GROWING THROUGH THE MOTIONS SERIES
THE STARTING LINE UP
AUGUST 10, 1997
Spiritual growth. What is it? To some it is a nebulous, almost mysterious concept. To others it is an unattainable, unreachable thing reserved for the faithful few. Still others erroneously believe that they have a corner on the spiritual growth market, that they have arrived, that they have got it together. Granted there is a lot of confusion and misconceptions going on around this very topic. I believe that this series, Growing Through The Motions, will clear up the confusion. I believe that it will make the misunderstood, understandable, the confused, comprehensible and the unexplained, explainable. I believe that it will speak directly, yet profoundly, to three stages or three areas of spiritual development. Spiritual infancy. Spiritual adolescence. Spiritual adulthood.
Now before I go on I have to put a giant warning label around this entire series. Most of us have the uncanny ability to place ourselves in stages in which we do not belong. In other words, Christians overrate and overestimate themselves along the spiritual growth continuum. While some of us think that we are babies are, in reality, mature, others of us who think that we are really mature are maybe an adolescent or a child. So I am going to warn you that this series will knock all of us back on our heels a little. We have been praying that this series will be life changing for every single person no matter where you are as you grow through the motions.
It is paramount that we understand where we are because spiritual growth is not instantaneous, automatic or intuitive. It is process driven. The Christian life is an event followed by a process. Today in this session I want to limit my comments to the subject of spiritual infancy. We will try to exhaust this topic in today’s session.
Few events on this planet mark us like the birth of a child. Just talk to any parent who has been there in the delivery room and they will use words to describe the birth like this. Incredible. Unbelievable. Miraculous. There is nothing like the birth of a child. So in keeping with the context of infancy and birth, I want to share with you a brief excerpt from the Young’s home video library. This video you are about to see is a very revealing video and let me tell you why. Three years ago I thought that Lisa and I were through having children. We had two and I thought that was it. However, God had other ideas. We found out that we were pregnant with twins. Well I didn’t know it and here is what my wife did. Lisa hid a camera in my office prior to telling me that we are going to have twins. I want you to watch the expression on my face when I discover we are having twins.
Let’s roll the tape. It is kind of embarrassing. That is my office. Here we go. Lisa tells me and I register shock. She assures me that she is not kidding. Now we will move to nine months later. There is Dr. Kerry Neal. There are the beautiful babies, Laurie and Landra with Mom. Next we will move to the feeding time. Oh, boy. You can tell that they are happy after their meal. And there is Landra taking that one last bite.
People go bonkers over babies, don’t they? They love infants. Recently an overzealous father tried to show me some pictures of the birth of his child. I told him that was not necessary, that those pictures were for him and his wife. There is nothing like watching the birth of a baby. The Bible says that there is an event even greater than that. That is watching a spiritual rebirth. The Bible says that an even greater event than a physical birth is when someone is born into the family of God. Jesus said these words in John 3:3. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.” In other words, Christ is saying that we don’t enter the Kingdom of God by cleaning up our act, by attending a religious service, by being baptized. Jesus said that we become Christ-followers by acknowledging our sinfulness before a Holy God, by turning from our sin and by accepting Christ’s forgiveness, power and pardon that He secured for us on the cross. Then and only then can a person be born again.
You saw Laurie and Landra, those little babies. I wonder what was going through their brain when they were born. Can’t you imagine how they felt when they saw objects and light for the first time, when they felt the warmth of their parent’s human hands holding them, when they began to breathe oxygen. They knew in their brains that it was a new day. Something was different.
When someone is born again, spiritually speaking, they know it. For the first time they see the depth and the magnitude of Christ’s atonement on the cross for their sins. They feel the warmth and the TLC that the Father gives them as He holds them in the hallow of His hands. They breathe in the curious presence of the Holy Spirit for the first time. They know that they are alive. There is no doubt about it. They have been born again.
I have got to ask you. Have you been born again? Have you had this unmistakable process, this event, occur in your life? Now if what I am saying to you is making you kind of shift nervously in your seat, if you are getting uncomfortable, chances are that the most important issue in the universe is still unsettled for you. It is our prayer that over the next couple of weeks that you take and make this choice.
Over the last several years I have had the opportunity to to talk to a lot of pregnant ladies. If you have ever talked to a woman who is almost nine months along, she will always tell you this. “I am tired. I am a little bit ornery.” And here is the clincher. “I can’t wait to have this baby.” They all say it. And men, we have no clue what women go through as far as pregnancy goes. There is no way that we could even consider doing it. Anyway, what if we could say to those women who are nine months pregnant that they were going to have to carry the baby nine more months. No, make that fifty more months. No, make that one hundred and twenty-seven long months. That would not be a popular word to them, would it?
I know that a lot of you spiritually speaking are still in the womb. You are pregnant and you are thinking about the birth process of being born again, but you are not. You have been contemplating Christ. I believe that today’s message can induce labor. I think the Spirit of God will cause many here to be born again. I believe that many here will say the words that Jesus wants you to say: “Jesus, I give my life to You.” The moment you say that you are born into the family of God. Once you are in the family of God, born again, you can never, ever get out.
Let’s go back to the delivery room. When a child is born, the doctors and nurses are checking the child out. They are scoring, weighing and measuring and trying to give the child a lot of TLC. Then they take the child into the nursery for observation. Then they tell the parents what to do. We know, parents, that little preschoolers, little toddlers are very vulnerable. They need a lot of safety, a lot of nurturing. If they have all of the things that we know will help the child grow, that baby will develop from infancy to adolescence, from adolescence to maturity and it will be a healthy adult.
Spiritually speaking, when someone is born again, they need the same thing. A spiritual baby is vulnerable. Talking about vulnerability, we took our twins fishing for catfish a couple of weeks ago. I was fishing and looked back and Landra was eating some of the catfish bait. Little ones will put anything in their mouths, won’t they? We have got to be very protective of spiritual babes because they will put anything in their mouths.
I was on an airplane just a couple of days ago and I ran into a spiritual infant. This lady had accepted Christ two years ago in our church. After that decision she had moved to another city. She was asking me about churches to attend. I was talking to her about her spiritual growth. She admitted that she kind of had her life on pause. She showed me the book that she was reading. I read a couple of pages. It was written by some glassy-eyed guru. I gave her the names of two or three authors and told her that she needed to be reading some Biblical stuff. I describe her as a babe in Christ, one who would put anything in her mouth.
So we have got to protect the vulnerable baby Christians. If we give them a lot of TLC, provide a safe environment with good spiritual nutrition, chances are that they will grow from infancy to adolescence and adolescence to maturity. But there is something about some people that is really interesting. Some people, and you have seen them, are very uncomfortable around babies. When Lisa and I take all of our clan into a restaurant, when the waiters push the tables together and bring all the equipment we need to just have a meal, people often move their tables. Babies are loud. They are messy. They are unpredictable. There are discipline problems. “EJ, if you don’t put down the fork, I will take you to the bathroom. OK?” You know the scene.
I find Christians now and then who are apprehensive and uncomfortable around spiritual babes. Now and then I have people approach me and say in a rather condescending tone, “I know that God has blessed our church in a phenomenal way, but do you realize how many baby Christians we have?” I will lock eyes with them and say, “Praise God. Praise God we have got a bunch of runny-nosed, Pamper-wearing infants because any church the Bible says that is worth its salt will have a colossal collection of playpen whining, Gerber-dining, nap-timing babies. And if you think that you are a mature Christian and baby Christians make you uncomfortable, I am here to tell you that you are not mature, you are a baby yourself. We have got to go bonkers over babies. Any healthy church will have a healthy group of infants, adolescents and adults. Fifteen years from now I hope we still have a colossal collection of those playpen-whining, Gerber-dining, nap-timing spiritual babies. That means that we are doing our job.
How many of you in here are married? Will you lift your hands? How many want to be married? Will you lift your hands? Joking, just joking. Singles relax. My brother is a singles pastor. In fact, he has a talk show for singles that is syndicated across the country. He told me this past week that 92% of all singles will get married. So just chill out and relax. Anyway, one of the purposes of marriage is procreation. You say I do to your spouse and you procreate. You have little babies. It is a desire that husbands and wives have, given to us by God. When we marry our soul to Jesus Christ, when we say I do to Him and commit ourselves to Him, one of the purposes of that relationship is procreation. We want to reproduce ourselves and have spiritual babies.
So how about you? Do babies kind of make you uncomfortable? Do you want to move from one table to another table to get away from them? Hey, if babies don’t have adults and mature forces in their lives, they are in for trouble. And when God wants to birth a bunch of babies, He looks for the warmest incubator He can find. And I thank God that He has birthed thousands of babies over the last seven years right here at the Fellowship of Las Colinas.
Jesus loved spiritual infants. One day He talked to a preschool personality named Simon Peter. Here is what He said to Simon Peter. “You are the rock.” And I am sure that the people who heard Christ say that just fell out laughing. They knew he was a spiritual babe and couldn’t believe that Jesus was calling him a rock. Jesus, though, saw the potential in him. And if you study the life of Simon Peter, he moved from being a babe to being one of the forces of maturity to be reckoned with throughout the ministry and the life of the early church.
I am going to tell you something, spiritual infant, when Jesus looks at you, He says, “There is a rock.” Because He sees the potential in your life and my life and He wants the best from us. And to show you how much Simon Peter matured and to show you how powerful he was, I want to direct your attention to the book of Acts, chapter 2. Let me set the context for this message. Simon Peter preached a powerful sermon one day. And this sermon was so powerful that during the middle of it three thousand people said, “Time out, Simon Peter. What do we do now?” And Simon Peter told them to repent, turn from their sins and be born again. He told them to accept Christ’s finished work on the cross. And guess what happened? Those three thousand people made decisions to be born again. Peter’s message induced labor and they were born into the family of God.
Well, Simon Peter had a problem. You think twins might be a problem. He had three thousand little infants running around. I am sure that he was wigging out. What does he say to all these little babies? Well, I am sure that he met with some of the leaders and quickly they began to pray a microwave prayer to God and God gave them some infant information. I didn’t say instant, I said infant information. And like that Simon Peter instructed them to do three things. He instructed them to concentrate on nutrition, on talking and on walking. He said to think about feeding, talking and walking, the same three things that parents concentrate on.
Here is what the Bible says about these things. Acts 2:42. “They devoted themselves….” They got serious about it. They devoted themselves like Tiger Woods has devoted himself to golf. “They devoted themselves to teaching, to prayer and to walking and breaking of bread.” Teaching is feeding or nutrition. Prayer is talking and communicating to God. Walking is fellowship. Before we explain all these things, let me tell you what these three thousand infants did. They were so into Peter’s words that they changed the world because of their commitment. People saw what was going on in the church, saw their maturity. Other rebirths occurred because of their commitment. The church was giving like it had never given before. Worship was flowing like it never had before. Lives were being changed. People were being healed. It was phenomenal. Because these three thousand infants obeyed this infant information, Christianity spread throughout the Roman empire and ultimately throughout the world. We would not be here today in Irving, TX had it not been for those three thousand infants. Now is that exciting or what?
Here is what Peter did. He said that he was not going to cower, that he wouldn’t sugar coat the message. He said he would tell them what to do. So for the rest of this message, I want to talk to the infants here, those who have recently become Christians. Or maybe you became a Christian five years ago but for some reason, you have your personal relationship kind of frozen or on pause. I want to talk to you and challenge you with the same words Peter used. Those three thousand infants rocked their world in AD33. I think that many infants here in this nursery can rock the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Concentrate on feeding or you could say nutrition, if you want to use a 90s word. The Word is our food. There are three types of food that we need to concentrate on. Infants, listen to me. First, concentrate on public teaching. The Bible says that something supernatural happens when Christians come together for a public feeding. We have got 168 hours in every week. We devote here at this church about 2 ½ hours to teaching at the weekend services and also midweek. Make sure you are here. If you don’t build your lives around this, you will never know when you are going to miss out on what God wants to say to you through the teaching of His Word.
I talked to our children’s pastor, Mike Johnson, yesterday. I was talking to him about our children’s ministry and he began to tell me about the great things that are happening. He asked if I knew what is his biggest frustration. It is the inconsistency of parents bringing their children to Children’s Church and to Sunday School. That kind of blows me away because parents are amazingly consistent in bringing their kids to soccer practice, to ballet lesson, to Tae Kwon Do class. Yet they are inconsistent when it come to the most important entity known to man, the local church. Parents, make sure you are here. Singles, make sure you are here. Young marrieds, make sure you are here. Junior High students, make sure you are here. High School students, make sure you are here. Children, make sure you are here. We are here for feeding every single weekend, public feeding.
Also, we need to take advantage of seminars and classes that feed us too. I opened up the bulletin yesterday. Look at the opportunities we have for feeding. Look at the upcoming events, for example. We have got an Intimacy In Marriage Seminar. I think that we could all use more intimacy in marriage. That starts August 27, an eight-week Wednesday night course. Precepts training. You’re talking about in-depth Bible study. Learn effective ways to study the Bible by attending a Precepts Workshop Seminar, September 4th and 5th. We have a women’s fall Bible study called God Are You There? Flip over to the section that says training opportunities. That is on the back of the Welcome to FLC page. Look at all the classes we offer, Newcomers Class, Starting Point Class, Discover My Ministry Class, Lifestyle Evangelism Class, Kid Faith. We have Bible Alive going on, also our Small Group Ministry. It is there for you.
We are commanded to have a public feeding and also an intimate feeding with just a few. The Bible says in the book of Acts that they worshipped together on the weekends but that during the week they met from house to house.
The third type of feeding is the personalized feeding. That is you and God. We learn in different ways. Listen to tapes. Read books. Watch videos. I have never met a dynamic man or woman of God who did not have a personal time of study and feeding. I have never met that person. A lot of us come to church with our bibs on, with Similac all over our face and we say, “Feed me.” We would not think about starving our children, we would be arrested. Just being fed once a week doesn’t do it. Twice a week doesn’t do it. I loved the stage when we fed our little children, but our desire was for the twins to learn to pick up a fork and spoon and feed themselves. That is where the growth really happens. Public teaching, seminar teaching, and teaching oneself. Concentrate on nutrition.
- Also, concentrate on talking. That is prayer. We have got to pray. There is nothing like when children begin to communicate with you and use those little funny words. The twins are now calling me big daddy. I never call myself that, they just made it up. I kind of like it now. When I hear that it kind of brings a tear to my eyes. There is nothing like when your children begin to communicate with you and the conversation grows from a babble to sentences, then paragraphs. The teenage years really get interesting. Our spiritual progression, our language with God is the same. We start out just kind of making sounds, little words. Then as we grow in depth in that relationship, that is our lifeline to God. I can’t understand why all of us are not wholeheartedly committed to prayer. I wish I could tell you that you could move in a nanosecond from infancy to maturity but it doesn’t work. I wish that I could tell you that there is one little experience you could have that would guarantee that. But it is a day by day process. Discipline. Feeding and talking.
- Then walking. The Bible calls it fellowship and breaking of bread. The word fellowship means to have in common. The words breaking of bread mean communion. I want to share something with you that is interesting, it is a kind of biological miracle. LeeBeth, who is ten years of age, was five months old. She was just barely crawling. Lisa and I had the video cameras out, cheering her on. One day Lisa said off the cuff that it would be phenomenal if LeeBeth just started walking. She was just barely crawling but when she heard Lisa say walking, she looked up at Lisa, stood up and walked! How many of you believe that? I am lying. That is a bold-faced lie. That didn’t happen. No way. Months and months later LeeBeth began to sit up. Finally she stands up and begins to try to walk. The walking has the bumping and the bruises and the tears and the Sesame Street Band-Aids. We are always there to pick her up and help her.
The Christian walk in the Christian maturity trek is the same way. “I’m walking now. I’m five months of age and I am Billy Graham.” No, that is a pipe dream. It starts off by sitting, then standing and then walking. And in the spiritual life, you have got bumps, the bruises, the tears and the Band-Aids. This process should not take place alone. You have got to have fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ. You have got to have other people helping you up. You have got to have other people brushing you off. You have got to have other people helping you walk and telling you that it will be OK. Are you involved with a small group of friends, of brothers and sisters, who are helping you along life’s difficult and challenging path.
We have got an entire ministry called Home Teams that is designed just for this process. If you want more information about it, just see Nick Olson in our home team booth out in the lobby. Fellowship, having in common.
Also, let’s talk about communion. Part of the spiritual walk is taking communion. Simon Peter challenged them to take communion. He knew the importance of communion and Jesus instituted communion for this very reason. Jesus knew that we had the tendency to forget the beauty and the majesty of our personal relationship with Him. He knew that we had the tendency to forget that He was arrested, spat upon, cursed at. We forget that nails were pounded through His hands and His feet just for His sins. So He said to regularly get involved in communion. And we have communion regularly here. Christ never said to take it weekly or monthly or yearly. He said to do it regularly. And we will have communion at the end of August right here during our weekend services.
If you miss communion, let me tell you what you are doing. You are walking casually over the body and the blood of Jesus Christ. Every time it is offered, make sure you are here. It is a memorial service, a time of thanksgiving, a time of confession, a time of remembrance. We look back but also we look to the future and realize what Christ is going to do for us ultimately.
Infant information. Feeding, talking and walking. The nursery of AD33 concentrated on those things. And I pray that those of us in the nursery in 1997 will do the same thing. Because if we do the same thing, we will, I promise you based on the authority of God’s word, grow through the motions.