Spiritual growth is the process of transformation as I am becoming more like Jesus through faith, obedience, devotions and patience. Jesus used everyday examples from housekeeping and farming in his descriptions of spiritual matters. He spoke of wine, wine skins, seeds and crops, bread, and sheep. From these teachings, I find hope that God will finish the work he started in me.
Wine and wineskins
The new birth is the beginning of this transformation.When I was born again, I began the journey of spiritual development and transformation. The power of this event is overwhelming and cannot be contained in my old rigid earthy life. It must be contained in my newly born spirit which is heavenly, flexible and robust enough to withstand the transformative power. In these parables, wine represents the spiritual birth as the born again person receives a new spirit (represented by the new wineskin.)
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:16-17
And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. Luke 5:37-38
Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? John 3:6-10
Jesus, I believe in you. Come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior. Give me new birth by your Holy Spirit. I will endeavor to listen to your word and obey your teachings. My new eternal life begins today with this prayer. Amen.
Wheat and tares
This parable has profound implications on the nature of my earthly existence. Wheat represents the followers of Jesus and tares represents those pretenders who appear in their midst — wolves in sheep’s clothing or pretend Christians. Alternatively wheat can represent the part of me that has been transformed by Christ and tares can represent those habits, behaviors, and beliefs that have not yet been transformed. The takeaway message is that the kingdom of heaven is of mixed composition and I am not to try to purify it by myself.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. Matthew 13:23-30
Jesus, help me to discern the wheat from the tares and to avoid trying to uproot the tares. I rely completely on you and my eyes are only on you. I desire to grow by your Spirit and to gain wisdom as I patiently await the harvest. Amen.
Mustard seed and yeast
The parable of the mustard seed and the yeast show me that much of the growth of the kingdom of heaven is in secret and hidden away from view. It tells me that some mysteries are not to be revealed.
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Matthew 13:31-33
Lord Jesus, as you do your work within me, help me to trust in you and allow the kingdom of God to grow secretly. I will listen only to you and not look at other things in the world for guidance. Amen.
Sheep and shepherd
Jesus expresses his love for us with these parables of sheep and shepherds.
What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:12-14
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:1-10
Lord Jesus, You are the good shepherd. I will listen to your voice. Thank you for your love and care for me. Amen.