Summary: ." When we accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we begin the lifelong process of spiritual growth called sanctification. The Holy Spirit works in us to become more like Jesus. God’ accepts us as we are but calls us to become like him. (based on outline

Deepening Faith

Colossians 2:6-8, 2 Peter 3:18, Hebrews 6:1

Billy and Ruth Graham were driving through a long stretch of road construction and encountered numerous slowdowns, detours, and stops along the way. Finally they reached the end of the construction, and smooth pavement stretched out before them. This sign caught Ruth’s attention: "End of construction. Thanks for your patience." She commented that those words would be a fitting inscription on her tombstone someday. As a matter of fact, those words fit all of us as believers, because in this life we are "under construction." When we accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we begin the lifelong process of spiritual growth called sanctification. Sanctification is a fancy word meaning to become more like Christ. The Holy Spirit works in us to remove our selfishness (Philippians 2:4), to renew our thinking (Romans 12:2), and to develop qualities in us that are more and more Christlike (Colossians 3:5-14). Paul described this process as a work of God. He said, "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). You see, God’ accepts us as we are but calls us to become like him. That’s why one of our core values is deepening faith.

In Scripture, we find three basic levels of faith. John 2:12-14 uses the analogy of physical human development. The first level of development is as children “I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father.” Now the Greek word he uses is literally translated “babies.” We begin as an infant in the faith. What is the first thing a child recognizes? His parents. A brand-new Christian realizes that he is a child of God—and not much else. Spiritual children do not have the word of God abiding in them strongly—they know only the basics. Consequently, they can be “blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:14). The second level of development is a young adult or teeneager. This level is strong in the word of God and understands it but the challenge is in applying it. The last level of spiritual development is as an adult. It’s one thing to know that you belong to the family of God and to know the word of God, but it’s another thing to know God intimately. Spiritual fathers not only know the Bible, but they also deeply know the God who wrote it. Spiritual growth progresses from knowing you are a Christian to knowing about God to knowing God personally.

No matter where we are: a child in the faith, a teenager or an adult, God calls us to spiritual maturity. He wants us to grow by deepening our faith. Spiritual growth is one of God’s greatest desires for us. In fact, spiritual growth is essential to the life of a Christian, just as physical growth is essential to the life of a child. If you are not growing then you’re dying. It’s so important that God commands us to mature spiritually. That’s why the apostle Peter ended his letters with this exhortation: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18).

Today, I want to talk to you about the process of deepening your faith. First, deepening faith is PLANNED – intentional. A single middle aged man went on a Caribbean cruise. On the first day out he noticed an attractive woman about his age who smiled at him in a friendly way as he passed her on the deck. That night he managed to get seated at the same table with her for dinner. As the conversation developed, he commented that he had seen her on the deck that day and he had appreciated her friendly smile. When she heard, this she smiled and commented, "Well, the reason I smiled was that when I saw you I was immediately struck by your strong resemblance to my third husband." At this he perked up his ears and said, "Oh, how many times have you been married?" She looked down at her plate, smiled demurely, and answered, "Twice." Now that is a woman who has a plan! Spiritual growth is planned and intentional. You must make a choice to grow. You must plan to grow. At Gretna UMC, we ask people to commit to growing spiritually. Let me ask you a question, what are you doing to grow spiritually. What do you think the top 10 New Years resolutions are for 2009?

Make more time for family and friends

Quit smoking

Start exercising

Go back to school / take a class

Get out of debt

Advance in your career, make more money

Get into philanthropy and community involvement

Quit drinking

Lose weight

Get out of a bad relationship / find true love

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