Celebration is having a baby boom! In the past month three new babies have come into our midst. Congratulations to the Jones, McManus’s, and the Saylor’s!
Here are three characteristics of spiritual life I have learned based on the new life we see in these babies. The big characteristic of a new born is how dependent they are for, … well, everything! From feeding, cleaning, bathing, loving, dressing, getting them to sleep at night, everything is dependent on someone else. The same is true in our spiritual life. In many ways we are babes in Christ, dependent on the people of greater faith, faith parents if you will, to advance our walk with Christ. Thus, here are three ways our spiritual life is dependent on our spiritual family.
First, to grow in my faith I am dependent someone to share their faith with me. This is true at the very start of your faith. Paul says in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” In order for you to hear the message someone has to speak it. Your faith began when someone cared enough to share their faith with you. Likewise, someone else’s faith begins when you take the time to share how your faith began and invite them to do the same.
Hearing the gospel and responding to it only scratches the surface when it comes to hearing and growing in our faith. We are also instructed to hear the word of the Lord and to walk in the Spirit. Growing in our faith through hearing is a lifelong adventure that continues to challenge and prosper our faith.
Secondly, to grow I am dependent on someone to teach me. Acts 2:42 says the early church, “Devoted themselves to the apostles teaching.” Over 3000 people were baptized just before that scripture was written, meaning there were all kinds spiritual babies. In order to grow and develop properly in their newfound faith they devoted themselves to lean from the disciples of Jesus. No doubt they told the stories and the teachings of Jesus.
Be sure to notice the word “devoted.” This wasn’t something they did casually or did in their extra time. They placed a concerted effort into hearing more about how to live out their faith.
Also, notice they paid attention to the apostle’s teaching- not just anyone who said they knew Jesus. We must do the same. There is a plethora of Christian media, podcasts, and websites, which all vie for our attention and all say they are Biblically based. The core of the New Testament was written by the apostle’s teaching. This is why we must read the Bible on our own, study it, so that we will test what is being taught to us and be sure it is coming from the apostolic authority.
Thirdly, to grow in my faith I am dependent on someone to show me. In the opening monologue of 1 Thessalonians Paul wrote about the Christians there, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6.
Notice how Paul shows us the stages of faith. They learned of the grace of God and how God chose them in that grace. He notes how he lived among them as a model of how to live in this new life walking with Christ. Paul then notes that the new Christians imitated their faith, modeled it after Paul. Thus Paul concludes as a result they became imitators of God.
We probably don’t recognize the influence of the cues we take from people around us. I recently visited a local restaurant and there were no waitresses, no explanation how to get your food, or even a sign. I heard they had good food, I saw people eating the good food, but I had no clue how to get it. So I simply stood back and watched to see what others were doing. Sure enough, I observed someone coming in, ordering the food at a certain counter, and getting their food. So I did the same thing! Ha! Christianity works in the same way. There is a myth that I can grow in my faith by myself. It simply isn’t true. God didn’t set it up that way.
We are dependent on looking at how others live out their faith to really “see” what faith looks like. This is why it’s important to have a friendship with a person who has a faith more mature than your own.
Paul wrote to some other Christians and told them, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1. Whose example of faith are you following?
And by the way God gave us a family to grow up and become mature. He gave us the church. And like many of our families churches can be dysfunctional and frustrating, but we still love our family, and we still love our church family because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Without the church we miss out on the accountability it gives and the incredible promise God has afforded us through it’s existence. The promise of the church is always greater than the problems of the church.
Recently, a popular Christian author Donald Miller says he is not going to church anymore joining another Christian blogger, Rachel Evans. To me it’s the hip thing to do in the Christian world to hate on the church. In my opinion they are Christian wimps. The church is where we are called to practice grace (It’s the laboratory where we figure out how to do it) and that is a tough thing to do. What they are learning in their young lives it’s easier to write and talk about grace than it is to really practice it with people that have hurt you or fell short of your expectations. I wish they would get in touch with some older saints who have lived the Christian life in the church’s context. They are the people to pay attention too!