Peter Pan, the classic children's story character is described by his author, J. M. Barrie, as "the boy who wouldn't grow up." That makes good reading for an adventure fairy tale, but sadly it also describes many who profess the name of Christ.
Mark Dever in his book "What makes a healthy church" laments, "Some today think that a person can be a 'baby Christian' for a whole lifetime. Growth is treated as an optional extra for zealous disciples. But growth is a sign of life. If a tree is alive, it grows. If an animal is alive, it grows. Being alive means growing, and growing means increasing and advancing, at least until death intercedes."
At The Orchard Church, "Intentional Growth" is one of our core values because we take seriously the admonition of Ephesians 4 for every believer to grow to maturity in the fullness of Christ. Intentional growth is deliberate, disciplined and determined. It takes us seriously examining where we are and where we need to be and prayerfully walking that journey. But, it's not an easy journey for many. The reason why many professing believers try to go through life as "baby Christians" is that little is required of a baby, babies have everything done for them, babies are focused squarely on themselves, life revolves around their needs, their wants and their desires. To live as a baby Christian is to live a life with very little distinction from the life that we lived before we knew Christ. It is vital that we understand that just as a baby must grow if he or she is to be healthy and to experience the full joy of life, so the Christian must grow is he or she is to be healthy and experience the full joy of life in Christ.
So what does a mature Christian look like? What is a fully functioning follower? What marks the life of one who is growing in Christ and allowing the knowledge of God and His word to mold and shape his life?
A growing Christian is:
1. Being Transformed. We are made new according to 2 Corinthians 5:17 the very moment that we come to faith in Christ, but the growing Christian recognizes that the Holy Spirit is at work in them each day to transform us in increasing measure into the image of Christ and this transformation takes both our effort and our yielding to His work (Phil 2:12-13).
2. Connecting. When we come to faith we are not left in isolation but are joined together with Christ and placed in the family of God. The growing Christian is one who learns to experience a deep and genuine relationship with Christ and with others (John 15:1-17).
3. Witnessing. Out of an understanding of the depths of God's grace to us in Christ the growing believer seeks to make Jesus known in word and action throughout every part of their life. The probably over used analogy that someone who had the cure for cancer wouldn't keep it to themselves, is a good one, because the growing Christian is increasingly aware of the desperation of their condition without Christ and the magnificence of His salvation.
4. Learning. The growing Christian exhibits a teachable spirit and takes time to daily meditate on the character of God and to study His Word. Doing so strengthens, teaches, corrects and equips us (2 Tim 3:16-17).
5. Serving. Every true Christian has been gifted by God for the purpose of serving and building up the body of Christ. The growing Christian humbly and patiently serves others, not for status or because of what they get out of it, but in obedience to Christ. The result however is that they will get far more out of it than they ever put in!
6. Giving. The baby is all about receiving, the growing Christian joyfully and obediently gives, generously sharing his or her God given resources of time, talent and finances for the glory of God.
7. Going. The growing Christian actively engages the local community and obediently follows the lead of Christ moment by moment and day by day. He looks to Jesus as the commanding officer for his mission each day.
8. Teaching. As we grow in Christ we also have the honor of investing ourselves in the lives of others through discipleship and mentoring as well as simply by sharing with others how God is at work in our lives (Col 3:16).
Does this describe you? It is far from an exhaustive list, but each of these 8 characteristics are present in increasing measure in the follower of Christ who is growing toward maturity. Prayerfully ask God to examine your heart and show you what the next step for you is and ask Him to give you the grace and courage to walk the path that the Holy Spirit leads you on toward maturity. It's time to grow up!