You have professed your faith in God, but are you growing and maturing in your faith? Today’s bible study takes a look at maturing faith in the Lord and what it is so important for us as Christians to mature in our faith.
You have confessed within your heart that you believe in God, that you believe in His only begotten Son, and that His died and has risen from the dead – you genuinely believe – is this the end of your faith? I ask this question because there are many believers who believe that their confession and belief is the end. The truth, however, is that confession and believing is simply the starting point on the journey of faith in God. In today’s bible study, we’re going to study about how our faith must grow and mature.
Babes in faith
When one first enters into the world, he or she does not enter into the world knowing everything there is to know. None of us came out of our mother’s womb and started walking and talking like a full blown adult. I am reminded of one of my favorite movie lines, when it comes to first believing in the Lord. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker tells Obi-Wan that he did feel something in his first attempts at using “the Force”. Obi-Wan patted him on the shoulders and said to him, “you’ve taken your first step into a larger world”. There is a great deal of truth in this line for all of us when we first enter into our faith in God. Believing in God, trusting in Him, and having faith in Him, genuinely, introduces the new believer into a very large world that we had no idea about.
Peter wrote (1 Peter 2:2) that we are like “newborn babes”, which I certainly believe was and is true for all of those who first enter into the faith. We do not know everything there is to know about God, right away, and after having been in the faith for nearly all of my life, I can still tell you that I don’t know everything there is to know about God. We do not know everything there is to know about the bible, right away, and once again, I tell you that even after I read all 66 books of the protestant bible, I still don’t know everything there is to know! We do not know, for a fact, what all is right and what all is wrong, right away, and I will tell you again, that after all of these years, I still am not so sure I know.
Honestly, I don’t believe we will ever know everything; not until the Lord wants us to know! To come to this type of understanding, my faith had to grow and mature. Sadly, one common thing I have witnessed, is that many new believers act very immature in their new found faith. How so? Some become superior, in their mind, and love to ride around on a high horse. Others choose to dictate their faith onto others, feeling that this is the “right thing” to do. Another group chooses to do nothing but keep up contentious arguments over what they believe in. I tell you that this type of faith is very immature, but sadly many simply continue in this way and end up doing more harm than good. Our faith must grow and mature, just like a baby grows and (hopefully) matures with age.
How do we grow and mature in our faith? Peter gives us a really good answer when he says:
as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby
1 Peter 2:1 NKJV
Peter writes that the believe should desire the pure milk of the word. Notice that Peter says that the pure milk of the word is what you will grow by. If you want to grow, spiritually, you’re not going to be able to grow by anything offered by the world. We often seek and turn to the world to help us, but the world cannot help you spiritually. The word, of course, is scripture – sound doctrine – that we, as believers, should live by.
When a baby enters the world, the baby first drinks the milk of his or her mom’s breast. The baby needs the nutrients of that milk and lives off the nutrients of that milk. The believer cannot live off the “milk” of the world and expect to be provided the proper nourishment needed for spiritual growth. In order for us to grow spiritually, we must turn to the word and doctrine of God. I believe that this is something that new believers should do, right away, but also something that we older believers should do as well. Even we who have been of the faith in God for a very long time should also desire the pure milk of the word of God. You see, faith is not something that should remain in an infancy state but should be something that is constantly seeking to mature and grow.
The problems that we see in our society, here in America, is that many so-called believers never grew in their so-called faith. There is a group of people who call themselves believers that know little to nothing about their professed faith – the non-believer knows more than they do! Paul wrote (2 Timothy 4:2) that we should “be ready” in season and out of season to convince, rebuke, and exhort with longsuffering and teaching. This is a reminder to the calling of every last genuine believer that graces this earth: “(Matthew 28:19) make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I want to mention three very important goals that all believers should seek to meet in their faith. They are: to become Christ-like in their walk (ways); to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit (minister the gospel); to love their neighbor and thereby live peaceably with all people. In order for us to accomplish these goals, we cannot remain babies in our faith – we must grow and mature!
Add to your faithful
Peter and the other apostles, I believe, understood these three goals of our faith. The apostles, I also believe, understood that they had to change, as a person and spiritually, in our to accomplish these goals. For example, let’s remember that Peter was a stubborn (John 13:6-8), loud mouth that I believe used to boast about being great but had to be taught lessons on humility (Luke 22:24-30). I don’t believe Peter would have been capable of bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit without growing and maturing spiritually. You see, when you grow and mature, spiritually, you will grow and mature as a person as well.
Peter came up with a list of things that we should add to our faith. Once again, this lets us know that our faith should always grow and mature. God does not want us to be the same person we was when we first entered into our faith in Him. If you’re the same person you were when you first started your spiritual journey, you’re not practicing your faith properly! Ok, let’s look at what Peter says we should add to our faith.
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
2 Peter 1:5-7 NKJV
Peter gives us a list of 6 to 7 things that we should look to add to our faith. These are the characteristics that, if you do not have them already, you should look to add them to your faith. On the other hand, if you have already added these characteristics to yourself, you should diligently seek to improve in each of these characteristics daily. If you are virtuous as a person, don’t settle, be even more virtuous. If you are a loving kind of person, don’t settle, be even more loving – never stop improving.
Let’s define these words so that we can have better understanding of what exactly we are either adding to our faith or improving. Virtue: behavior showing high moral standards. Knowledge: facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education. Self-control: controlling oneself, in particular one’s emotions, desires, and behavior. Perseverance: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty. Godliness: the pursuit of being Christ-like, focusing on faith in God, and pleasing the Lord. Brotherly kindness and love goes hand-in-hand by the way in which we think of unconditional love. When I say unconditional love, I am not including the love of a parent or family because, to me, loving someone you are connected with by blood is kind of conditional. The love we should add and improve in is loving those who are our enemy, that we do not know, is not inside of our bubble, and believes something differently – loving total strangers as you love yourself.
There are some great places in scripture where you can read great examples of each of these characteristics displayed by people like you. If you’re looking to read about someone who I believe displayed these characteristics, I would definitely consider reading about Joseph’s journey (Genesis 39 – 41); it’s not his full story (read Genesis 37 – 50) but this does show how he displayed these characteristics in hard and trying times. I think of all that Joseph went through in his young life but it never knocked him from off his spiritual journey.
Sadly, there are many who get thrown off of their spiritual journey, not because of something the world did, but because of something that they did not do. Peter wrote (2 Peter 1:8), that the believer who did not add (or grow) those characteristics in their faith, would end up going barren and not be fruitful. Let’s look at what Peter wrote:
8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither [b]barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
2 Peter 1:8-9 NKJV
This, in my opinion, is one of the sadder scriptures that you will read in the New Testament. We, as believers, are meant to be lights in the world (Philippians 2:15). This means we are meant to be guides to all of those among us; we are to guide them to the true light of Christ. However, Peter writes that one who does not mature in their faith will become shortsighted, even to blindness. There are many who claim to be followers of Christ, but they are shortsighted and blind to the way in which they walk. Just take a look at a lot of the things that seems to be troubling us nowadays, and look at the type of people who are doing a lot of the stirring of these troubles.
Let’s look to the apostle Paul for a moment. I want to remind you that Paul was a man that was full of hatred in convictions to root all of those who were preaching and teaching Christ before his conversion. Paul, when he was known as Saul, wrote that he was there leading the people to stone Stephen (Acts 8:1; Acts 22:20). Paul had a hatred for these new followers because they were practicing a faith that seemed, to him, to make a mockery of his faith. Paul would enter the homes of the believers of Christ and have them arrested and taken to prison (Acts 8:3). When the believers decided to flee Jerusalem, and go to Damascus, he was not too far behind them.
Paul is a man who is held with very high regard among believers, especially preachers, but it would seem that this should be unlikely when you hear of the things that he did prior to his conversion. Paul had to grow up (mature), spiritually, in order to become the man who is held with such high regard. Paul wrote a long list of characteristics that a believer should let go in order to grow (Galatians 5:19-21). I am not going to list them all, but I will share some of the characteristics that he mentioned. They are: uncleanness, lewdness, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, and envy. I tell you, Paul knew what he was talking about and I believe some of these he was able to jot down from his own personal experience.
Peter was also a man who I believe had to learn to let go of hatred as well. Let’s remember that Peter drew his sword and cut off the Malchus’ ear when Jesus was arrested (John 18:10). Jesus rebuked Peter for living by that sword and told Peter to put it in its place (Matthew 26:52). Too many believers are living by a sword produced by the world; they cling to their swords more than they do the word of Christ. Peter wrote (1 Peter 2:1) that we should let go of things like malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking.
The apostles, I tell you, wrote and taught from their own personal experience when it came to teaching believers about maturing in faith. Both Paul and Peter were two men who, at a time in their lives, lived inside of their own bubbles. They loved all of the people who were able to fit inside of their little bubbles. They realized that a bubble was no place for a mature Christian to live inside of and bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit! We cannot live inside of these bubbles that we create and believe are perfect. The fruit that we should bear is meant for everybody! I know this because God gave the whole world His only begotten Son (John 3:16) – not a select few.
If we are going to keep the Lord’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19), there is no way that we are going to do so by living in our little bubbles. There is also no way that you are going to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit by being immature towards others. We cannot be overly righteous zealots in our spiritual journey and think that is a way to properly share the gospel. We also cannot dictate our faith on to others because everybody has a choice to live and have faith in what they choose to believe in. For us to come to this understanding, this knowledge, we must mature in our faith!
I want to leave you with these last notes, starting with: we must follow in the way of Christ by being lowly in heart. Jesus said (Matthew 11:29), “learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” In becoming humble, our walk changes, and we can better love others unconditionally. Lastly, Jesus said this:
But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
Luke 6:32-33 NKJV
Let us mature in our faith. Let us answer the call that Jesus has given here in this scripture – do better than the sinner. Let us mature to the point to where we can live peaceably with all manner of people, regardless of what they look like, what they believe in, and the way in which they live. I hope you enjoyed this study and will share this study with others.