“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2 NKJV).
Growing up steadily in all things into Christ is not optional but mandatory for all the believers. Every one born into God’s family is predestined by God to grow up steadily and healthily until he reaches the full measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Paul clearly states this truth in Romans 8:
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (NKJV).
The Scripture reveals that one of the primary purposes why God has set up men as spiritual leaders in the Church is for our spiritual growth – “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” (Eph. 4:14-15 NKJV).
It is however disheartening that majority of the people today who claim to be Christians and attend church services dutifully are still spiritually immature, fearful, carnal, sensual, selfish, shallow in spiritual understanding, and unstable in the faith – always been tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, and always drifting from one church to another and from one prophet to another.
More than ever before in the history of the Church, we now have many gifted, anointed, and charismatic church leaders. Nevertheless, many of the people who regularly fellowship in our churches and are under the tutelage of these great leaders remain spiritual babes.
Something is definitely wrong somewhere!
But what on earth could it be?
In the first part of this piece we began to explore some possible causes of spiritual retardation in today’s Church.
First, we noted that it could be that the majority of the people in our churches are not genuinely born again, though they may assume or claim to be.
Without being born again of the Spirit and the Word of God, it is absolutely impossible to have the seed of God or the divine potential to grow up into Christ (1 John 3:9).
Second, we also noted that many believers are not growing spiritually because they assume that spiritual growth is automatic or that it comes with time. It certainly requires efforts on our part if we desire to mature in the faith and be conformed to Christ in all aspects.
Let us further explore more causes of spiritual retardation or hindrances to spiritual growth.
Third, many believers in our churches today are not growing up steadily into Christ because of the shift in the primary goal, purpose and pursuit of our church leaders.
Church leaders certainly wield a great influence over the people of God. If the pastor’s ultimate purpose and pursuit is the spiritual growth and transformation of the believers under his authority into Christlikeness, the believers under his influence also will undoubtedly desire and pursue spiritual growth above anything else.
It is however sad but true that many of our church leaders today are primarily concerned about the numerical and financial growth of their church, not about the spiritual growth of the believers under them.
It is so unfortunate that many ministers of God today, who would gladly pray and fast for a great influx or increase of people and finances into their church, hardly care about seeing the people saved, changed or transformed progressively into Christ’s image or likeness as long as the people still keep coming and gathering to them.
The Scripture testifies that the early apostles were primarily concerned about the spiritual growth of the believers under their care. Paul and his team were always labouring in prayers for the spiritual growth and transformation of their converts (Col. 1:9-10, 4:12).
We see Paul’s passionate desire for believers in Galatians 4:
19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, (NKJV).
Paul’s team shared same passion or burden with him.
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;
12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. (NKJV).
Undoubtedly, our church leaders today need to re-prioritize their prayer lists and teaching subjects. Spiritual growth and transformation of the believers should always be the main focus or subject of their prayers and teachings.
Lastly, many believers today are no longer advancing in the faith and growing into Christ because they consider themselves to be ahead, better, or more spiritual or mature than other believers around them. How mistaken they are!
Unhealthy spiritual comparison is one of the major causes of spiritual retardation among the believers today. It is unwise to compare, judge or measure your spiritual growth by the life and character of anyone else except that of Christ (2 Cor. 10:12).
While there is nothing wrong to have a spiritual mentor, leader, or a discipler whose love for God, godly lifestyle, faith, and labours and sacrifices for God’s kingdom you can emulate, you must however be careful not to set any man regardless of his spiritual level or maturity as your perfect or ultimate standard and model of spirituality or maturity (Heb. 10:24).
Beyond mortal men or human leaders in the Church, we must always be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2 NKJV).
Beloved, don’t fall into the subtle trap of judging or evaluating your spiritual life or growth by your spiritual charisma or gifting, your church numerical or financial growth, or by your material prosperity, career advancement, educational attainment, financial success, or exploits in life and ministry.
When you are not judging or evaluating your life and character by Christ, you are certainly using a wrong or an imperfect spiritual standard or measurement for growth.
Friend, your spiritual growth is your personal responsibility which you cannot shirk for another, not even for your pastor or mentor (Philip. 3:13-14).
Therefore, even if your pastor fails to pay any close attention to your spiritual growth and development, you must take it upon yourself to grow into Christ consistently, steadily, or progressively by renewing your mind through diligent and regular intake of God’s Word, communion with God in prayer, and yielding to God’s Spirit.
Moreover, your glorious transformation into the image or likeness of Christ is progressive and continuous. It is a lifetime process. You are expected to continue to grow up in all things into Christ until when Christ is fully revealed to you at His second return and you see Him as He is.
Paul admonishes you in Colossians 3:
1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (NKJV).
John also admonishes us in 1 John 3:
2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (NKJV).
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, I declare today that my ultimate goal and pursuit in life is to grow up in all things into Christ. Help me Holy Spirit to relentlessly pursue this goal and also to influence other believers around me to pursue the same goal, in Jesus’ name. Amen.