Thursday, June 21, 2007

Special Insights No. 12 Second Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Growing Through the Word”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

To sum up Christian grow there are specific elements that cause it. This growth comes in and by the Word of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, love from and to God, surrender, and faith.

A pastor friend told of his sincere desire, as a boy, to become tall. He decided to stretch himself to his desired length by hanging himself on the family cloths line. To his chagrin he learned that that was not the way to become tall! Sometime later he discovered that by eating, drinking, and exercising he grew to over six feet tall.

As in the physical realm, so likewise in the spiritual. As we learn to feed on the word of God—the bread from heaven,— to drink from the Fountain of the water of life and to bask in the rays of light streaming from the “Sun of Righteousness” we will grow up into the full spiritual stature of men and women in Christ Jesus.

Consider the Power of the Word of God: We need only to go to nature to understand the power of the Word: “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Rom. 1:20).

In nature we see the power of God’s word. The universe’s far flung stars and planets, earth’s granite rock substructure, the lofty trees, the various flowers, the tiny seeds, the microscopic universe are all a manifestation of the word of God. He spoke and they became the very thing stated. “He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:9). I went with a beet farmer to his field on a spring day. As we looked the field over he observed that his crop was coming along nicely. I could not see anything. Getting out of his truck I made my way to the field, and kneeling down I could see tiny shoots of beet stems coming up from the ground. When I plucked one of the stems, all that remained on my fingers was a transparent green moisture. I marveled that those beet stems, made up mostly of water and a bit of green colored covering, could push their way up out of the ground, moving small clumps of dirt that probably were a thousand times the weight of a single stem. This truly was a demonstration of the power of God’s word in nature.

That same creative energy is in the written word. It is the seed that God plants in the human mind that causes growth as in a garden or a forest of trees. God’s people are “called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified” (Isa. 61:3). This righteousness increases with steady growth, as do trees; and because they are planted by God, they will bring forth fruit, and consequently God will be glorified in their lives.

We are God’s planting. Consider further how likeness to the growth of plants is carried out. We may learn that salvation from sin (a life of righteousness) is like the casting of seeds into the earth: “As the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” (Isa. 61:11).

In the growth of plants from a tiny seed we have a marvelous illustration of growth in grace, which is the growth of God’s kingdom of righteousness within the heart and mind of believers. A tree that stops growing, like the plucked beet stem, is dead. But as long as it remains rooted in the ground where God placed it, His power continually works through it, until it has accomplished His purpose for it. Likewise, the power of God is manifested even in the weakest of men who believe, until they have been brought to the place designed for them, which is “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).

Christ is the Seed of God. And He is the Word of God made flesh. When He dwells in our minds and hearts by faith,—when the seed springs up in us,—we also are “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19). Every one who believes receives all the fullness of the life of Christ, the true Seed, through the written word. This is how Christ dwells in us as Paul wrote: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you” (Col. 3:16). This is how “the righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:12).

Essentials to Growth: Most people can tell what is necessary for a plant to grow, but hardly anyone seems to understand what is necessary for a Christian to grow and develop. But we can learn this from the library of nature. As we have considered, a Christian is a plant in the garden of God; and like any plant in a garden, spiritual plants need plenty of water, good soil, and sunlight.

Everything has been provided by the Lord for His garden. His plants simply are to assimilate what they find. However, there is a perversity about plants of the human kind, that is not seen in nature. The Lord, through Jeremiah, stated that although He had planted His people “a noble vine, a seed of highest quality. How then have you turned before Me into the degenerate plant of an alien vine?” (Jer. 2:21).

There is no fault in what God has done; but an evil principle finds its way into a plant and perverts its nature, causing degeneracy and ultimate loss of what is good. A plant always turns towards the sun; but in God’s spiritual garden some plants try to grow in some other way. Some try to grow by something thought to be inherent within themselves. There is no growth attained this way. A plant cannot make itself grow by exerting itself; yet many people think they must exert themselves in order to grow. But Jesus asks, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Matt. 6:27).

Who would think of exerting himself, or stretching himself, in order to grow physically? True, exercise most certainly influences growth, but it is not the cause of growth. There is nothing that man can do to cause it. The principle of development is in every human organization by nature. If one secures those conditions, such as eating and drinking, this principle can operate to the best good of the individual and growth will occur. Likewise in the spiritual world. God implants the principle of growth at the new birth, and only needs right conditions to cause the babe in Christ to grow up to the full stature of spiritual adulthood. While it is true that man can interfere with this principle, and repress it, he cannot create it.

A plant grows and reaches up and becomes stronger by simply looking to the sun. Because of the influence of its rays, the plant reaches up toward the source. The plant responds and grows and is drawn to the source of its life. In the soil it finds water and the various elements needed for life and growth, and by the principle of assimilation, which it has as long as it continues to look to the sun, draws up the elements through its roots and into the stem and leaves. The plant simply lets this process continue according to the law of assimilation which the Creator gave it.

So it must be with the plants in God’s spiritual garden. We cannot grow by looking at ourselves; we cannot grow by looking at other people around us. We are to look at the “Sun of righteousness.” We are to simply let the process of assimilation go on according to the law of beholding and thus change (2 Cor. 3:18). We are to “Let this mind be in (us), which was also in Christ Jesus.” If we let it, it will be in us. God longs for any person to let Him work in him.

Man is constantly doing something to hinder God’s work. He is continually putting self in God’s way. He refuses to submit his will to God’s will. A significant difference exists between plants and human beings. This difference is in the realm of choice. Man can stop the work of Christ in his life. This is where the surrender of the will comes into play. Although the term “surrender” is not found in Scripture, the concept is. Surrender is the substance of Christ’s teaching. This submission of the will to God is the crucifixion of self. This death is necessary for spiritual growth and maturity. This is the experience of justification by faith. God lays the glory of man in the dust and then does for him that which is impossible for him to do for himself.

In the plant kingdom, if there is no growth, there is no life. Life means growth. And finally, when the plant is fully matured, then comes the harvest. So it is in the life of God’s people. We are now in the harvest time, which is the end of the world, but also it is the beginning of eternity for the believer as he is garnered into the heavenly granary of God.

Another essential for the maturation of the harvest is the Water of Life in the form of the “latter rain.” We have been living in the time of this maturing and finishing rain since Minneapolis, 1888. If we turn from the “Sun of Righteousness” we can prevent the “latter rain” from watering us. But as we allow the “Sun of Righteousness” to draw us to Himself, the latter rain will fall into the soil of our experience and all the spiritual nutrients needed will be drawn up into the character of our lives and ripen us for the harvest. Belief in the word of God, and the nutrients of this word will cause growth, development, and maturity. So let us “Let the word of Christ dwell in” us.

—Gerald L. Finneman


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