Sunday, January 10, 2021

How to Grow as a Christian in 2021

I debated a great deal in my mind what I ought to share at the beginning of a new year. Do I share a lollypop message about living your best life now and how great everything is? Do I share one of those sour messages, about how bad everything is in the world, and how to stand? I almost went that route.  But I thought to myself, what do my people need to hear? Well, they need to hear the word of God.  And it seems like right now we’re in a season growth and change.  We’re starting the new year the right way by focusing on God and focusing in on growth and breakthrough in our lives. So we’re looking at the topic of growth and change in the word of God.

1.    Continued, Steady Growth

From the book of 2nd  Peter 3:18 ESV, hear the word of the Lord, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

The challenge is continued growth. It’s easy to get off track, to start to kind of lose your fire, and settle into a routine that you become bored with. But the word of God refreshes us saying, continue to grow. And grow in something.  Grow in Christ. Grow in the grace that Christ provides.  He covers our mistakes, our sins, our foul-ups, where we have a safe arena, in our daily lives to grow.  And it says grow in knowledge, of our Lord and savior Jesus.  As we develop spiritually, our knowledge of the world and the sins and the spiritual battles grows. We begin to get wise to the tactics of the enemy we face.

2.    Moving into Maturity: Deepening our walk with God

Again, Hebrews, chapter 5 verses 12-14 says this, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,”

This is very interesting, the writer of Hebrews tells us that we should be caught in a repeating loop, of repentance from sin, and faith towards God.  Like where we’re constantly having to start over because we’re always tripping ourselves up.  It says instead go on into this state of maturity.  Where we’re soldiers for christ, mature troopers, seasoned and constantly at work for the kingdom.

3.    Immerse yourself in Biblical Christianity

So we see God commanding us to this ethic of growth and maturity.  How do we do that?  I think we get a clue to that from 1st Timothy 4:15-16, which says ,”Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

This is the apostle Paul writing to his apprentice Timothy.  He tells Timothy to practice these things, practice makes perfect.  That’s why we read our Bible everyday. That’s why we gather together for life group, discipleship, and Sunday morning and Sunday evening.  We need to hear this message over and over until it becomes an active part of our minds.  There’s this word here “immerse.” Which pictures wading into water, until youi’re completely in it.  Immerse yourself in the Christian message.  Listen to Christian podcasts. Listen to sermons on youtube. Read the Bible. Read Christian books. Listen to Christian radio. Immerse yourself daily in the Christian message. Keep a close watch on yourself 1st of all, and 2ndly, on what your teaching.  Why is that?  It’s easy to get off track in our personal life, where we start to slip off into trouble.  That’s why we hold each other accountable.  Secondly, on what we teach.  You see how many false teachers are in the world, we’ve gotta make sure we’re teaching a pure gospel, with love and truth.

4.    Train yourself in Discernment: Understand Good and Evil

Hebrews 6:1 ESV “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.”

We’ve all heard this scripture many times I’m sure, but I want to draw your attention to the final sentence here, solid food is for the mature, which is about the training of discernment to distinguish good from evil.  Many Christians today are blind and have no discernment. They can’t tell good from evil.  And so we see more and more evil ideologies manifesting themselves in the church.  Train yourself to discern good from evil in the world, in ideas, in current events, and in teachings going around.  This isn’t as easy as you might think. But train yourself to discern, to understand the times we are in. 

 

5.    Suffering produces Endurance, which produces character

From the book of Romans, Romans 5:2-6 ESV “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

That scripture speaks for itself. Amen.

6.    Love is central to growth

I want to share this one as well, because we have to remember that growth should involve growth of our love, that our love bank, that we pour out to others is always growing larger and larger, from Philippians 1:9 ESV “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,” Notice how God adds knowledge and discernment to the love though, he doesn’t want us to have that worldly love that is “just be nice” and don’t make waves and don’t say anything that might convict someone.  It’s a sacrificial love built on knowledge and discerning the times. 

7.    Grow in the Spirit, not in the flesh

And as we consider growth, there is a trap we can fall into and it’s articulated in the scriptures this way: Galatians 3:3 ESV “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”  This is a great reminder. God’s work in us has been by the Holy Spirit. But now are we going to jump in and finish that work through the flesh? No. Don’t fall into that trap.  Test and see what God is doing. Don’t try to forage ahead in your own strength. Cooperate with what God is doing in your growth and change.

8.    Self Examination is Key to Growth

But we do see in the scriptures, the important of Spirit-filled self examination.

2 Corinthians 13:5-7a ESV says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong”

Test yourself, to see that you are in Christ Jesus.  You can do this in prayer, ask God, to testify in the Spirit with your spirit that you are indeed a child of God. Examine your life, are you living rightly? Are you discerning the times? Are you walking in love? Watch your own conduct carefully. The word of God says “Give careful thought to your ways.”

So I hope we’re beginning to see the various parts of this process of growth and change in Christ. We see the need for steady growth, the goal being maturity, This takes deep immersion into biblical Christianity. This also involves training yourself in discerning the times. We understand that this growth process involves suffering, which produces positive growth in us. We don’t lose sight of the fact that love is central to growth. We also remember to grow in the Spirit, not by self effort. And as we continue toward maturity, we grow through self examination.  So in conclusion today, I think this scripture from Ephesians 4:13-16 ESV really sums everything up well. It says, “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

So finally we understand that our persona growth meshes into the growth of the whole body of Christ worldwide, to maturity, that we’re steady, firm, no longer tossed about. But instead we have love and truth together. Growing up into Christ. You see this constant closeness of Christ, where we’re literally growing up into Christ-likeness. And Jesus holds the church, the body of Christ together, as we all work together to grow in maturity, live free from sin, and share the gospel with the world. 

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