Would you expect a four-month-old baby to be able to play hide’n’seek, or to carry on an articulate conversation? No? Why not? That’s what some of us Christians expect from four-month-old Christians! We expect that “new nature” to kick right into high gear and immediately mature into perfection!
I’ve been thinking about the growing process for born-again Children of God. What provoked my thought was remembering one of my children’s friends who was born-again, but there was no instantaneous life change as we all expected. We wondered if he was truly saved? It’s a good thing God protected this teenager from our self-righteous, unreal expectations!
In 2 Peter 3:18, we are admonished to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What exactly does that mean?
All plants have a growth “time table” built into them by their Creator. Even plants of the same species will have a different time table, depending on the environment, the genetics, and the care given to each plant. It’s even more prominent in human children!
I remember when my daughter’s son, Jacob, was born. Boy, the game was on and it was a competitive game, too! Did he smile as soon as his cousin? Did he stand up at the same age as his cousins? What was wrong with Jacob that he didn’t start walking the very week his cousin did? Oh, my! It was a desperate, vicious game that I hated! Of course, being an only child, Jacob has far surpassed his cousins, especially in the writing of his name, memorization of scripture, and memorization of songs. No competition!
The four stages of growth for a newly born Christian are as follows
- “Baby Stage” (Carnal Christians) found in I Corinthians 3:1-4. These are lives to be served by more mature Christians. They are not to be criticized, any more than we would criticize a six-month old baby for not running, jumping, or carrying on an articulate conversation.
- “Little Child Stage” (Childish, easily flattered, resentful, gossipy, making scenes like little children do) found in I John 2:13. These are the ones we must be patient with, but also teaching them by example as parents do.
- “Young Man Stage” (Strong, virile, able to overcome the enemy) found in I John 2:13. These are the Christians with vision for the future and sufficient faith to tackle it! These are the ones we back up with prayer, for they are the future of The Church!
- “Father or Mother Stage” (Mature spiritually) found in I John 2:13. These are the ones who have peace with God, have learned contentment under all circumstances, and rejoice in their own spiritual children. These are the ones who will teach most effectively, both with words and by example.
It takes years to move from one stage to another, which is why we’re told that new Christians should not have positions in The Church that belong to the last two stages. The Baby Christians and the Little Child Christians are too easily side tracked and can end up back at the beginning too easily.
When a person is born-again, he (or she) will have two natures: one worldly and one brand new Christlike nature. It takes time in the Word to put on the mind of Christ, to renew our minds through the regeneration of The Word. (Romans 12)
I pray God will forgive those of us who put our own expectations on these exuberant baby Christians. We dare not offend one of His little ones, for we know what the consequences will be.
I don’t know why we expect a new Christian to suddenly be acting as a mature Christian would. Maybe it’s our own spiritual immaturity that causes us to expect more than God expects. All I know, is it’s a good thing God is as patient with us as He is with His newly-born babes in Christ.
(c) 2007-2009 April Lorier