The primary purpose of the natural family is to bring sons and daughters to maturity. This is also the primary thought in God's family. God is not just interested in babies. He wants sons that can bear responsibility. We see so much emphasis today on winning souls into the family, but it is out of balance. God is concerned with every man, but not just that man would be born again. Man was made for fellowship with God, but fellowship with babies is very limited. We are born again so we can grow up. How much more are the joys of mature fellowship! Not only that, but God has much more in mind, both now and in eternity.
Our maturing is to be done now, not in heaven. This is the testing ground, the time of training, and the time of preparation. If we have been born into the family, God does not want us to sit around just rejoicing that we have been born. The day of birth is truly a joyous occasion, but the focus from that point on is maturity. The joy of birth fades rapidly for a child that has a disease which does not allow growth and maturity.
Although there are many similarities between the natural and spiritual family, there are also some very significant differences. One of them is that our heavenly Father is not physically present, yet He still functions as the father. In other words, we call no man on earth our father (Matthew 23:9). This immediately lifts the working out of the natural, into the realm of the Spirit. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must do so in Spirit and in truth. The Holy Spirit has been given to bring all that the Father is into our lives, and to conduct the training in our lives.
The Holy Spirit flows through men; thus we are dealing with God in union with men. This has many implications to us, and although we might have chosen to do things in another way, God has designed the way and ordered the family according to His wisdom. Our place is to see the plan of God and move in it in faith, leaving the results in God's hands.
If we are going to benefit from what God is doing in His family, one foundational truth we must have fixed in our hearts is that we are dealing with God, not man. That means that we must recognize the authority of God coming to us. This is only seen by the Spirit. We are not taught by men, but by God (1 John 2:27). Yet God is using men. How can we know the difference? Only by the anointing of the Spirit in our hearts. We must be able to recognize the Holy Spirit speaking to us, able to hear God through man. If we drop down to a lower place and only hear man, we will not profit and no spiritual training will take place. If we say this is too hard, and go off by ourselves, we will miss God completely, and there will be no training, no maturing. God only has one plan, and it is His family.
Consider the command of Jesus to His disciples: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..." (Matthew 28:19). He did not say to go and make babies or children. He said to go and make disciples. What is a disciple? "It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher..." (Matthew 10:25). A disciple is one who is learning and growing to be like his teacher or master. There is no thought of resting in a place of immaturity. Only God can produce life that makes a person a child of God. But God has involved man in a very real way, in bringing the maturity of sons. This is true of both natural and spiritual families.
When we see how much God has involved man in the training and maturing of sons, we realize the importance of maintaining proper relationships. As long as there are no demands, there is very little to affect the relationships. But when the love demands of obedience start to come through vessels of clay, our spirituality is tested to the limit. "Let God speak to me," we say, "but not this brother." We start to bite back, and look for faults in the teacher. "What right does he have to say these things? Look at his life." We evade the word that is coming to us by finding fault in the messenger. When we do this, we cut off the flow of grace to our hearts.
The scriptures are full of examples of this, but one that stands out is the Corinthian church. Paul was a chosen vessel, and had been dealt with by God. But when he began to touch sensitive areas in the lives of these babes in Christ, they began to lash back. "For his letters, they say, are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible" (2 Corinthians 10:10). Paul said the Corinthians were looking at the outward appearance in a wrong way, and that it had hindered the grace of God coming to them. He made a strong appeal to them, to consider again where they had first partaken of the grace of God, and pleaded with them "not to receive the grace of God in vain" (2 Corinthians 6:1). The grace of God was coming to them, but they were not receiving it because their relationship with God was not right. Paul's instruction to them was to "be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).
God has chosen to use men in union with God to bring the instruction unto maturity in our lives. We might rather wish He would use angels, but He has not chosen to. God does things in perfection, and the way He has chosen is the perfect way to get His perfect results. Let us not reason with our foolish thoughts and think that we can improve on God's design and wisdom. The wisdom of God in the church, the family of God, is revealed to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. It is not a small thing.
The question is, do we want to grow up? If so, we must grow up God's way, not our way. Do we want to be trained? If so, we must submit to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ All authority is given to Him, and He has been given as Head over all things. He will manifest that authority through men in the family of God as He sees fit. Are we able to recognize that authority? He has given the Holy Spirit to abide in each believer, and He will give us the ability to recognize the authority of God coming to us. It is the anointing in our hearts that causes us to recognize the word of God coming to us through men. Only as we recognize this authority and submit in obedience will we grow up in God.
Sometimes we think that growth is automatic with time. Maybe this is because we see physical growth taking place in children with the passing of time. But growth in character is a closer example to spiritual growth than physical growth is. We see that children can grow physically with time and yet remain babes in character if they are not properly trained by their parents. If they do not mature to the point where they are able to bear responsibility, the weakness in their character can eventually cost them their lives.
Children must obey their parents if they are to be trained and mature. So it is with God. Unless we obey God, we will not grow. And if we do not grow, we will not be able to bear responsibility in the household of God. Not only that, but we will not be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, and sooner or later the deceiver will slip into our lives and snuff out the life of God. In other words, growth is not optional if we want to finish our course in God. Beginning is not enough. God is looking for finishers. We must start before we can finish, but the race, after starting, takes the strength that comes only from God. Only finishers will be with God in eternity. We must grow up.