July 16, 2014

Ages for acorns to become oaks

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19–21)

Rereading these verses from Ephesians speaks to me today. I have been looking back over my life and wondering if God has used me for anything important. I’ve also been impatient with myself for being so slow to grow in spiritual maturity. However, these verses refer to a building, a vast structure that is not built overnight.

The author of today’s devotional points out that the book of Acts did not occur in a short time. Watching television tends to make us assume all the great problems can be solved in 30-60 minutes, and that we can have instant success. Yet Paul’s first missionary journey took place about seventeen years after Pentecost. These first believers were gradually equipped, not sent out soon after their salvation. It takes time to become what God wants us to become.

This was true of Moses. He was forty years old when he left Egypt, and then spent forty years in the wilderness before God appeared to him in the burning bush and sent him to deliver His people from bondage. As Stephen preached in Acts, Moses was in training, “in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us.”

He also pointed out to his hearers that, “Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’” (Acts 7:35–40)

This is reference to the human tendency to not listen to godly leaders, Moses then and Jesus later. Those who were guilty of neglect did not grow in their knowledge of God and did not become like Christ.

However, some did listen. The believers at Colosse were commended for doing so. Paul told them, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.”

Because of their obedience, Paul was burdened to pray that they increase. He told them, “We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God . . . .” (Colossians 1:3–14)

Paul had the same thing in mind for the Christians at Thessalonica: “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3)

The point of this is that Christian growth is important, but not speedy, nor does it happen automatically. I’m happy that I’m getting great teaching from our current church and the theology courses I’m taking, but sad because I’d not been offered in the past forty years what I’ve learned in the last two. Yet I do understand that the Christian life starts with kindergarten, not post-graduate school.

If I can pass anything on to the next generation it is this: Listen to godly leaders and seek wisdom and understanding. Seek Christ in everything and grow in the grace and knowledge of Him, but don’t be impatient — because the subject matter is vast and limitless, learning all there is to know will not happen in a lifetime, even in an eternity!

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