"The recognition of God and of Jesus Christ, our Lord, is the source of grace and peace, as well as all that tends to life and devoutness. Those who refuse to recognize God are given over to a disqualified mind to commit the whole catalogue of crime (Rom.1:28). The only salvation from these things is a vision of His glory and virtue, in this manner becoming a participant of the divine nature which flees from corruption. Consequently, the most powerfully practical course to pursue is to gain a grasp of God's glories and virtues, so that they may operate in us and produce their like."
A.E.Knoch in Concordant Commentary
A PHYSICIAN has written that we are as old as the average of our seven ages, which he listed as chronological, anatomical, physiological, psychological, pathological, statistical, and hereditary. To these seven an eighth should be added, the spiritual age.
By this we are not referring to the number of years since God called and saved us. By this spiritual age we mean how much growth we have undergone since that experience. Have we progressed from adolescence to adulthood, from the milk diet of the minor to the meat diet of the mature (Heb.5:12-14)? The last of these eight ages, the spiritual, is of greatest importance, for it affects all the others.
For instance, the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Phil.4:6, 7). Our spiritual age guards our heart, the physiological age, and it also affects our mind, the psychologieal age. It would be interesting if each of us could match each of these seven ages with a passage in the Scriptures which shows that our spiritual age influences our other seven ages (such as Prov.22:6; 2 Tim.3:15; Prov.16:32; 1 Tim.1:2; Eph.4:13).
Doing this will require mental exercise, but exercising our minds on the meat of the Word is mental exercise of the highest order. God's Word in the Original is inspired and infallible - it contains no contradictions (2 Tim.3:16,17). It is living, it is powerful, it is a critic of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb.4:12,13). Daily contact with God's vital revelation refreshes our souls, invigorates our spirits, stretches our minds, encourages our hearts, disciplines our emotions, directs our acts -- in fact, there is no portion of the whole man which will not be affected by contact with His vital revelation (Eph.4:23; Rom.12:2). We do well to remind ourselves frequently that all Scripture is inspired...that the man of God may be equipped, fully fitted out for every good act.
Do you remember the woman sitting on the porch of her cottage who was approached by the man taking a census for the government? He asked for her name, her husband's name, his occupation. When he asked her how many children she had she replied, "Four." At his request for their ages she was puzzled for a few moments, then said, "Well suh. Ah doan rightly know. One of 'em is a lap chile, one's a creeper and t'other is a porch chile." Then with a ring of pride in her voice she said, "An' one is a yard young 'un." She was wise. She graded her children by their accomplishments, not by their years only.
All of us go through these various stages from minority to maturity. We all start as lap children, then go on to creepers and porch children, and then to yard young ones. The unsteady, feeble and for the most part clumsy steps of the creeper to the porch grade of accomplishment is amusing and lovable -- in a little child. But such feeble and faltering steps in an adult is cause for alarm and investigation by competent doctors. Physical deformities are more easily detected than spiritual deficiencies. We can be straight of body while we are warped of soul. We can attain physical maturity and still be short of mental maturity. An adultish child is called precocious; a childish adult is deemed pathetic.
Whereas a Berean is one who has readiness of mind to receive, and is daily searching the Scriptures to see (Acts 17:11). We are told to be loving God with our whole soul, whole strength, whole heart, and whole mind. Note well: the whole mind.
Thinking is hard work. Even thinking about things we already know something about, is not entirely effortless. When we face thinking about a new idea, the effort required to grasp it is really herculean labor. In fact, the aftereffects of thinking are a lot like the day after you've been pulling weeds: you discover old muscles you had forgotten you had, and become acquainted with new ones you didn't know you had. Every move is painful and an effort. But after a few days the soreness disappears and what was once difficult has now become easy. But if you lay off for weeks and then try to pull weeds again, you'll go through the same painful process because you've had such a long layoff from labor. Yet if you do some work everyday, you will wear off the initial soreness and there will come a sense of well-being and physical health as a reward for renewed daily effort. It is the continuing effort that we should note.
Perhaps your brain muscles are stiff and sore from the mental exercise the last study of the Scriptures required. Yet for others, it may have been elementary and non-taxing. There is a reason for this marked difference. It lies in part in the fact that some of those listening or reading were those who began exercising their mental faculties some time ago and kept up the good habit.
Our Scriptures tell us that solid nourishment belongs to those who by reason of habit have faculties exercised for discriminating between the ideal and the evil (Heb.5:12-14). Milk is the proper food for minors, solid nourishment the proper food for the mature. When studying together we should seek to set forth both milk and meat so that each mind and each spiritual level may find something on which it can feed and stretch. Exercise your God-given faculties for testing what things are of consequence (Phil.1:10). What is now difficult will become easy. With patience, time and effort we can all move from minority to maturity. As the Chinese proverb puts it, "With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes silk."
To return to our initial question: what is your spiritual age? Not how many years since you believed, but how much progress you've made since that point from a lap child to a yard young one.
In fact, when the disposition is turned in this direction the possibilities are wonderful. Since His Word tells us that God chose us in Christ before the disruption of the world (Eph.1:4), our divine age is in the dateless past. It goes back before creation when, even then, we were on God's heart and in His plan. Our experiential age goes back to the day when God, through Christ, made a new creation out of us. At that time the grace of God overwhelmed us with the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Our spiritual age is problematical; for how far down the road toward maturity we have gone, no one can say, since only He can properly evaluate each one's maturity, the result of full growth or development.
But one thing we should know: none of us has yet attained that for which he was grasped -- conformity in character and in conduct to Christ. None of us has yet attained to a realization of a son of God, a mature man, unto the measure of the stature of the complement of Christ (Eph.4:13). Yet one thing each of us should know: forgetting the things which are behind, yet stretching out toward those in front -- toward the goal of maturity are we pursuing for the prize of God's calling above in Christ Jesus (Phil.3:8-16).
This is why we invite your companionship along the way as a fellow saint. This is why we encourage you in your studies as a fellow student of the Scriptures. This is why we study and serve, give and go, read and write: to assist you in attaining your deep desire to leave the minority status and go on to maturity, to outgrow the milk diet of the minor and graduate to the solid nourishment of the mature.
The late A. E. Knoch puts it like this. "We solicit the cooperation of real investigators of the Scriptures. It has been my earnest hope that, with the tools furnished in the complete edition of the Version, the facts of Scripture would enable those who have the heart for it to do real investigation. Many think this means brilliant and original thinking and leads to discovery of things, outside the scope of God's revelation...Quite the opposite. Real investigation is the patient, microscopic examination of God's Word, which will help us to throw off tradition and push forward the borders of our spiritual universe. Investigation is the opposite of reasoning. By means of reasoning, a dozen so-called investigators may arrive at thirteen different conclusions. Investigation, if genuine, will confine us to a single one....
"Those who yearn to do investigation in the Word of Truth must not expect to find the work easy and the pay high. Only long and arduous drudgery will prepare them for the discovery of new truth and the recovery of old. And, until they are intensely certain that the Scriptures are the living, life-giving oracles of God, they should never begin. With the firm conviction that they are dealing with God and His Word, they will find great joy and supreme satisfaction in this His highest handiwork and the richest revelation of Him Who, is the only Light and Life and Love."
|"Whoso hath felt the Spirit of the Highest |
Cannot confound nor doubt Him nor deny:
Yea, with one voice, O, world, though thou deniest
Stand thou on that side, for on this am I."
(Myers, St. Paul)