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Spiritual Maturity

Spiritual Maturity

An author writes about his granddaughter Allison. At the time she was written about, she had just turned 9. That is when Allison’s grandfather realized she was no longer the little baby he had held so carefully. Nor was she the bouncing toddler he helped as she walked across rooms. Nor did she ask him to read books to her. She was reading to him.

The grandfather admitted that in one way, it is difficult to see young ones grow up. But, he added, what a tragedy it would be if children remained children forever. If they never grew and developed.

As the grandfather worded it, we expect children to move steadily toward maturity, both physically and emotionally. The growth should not be seen as sadness from no longer having  a young child in our midst, but the wonder of seeing the new joys experienced by the children around us.

This message is going to have a few interactive parts to it, during which you will have a chance to think about some things. Here is the first thinking topic. Two actually. 

What did you or do you enjoy most about your childhood? 

What did you or do you like least about being a child?

Two more questions.

In what way did you or do you have the most difficulty in growing up? 

Is there something with which you struggle now?

Maturity can be difficult physically. It can be difficult emotionally. In fact, it can be easy to want to stay a child since children usually do not have quite as many responsibilities or demands as do adults. But we are to grow. We are to mature physically and emotionally.

We are also to develop spiritual maturity, which brings us to today’s Bible passage. I Peter 1:22- 2:3. Let’s read the passage together.

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides for ever." That word is the good news which was preached to you. So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander. Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord."

Verse 22. Do we pick up the compliment expressed by Peter to those who are Christians? You - we - have “purified souls.”

Shortly before today’s passage is the explanation that before any of us became Christians - this is still true if you are not yet a Christian - a person is not pure. Peter explains the reason for the impurity is “ignorance,” as in not knowing the proper ways to live, but without Christ - without knowing and obeying His word - no one can be pure.

But Christians are pure. As will be mentioned a bit later, Christians still are tempted to move away from purity. We must stay with Jesus to remain pure, but Christians have the capability to remain pure. That happens - still verse 22 - “by obedience to the truth.” The truth expressed in God’s word, obedience indicating the requirement that we not only read or hear God’s word, but obey it. Follow it and do it.

By the way, a few weeks ago we talked about the Holy Spirit. He was described as the one who reminds God’s people of God’s word and encourages us to do God’s word and comforts us when we have difficulty following the Lord, including the difficulty of persecution of any kind. We prayed for the infilling of the Holy Spirit for ourselves individually and as a congregation. Such infilling is critical. It is what makes it possible to know and obey the word of God.

But do we see how it is proved we do know and obey the Lord. Still verse 22. It is displayed in “sincere love of the brethren.” Sincere love for fellow Christians. Love sincerely, which means to love fervently. As Christians, we already have the capability of loving fellow believers. The call is to continue such love sincerely - with passion, intensity, consistency.

That last one - consistency - can be difficult. I mean, if you are mean to me, it will be difficult for me to keep my love strong for you. That is just me. However, my love for every fellow believer is to remain strong, no matter what. That is something for me to work on.

In verse 23, Peter reminds Christians of the special position they have. He wrote, “You have been born anew.” And see the wonder of the second birth. You have been born anew, “not of perishable seed but of imperishable.”

Our first birth was our physical birth. Physical birth is a wondrous, miraculous event. However - I do not mean to be morbid, but this is true - physical life is not permanent. It is not intended to be permanent. Unless the Lord returns, each of us will die physically sometime. That is what Peter refers to with the words “perishable seed.”

But the second birth, which is our spiritual birth - the birth that happens when anyone accepts Jesus as Savior - comes from “imperishable seed.” The promise is that those who stay with Jesus, no matter what, will not die spiritually. Physically, yes, but not spiritually.

It is, therefore, so important to stay with Jesus. Peter explains how that can be accomplished. It happens through the “living and abiding word of God.”

How good it is that we have the word of God provided for us in the Bible. Word that is - words that are - “living,” as in able to affect us. And “abiding.” Never ending, meaning that what God said thousands of years ago, including what God directed the writers of the Bible to record, is as relevant now as it was when it was spoken and written. It will remain relevant, no matter who or what tries to diminish that word.

That point is addressed again in verses 24 and 25 with a reference to the Old Testament Book of  Isaiah. “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls.” The things of this world, including our physical being, will not last. “But the word of the Lord abides forever.” That word is the good news that was preached to those to whom Peter wrote - Christian exiles in the various Middle East areas listed in verse 1 - and the Bible preached to us now. The words of the Bible will never end.

So, added Peter in verse 1 of chapter 2 of I Peter, “put away” five things that are not right for Christians to have or do. Five things that destroy the love we are to show to each other as fellow Christians.

Put away. Take these things off, then put them away. Throw them away.

By the way, isn’t it interesting that Peter just reminded the people to whom he wrote that they were Christians and therefore had pure souls? Now he tells them there are some things - some negative things - they are to remove from their lives. What an important reminder that Christians do face temptations. That this side of Heaven we are likely never going to be perfect. There will always be some worldly things with which we will have to deal.

In a little bit, we will be asked to think about any of these negative things we have dealt or do deal with, so listen.

Put away “all malice.” The word “all” indicates Peter is thinking of wickedness in general, but specifically, malice is anger to the point of designing mischief against someone or doing mischief to someone or delighting in mischief, even if it is done by someone else. It is being joyful when someone else suffers.

Put away “all guile.” Guile is deceit in the words we say. An example is flattery, which does not describe the saying of complimentary things that are genuine, but saying them just to try to get an advantage from the one being complimented. Lies told to try to get an advantage. “All” guile means anything said to take advantage of someone.

Put away “insincerity,” which includes hypocrisy. Pretending to be someone you are not. Someone pretending to be spiritual when he or she is not. Insincerity includes pretending friendship, and making promises with no intent to fulfill them.

Put away “envy,” which is grieving at someone else’s prosperity, popularity, successes. Grieving  because you are not as recognized as that someone else.

An example that comes to my mind is the report of ten of Jesus’ disciples toward the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. According to the report, the other two disciples - James and John - were interested in being the most important disciples, including the reward of being able to sit beside Jesus when they would all get to Heaven. James, John, and their mother went to Jesus to ask for that privilege.

The other ten disciples were indignant. Not because they necessarily doubted James and John might be worthy of such an honor, but because they did not want to be thought of as less important. They were envious of James and John who, by the way, were not promised places beside Jesus in Heaven.

Envy is not to be part of a Christian life. Neither are insincerity, guile, and malice. If you have any of those things - if I do - they must be put away. The same goes for “slander,” which is defined as speaking evil of someone. “All” slander refers to all kinds of speaking evil. Including defaming. Including gossiping. Gossiping about someone for the purpose of hurting them.

Some of us remember the TV show Hee Haw. One of the regular skits was a group of women talking - one of their favorite lines was, “You’ll never hear one of us repeating gossip, so you’d better be sure to listen close the first time.”

We are not to gossip even the first time. That, along with malice, guile, insincerity, and envy are to be put away from those of us who are Christians. Putting those things away is part of the purity to which we are called, which is possible through the Holy Spirit reminding us, encouraging us, and comforting us so we can know and obey the word of God.

Which brings us to verse 2 of I Peter 2. “Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation.”

This is an important reminder that if the bad things just listed are gone, they need to be replaced with something that is good, which is the word of God, which is “milk,” referring to proper, healthy, helpful food for the soul.

We are to “long” for it. We are to have a strong desire for it.

And did we catch the wording. We will “grow up to salvation.” What an important reminder that we are to grow in our faith. Grow ever closer to Jesus and the ideal He has in mind for His people. That is a freeing thought. We do not have to get down on ourselves if we are not yet perfect in every way. But it is a challenging thought. The challenge is to keep growing spiritually.

Verse 3 has a promise for the future. “You [we who are Christians] have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” 

We have, even now, tasted the Lord’s kindness. The promise is that when we get to Heaven we will have, not just a taste, but an entire banquet of His kindness. But listen to the closeness to the Lord that is promised.

Seeing, hearing, and smelling can be done at a distance. The sense of taste calls for a closeness. Unity. The promise in the word “taste” is that Jesus wants to be close to us now. When, in Heaven, we have the entire banquet, the closeness will continue. What a wonderful promise for those of us who are Christians. A promise that can be yours even if it is not now. A promise that will be yours just by accepting Jesus as the Savior He is.

Two more times for you to think, first about the bad things we are to put away. 

Is there one thing with which you have struggled or maybe still struggle?

Then this. Please pray that you and those you know will be dedicated to growing spiritually. That you will be known more and more for the love you show.

*       *       *       *       *

A handful of times in today’s message, a phrase has been used that leads to today’s closing song. The song is When We All Get to Heaven. Let’s sing verses 1 through 3 with a willingness to continue, with the Lord’s help, to become more and more mature in our Christian faith. When we get to the word “shout” each time we sing the chorus, let’s do that.

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,

Sing His mercy and His grace;

In the mansions bright and blessed

He’ll prepare for us a place.

When we all get to Heaven,

What a day of rejoicing that will be!

When we all see Jesus,

We’ll sing and shout the victory!

While we walk the pilgrim pathway

Clouds will overspread the sky;

But when traveling days are over

Not a shadow, not a sigh.

When we all get to Heaven,

What a day of rejoicing that will be!

When we all see Jesus,

We’ll sing and shout the victory!

Let us then be true and faithful,

Trusting, serving every day;

Just one glimpse of Him in glory

Will the toils of life repay.

When we all get to Heaven,

What a day of rejoicing that will be!

When we all see Jesus,

We’ll sing and shout the victory! 


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