Dead Things Cannot Grow!
Jude 20: "Building up yourselves on your most holy faith."
Susan Coolidge wrote:
"How does the soul grow? Not all in a minute!
Now it may lose ground, and now it may win it;
Now it resolves, and again the will faileth;
Now it rejoiceth, and now it bewaileth;
Now it hopes fruitify, then they are blighted;
Now it walks sullenly, now gropes benighted;
Fed by discouragements, taught by disaster;
So it goes forward, now slower, now faster,
Till all the pain is passed, and failure made whole,
It is full grown, and the Lord rules the soul."
Many years ago a book entitled, "Grow Up Or Blow Up" was a best seller.
The theme of the book was that civilization must either grow up or else destroy itself.
It is also very important that we as individuals "grow up" in the things of God.
Today, there are multitudes of people living and dying for material possessions.
An unparalleled wealth fever has affected our population, and spiritual values are practically ignored.
The true measure of success in life is not, and cannot be, counted in dollars and cents,
and neither can it be counted by physical or mental accomplishments.
In complete contrast, the true and eternal measure of life is found in the growth
of a Christ-like character.
We will find that this road is a neglected trail because there are no superhighways to growth.
Robert browning said, "man was made to grow, not stop."
Peter would agree with that statement for in 2 Peter 3:18 he writes that Christians
are to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
The preceding verse contains a stern warning: "Beware lest ye also, being led away with
the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness."
Then, immediately following the warning is God's cure: "But grow in grace."
Ephesians 4:15 tells us to "grow up into him in all things."
Life is the first step of growth.
Dead things cannot grow.
Before there can be a spiritual growth, there must be spiritual life.
When a child is born, his first cry indicates life.
If there is life, a world of possibilities becomes a reality for this new baby.
If there is no life, then there is no hope.
A fence post placed in the ground will not grow, but a small seed will grow spontaneously.
You could bury a stone into the richest soil, and it will be exactly the same size many years later.
Bury a flower seed into the ground and it will spring up and produce a stalk and flowers.
The difference is that one has life, and the other does not.
Divine life may be imitated, but the difference can be easily detected.
One is real; the other is false.
One is natural; the other is mechanical.
A crystal grows from without by the addition of new particles, while a living organism
grows from within.
A crystal may be beautiful, but it is only a crystal, and lacks true life in which to grow.
Dead things may accumulate, but they cannot grow.
Dead things cannot grow.
Unless men and women have life that comes from above, religious practices and environment
mean absolutely nothing.
In fact, such practices would cause a person to rest in a false hope.
Everyone who has trusted Jesus to be their Saviour must heed the divine command to
"grow in grace."
The people to whom Peter is speaking have been "born again," for remember, dead things cannot grow.
There was a story of a young 16th century artist who worked hard and long on a statue of an angel.
Michelangelo was invited to view the finished masterpiece.
As Michelangelo gazed upon it, he commented, "It lacks only one thing," and then, he left the studio.
The young artist was depressed as he wondered what his masterpiece lacked.
A concerned mutual friend went to Michelangelo and to asked him what he thought was missing.
Michelangelo responded, "It lacks only one thing, and that is life.
If it had life, it would be as perfect as God could make it."
Life is the first requisite for growth
We must grow because it is God's plan.
Second Peter 3:18 says, "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
In Matthew 5:48 Jesus said, "Be ye therefore perfect [mature], even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
In Philippians 3:12-14 Paul said: " Not as though I had already attained, either were already
perfect [full grown]
but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize
of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Paul was growing and moving upward and onward.
Growth is not the dream of an idealist; it is God's intention.
We must bend or be broken because God will not tolerate continued interference.
We are not yet sinless, but we should be sinning less and less.
This is also a law of nature.
Nature says, "Grow or die!."
A cankered tree does not send forth new shoots.
When the body stops growing, it begins to die.
The fingers of death will pick and to pluck at us until death claims us.
Another law of life is expansion.
It is grow or decay.
It is advance or regress.
It is live or die.
In John 15:2 Jesus said, " Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away;
and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."
God's Word has told us that we must" grow in grace."
The word, grow, denotes continuous action.
There is no time to stop growing.
If we do not grow in the physical realm, it would be so sad for that would be a sign of sickness.
Parents would be justly alarmed if day after day, and week after week,
their baby showed no signs of growth.
A farmer would be terribly discouraged if his crops never yielded a harvest.
Genesis 11:31 tells us that Terah started out with Abraham for the land of Canaan.
Verse 31 says, "And they came unto Haran, and dwelt there."
Verse 30 says, "And Terah died in Haran."
It seems that many today are stopping at Haran, and dying there.
There is no time or place where we should stop growing.
God's plan is for us to grow, and continue to grow.
In Matthew 6:28-29 Jesus said, " Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not,
neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed
like one of these."
Notice the words, "how they grow."
How do the lilies grow?
What is their secret of growth?
According to God's plan, the lily simply unfolds the life within it.
You do not have to tell a lily to grow.
It grows naturally.
It does not fuss or fret, toil or turn, strain or stretch; it just grows.
Growth is natural and inevitable when there is life, and more so, when there is divine life.
Environment is an important factor in the growing process.
If you see an acorn lying on the sidewalk, you know that the acorn will never grow on that sidewalk.
You also know that if you put that acorn in the ground where it belongs that it will grow.
If you pull a plant out of the soil and hide it from the sun, it will not grow.
In like manner, we, who have received Christ must abide in Him if we are to grow and bring forth fruit.
John 15:4: "Abide in Me, and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine,
so neither can you unless you abide in Me."
The child of God must continue to be in a right relationship with God.
We are to be rooted in the Word of God.
We must stay in a right relationship with the Divine Gardener.
We must not permit anything to come between us and our God.
We must keep "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith." (Hebrews 12:2)
Then, we will bring forth much fruit.
Salvation is just the beginning of what God wants to do for us.
He is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we could ask or think." (Ephesians 3:20)
May we never be content with the empty shells on the beach when we can launch out into the deep.
The Bible compares a Christian to trees.
Our roots are to penetrate the topsoil of truth and are to reach down into the great doctrinal rock
of eternal salvation.
Then, when the hurricane of God's wrath rips into the hypocrites and hurls them into the sea of destruction,
those trees planted by God will stand.
As trees, we must look to God for refreshment.
We must spread our branches out, and let the shadow of our Christian influence be felt by all around us.
Our branches should be heavy with fruit.
God's promise in Hosea 14:5-7 says, "He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.
They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn and grow as the vine:
the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon."
We also grow by eating.
All living things eat, and what we eat affects our growth.
The Bible says, "Eat
that which is good." (Isaiah 55:22)
We will grow as we feed upon God's Word.
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." (1 Peter 2:1-2)
Milk is food that has been digested by another.
Often Christians seem to think that the only feeding they need is that which the pastor
has digested and presents on Sunday morning.
This is not enough!
We must " Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life:
and they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39)
We must feed daily on the meat of the Word of God.
Every breath that we breathe is an indication that we are alive.
What breathing is to us physically, prayer is to us spiritually.
Jesus was a man of prayer.
Jesus regularly sought communion with God.
If Jesus, the sinless Son of God, considered prayer to be so important,
then, we as sinful creatures dare not live without it.
We must breathe deeply the air from heaven every day.
We will grow if we have continual communion with God.
He is the breath of life.
We must "pray without ceasing." ( 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Someone has said, "Prayer is the preface to the book of Christian living,
the text of the new life sermon.
The girding on the arm armor for battle, the pilgrim's preparation for his journey;
and it must be supplemented by action or it amounts to nothing.
Prayer and service are the unbeatable New Testament, combination.
"Oh, pure delight of a single hour.
That before Thy throne I spend;
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God,
I commune as friend with friend."
-- Fanny J. Crosby
We also grow by exercising.
The Bible places a great emphasis on work.
Someone has said, " Show me a person who does not work, and I will show you a person who is lazy."
When we faithfully work, we will eat and sleep good at night.
People often complain that they are not spiritually fed, but it could be that they are not spiritually hungry,
and they are not hungry because they are not working.
Tired and weak muscles call for nourishment.
So those who are weak and tired by working in God's field of harvest must eat the bread of life.
When a Christian works diligently in the vineyard of God, he will grow in grace.
So, if you really want to grow, then began to work.
Practice the truth you know, and many other things will become much clearer.
The arms of the farmer become stronger by continual labor.
The child grows by exercise.
We are to grow as babies grow which is slowly, steadily, but growing a little each day,
and a lot in a year.
At first, the legs may be weak, but soon we will walk without being weary, and will run without fainting.
A good exercise for us is to witness concerning our faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus command is: "Ye shall be witnesses unto me." (Acts 1:8)
A witness is a person who tells what he knows.
Our real reason for living is to witness.
Witnessing keeps our prayer life alive and up to date.
It also challenges us to live in the Scriptures in search of answers for those to whom we are witnessing.
Since you have been a Christian, have you continued to grow?
Have you grown more this week than you did last week?
Is your delight in the law of the Lord, and are you meditating upon it day and night.
With God's help, we can be like trees planted by the rivers of water, spreading forth their branches
and bearing fruit.
Apart from Christ, we are chaff, without any hope of life.
We must grow, grow, and continue to grow until that wonderful day when we shall see Him and be like Him.
"If God can make of an ugly seed,
With a bit of earth and air
And dew and rain, sunshine and shade,
A flower so wondrous fair,
What can He make of a soul like you.
With the Bible and faith and prayer.
And the Holy Spirit, if you do His will
And trust in His love and care."
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White