God first created man in His own likeness and image. When Adam fell into sin this likeness was damaged and humankind’s seed became flawed. The ability to grow in accord with God’s purpose no longer held true to the Creator’s pattern. Humankind still desired to grow but lacked the knowledge and ability to mature righteously.
A loving God gave to us all the solution, and in Jesus we are able to find again the way to regain our lost inheritance.
THE HUMAN DESIRE TO GROW
In every person is found the hunger to find a reason and purpose for being. Much of the restlessness among people is caused by a search for life’s meaning. Mankind needs a goal. Even unsaved people feel linked with destiny and eternity. The reality is that humankind is searching for and longing for a satisfaction that can only be fully experienced when in fellowship with God.
FOUR AREAS OF CHRISTIAN GROWTH
Jesus grew and matured in four basic areas:
i. in wisdom
ii. in stature
iii. in favor with God
iv .in favor with man
Luke 2:52 (NIV) And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
This next Scripture also gives us important instructions about growth.
2 Pet 3:18 (NIV) But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!
Physical maturity for the believer involves the conduct of the body in a way pleasing to God the Father. We are to keep our bodies in submission. This involves us in the maintenance of a balanced attitude to all the normal requirements of a healthy lifestyle so that our bodies will be maintained at the highest possible level of well being. Exercise, food and drink, hygiene, habits of any kind should be constantly looked at to make sure they contribute to the best standard of physical maturity. This is the level where such challenges as weight control, being hooked on coffee, chocolate, tobacco, alcohol, cakes etc, being a fitness fanatic, unwise food habits, diet freaks etc, etc. make us less able to respond to God’s calling for our lives. Within this orbit come the emotional drives that seek behavior without morality to satisfy the body’s basic needs. Submission is not suppression but guidance and control leading to righteous behavior.
Luke 16:13 (NIV) “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. “
In day to day living at the physical level we are constantly tempted to give in to some craving or negative habit or an inappropriate emotion. This behavior then becomes our master; we turn away from the Lord, and sin finds an open door.
Read the following and find how Scripture adds to the list of undesirable activities spoken of above.
(1 Cor 6:9-15 NIV) Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders  nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  “Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.  “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!
(1 Cor 6:18-19 NIV) Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
(Gal 6:7-8 NIV) Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
(1 Th 4:3-8 NIV) It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;  that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable,  not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God;  and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.  Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
(1 Tim 4:8 NIV) For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
The guidance in Romans counsels the constant exercise of guidance and control.
(Rom 8:13 NIV) For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,
(Rom 12:1 NIV) Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
(1 Cor 6:15 NIV) Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?
The objective of mental maturity is to bring into captivity every thought and emotion to the obedience of Christ. To do this requires that we be constantly alert and ready for action, so that we keep our thoughts in harmony with the mind of Christ.
Paul instructs us:
i. cast down high imagination. (Thoughts against the Word.(the Bible))
ii. bring every thought into captivity.
iii. obedience to Christ.
Then finally brethren think on these things …
(Phil 4:8 NIV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Except for those who by reason of their special calling in God are required to enter into the celibate way of life, marriage and family has been given by God as the basic unit in the structure of mankind’s society. Human relationships are devastated when the family unit does not function as God intended. The interaction of healthy families provides the best climate for growth in social maturity. To understand God’s way in family life and His teaching about relationships between Father, Mother and child is foundational for a healthy society.
It is helpful to consider life’s stages and to seek for guidance from the Bible about each of them …
A Growth pathway: –
At all stages we are called upon to manage the changes in relationships. These come as life for us goes on. To learn and to teach others is part of the Christian walk.
(Prov 24:3-4 NIV) By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;  through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
(1 Cor 11:3 NIV) Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
(Eph 6:1-4 NIV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—  “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
(James 3:13-18 NIV) Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.  But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
Building towards spiritual maturity begins with total commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. By studying the Word of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we receive spiritual food. The Bible is our weapon, map and guidebook. It guides/guards our spirit, gives light and provides a plan for each life. This plan always involves having the servant spirit, together with the will and willingness to lead a sanctified life under God’s direction. We grow to understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit and to cooperate with His leadership. In this way we are able to help one another effectively and share our faith one with another.
Pslm. 119. (John 16:13 NIV) But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
THE IMPORTANCE OF DOCTRINE IN GROWTH
1. Doctrine Must Be Sound.
In the last days people will not embrace or take in sound doctrine but will turn to false teaching, fables, imaginary stories and traditions of men.
(2 Tim 4:3 NIV) For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
(Titus 2:1 NIV) You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.
ii. Doctrine Must Be Pure.
Heathen religions, cults of all kinds and groups under the guise of Christianity will teach and practice impure doctrine.
(Psa 24:4 KJV) He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
iii. Doctrine Must Be Scriptural.
All Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, are to be accepted for reproof, instruction and correction.
(2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
iv. Doctrine Must be Obeyed.
Doctrine remains a beautiful theory unless it is obeyed. We are to beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees because, “They SAY and DO NOT.”
(Mat 23:1-3 NRSV) Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,  “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat;  therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.
(Rom 6:17 NRSV) But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted,
v. Doctrine Determines Character.
Character is what we are. What one believes, true or false, determines character. i.e. determines what we are in our hearts, what we are in the home, what we are in our vocation, what we are in the world, what we are before God.
vi. Doctrine Determines Destiny.
What one believes and who one believes determines eternal destiny. It is not enough to say, “What’s it matter what I believe so long as I’m sincere.” False religions are zealous and sincere, but sincerely wrong.
vii. Doctrine Effects Fellowship.
There can be no Christian fellowship unless both parties walk in the light of the word of God. We are to continue steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine.
(1 John 1:6-7 NIV) If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he isin the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
THE SCHOOL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
All believers are in this school. John speaks of three stages of maturity in learning.
i. Little Children: Babes in Christ, children, unable to feed self, milk food needed.
ii. Youth in Christ : Able to feed self but not others.
iii. Fathers/Mothers : Adulthood, mature, able to feed self and others also.
God desires that we grow up.
(1 Cor 13:11 NIV) When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
All of the subjects discussed in this series on foundations are “milk” doctrine.
(Eph 4:14 NIV) Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
(1 Pet 2:2 NIV) Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,
(1 John 2:12-14 NIV) I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.  I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father.  I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
THE REQUIREMENTS OF A GOOD STUDENT
i. Spiritual Hearing.
Paul admonished the Hebrews, they were “dull of hearing”(slow to learn)
(Mat 13:14-15 NIV) In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.  For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.
(Heb 5:12 NIV) In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!
He that has an ear, LET HIM HEAR. N.B. Amos.”a famine of HEARING.” It can happen so easily to believers who fail to be attentive to the Word.
(Amos 8:11 NIV) “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
We are to take heed to what we hear. i.e. what is listened to.
(Mark 4:24 NIV) “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more.
ALSO take heed HOW you hear …
This refers to the attitude/spirit with which you listen; the need to pay attention to the teacher, not asleep, sluggish, distracted or uncaring.
ii. Spiritual Experience.
Experience is the best teacher. Experience is theory in practice. God desires us to experience the truth we have heard and received.
iii. Spiritual Exercise.
As we grow in Christ we are encouraged to exercise our spiritual sight, spiritual hearing, spiritual taste and perceiving of spiritual realities. This means living in the spiritual realm.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTION
God has a method of teaching and instruction. Isa.28:9-13.
The Question: To whom shall He teach knowledge? Whom shall He make learn doctrine?
The Answer: “They that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breast.”
The Method: For the Word of the Lord was unto them … precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little there a little.
(Heb. 1:1 NIV) “God, who at sundry times, (Old Testament days) and in various manners, (i.e. many different ways, fragment by fragment, by signs, allegory, vision, voice, types, shadows, in many portions.) spoke in times past by the prophets.
God has in these last days spoken to us by/in His SON.
Everything is to be found in the Son of God. When we are in Christ the Holy Spirit in His ministry as THE teacher will teach little by little that we might grow more and more into the likeness of Jesus.