Spiritual Growth

Scripture Text: I Peter 1:22-2:8

22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 
23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 
24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, 
25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
 
1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all [slander] evil speaking, 
2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby
3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 

INTRODUCTION

The key verse for tonights message is verse 2…as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby. Peter is addressing a subject that is very important to believers and to the church: that is “Spiritual Growth.” Sir Edmund Hillary was the first man to climb Mount Everest but he did not have immediate success. He failed on several attempts and even lost five of his men. Parliament decided to recognize his accomplishment or his effort and it made him angry. They placed a picture of Mount Everest in the chambers and invited Hillary in: he slammed his fist against the picture and said in a loud voice, “You defeated me! But you won’t defeat me again because you have grown all you can and I am still growing.” This is a good question for all believers to ask themselves “Am I still growing spiritually?” Should you as a believer be concerned about your spiritual growth?

The CHURCH is more than an ORGANIZATION, it is an ORGINISM, a body and it works like the human body. The church is made up of many members but they all belong to one body. The body has fingers, toes, ears, eyes, hands, feet and a number of vital organs. They are all uniquely different but they are a part of one body. So tonight, we want to talk for a moment about spiritual growth and its affect on individual members within the body.

First of all, I want to talk about…

I. THE NEED FOR GROWTH…

Peter begins this section by talking about our “Spiritual Birth,” [v.23] “Having been born again.” Then in chapter 2, verse 2 he brings up the subject again, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” Birth implies many things: first and perhaps foremost, it means we have a FATHER. Secondly, it means we are part of a FAMILY. Third, it means we a FOSTER care system. To foster is to encouragepromotestimulateadvanceforwardcultivatenurturestrengthen, or enrich. As you see, a foster parent has many responsibilities.


It is a given that a baby needs nurture. Babies need love and care. Then when they become totlers, they need training. As they grow older, they need discipline and education. We have a serious problem in America. We have millions of children who are not getting the nurture, love and discipline they desperately need. Children must have help in the maturing process. So if a child is to grow and mature, they need NURTURE. So do believers: we need nurture.

II. THE NEED FOR NOURISHMENT

Peter has a lot to say in the passage about the word of God, [v.23] “the word of God which lives and abides forever.” We have the word of God in two forms: the written word and the Living word. Every born again believer should have an incessionable appetite for the word of God. Just like a baby constantly cries for milk, we should long for the word. No believer will grow spiritually a part from the word of God. If you stop eating, you will stop growing. Your cells will stop reproducing and you will dry up and die. The body must have nourishment and the same is true of our spirit. I can give you plenty of milk [previously digested food] but I cannot give you meat. You have to get that in your personal bible study. You see, I have been chewing on this passage for months and especially for the last two weeks. I have ingested and digested and now I share with you but for you it is milk, for me it was meat, I had to chew on it for a while.

III. THE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF GROWTH

A body grows together. The hand does not grow and the feet remain tiny. We would be a freak if the head grew but the rest of the body remained infantile. This is a point that many do not grasp. We have a lot of folks, SUPER SAINTS, who read books, attend conferences and zero in on their own personal spiritual growth to the neglect of the rest of the body. The result is a lot of head knowledge that puffs them up. Paul said in I Corinthians 8:1, Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies, and he is exactly right. There is nothing in the NT that teaches us to grow a part from the body. We are to have a mutual concern for each others spiritual progress.


Peter and Paul are on the same page: what Peter is teaching in this section has to do with the atmosphere for spiritual growth. [1] Yes, we must have the right nourishment [Word of God] but we also need [2] the right atmosphere. You don’t grow tomatoes on the North Pole. Matter of fact, you don’t grow them in Alaska–it is too cold. Tomatoes have to have a warm climate and okra more so. In the mountains of Guatemala, you can raise every vegetable known to man except Okra. Although they never have frost, it gets in to the 50’s at night and okra has to have warm nights.
The THEREFORE in 2:1 is Peter’s transition to the atmosphere needed for young believers to grow. He says, lay aside malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and evil speaking. The NASB makes one slight change: Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. All five of these things have something in common. See if you can figure out what it is as I share definitions.
  • Malice means ill will or the desire to hurt or injure. Malicious words are those intended to harm another person. Swindoll says it is the spirit that is entrenched in the world system
  • Deceit means craft, guile, cunning, treachery.
  • Hypocrisy means literally to wear two faces. It is a word used in reference to play actors. One actor could play more than one part because they wore mask. Acting was not a popular art in biblical times.
  • Envy is inappropriate jealously. I was reading somewhere the other day and I did not make a note and now I can’t find my source, but one of the Catholic Popes said, “I have heard thousands of confessions but never one confession of envy.” Some 25 years ago I preached a sermon on JEALOUSY which is ENVY’S twin sister and I said the same thing about jealously…I had never heard it confessed. One woman came by me after the service and said rather briskly, “I’m jealous and I confessed it.”
  • Slander is a compound word which literally means evil speech. Slanders relatives are gossip, talebaring, backbitting and of course bearing false witness. Slander can be a false statment about another persons character that is based on a hunch, assumption, or a feeling. I get real aggrivated at myself for making statements based on my assumptions. I saw this acrostic on the internet and I am going to try to use it.

Now what do these five things have in common? They are things that destroy the fellowship of a church. Things that make a church an unhealthy atmosphere for growth. These things are all anti-spiritual growth.

JUST AS A CHILD NEEDS A NURTURING FAMILY: BELIEVERS NEED A NURTURING CHURCH

We need a warm atmosphere to grow believers. This is what Peter is encouraging…go back to verse 22 and we will see the requirement for creating a warm fellowship for growth. Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart…

  1. We need a Spirit of obedience. The body has only one head and its not me and it aint you. It is JESUS. He is the boss and He knows what to do. [Matthew 16:18] “I also say to you that you are Peter {petros, stone} and upon this rock [petra, boulder or huge stone] I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. The key to church unity is for everyone to obey the HEAD.
  2. We need Purity of Soul. The number one problem in churches is the “Hidden Agenda.” Someone trying to impose their will on the majority by the use of deceit. We have to get our motives right and sometimes that takes the furnace of affliction.
  3. We need Sincere Love. Not fake fellowship but sincere love.
  4. We need a Fervent Love. A fervent love is an earnest and intense love. Dr. Wiersbe says, “It is a love that seeks the best for others; it gives rather than takes. It promotes rather than manipulates.”
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