Spiritual Stagnation By Philip North

The word “stagnant” is defined by Webster as, “Not flowing in a current or stream: motionless; stale; dull; inactive.” The term is most often applied to water. Let this substance known as H-2-0 remain in one place for a period of time without some type of flowing or stirring taking place, and the purity contained in that water thereof will depart. Following this “stagnation,” dirt, germs, and all types of collected debris will usher its way in, to be sure. No longer will that water be desirable to swim in or drink. There must be something necessary and profitable to the word “moving” here. Indeed, stagnation is not a good thing. We ourselves would not want to utilize stagnated water.

The very same thing would apply to being a child of God. Becoming a New Testament Christian contains many advantages, not just one. While the very first thing that does occur when one is baptized is to have his sins washed away (Acts 22:16), there is not that figurative “sitting on the top steps of the baptistry” which should be done afterwards.

Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Those who have truly “put on Christ” will begin from the day they are baptized, and on up until the day of their death, to try their best to live as Christ did while He walked this earth. You see, when baptism occurs, a completely new life must begin. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Paul further stated, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). That individual is then taught to not only live a new life, but to grow spiritually, which is part of that new life. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). This growth is much amplified in Philippians 1:9-11: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”

Hence, reading the Bible does not just mean gaining knowledge of its pages, (which is not to be omitted), but also developing grace and seasoning, which for sure accompanies the territory of that growth. One example of seasoning is seen in one’s speech. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). We are also taught in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” “Alway” means “all the way.” Much scripture can be cited on showing how a person is to constantly mature spiritually after baptism.

This having been said, it is most obvious that one of a number of reasons to become a Christian is not to stop at the point of what we might term as being “basically saved.” There is that Biblical road needing to be trodden, if one is to finally reach Heaven. When reading the Word of God, that spiritual food and drink contained in its wonderful pages must thoroughly be partaken of, instead of simply being read as a menu for one to either reject what is deemed inconvenient to eat and drink, or else to totally turn one’s own nose up at the whole feast offered before that person. Additionally, while the Bible is to be read for enjoyment, such is not to stop there. Full obedience must also result from reading its pages.

It has always been a disappointing and sometimes heartbreaker to see church members who were baptized years ago, and little or nothing is seen of their spiritual growth. The way some church members talk (not simply by using profanity), the manner in which some live (not solely in sexual immorality), the attitude (i.e., lack of zeal) possessed towards the very nature of the church (not only in unfaithful church attendance), the personal treatment of their brethren and other members of humanity where the Golden Rule is concerned (Matthew 7:12), and the little knowledge–if any–that is gained throughout the years due to a lack of reading and memorizing God’s Word, have all collectively contributed to many a Christian’s spiritual stagnation! In this case that “rolling stone” should not be gathering “moss.” After all, the reason that stone is not gathering moss is because it is rolling! Christians are not to remain “still” in Christ following their initial obedience in baptism, but are to be moving, moving, moving! However, consequently, there are those who have metaphorically “roosted” somewhere along the way, and refuse to change much. Some appear to have not changed at all. Sadly, they die in that condition.

There are church members I have met in my life who would do quite well to seriously consider “the fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith; Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” This writer himself admits to having in the past needed to pay better and closer attention in these areas. Additionally, 2 Peter 1:4-10 should be heeded by more children of God: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity; For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” Gentle reader, when we read all these things contained in this paragraph, as well as anything else in the Bible, are we not aware that God is talking to us? That He wants us to do these things for our own benefit, growth, and journey towards Heaven?

Spiritual stagnation also leads to lack of leadership that would otherwise be in the church. The Hebrew writer says, “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14). A particular note here: While there are those church members who ought to be able to teach and preach by now, others who have the knowledge to do so, refuse to do so. How sad!

Instead, many seem to have spiritually stagnated in their lives as responsible, self-disciplined church members. In addition to what has already been mentioned about spiritual stagnation, let me say again that there exists those who, after being in the body of Christ for a long period of time, are still continuing in some form of bad speech, bad character, bad treatment of their fellow man, lax in their church attendance, lax in their everyday Christian living, and lax in their very reading of the Bible that God brought to them for the express purpose of saving their souls! Too often, they cannot be moved away from their self-satisfaction. They are either stalled at the starting gate, or else have only run so far in their spiritual race (Hebrews 12:1-2; I Corinthians 9:24-26). This is so shameful, and gives a deeper meaning to the term, “get a life!” Preachers, elders, deacons, and Bible class teachers likewise can end up this way after awhile, if not on guard. Satan never ceases in his efforts and methods.

Perhaps the biggest problem with many who have stagnated in the Lord is that they flagrantly and blatantly refuse to render that self-examination to their lives. (But many can certainly find fault with others, can they not?) Paul wrote in his final letter to the church at Corinth, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates” (2 Corinthians 13:5)? “Reprobate” comes from the Greek word ADOKIMOS, and means, “not standing the test.” While it is recognized and appreciated that there are those church members who are humble enough to examine themselves, it is also recognized and unappreciated that some church members would not do so, due to their lackadaisical, self-satisfied, self-willed, determined, prideful state of an allowed “status quo.” Knowing they would have to change, they refuse the examination. The term “set in my ways” is also used here as an excuse for one’s spiritual stagnation. Well, excuses, just like excuse makers, do not work.

Brethren, let us never become stagnated in Christ. For any who are (and God genuinely knows for sure here), I plead with you to come out of that unprofitable comfort zone, before it is everlastingly too late. May we grow in all ways that God’s Word directs. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).

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