Thursday, February 9, 2017

Is All Growth Good?

"Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude." Colossians 2:6-7 [HCSB]

Do you ever like to be stopped in your tracks?  I mean to have a surprise come out of something you think you know so well that it catches you off guard and makes you think.  Recently I was reading a sermon by Chris Talton and it made me stop, reread scripture and think about what it truly says and not just what I think it says.  In the sermon he said this:
Growing is not enough. Unproductive uncontrolled growth is cancer. Good growth is growth in the right direction. In order for that to happen, we have to be grounded in Jesus Christ, the only right foundation. [1]
In our culture we push growth for growth's sake.  Is our church growing? Am I growing? We worry about the rate of growth but do we ever stop and worry about the quality of growth?  That short paragraph made me stop and think about how I am growing… and is it healthy.  For example, I can fill my head with all the background facts of Bible passages and the context and cultural understanding  - that is growth.  But if along with that knowledge my heart doesn’t grow to show the love and compassion that lays at the heart of the Bible then my growth is unproductive, uncontrolled, and unspiritual.  Was my growth based on my simple desire to be more like Christ in how I live my life or was it pride in how much more I know today than yesterday?

Was my “growth” hurting my witness?

I went back to one of my favorite passages on growth, Colossians 2, to see what scripture actually said.  Here Paul is addressing false teachings that were becoming popular at Colossae.  He warns his readers to not be taken prisoner by earthly traditions and philosophies - in other words know the sound doctrine of the faith.  That is usually where I focus when I read this passage - knowing the sound doctrine of the faith.  However, before Paul even gets there he says, very simply, for us to be rooted in Christ Himself, to walk with Him… overflowing with gratitude.

That is when it hit me.  My growth should not only be measured by how much doctrine I know (though sound doctrine is important) but by how Christ like I live.  If my growth gets out of whack, if my head knowledge starts to exceed my heart knowledge, then my growth risks becoming dangerous, unspiritual.  I risk becoming someone who spouts out doctrinal truth at people without showing them first the love that is the true reflection of our faith.  

Doctrine without love or grace is a witness to a cold, dead faith built on traditions and rules.  How good is my witness then?  Likewise if I strive to show love to people but I am afraid or ignorant of true doctrine then my witness is merely one of temporary kindness without eternal truth.

My personal growth must be balanced in love and truth.  For our churches to grow, we must be balanced in love and truth.  How are you growing today?

[1] Chris Talton “I Don’t Want To Grow Up!”