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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

No prolonged infancies

14-16No prolonged infancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.  (Eph. 4:14-16)


Paul has spent some time in this chapter explaining that God has given us pastors, teachers, apostles and evangelists with the express intent that we will be prepared OURSELVES for servant-ministry.  Their purpose in our Christian walk is to help us get to the point that we are all walking along in Christ - making daily progress in our spiritual development.  In so doing, we learn to walk together - with a spiritual unity that marks our walk as holy.


Paul makes a transition in this passage above to begin to challenge us to the idea that permanent Christian "infancy" is not desirable.  We cannot remains "babes in Christ" forever and expect to be able to stand strong against the schemes of the devil, or our own temptations.  Therefore, he reminds us that we have been given leaders in the church, skilled at helping us to grow, focusing our attention on the things that make for a solid walk in Christ.  Paul makes it perfectly clear:  God WANTS us to grow up!  It is not a casual expression of desire here - it is more like a mandate - do it and don't dally!


The idea that small children are easy marks for impostors is only one reason for Paul's urging us to grow in Christ.  If you couple the idea that a small child has not formed their own reasoning faculties with the idea that we are faced with all kinds of things that present themselves as "right" or "good", it becomes apparent that Paul wants to alert us to the fact that not all that appears good is indeed good.  We need to have the spiritual maturity to recognize when we are being fed a bill of goods by the devil, the world, and our own lustful desires.  


Don't miss the fact that Paul describes a process of growth here: infant, small child, mature believer.  The process of growth is overseen, and often assisted, by those God has set up in our local churches (pastor, teacher, etc).  At each level of physical growth, there are developmental "patterns" that are observed.  We start by scooting along on our bellies, learn to get up into a crawling position on hands/knees, and eventually find ourselves upright, walking on two feet.  Even when we are upright, we fall.  The process includes the ability to get back up to the upright position and start again.  Those placed in leadership (both ordained and lay) within our local churches are there to assist us in our process of learning to "walk in Jesus".  


Don't overlook the fact that the very life-blood of Jesus flows through our veins.  Not literally!  At the moment of new birth, there was a "life-exchange" and the very life of Christ began to course through our veins.  Look at what happens when a baby is formed in the womb - mom's blood brings all that nourishes that baby, allowing it to grow and become a fully-formed new life.  With our Christian new birth experience, we are nourished by the very life-blood of Jesus, being given all that will bring us to a place of being fully-formed and perfect in every way.


It is so easy to be "down" on ourselves because we seem to progress in our walk at a pace that is different than others around us.  We see others not only walking with Christ, but leaping and bounding about in him.  Then we look at our own growth and get defeated by the spurts and starts we have had along the way.  We need to embrace what Paul has shown us in these past 3.5 chapters - we are placed in the body and are to begin to relate within the body.  As we do, the body (through Christ's anointing) will help us grow, making us stronger, until we are able to stand as skilled servants carrying out the same work others have done to help us get to that point of maturity.  Our part is to grow and develop - trying new things as God asks us to step out in faith.  We could crawl on our bellies all our life, but we'd become easy targets for being run over!  Let's embrace what Paul tells us here - get related in the body, get moving, and when we fall, get back up!  Engage in the process and see what develops.