The growth we are to experience under God’s redemptive provision is holistic in nature. God is interested in transforming, not only, the whole person, but the relationships between persons. Of course, in a world where we must deal with people who have no interest in honoring God’s design for life on earth, this is a complex situation with many variables. Jesus, however, among other things, became our example of a human being functioning in a proper manner.
As a twelve-year-old, He could engage in deep conversation with the teachers in the temple in Jerusalem. We are told that “all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers” (Lk.2:47). Jesus, however, did not simply remain an impressive twelve-year-old. We read that, “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Lk.2:52). There are four important areas of increase referenced regarding the maturation process Jesus experienced.
Increase in Wisdom
Jesus, in His human experience, increased in wisdom. It would serve all of us well if we were to increase in wisdom as we proceed through life. This speaks of the importance of mental growth. Giving attention to the proper use of our mental capacities is very important for productive human life. Three important, but distinct, words referring to mental activity are, knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Scripture makes abundant reference to concepts related to the mind and to truth, both positively and negatively. A quick scan of Paul’s letter to the Romans alone offers significant insight on t his point.
The fundamental problem human beings face is related to suppressing truth and exchanging it for a lie (Ro.1:18, 25). When people do not want to “retain God in their knowledge” (Ro.1:28, KJV), God gives them over to their depraved mind (Ro.1:28). As people reject the knowledge and truth of God and His supremacy, they view themselves as supreme and become “selfishly ambitious,” and consequently, do not obey the truth (Ro.2:8). Acknowledging the negative consequences and damage this produces, including levels of moral bondage, Paul indicates that, even with those who see the goodness of God’s law and want to do what’s right, a war rages between our mental intentions and our bodily appetites (Ro.7:23, 25). Thankfully, this is a struggle from which Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit can free us (Ro.7:24, 25). In this deliverance, according to provisions made by God in Christ, through the Spirit, we must set our minds on the Spirit instead of the flesh (Ro.8:6, 7). Interestingly, Paul asks the question, “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” in both Ro.11:34 and 1 Co.2:16. In the Corinthians passage he states, “But we have the mind of Christ.” This is Jesus, the one who increased in wisdom. Further emphasizing the important role the mind plays in this ongoing transformation, Paul states, “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Increasing in our knowledge and understanding of truth, gaining more wisdom, is necessary if we expect to be continually conformed to the image of Christ. As it is impossible to advance the kingdom of God merely on an individual, personal level, Paul encourages the body of Christ to “…be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ro.15:5-6).
As those reconciled to the Creator, learning to use our minds as they were magnificently designed to be used, the Christian community should produce people who lead the way in all areas of thought.