Growing Up in Every Way
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Delivered By
Rev. Christopher Schneider
Delivered On
January 3, 2016
Central Passage
Ephesians 4:15-16

Growing Up in Every Way

This is a BIG thing

Pastor Chris

Today we begin something BIG that we will be working towards for the next three years. Together, today, we will begin Growing Up in Every way.

When we hear that word, grow; we quickly make a connection with the kinds of things that grow. For example, take a tree. Trees start off as small seeds; after much sunlight, Carbon Dioxide and time, they grow into giant trees. It takes time to see them grow up in every way, but eventually they get there. At what point has that tree reached its fullest capacity? At what point does that tree STOP GROWING? Scientists have, in fact, shown that trees do not stop growing. They DO stop getting taller, but at that point they begin to “fill out.” First, they grow up; then, they fill out.

Real World growing up

On New Year’s Day my wife, Jessica, and I decided that we would spend a few minutes before bed looking through pictures and videos of the past year. Because we have a near 11-month old, our attention was immediately drawn to him and the seemingly limitless pictures of our son.

I began to notice something. Noah has really grown! I began to see all the changes. In the beginning he didn’t move much at all; now he is standing up on the couches waving his arms holding onto things, and he is just a short while away from walking. When I first held him, he fit into one arm easily; now I’m READY for him to start walking, because he’s already such a big kid. The first noises he made were mere whimpers; if you sit next to him in church on any given Sunday you realize he is anything but quiet anymore.

In 11 months, he has really grown, and he’s got a lot of growing left to do.

Trees don’t stop growing, but what about us? Do humans stop growing? Well, that seems like a silly question. Yes, they stop growing. Obviously there is a point at which my son will stop growing, or else at this rate he might grow to be as tall as a house. There is a growth limit when it comes to people. However, I would argue that much like the tree that first grows large and tall then begins to expand, we, as people, have a similar “filling out” process. And by that, I don’t mean physically filling out - I mean mentally and emotionally…and spiritually. We reach a point where we stop physically growing, but that does not mean that we are done growing in other areas.

So, just like in our growing as humans, as Christians we want to focus on more than just the physical but also the spiritual. We want to focus on Growing Up In Every Way into Christ.

First, I want wrestle with the question, “why would we NOT grow up?”

Why not grow UP?!

As adults, and kids as you “Grow up” you will understand this more and more, there comes a point at which the whole notion of “growing up” is no longer appealing. There are more things that need to be done and what seems like less time to do them; there are more responsibilities; there is less time for fun. Being an adult is not easy.

Being adult, in the spiritual sense, is no cake-walk either. With adulthood, comes a greater responsibility to hold up those weaker in the faith. There is also a greater responsibility to ensure the church is doing the things that the church needs to be doing according to God’s will. And there’s a greater urgency to be doing the things that we know God wants us to do.

Knowing that the end result of childhood is adulthood, being a kid seems like the better way to go. We think that if we avoid the process altogether, we can remain child-like forever.

And these are the things that go through our mind, which makes us think that we want nothing to with being an adult, spiritually; but Paul encourages us, “that we might grow up in all things into him, who is the Head, into Christ.”

The other reason we choose not to take as active a role as we know we could in our walk of faith is because either we don’t feel like we need to or we feel like it’s not necessary. We feel that the things we are currently doing are enough… I want to say that again, because I think at some point or another we all fall into this trap - we feel like the things we are currently doing are enough…enough for what, though?

Enough to save you? Never! The things that you are currently doing in your walk of faith are never enough to do the thing that God has already perfectly done through faith in Jesus. Period.

Why Grow UP?

Gary Gulbranson, an evangelical pastor, wrote about an interview with a body builder that went like this:

During the interview, the body builder was asked, "Why do you develop those particular muscles?" The body builder simply stepped forward and flexed a series of well-defined muscles from chest to calf. The audience applauded. "What do you use all those muscles for," he asked again. Again, the body builder flexed, and biceps and triceps grew to impressive proportions. The interviewer persisted: "but what do you USE those muscles for?" The body builder was stunned. He didn't have an answer other than to display his well-developed body.

Sometimes we see the purpose of spiritual growth in a similar fashion. Bible study, regular worship, prayer, reading Christian books, and listening to Christian music fit nice into our repertoire of the many things we are able to show off to others. People see them and they applaud. “See the kind of bible knowledge she has…see how well he prays!” But that is not why we grow up, for the purpose of yet another thing to display.

Rather, these spiritual exercises are there to strengthen US in the faith, so that we might ward off the enemies of the light, the enemies of Jesus.

The end goal is “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” The devil is waiting for those moments when we don’t take serious the maturing in the faith that needs to happen.

This maturing is important for all people, even Jesus.

Even Jesus Grew up

Think about the way that we see and depict Jesus in our minds. We have two views of Jesus - Jesus, the infant mild in the manger and Jesus, the full-grown adult… And part of the reason for that is the fact that the books that we have about Jesus, the Gospels, are written by people that were called after Jesus began His ministry, so that they could be witnesses of all that Jesus was going to do; but His earthly ministry didn’t begin until He was approximately thirty years old.

As far as we know, there isn’t a whole lot that happened in between those time periods - His birth and His ministry. Yet in Luke 2 we have this rare, short story of Jesus, the adolescent. I mean that’s what we would consider Him at this stage of His life. He’s an adolescent. He’s exploring and still figuring out the world. He’s not an adult yet.

We notice that Jesus doesn’t take for granted the process that needs to take place, even in His own life. He recognizes the kind of learning that is essential, the kind of spiritual growth that happens…and where does it happen? It happens as He and His parents travel into Jerusalem for the Passover feast (which was one of the most significant feasts, a time for God’s people to celebrate together all that God had done for them, particularly His rescuing of them out of the hands of Pharaoh after being enslaved for hundreds and hundreds of years).

His parents head back home, but Jesus stays, and His parents find Him sitting at the feet of “teachers, [as he is] listening and asking questions.” See, this is what happens when we gloss over this period of Jesus’ life; we miss something. Jesus needs to grow up. He’s a kid?!? He is a kid learning about the ways of His father at the feet of other teachers. Jesus learns like we do; Jesus learns as He is actively engaged in the teachings of the word. He grows. This is not a passage about Jesus being disobedient; this is a passage about Jesus growing strong, in stature and wisdom and favor, with God and with man.

What does “growing up” look like for us?

Because there are two sets of relationships that we are concerned about - our relationship with God and our relationship with man, with one another. So, as we GROW UP IN EVERY WAY, we want to expand, to grow in both of those relationships through faith, service, and generosity.

But can our faith even “grow?” Yes and no. When we talk about our Christian faith, the faith that God has given to us, it cannot increase or decrease, and it is that faith that we cling to in our moments of deepest and darkest need. That faith does not abandon US, and neither does our God.

“What can grow is our understanding of the faith, and our trust in God.” Just like Jesus sat at the feet of teachers, listening and asking questions, we, too, understand the “breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ” (eph. 3:18) as we hear God’s Word as it is explained and proclaimed to us.

When I realize more and more that God came to rescue me, a sinner of sinners, so that my relationship with Him could be eternally restored, I understand what it means to have faith and what it means to trust in God.

On Sundays we pray together, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come…” Once we see that Jesus was, in fact, speaking of God’s kingdom coming to earth through Himself as He was about the Father’s work here, then we see that there is still kingdom work that is left to be done…kingdom work that we have been called to in faith and serving our neighbor.

And serving our neighbor doesn’t give us a greater standing before God; rather God works in the world to serve my neighbor through me, as His instrument. I grow in service as I see that there are people in NEED that God has placed right in front of me. I don’t have to go out and seek it; I have to be ready for the things that He is already equipping me to do.

I grow in service as I utilize the many opportunities more and more, and see them as ways to witness Christ to a Christ-less world, to provide mercy in a merci-less world, and to be salt in a salt-less world.

The final aspect of growing in EVERY WAY is through generosity.

There’s a story about a man named John, and John had a son. He loved his son. John decided he would take his boy to work with him one day. John was a bridge conductor across the Mississippi River, which meant that John was in charge of raising and lowering the bridge so that boats could get through and trains could pass.

John’s son was so amazed at the gears and all the things that went along with his father’s job. John and his son were eating there lunch during his break when John realized that in about 3 minutes a train carrying 300 passengers was getting ready to cross the bridge, but the bridge was not lowered.

John hustled up the stairs, he grabbed the lever to lower the bridge and he had realized that somehow his son had climbed to the bridge and had fallen in between the gears of the bridge. John could hear the train coming down the tracks. In his mind he started going over ways he could get his son from the gears and still lower the bridge, but he knew he had to make a choice…

John lowered the bridge just in time for the train to pass with his son in between the gears.

We have a generous God. We can’t out-give our God, because He has already given His one and only Son on the cross for You and Me.  

Faith, service, and generosity - this is what it means to grow up in every way! This is what it means to grow into Christ, who is the head of the church, who leads, guides, and directs us where we need to go.

We are called to Grow UP in every way, together.

How is this different than the growing up that happens individually, though? Ephesians 4:4-6 says this about the Christian faith:

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Through the faith that we share, there is a ONE-ness that connects us together - that’s what makes this community, this body of believers, so important. This isn’t a case of “You do your thing and I do mine” - you spend your time in bible study and prayer and devotion and I’ll do that too. This is a case of us, doing Church…doing life…doing faith...together, in order to accomplish the BIG things that God has in store.

As Jesus called His disciples He was calling them to be a part of something BIG, to be a witness of the God-man, Jesus, who came to bring life through He appeared to them after rising from the dead He was using them to be a part of something BIG, where they would be sent out into the whole world, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaiming and teaching the Good News of God’s kingdom that Has come down to earth through His Son…as He calls us to faith through Word and Spirit and meets us in Holy Baptism, we are called to be a part of something BIG.

Being a follower of Jesus does, in fact, mean being a part of something BIGGER than yourself, bigger than myself. It means being about the work that God has done in the world through the cross and it means being about the work that God is doing in the world through us UNTIL HE COMES AGAIN.

We are called together, as the body of Christ, so let’s grow up together. Let’s be a part of something BIG together, because we NEED Christ, and we NEED God’s gifts, and we NEED each other for this journey of faith.