By Erin Bird
Last week I kicked off a new series on Spiritual Stages. As a quick reminder, here are the four spiritual stages (as connected with the four depths of the river found in Riverwood’s key biblical passage of Ezekiel 47) we will look at during the course of this series:
Ankle Deep - Spiritual Infant
Waist Deep - Spiritual Child
Knee Deep - Spiritual Young Adult
Submerged - Spiritual Parent
As I said last week, part of the purpose of this series is to help you identify where you are spiritually. But as I got ready to write this week’s blog, I realized that before we jump into explanations of each of the four spiritual stages, I need to give a few disclaimers. So let me put a “pause” on the series to give you some clarifications that might help you with our future discussions:
#1: Spiritual maturity is not tied to physical maturity.
While we will be using the language of human growth (infant, child, etc.) in this series, a person’s spiritual stage doesn’t advance simply because they have gotten older. A grandpa could come to faith in Christ and become a spiritual infant while his high-school-aged grandson could be a spiritual parent leading his classmates (and his grandpa!) to Christ.
#2: Being “deeper” doesn’t make you better.
Too often, we Americans want to appear better than we truly are. We drive cars that are beyond our income. We publish the nice photos on social media and delete the embarrassing ones. We brag about our accomplishments but stay quiet about our struggles. By putting forward our “best,” we want people to think we are better than we actually are.
But it won’t be helpful to say you are a spiritual young adult when in truth you are still a spiritual infant. It is FAR better for you to be honest about which spiritual stage you are truly in and not the stage you want people to think you are in. And you shouldn’t be embarrassed by whichever stage you are in. Rather, you should happily figure out your current stage so you can take the steps needed to growt to the next stage.
#3: Jesus doesn’t love you based on which spiritual stage you are in.
We tend to admire people based on how much money they make, how many academic degrees they hold, how well dressed they are, or how many YouTube subscribers or Twitter followers they have. But Jesus, as a perfect human, isn't impressed by these things. God makes it clear in 1 Samuel 16:7 that while man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart.
So if you discover next week that you are still a spiritual infant when you might have thought you were a spiritual child or young adult, know that Jesus doesn’t love you less for being in that stage. Rather know that He loves you and simply longs for you to grow spiritually. As the Christian cliché says, “God loves you just as you are, but He loves you too much to keep you that way.”
#4: Spiritual Growth doesn’t move at the same pace as physical growth.
While you most likely know someone who has gone through a growth spurt physically, physical growth is typically a slow, steady occurrence. However, spiritual growth can occur much faster or slower. The speed of spiritual growth is dependent upon the work of God’s Spirit as well as a person’s willingness to engage in spiritual disciplines that will help them move through the four stages. And so just because you might be a spiritual child right now doesn’t mean you can’t become a spiritual parent within a couple years. (But keep in mind, you won’t become a spiritual parent overnight - God isn’t into microwaving your spiritual growth. But His slow cooking closer to the image of Jesus doesn’t have to take decades.)
#5: The Spiritual Stages is a spectrum, not clear steps.
Just as there isn't a definitive day that an infant becomes a child, there isn't a clear "on this day in history I advanced to the next stage." While there is a definitive change when someone moves from spiritual death to spiritual life, spiritual growth isn't like a video game where you advance to the next level. It is more like a gradient than blends into the next stage.
So as we jump in next week with what a spiritual infant looks like, keep these little “disclaimers” in mind as you try to figure out which stage you might be in and to what things God is calling you so you can continue to mature into the image of Christ.
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