How do you feel about your growing up (if you have grown up)? Was it tough growing up? Or is it mostly memories of good things and good times? Some have had horrible experiences, with scars for life. All of us have a different story. But in some ways they are the same. We were born, fed, clothed (hopefully), taught, disciplined, experienced events, people, etc., and finally formed a personality - and a character. We finally "matured" - in one way or another as human beings.
Regardless of the memory of our growing up years, whether pleasant or unpleasant, God can take it all, and transform it into a new life - a life far better than what we could have dreamed ...!
"... until we all attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the full and accurate] knowledge of the Son of God, that [we might arrive] at really mature manhood (the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard height of Christ's own perfection), the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ and the completeness found in Him. So then, we may no longer be children, tossed [like ships] to and fro between chance gusts of teaching and wavering with every changing wind of doctrine, [the prey of] the cunning and cleverness of unscrupulous men, [gamblers engaged] in every shifting form of trickery in inventing errors to mislead. Rather, let our lives lovingly express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One)"- Ephesians 4:13-15 AmpBible.
There are three so-called theological words which, when understood together, construct a picture of this growing up spiritually as God’s maturing children. They are:
Justification - Sanctification - Mortification.
First, we are "justified" if we have accepted the sacrifice of Christ which sets us right with God. Our account is balanced. We are no longer condemned because of sin. Most Christians have "favorite" scriptures. I have one (at least one!). "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1) I thank God OFTEN for this statement. Sometimes, it would be difficult to go on were it not for this scripture and the ones following. This is the basic meaning of "justification".
Next is "sanctification". The word basically means to "set apart" for a special purpose (John 17:17; 1 Peter 3:15)). We are now set apart for the special purpose of growing up into mature children of God. Many things are going on all at the same time here, but this is basic. Once we become believers in Jesus Christ, life truly begins. We start as "babes in Christ", and our time of "growing up" begins! It is all pictured by God in human conception, time in the womb, birth, and the whole pattern of growing up to maturity. This pattern has been repeated billions upon billions of times. Personal experiences, locations, etc., are all different - each one is different! - but the pattern is the same. It must be that God is TELLING US SOMETHING! And indeed He is. Just like the heavens, the earth, and all creation "pours forth speech" (Psalm 19:2), so does human life and experience. This spiritual process of growing up INTO Christ is largely an internal, and therefore a "hidden" process: "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory"(Colossians 3:1-4). This occurs in our heart and spirit, but it happens through OUR yielding and cooperative striving to change! This fact is not a popular one in some segments of the church today. However, this is absolutely necessary because God says it is, and for no other reason!
And this brings us to the THIRD word describing our growing up: "mortification" - a word rarely hear anymore. Notice in particular the word "mortify" in the above scripture. Notice the next few verses here in Colossians 3. "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Colossians 3:5-10).
The word "mortify" is KJV English which simply means "to put to death" or to deprive of power. This is a proactive command - not a passive one! The negative character traits mentioned here Paul says we are "put off", such as we would strip off a dirty garment and toss it away permanently! This can then only be accomplished by the "hidden" aspect of our life, but Christ must have our active cooperation (Romans 8:13). He will not move in the eradication of our wrong traits AGAINST OUR WILL. "If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind" Ephesians 4:21-23}.The Holy Spirit in our minds empowers us to be able to overcome (1 John 5:4) these evil tendencies - but not all at once or OVERNIGHT. Remember, this is a "growing up" process!
Are you willing to "overcome"? - the word for overcome can mean "is victorious", or "conquers". It carries a military metaphor. In Jesus' letters to the seven churches of Revelation 2,3, the remedy for the problems of the churches is "OVERCOME"! It seems that overcoming is VERY important to the One who died for you and for me...We can NEVER "work" or earn salvation, but there are things WE must do. Christ did the earning - we are to do the putting off - sinful, corrupt traits and habits. "Put off" is an action phrase! It will not be OUR strength that accomplishes it, but we are "co-workers" with Him (Zechariah 4:6)!
Notice now, what this spiritual process accomplishes: "And that ye put on the NEW MAN, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:24-32).
We can become a NEW PERSON in Christ - He is living in us and we are living in Him. This becomes a VERY close relationship. This closeness - our yielding, our striving to be obedient and to resist the downward pulls of our fleshly minds and impulses - and our TOTAL reliance upon his power, to begin to grow up into Him. God often spends the most on those of us who need the most. This requires constant humbling, real repentance, and asking of forgiveness when we fail. This drives us ever closer to Him - if our hearts remain humble and teachable. Here in 2 Peter 1 we see the process by which we "work out our salvation" (Philippians 2:12), by cooperating with the Holy Spirit as He forms Jesus Christ in us (Galatians 4:19)! There is a constant layering - of additional spiritual character qualities - like a pyramid, each building upon the last:
"For this very reason adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence), And in [exercising] knowledge [develop] self-control, and in [exercising] self-control [develop] steadfastness (patience, endurance), and in [exercising] steadfastness [develop] godliness (piety), And in [exercising] godliness [develop] brotherly affection, and in [exercising] brotherly affection [develop] Christian love" (2 Peter 1:5-7 AmpBible). Notice that the "capstone" is LOVE...(Ephesians 2:19-20)
What will come from all of this become? - Where is it all of this leading?...
"For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue). By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the DIVINE NATURE" (2 Peter 1:3-4)!
God’s great purpose is that WE MIGHT PARTAKE OF HIS DIVINE NATURE, and share in His HOLINESS, so that we may share in HIS LIFE! That LIFE is completely unimaginable now. But we have this wonderful promise: "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1Coninthians 2:9)!
"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him" (Hebrews 2:3). "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth TAKE HEED lest he fall"! (1Corinthian 10:12)
"For as these qualities are yours and increasingly abound in you, they will keep [you] from being idle or unfruitful unto the full personal] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). For whoever lacks these qualities is blind, spiritually] shortsighted seeing only what is near to him, and has become oblivious [to the fact] that he was cleansed from his old sins. Because of this, brethren, be all the more solicitous and eager to make sure (to ratify, to strengthen, to make steadfast) your calling and election; for if you DO THIS, you will never stumble or fall" (2 Peter 1:8-10))
Will you allow God to complete your "growing up"?
That has been His plan from the very beginning!
May it be so for you - Amen!
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