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Well let's look together to the Word of God tonight and continue our study of this matter of spiritual growth just by way of a very brief review.  We are talking about the church.  We're talking about the church in the metaphor in the body of Christ and we're looking at the body in somewhat an extended fashion. And first of all we considered the skeleton of the body, some of the non-negotiable foundational truths that make up the church, the things that must be in place if the body is to have form.  And then we're secondly looking at the internal systems.  Every human body has internal systems that basically cause its life to carry on that process all of the elements of life.  And the church haws internal systems. And those are the attitudes, the convictions, the principles, the life force principles that exist in the hearts of believers...things like faith and obedience and humility and love and unity.

And we've come to a sixth one of these essential internal forces, these motivations, attitudes, convictions of the heart and that is growth.  And we talked this morning about this matter of growth.  It is essential to the life of the church that God's people be in the process of spiritual development.  We were reminded of 2 Peter 3:18, "Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."  We looked at 2 Corinthians 3:18 which talks about the fact that we grow by the power of the Holy Spirit from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next, increasingly becoming like Christ.  We looked at 2 Corinthians 13 where the goal is that we would be perfect or complete.  And Philippians 3 where it tells us that that completeness or that perfection is Christ's likeness.

Now in the process of this spiritual growth, this morning we talked about three stages...spiritual infancy, spiritual youth and spiritual adulthood.  And 1 John 2:12 to 14 was our text where John sorts out the people in the church to whom he writes and says, "Some of you are children, you are infants, you are babes, you are young in the faith and your understanding is limited and you lack discernment.  But some of you have grown to be spiritual young men and you've overcome the wicked one because you're strong, the Word of God abides in you and the deceptive false teaching of Satan does not affect you because you are so strong in the Word.  But the ultimate is to become a spiritual father who begins to have a personal and intimate understanding of the eternal God."

So that sort of set in motion our look at this matter of growth.  Now let me begin tonight by suggesting to you some of the things that people often misunderstand about spiritual growth and then we'll get down to the practical aspects of how you get in the path of growth and begin moving from being a babe to being a young man, to being a spiritual father.

First of all, let me deal with some misconceptions because I don't want anybody to misunderstand anything, and maybe this will help.  Spiritual growth, first of all, and I'll give you a handful of these misconceptions and give a brief answer to each, first of all spiritual growth has nothing to do with our position in Christ.  It has nothing to do with our position in Christ.

When you come to Christ and you repent of your sin and you believe the gospel and you confess Jesus as Lord, you are saved, the Bible says.  And when you come and ask the Lord to be merciful to you a sinner, He forgives your sin.  And at the moment of your salvation, Scripture is very clear about this, a dramatic transaction takes place in God's own dealing with you.  He covers you with the very righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Isaiah 66 says He covers you with a garment of righteousness.  But in Philippians chapter 3, again we go often back to that passage because it is such an important one, in Philippians chapter 3 Paul describes it this way, "You are found having a righteousness not of your own derived from keeping the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God." 

What happens is, you put your faith in Christ and God grants you His righteousness..the righteousness of God is granted to you.  The righteousness of Christ is granted to you.

We saw, I want you to turn to it because it's so important.  Some weeks ago we were studying 2 Corinthians chapter 5 and I want to remind you of what it says in verse 21...2 Corinthians chapter 5 and verse 21.  Going back to verse 18 it says, "God is reconciling us to Himself."  God has determined to reconcile sinners, that's something, by the way, He didn't determine to do with fallen angels.  Fallen angels or demons fell and God chose not to reconcile any of them.  But when sinners fell, God had a plan for reconciliation. God reconciled us, verse 18 says, to Himself through Christ.  And then God gave to us the ministry of reconciliation, and that is He gave us the responsibility of going into the world and preaching that God desires to be reconciled to sinners. 

Again in verse 19 Paul repeats the same concept.  "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself."  At the end of the verse He's committed to us the word of reconciliation, another way to say the same thing.  God determined He was going to reconcile sinners throughout all the world to Himself and He was going to do it through Christ and He was going to give us the privilege of preaching the word of reconciliation.  So verse 20 says we are ambassadors for Christ and we go out and we preach the ministry of reconciliation, we tell sinners they can be reconciled to God.

Now the question is, how did God do this?  We know He did it through Christ but how did He do it?  How could God who is perfectly holy, absolutely righteous accept sinners?  How could He be reconciled to them?  How could He restore a relationship with sinners who had so violated Him?

He tells us in verse 21, this monumental statement, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf."  That's how He did it.  He made Him who knew no sin...and by the way, Him who knew no sin can only refer to Jesus Christ...so God made Jesus Christ to be sin.  Remember I pointed out to you that that doesn't mean Jesus because a sinner, that would be blasphemous.  He did not become a sinner.  But He took the sinner's place.  He became sin only in one sense, He bore your punishment.  God's fury, God's wrath against sin had to exhaust itself and God did it on Christ in order that...it says in verse 21..."We might become the righteousness of God in Him."  The way I explained that and I reiterate it again is that God treated Jesus as if He had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe though He committed none of them.  He committed no sin and yet God treated as if He had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe.  And He did that so that He could treat us as if we never sinned at all, but only did those righteous acts which Christ Himself did.

In other words, on the cross Jesus was not a sinner but God treated Him as if He was and neither are we saints but God treats us as if we are.  He declares us righteous because our sins have been paid for, the account is settled.  He covers us with the righteousness of Christ, that's our position.

Now all of that to say this, spiritual growth has nothing to do with that.  That is fixed.  Justification is not a process.  I was reading again today another reiteration of what the Roman Catholic Church teaches and what the Roman Catholic Church teaches is that justification, being right with God, being righteous enough to be reconciled to God is a process that goes on through your whole life as God gives you grace and you mingle that grace with your works and the ceremonies and you try to achieve that righteousness which most do not achieve and thus they go to purgatory so that something else can be done there to get there to where they ought to be to be reconciled to God.  That is totally foreign to Scripture.  Justification in the Scripture occurs in an instant, it is a declaration by God in which He views the sinner as righteous because his sins are paid for.  It occurs at the moment of saving faith in Jesus Christ.  That is unalterable.  And that is why in Colossians chapter 2 and verse 10 we read this, "In Him...that is in Christ...you have been made complete."

Now there is a sense in which you have been made complete and that is in the forensic sense, in the sense of God having declared your sins atoned for and the righteousness of Christ imputed or put to your account.  That is a settled issue.  You have been made complete in terms of justification.  You have been born again unto a living hope.  And along with that new birth into a new life God sees you in a completely different way as one with His Son who bore your sins and bearing His righteousness.  So God sees us as righteous in His Son.  In that sense we are complete, we are perfect.  Spiritual growth adds nothing to that.  Another way to say that would be once you're saved it is a settled matter for eternity, your sins paid for, God declares you righteous, spiritual growth has no effect on your eternal destiny.  That's settled.

Secondly, another misconception, spiritual growth has nothing to do with God's favor...it has nothing to do with God's favor.  It's not a question of trying to earn God's love.  It's not a question of trying to gain something from Him that you otherwise wouldn't have.  In fact, maybe a better way to say it is spiritual growth has nothing to do with God's love for you.  In fact, you remember, don't you, a Sunday ago we were talking about John 13 and remember in the Upper Room in John 13 the disciples were all arguing about which of them was the greatest and they were indifferent to Christ and indifferent to His own anticipated sufferings and indifferent to the horrors that awaited Him.  And here they were proud and self-seeking and self-centered, and arguing with each other about which of them would be the greatest.  And it is at that moment and in that context where Jesus says..."He loved His own which were in the world unto perfection."  In other words, He loved them as perfectly then as ever He loved them.  It's not an issue of trying to earn God's love. 

It's...it's...simply said another way in Ephesians chapter 1 and verse 3, "We have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus."  That is a settled issue.  All spiritual blessings are at our disposal and the love of God toward us is a perfect love.  In fact, God loved us with a selective elective love even before the world began and that love was expressed to us when He redeemed us.  Listen to Romans 5, "For while we were till helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly, for one will hardly die for a righteous man though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die."  People don't die for anybody, even good people is Paul's point.  "But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."  We would never be able to question God's love for His own.  Even before they were His own He had set His love upon them to be fulfilled in a most marvelous way.

So when we talk about spiritual growth we're not talking about your settled and eternal position in Christ.  And we're not talking about whether God loves you or not.  You don't ever want to say to a young Christian, "You better do that or God won't love you."  He loves His own which are in the world unto absolute perfection.

Another misconception.  Spiritual growth as nothing to do with time...it has nothing to do with time.  That is to say it is not measured by the clock and it is not measured by the calendar.  It is measured...now remember what I told you this morning...it is measured by living a life devoted to the Lord where you walk in the Spirit, for the walking in the Spirit is the time when you're growing spiritually, and when you walk in the flesh, you're backsliding and losing the ground you have gained.

It's very important then for us to recognize that some people walk in the Spirit more faithfully, more frequently than others.  And there are some people who in a brief amount of time will mature greatly.   Under the influence, for example, of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, he would go in and plant a church and in a matter of a few years he would be back and the maturing process was accelerated to the degree where he could even identify elders and leaders in the church that soon.  I've had the privilege and was reminded of it again the last few days while I was in Canada of being a part of a most incredible work of God in Quebec.  Quebec is...has been for many, many years very Roman Catholic.  In fact, in the nineteen sixties Protestant missionaries were being put in prison by the Catholic powers for preaching the gospel.  This one group that I work with in Quebec since 1980 have established fifty-eight churches...fifty-eight churches since 1980, explosive new first generation church.

Now where they going to draw to get the pastors?  Well, it's amazing how rapidly some of those young men have matured, and some of them who are Christians four and five years were put in as pastors of the church because they had demonstrated such accelerated spiritual growth.  They had taken the opportunity to walk in the Spirit and get in to the Word and grow.  I've gone up there many times, I think a dozen different times I've been up there and sometimes taught them eight to ten hours a day, six days in a row to try to speed up the process a little bit.  It's not necessarily a matter of time.

And on the other hand, there are folks who have been Christians for 50 years and haven't gotten out of spiritual infancy.  It's not purely a function of just hanging around long enough, not measured by the calendar.  It's measured by spiritual commitment and how one walks in the Spirit and how one gains the knowledge of the Word of God and moves from childhood to spiritual youth and becomes a spiritual young man strong in the Word.  It's a function of devotion to the process which is the essential element.

Let me give you a fourth misconception and I think this is an important one as well.  Spiritual growth is not only a matter of knowledge, or it is not simply a matter of knowledge.  First Corinthians 8:1, as I pointed out this morning, says, "Knowledge puffs up." There are a lot of people who accumulate a lot of biblical information but they never really process it into their lives so that it works.  And when you don't do that it is extremely dangerous.  In fact, it's probably much more dangerous to be in a church like this where the Word of God is taught and not apply it, than to be in another place where the Word of God is not taught.  Because if you come here and listen and listen and listen and do not apply, you have trained yourself to ignore the truth and you get good at doing it.  That's frightening.  Better you should not know it than to train yourself to ignore its implications in your life.  Knowing facts and having information is not to be equated with maturity.

And then one last misconception.  Spiritual growth has nothing to do with activity...it has nothing to do with activity.  Busyness does not equate with maturity.  Busyness does not equate with spiritual growth and spiritual development. 

There are people and always have been and always will be in the church who make that wrong assumption. And they assume that if they're active doing this or doing that in the church, if they come to church, if they get involved in something and they have a part to play in that in a routine way or they serve in some fashion, that that, in effect, produces spiritual growth.  It doesn't.  It's not necessarily connected at all with maturity.  In fact, some of the most immature people you can meet are people who are very busy doing everything but taking in the Word of God and processing it in their lives.  For many people that becomes an excuse for an never learning anything...they get so involved with the busyness they miss the whole point.

Spiritual growth, on the other hand...I mean, let's get back to the positive here...is directly produced by the work of the Word. It is directly produced by the work of the Word.  You move from being a spiritual child to a spiritual young man when the Word of God abides in you.  Remember 1 John 2?  When it abides in you, when it takes up residence, it goes from your head to your life.  It takes up residence in your life.  It becomes part of the fabric of how you think and how you live and how you act and who you are.  It's knowing the Word of God and knowing it deeply so that you begin to know the One who is its author.  It's the work of the Word in your life that pushes you through spiritual growth when you have a proper response and respond to the Word in a spiritual fashion.  And as I said this morning, all those times that you are spiritual you're growing.  Those times when you're carnal you're sliding back and losing the ground you gained.  And those spiritual growing times are connected to the application of the Word of God.

One of the sad realities in our time today is when doctrine is depreciated and the careful, thoughtful, precise study and interpretation of Scripture is depreciated in favor of some kind of mystical Jesus experiences, or Holy Spirit experiences, people aren't really growing at all.  It's like eating cotton candy.  It has no nourishing value whatsoever.  It's a whole lot of fluff with no real ability to make a spiritual difference.  And people getting caught up in that not only are involved in something that in itself isn't right, but they're missing the real path to spiritual maturity and so their lives remain at a level of immaturity which is fraught with all kinds of deceptions and all kinds of problems.

Now let's go to a couple of texts tonight and kind of wrap our thoughts up on this subject of growth.  The first one I want to draw to your attention is 2 Timothy chapter 3...2 Timothy chapter 3.  This is just to reinforce how the Word works in your life.  As you listen to the Word of God, as you process the truth, here is how it works in your life...it's a wonderful passage...2 Timothy 3:15, actually you can go back to verse 14 and kind of get the flow, "You, however...Paul writing to Timothy...continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of knowing from whom you have learned them."  He's saying...Look, stay in there with what I taught you.  He had learned them from Paul.  So he says stay in there, continue in the things that you've learned, stay with the doctrine, the things that you've become convinced of, you know they're true, stick with it.

Verse 15, "And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings," that's the Word of God, "which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."  Here's the first thing the Word does...it leads to salvation.  The Word, the work of the Word is a saving work.  That's why Romans 10:17, "Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ."  Philippians 2:16 talks about the word of life.  Peter talks about being begotten again by the Word.  Paul talks about the same thing, being born of the Word and washed with the Word.  the Word is that which produces salvation.  That's the first work of the Word.

But let's go into verses 16 and following and get into the remaining ones.  "All Scripture is inspired by God," that is theopneustosin the Greek, two words meaning God breathed.  It all comes right out of God.  He breathed it out.  "And it is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness." 

The first work of the Word is its saving work.  The second one, let's look at it, it is profitable for teaching.  Another word for that is doctrine.  The Word brings doctrine or teaching.  What does that mean.  It simply means you come to understand God's mind.  You come to understand truth.  You come to understand God's principles, God's law, God's requirement, God's commands.  You are taught.  Doctrine is not some kind of word that's a synonym for dogmatism, it's a word that's a synonym for teaching.  You learn the truth of God.  That's what the Word produces.  It's profitable to teach you God's mind, God's will, God's way, God's truth which is obviously at the foundation of everything in Christian living.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 2 and verse 9 it says, "It is written, things which eye has not seen, ear has not heard which have not entered the heart of man all that God has prepared for those that love Him."  Now let me just say at this point, this passage tells us something that is patently obvious but we might overlook it.  Apart from Scripture that which is true about God is not knowable in a saving transforming sense.  Romans 1 says you can know that the creator is powerful, you can know that He's wise, you can know something about Him because you can look at the creation and see the variety of the creation and the magnificence of it, and you can know something about Him.  You can know He has a personality, that He can feel things because we have that and that has to come from a source. So there's a lot you can know.

But in terms of what God has prepared for those who love Him, you can't know that.  It is not knowable, it is not available.  Verse 14 puts it this way, "A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them."  Because they are spiritually appraised or spiritually understood, and of course he is spiritually dead.

So the point here is that apart from the Word of God there are things about God that you cannot know.  They are unavailable.  But that's not true of believers because as believers we possess the Holy Spirit and the Word of God and therefore...the end of verse 16...we have the mind of Christ.  The Holy Spirit has revealed the Scripture, the Holy Spirit is our resident teacher, our resident anointing who teaches us all things. 

So apart from knowing Christ, apart from being a believer, you cannot know.  Eye has not seen, ear has not heard.  It is not available empirically.  It is not available philosophically.  Men cannot discern it.  Eye hasn't seen it, ear hasn't heard it, that means it's not empirically observable.  Nor has it entered into the heart of man.  You can't know it on the inside, philosophically, conceptually...it's not available outside, it's not available inside. The only way you're ever going to know it is when God gives it to you through His revealed Word and the internal work of the Spirit of God who unfolds that truth to you. 

So Scripture and the ministry of the Spirit of God is profitable for teaching.  We can know the truth, and according to John 17:17 it is the truth that sanctifies. 

Secondly, the Word not only teaches us truth, that's a positive emphasis, but secondly, it is profitable for reproof.  The word "reproof" means to convict.  It means to rebuke.  It means to refute.  And it has the idea of coming against two things...one is error and the other is iniquity.  The Word of God exposes error and it exposes iniquity.  It is profitable for that and that is why it produces spiritual growth.  Spiritual growth occurs as you begin to understand the truth of God unfolded in teaching and doctrine and spiritual growth is assisted as you begin to have your error and your iniquity confronted because that moves you out of walking in the flesh to walking in the Spirit which is where that spiritual growth occurs.

In John chapter 15 and verse 3 he talks about how the Word prunes.  The Word then comes as a convicting Word, it comes confronting our error.  It smashes down our wrong thinking and it assaults our comfortable iniquities.  Certainly anyone who teaches the Word or preaches the Word brings it to bear upon what is wrong as well as emphasizing what is right.

Now two things come out of this.  Out of teaching we see training, and out of reproof we see correction.  Let's take them in the order Paul listed them.  The third work of the Word is its correcting work and that literally means in the Greek to straighten up...to straighten up.  It doesn't just rebuke, it doesn't just convict, it doesn't just refute, it literally straightens up.  It pulls you back into line.  It fixes what is broken.  It mends.  It rebuilds.  And, of course, that is its intent.  It's not just reproof for the sake of reproof, it's reproof for the sake of correction.

I remember as a little kid, I guess you always have favorite teachers and teachers you don't like, and favorite patterns that teachers had, and patterns that you didn't like.  And I always appreciated teachers who marked my papers wrong and then wrote down the right answer, didn't you?  It was very frustrating to me to get back a paper with red marks all over the place telling me what was wrong but never telling me what was right.  And the Word doesn't just mark you wrong, it corrects you.  It sets you right.  That's certainly a part of the whole process of physical parenting, life parenting where you reprove and rebuke and convict your child of their iniquities and their failures and their sins.  And then if you do what is right, you will set them on a path of correctness by showing them what is now an appropriate behavior.  The Word then teaches, it lays down sound doctrine, reveals truth.  It comes at us with conviction and rebuke and then it corrects us.

In regard to teaching, the final, it trains us in righteousness.  It doesn't just say here are the facts, but it takes those facts and begins to apply them to our lives and begins to build us and build us and build us and build us in a positive direction in the application of that teaching.

The Word when its known goes into action...here's how it trains, let me back up and explain it maybe a little more broadly.  When you come to church you hear the Word.  That's teaching, that's doctrine.  When you go to a Bible study you hear the Word.  When you go to a Logos class, a Sunday-school class, when you go to a seminary class, you sit there and you hear the Word and it comes to you in a certain fashion, it comes sort to you sort of pedantically, it comes to you pedagogically and you write it down in your notes, or you write it down on your little paper or in your Bible and that's how it comes to you, that's how the Word comes to you in a teaching environment.

But then you're in a certain situation and you're confronted with a discussion about theology and somebody comes into that discussion and starts interjecting error. And now all of a sudden you are on the battlefield.  And now you reach for that truth in a completely different manner.  There's a completely different paradigm just been created in which you're going to take that truth and you're in a group of people and here comes this error at that group of people, and immediately you begin to counteract that error and bring the truth out in order that you might train those people who are listening in what is a righteous understanding of that discussion. 

Or to put it in a more personal way, you go to class and you take the information in  and you write it down in your books and that's all fine.  And then the day comes when you get into a temptation, you're in to some kind of a crisis situation and you're beginning to crumble in terms of your spiritual understanding or you're beginning to lose the battle against temptation and all of the Word...all of a sudden the Word comes flooding into your heart and into your mind.  As David said, you put it there that you might not sin and the Word begins to make you conform to itself.  That's the training part of the Word's work.

Now very few people carry on a major expression of iniquity during the services here at Grace.  Occasionally somebody may go amuck while we're in church.  But we're pretty good while we're here, aren't we?  We really are.  I don't have too many people yelling back at me and arguing about the truth. That used to happen when we over in the chapel and it was real small and real intimate.  Sometimes...I remember one guy stood up and said, "Ah, I don't buy that."  You know, he just got really into it.  But for the most part you don't debate here, and for the most part you're not involved in all kinds of spiritual struggles with sin and so forth here, this is the input part. But the part where the Word really needs to work is when you're not here, right?  And you're out there and your life is bumped up against all those people who have all those philosophies, all those errors and you need to bring to bear on the situation the truth and you need to get in there and let the truth do some training work.  Or when you're out there and you've had some major disappointment in your life, some collapse of some dream, or some desire, or some terrible anxiety has come into your life, or some great fear, or the loss of someone you love, or the sickness of a child, or the death of one that you care deeply about and all of a sudden you have to let the Word do its training work to get you through that situation.  That's how the Word works to train, that's what it does. 

It teaches, it lays down the doctrinal foundation, and then the Spirit of God takes it and brings it into memory and begins to train you through the vicissitudes of life.  That's the work of the Word.  It is what processes you to spiritual maturity.

How do you know that?  Verse 17 sums it up.  "That the man of God," and certainly what's good for the man of God is good for everybody else, "that the man of God may be..." and there's all kinds of translations, but in the end it means "perfect," complete, adequate..."that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."

Now you want to get to the place where you're equipped for every good work.  You want to get to the place where you're complete, that's our goal.  Remember 2 Corinthians 13:9, Paul says, "I pray this also for you that you may be complete, I pray for your completion."  And then in verse 11, "Be made complete."  We are called to grow to full spiritual maturity to become spiritual fathers.  And what produces that is the work of the Word.

First of all, it's the agency of the Word that saves us, faith comes by hearing the truth about Christ.  Then the Word begins to teach and lay down doctrine, then the Spirit of God pulls that doctrine back and uses it to train us in the trials of life.  And then the Word of God reproves, rebukes, convicts us. And then after we've been convicted to the core, it builds us back again in a correct fashion.  That is the work of the Word.  It is the agent of our growth.

God brings the trials into our life, 1 Peter 5:10, after you've suffered a while the Lord make you perfect.  Suffering comes in there but what makes suffering contribute to spiritual growth is a Word-centered response to suffering, isn't it?  If you have a carnal, fleshly response to suffering you're not going to grow spiritually in that environment. 

I was having a question and answer period a couple of days ago with about two or three hundred pastors and one of them asked me a question.  He said that he had been reading a book by a well-known Christian leader and in the book this statement was made, "Sometimes it's going to be necessary for you to forgive God for some of the things that happen in your life."

Now if you want to train a person into carnality, that's a great way to do it.  If you want to train a person to have an unbiblical, ungodly reaction to a trial in life, tell them that God did something wrong for which you need to forgive Him.  But if you want someone to grow through their suffering, then tell them what James told them, "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials because you know that the trial produces patience and patience has a perfect work."  Trials will not perfect you unless you respond rightly to them, understanding God's purposes unfolding, understanding that you're going to learn more from your pain than you will from your joy, understanding that God is refining you and purging you and cleansing you and shaping you and making you more usable and giving Him the glory even in your pain.  That keeps you on the spiritual that produces spiritual growth. 

That's why Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9 and 10, that he who would rejoice...actually that he would glory or exult about his weaknesses that the power of Christ might dwell in me.  "I'm well content with weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, difficulties for Christ's sake for when I'm weak then I'm strong."  You see, he knew that all the trials of life were just making him trust God more deeply and that was making him stronger.

So the Word is the agent of growth. And it is the proper application of the Word through all the suffering of life that causes it to produce its growing work.  Now that leads me to one final passage and this is where you have to end in any discussion of spiritual growth and that's 1 Peter chapter 2...1 Peter chapter 2.  We don't have to look at this for a very long time, it's just a very straightforward passage.

If all of this is true, and it is, better to say "since" all of this is true...if I can convey any one thing to you it would be this, God has commanded you to grow, God has made that growth available and as you grow you become more fruitful, more useful, more blessed, more satisfied, more fulfilled, more joyous, more everything so you certainly would want to grow, that growth is a direct product of the work of the Word which saves you, teaches you, rebukes you, corrects you, trains you into that perfection. And since all of that is true, and since you only grow when you're walking in the Spirit, listen to these two verses.  First Peter 2:1 and 2, "Therefore putting aside all evil," that word means evil, malice, all guile, that word is the word for fishhook, it means deceit and nothing is more deceitful if you're a fish than a fishhook, "putting aside all malice, all evil," kakia, all doloswhich means deceit, "all hypocrisy and envy and all slander." 

In other words, look, you've got to deal with the sin in your life.  Then verse 2, "Like newborn babes long for the pure milk of the Word that you may...what?...grow with respect to your salvation."  I mean, this is the...this is the final statement. Since you know that you're called to spiritual growth, since all of blessing is there in spiritual growth, it's not a matter of your eternal destiny...I told you that...it is a matter of your usefulness, your joy, your fulfillment, your blessedness, your peace and your eternal reward.  Since this is God's desire for you, since the Word will produce this in you and bring you to that completion, "Lay aside everything that stands in the way and go for the Word like a baby goes for milk."  That's a very simple analogy...a very simple analogy.

David said in Psalm 19 that the Word was more desirable than gold, yea then much fine gold.  He said it was sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.  The psalmist, the same psalmist said his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night.  Job said I have treasured His words more than my necessary food.  You read Psalm 119 and over and over and over and over David says I delight in the Word, I delight in the Word, I delight in the Word.  And, folks, this is where it ultimately comes.  If there's going to be growth in your life it is going to take place along the patterns of these two verses.  Get on your knees and confess your sin and then begin to long for the pure milk of the Word.

Now let me explain this brief passage to you.  You've dealt with the sin in your life in verse 1.  Get on your knees and confess your sin, all of it.  And then like a newborn baby, long for the pure milk of the Word.  The emphasis here is not on whether something in the Bible is milk or meat like in 1 Corinthians, whether it's the shallower understanding or the deeper understanding.  That's not this analogy, forget that. All this is saying is you should long for the Word the same way a baby longs for milk.  And I'll tell you one thing, a baby is a one-dimensional creature.  That's all they want.  Epipotheoin the Greek, it means a strong, intense, recurring craving.  Babies want milk and if they don't get it, they scream and holler.  And when they start doing that you have to deal with the fact that they want milk.  They don't care what color the bottle is, or what color their little clothes are, or their room, they just want milk.  If you deal with that you're going to eliminate their major craving.  It is that single mindedness, it is that central focus.  And he says, "Like a newborn baby long...have this recurring constant passion...for the pure milk...the uncontaminated."  By the way, that word in the Greek is commonly used for farm products...corn, grain, oil, wine and milk, all of which needed to be clean and pure before it could be consumed.  And he's saying you need to long for this milk which is utterly uncontaminated and it is the milk of the Word. 

It doesn't say read the Bible.  It doesn't say study the Bible.  It doesn't say meditate on it.  It says desire it...desire it.  Second Thessalonians 2:10 calls this the love of the truth...the love of the truth.  And again Job says, "I've treasured Your words more than my necessary food."  I want the Word more than I want anything else. 

It takes that kind of desire.  Go back to Proverbs chapter 2.  And I really think that the reason people don't study the Bible more is because that desire isn't there.  The reason they don't hunger to be taught the Word of God more is because that desire isn't there.  Listen to Proverbs 2 verse 1, "My son, if you will receive My sayings and treasure My commandments within you..."  What He is saying is this, if you really care, if you really treasure the truth, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding. For if you cry for discernment, if you lift your voice for understanding, you're pleading and you're begging, if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures, then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.  Isn't that a great section?  If you want it bad enough, you'll get it.  It starts with that passion.

Turn to Job 28.  If you don't have it you need to ask the Lord to build it in you.  Job 28 has got to be one of the most interesting portions of Scripture with regard to this, very, very graphic.  And the twenty-eighth chapter really is about one theme, let me just kind of take you through just very, very briefly.  Job says, "There's a mine for silver and a place where they refine gold."  By the way, you're talking about the patriarchal period now, kind of interesting, the time of the patriarchs in the writing of the Pentateuch.  Job may be the oldest book in the Bible so we're going way back to the very beginning.  And it wasn't long that they had already learned how to mine silver and refine gold.  You think that we've discovered all of that in our modern time?  Listen, there might be good reason to believe that men were more intelligent then than they are now because they didn't have all the effects of the Fall.  Plus they were so close to the initial revelation and disclosure in the wonderful creation of God that it would have been passed down to them, some of the marvelous things perhaps that were true of the earth before it even was cursed.  They knew how to take iron from the dust and they knew how to smelt copper out of the rock.

Verse 3 is really amazing.  "They put an end to darkness and to the farthest limit he searches out the rock in gloom and deep shadow."  Do you know they had some way to penetrate rock?  They had some way to go way down into the belly of the earth?  Somewhere way down deep in verse 4 they could sink a shaft far from habitation, forgotten by the foot.  How did they do that?  We always ask the question...how did they build the pyramids and how did they build the sphinx and all of that?  Don't underestimate antiquity intelligence.  They would penetrate as far down into places forgotten by the foot and then they would suspend themselves down there and hang and swing to and fro far from men.  That was the old matter of mining.  Somehow they would penetrate right down through the rock, go way down into the caverns of the earth, suspend these guys somehow hanging and swinging around and mining that area.

It says its rocks are the source of sapphires, verse 6, and its dust contains gold.  They were going down there to get the gold.  Boy, isn't it amazing what people will go through to find that stuff?  Sapphires, silver...they go in a path, verse 7 says, that no bird of prey knows.  And why does he say that?  Because the bird of prey is known to have the finest...what?...eyesight, vision.  Falcon's eye has never seen what these people see.  The proud beasts have never trodden on it.  The fierce lion passed over it.  He puts his hand on the flint, he overturns the mountains at the base.

Now wait a minute.  You mean they knew how to blow up a mountain?  They knew how to overturn a mountain at its base?  They knew how to hew out channels through the rocks?  And his eye sees anything precious.

It's amazing.  He damns up the streams from flowing.  What is hidden he brings out to the light.  A whole sophisticated mining process.  But verse 12 asks this, "Where can wisdom be found and where is the place of understanding?  Man does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living.  The deep says it's not in me.  The sea says, not with me."  Jacques Crousteau knows a lot but he doesn't know enough.  "Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it, nor can silver be weighed as its price.  It can't be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire, gold or glass can't equal it, nor can it be exchanged for articles of fine gold.  Coral and crystal..."  Crystal?  You mean they could blow glass with lead in it?  "IT's above pearls in value, the topaz of Ethiopia can't equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold.  Where then does wisdom come from and where is the place of understanding?  Thus it is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the sky.  Abaddon and Death say...With our ears we have heard a report of it."  They don't know either.

Verse 23, I love this, "God understands it.  He knows its way.  He knows its place."

Now what did we read in Proverbs 2?  If you want to know truth as much with as much passion as men seek silver, you can know it.  I remember reading years ago when I was a student about a guy who came to Socrates, it's probably apocryphal, and said, "O master, Socrates, will you be my teacher?"  Socrates looked at him and said, "Follow me."  And he turned and walked into the sea and he kept walking and kept walking and this young man kept following him, and following him, and following him.  He wanted very much to have him as his teacher.

They got out where the water was just on their lips and Socrates turned around and put both hands on his head and pushed him under.  And wanting to be a compliant student, he just stayed there for a while.  Apparently Socrates was strong and all of a sudden he began to gasp for air, and then he began to spit and sputter and flail around.  And strong Socrates held him up and kept him under, and kept him under, and kept him under. And finally he was blowing very large bubbles and thrashing madly.  And then Socrates took his hands off and he popped up. 

And gasping and spewing out the water he said, "Why did you do that?  Why did you?"  He said, "When you want to learn as much as you wanted to breathe, I will be your teacher."

Something to be said for desire on the part of a student.  And I think from the standpoint of the spiritual, Proverbs 2 is right.  When you want to know it enough, when the passion is there, when you really want to know the truth, when you seek it as men seek silver...and look how they seek it...it's available and you can know it.

Now let's go back to Peter. That's what Peter's saying.  You should long for the Word the way a baby longs for milk...passionately crave it, passionately long for it.  And when you do that you will grow.  You will mature.  You will move toward Christ's likeness.

I'll sum it up with the words, familiar words, of Joshua 1:8.  "This book of the law...referring, of course, to God's revealed Scripture...this book of the law shall not depart from your mouth but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it." That's the key.  You take it in, you live it out.  "For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success."  I can insert in there "spiritual success" in the process of spiritual maturity.  Thank God for the resource you have in His Word.

Father, we thank You for tonight.  It's been a wonderful evening to share together with these precious friends and saints.  Lord, we thank You for all that Your Word can and does accomplish in us.  Rekindle our passion and our longing and our desire for it and may we long for it like a newborn baby longs for milk.  And may we cry out for it as Proverbs 2 says, like a baby cries when we want it enough we'll pursue it.  Lord, create that desire in our hearts, even as you cleanse us from our sins that we might become more like Your Son in whose name we pray.  Amen.

This sermon series includes the following messages:

Grace to You
Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time

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