Our whole goal is to lead people to fall in love with God. Not to make them better people or better Christians, but to help them to better know the awesome power and intimacy of God’s love, and that will radically change their hearts and lives.
Humor: A rather pompous-looking deacon was endeavoring to impress upon a class of boys the importance of living the Christian life. "Why do people call me a Christian?" the man asked. After a moment’s pause, one youngster said, "Maybe it’s because they don’t know you."
Quote: The world says, The more you take, the more you have. Christ says, the more you give, the more you are.
— Frederick Buechner
We want to produce doers of the Word, not hearers only – to transform, not merely inform. You only believe the part of the Bible that you DO!
1. Spiritual growth is not automatic.
Spiritual growth does not just happen once you are saved, even if you attend services regularly. Churches are filled with people who have attended services for their entire lives, yet are still spiritual babies. Spiritual growth is not automatic with the passing of time.
12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!
Spiritual growth is intentional. It requires commitment and effort to grow. A person must want to grow, decide to grow, and make an effort to grow.
12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Notice that it says “work out, “ not “work on,” your salvation. There is nothing you can add to what Christ did for your salvation. Paul is talking in these verses about spiritual growth to people who are already saved. The important thing is that God has a part in our growth, but so de we. Becoming like Christ is the result of the commitments we make. We become whatever we are committed to! Just as a commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will grow a great church, it is also the way to grow a great Christian. Without a commitment to grow, and growth that occurs will be circumstantial, rather than intentional. Spiritual growth is too important to be left to circumstance.
Spiritual growth is attainable for everybody.
Unfortunately, many Christians feel that spiritual maturity is so far out of their reach, they don’t even try to attain it. They have this mystical, idealized image of what a mature Christian looks like. Maturity, they believe, is only for “super saints. “ Some Christian biographies have been partly responsible for this myth by glossing over the humanity of godly people and implying that if you don’t pray ten hours a day, move to a jungle, and plan to die as a martyr you may as well forget aspiring to maturity. This is quite discouraging to the average believer, who feels he must be content with being a “second-class” Christian.
Spiritual growth is very practical.
Any believer can grow to maturity if he or she will develop the habits necessary for spiritual growth. Paul often compared training for the Christian life to the way athletes stay in shape.
7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.
1 Tim 4:7
Take time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit. The path to spiritual fitness is as practical as the path to physical fitness. Anyone can become physically fit if he or she will regularly do certain exercises and practice good health habits. Likewise, spiritual fitness is simply a matter of learning certain spiritual exercises and being disciplined to do them until they become habits. Character is shaped by the habits we develop.
Spiritual growth is a process that takes time.
Just as God allowed Joshua and the Israelites to possess the land “little by little” (Duet. 7:22), he uses a gradual process of change to develop us into the image of Christ. There are no shortcuts to maturity. It is a slow process. Although we have instant coffee, instant potatoes, and now even instant weight-loss methods, there is no such thing as instant spiritual maturity.
Spiritual maturity is demonstrated more by behavior than by beliefs.
Although knowledge of the Bible is foundational to spiritual maturity, it isn’t the total measurement of it. The Christian life isn’t just a matter of creeds and convictions; it includes conduct and character. Beliefs must be backed up with behavior. Our deeds must be consistent with out creeds. God is not as concerned with how much of the Bible I know as He is with what I do with what I know.
James 3:13 Paraphrase: If your faith hasn’t changed your lifestyle, your faith isn’t worth much. Any strategy your church develops to build up believers must help people not only learn the Word, but also love it and live it.
Christians need relationships to grow.
We don’t grow in isolation of others we grow in the context of fellowship.
24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Relationships are the glue that keeps people connected to your church. But relationships play an even more important role in moving people to maturity they are absolutely essential for spiritual growth. John tells us that the proof that we are walking in the light is that we have “fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7). If you don’t have regular fellowship with other believers you should seriously question whether or not you are really walking in the light. The quality of our relationship with Christ can be seen in the quality of your relationship to other believers.
It takes a variety of spiritual experiences with God to produce spiritual maturity.
Genuine spiritual maturity includes having a heart that worships and praises God, building and enjoying living relationships, using your gifs and talents in service to others, and sharing your faith with lost people. Spiritual growth occurs by participating in all five purposes of the church. To mature spiritually you must do more than study the Christian life – you must experience it.
The words most used to describe the Christian life are love, give, believe, and serve. Jesus did not say, “I have come that you might study.” When the Christian life consist completely of receiving biblical input with no outflow of ministry or evangelism, his or her spiritual growth will stagnate. Impression without expression leads to depression.
Spiritual growth begins with commitment, is a gradual process, involves developing habits, is stimulated by relationships, and requires participation in all five purposes of the church.
Facilitating spiritual growth as a church.
1. You must ask for commitment. If you don’t ask people for commitment you won’t get it. The question isn’t whether or not people are going to be committed, but rather who is going to get their commitment. If your church doesn’t ask for and expect commitment from people, those people will conclude that what the church is doing is not as important as their other activities. If you’ve ever been a Little League parent, you know that when your child signed up to play, you were required to make a major commitment in terms of providing refreshments, transportation, trophies, and victory parties in addition to your attendance. There was nothing voluntary about your participation. The reason we have so many weak Christians is because they are half-committed to many causes rather than being totally committed to the things that matter most. A barrier to spiritual growth for many people is not lack of commitment, but over-commitment to the wrong things. We have got to learn to make wise commitments.
Jesus always asked for a full-hearted total commitment. Luke 14:25-35
v. 25 “Large crowds” The crowds were full of window shapers and tire kickers. Christ aim was not to gather appreciative crowds, but to make true disciples. He never adapted His message to majority preferences, but always plainly declared the high cost of discipleship. Here He made several bold demands that would discourage the half-hearted. Jesus was pushing the crowed to either sell-out or bail-out.
Illustration: My life changed 13 years ago when an old deacon in our church called me at home and asked me to lead the Sunday morning devotional. That was the first time in my whole life in church at the age of 20 that someone asked me to make a commitment. When I stood in front of that little country church and gave my first devotional my life has never been the same since.
Jesus always asked for a commitment clearly and confidently. He was not at all reluctant to ask men and women to drop everything and follow him. It is an interesting phenomenon that, often, the greater the commitment you request, the greater response you will get. People want to be committed to something that gives life true meaning. To something that is real and consistent.
v. 26 “Hate” Whatever you love the most you will be committed to the most. Jesus drives home the point in this verse that at the core of TRUE commitment is true love. If our commitment to Christ is motivated by guilt eventually when I feel I’ve done enough good work the guilt will subside along with my commitment. Or I will be committed until something comes along that makes me feel guiltier. But even if my commitment is motivated by love, if my love for Him is overshadowed by a stronger love for someone or something else, then it will only be a part-time commitment. “Hatred” that Jesus speaks of here is actually a lesser love. Jesus was calling His disciples to cultivate such a devotion to Him that their attachment to everything else – including their own lives – would seem like hatred by comparison.
v.27 “Follow Me” There is a slight difference between the crowd that Jesus spoke to on this day and us. For them to be a disciple had a physical implication that applies to us spiritually. In order for anyone to be a committed disciple of Jesus in His day meant they had to physically step-by-step follow Him. They had to physically leave home, job, and family to follow Jesus. Their where no part time disciples, the crowds followed Him to certain points and then turned back and went home, but the committed didn’t have that convenience. In the days of Jesus earthly ministry if someone became a disciple there was a drastic lifestyle change involved. Matthew had to leave his tax receipts desk; Peter had to leave his boats and nets. They had to trust the word of Jesus above worldly securities and logic. Jesus wasn’t wearing a backpack full of money or food to ensure their future goodwill. All they had to trust was His word; they had to accept it by faith. For us today to be a committed maturing disciple we must be willing on a spiritual level to put Jesus above our families, jobs and selves and step-by-step follow Him. If we’re willing to do this there will be a drastic life-style change, the change will be in our convictions. You will go to the same school, work the same job, live in the same house, but the difference will be in your attitude, your priorities, you will know your purpose and life mission with God. Many people today don’t know their purpose in life. They just go through the daily grind to survive the week, and make it through the month, and somehow another year will slip by, and what’s it all for?
v. 28 Estimate the cost – count the cost: The crowds were positive but uncommitted. Jesus didn’t make it easy for them to respond positively, He set the cost of discipleship as high as possible and encouraged them to do a careful inventory before declaring their willingness to follow. The crowds followed as long as circumstances and feelings permitted. But those who where committed left their lives behind and followed whole-heartedly. You cannot be fully committed to Jesus if you don’t love Him above all else. Jesus wouldn’t have died for you if He didn’t love you above all else. God wouldn’t have given His one and only Son if He didn’t love you above all else. The cost of discipleship is high; the commitment of discipleship is quite frankly, overwhelming. But this is where you live finds true meaning and purpose. Discipleship doesn’t just give you fulfillment for today, but it’s benefits and returns are eternal. Your stocks and securities can’t give you that kind of a promise, but God has given you an eternal promise that will never fade or change.
Illustration: Billy Sunday was a pro Baseball player in the early 1900’s who became one of the most famous preachers of his day and laid the groundwork for Billy Graham in Crusade Evangelism. Billy Sunday said “Stopping at third adds no more to the score than striking out.” It doesn’t matter how well you start if you fail to finish.
What will you be committing?
To Christ, this is the 1st commitment after salvation. Committing your mind, heart and soul over to Him to remain under His authority and control.
Church membership that will provide me with rich spiritual soil to grow spiritually.
Develop good habits of maturity into your life: prayer, Bible reading, fellowship and tithing. The habits are not an end in themselves; they help you live the Christian life.
Tithing is one of the Bible’s timeless principles. Every culture has financial pressure and 10 percent is a constant. But the reason we tithe is because God commanded it. I need to bring my financial life into alignment with God and trust God to meet my needs. Every time I write a check, it reminds me that everything I have really belongs to God.
We have to realize that God doesn’t need my money. He’s interested in what it represents. Jesus said that your heart is where your treasure is. God loves a joyful giver; someone who realizes that giving is an opportunity to get involved in what God is doing, to give back in gratitude.
What are the benefits to this commitment?
All of God’s promises are attached to commitments. We always end up being blessed when we are obedient.
Personal benefits: Peace with God & Self, not only know your forgiven but truly experiencing the freedom that accompanies forgiveness.
Family benefits: Not only the natural ramifications of your peace, but also the blessings of security in knowing that nothing can touch you and your family with out first going through the screen of God’s providential care. God always has your personal, family and financial best interest in mind when they are fully committed to Him.
Benefits of the Body of Christ: You have and family that will pray for you and support you in any way possible.
Eternal benefits: It’s like being in good physical shape before going snow skiing. You have a much greater capacity to enjoy yourself because you’re not constantly winded and sore from the high altitude and physical exertion. When you exercise your faith here now you will have a much greater capacity to enjoy your eternal life in heaven when you get there. And that’s not even considering all the souls you touch here that has the domino effect you will never know of until then.
YES THE COST IS HIGH, AND THE COMMITMENT IS GREAT, BUT WHEN IT’S ALL SAID AND DONE IT’LL BE WORTH IT.