a deacon and had been approved by the church for his position.
It is easy to think we are mature if the standard we measure by is less than what it should be. According to Paul, the first step of maturity in the faith is a doctrinal one (Eph. 4:14-15). We must be grounded and settled in the Word of God in order to grow. We begin with the simpler doctrines of the Word; we feed on these, and when they are mastered we add more substantial doctrine course by course. In this way, we move on from infancy to adulthood.
The responsibility of feeding the children of God rests with ministers (Acts 20:28; Eph. 4:11-12). The responsibility of eating is yours. The pastor prepares the spiritual food for you each week, but you must be present to partake. If you absent yourself from the teaching of the Word, the sanctifying process is slowed to a crawl. For this reason, many Christians that should have grown up long ago are still spiritual babies.
Our Wednesday night series will deal with these issues. I hope you will make an effort to attend. Your growth depends on it!
Pastor V. Mark Smith