Summary: As followers of Jesus Christ, we mature in faith by learning together in community.

Galatians 5:16-26

Matthew 13:31-33

“Intentional Faith Development”

My freshman year of college, I made the decision to give my life to Jesus Christ.

I remember the moment so well.

I was walking down the sidewalk in the evening and in my mind and heart I was wrestling with God.

I knew, that at that time in my life, I was not intentional about following Jesus Christ and giving everything over to Him.

But God had been working in my life for as long as I could remember.

My family brought me up in church, and I was always in Sunday school.

My parents spent their leisure time frolicking with Christian believers, and I knew and was known by some very awesome people.

I had seen the way people lived as a result of following Christ.

It was very much a different lifestyle and way of looking at the world than the way I had lived and the way most of my close friends lived.

Now at 18 years of age, walking home on the first week of November, 1986 was I willing or did I even want to make the fateful decision to give my entire life to Jesus Christ as well?

There was a kind of a war going on inside me.

I would call it a battle between the desires of my flesh and the desires of my spirit.

Finally, by the grace of God, my spirit…or shall I say…the Holy Spirit of God won and my decision was “Yes. I will give my entire life to following Christ!”

And suddenly, I felt a great wave of joy and relief flood over my soul!!!

I felt as if a light had been switched on, and for the first time in my life I felt a sense of joy and peace I had never even known existed.

I suppose you could say it was my “heart-warming experience.”

As soon as I made the decision to give my entire self to Jesus Christ I called up all my friends and relatives to tell them what I had done.

A number of them worried that I had joined a cult.

I wrote letters to old friends and to family members telling them about the “way of salvation.”

I felt as if I had finally learned the truth of the universe, and if I would just tell others about this truth—they too would give their lives immediately to Christ—of course…who wouldn’t?

Anyhow, it was an exciting time and it was just the beginning of the most amazing of journeys.

Little did I know what paths this newfound faith would lead me on.

What I did discover rather quickly was that everyone else in the world was not—to my amazement—just as excited about my incredible find as I, and so I found myself quite alone.

So I went looking…looking for other people who had had a similar experience and had similar interests.

A few days into my search, I passed a billboard on campus which had a number of scraps of paper either stapled or tacked into the cork.

One particular advertisement caught my eye.

All it said was: “Bible Study, Wednesday Evenings in the Commons at six o’clock.”

And I was there!

That’s where I made new friends—new Christian friends and learned a lot about what it meant to live the faith I had just given my life to living.

I could not have lasted long in the faith if it had not been for the community…for the relationships…for the friendships of other Christians!

And I definitely couldn’t have grown in my faith without the help of others who were either at the same stage in development as myself or quite a ways farther along.

When I began to attend and become a part of that Christian group on my college campus, I was unconsciously involving myself in what Christians have been doing from the beginning…

…surrounding myself with a community of faith!

From the first generation of Christians to the earliest Methodists to the youngest generations of faithful members today, as followers of Jesus we mature in the faith by learning together in community!

Two weeks ago we discussed how Christ’s gracious invitation through Radical Hospitality invites and welcomes us.

Last Sunday we focused on God’s transforming presence in Passionate Worship, and how that transforming presence opens our hearts to Christ’s forgiveness, love and grace, creating in us a desire to follow.

Growing in Christ takes more than a weekly worship service, though.

It is through Intentional Faith Development that God’s Spirit works in us, perfecting us in the practice of love as we grow in the knowledge and love of God.

Yes, we need to be “intentional” in our faith development.

No one can do it for us…

…and no one can force it upon us.

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