Summary: How long have you been coming to church? Can you measure your spiritual growth in years? Has Gods Holy Spirit so convicted your life that you can measure the changes in your spiritual growth?
One More Year
Hear we are at that awkward in-between place where Christmas is past and the New Year lays ahead of us. Many of us still have a lot of visiting to do and plans to make as we celebrate the holidays. We all get this middle ground that falls between our two big celebrations and it is for many of us an opportunity.
For some it’s an opportunity to re-group and catch their breath after the hectic flurry of Christmas. For others it is a time of preparation and planning for the New Year’s celebration. One celebration is past and another will soon be here. With this short pause we need to take a moment and reflect on the year that has passed.
In Luke 13:1-9 Jesus is teaching us to do some thoughtful reflection about our collective growth. This was a parable directed at Israel and her spiritual condition as a nation. But we can apply it equally well to our own church and lives.
Jesus begins with a reference to two recent national calamities. One that involved some people from Galilee and another that involved some people from Jerusalem. We do not know the details of these events just that Jesus uses them to make reference to our common fate.
That common fate is…"unless you repent, you too will all perish."
Time for each one of us had a starting point and it will have an ending point as well. Where you stand at your ending point will determine if you perish or if you live.
When we started our Christmas season I began with a sermon titled - The Baby is Coming. Ever notice that one of the first things the Doctor does when the baby arrives is to weigh it and measure it. The doctor knows that is important that the baby’s birth measurements be recorded and compared with the statistical average. The baby is even graded like we grade eggs or poultry. Well not exactly but you know what I mean.
God gave you life, not just for your own personal experiences and opportunities but so that you might grow as one of His children.
In our home we have a doorway that leads to the kitchen. On one side of the door frame our children marked their growth using a pencil or a pen. They carefully recorded on special days, birthdays and Christmas just how much they had grown. Recorded beside the date is their height.
This little growth chart may exist in your home too or you may have used one when you were growing up. My experience with the growth chart always involved my siblings. I was the oldest of three boys so I wanted to be sure to maintain my height advantage. I had two sisters but only the eldest one was taller than me. I figured that she had a year head start and that sooner or later I would catch up.
The point is that I had someone else to compare my growth to. I was not in a race with the empty wall that I stood against. I was in a race with the other kids around me. For us as a church we are to measure our growth using a different scale.
The scale we use is Jesus. Maybe you remember those years when your growth was not as obvious as you compared it to your brother or sister or last years mark on the wall. Maybe you had to stand back to back to your siblings as your Mom or Dad compared your height. Who of us here would feel comfortable standing back to back with Jesus as we measure our growth this past year?
It can be very intimidating to be compared to Jesus in such a way but our Heavenly Father gave us His son so that we might have an example of how we are to live and grow.
Jesus life is to be our measuring stick. From time to time we are to line up our life against Jesus and see where we stand.
For our church we are to do this as well. As we stand up against the measuring post how did we do in 2009? Have we grown from where we were last year? How do we measure that growth? Do we use membership or weddings or baptisms? What scale do we use?
St. Paul has given us a list of the fruit that God is looking for in our lives.
16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. 19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.