Do you know your spiritual age? Think about it this way, you have a biological age (the year you were physically born), but maybe three years ago, you were born again. When you are born again you have a different spiritual growth plan. Do you know how old you are spiritually speaking?
Humans can reproduce only human life, bur the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’
So, is it possible to be at church for 10 years and not grow? Can you be a spiritual three-year old but have attended services for 10 years? Yes, absolutely. Jesus had to have the same talk with his followers when they were missing it by asking for places of honor. They didn’t understand the growth steps needed and what they looked like.
Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus explains by showing His followers a child. Basically, “This is how you guys have to become in order to grow. You got to start like a child.” What did He mean by that? Well, Jesus means that in order to really grow, you have to be humble enough to say, “You know what, I don’t I don’t actually know anything.” We need to come to God like a child and say, “I’ll trust you like a father.”
It’s important to know what your spiritual age is in order to know how to grow. As you read over the different spiritual ages, you will notice that at each age our language changes. At the end, you should be able to identify where you are at and then know where you need to grow spiritually.
Growth Stage: Not-yet Born
“I’m spiritual, but I’m not a Christian.”
“I don’t like labels. I’m just spiritual.”
When someone says, “I don’t like labels. I’m just spiritual” it means that they don’t know Christ yet. We know that that because, the moment you know Christ, you want that label. You want to be the son and daughter of God. That’s what I want. I want as much of Christ as I can get. You could be reading this and you identify as being spiritual and don’t like labels, that’s totally fine. My prayer is at the end of this blog, you’d be like, “You know what, I’m ready to put my faith in Jesus.” When you have the humility to recognize that you have been living your whole life for yourself but today you are ready to choose Jesus. You’re choosing to believe that He died on the cross for you so that you could be born again. You’ll be forgiven of everything that you’ve done. Jesus is eager to forgive you, to fill you with this Holy Spirit and get you started on your purpose. But first, you’ve got to be born again before you can be in God’s plan and purpose, right? So that’s the first stage. “I’m spiritual, but I don’t like labels.”
Growth Stage: Infant
The second growth stage is infant or baby. In healthy families, there are babies. Freedom Church is a healthy family and getting healthier all the time. I love seeing people grow. I love seeing people in groups and serving. There are lots of babies around us. We baptize people all the time. In the last 11 years, we baptized over 1,600 people. That’s a lot of babies. As a leader, I know that that’s a lot of diapers. Spiritual babies make spiritual messes. We aren’t shocked by spiritual messes, we expect them. We have Big Brothers and Big Sisters who are ready to change diapers and help people grow.
1 Peter 2:2
Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
A baby grows and becomes a child by drinking milk, right? As babies, you want to grow but you don’t know the Word of God yet. You need the nutrients of the Word of God. Infants or babies might say something like:
“Don’t all roads lead to heaven?”
I’m sure you have either heard people say or maybe you have said that all roads lead to heaven. There is a chance that I have just offended you reading this. Jesus is the one who says, “I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus says, “I am THE way.” Not a possible way. “I am the truth.” Not mostly truth. You can try living your own truth, but it’s not the truth. Jesus Christ is the Truth. You can believe everything He’s ever said. There’s nothing incongruent, nothing inconsistent. Hebrews 13:8 says, “He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.” Jesus is like a rock you can stand on. He will tell you the truth even when you don’t want to hear it. The difference is that Jesus says it in a way that you’ll listen, because He’s the one who died for you.
Growth Stage: Children
The next stage of growth is children. Children just love the church family. If you are in the child stage then you are all about fun. You enjoy hanging out with your brothers and sisters. Family time. This is what somebody who’s a child says in our church:
I love life group. Can I move in?
Just like children love playdates with their friends, spiritual children love playdates with their church family. They’re called life groups. In those groups, you can meet each other, have friends, love and grow together while having fun. That is all great, but the reason why people get stuck in the child phase is that it’s easy to make friends, but it’s hard to keep friends. It is easy to get offended by what people in the church say or to blame leaders for different reasons. If you can’t learn to endure and press through, you’ll never go into the next phase. You’ve got to learn how to forgive people and let things slide.
The church just wants my money.
A spiritual child says, “The church just wants my money.” When I hear people say that, I think, “That person doesn’t give.” The thing that can be confusing is that when you give financially you’re not giving money to the church, you’re giving money through the church to help people. Every time you give, you’re letting go of your control and security that money will take care of you. Giving shows God that you trust him. When giving is intentional part of your life and not a random act, you’re putting God first in a very practical way. If you want to grow, trusting God with your money is the most simple, uncomplicated way to do it.
All Christians are hypocrites.
It’s not just Christians who are gossipy, judgmental and hypocrites. No, people are, and then we become Christians. We still have bad habits, but we are working on them and starting to change. People might say that “Christians are weird.” No, that person was weird before they became a Christian. Jesus didn’t make them weird.
If you are reading this and recognize that you say some of these things, you might be wondering how to move out of this phase. The answer is that in order to move into the next phase, you need to know what God’s Word says.
Growth Stage: Adolescence
How do you recognize a spiritual teenager? Because they act like they know everything. They might be thinking that the church should do things their way. They have lots of ideas, but no experience. The same way that a child grows is the same way that a teenager will grow, through humility. You grow at the pace of being able to surrender when you don’t understand, not at the pace of how you figure everything out.
Three ways to grow during adolescence stage:
Proverbs 17:3 tells us “God tests the heart of every man.” God doesn’t test you so that you’ll fail. God tests you so that you’ll win. Tests from God are good tests, because He loves you and He’s helping you grow. God gives tests, the devil gives temptation. Tests bring you closer to God. Temptation pulls you away from God. When you fail a temptation, oftentimes that’s in we just backslide, we run away. We get covered in our own shame. God does the testing. The devil does the tempting.
My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.
Hebrews tells us that “God disciplines the ones that he loves.” You are God’s son or daughter that He loves. If He didn’t discipline you, He would be showing you that you’re illegitimate and not His true son or daughter. If you find yourself in a season of testing, it’s because God is training you. Let me just tell you, the quicker you realize how God is testing you, you can figure out the area you need to trust Him in. Is God testing with you with money? He wants you to trust Him with your finances. Is God testing you with forgiving someone in your life? God’s testing you to see if you can get over it. He wants to give you more influence in your life but you need to learn how to forgive first.
1 Corinthians 10:13
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
We notice here that God allows temptations to happen. He also will give you a way out so that you can stay strong. You’ll never be in a situation that you can’t handle the temptation. God says, “You’re facing the normal stuff that everybody faces: greed, sexual morality, pride. You name it. You’re facing the normal stuff people face. There’s always a way out.” God allows testing and temptations to train you. Can you recognize how God’s testing you? Can you recognize how the enemy’s tempting you? Get through these and you will hit a growth spurt.
You could be thinking that you want to grow and have been trying to do it yourself. The truth is God is already at work in your life. You just need to recognize what he’s doing. Trust him, overcome the test, deny the temptation and you’ll grow.
A trespass is when somebody sins against you. When I personally choose to go against God, that’s sin. But when somebody does something to me, I get hurt because of their sin. They’re trespassing against me. There’s a reason why people get stunted in their growth, it’s because they haven’t learned how to forgive. How are you going to learn how to forgive, unless God allows someone to trespass against you? The goal of discipleship is to become like Jesus. How will you learn how to forgive and be like Jesus if you’ve never had anybody hurt you, stab you in the back, betray you or let you down? So, God will allow those things to happen. He will allow you to get hurt by somebody, but he’s there to help you get healed by Jesus. When you’ve been hurt and you can forgive, you’re never more like Jesus.
You have a spiritual growth spurt that’s just waiting to happen. Do you know the way you are currently being tested? Do you know the temptation you’re facing? Do you know who’s hurt you that you need to forgive? God is getting you ready for more when you are able to identify these areas and work on them. But if you’ve got thin skin, God can’t trust you with His big purpose. Now we need thick skin, but a soft heart. We need to be able to let it slide, so we can give grace and show mercy to others.
Growth Stage: Young Adults
The next phase of development is young adults. In a healthy church, you will see all these different spiritual ages. Young adults are the best because they’re the ones who get it. They have gone through the adolescence stage and are ready to make a difference. Young adults make the switch from attending church for themselves and realize they can use their gifts to make the church stronger. We need spiritual, Big Brothers and Big Sisters to help lead people to Christ, baptize them, serve by leading a life group and help change the spiritual diapers of the infants in the church. In the young adult stage they might say:
“I’m serving in the nursery so parents can attend a service.”
Are you a spiritual young adult? Do you see the church as where you serve or where you sit? Are you here to make a difference? A young adult notices a need and is ready to step in. You might sign up to serve in the kids department to mentor a child, but also know you are making a difference for a single mom that needed to be encouraged in the adult service. Serving is not just filling a need, but is vital to help the church grow stronger.
Young adults have gifts and need to use them. Are you ready to lead a life group? Ready to lead a team? Ready to jump in and help? This is a church that trains up leaders. Just like young adults, some of our leaders will make mistakes, but we are looking for people that would say, “I’m ready Coach, put me in the game!” We need somebody to get off the bench, get in the game, and help make this a winning team.
Growth Stage: Spiritual Fathers & Mothers
If He can do it for me, He can do it for you. I’ll walk with you.
1 Corinthians 4:15
For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you.
Paul was writing to a church that was similar to ours. He was saying the odds that you’re going to make it to spiritual fatherhood or motherhood are 10,000 to one. The body of Christ has always needed spiritual fathers and mothers. I need you to grow out of your childlike thinking, I need you to get out of those rebellious teenage years. I need you to think at least like a young adult, because eventually we need some experienced mature fathers and mothers in this house. We need some spiritual adults that can look at people who are going through a hard time and say, “Sweetheart, I know what you’re going through. Because I went through it, too. It didn’t kill me, but instead made me stronger. If He did it for me, He could do it for you.” We need spiritual fathers and mothers that will walk with people and speak the truth to them in love.
You’re destined for this kind of spiritual growth if you stay in the word and keep forgiving people. If you get through this test, if you don’t give into temptation, you’re going to become stronger and stronger. It’s possible if you don’t fall away during your rebellious years, and instead choose an attitude of humility. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you will become a spiritual father or mother in the kingdom of God. Your life will reach an exponential level of influence as God sends people into your life. He will trust you with the most important thing to Him . . . His kids.