one is going to catch me and make me a man.” So said Peter Pan, a fictional character who never grew up from childhood. Though he had exciting adventures in Neverland with fairies, pirates, and mermaids, soon enough other children in the story grew up to be adults, even Wendy, Peter’s dear companion. At the tearful ending of the book, she said to him, “I grew up long ago.” Peter protested, “You promised not to!” To which she retorted, “I couldn’t help it.”
Written by J.M. Barrie more than a hundred years ago and still a popular children’s story, Peter Pan is often associated with escapism, or even developmental disorder. Growing up is a fundamental fact of human existence.
Change simply happens. Life is a constant progression (or regression), both in the body and the inner person. We see and feel change in our bodies, but in the inner person, change is often subtle, giving an illusion that we’re somehow standing still. But we are changing even when we are not aware of it.
When it comes to the life of the person who believes in Jesus Christ, that change should ever be upward. In the same way that we are born physically to grow to maturity, we are born again spiritually to grow to maturity. We are not born again just so we can be in heaven someday, but we are born from above by the Spirit of God to actually live a brand-new life in Christ now. A life that grows.
The message of Scripture is that our life in Christ is more than the forgiveness of sins, more than the escape from God’s condemnation, but a new way to live, a new source of zest that thirsts and hungers for more.
All too often, sincere believers find themselves trying the usual Christian practices — reading the Bible, attending church, praying — with little, if any, success. Disappointed and defeated, they wonder: “Why is nothing really different? The same fears and anxieties are with me. My attitudes and actions toward things don’t seem to be any different. What do I have to do to experience more of this new life? How does it all work?”
Believers want more than knowledge of biblical and theological doctrines. They want to experience God. They want to know how this new life operates. They want to know how they can grow in this new life. Like all important areas of our life — physical, intellectual, and ethical — spiritual growth involves time and effort. It is a process, and Scripture gives light to the means of growth and the dynamic operations of these means.
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