Summary: Adapted Rick Warren sermon for 40 Days of Community on working together to grow spiritually.
We are in the fourth week in our 40 Days of Community, we have been focusing on God’s #1 reason for placing us here on earth. What on earth are we here for? To love God and to love each other. Unfortunately, we don’t naturally do this. We don’t naturally love God or other people all the time. We might have our good moments but we don’t consistently do this, particularly with those we are close to, our spouse, our children, our coworkers. Which is why we need Jesus, we need a Savior, not only to forgive our past sins and failures to love, but to defeat our self-centered sinful nature, so we can follow God’s Spirit and behave more like God, loving people the way God does.
Just becoming a Christian does not mean we will automatically love others in all situations, in case you haven’t discovered that already. God changes our nature to reflect his but we still have our "old habits, patterns, and practices which need to be removed and replaced," so that we might reflect Jesus as this passage from Rom. 8:29 reminds us: "For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters (NLT)."
It says here that God’s plan from the very beginning of time was that every person who would become a Christian would also become like his Son. God wants us all to be like Jesus. He wants us all to have his character; that we would love like Jesus, we would act like Jesus, we do what Jesus would do in every situation if he were in our shoes. God doesn’t just want believers who get saved and then live the rest of their lives the way they want, he wants disciples, committed followers who have a close personal relationship with Jesus, and therefore walk as Jesus walked (1 Jo. 2:6).
* We Need to Grow Spiritually so that Our Life Reflects Christ.
Obviously this process is not yet complete in us. In order to get rid of our old self-centered habits and develop new godly habits which in turn forms our character, we need to grow, spiritually I mean not in the waistline. The Biblical word for this the process of becoming more like Jesus is sanctification. God expects us to grow. The Bible says when we become a Christian we are like spiritual infants, we are babies, and we are expected to grow up, to mature, to learn to love and be kind, and to obey God, but growth doesn’t just happen automatically with time, just because we get older doesn’t mean we are maturing spiritually. We can be a believer our whole life and still be an infant, spiritually speaking. Paul actually criticized a whole church for their failure to grow:
NLT 1 Corinthians 3:1 Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to mature Christians. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. 2 I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn’t handle anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready,
Paul was obviously upset because the church in Corinth was still living like the world rather than like Christ. They hadn’t matured, there weren’t loving each other and living in harmony, they were divided. They hadn’t grown up. The problem with staying a spiritual infant is that we need everyone else to serve us and we want everything our way. We ask "what can the church do for me," or "what can God do for me," or "why isn’t this done my way." That’s spiritual immaturity. But the Bible says we need to mature. As we mature, we realize our life is to be poured out as an offering to God. We find our meaning and purpose not by what we want to do, or what others do for us or having our way, but by loving and serving God and each other.
The measure of our maturity is not how long we’ve been a Christian, how often we go to church, how well we know the Bible, or how correct our doctrine is, or how much we give to the poor. These are important means to help us mature, but we can do all of these and still miss the mark. We can still be self-centered, still be uncaring, still unkind, still fall into temptation. The real indication of our maturity is how Christlike we are, including the fruits of God’s Spirit beginning with love (joy, peace, etc), and it is also our obedience to God (Jesus perfectly obeyed his Father).