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Advance! Advance in Stature

Advance in Stature

How big is God? This is the kind of question most children ask at one time or another. They know that they are weak and that God is strong, they know that they are tiny and that the universe is immense, and so they naturally wonder, “Just how big is this God, anyway?” And in some way, their parents explain that God is spiritual, not physical, infinite, not limited, with no form and therefore no size. God is neither big nor small—he is everywhere at all times.

But then we open the New Testament and read words like these: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:11-12). How big is God? About 20 inches and seven pounds. A month later, 22 inches and nine pounds, and a year after that, 30 inches and 20 pounds. This is the wonder of the incarnation, of the second person of the Trinity confining himself to a human body. Charles Wesley marveled at this in one of his lesser-known hymns: “Our God contracted to a span / incomprehensibly made Man.” The eternal Word took on the tiny form of a newborn, the omnipotent creator the helpless body of a baby, the omniscient God the simple mind of an infant.

As Jesus grew from a child to an adult, his biographer Luke reports that in his teens and 20s, “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Like any other human being, he grew in stature, in physical height and weight. Over the years, his childish body slowly gave way to an adult body. Along the way, he would have endured the clumsiness that follows childhood growth spurts and the endless appetite that arrives with the teenage years. He would have gone through puberty and its sexual maturing, developing his first facial hair, outgrowing his clothes and passing them down to his brothers. He did all the things normal people do as they advance from childhood to manhood.

Jesus shows us how to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, refusing to give in to sexual temptation.

This alone is a marvel, that God grew. Yet as he grew in physical stature, he experienced another kind of growth that would prove equally important, that would help him develop into full maturity. Hand in hand with his physical advance came steady spiritual advance. Jesus’ body grew in all holiness. Of particular relevance to young adults is this: As he advanced out of childhood into manhood, he renounced the lust that so often grips those whose bodies are developing. From the beginning of his earthly life and through his teens and 20s, Jesus shows us how to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, refusing to give in to sexual temptation. In all this, he was preparing for his ultimate offering to God, the sacrifice of his body on the cross.

As we continue our series “Advance!” we need to consider your teens and 20s as a time to advance in stature. This will include the development of your body and the arrival of its peak strength. Of even greater importance, though, this will include the development of your soul. As you develop and establish your physical stature, you must also develop and establish your spiritual stature, standing firm in sexual purity and renouncing youthful lust.

Physical Stature

Since the church’s earliest days, many who have claimed the name “Christian” have downplayed the body in favor of the soul. The soul is good, they say, and the body bad, so that this good soul needs to be liberated from this bad body. The Bible teaches something very different. It teaches that God made the human body as the ideal dwelling place for the human soul. The body was made to be good just as the soul was made to be good. And as if to prove its goodness, God the Son took up permanent residence in the human body. Today he lives and reigns as the God who is man.

You live within a body that was created by God. In fact, this body was specially created for you so you could use it to glorify God. When David considered this, he marveled. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14). Of all that God created, humans are the greatest and most glorious, for human beings alone are created in the image of God and human beings alone are the dwelling place for God.

As you grow in physical stature, you gain the responsibility to understand the purpose of your body and the necessity of using it for the best and highest purposes. Your body is not worthless packaging to use and discard but a valuable creation to nurture and protect. God tells you to take responsibility for your body by presenting it to him, then stewarding, nurturing, employing, and guarding it. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

You need to present your body. In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). We are whole people, bodies and souls knit carefully together. We are to surrender to God all that we are, holding nothing back. Even our bodies belong to God and are to be used for the purposes of God. Thus, God calls us to surrender our bodies to him, to dedicate them to his service, to commit them to his purposes.

You need to steward your body. As you surrender your body, you acknowledge that it does not belong to you but to God. He made it and he owns it, but he has given it to you to manage. This is what we call “stewardship,” managing something on behalf of someone else. Just as you are responsible to faithfully steward your time and money, you are responsible before God to faithfully steward the body he has assigned to you. You are to use your body wisely, to put your body to use in ways that bring glory to God. After all, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

If you wish to tend to your soul and mind, you must nurture your body.

You need to nurture your body. There is an inseparable unity between body, mind, and soul. When we neglect our bodies, we often find our souls heavy and our minds dark. But when we care for our bodies, we find our souls cheerful and our minds enlightened. We see some of this in John’s prayer for his friend Gaius: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul” (3 John 2). For Gaius to be as active and effective as possible in God’s work, he must have a healthy body and a healthy soul. If you wish to tend to your soul and mind, you must nurture your body. To honor God in all that you are, you must eat well, exercise frequently, and rest regularly.

You need to employ your body. Inner godliness is to be displayed in outward acts of kindness. James shows the unity of faith and works in this illustration: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:15-17). The love of God in your heart is to be displayed by the works of your hands. Young people are at their physical peak and bear a double responsibility to use that strength for the good of others. “The glory of young men is their strength,” says Solomon, “but the splendor of old men is their gray hair” (Proverbs 20:29).

The human body is holy, created by God for the glory of God. An important part of growing in physical stature is growing into an awareness of what the body is for and how to best use it. This is the time in life to form healthy patterns of living, eating, exercising, working, and resting. By devoting your body to God and nurturing it for its maximum performance, you are preparing yourself for a life of good works for the glory of God.

Spiritual Stature

Just as the body can be treated well to do good things, it can also be treated poorly to do evil things. Along with the development of our bodies in our teens and 20s comes the temptation to give our bodies to sexual sin instead of God. An essential component of advancing like Jesus is guarding our bodies against sexual sin as we physically grow.

One of the attributes of every human being is sexuality. We were created by God to be sexual beings. By virtue of our humanity, we have sexual organs, sexual ability, and sexual desire. Having created us with this sexual capacity, God created marriage as the appropriate context to express it, then commanded us to use it to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). God gave us all we need to enjoy and employ the precious gift of sex.

Because Jesus was fully human, he was a sexual being with sexual organs, sexual ability, and sexual desire. He was not an androgynous or asexual being, but a normal human being with testosterone flowing through his veins. In his teens he, like any other person, would have grown in sexual desire.

Because Jesus was fully human, he probably experienced sexual temptation. After all, the Bible insists he “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Just as Satan tempted Jesus in wilderness to break the first commandment (“You shall have no other gods before me”), he may at other times have tempted him to break the seventh commandment (“You shall not commit adultery”). Yet Jesus “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). He endured these temptations without any sinful thoughts, deeds, or even desires.

There are several important lessons young Christians can learn from Jesus.

First, Jesus was fully human and faced every temptation that comes with being a warm-blooded human. Yet he passed through his teens and 20s without ever succumbing to sexual sin. He did not cheat and borrow from his “god-ness” to do this, but rather he faced and overcame temptation as a man. As a man, he lived a perfectly holy life, content in his chastity.

Second, Jesus endured temptation and lived in perfect purity because he was dependent on the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ success offers us tremendous comfort, “for because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). As you face inevitable onslaughts of sexual desire or opportunity, you can turn to him for both sympathy and assistance, for the very Spirit who lived within him now lives within us. The Spirit not only comforts us but also warns us of sin and works in us to overcome it (1 Thessalonians 4:8).

Jesus demonstrates that a meaningful and fulfilling life is not dependent upon sexual fulfillment.

Third, Jesus demonstrates that a meaningful and fulfilling life is not dependent upon sexual fulfillment. Rather, we can have fulfillment without ever having sex. After all, no one has ever lived a better life than Jesus, yet he lived and died a virgin. His perfect model of a God-honoring life did not include sex or marriage.

By living a life free from sexual expression, Jesus demonstrates that you can be complete and fulfilled without sexual experience and sexual fulfillment. By living a life free from sexual sin, Jesus shows how you also can live your teens and 20s and even the rest of your life without ever succumbing to sexual impurity. How can you be sure? Because you are indwelt by the same Spirit who filled Jesus. The power that was available to him to resist temptation and motivate holiness is available to you if only you will take hold of it.

Young Christian, if you long to advance as Jesus advanced, you must also guard yourself against sexual sin and pursue purity with all your heart. Just as you present your body to God, present your sexuality to God, resolving to only express sexuality in holiness within the context of marriage. Just as you are called to steward your body, you must also steward your sexuality, receiving sex as a gift from God that must be used within the design of God. Just as you must nurture your body, nurture your sexuality by making investments of purity now that will reap benefits later within marriage and eternity. Young Christian, if you have already failed, if you have already given your body to lust instead of God, there is hope! The Jesus who perfectly models sexual purity is the same Jesus who sacrificially died for your sexual impurity. Turn to him, receive his forgiveness, and commit yourself again to the Savior who died on your behalf.

Conclusion

Jesus passed through his teens and 20s in a sexually-charged culture. He was surrounded by sin and depravity, witness to every kind of enticement. Yet he resisted all temptation, and he achieved all righteousness. As he grew in physical stature, he also grew in spiritual stature by abstaining from sexual immorality and controlling his body in holiness and honor. He fully depended upon God and did all things to the glory of God. He shows the way to surrender our bodies to God, he shows the way to devote our sexuality to God, he shows the way to joy, to fullness of life.


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