John says in his first epistle:
"I am writing to you, fathers, seeing that you know Him Who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, youths, seeing that you have conquered the wicked one. I write to you, little children, seeing that you know the Father." (1 John 2:13)
The fathers represent those who now know Him Who is from the beginning. They have come into maturity of the things of God. They have put the time in the word and in prayer seeking the mind of the Lord. Not that they know all there is to know, but their faith is secure in the knowledge of the Lord, they can discern truth from error.
The youths represent those who are also seeking the truths of God, they are coming to maturity, the cares of the world are slowly being replaced by celestial wonders. They have conquered the wicked one who would try their faith, hoping to pry them away from the One Who has set them apart, and has failed, because He Who is in them is stronger then he who is in the world.
The little children represent those who have begun their journey into a realization of their Saviour. They now know the Father, they are babes in Christ.
All three represent three different levels of understanding the things of God. All three know the Father, yet all three understand the word of God on a different level.
The children are more apt to see Him in the word as they would see an earthly Father, one who gets angry and often punishes when they do wrong, and rewards when they do right.
The youths are coming into their own, they are maturing, they see Him as One they can come to and share the things they have experienced in Him, and in life, asking and seeking His will for them, knowing He is the rewarder of those who seek Him.
The fathers know Him; they speak with Him as one would speak to an old friend, One who has known them their entire lives. One Who knows all their shortcomings, all their inner thoughts, their triumphs as well as their failures, and has stood by them and has carried them through every trial that has fallen on them during their lives, and has rejoiced in their triumphs as they overcome daily troubles.
All three levels are what it takes for us to know Him. One could say there is a literal understanding of Him in His word, a figurative understanding of Him in His word, and a spiritual understanding of Him in His word.
All three are necessary on our journey to know Him, as He unveils more of Himself to us.
As John said to us; there are three levels of understanding, the first is as children.
As children we are being shown the rudimentary things concerning God, by that I mean we tend to see things on a surface level. One might see their salvation as something they have had a part in: "they" accepted Jesus as "their" Saviour. As they mine deeper in the word of God they will come to see that He was the One Who saved them, without any interference from them. Later on in their journey they will come across others who are also saved, who will tell them their account of how the Lord saved them, all the while believing that this salvation is only for those who at present God has saved, the BIG picture; that He is the Saviour of all has yet to be revealed to them. They only believe what their eyes see at present.
"And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual, but as to fleshy, as to minors in Christ. Milk I give you to drink, not solid food, for not as yet were you able. Nay, still, not even now are you able, for you are still fleshly." (1 Corinthians 3:1-2)
These believers can not as yet see beyond what their own eyes see, the deeper (spiritual) things of God have yet to be unveiled in their hearts. Paul told them as believers we all have the mind of Christ (2:16), and with that mind there are much deeper truths yet to be revealed, but at present he is unable to give them anything deeper than that which satisfied their flesh. He tells them:
"Milk I give you to drink, not solid food, for not as yet were you able."
As these believers (children) mature they will be able to realize deeper truths, not just what they see on the surface, they will be able to take solid nourishment from the word. Milk passes through the system, it only satisfies for a short period of time, solid food sustains, it gets slowly digested, feeding the body, nourishing the body. As we begin to mature the milk of the word (the beginning of knowledge) soon is replaced by the solid food (the deeper truths) which are able to bring us into a far deeper understanding of God.
As we journey onward we are told: "Wherefore, leaving the word dealing with the rudiments of Christ, we should be brought on to maturity." (Hebrews 6:1) The first level of understanding God and His word, although a necessary part of our journey has to be left behind as we move onto maturity in Christ.
CHRIST FORMING IN YOU.
Paul told the Galatian church:
"Little children mine, with whom I am travailing again until Christ may be formed in you!" (Galatians 4:19)
Paul tells us what is his expectation as all mature in Christ, that He may be formed in us. That this is not accomplished by religious obedience can be understood by reading the epistle to the Galatians. This will happen when all ties to what "we" can do are severed, because it is not about us, it is about Him. He is the One Who is working in us, He is the One Who is forming us into Him (His body). As we sever all ties with our flesh, and fleshly rituals, He will begin to release Christ in us (Galatians 1:16). Obedience to religious laws and practices have no place in His working in us. Paul clarifies this in Colossians 3:9-10:
"Stripping off the old humanity together with its practices, and putting on the young, which is being renewed into recognition, to accord with the Image of the One Who creates it."
The old humanity is the disguise we all wore before we came into a realization of Christ being formed in us. To some it was the mask of religion, to others the practices of those not knowing of God, both are equally harmful to any realization of Christ being formed in us, although the mask of religion is the hardest to remove, because it is the one that pretends to be closer to God, as it is the one that makes all feel they are worthy of God. Paul knew this when he wrote those words above to the Colossians, and his words are as relevant today as they were then.
We have to get out of the way to see that it is Christ Who is working in us. Paul tells us: "and to all the riches of the assurance of understanding, unto a realization of the secret of the God and Father, of Christ, in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are concealed." (Colossians 2:2-3) Once this has been understood, that in Christ all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are concealed, then we go from being children and move onto adulthood, we begin to mature in the Lord. The next level of understanding can begin. It has to be remembered that although as children we make many false assumptions concerning the truths of God and Christ, these are necessary steps as we are being formed in Him. Often times we learn error before we come to realize truth.
We are not to be discouraged when we begin to realize that what we once thought was fact turns out to be hearsay, it is all part of coming into a realization of Christ being formed in us, He is the One who is opening our hearts to Him, and discarding "our" thoughts about Him.
"When I was a minor, I spoke as a minor, I was disposed as a minor, I took account of things as a minor. Yet when I have become a man, I have discarded that which is a minor's." (1 Corinthians 13:11)
Paul isn't writing about putting away his toys as a child and growing up into a man. He is writing about the first things he learned about God, the beginning of his walk with the Lord, the things he now had to discard to move on to maturity. The verses surrounding this verse tell us this:
"For out of an installment are we knowing, and out of an installment are we prophesying. Now whenever maturity may be coming, that which is out of an installment shall be discarded. When I was a minor, I spoke as a minor, I was disposed as a minor, I took account of things as a minor. Yet when I have become a man, I have discarded that which is a minor's. For at present we are observing by means of a mirror, in an enigma, yet then, face to face. At present I know out of an installment, yet then I shall recognize according as I am recognized also."
This is how we grow in knowledge, by installments, not all at once. As with life we don't wake up one morning and go from a child to an adult, although many believe when we reach a certain age we are considered adults, and in the eyes of our legal system we are, but we can still be child like (think and reason like a child) long into what is called adulthood. The same is true for the believer as he/she moves onto maturity, it does not come over night, it is a long journey with God revealing what we are capable of understanding, as well as giving us the knowledge to discard those things that keep us from growing in Him.
If we don't learn this simple lesson we stagnate, we stay as little children in the Lord, and in the knowledge of the Lord. Paul in Hebrews says:
"For when also, because of the time, you ought to be teachers, you have need again of one to teach you what are the rudimentary elements of the oracles of God, and you have come to have need of milk, and not of solid nourishment. For everyone who is partaking of milk is untried in the word of righteousness, for he is a minor. Now solid nourishment is for the mature, who, because of habit, have faculties exercised for discriminating between the ideal and the evil." (Hebrews 5:12-14)
Not that the word is evil, but much of what is passed off from humans as the word is. The maturing believer will be able to distinguish between the idle and the evil because they have been weaned off of milk and are now partaking of solid nourishment. This is the process God uses to bring us into maturity.
Those who are mature in the Lord will be as Paul who tells us: "admonishing every human and teaching every human in all wisdom, that we should be presenting every human mature in Christ Jesus; for which I am toiling also, struggling in accord with His operation, which is operating in me with power." (Colossians 1:28-29)
The mature in the Lord are to be the ones who will be admonishing every human, and teaching every human in all wisdom of the Lord, by His power that is operating in us.
As a mature believer Paul tells us that our one goal is ahead of us, and that goal is what we are to be pursuing, he wrote:
"Brethren, not as yet am I reckoning myself to have grasped, yet one thing -- forgetting, indeed, those things which are behind, yet stretching out to those in front -- toward the goal am I pursuing for the prize of God's calling above in Christ Jesus. Whoever, then, are mature, may be disposed to this, and if in anything you are differently disposed, this also shall God reveal to you." (Philippians 3:13-15)
In order for us to reach the goal of the higher calling we must forget those things behind us that we first learned as children (babes) in Christ. By forgetting them Paul does not mean you block them out of your memory, he means don't stay there, move forward in your journey. Paul likens it to a race, and only the one trained to run and endure knows he/she never looks back to see how far they have come, they always look ahead to the finish line. An immature runner would look back; a mature runner would only look forward. Paul says that if there is anything back there that we feel we must hold onto, something that holds us back, God will reveal it to us, giving us the knowledge to leave it where it belongs : "that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God" (Colossians 4:12), so that: "unto the end that we should all attain to the unity of the faith and of the realization of the son of God, to a mature human, to the measure of the stature of the complement of the Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).
There are many steps to be taken on our journey to maturity in the Lord, and every one of them is ordained by Him (Psalm 37:23) as we reach forward into a mature believer in Christ.
NECESSARY STEPS TO MATURITY.
As was said yesterday, there are many steps that are taken to bring us to maturity. Scripture study is only one of them, communication with other believers is another, prayer and meditation with the Lord is another, helping those who need help is also another, going through trials would also be another, times of suffering is also a step to maturity, success and failure help bring us to maturity, and there are probably many more steps that are necessary to bring us to maturity in the Lord.
God will see to it that all these necessary steps bring us to maturity in Him. He will not only give us one or two of these necessary steps, all of them will come to us on our steps to maturity.
The religious world is filled with teachers telling their congregations that if they are suffering they don't have God's favor, if they have lost all their earthly possessions they don't have God's favor, if they are going through countless trials, or just can't seem to make ends meet they are without God's favor. The truth is, all these trials and sufferings, good times and bad times, reveal to us we are more than favored, we are being groomed into a mature person, a son/daughter of God. No one can be complete unless they have undergone trials, and sufferings, hardships, losses, as well as good times, and prosperity.
James says: "All joy deem it, my brethren, whenever you should be falling into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith is producing endurance. Now let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and unimpaired, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4).
To be lacking innothing is to have all you need, with that knowledge you mature, you become focused on things above where Christ sits, not on this so called God's favor that causes you to look at what you have or don't have, turning you into a child who only wants what he/she sees, and not what you are; a believer, who God loves and is using every experience in your life, and every step you take, as necessary to bring you to maturity in Him.
Paul tells us we are Christ's achievement (Ephesians 2:10), and our lives are hidden in Him (Colossians 3:3), so it stands to reason that He is the One bringing us into maturity using what would seem to be the most insignificant moments in our lives as well as the most dramatic moments in our lives, it is an ongoing process until we reach our full stature.
We read in Ephesians what that full stature is: "unto the end that we should all attain to the unity of the faith and of the realization of the son of God, to a mature (hu)man, to the measure of the stature of the complement of the Christ." (Ephesians 4:13)
When full maturity comes we shall be like Him. Contraire to popular theology, we are not going to be sub-members of His body, we are going to be co-laborers with Him, this can only be true because He is said to dwell in us (Ephesians 3:17), and we are hidden in Him (Colossians 3:3). We are to have this mindset: "For let this disposition be in you, which is in Christ Jesus also, Who, being inherently in the form of God, deems it not pillaging to be equal with God." (Philippians 2:5-6)
We will be equal in purpose, as Christ is equal in purpose with His Father. We are not robbing Christ of His glory, we will be the fulfillment of His glory, we will recognize all there is in Christ as Paul tells us: "yet then I shall recognize according as I am recognized also." (1 Corinthians 13:12). As Christ now knows us, we will know Him. We will be as Paul says in Romans 8:17: "enjoyers also of an allotment, enjoyers, indeed, of an allotment from God, yet joint enjoyers of Christ's allotment, if so be that we are suffering together, that we should be glorified together also."
This is the goal of maturity in Christ; we will have the stature of Christ, be equal with Him, know Him as He knows us, and be joint enjoyers of His allotment. All the steps we will take to maturity are ordained by Him, and all of them will lead us into full maturity in Christ.
MATURITY DOES NOT SAVE ANYONE.
Some teach, and I assume believe, that we are saved by knowledge. That being the more you know about God the closer to God you will be, the less you know about God the further away from God you will be. We are not saved by knowledge, or works, or because we are good people, or are deserving in any way of His salvation; we are saved by grace.....period. What we know about God or what we do not know has no bearing on our salvation. But, when we begin to understand just what grace is, and what Christ has done we will enter into His peace, and put off the practices of the world as well as religion.
Some will remain immature their whole walk with God. Paul tells us who are maturing in the Lord to: "the infirm in the faith be taking to yourselves, but not for discrimination of reasonings" (Romans 14:1). Never are immature believers to be seen as weak in Christ' body, they are all part of the body of Christ, known by God.
All in the Lord have knowledge: "We are aware that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, yet love builds up. If anyone is presuming to know anything, he knew not as yet according as he must know. Now if anyone is loving God, this one is known by Him"
(1 Corinthians 8:1-3).
This knowledge in the Lord is of no value if there is no love. Those who seem to be weakest and most ignorant of the things of God can be the most loving of all believers, and the ones with all knowledge can be the most hardest of believers. Neither is above the other in Christ, yet only one is practicing the greatest precept of God, love (John 13:34-15).
So, although knowledge of the things of God is very good, and endeavoring to present ourselves approved of God, a worker, correctly cutting the word of truth, is of much benefit in knowing God and brings us into maturity of the things of God, love is superior to all, as love reveals God in us, from the most immature believer, to the mature believer, because without love we won't know God (1 John 4:7-8).
ALL PARTS ARE NECESSARY.
Just as all parts of our body have a part in our daily lives, so to do all members of Christ's body in our journey to maturity. If someone feels inferior, or superior in their place in Christ's body, it is not the Lord who put that thought in their minds.
Paul tells us:
"For even as the body is one and has many members, yet all the members of the one body, being many, are one body, thus also is the Christ. For in one spirit also we all are baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and all are made to imbibe one spirit. For the body also is not one member, but many. If the foot should be saying, "Seeing that I am not a hand, I am not of the body," not for this is it not of the body. And if the ear should be saying, "Seeing that I am not an eye, I am not of the body" not for this is it not of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where the scent? Yet now God placed the members, each one of them, in the body according as He wills. Now if it were all one member, where were the body? Yet now there are, indeed, many members, yet one body." (1 Corinthians 12:12-20)
We are all the parts of the body of Christ, from the seemingly most immature (weakest) to the seemingly most mature; all have their function in His body. None is over the other; all are for the upbuilding of one another.
Again Paul makes this clear, from Ephesians 4:15-16: "Now, being true, in love we should be making all grow into Him, Who is the Head -- Christ -- out of Whom the entire body, being articulated together and united through every assimilation of the supply, in accord with the operation in measure of each one's part, is making for the growth of the body, for the upbuilding of itself in love."
Each part of His body (us) has a part in each others part for the growth of His body (us).
No one should ever be made to feel inferior, no one should ever be put on a pedestal, Christ would not place any of us in a higher or lower position in His body. There are places of higher responsibility in the future reign, but in His body we are all one, and all are necessary for our growth.
THE MASTER GROWER.
As was said yesterday we are all necessary to one another for our growth in the body of Christ, Paul says: "I plant, Apollos irrigates, but God makes it grow up" (1 Corinthians 3:6). Paul then goes onto say: "So that, neither is he who is planting anything, nor he who is irrigating, but God Who makes it grow up." (3:7)
We all have our parts, but it is God, and only God, that makes us grow, not the teachers, not the pastors, not the evangelists, only God.
God is the One Who places these others from Christ's body in our lives to cultivate our hearts and minds. Paul calls us God's farm, God's building, and we are God's fellow workers (1 Corinthians 3:9), and He is the Master Grower and Builder.
Paul says that we: "are fellow-citizens of the saints and belong to God's family, being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, the capstone of the corner being Christ Jesus Himself, in Whom the entire building, being connected together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord: in Whom you, also, are being built together for God's dwelling place, in spirit" (Ephesians 2: 19-22).
We will all reach maturity in God, some sooner than later, because we are all God's dwelling place. We will all do our part for each other, as God placed all of us in Christ's body for this one purpose: to be presenting every human mature in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:28).
The Master Grower will not fail in harvesting what He has planted.
(Taken from Daily Thoughts From The Scriptures www.godisgod.ca)