經文﹕ < 路加福音 >2 ﹕ 40 ﹐ 52
主旨﹕ 神 賜 耶穌基督給信徒作為屬靈生命成長的榜樣
在過去的七個月裡﹐我們教會的大家庭中增添了 17 個新生嬰孩。我知道在接下來的一段時間內﹐我們還將迎來更多嬰孩的誕生。嬰兒的出生過程對於母親和孩子都是一種體痛苦的衝擊。出生後﹐嬰兒要大哭大吵﹐看見了新奇與陌生的環境。之後﹐他們慢慢成長﹐蹣跚學步﹐漸漸長大成人。嬰兒生下就要成長。
聖經也是這樣形容我們的屬靈生命。耶穌說我們必須重生才能見神的國 ( 約翰福音 3 ﹕ 3) 。保羅寫道﹕當聖靈進入我們﹐我們要呼叫“阿爸﹐父” ( 羅馬書 8 ﹕ 15) 。彼得教導我們﹕我們要渴慕靈奶 ( 彼得前書 2 ﹕ 2) 。“阿爸﹐靈奶” 是重生和成長的比喻。我們的屬靈生命﹐就像肉體的生命一樣﹐要不斷成長。
從今天開始﹐我將開始一系列有關基督徒成長的講道。我覺得﹐ Sinclair Ferguson 的書對於幫助我們歸納這方面的問題非常有益。還有不少書籍和講座能夠幫助我們在靈裡成長﹐他們都是很重要的學習資源﹐但是﹐不要忘記﹕要學習有關聖經對於屬靈成長的教導。在接下來的十次講道裡﹐我希望你暫時放下那些書籍知識和講座記錄﹐讓我們專心致志地研究一下聖經對於靈命成長的教導。
II. 神期望信徒有家人樣式的成長 .
當我們看到一個新生嬰兒的時候會說什麼﹖“她真像她的媽媽” “他簡直就是他父親的翻版” 或者“這個孩子既像父親又像母親” 。我從來沒有聽到過這樣的評價﹕“他跟他的父母一點都不像。”上星期天﹐有一位會友跟我說﹕“當我在星期五晚上看到你站在講台前講道時﹐忽然發現 Sean 原來跟你是多麼像啊 ! ”
耶穌說 ( 馬太福音 5 ﹕ 48) “所以你們要完全，正如你們的天父是完全的。”我們的肉體跟父母相似﹐這是事實。這個事實同樣適用于我們的屬靈生命。我們要成長﹐使自己的屬靈生命能夠一天一天地更像在天上的父。
除了像自己的父母以外﹐我們也和自己的弟兄姊妹有相似之處。我們的孩子﹐跟你們的孩子一樣﹐經常會聽到別人說“你們長得真像啊” 之類的話。保羅在 < 羅馬書 >8 ﹕ 28-29 寫到“ 28 我們知道，為了愛 神的人，就是按他旨意蒙召的人的益處，萬事都一同效力。 29 因為 神預先知道的人，他就預先命定他們和他兒子的形象一模一樣，使他的兒子在許多弟兄中作長子。”第 29 節告訴我們﹐耶穌基督是上帝的長子﹐眾孩子中的長兄。上帝希望我們能像長兄耶穌一樣。
第 28 節說道﹕神在生命中的一切景況下工作﹐無論是順境還是逆境﹐他都在為了我們的益處使萬事互相效力。神的目的是把我們塑造成耶穌的樣子。其他來的聖經教導我們如何改變自己的生命﹐把自己塑造成基督的樣式。我們要有意識地在聖靈的幫助下漸漸長成基督的樣式。我們有責任在生命中結出聖靈的果實。我們要學會自我約束﹐控制脾氣﹐學會謙卑﹐溫柔和良善。
III 神期望信徒像耶穌一樣的成長 .
很多時候﹐我總覺得“要像基督” 這句話是陳詞濫調了﹐已經失去了意義。“要像基督” 包括了像耶穌那樣成長。這可能對有些人來說有些驚訝吧。我們總是思想耶穌的品格﹐但是很少考慮耶穌成長的過程。是的﹐聖經確確實實地告訴我們耶穌也在成長。路加福音 2 ﹕ 40 說“孩子漸漸長大，強壯起來，充滿智慧，有 神的恩典在他身上。” 2 ﹕ 52 “耶穌的智慧和身量，以及 神和人對他的喜愛，都不斷增長。”耶穌的智慧﹐身量以及神和人對他的喜愛都在成長。當我們說“要像耶穌” 時﹐就意味著要像耶穌一樣成長。
馬可福音 6 ﹕ 3 “這不是那木匠嗎？不是馬利亞的兒子，雅各、約西、猶大、西門的哥哥嗎？”耶穌是個木匠。他談到自己做的軛﹐又好又輕。是否很多高質量的衣服都是很輕的呢﹖真正好的皮製品都是很耐用和輕便的。耶穌所做的軛又好又輕。當他肉體在成長的時候﹐不僅變得更有力氣﹐同時也成為了一個好的木匠。
耶穌不僅在肉體上成長﹐在 < 路加福音 >2 ﹕ 40 ﹐ 52 我們也學到“充滿智慧，有 神的恩典在他身上。 ” 這是耶穌靈命成長的描述。 < 路加福音 >2 ﹕ 51 告訴我們﹐耶穌對父母的順從。“他就同他們下去，回到拿撒勒，並且順從他們。 … ”保羅在 < 腓力比書 >2 ﹕ 8 中提到“既然有人的樣子，就自甘卑微，順服至死，而且死在十字架上。”順服是耶穌生命的標記。他順服上帝﹐也順服父母。他的屬靈生命不斷成長。
是的﹐我們的肉體不斷成長。但是屬靈生命呢﹖靈命的成長意味著﹕當我讀聖經的時候﹐會對“上帝是誰” 這個問題有更深的認識。之前﹐當我還是屬靈嬰兒的時候﹐我希望神以我為中心﹐圍繞著我轉﹐為我做這做那。他就是我個人的購買機。但當我得不到我想要的東西時 , 我就會向神抱怨 , 責怪和發脾氣 . 現在﹐當我的屬靈生命在成長時﹐我要以上帝為我的中心﹔我要敬拜他﹐事奉他。當我成長的時候﹐我學會對主順服﹐也對那些他帶入我們生命中的人順服。屬靈生命得到成長也意味著﹕相比過去一年或者兩年而言﹐我在教會裡﹐工作中﹐家庭間變得更溫柔﹐耐心﹐善良和謙卑了。 我們下個星期會著重探討這些問題。
III. 神 期望信徒在一個破碎的世界中成長 ..
在 < 使徒行傳 >3 ﹕ 15 ﹐耶穌被稱為“生命的源頭” 。 < 希伯來書 >12 ﹕ 2 “專一注視耶穌，就是我們信心的創始者和完成者。”這段經文的意思是﹕耶穌是頭﹐是源頭。他首先破除了重重困難。他在一個艱難的環境和破碎的世界中成長。
我們經常問﹕“某某人最近怎麼了﹖已經好幾個月沒有在教會見到他了。”“他正是官司纏身﹐在那裡抱怨上帝呢。”我們總是希望在自己成為基督徒之後﹐一切的煩惱和困難都隨之而解決。我們的個人生活﹐職業﹐家庭都會一帆風順了。我們是否時常聽到牧師說﹕“你是否向要一個平靜和和諧的家庭﹐你是否想要有聽話的孩子﹖你想要事業成功嗎﹖你想要身體健康嗎﹖如果你想要得到這一切的話﹐就來接受耶穌。”如果信耶穌就能得到健康和成功﹐有誰會不願意這麼做呢﹖﹐然而﹐我們卻發現原來成為基督徒之後﹐我們仍然會失去工作﹐被錯待﹐家人依然會和我們吵架。我們也會經驗一個不是自己要的懷孕 , 質問神為什麼祂讓這事發生在我的生上 . 即使成為基督徒﹐我們依然會生病﹐有時甚至很嚴重﹐需要接受化療。許多人因此就開始懷疑自己的信仰﹐向神或者基督徒朋友抱怨。甚至不再來教會了。
我時常想到那 17 個新生命。我做了一些計算。有 32 位父母正在圍著他們忙碌不停。如果算上祖父母﹐可能要有將近 100 位大人在照顧著 17 個新生嬰兒。大概是 4-6 比 1 吧。我們希望孩子健康成長。如果孩子不長肉﹐那麼我們就會開始擔心是不是哪裡出錯了。
所以﹐我們教會的主日講道﹐主日學﹐週五團契﹐查經班等都是為了幫助我們的屬靈成長。但是﹐我們不能強迫你來參加崇拜和主日學。我們不能命令你來參加團契或者小組查經。你瞧﹐我們只能在你願意被幫助的程度來幫助你成長。如西方有一句話 : 你可以將一匹馬帶到水邊 , 但你不能使他低頭喝水 . 我們每個人對自己個人的靈命成長都要負責。當我們踏上靈命成長的道路時﹐我希望做以下的禱告﹕
Text: Luke 2:40, 52
Title: Born to Grow
Theme: God has given us Jesus Christ as the model for our spiritual growth.
During this past 7 months, 17 new babies were born to our church family. I understand several more are coming. Birth is a traumatic experience for both the mother and the baby. After birth, the baby cries and sees the new and unfamiliar world. The baby will then continue to grow into a toddler, teenager and adult. Babies are born to grow.
This is how the Bible describes our spiritual journey. Jesus said that we have to be born again in order to see the heavenly kingdom(John 3:3). Paul wrote that when the Holy Spirit comes into us, we call God our Abba, Father(Romans 8:15). Peter taught that we are to drink spiritual milk (1Peter 2:2). “See, Abba Father, Milk” are metaphors of birth and growth. Like our physical body, spiritually we are born to grow.
Whether it is physical or spiritual, growth is not automatic. We have to eat, to take care of it for growth to take place. This year our learning theme is ‘Stewardship’. For us believers, we are given this new spiritual life, we’ve been born again. Now, what are we doing about this life? What are we doing to ensure that this new life will grow into maturity?
Beginning today, I will be preaching a series of sermons on this topic of Christian Growth. I have found the book by Sinclair Ferguson very helpful in providing the overall outline and insights for this series. There are many books and workshops telling us how to grow spiritually. Many of them are excellent resources, but it is also very important for us to understand what the Bible teaches us about growing spiritually. For the next 10 sermons, I’d like to ask you to put aside all that you have read and learned from books and workshops on Christian growth. Instead, focus on the Bible and discover what it teaches about spiritual growth.
I. God desires us to grow in family likeness.
When we see a new born baby, what are some of our first words? She really looks like the mother. He is a carbon copy of the father. Or this baby looks like both mom and dad. I don’t think we have ever heard the comment that: he doesn’t look like any of the parents. On Sunday, a church member said to me, “When I saw you standing on the pulpit Friday evening, I just realized how Sean looks like you.”
Jesus said, (Matthew 5:48) “ You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Physically, we are like our parents. This holds true in our spiritual life. We are to grow and become like the Father in heaven.
Besides growing to be like parents, children also grow to be like their siblings, right? Our children, I am sure yours too, are often told that “you are so much like your older brother or sister”. Paul writes in Roman 8:28,29, “ 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Vs.29 tells us that Jesus Christ is the firstborn, the elder brother of God's children. God wants us to be like our elder brother, Jesus.
Vs.28 explained that God works in all of our life situations, the ups and downs, good and bad, for our good. Meaning, molding us into Christ's likeness. The rest of the scripture instructs and show us how we can shape our lives to be like Christ. We are to make a conscious effort, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to become more like Christ. We have the responsibility to develop the fruit of the Holy Spirit in life. We will learn to have self control over our temper, be gentle, kind and humble.
So, what is the objective or final product of spiritual growth: to become like our heaven father, to be like Jesus Christ.
II. God desires us to grow like Jesus grew.
There are many times when I feel the phrase, “to be like Christ” can become a cliché, a slogan void of any significance. You see, to be ‘like Christ’ includes growing like Jesus did. This may come as a surprise to us. We usually think of Jesus in terms of his quality, but grow? Yes the scripture did tell us how he grew. Luke 2:40, “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor (Grace) of God was upon him.” 52, “ 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature (height and size)and in favor with God and man.” He grew in strength, size, wisdom and God's favor. When we say, ‘to be like Christ’, it means that we learn to grow just as Jesus did.
Jesus grew physically.
First, Jesus grew physically. He grew in size and strength. He grew because he was a true man. From his teachings, we know his background. He grew up in a village, therefore, familiar with the outdoor life. He talked about the birds, foxes, flowers, grass and predicted the weather by looking at the color of the sky. He was familiar with the farmer’s work, wages and habits. City boys know little about such things.
Mk 6:3, “ 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?” He was a carpenter. He talked about the yoke he made. It was good and light. Isn’t it true that many of the high quality clothes are often light in weight? Real good leather are durable and light. The yoke Jesus made was easy and light. As he grew physically, not only did he become stronger, but also a good carpenter.
To many of us, we don’t have much problem with physical growth. Our society is constantly bombarding us with how to be healthy and strong. Looking at all the advertisements; they are about health and beauty. We also learn to grow in our professions, in what we do. We don’t become stagnant, but constantly sharpen our professional skills.
Jesus grew spiritually.
Not only did Jesus grow physically, in Luke 2:40, 52 we also learned that, “…..filled with wisdom. And the favor (Grace) of God was upon him.” This is the spiritual aspect of his growth. Moreover, Luke 2:51, tells us that he was obedient to his parents. “ 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.” Paul further commented in Phil 2:8, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Obedience was a hallmark of Jesus' life. He was obedient to God and to his parents. He grew spiritually.
Yes, we are growing physically; but how about our spiritual life? To grow spiritually means that as I read God's word, I will have greater understanding of who he is. Previously, or when I was a spiritual baby, I wanted God to center around me, serving me by giving me this and that; he is my personal vending machine. When I didn’t get what I want, I’ll be screaming, complaining and whining. Now as I grow, I am to have him as my center; I’m to worship and serve him as my Lord. As I grow, I’ll learn to be more obedient to him and others that he has brought into my life. To grow spiritually also means that compared to last year, two years ago, I am becoming more gentle, patient, kind and humble at church, at work and with my family members. We’ll be examining some of them in greater detail next week.
III. God desires us to grow in this broken world.
We have briefly looked at Jesus growing physically and spiritually. Now, we’ll take a look at another aspect of his growth. We want to pay special attention to the context of his growth. What is the meaning of ‘Grow’? The word ‘Grow’ means to break through, pushing aside obstacles. Its like a seedling pushing through the ground or a boat breaking the waves. To grow means to move ahead in a difficult environment. Isn’t this what Jesus' life was all about?
He was born into a hostile world. The kings and the rulers did not welcome him. He was born in a manger because there was no room in the inn. Because of his birth, many infants were killed in Jerusalem . Right after birth, his family escaped to Egypt for fear of king Herod. At the beginning of his earthly ministry, he was led into the wilderness and tempted by Satan. There was no food and he was surrounded by wild animals. He did not have a comfortable home instead he told his disciples that the birds had nests and foxed had holes, but he did not have a place for pillows. He was constantly harassed by the religious and political leaders. They were cynical and critical of everything he taught. At the end, he was killed on the cross. His crime? He claimed to be the son of God. This was surely not a very friendly world.
In the book of Acts 3:15, he was called the ‘Author of life’. Hebrews 12:12, “ 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,” Meaning, Jesus is the leader, the chief captain. He was the first to break through those difficulties. He grew in a difficult environment, in a broken and fallen world.
From time to time we ask, “what happened to so and so? Haven’t seen him at church for several months.” “He is experiencing some trials and difficulties in life, questioning if God still cares for him.” So often we expect that once we become a Christian, all our problems will be solved. Our personal life, our career and family will all fall into the right place and everything will work out ok. Don’t we sometimes hear pastors say, “Do you want to have a peaceful and harmonious family with your spouse and children listening to you, you want to have a successful career? Do you want to rid your sickness? If you do, you need to come to Jesus.” Who doesn’t want to come to Christ if there is a guarantee that I’ll be healthy and successful in life? And then when we realized that even as Christians, we can still lose our jobs, be treated unfairly, that our family members may not cooperate with us as we wished. We find ourselves totally unprepared for the baby within. How can God allow this to happen at this time in my life? That even as Christians we can still get sick, real sick and have to suffer those terrible chemo and/or radiation treatments. Many of us would begin to have second thoughts about our faith and complain to God and Christian friends. Some even stop coming to church.
Einstein raised a question: Is the universe a friendly place? How we answer this question will affect how we look at the hardships in life. The scripture tells us that when God first created the heavens and the earth, everything was good. The universe, the world we live in was a good and friendly place. However, because of sin, it became a rather unfriendly and hostile place. It is in such a world that Jesus grew up. Likewise, we also need to remember that we grow spiritually in the midst of hostility and difficulty. We are to push through those obstacles and become more like Jesus Christ.
I keep thinking of the 17 new babies among us. I did some math on this. There are 32 parents busy taking care of them. If we include the grandparents, then there are a total of about 100 adults taking care of the 17 babies. Or a ratio of 4-6 adults per child. We want to make sure the baby grows in a healthy manner. If the baby is not gaining weight, we’ll worry and know something is not right. .
Isn’t this also true in our spiritual life? If you are a Christian, then you are born again. You have a new life in Christ. After this birth, we begin to grow. We are born to grow; to be like Christ. If we are not growing, then something is wrong.
So in this church, our Sunday sermons, ss lessons, Friday Fellowship or small group Bible studies are all here to help you grow spiritually. However, we cannot make you come to worship and SS on Sundays. We cannot make you come to the fellowship or small groups. You see, we can help you to grow spiritually only to the extent that you wish to be helped. Its like the saying, we can bring the horse to the water, but can’t make it drink. Each person, you and I, also has the responsibility to grow and develop our spiritual life.
As we embark on this journey of spiritual growth, may this be our desire and prayer:
To Know God more clearly, To Love Him more dearly and to Follow Him more nearly.
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