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JOYFUL JOTTINGS 27
Let's look then at Ephesians 4:15-16, for that speaks of GROWING UP.
We will think about this under 3 headings:
THE FIXATION AND THE FACTS,
GROWING UP and
1. What is this scripture ?
"But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him
who is the Head, even Christ:
From whom the whole body, joined and knit together
by what every joint supplies,
according to the effective working by which every part does it share,
causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
Before of course, you can grow up, you have to be born.
2. FIXATION AND THE FACTS
Consider this 'being born' in the spiritual setting.
We hear so much about being "born again". It is like a class of kids ecstatically going around congratulating each other on being born.
Great it is to be born. One discovers a new real, liberty, scope, opportunity and even, in measure, identity.
However this is so often accompanied by a seemingly almost total disregard of what the kingdom of heaven is, of what its rules are made, that it assuredly seems that in many of these cases, it is not a living birth at all, but rather a case of a still born baby.
Still-born babies, like faith without works, are dead. Death defies the laws of life, because it does not have life. That is how it comes that life's lively laws do not relate to it. It is not a case of an exemption, but an exclusion!
If you look in Romans 8:2,
you see this, which we here call THE LAW OF LIFE PRINCIPLE:
"FOR THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS HAS MADE ME FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH."
The operation of sin and death had been shown in detail in Romans 7. Its key is this: in a sinful heart, good laws tended to produce bad reactions, and sin to augment itself, just through the mere thought of what was prohibited. Sin was aroused through the name of what was negated! So Paul narrated the experience of defeat, outside the victory which is found in the Saviour: namely this - The good that he would do, he could not, did not; and the evil he was unwilling to perform, it was precisely this that he found himself doing. WHO WOULD DELIVER HIM! No solution to this failure was found, and the death it duly deserved could be found except in this, there was ONE who could deliver. He discovered that this rescue was found in Christ, so that there is "no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" - Romans 8:1. We are now in v.2, seeing details of the data of this area. We find that there is a LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE. It is not lawless, disorderly; but decreed, this law, and applied and enacted and fulfilled. In turn, it rests on the Person and work of Christ.
Then we find in Romans 8, that there is a SPIRITUAL LIFE PRINCIPLE. Now of course, the solution was not to deny the problem, but to resolve it.
Hence in a truly born Christian, born of the word and of the Spirit of God (cf. I Peter , John 3), the work of Christ is directed to this, "that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" - Romans 8:4.
This reinforces what has already been said.
Now in Romans 8:9, we find the PRESENCE OF THE SPIRIT PRINCIPLE. "You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." Say what you like: if you lack the Spirit you are no child of God. Indeed by One Spirit you are baptised INTO THE BODY OF CHRIST (I Cor. ). That is HOW you GET THERE in the first place! Hence he who eats the flesh and drinks the blood of Christ (as in John 6:47ff.), who takes Him as a sacrifice sufficient, efficient and efficacious for sin by faith, as the Son of God incarnate, has this said of him: CHRIST ABIDES IN HIM. No, not near him or outside or some other beautiful circumlocution: IN HIM.
This presence is one of power, peace and propulsion.
Thus we come in Romans 8:10, to the SPIRITUAL, MORAL AND FELLOWSHIP POWER OF THE SPIRIT PRINCIPLE.
Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life
because of righteousness."
Christ in you implies your crucifixion with Him in unity- He for your sin, you with yours leading to death, proceeding to being born again, with a new life in Him.
As to this, the One who raised Christ will also give life to your life, revivifying, revitalising what is regenerated: "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus form the dead dwells in you , He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you" - Romans 8:11. Thus (), putting to death the deeds of the flesh, by the Spirit, you live.
There is no living alternative, no other option - flesh life will die.
On the contrary, this same Spirit in the living: both enables fellowship with God (-15), and assurance of your place in His kingdom and destiny as His own ().
The moral power is shown in , where the "body", instead of being dead, is "quickened" or empowered with new life.
THE SPIRITUAL MIND PRINCIPLE
In general: "to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritual minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:6).
To attribute sin to the Holly Spirit is unspeakable blasphemy. To imagine that "being born again" is a way to ignore God's righteousness is unutterable folly (cf. Romans 6 - "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound!").
3. GROWING UP
Bluntly, the phrase needed for many 'Christians', so proud of being 'born again', is this, as in Ephesians 4:15 - "Please grow up!"
However, this is not
all: Please grow up "IN ALL THINGS".
Grow up where ? "Into ... the HEAD"!
Children in 'teen years might jar one another from immaturity by such a challenge; but its roughness tends to come from this, that the END of the growing is still not specific. It is assumed.
Nevertheless, imagine, once again, children rejoicing in the gift of birth without considering what it required ? Would they be extreme mongoloid cases; or dad!
In 'teen years again, today, mood swings, dissatisfaction with parents, worthless adventures into darkness, are common. Growing up comes often to be regarded as a nightmare displacement of responsibility and clear thought. One reason for this, of course, is that so many of today's parents, teachers and politicians have such a contrary corps of conceptions, often vague and diffuse, or selfish and unworkable, that the 'teen without Christ may wonder who he/she is, and other absurdities. Absurd ? Yes, if you are founded and grounded in Christ. It is NOT absurd merely to wonder, but to keep it as a chronic consideration, never resolved is mere contradiction of Christ as the way. You FIND who you are by being it in His presence who, being Lord, leaves no doubt as you abide of your place in Him: He, you see, is both living and the Head!
Without Christ, however, there is scope for this spiritual vagabondage, and it is a reflection in part of the movable mores of a sick society.
Let us however apply this to the spiritual, for after all, the 'teen people have to live in a culture, however unwisely they may either embrace or simply reject it. Thus, as if to mock Hod, many claiming to be 'born again', enlisted, empowered and fellowshipping directly with God personally, therefore, according to Romans 8, yet seem to want to create a spiritual life 'teen age syndrome, a sort of applied cultural sickness, or problem area.
That is, in general, rather the development of death than the maturing of life, a testimony more to being still-born, or even unborn, than to anything else. There is, incidentally, a distinction here. To be unborn IN THIS CONTEXT, is simply not to have really developed faith at all - perhaps mere opinion or desire or hope. To be still-born, on the other hand, would tend to suggest that there had been indeed some spiritual exercise, approximation to Christ, desire or experience, as in the famous case in Christ's own parable, of the seed (equals the word of God) being sown in shallow ground. Its hard, stony base would not allow the delicate, stretching root system of the word to find a base into which it could grow deeply. Hence when difficulties arose, it shrivelled (that is, the word of God in THIS LIFE shrivelled), so that although there had been "joy for a season", there was none in the end. Death is never very exciting.
But let us pursue our image further. Imagine a member, chosen to a cricket team, running around the field, with wonderful freedom crying, "I am in the cricket team," forgetting the necessities of training and acting in unison with the others, in actual play together.
The world has been infecting what is CALLED the Church, and much of it is merely a shell, over the mass graves of still-born children.
BUT, says Paul, you must "grow up in all things into Him who is the Head - Christ." That is the criterion. That is part of the way. It is in that sense ONLY that there is no way but UP!
It is scarcely surprising. Only the unbalanced, growing -say - emotionally, but not intellectually, or socially but not in personality would be lopsided in emphasis. You need, to grow up "IN ALL THINGS". You can, of course, when the growth objective and paragon, destiny and aim is 100% sound. You do not then, and ONLY THEN, need to be concerned about too much growth, for you can grow as much as you will, and providing it is into Christ, the Head, and in all things, it is good. It is not at all like too much exercise or too much book-work.
In Christ, it is all gain, and indeed it is Paul who declares (for after all, he is still very much alive, awaiting with other Christians, the resurrection, to which we who believe, also with them, look forward with zest) that he counts all things but loss that he may gain Christ, growing and aiming and seeking for that mark of the upward call of God which is in Christ. Literally, he "presses towards" it, and he seeks to proceed so that "I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death," and looks to that ultimate "resurrection from the dead", with indeed such confidence that he says a little later in the same chapter: "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself" - 3:20-21.
Very well: you need every part of yourself to grow into the image of Christ, thirsting, acting, growing IN ALL THINGS INTO THE HEAD, which is Christ. You need to act with delight, longing and thrust. Why ? Because IF you are born again, and not unborn or still-born, then this is your birth-right, as natural to desire as light to a plant, bike-riding to a boy, air to a lung. It is not a mere duty, or perhaps so much a duty, as a CONSEQUENCE of being spiritually alive, of being born again. As for this wrong rite of seeking to put off moral victory and godly living on the illusory ground that it is near the end, so why worry: THAT is expressly condemned both by the LORD JESUS CHRIST (Matthew 24:43-51, II Thessalonians 2:1-2, 3:6-15). CHRIST made it clear that His return would find many unfaithful servants caught unawares, and their end is as their heart.
This then leads to that simple question, already answered in Romans 8 - what is that weird-sounding word again (as it is in so many modern ears, which do not like it in marriage any more than in some other places, such as their lives): OBEDIENCE. What! Was Christ obedient in the uttermost category, even "obedient to death", so that the Father has highly exalted His infinite patience and loyalty, so that those who "follow" Him should shun the word ? Is obedience to be His and not yours if you are His! To ask is to answer, and all indeed WILL answer, for did He not ask this: "Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and not do the things which I say!" (Luke ), and the case as shown in Matthew 7:14ff. is worse!
It is as if some, perhaps still-born, which is to say, still unborn, would say to Him in their hearts, (and if not who could readily rejoice more than the writer!):
"Of course, I love you Lord," seems to be the spiritual small talk of some, "but you can hardly expect ME to obey you. What! keep orders, follow instructions like any common or garden human being ? Not for ME. We're pals sure, but what friendship ever had this 'Lord' business - that spells obedience. Oh for formal wear, of course, but in the realities of life, we just jog along, you know."
The reply from the word of God, to any such thought, is startlingly to the contrary. If you study John 14:21-23, you find that THE ONE WHO DOES NOT LOVE THE LORD IS THE ONE WHO DOES NOT KEEP HIS WORDS, AND THE ONE WHO DOES LOVE HIM IS THE ONE WHO DOES KEEP HIS WORDS.
Indeed, in John 15:14 we find this: "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." THIS friendship has a basis in obedience, itself the sure product of salvation (Matthew 7:18-20, Isaiah 61:1-3, Matthew 15:13). Here the relationship of life, being planted (or born) and being productive is as close as hands and feet. It is TRUE that the fruit is not the condition of being planted; it is also true that the result of being planted is not bad fruit. Life is like that.
You grow up, then, and you want to grow up if you are alive. You grow up by learning, discipline, self-discipline, as well as disciplines of study. You learn self-control, patience, to know your place, and to apply your talents, to be productive: indeed you learn and grow in precisely what Peter specifies in II Peter 1:5-9 - virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love; and of course you start with faith.
In the kingdom of heaven, this is a productiveness for the common cause, in the common team, under the Head, and IN CHRIST. "Speaking the truth in love, (you) may grow up in all things into Him who is the Head - Christ, " THAT is the procedure. Incidentally, speaking the truth is love is compatible with what Christ said to the Pharisees, such as their being like graves on which people walk and do not know it! It is not to be mealy-mouthed, but self-controlled and loving in intention, as a surgeon may on occasion be, when advising a patient of the need for excision of a very ugly and critically placed tumour! For Paul in this, see Acts , and Galatians 2:14.
This is not to contradict II Timothy 2:24, but to specify the motive and the care.
Meanwhile, growing INTO HIM, the Head, and so the DIRECTIVE power and person, whose gentleness is indeed wonderful but whose power to correct no less so, you therefore and thus relate to the One who has a mouth, and a heart, and to what is said by the one, and desired by the other.
4. GROWING ON
Indeed, then you GROW ON. You once were limited to milk, now you eat meat (I Cor.3:2). You once were being established in the fundamentals of the faith, now you grow in wisdom and understanding (Hebrews 6:1-3) and "go on to perfection" or completion, or maturity of understanding, as the author of Hebrews puts it. Look at Daniel, how he waited on the Lord (as in Daniel 10), and how the Lord blessed and illuminated him with necessary understanding for the prophetic work which he had. We are not all prophets, and indeed the stage in which the Bible was being produced is past (Revelation 22, Ephesians 2:20ff.); but the exposition is not past, and the need continues as long as the body of the Lord is on earth (I Cor. 12).
You are born
? But does a
True, this kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, is grand, into which you are born if you are His; but after the adoption is the household, and its Head. You ARE adopted into His kingdom (Ephesians 1:5), and sealed accordingly (1:13-14); but then GROW, and growing, grow ON to the COMPLETION, and like a well-developed bodily member, arm, leg or hand, grow in skill to respond to the sudden or drastic calls of the Head, and to co-operate with other members similarly called, but with this difference, the right hand must move this way and left hand that, with minor adjustments, while BOTH CLASP what they are directed to deliver!
The HEAD ? To whom, as Psalm 145 tells us, does the LORD give preservation ? It is to those who LOVE HIM (Psalm 145:20). WHOSE DESIRE will He fulfil, do we read ? That of "those who fear Him" (as in I Peter ). What else ? "He will also hear their cry and save them." HE is alive, operative and He who made the ear, can indeed hear the cry of His elect who call to Him day and night! (Luke 18:7-8). Lest faith be small, we read this in Luke, "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth ?" In other words, growing up is no mere exhortation. It is ESSENTIAL to proper living. It is a substitute for nerdy spirituality, which does not really believe, for formal spirituality which does not really move past the colourful ceremonies which some churches may invent. You must BELIEVE in the Head and hence CRY to HIM, and be PATIENT and PRAY and NOT faint, and continue in well-doing, knowing you will reap if you do not faint, and be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!
But remember the LOVE for the Head mentioned in Psalm 145. There is a LOVE for the Head which outdistances all competition ABSOLUTELY (Luke , John , Psalm 73:25), and a love for and co-operation with the body, the actively directed parts, of the body of Christ. As to that: How do you know if you love the brethren ? If you love God and keep His commandments, is the apostolic answer (I John 5:2).
Finally, as you grow up, then GROW ON and GROW TOGETHER in the skilled unison needed, and as you do , SO DOES THE BODY ITSELF GROW, for there is "an effective working by which every part does its share" and this "causes growth of the body."
Born ? grown up ?
grown on ? have you missed
the fraudulent spiritual 'teen age syndrome of the spirit, have you grown on,
achieved growth of the body ? Excellent. You have done
your duty. Count yourself therefore (Luke ) but an
unworthy servant and exalt Christ only (Colossians ). There is in HIS approbation and
in HIS company, in HIS sharing, a beauty of holiness and a delight which like
the teeming wonders of alert Spring, speaks for itself.
If you would like more on the garden of the
His gifts and His beauty, see The Biblical Workman 8. It has many flowers of grace, ready
to be plucked.