Baby Jesus Grows Up
Are you still growing? Growing old is not the same as growing up. Few things are more tragic than immature Senior Citizens, petty people who added only years to their dossier and derriere. (That there is French for resume and rump: neither is to be padded.)
Advanced age is no excuse for childishness, it is instead an argument against it. As long as we are able, we are to keep maturing in all the ways we can. Twice, Dr. Luke in his gospel of Jesus tells us about Jesus growing up. After His birth, circumcision and presentation at the temple (Luke 2), the good Doctor tells us:
"When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him" (Luke 2:39, 40 - NIV).
After Jesus' parents got lost and left Him in the Temple when He was twelve, we read: "Then He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:51& 52).
Matthew tells us His toddler years included a trip to Africa - fleeing madman Herod's sword (Matthew 2:13-23). When Jesus' family repatriated to Roman-occupied Israel, they lived in Nazareth.
As much as we would like to speculate about Jesus as a boy, all we are left to mull over is that he was obedient to his parents and that He grew up. Mind you, these are no small matters. Even in childhood, Jesus is THE example for us.
"He grew" we read. This is an umbrella description that seems bland unless you consider its opposite. New parents watch to make sure their child is growing. If they stop progressing in any realm, they head to the Doctor.
Our Heavenly Father is monitoring our growth as well. In fact, the letters to the churches in the New Testament are properly obsessed with matters of maturity (see 2 Peter 1:5-11; 3:18; 1 Peter 2:1-3; Jude 20-25; Hebrews 2-4). Are you growing up? Have you changed much in the past years - for the good?
Getting more specific, we read that Jesus "became strong... grew in stature." Our love for God is to include our heart soul, mind and strength. Learning carpentry - which included woodwork and masonry - Jesus was a man's man. Forget those pictures of a pasty pansy in your old children's Bible.
Our bodies are even called - dramatic pause - His temple (1 Corinthians 6:12-20; 9:27)! We are to glorify God with our body. Is His temple in disrepair? How do you treat your body: getting enough sleep, eating too much?
Jesus grew, as we also must, in wisdom. He was not just a divine data depository, smart. He was "filled with wisdom." We see this when He stayed at the Temple at age 12, a pivotal year when Jewish boys transition into manhood.
He sat listening to the teachers, asking them questions - ones that astonished all who heard Him. His questions revealed such insight that they were motivated to ask His take on Scripture. Are you learning the Bible, moving past VBS-level insights? Does any one look to you for godly insight?
The mental sloppiness of God's people is criminal! What passes for teaching on much of Christian radio and TV [and pulpits] is amazing. Where is the discernment, some sane, Biblical discretion?
Spiritual counterfeits will continue to freely fleece the flock with their folly as long as believers stay ignorant and immature. Are you growing in true wisdom (see Colossians 1:15-29). A thought: read a chapter of Proverbs every day.
"God's grace was upon Him," we learn next from Luke. He grew "in favor with God." Jesus, as a human, spiritually matured. Here is a phrase for you: "He learned obedience through the things that He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). Chew on that one. Jesus learned obedience.
We learn to obey through disobedience, God's discipline, forgiveness and restoration. Christ learned it through life's trials, being tempted by the Devil and rejected by His own people. In the Garden, He honestly states His preference to not be crucified. Yet, in the face of torture and humiliation, we hear: "Not My will but Thine."
As we live in the realm of obedience, we are in the place where God can favor, not discipline us (Hebrews 12:1-12; 1 John 2-4). He cannot love us more than He has or does (see Romans 5:1-11; 8:1, 31-39). However, we can live in such a way that He can bless His good kids (John 14:19-15:27).
Last of all, we discover that Jesus grew in favor with man. Common ones received Him gladly. Sometimes the crowds around Jesus swelled as they hoped for another free lunch and miracle show (John 6). Yet, we also know social outcasts and serious sinners felt at home in His presence. Children loved Him and they are often a great test of character.
One of the descriptions of an Elder, spiritual exemplars for the church, is that they would have a good reputation with outsiders (1 Timothy 3:7). If you often make waiters and cashiers mad, drive like a loony and regularly tick off people, you might want to look into this area of growth.
Having favor with man does not mean you are compromising truth, snuggling up to the world. What we often call persecution and rejection of Jesus by people we witness to is often the sensible reaction of hurt people whom we treat like trash (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 9:19-23).
It is time to grow up, to keep pressing on (Philippians 3). As we face a still young year, repent of any stagnation in the past year. With God's help, commit to further growth in Him.
In honor of Dr. Luke, may I prescribe 2 Peter 1:5-11? If the baby Jesus grew up, so must we (1 John 2:6)!
[ By: Kerry S. Doyal - received from Chris Long at 'Laugh & Lift' (www.laughandlift.com) ]