Normal Christian Growth
by Dr. David L. Cooper
In Matthew 13 appears a record of our Lord's parables of the Kingdom in which he spoke on what is termed “the busy day” of our Lord's ministry. In these parables the Master unfolded before His disciples the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. A mystery, in the New Testament sense of the word, means a secret, that which has not been known. After it is explained thoroughly, it ceases to be a mystery and is a revelation.
A study of these parables shows that Jesus was explaining the course through the centuries of the movement which He came to inaugurate and which we term “Christianity.” These parables have clearly been interpreted to indicate Christendom. Each one of these parables sets forth a different phase or epoch of the church age. The beginning is set forth by the parable of the sower, and the end is most graphically portrayed by the drag-net.
The things revealed in these parables were never known prior to our Lord's teaching on this day. It is abundantly evident from the Psalms and the prophets that the present era of grace was clearly set forth. For example, in Psalm 110 we see the two comings of the one and only Messiah and the interval separating these two epochs during which the Lord Jesus is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. This time of His session in heaven is without doubt the present dispensation, which David, in this prophecy, clearly sets forth as being this period separating the two comings. In other passages the same truth is taught.
The Lord concluded His parabolic teaching by saying: “Have ye (disciples) understood all these things? They say unto Him, Yea. And He said unto them, Therefore every scribe who hath been made a disciple to the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure new things and old” (Matthew 13:51,52). Every true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, if he is making normal, scriptural progress and development, is like this householder who brings forth things both new and old. Something is radically wrong with a person who never finds anything new in the Word. Speaking in a figure, I would say that he is affected with “spiritual dry rot.” On the other hand, one who is unable to see any of the old fundamental, well-known truths in his Bible, but is constantly bringing forth new sensational things from it, is indeed visionary and fantastic. He too, is an unsafe guide, and his opinions and judgment can never be relied upon. Neither is the man a safe teacher who is simply repeating the old truths which he has learned years ago and who never sees anything new in the Word, nor is the one safe who never sees anything old and fundamental but simply sees startling, amazing, sensational things in the Bible.
The person, on the other hand, who is standing for those truths which are clearly set forth in the word, which have been recognized by the children of God through the centuries, and which we term “the fundamentals of the faith,” and who is proclaiming them, is one who is studying the Scriptures with one object in view; namely, to see and understand all that God has for him and to have the courage of his convictions. This one is, all things being equal, a safe teacher.
After having been a child of God by faith in Christ Jesus for at least twenty-five years, the Apostle Paul said that his one aim in life was to know Christ in a more intimate way (Philippians 3). With this as his objective, he laid all upon the altar. For him Christ was all. He was not satisfied with his past attainments and spiritual and experimental knowledge of Christ; he was determined by God's grace to press on, enjoying daily new experiences with his Lord.
If one has been born again, and is sincerely seeking to know more of the truth, and is appropriating all the new knowledge that comes to him, he will normally and naturally grow spiritually. As one grows physically when he partakes of the good wholesome food of a well balanced ration and takes the proper exercise, so will the one, who is constantly feasting upon a well balanced daily scriptural diet and is translating into action the principle which he learns from the Word, have the normal spiritual growth. His will be the experience mentioned by Paul in II Corinthians 4, which passage states that the spiritual man of the normal Christian is growing, developing, and becoming more like Christ as the outer man is decaying.
Brethren, let us search the Word daily to learn more of its precious truths with the express purpose of ascertaining what is the will of God in order that we might conform our lives thereto. If we would but pray as did David, “Open thou mine eyes that I may behold the wondrous things in thy law” (Psalm 119:18), the Lord would give us spiritual insight and discernment in His Word and in practical matters. Under these conditions one normally develops spiritually. There is no other way of growing in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. May God give us such a thirst for Him and His will that we will put them first in our lives.
At the present day when men's nerves and very being are keyed to the highest pitch, nothing but excitement will satisfy. The newspaper editors well understand modern psychology, which is at the highest tension. They therefore, make a mountain out of a molehill and a mighty conflagration out of a little smoke.
Unfortunately, this craving for excitement and thrill has seized many Christians. Nothing but that which is sensational will satisfy their abnormal longing. This fact is in evidence all too frequently.
There is a tendency in these days on the part of us who believe and teach the prophetic word to see in every little development evidence of the Lord's fulfilling his prophecy. In other words it is as a good brother once spoke to me relative to another. He declared that this writer was attempting to help the Lord fulfill His prophecies. I might say, however, that the Lord does not need our assistance. He is quite competent to carry on His work and bring all things to a consummation in His own good time and way. Let us, therefore, be conservative and be absolutely certain about new things lest we be ensnared by the desire to satisfy an abnormal appetite for the sensational.