Introduction: One very hard-fought religious liberty case I handled
involved a client who had steady and substantial changes in his life
after he gave his life to Jesus. The other side argued he was not
sincere in his religious beliefs (and therefore should not win)
because of the conflict between what he had been in the past and what
he said and did now. The main lawyer for the other side was a pagan
who had no understanding of the topic of our lesson this week:
Christian growth. I spent a great deal of time in my brief to the
court discussing this idea of Christian growth and how it worked in
the life of my client. Fortunately, the judge understood this idea
and ruled in our favor. Let’s dive into our study about Christian

  1. Nicodemus

    1. Read John 3:1-2. What do we learn about Nicodemus and his
      views of Jesus? (Nicodemus was a very important man. He
      did not understand that Jesus was the Messiah – he
      considered Jesus a Spirit-filled teacher and miracle

      1. What do you think Nicodemus wanted? (He met Jesus at
        night. That suggests Nicodemus was sincerely
        interested in finding out more about Jesus without
        damaging his reputation or appearing to take the side
        of this controversial “teacher.”)

      2. If you were Jesus, what would your goal be for this
        conversation? (Convert Nicodemus.)

    2. Read John 3:3. I know this is hard, but clear your mind of
      everything you know about being “born again,” and tell me
      what you would conclude from what Jesus said?

      1. Is Jesus’ response a natural reply to Nicodemus
        question? (Nicodemus’s statement was probably a slow
        and diplomatic (he thought) beginning to a spiritual
        discussion that would determine who Jesus was. Jesus
        skips the diplomacy and gets straight to the point
        that they both wanted to reach.)

      2. Would Nicodemus be offended by this response? (It
        would be natural – given Nicodemus’s exalted
        political and religious background. He would think he
        should build on what he had accomplished, not start
        all over again.)

    3. Read John 3:4-6. What does Jesus mean when He says that
      Nicodemus (and you) must be “born again?” (Baptism of
      water and the Holy Spirit.)

    4. If you were to ponder Jesus’ statement about the need to
      be born again – what meaning would it have beyond baptism?
      (Jesus’ analogy to new life suggests that the new
      Christian is to grow. Indeed, Jesus speaks a great deal
      about the birth of the “spirit” in the “born again”
      Christian. The whole idea of spiritual growth is central
      to Jesus’ point.)

      1. Did even Nicodemus, that Bible scholar, need to be
        “born again?”

      2. What, then, about you?

  2. God’s Expectation

    1. Read Hebrews 5:11-12. What is wrong with these Christians?
      The text says they are slow learners. Do they lack

    2. Read Hebrews 5:13-14. What is Hebrew’s teaching about
      righteousness? (That righteousness is a matter of growth
      in the knowledge of God’s word. If you need to keep
      relearning the elementary truths of the gospel, something
      is wrong with your understanding of God’s goal for your

      1. What does it mean for a Christian to be on “solid
        food?” (“Solid food” allows you to distinguish good
        from evil. This is a constant work and it is the
        result of growing in righteousness.)

    3. Read Hebrews 6:1-2. When Hebrews calls on us not to “lay
      again the foundation of repentance” is it telling us that
      Christian growth should not involve having to repent
      again? (No. Hebrews is describing the introductory
      foundations (the “milk”) of Christianity: repentance from
      sin, faith in God, baptism, laying on of hands, the coming
      resurrection and judgment.)

    4. Read Hebrews 6:4-6. Consider this warning about Christian
      growth: does this mean we should not pursue those who have
      left the church? What if we leave the church – can we not

    5. Read Hebrews 6:7-8. How can we tell if we have fallen
      away? (Hebrews is comparing the productive Christian life
      with the “fallen way” life. The fallen away person may
      continue to sit in church, soaking in “rain” (the Holy
      Spirit), but this person produces a life of “thorns and
      thistles.” I don’t think this is the “prodigal son” who
      runs away from church and later returns to the arms of a
      loving father. See Luke 15:11-24.)

    6. What is the main point of Hebrews 5:11-6:8? (The whole
      sense of this conversation is the failure of Christian
      growth. We need to be moving forward in knowledge. We need
      to be productive Christians.)

    7. Read James 5:19-20. How does this fit into the picture the
      writer of Hebrews is painting? (We can fall into sin and
      return. We can drift away and return. What we cannot do
      is be fully aware and settled in the truth and then walk
      away from God. A hardened heart like that is unlikely to
      return. See also Hebrews 3:12-4:2)

    8. How are the texts in this section like driving a car? (You
      are either in drive and moving forward toward the goal of
      Christian maturity, or you are not. You might be stopped
      or in reverse. Neither is any good. If you are moving in
      reverse, you are moving backwards away from the goal and
      towards an ever hardening heart.)

      1. Which direction is your spiritual “car” moving?

  3. Faith and Rest

    1. Does this command to keep growing in Christian maturity,
      to keep driving forward seem tiring? Does it take more
      energy than you have available? Are you out of gas? Let’s
      read Hebrews 4:1-3. How does adding faith to our knowledge
      of God’s message give us rest? (The parallel (see Hebrews
      3) is the Exodus from Egypt to Canaan. If the people had
      just keep moving forward with God, just trusted Him, they
      would have entered the promised land – the land of rest.)

    2. Read Hebrews 4:4-7. To what does God compare the rest of
      faith and trust in Him? (The Sabbath ends the week of
      work, just as the original Sabbath ended the week of
      Creation. Without entering into the spiritual rest arising
      from faith, you have not finished the course of Christian

    3. Read Hebrews 4:8-11. What connection is there between
      Sabbath-keeping and faith? (The Sabbath is the weekly
      reminder of the rest given us by faith. “Anyone who enters
      God’s rest also rests from his own work.” The Sabbath
      reflects our faith and our understanding that God has a
      heavenly rest in mind for us – not just here, but in
      heaven’s promised land.)

    4. Would you say that part of our Christian growth is our
      desire to be on a journey to heaven?

  4. Love

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. We just got through studying
      the importance of faith to our Christian growth. We now
      learn that faith is nothing without love. How can that be

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Is there room for growth in
      your life in the area of love?

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. Why is love so great? (I think
      this text tells us that we may have imperfect doctrines,
      prophecies and knowledge. That is, the teaching of the
      church may not be exactly right. But a loving attitude is
      as close to God’s perfection as we can come right now.
      Just like the advice to parents – love makes up for a
      multitude of “sins.” Love is necessary part of our
      Christian growth.)

  5. The Result

    1. Read Ephesians 4:14-15. As we become mature in our
      understanding of God’s word, what benefit enters our life?

      1. When we find a member who has not yet reached
        maturity, and is being tossed about by false
        doctrine, how should we respond? (As we speak the
        “truth in love” we continue to grow in our knowledge
        of Jesus.)

    2. Friend, what about your life? Are you continuing to grow
      in your understanding of God’s will for you? Are your
      faith and love growing? If not, will you commit to
      studying God’s word every day so that your life will move
      towards that “Sabbath rest” God has promised?

  6. Next week: The Word of God Endures.