Summary: Part one of Worship Series on spiritual growth.

Green 1.0

“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;” 2 Thessalonians 1:3

Intro: Aren’t you thankful to be part of a great church?

This week, I talked with several people about what this church means to them.

One person said: “I love my church because I am loved and supported by my friends.

I also feel the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t get emotional but I definitely feel it.”

Another person said: “My church is such a blessing.

This is where I found Jesus and got baptized. I have been a member ever since.”

One more: “I love my church because of the preaching, the singing, the praise music,

leads me to a holy place in my heart.

All of this has helped me to grow in my daily life, not matter what situations I find myself in.

The title of today’s sermon is “Green.”

When we think about the chronology of Jesus

He was born in Bethlehem on Christmas

The next week he is two years old and is visited by the Wise men on Epiphany

The next week he is thirty and is baptized.

And now he is all grown up and begins his public ministry.

The word Liturgy (Greek: ?e?t?????a), (eagle yea a) means "the work of the people"

Or in the church Liturgy are the acts of worship.

The colors of worship are White, Red, Purple and Green

Green represents growth and is used the season after Epiphany and the season after Pentecost.

For the next six weeks we are in the color Green.

We are in the color of Jesus early ministry and the color of growth of the early Christian church.

Teresa had just been informed that she was being let go from her job.

Her superior did not give her any reason.

But rather than be fired and have her work record blemished, Teresa choice to resign.

Losing a job is tough enough

but living with the empty question of why am I being fired was almost more than she could take.

For the next several weeks she struggled more and more

as she was unable to come to grips with her situation.

One weekday she decided to visit the office of her pastor.

She had never been in the pastor’s office before.

The pastor stood and greeted her with a warm and friendly welcome

And asked her, “What brings you into the office today?”

Teresa could not help but feel uncertain as she began to tell him her problem.

After several minutes of explanation about her qualifications, her work skills,

her faithfulness to her duties, her punctuality and ability to do her job well

she continued, “And while I was there I saw plenty of other employees and managers doing things

that I am sure they would not want anyone else to know.”

Punching the time card for people who did not come in to work

and flirting with people who were married men.

And some of my co-workers go to this church.

As soon as those words came out of her mouth

Teresa paused to see what the reaction of the pastor would be.

Had she said too much?

Had her frustration been overly critical and negative?

The pastor leaned forward in his chair and answered.

“Aren’t we all sinners?

And don’t we all make mistakes and bad decisions and hurt people from time to time.”

Would it not be better to pray for those who have hurt us?

And be able to sit alongside those we know are as much in need of forgiveness and healing as we all are?

Those were the words that changed Teresa’s life forever.

To her surprise those words of Grace and Mercy became the foundation for a change in her own attitude a foundation for growth in her spiritual walk with Jesus.

She would never look at herself or never look at another person the same ever again.

From that day forward her faith began to grow and grow and grow.

How have you used the things you experience in your life to grow “Green” in your faith?

Real lasting change happens in your heart when you become a new Christian.

When your belief changes your behavior changes.

The first thing everyone needs after salvation is “Good Advice.”

This is why you need to be in church every week.

You need to be in Sunday School.

You need to get involved in a small group.

You need to make an effort to have a relationship with your pastor.

Psalm 1:1 in the NLT says, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,

or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.”

The people we develop relationships with,

our friends and the people we associate with can have a profound influence on our lives.

I am amazed that people will talk to someone who has no background in church

They will talk to people who have no faith relationship with Christ to draw on

People will share their problems with someone outside of the Christian Community

but never make an appointment to talk with a pastor.

Christian friends will draw you closer to the Lord and help you

never hinder your faith

never mock or ridicule others,

never draw you into more negative drama.

True faith and a true relationship with Christ builds people up.

After salvation the next step to growing in your faith and becoming Green and growing is to get Good Advice.

The second step toward Green is “Participation”

If we don't participate, we can't grow as followers of Jesus.

Christians don’t build any spiritual muscle by passively sitting in the shade.

Growth requires participation.

You need participation for faith.

You need participation to grow.

Participation is all about celebrating what God has done

and using those memories as fuel for the journey ahead.

We can only carry out the purposes of God in the world

when we participate in some capacity in mission and ministry.

If we don't participate, we can't grow as followers of Jesus.

Christians don’t build any spiritual muscle by passively sitting in the shade.

I am going to read you 12 verses about participating in the life of the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Hebrews 13:16 “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

Hebrews 10:25 “Do not neglecting to meet together, as the habit of some is, but encouraging one another,

Hebrews 10:24 “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up,”

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake”

Galatians 6:10 “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone”

Acts 1:8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Proverbs 27:17 “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.”

Proverbs 11:25 “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”

Matthew 23:11 “The greatest among you will be your servant.”

Mark 10:45 “Each one should use whatever gift you have received to serve others.”

Do you know anyone whose spiritual life is like a roller coaster?

Their faith is constantly going up and down.

One step forward, two steps back.

every time you make progress,

something happens which causes you to be in a worse situation than you were to begin with

Nobody gets very far like that.

Yet a lot of people in the church settle for that kind of results.

You grow stronger in your faith through practice and participation.

You are not the audience in worship.

God is the audience

You are the actor, you are the performer, you are the one that God is watching.

Anyone can sit in a class and never join in, never speak out, never ask a question, never get involved

But when you want to meet God intimately,

when you want a personal relationship

when you want to grow

You grow through practice,

You grow through repetition

You grow through participation.

How much growth are you presenting God?

You almost need time lapse movie of your life to see faith growth.

Faith doesn’t just grow instantly.

It takes time for spiritual growth to happen.

Let’s go back to the text one more time:

“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;” 2 Thessalonians 1:3

We need to understand the context of this verse.

Paul’s writing is most often affirming and encouraging.

When Paul writes letters to the churches at Thessalonica he tells them how much he appreciates them

And the joy he feels because of their faith in God.

He is trying to build up the believers.

But let’s put this verse in context.

You read it and on the surface it sound like WOW.

These Thessalonians had it going on.

They were super Christians.

Look at the phrase “your faith is greatly enlarged.”

The King James Version says, “faith groweth exceedingly.”

The first part of the Greek word used here is similar to the word: hyper or exceeding.

Paul can’t compliment these Thessalonians much more.

The story of Paul’s stay in Thessalonica is found in Acts 17:1-10

When Paul visited Thessalonica

He preached three Sabbaths at the synagogue.

Which means he could not have stayed much more than three weeks.

The bible says that while he was there many devout Greeks,

Large numbers of important women came to the city to hear him.

And many Jews also gathered to hear him preach.

But the Jews which believed not, were moved with envy,

and they gathered some lewd men, some worthless fellows from the street,

and they formed a mob

and started a riot,

and the whole city was in such an uproar

That the people assaulted a person by the name of Jason,

the host of the house where Paul and Silas were staying.

It became so dangerous that Paul had to be smuggled out of town.

He had to flee by night to escape for his life.

As hard and difficult as that visit to Thessalonica was the Gospel was planted.

Those three weeks were difficult, dangerous, treacherous,

There is nothing easy about spreading the Gospel.

The people of city Thessalonica cried out about Paul saying

These men have turned the world upside down

Things will never be the same again.

How many of you pray Lord enlarge my faith?

Most of us are more likely to pray Lord make it easier for me to have faith.

God never promised to make it easier to have faith.

But God has promised that there is an Easter.

Jesus has said, we all have a cross to bear.

The way of the cross is through Calvary, Golgotha, the Crucifixion.

The cross represents suffering

And service.

The easier stuff doesn’t produce much positive change in your life.

It is the harder choices that produce the most growth.

Growth doesn’t come from taking the easiest path.

I will tell you something about that easier stuff.

It doesn’t build much faith.

Let me tell you spiritual growth doesn’t come because you have a great pastor.

Spiritual growth doesn’t come because you have a great program.

Spiritual growth comes because when you are at the crossroads of a decision you make the right choice.

The right decision is most often not the easiest decision.

It is most often the hardest choice to make.

I will be honest there are some days I pray, God please don’t teach me any more lessons today.

I have learned all that I can take for today.

But you know what I wake up the next morning and I pray, Ok. Lord, I am ready to start again.

Let me ask you: Do you pray Lord give me an easy day or do you pray Lord enlarge my faith?

Hyper extend me.

Stretch me.

Do you pray, Lord give me an easy day

Or do you pray Lord give me a growing day?

Help me to grow ever greater, ever Greener, more loving, more patient, more forgiving.

Closing: So I ask you today to think about how your life has changed.

How has your faith grown?

How have you stepped out in faith and responded to the challenges and lessons God has put before you?

Will you join me in praying, Lord do it again.

Teach me another lesson.

Change me a little more.

Help me to grow another step.

Make me more fruitful

Grow me Greener.

Let me bloom brighter.

God call us to continue to grow in faith through-out our entire lives.

Are you seeking Good Advice in your walk with the Lord.

Are you willing to participate in the worship and the service of God’s call?

Are you still growing?

Can you look back on your life and see where you once were

And how your world has been turned upside down

And your life will never, never, be the same again?