“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” Ephesians 4:14–15
In the previous article, I explained four kinds of spiritual childishness to which scripture points: petty fighting, legalism, shallow thinking, and a lack of conviction. The calling to all of us, young and old, when we discover such immature characteristics in our lives is, “Grow up!” How do you do this? In addition to putting aside the four above mentioned traits, there is a positive side to growing up.
Essential to spiritual growth is first a humble admission on your part that you still need to grow. It should be obvious that you will not mature if you stubbornly insist that you are all grown up. Such thinking makes you unteachable and hardened in childish sin. Imagine the teenager of about seventeen years saying goodbye to his mom and dad, packing up his belongings and leaving home like that prodigal son, proudly thinking that he is all grown up and ready to live independently. Such a young man will soon discover how blind he had been to his need to grow up. Spiritually that is the case with all of us, not just young people. Sometimes we feel as if we have arrived to the level of spiritual adulthood, only to have God show us again that we are still children. Lord’s Day 44 of the Heidelberg Catechism says, “…even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience.”
Acknowledge it. In Ephesians 4:14a, the apostle Paul writes to the members of various ages in the church: “That we henceforth be no more children.” He uses the pronoun “we” to include himself with all the members. If an apostle admits his continued need to grow up, then we ought to admit it also.
“Truthing” is how you put aside childishness and grow up. Although “truthing” is not a word in the English dictionary, it truly is God’s way of spiritual growth. In Ephesians 4:14–15 Paul explains that we ought not to be children and then explains how: “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things….” That phrase “speaking the truth” can be translated “truthing.” It refers not only to speaking the truth, but characterizing your whole life with truth. It is not merely belonging to a church that holds officially to truth, but actually having your life, your thoughts, your words, and your actions exhibit truth.
This is not an unfamiliar idea to most of us. In fact, the need for truth is so often spoken about and pounded into our minds that the temptation for us is to stop listening carefully to such exhortations. Don’t! Be “truthing.”
Part of “truthing” is learning truth. In order to grow up spiritually, you need to learn truth. You to need to take in the word of truth. Christian education, devotions, catechism, sermons, and Bible societies are all ways to learn truth. But young person, if you are going to grow up, you need to take these things seriously. It is possible to be enrolled in a good Christian school, to sit in on family devotions, to attend catechism classes, to be present in a pew during sermons, to gather with groups that study the Bible, and not learn truth. There are many who do with truth what a young toddler might do with food he is not used to. He gets food in his hair, on the ground, in the high chair, smeared on his face and left on his plate, but very little gets in his mouth. To learn truth, you must have an appetite for truth, you must train yourself to partake of truth, and you must put truth in your heart.
Very practically speaking, learning truth involves disciplining yourself daily to read a portion of God’s word for devotions. Learning truth involves getting enough sleep on Saturday night, drinking coffee, chewing gum, taking notes and other practical measures to pay better attention in church. It means preparing carefully before society meetings so that you are ready to discuss the truth. It means understandingly memorizing your catechism and not ceasing from catechizing yourself after you make confession of faith. It means habitually reading good Christian magazines and books. Grow up by learning more truth. It is the nourishment you need for spiritual growth.
“Truthing” also involves speaking the truth. Often when we think about speaking the truth, we immediately think that the purpose of it is for the hearer’s benefit. So, the reason we speak truth to our neighbor is so that our neighbor gets witnessed to. Or the reason we speak up in society meetings is so that others profit from our contributions. But we must realize that our efforts to get up the courage and speak the truth also benefit ourselves. It is how we grow up. Ephesians 4:15 says this: “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things.”
It is true that not all of us are extroverts. We do not all have talkative personalities. Yet we all talk at some point in our lives unless we have a handicap. When we do speak, let us speak truth. When we do speak, let us take God’s name upon our lips and reverentially speak of his providence seen in today’s events, his glory displayed in today’s sunshine, his salvation discussed on Sunday. Be not ashamed, push away the fear of men, and squeeze out of your trembling heart words of truth among family members, friends, peers, and the world. The discomforts you feel in speaking the truth are merely growing pains of accelerated spiritual growth.
“Truthing” is growing by learning truth, speaking truth, and living your life consistently with truth. You say you believe the truth of God’s law; then obey God’s law. You claim to believe in the truth of God’s grace; then live with grace. Strive for a life of integrity and put aside hypocrisy.
In Ephesians 4:15, Paul points out the specific way in which we are to live the truth. The command is to speak the truth in love! In love for God and for our neighbor, we are to learn the truth and speak the truth. God is love, and if we want to show forth the truth of God in our life, we must live a life of love.
Let it never be, young people, that we act superior to others. There is a difference between confidence and impudence, and the difference has to do with love. Our speaking of truth may never be done in an ungracious manner. Although it is possible for others to judge wrongly our expression of truth as unloving, we must examine our hearts and make sure such judgments are really false. We are not really “truthing” if we speak the truth or live with the truth in contempt of others. Instead, what we communicate with our deeds of disdain is this: “The God in me and the Christ I represent is ungracious like me.” And that is a lie that invalidates the words of truth we might speak. Growing up involves living a life of love, consistent with the truth.
Having understood our need to grow up in the above ways, we must realize that though we have to be active in our growth, we need a nurturer—someone who will help us grow, someone who will nourish us, feed us, teach us, and lead us so that we can grow. A child left on his own will not grow but die. If we admit we are still spiritual children, then we must confess our need for nurture. Ephesians 4:15 points to this Nurturer: “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” We are joined to Christ by the bond of faith, and it is from this Christ that we receive every benefit for growth. So we conclude with a most essential way to grow up. Pray, and do not stop praying, that Jesus will pour his grace and Spirit more and more in you, that you might grow up to be like him, our mature elder brother.