by Jerry Cooper
God has many purposes for The Hope Center. But I believe that first and foremost God desires that we preach the Gospel for the salvation of men, women, and children. In addition, God desires the spiritual growth of all who do trust Christ as Lord and Savior.
Through Peter, the Holy Spirit commands all believers to grow in their faith.
2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Spiritual growth is one of the reasons that The Hope Center offers a 13-month discipleship program for men. Sonny, Rick, Lynn, and other staff are always seeking and looking for the spiritual growth of the men in the residential program.
Sadly, not all who believe in Christ grow spiritually as God desires. Some follow poor examples as those described in Hebrews 5.
Hebrews 5:12-14, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
“By this time” means that these Christians had time to grow spiritually, but they were still immature. They needed “the basic principles of the oracles of God,” or spiritual “milk”. Each of them was a spiritual “child”.
This passage also teaches that the Word of God is essential for spiritual growth. Sadly these immature Christians were “unskilled in the word of righteousness.” Either they did not read the Scriptures and study them, or they did not listen when others taught the Scriptures.
Therefore, the Mission staff and churches preach and teach the Word of God at every opportunity. Men in the program memorize Scripture. They are urged to be active in a local church and study their Bibles.
Spiritual growth is also important because a Christian is useful to God when he is growing as God commands. The Holy Spirit spoke through Peter and explained who is effective and fruitful.
2 Peter 1:5-8, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
God is saying that every Christian should grow in spiritual character: virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. The word “increasing” means that these words are not static, they are growing. But if they are not increasing, then the Christian is “ineffective” and “unfruitful”.
Let’s always pray for ourselves, that we grow spiritually and not be “ineffective”. And let’s pray for the men in the program, that they will grow spiritually and be fruitful.
Jerry Cooper is the pastor at Virginia Avenue Baptist Church and an evening chaplain at The Hope Center. He and his wife, Barb, currently reside in Hagerstown. For more information on Virginia Avenue Baptist Church visit http://www.vabconline.org. To contact Jerry please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.