In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:12-14 NIV
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The observation of the writer of Hebrews is the foundation of today’s Ministration as we are made aware of the danger of falling away from the faith or put better, backsliding in our Christian life. He expressed his discontent with the slow pace of learning about godly things by the Israelites stating his expectation of their being already teachers but which they are not as they are still expecting to be taught the elementary truths of God’s Word. He went further to compare the state of their Christian life to that of a baby still desiring and taking milk when it should be living on solid meals.
The above is a clear indication that despite the time already spent in Christianity, they are yet to be considered matured and if anything their Christian life is the same as they are still baby-like in their manifestation of Christian values and maintenance of Christian standards and with no indication that they are even on the path to maturity. He concluded that the matured Christian will be one who by constant activities has trained him/her self to distinguish good from evil – Heb. 5:14. The writer of Hebrews was expecting the Christians in his time to grow and live the life of maturity, something that was missing in them.
It is not news that similar observations can be made about Christians today. Obvious signs of spiritual immaturity are on display amongst Christians that constantly question whether there is any form of growth no matter how little in their Christian life. Immorality is on the increase and iniquity is becoming the order of the day. Faith has become something long lost and the Church has over time become more of a social gathering rather than a spiritual gathering. The Church is excelling more in carnal activities than even secular organisations and Church members have greater fun getting involved in non-religious activities within the church than spiritually fulfilling activities. One can only see the number of Christians increasing but with no change in their attitude and character. Carnality has become the norm in the Church and among Christian groups which all point to improper, insufficient and/or lack of increase of Christian values in the life of Christians compared with when they decided to become Christians.
The huge contrast between the character of the brothers who gathered in Antioch when compared to that of those observing them was what made the people in Antioch call the brothers at that time Christians (Acts 11:26) but one doubts if the same word can be used for Christians of today when our character and conduct are in focus. Like the writer of Hebrews suggested, there is the need to grow members in terms of Christian values in order to justify our claim to being born again. A life without growth is as good as dead and that is not God’s desire for His children – Gen. 1:28-30.
This Ministration advocates the same view that the writer of Hebrews holds which is that the Christian must grow. To be able to achieve this objective, there is the need to have a good understanding of what growth is.
Growth literarily can be defined as an increase or an expansion in someone or something. The growth in the object in reference may have positive or negative effects but what is obvious is that the state of the reference object has become bigger in size than what it use to be. Growth in Christian life will therefore mean an increase in those indicators that link the new convert more to that image that was seen in the Christians at Antioch, which is their display of Christ-like nature. To grow the Christian life of someone will imply a reduction in those previous and negative characteristics that the individual was associated with before accepting to be a Christian. The individual was not empty before becoming born again. He or she was noted for some characteristics which were not morally acceptable but which is expected to be absent after deciding to be a Christian.
Although the decision to accept Christ will instantly lead to salvation, the disappearance of these previous characteristics and the manifestation of the fruits of this new status of being born again will require a process of indoctrination and transformation that will involve the replacement of the old values with Christian values and subsequently produce that new person. It is this process that will be seen as growth in the Christian life of the new convert. A new convert into the Christian faith will need to grow to manifest those fruits and that will require the following:
1. Convincing him/her self that it was not a mistake to have taken the decision to be born again. Most cases of acceptance of a new convert into Christianity occurs under an atmosphere that can be euphoric, over-whelming and/or intimidating. It is such that the individual may feel so much pressure at that point in time to do what is been suggested as there may have been no alternative. It is therefore necessary for the new convert to do a self re-assessment in a quiet moment to be sure that the decision to live the Christian life is a product of personal conviction. This will help to retain such a person in the faith when trial times come and they will surely come. At those times there will be greater resoluteness to overcome such trials by the person because of the determination to remain in the faith.
2. Realising that the new life is a life that he/she has never lived and so will need knowledge on what it is all about. This is the missing step and the major reason why most people spend years in Christianity but their Christian life experience no growth. There is no way a new convert can grow in something that he/she does not know. Being born into Christianity is also not sufficient as most things at a young age are been done, not because the person believes but because it is a routine. Routines do not keep people in Christianity. It is faith nurtured by constant hearing of the Word and a personal confession of such. New converts will only grow if there is constant exposure to the Word by one who is called into that ministry. This is not a position that one takes because he has spent a long time in that denomination but it is taken because one has a calling for that role and has been adequately primed to play such role. It is about laying a spiritual foundation on which the new convert expects to build his/her Christian life. It has to be based on true ability to divide the Word of God for such a new convert to be able to withstand the challenges of the Christian life. The new convert will definitely grow if someone that fits the above description plays this kind of mentorship role.
3. Will require information on how to apply the acquired knowledge and put it to use in order to reflect this new life. As much as the Church may be able to arrange classes such as Bible Class and New Converts class, It is important that the new convert is adequately informed as to how to independently access materials that will enhance his/her growth and also defend attacks from people on his/her new decision. This will help faster growth and prevent backsliding decisions that can be made when the new convert returns to the people who were not there when he/she took the decision to live this new life.
4. Must take a decision to remain in the new life irrespective of the challenge that may manifest. It is important for whoever is mentoring the new convert not to hide the fact that the Christian life does not isolate him/her from challenges of this world. It just helps to either overcome those challenges or avoid their effect at preventing one from living a peaceful and assured life. If any thing, the new decision is an invitation for some unusual challenges and the new convert should be provided with spiritual first aid materials that will help to resolve such challenges in order to avoid backsliding.
Without religiously following these points, it will be impossible for the new convert or anyone for that matter to grow his/her Christian life in the society that we live in today and which remains a very important objective for every Christian. The absence of this formal process that should follow conversion to Christianity definitely accounts for the level of development of the Christian in particular and Christianity in general today.
A Christian must grow because:
1. That is the only proof of his/her new status in life. The genuineness of the decision to accept Christ as Saviour is basically known only to the new convert and cannot be verified by anyone else. He/she may make an oral pronouncement but the real proof of the new status is the manifestation of all those new values that were absent before deciding to become a Christian. It is by fruits that we recognise the new Christian just as Christ himself said – Matt. 7:15-20. The new status cannot be by mouth alone but also by the revelation of the new personality that has resulted from such decision.
2. It becomes a tool for kingdom growth and development. Jesus Christ says that people seeing this new personality will glorify God in heaven Matt. 5:16. The new personality manifesting remains a reference to be cited for potential converts and helps to advance the course of God’s kingdom.
3. That is the only way that the promised peace in Christianity can be achieved. Manifesting signs associated with Christianity implies that the individual has imbibed all the values been taught to help the growth process. Jesus Christ said that if you make the tree into a good tree, then the fruit will be good – Lk. 6:43-45. Living the Christian life will definitely bring peace into one’s life. Jesus Christ says he brings us peace, not like the world gives it – Jn. 14:27. Accepting Christ and growing in him can only produce peace flowing like a river into one’s life. Any one growing in Christian values will definitely experience peace in his/her life.
4. That is the only way that one can be better assured of comfort in the life after life. There is no doubt that all one needs to do to be saved is to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour but that does not guarantee one on how eternity will be spent. Jesus had hinted different levels of compensation when he told the disciples that there is a hundred fold compensation in this world and in the world to come for all those who decide to serve loyally – Mk. 10:29-30. If it is in folds, then the reward will be determined by the measure of individual spiritual activities as determined by his/her level of growth. If the reward is not just here alone but also in the world to come, it implies that different amounts of rewards is what will be available to different people. A Christian life marked by growth is definitely one that will produce enough good works and when placed in multiples of hundreds, will yield sufficient treasure to be allotted to the growing Christian in the life after life.
The Christian must constantly do a self assessment of his/her growth and not wait to be assessed by others.
A honest assessment of oneself is very important after all it is your life and not that of the assessor. Should the assessment be a wrong or dis-honest one, the repercussion of such wrong assessment will be borne solely by the person. Why carry a label of a born again Christian in this world when one will not been seen that way on the day of judgement. Jesus Christ advised that the Christian should shine his/her light so well that people will see the good works and glorify God in heaven – Matt. 5:16. It implies that there is a new personality that people should notice about the Christian which will glorify God. Some of these will include the following:
1. A new demonstration of the act of tolerance which was not associated with the person before becoming born again. Intolerance remains one of the reasons for conflicts in the world today. A Christian is expected to be very tolerant of the actions of others. That is what will ensure peace amongst Christians as they will all be expected to aspire to display this fruit of Christianity as they grow their Christian life.
2. A new demonstration of contentment as against acts of greed and covetousness that may have been present before accepting Christ as Lord and Saviour. This is also another reason for conflict as countries and individuals aspire to have every good thing for themselves alone at the detriment of others. It makes no meaning to them whether what they want to acquire is rightly theirs or not. This kind of character will also not be expected in the life of the growing Christian or in a Christian community.
3. A new expression of peace of mind signifying the acceptance of the Prince of Peace as one’s standard for life. The presence of a growing or matured Christian should bring peace. It is not acceptable for disharmony and confusion to characterise a Christian community as it is a clear indication that the people there are either not Christians or they are immature Christians.
Although these are in no way exhaustive of signs of growth in Christian life, they can be the starting point of self-realisation of progress made in the new life that the new convert took a decision to live in. It is however not easy to achieve this growth all by oneself especially being a life that one has not lived before and at best have only seen the manifestation of the growth in earlier converts. To successfully grow one’s Christian life will require majorly the following:
1. Constant dwelling in the Word and similar Christian literatures that can aide growth. There will definitely be no growth if there is no deliberate exposure to the Word of God through the reading of books like the ones mentioned. Anyone who desires growth must make the bible a friend and reading it a habit. It is in reading and meditating on the scriptures that a solid foundation for Christian growth can be laid. There should also be constant interactions with Christian literatures whose contents are proven to be supportive of the growth of the Christian. Listening to spiritually filling Ministrations will also go a long way to help every Christian grow their Christian life. They all help in exposing the Christian to bible standards and methods of approaching day-to-day challenges.
2. Total submission to the Will of God in all things. A Christian that desires growth must make the Will of God guide all his/her activities. To do this, he/she must develop a trusted communication link between him/her self and the Almighty God through the Holy Spirit. The hunger for possessing the Holy Spirit must be in such a person as that is what will ensure constant operation in the Lord if He is allowed to be in charge. That is why every new conversion must be followed up water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism.
3. Carefully selecting the company that one has to keep especially during the initial stages of the Christian life. The new convert in particular and all Christians generally need to be very careful always about the company they keep. Evil company the bible says corrupts good manners – 1Cor. 15:33. Iron the bible says sharpens iron – Prov. 27:17. Been careful about the company kept is very essential as it will in no doubt have significant impact on the growth potentials of the Christian.
4. Not allowing errors made at the initial stages to constitute sources of embarrassment and discouragement to one’s decision to live the Christian life. There are bound to be errors made at the beginning of the Christian life just as it happens in every new endeavour of man. Promises made to avoid old habits will be broken as soon as they are made but that is not enough reason to write yourself off. The jury may be out on your case wanting to mock you at every stumbling that you make but you are better off seeing your errors as experience gained and which will help to further strengthen the structures of your Christian life. That standing Christian that you see as your role model today also went through the same experience. The scripture today says by being persistent, you will train your self on how to recognise good and avoid evil. Your error should be a tool to further build you up and keep you standing and not a tool to discourage you in growing your Christian life.
The need for growth in the life of Christians can not be over emphasised as it remains the obvious solution to the fast degenerating state of the moral fabric of the Church in our world today. There must be a conscious effort by all who claim to be Christians to achieve growth in their Christian life. That remains the only yardstick with which the world is measuring our actions and that is the same yardstick that will be used to determine, not where we spend eternity but how we spend eternity. We must do everything to shine our light so bright so that the world can see our good works and consequently glorify our father in heaven (Matt. 5:16) just as we must do all we can to ensure that we manifest good works to ensure sufficient treasures stored up in heaven to be used in the life after life – Matt. 6:19-21. May God help us as we endeavour to grow our Christian life in Jesus name. Amen.