It’s Time To Grow Up

Birth receives far more attention among Christians than growth. Born again, new birth, new life are all terms in high use among Western Christians, and rightly so. But, ignoring or overlooking growth leads to the absence of growth and in the words of Eugene Peterson, we become “a nation of adolescence.”

Peterson goes on to say, “the most significant growth that any of us does is growing as a Christian…all other growth is prep for this growth.” Scripture is full of growing up both physically and spiritually and sometimes both. Moses grew up, David grew up, John the Baptist grew up, and Jesus himself grew up. Then after Jesus returned to his father, we see the spiritual growth of his followers who go from clueless, scaredy cats to courageous and bold ambassadors for the Kingdom of God.

woman wearing red dress on gray stairs

Photo by Zun Zun on Pexels.com

Could it be that the most important thing about you and me is our Growing Up as followers of Christ? How would that change our work place? How would that change our families? Our marriage? Our solutions to society’s biggest problems?

I am a more patient, friendly, happy, and trusting person because of my Growing Up. I have seen God do some miraculous things in and through me because of my Growing Up. I have made odd and foolish career decisions that demonstrated that God knew what he was doing. I have gone out on a limb and seen God handle the outcomes far better than I ever could. I have grown up and that growth has made it possible for more growth. I am not where I can be or should be but I have matured and developed in my faith.

Let us not put Growing Up on the periphery of our Christian life. Let us make it the other side of the coin from new birth. Let us no longer be a church of adolescence.

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Reading Now/Listening Now

Reading Now

What I am Reading: I am going through my highlights from Dallas Willard’s Life Without Lack and starring the best sections.

What has Meant Something to Me: Willard describes the movement of faith from sufficiency to abandonment to contentment.

LWL

Something I am Going to Try: A day with Jesus. At the end of the book, Willard maps out how to spend a day with Jesus. I am looking to schedule this and plan for this later in the month.

Listening Now

What I am Listening To: As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson. This is a collection of sermons from the long time pastor, translator, writer, and professor.  I have the audiobook version and I listen to it on my way to work. Unlike the Baptist preachers that I am used to, Peterson’s sermons are usually around 20 minutes long. So, I often finish the sermons on my commute.

What has Meant Something to Me: Peterson isn’t trying to conquer the known world with each sermon. He simply has a text, a word from God, and fantastic use of language. This helps you chew on the message and let it swim around a bit in your head. There are no set of points to map out, just grand, holy ideas to consider and pray through.

Something I am Going To Try: Reading the Psalms in the Message translation in order to get a fresh taste of the full range of human experience and God’s provision in that experience.

I Am Not Very Observant

Most of the time, I am too distracted, too busy, too worried, too anxious to notice all the good and meaningful things that are around me.

I recently picked up Eugene Peterson’s book Practice Resurrection. This book is Peterson’s conversation on Ephesians. I had read this book, or portions of it, several years ago, but never knew it was the better written, and more deeply thought out version of what I am trying to do here with this blog. For example, this section from page 2:

The most significant growing up that any person does is to grow as a Christian. All other growing up is a preparation for or ancillary to this growing up…The human task is to become mature, not only in our bodies and emotions and minds within ourselves, but also in our relationship with God and other persons.

The rest of the book is like this. Peterson is reading my mind and heart and illustrating it in a very thoughtful and profound way. His subtitle to the book is, “a conversation on growing up in Christ.”

The thing is,  I have read this book before and remember nothing about this talk on Christian maturity and Growing Up.

observation

hitchster/flickr

How much truth, how much meaningful content, how many messages from God just pass us by without us paying much attention?

It worries me that Peterson was addressing my own key message and purpose and it barely registered for me. Maybe one of the first steps in maturity is fewer and fewer of these moments and messages pass us by unnoticed. A sign of maturity may mean that we are in a state where we are more spiritually observant and receptive to all God is throwing at us. Our distraction levels are lowered and the Holy Spirit has more room to work.

What is it that you have let pass you by unnoticed? Do you need to read that passage of scripture again? Can you find that sermon online that you should have been paying attention to? Can you take your time with your next book long enough for the words to soak in? Or do you just need to approach the next thing with more receptivity to God’s work in your life?

He is present and he wants to connect with us. Are we listening?

Why Christian Spiritual Growth Matters.

Sometimes I wonder if what I am doing on this blog and in classes I teach on discipleship is mistaken. I ask myself if I am being too focused on self and am encouraging people to abandon global pursuits for personal pursuits that potentially have little meaning. Is my emphasis on personal spiritual growth just a Christian version of the self-help obsession that has overtaken our country? But yesterday I realized something when reading some of Eugene Peterson’s book Traveling Light.

Peterson was trying to point out that the gospel, or good news, that Paul talked about in Galatians has both a global meaning and a personal meaning. In other words, when it is all said and done, we still must deal with ourselves. All of our friends and family may come to know Christ, and great political peace arrive around the world, and poverty come to an end in the third world, yet we are still left with ourselves and the status of our own heart.

David may have experienced great success as a King and military leader but he still had to deal with the condition of his heart and his tendency for distraction and lust. Moses was absolutely no good for his people if he did not have a deep connection with God.  Peter was ready to fight off Jesus’ accusers with a sword but when it really got serious he was done in by a little girl (John 18: 16-17). If we ignore the personal side of our faith then we have to ignore the majority of the New Testament. Jesus goes to great lengths in the Sermon on the Mount to paint a picture of what a disciple of his looks like. I can’t ignore this fact because it doesn’t fit the bill for an action oriented, go-go-go, Evangelical culture.

So, I am encouraged that trying to become more like Christ is an essential part of my faith and that trying to help others into Christlikeness is worth every bit of time and energy that God has given me. Have you neglected your spiritual growth for other faith pursuits? Have you downgraded pursuing Christlikeness because it seems too self-focused? Work through these issues by asking God to show you an effective balance between growth and going and between action and contemplation. Lets find this balance together “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).”

Good Words

oxforddictionary.com

Stephen A.  Macchia overcomes the Philosophy of More (that more is always better even in spiritual things) to simplify his spiritual life for the better.

Billy Graham lists regrets and advices young pastors to guard their time so they can spend more time with family.

Donald Miller turns off his cell phone and gets more productive.

Christianity in China is increasing rapidly. What effect will that have on the Chinese government?

Really looking forward to Eugene Peterson’s Memoir, The Pastor.