Jesus was the master teacher. Against relentless and hostile opposition, and in spite of many who followed Him for all the wrong reasons, He spoke with wisdom and taught with skill. Among the methods He preferred to use, the parable was one of His favourites. By placing a familiar and simple word picture before His audience, Jesus was able to draw out profound analogies that have intrigued even the brightest minds for centuries.
Growing Up in God's Family
God's Word describes the body of believers as “brothers and sisters” and “co-heirs” with Jesus, and when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He began by saying, “Our Father.” Why?
We're a family in Christ. And like any family, God’s family is filled with people in all stages of spiritual development: newborn believers, those still adolescent in their walk, and the spiritually mature.
Join Chuck Swindoll in this series, Growing Up in God's Family, as he takes an in-depth look at the stages of growth that characterize the Christian walk.
There is one common analogy used throughout the New Testament regarding the local church. It is not a business, farm, team, school, or hospital, though those word pictures are frequently used by us to convey various dimensions of congregational life. The most often used analogy is that of a family. God is our Father; we are called His offspring—sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, even fellow heirs.
All who work with babies and bottles, toddlers and high chairs, building blocks and toy boxes enjoy one of the special delights life offers. Yet with all the thrills, there are also the threats unique to newborns. Being so tiny and dependent, their little lives often hang perilously close to danger and death. What is true of infant humans is equally true of infant believers in God's family.
Infancy is back-to-basics time! It is during that era that we set the cornerstone and fix in place the initial blocks, upon which we develop the balance of our lives, spiritually speaking. Because of the essential nature of these truths, it is helpful for us to return to them periodically and be reminded of their importance.
Few things are more foundational to a productive life than walking. That is not only true in the physical realm but especially so in the spiritual realm. However, the tragedy is apparent: many in God's family (dare we say most?) have little or no knowledge of the way to do it. Let's dispel the ignorance and remove confusion regarding the manner in which God's children are to walk.
There is a well-worn path stretching across every adult's life. It is impossible to grow up without travelling down that path. That path is the path of childhood. What is true physically is equally true spiritually. How essential is a healthy, happy childhood in the family of God…yet how rare!
Which “childish things” have no business lingering once we become mature? Believe it or not, God's expectation that we grow spiritually is firmly rooted in the Old Testament, where the prophets of old laid down a clear path for knowing God deeply.
One of the most remarkable eras in the history of the church occurred during the first century. Shortly after Christ had left the earth, His disciples (who became apostles) led congregations into new and exciting vistas of faith. Though young and relatively inexperienced, the believers who comprised the first-century church showed evident marks of maturity…the children were now growing into adolescence!
Although young in the faith, those Jerusalem believers demonstrated a commendable growth toward maturity. But this condition was not found throughout all congregations. As is true today, there were some who were old enough to be well on their way to maturity, but they preferred to remain immature and irresponsible…adolescents in adult bodies.
The more we study the “Peter Pan Syndrome,” the more we understand what we are dealing with. Although the name is new, the problem is old. In fact, we can trace its roots all the way back to the fall of man in the garden. As we shall see, not even the early church was free of this insidious problem.
If we are not careful we could easily get the impression that adolescence is a disease with headaches and heartaches, pressure and pain as its only symptoms. Not so! Adjustments and struggles may be present, but not to the exclusion of tremendous growth and remarkable achievements. These can be some of the most exciting years of one's spiritual pilgrimage.
Tough though it may be to admit it, most of us resist growing up. We say all the things that suggest otherwise, but in reality, we resist launching out into the ocean of adulthood. It seems only logical that we spend a little while analyzing why there is such a strong resistance within us to move on into the responsibilities and challenges of adulthood.
As we enter adulthood in our faith, one of the most significant realizations to dawn upon us is a healthy understanding of and appreciation for the church. Most go through real battles in coming to this conclusion. In this message, we want to come to terms with the role of the church, its importance in our lives, some of the major reasons for its effectiveness, and why Christ established it in the first place.
Although most of the stories revolving around David's experiences are fairly familiar to us today, this one may not be. Because it holds within it several truths that illustrate the marks of maturity in a believer's life, it seems fitting that we blow the dust off this ancient account and consider its value in our lives today. As we think it through and relive its scenes, let's not miss its message to we who are pressing on to maturity.
Out of the rich book of Psalms, we find an ancient hymn—a prayer, a passionate petition—in which David makes a series of requests and statements that reveal a level of maturity admired by all. For a few moments, read over and meditate on Psalm 26. Observe the composer's major theme as well as his unguarded admissions. See if you can discover for yourself the relevance of this melodic revelation.
Even though we can never say that we have “arrived,” there are some checkpoints by which we are able to measure our maturity. They are set forth in the first major section of Peter's second letter. Beginning with faith (2 Peter 1:5) and ending with love (1:7), you will find eight qualities, which deserve our most diligent effort.