Cliché Seven: There are no Spiritual Growth Stages

Continuing a series on Church Clichés.

Last Post: https://revivalinjesusway.wordpress.com/2020/05/31/cliche-six-spiritual-growth-doesnt-happen-through-methods/

Series Intro: https://revivalinjesusway.wordpress.com/2020/04/04/series-against-common-christian-cliches/

Podcast for Cliché Seven: https://castbox.fm/episode/Cliche-Seven%3A-There-are-no-Spiritual-Growth-Stages-id2800003-id272984218?country=us

 

The Cliché

So we’re getting more into clichés that come up when discussing discipleship specifically. This cliché comes up deeper into the discipleship discussion usually. From my experience most typical Christians or pastors will be fine discussing discipleship abstractly discussing how the purpose of the church is in large part to see people grow to maturity. Most will, more often than not, reluctantly admit that becoming like Christ  has something to do with maturity. However, when you begin getting specific people’s shields come up and the conversation starts to come to a close… Paticuarly with stages of growth. If you say we need to try to get people to the next stage of their growth people will say things like “well none of us are really better than anyone else” or  “Christ is the real teacher, we’re all just learning from Him”.

 

Why is this Cliché so bad?

Big goals require smaller goals!

So, in the Navy there are a lot of multistep things one needs to do. A warfare pin requires you to learn about several specific areas. Mastering most jobs requires you know how to perform a number of functions and need to learn how to do each one individually well. For instance one time early on in my career I was responsible for daily fixing an array of computer issues and printer issues while running a warehouse, doing loads of admin work and studying for quals and I look back on that job as one of the easier ones I had! If I did not break down what specifically I needed to learn more about for each area I would have been toast. It’s the same with the spiritual life, if we refuse to say what the expectation is and what steps are needed to get there then we will simply be at the edge of our nerves all the time about how we are actually doing before Christ. I have the sneaking suspicion that there are a LOT of Christians out there that secretly feel nervous about all the vague things they believe they should be doing. It does not have to be that way!

 

What is the real problem?

We’ve identified three main issues people have with stages:

  1. Its prideful. Everyone is equal.
  2. No example
  3. Logic and faith are not compatible “assembly line”

It’s Prideful

As we said in previous episodes there is a difference between false humility and real humility. Real humility is taking and honest stock of ourselves Romans 12:3. While it is true we struggle with sin and its true we are who we are because Jesus shed His blood for us that is not a reason to ignore realy spiritual progress in life. Don’t just pat yourself on the back but honestly assess anything less is less than what we are called to in Christ.

Also, the person at the head of the line Christ Jesus was the humblest man who ever walked the earth, why? Because He was without SIN (Heb 4:15). Jesus never responded to a single temptation to being prideful He always evaluated Himself justly. So if the One who we are meant to be becoming like, the goal of our spiritual pursuits could be more mature, yet humble then the Holy Spirit can also help us to practically pursue growth without becoming prideful.

All Christians are Equal

The way in which Christian are equal does not mean the same. We are equal in value in two ways as Christians:

  1. We are all created equally in God’s image from the start. (Genesis 3)
  2. We are all rescued and in Christ because He decided to save us, if He had not end of story. So I am no more responsible for my salvation than anyone else at most it could be said that I reached my hand out rather than receiving the fate I deserved.

For instance just because Paul was further along and could consider himself an example worth imitating (1 Cor 11:1-2, Phil 3:17) he could still talk to churches as people equally valued by God. There is not even a hint in the New Testament that God shows favoritism toward different believers in terms of love.

Logic and Faith are not Compadible

There is this improper separation a lot of us carry with us that is not Biblical and isn’t logical. We feel like if something becomes more physical or logical it cannot be spiritual because the spiritual is something abstract and separate from the physical. Logic also cannot be applied to spiritual things because it is in the power of the flesh, it is something we are trying to do instead of giving Christ His proper place in the spiritual realm. Now Christians have not always thought this way, in fact two of the greatest known Philosophers in history Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine were head church figures in their day. The divide here has its own history during the Enlightenment and in retreatism and romanticism by some Christian thinkers but there isn’t space to discuss that here. The fact is logic is simply not outside the bounds of the spiritual life for instance knowing God IS eternal life according to Jesus (John 17:3). Yet to even get started knowing God we need to logically conclude things like:

  1. One must spend time with God because you cannot know someone without spending time with them.
  2. Some details of what He is like and what He is not like.
  3. What He likes/dislikes.

How did I come up with these conclusions? Simple by thinking deductively and inductively based on other information I know. Such as the most basic logical statement A is not not-A, in other words God cannot be two contradictory things He cannot be wholly good and wholly evil He cannot be full of love for everyone and full of hate for everyone. We must apply logic to what we learn from scripture in order to follow scripture.

Secondly, Christianity is FOUNDED on historical facts. Paul said:

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor 15:13-14)

In other words, historically a resurrection had to have really taken place if not then our faith is simply incorrect. In the verses just prior Paul goes into the evidence for that very belief setting a standard that it is important and necessary to know the evidence and facts before committing to Christ.

No Example

This one almost goes without saying. In the early church there were clear examples of how to help a person grow step by step because discipleship was part of the DNA of Christianity. Today there are few doing discipleship. One major call on our lives is to change this we are all called to be disciplemakers (Matt 28:19-20) I hope you will join us in thinking about growth thoroughly and really considering how you can disciple others!

 

What Scripture Says about Stages of Growth

So given that the objections against stages being used for growth aren’t valid, are stages Biblical? Here are a few examples that show thinking of growth in terms of stages is not only logical (big goals need smaller goals) but also Biblical:

 

1 John 2:12-14 (John mentions specific attributes associated with persons at different maturity levels)

 I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, dear children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.

 

Hebrews 6: 1-2 (The author describes an elementary stage, then a going on from that elementary stage, specific things are estabilished in the elementary stage)

“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

 

1 Corinthians 3:10 (Same principle from Paul, he set a foundation. Then built on that notice in his letters and in Acts the foundation is similar to the Hebrews verse)

 “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.”

 

2 Corinthians 3:18 (Paul talks about going from one degree of glory to another, the Christian life is not static and there is a continual moving on that takes place)

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

 

 

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