Tag Archives: Christian growth

Accepting Christ is just the beginning

If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel…So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  Colossians 1:23; 2:6-7 NIV

This is just my pet peeve, so allow me to get it off my chest.  Then maybe I can move on from it. I can’t tell you how many sermons I have sat through that the application point is, “So, if you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, now would be a great time to do that…”  I am not against pressing for a decision when the gospel is preached, don’t get me wrong. Repentance and faith in Christ are a big deal, not just for those who have never placed their trust in Jesus, but for all of us.

Here is where I struggle:  I want the application points to be brought to the point of growth, not just to stop at accepting Jesus.  Parents don’t just have babies and say, “Well, my job is done. You’re on your own now kid.” No, that would be absurd.  Birthing a child is just beginning. So it is with the Christian faith. Now it is time to continue in our faith, to be established and firm, to be rooted and built up in Jesus.  We need to help each other learn how to be established and firm in the faith, and to put our faith into practice.

The “Great Commission” verses of Matthew 28:18-20 tells us to go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe (obey) all that I have commanded you.  The whole idea of making disciples reaches beyond simply making a decision for Christ.  The application points of sermons then should reflect what it looks like to be established and firm, rooted and built up in Christ, strengthened in the faith, and overflowing with thankfulness.

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With that in mind, the following are some of my application points of what that would look like:

  1. Established and firm.  Hebrews 12:1-2 urges, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  There are a few things in that passage.  One is that being established and firm means to get rid of any known sins and weight in our life.  No sin habits, no hidden sins, no bad habits, no questionable things–put them aside. This Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint.  It calls for endurance. Just like a die hard runner has a whole different lifestyle (no sweets, early morning runs, geared for the long haul), so must we be.  
  2. Not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus.  That is one way to stay steadfast and strong. Encouragement is another way of staying the course.  Hebrews 10:24-25 states, Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  The root of encourage is courage.  We meet together to give courage to one another.  Sermons are a way of speaking courage into the body of Christ, to say “Stay strong and don’t give up–you are on the right track.”  The more we see evil amping up in our society, the more we need to depend on this because the more outnumbered we will be.
  3. Rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught.  Psalm 1 is a marvelous psalm that gives the contrast between the one who does not stand in the way of sinners and the one that does. His delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law does he meditate day and night.  And he will be like a tree planted by the streams of waters that brings forth its fruit in its season.  Its leaf does not wither and in all that he does he prospers.  The godly feeds on the Word of God, delights in it, and his roots go down deep.  When the storms come, he stands strong. He bears fruit. “As you were taught,” connotes that this grounded person takes advantage of godly teaching, which includes Sunday school, regular church attendance, small groups and personal Bible study.  “And in all he does, he prospers.” That’s a promise of a blessing.
  4. And overflowing with thankfulness.  In Romans 1:21, Paul wrote that when things fell apart being unthankful was to blame: For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  It is the start of the downward spiral.  On the opposite end, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul commands: give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  If you want to know God’s will in your life, start by giving thanks in all of your circumstances.

My application is this:  Take a look at these four areas and pick a couple of things, maybe just one to work on.  If you have been grumbling a lot lately, pick #4 and list out all of the things you have to be thankful for and start giving thanks.  If you have some sin habits you need to shed, get rid of them now. Ask God to search your heart and spotlight what it is that is grievous to Him and hurting you.  

May you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.  Just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, established and firm, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness!

 


Oh, Grow Up!

 

babyFor 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.  Hebrews 5:13-14

Milk is good for newborn infants.  In fact, they scream until they get it.  But eventually, that baby grows from desiring milk to eating table food that is made into a mush.  Then  she gets little pieces of meat and moves her way to entire portions of meat.  It’s what makes her grow.  She wouldn’t just continue to drink milk up through elementary school.  She would be weak, small and malnourished.

So it is with our spiritual progression.  We need the milk of the Word, and to desire it like a baby–even scream for it.    1 Peter 2:2 states, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.”  But then we need to become more mature–doers of the Word and not just hearers, as James 1 prompts us to do.  That means we put it into practice.  And as we do, we move from needing to being taught to being the one teaching.  We’re then eating solid food and we have our senses trained by it.

 Habitually reading the Bible gives us a new mind and it gives us the spiritual sense to know what is truth and what is error.  It helps us to know the difference between right and wrong and heightens our senses to spot counterfeits.  When we do what God puts on our hearts to do, we grow in faith and in obedience.  

In 2 Timothy 3:7 Paul talked about people who “are always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.”  Chances are it is because they haven’t gone to the Bible for themselves, starting with milk and working up to meat by obeying.  They may rely on teachers to interpret the Bible for them, but they don’t have the discernment to know if they are false teachers or not.  It may also be because they spend more time on Facebook than in the “Good Book,” or to spend time watching questionable TV shows.  To them it is easier to read from Oprah’s book list than it is to feast on the Word.

I hear many people say that they just can’t understand the Bible.  I think that’s a lie from Satan that they’ve picked up.  God will give you the understanding as you patiently work your way through the Bible.  Use a Children’s Bible if you have to, or an easy to read version.   With the regular practice of being nourished in the Bible you don’t need intelligence, you need obedience.  

Be a meat eater.  Read the Bible and then put it into practice.  Obey it and put away sins.   And then you will have the ability to discern between good and evil.  Do something deliberate to put your faith muscle into action, and watch God grow you.


Do your prayers sound like this?

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And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to HIm.  Colossians 1:9-10a

Most of the time my prayers do not sound like  Paul’s prayers.  But when I really want to see someone grow in their Christian life, I borrow these words.  They really distill what we need to have to make it spiritually.  And when I’m stuck on how to pray for myself, I do the same.  Let’s take his prayer apart:

Being filled with the knowledge of God’s will.  According to quora.com, the average adult makes around 35,000 choices a day.  Just try to order a sandwich from “Subway” and you’ll notch about 30 choices.  It would be really nice to get a little note from God with our directions for the day.  Instead of getting that, we get the Holy Spirit who is always with us to guide us.  God, direct me today so I know I’m doing what You want me to do.

In all spiritual wisdom and understanding.   Just this last week I encountered a situation with a difficult parent where I needed God’s wisdom regarding how to respond to her bullying and berating.  I asked God for understanding what she really is angry at and how to stop butting heads with her.  God is not like a magic eight ball that gives immediate answers, but I trust that He will speak ideas into my heart and mind as I proceed.  Take your most difficult situation that is facing you and ask God for His wisdom and understanding.  

So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.  In the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” the character played by Tom Hanks, Captain Miller,  dies in his mission to save Private Ryan, the only son left in his family.  James Ryan went back to Normandy to Captain Miller’s grave.  Ryan stood by his grave and said, My family is with me today. They wanted to come with me. To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here. Every day, I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I’ve tried to live my life the best I could. I hope it was enough. I hope that at least in your eyes I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.” (From http://www.thesource4ym.com/movieclipdiscussions)

We don’t have to earn anything related to what Jesus has done for us.  That’s what grace is all about.  Private Ryan  felt a strong gratitude and had a  sense of purpose in life because of the sacrifice made for him.   We need to live our lives with a different purpose and sense of value because we know that Jesus  gave up His life for us.

Fully pleasing to Him.  If we do something that God instructs us to do, then we’ll be pleasing to Him.  That’s what obedience is.  If we don’t do something that we know God has commanded us not to do, the same is true.  If you want to please God, obey Him.  That’s what Samuel told King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold to obey is better than sacrifice.”

May you be filled with the knowledge of God’s will today,  along with gaining wisdom and understanding from His Holy Spirit who is at work in you.  May God direct your steps and give you ideas, creativity and skill that comes from Him.  May you walk differently because you belong to Jesus, being filled with gratitude because of His sacrifice for you.  And may you please God by being obedient to Him.   May you turn from sinful ways and delight in doing things God’s way.