Rev. Heath Bleyenberg, pastor of Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church in Lacombe, Alberta

But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him  in all things, which is the head, even Christ”  Ephesians 4:15 

There is something terribly wrong with that child who  forever remains a child. Year after year that child does  not grow. The parents rightfully become very concerned.  They plead with the doctor “Our child is not growing.  There’s no development at all! What could possibly be  wrong?” That’s a real fear for parents. Every father  and mother knows that fear when they bring their child  to the doctor with such a serious condition.

Are you growing? Are you maturing? Are you developing?

There is something terribly wrong with that child of  God who is a perennial spiritual infant. Why is there  that lack of development and maturity? Perhaps there  is hardly, if any, interest in spiritual things. Perhaps  that person has become enamored with worldly matters  and now has little time to devote to godly matters. And  there is a host of reasons for this spiritual stagnation.  We do well to examine our hearts and put the finger  on those compartments in our lives where we know we  have not been faithful as we ought.

A prolonged season of little spiritual growth is an  indication that a terrible condition has begun to set  in—spiritual complacency. Spiritual complacency is  the sin of being indifferent and apathetic to spiritual  matters. One might say to that spiritually complacent  person, “You really ought to exercise yourself in godliness.”  But then the response is given, “It’s not that big  of a deal. I’m fine where I’m at.” If left unchecked, this  attitude betrays an indifference toward God Himself.  The Jews in Jerusalem after the captivity were self-satisfied  and at ease in life. They said “The Lord will not  do good, neither will he do evil” (Zeph. 1:12). It’s the  spiritual shrugging of the shoulders whereby one says,  “Who is God? Really, who is He? You understand at  this point in my life I don’t want to be bothered by God  and what He does and doesn’t say. I’m fine and happy  doing my own thing.” That’s the sad spiritual condition  the Bible describes as becoming “settled on their lees”  (Zeph. 1:12).

The exhortation to grow 

The Word of God exhorts us to grow spiritually.  Ephesians 4:15 calls up to “grow up into him in all  things.” That is our calling as members of the body of  Christ whether we are children, young people, fathers  and mothers in the home, or elderly saints. This is our  calling together as a local congregation. This is our  calling as a denomination of churches. Grow up in the  Lord Jesus Christ!

It is not the will of God that we forever remain infants  in the faith. Paul describes the church in Corinth  as infants. “And I, brethren, could not speak unto  you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto  babes in Christ” (I Cor. 3:1). This is no commendation  on the part of the apostle. As of yet the Corinthians  were carnal, having not yet fully grown up, and Paul  feeds them with milk and not meat. But it must not  remain that way! The Corinthians must in time grow  up.

Paul writes to the Ephesians, “That we henceforth be  no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about  with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and  cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive”  (4:14). The desire of the apostle is that the Ephesians  will advance out of spiritual infancy and grow up in the  Lord Jesus Christ.

To “grow up” (Eph. 4:15) is a word that means “to  increase and become more.” It is a word used in connection  with the physical body growing and maturing  (Luke 2:40). As applied to plants we must “consider  the lilies how they grow” (Luke 12:27). In a figurative  sense it applies to spiritual realities: “increasing in the  knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10); the whole body being  nourished by Christ the head “increaseth with the increase  of God” (Col. 2:19); “As newborn babes, desire  the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby”  (I Pet. 2:2). Spiritual growth is increasing in our knowledge  of God and maturing in all our holy living as we  are fed by the word of the gospel.

Growing up in Christ 

We are interested in a very specific kind of growth. Spiritual maturing is a growth in the Lord Jesus Christ.  “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him  in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph.  4:15).

To be sure, we need growth in every area of our lives.  We need to grow in our prayer life. We need to grow  in our study of the Word of God. We need to grow in  watching our tongues and only speaking that which is  edifying to the neighbor. We need to grow in our marriages.  We need to grow in performing more and more  good works to the glory of God’s name.

These are all good things. We need to increase in  them. But without first growing up into the Lord Jesus  Christ, all those other things become impossible.  Growth in Jesus Christ is first and foremost.

To “grow up” in Christ means that we increase in  certain respects regarding Christ. We must increase in  our knowledge of Christ as the Son of God who is at the  very heart and center of the counsel of God regarding  all things (Eph. 1:10). We must grow in our conscious  dependence upon Jesus as the Good Shepherd who cares  for all His sheep. We must grow in our boldness to  declare to all and sundry the wonderful things my Savior  has done for my soul (Ps. 66:16)—remission of sins,  righteousness, being made children of God, and heirs of  eternal life.

Growing up in Christ is not simply an intellectual  knowledge. There are those kind of people. They have  that intellectual knowledge. But they use that knowledge  simply for the sake of winning a theological argument  and having the satisfaction of wiping the floor  with their opponent. That is not a growing up in Christ,  simply that intellectual knowledge.

But growth in Christ is a knowledge that sinks  down deep into my heart so that I confess with the  apostle, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss  for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my  Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,  and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ”  (Phil. 3:8).

To grow up in Christ means that we love Him. We  serve Him. We worship Him. We identify with Him.  My life is wrapped up in the Lord Jesus Christ who  loved me and laid down His life for me.

Desiring this spiritual growth 

This spiritual growth and maturity in Christ becomes  the deep desire of the child of God. God unites us to  Jesus by a true and living faith and makes us willing  in the day of His power (Ps. 110:3). The result being  that we desire Jesus all the more! We want to be as  close as possible to our Savior and live with Him in  close fellowship and communion. And not only with  Him, but with all the other members of the body. This  desire for spiritual growth becomes the active pursuit of  godliness in our lives.

So important is this desire for spiritual maturity that  it becomes one of the criteria for those who would be  proper partakers of the Lord’s Supper. The Heidelberg  Catechism in Q&A 81 allows those only to the Lord’s  Supper who “earnestly desire to have their faith more  and more strengthened, and their lives more holy.” The  impenitent, spiritually complacent person has no business  coming to the table of the Lord. He is at worst a  hypocrite, or at best one who does not turn to God with  a sincere heart (Q&A 81). But the fervent desire of the  Christian as he approaches the table and goes out in all  of life is this: “I want my faith more and more strengthened.  I want my life more holy. I want to grow up in  the Lord Jesus Christ and arrive at even a more mature  faith.”

This spiritual growth becomes our lifelong desire. A  little boy can grow up into a man and say, “Now I’m  all grown up. I’ve arrived. My years of growing up are  over.” But we can never say that from a spiritual point  of view. Never can we say, “I’ve had a nice little growth  spurt. I’ve been diligent in what’s required of me. And  I think I’ve arrived. I’m pretty content with my spiritual  condition at the moment.” That’s not the mark of spiritual  maturity. That’s the mark of immaturity and pride.  “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed  lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:12). Spiritual growth in Christ  and maturing in the faith is a lifelong process.

Are you growing? Are you maturing? Are you developing?  You haven’t fallen into spiritual complacency  and lethargy have you?

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood  as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became  a man, I put away childish things.” There’s nothing  wrong with being a spiritual infant. That’s how we all  start off. But it is not the will of God that we remain  infants in the faith year after year. We must grow up in  Christ “till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of  the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man,  unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”  (Eph. 4:13).

We turn our attention next time, the Lord willing, to the various ways for us to mature spiritually.