Spiritual Growth

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

I am writing to you, little children, since your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know the one who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have conquered the evil one. ~ 1 John 2:12-13

Like in physical life, where we are born, grow, and mature, in spiritual life we are born again through faith in Jesus, then meant to grow and mature. The book of Hebrews speaks about feasting on spiritual milk, like a child, versus spiritual meat, like an adult. In his first letter, John also speaks of this growth as he gives his purpose for writing.

John saw his audience in terms of three main stages of spiritual development: Little children, young men (young person), and fathers (parents). These speak to the three main stages of our spiritual growth.

Little children are those who have new life in Jesus. They have experienced the grace of God, know God as their Father (2:14), and have their sins forgiven. They are God’s precious sons and daughters, but they are just starting out in their faith (or have a faith that is undernourished and not yet very mature). They have much growth to experience in the years to come.

Young men (young persons) are those who have been faithfully following Jesus into a spiritual adolescence or young adulthood. Physically, adolescence and young adulthood is the stage where are most full of energy and experience the most change. Spiritually, this stage is similar. This is the stage of a spiritual warrior, a person who is growing strong in their faith and understanding of God’s word. A person who has “conquered the evil one” as they learn to rely more on Jesus and scripture (2:14). They are learning to put sin to death and are becoming more faithful to Jesus.

Fathers (parents) are those who have stepped into maturity. They have a deep relationship with God and a mature understanding of his nature and work in the world. More than this the term fathers indicates they have had a hand in producing a new generation of believers. They share their faith and the gospel with others and have taken responsibility to help others grow and mature in Jesus.

John’s descriptions give us a general picture of the spectrum of spiritual growth and maturity. Where do you see yourself in terms of your spiritual growth? Commit yourself to continue to grow and mature and to become spiritual parents to others to help them grow and mature in Christ.

Scripture quotes taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

grayscale photo of man woman and child
Photo by Kristin De Soto on Pexels.com
Photo used with permission: https://www.pexels.com/photo/grayscale-photo-of-man-woman-and-child-736428/

Patience – The Fruit of the Spirit (part 5)

The fourth fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is patience.

In his book, The Curious Christian, Barnabas Piper writes:

What if there is hope? What if the sun will rise again tomorrow on a new day with new mercies? What if God’s promises are really worth trusting in and holding to? These are the questions we must ask while living patiently. (pg. 56)

When we think of patience, we often think of waiting without complaining. But from the Biblical view, as Piper’s questions point to, patience is more about waiting with hope. Romans 12:12 tells us to “be patient in affliction.” But how can we wait with hope when things seem to be going bad?

We look forward to the return of Jesus.

This is why James wrote in his letter: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:7-8)

James uses a practical illustration to make his point: The harvest is the good thing longed for by the farmer, but he can’t force it. He has to work the ground, plant the seed, wait for rain, and wait for it to grow. But he waits with hope and expectation, knowing that the crop will come.

In the same way, life has its ups and downs. We experiences gains and losses, joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains–in the good, we wait for the even better to come with Jesus, and in the bad, we wait for the perfect joys to come with Jesus.

But patience isn’t simply directed at our longing for Jesus’ return. We’re also to be patient with others, just as God is patient with us (1 Corinthians 13:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, 2 Peter 3:9). Patience realizes that we are all works in progress in this life and that God isn’t finished shaping us until we breathe our last breath.

So, we strive to be patient with ourselves as God works in us, and we strive to be patient with others as God works in them. And it is the Spirit that helps shape patience in our lives. The Spirit reminds us of the hope we have in Christ and keeps it as a light in our heart during times of struggle. The Spirit also changes our perception of others, helping us to see them through Jesus as either our brothers and sisters or potential brothers and sisters. This, also, helps us to grow patient hearts.

So let us pray for greater patience–waiting in hope as God works his plan in the world and in the lives of others.

Next time, we’ll consider the fruit of kindness.

All scripture references from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

agriculture arable barley blur
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
https://www.pexels.com/photo/agriculture-arable-barley-blur-265216/

The More Accurate Way

Apollos began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately. ~ Acts 18:26 (CSB)

Apollos was a young man who had a great desire to tell others about Jesus. He spoke well and had a boldness that was evident to all who heard him. Yet, there was a problem. We’re told in Acts 18:25 that he spoke accurately about Jesus but only knew about John’s baptism. This seems to mean that Apollos was unaware of Jesus’ words we find recorded in Matthew 28—to baptize new disciples in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, welcoming them in as part of the Christian family.

We’re not told why Apollos was unaware of this, but it seemed to be deficient in his teaching. It was likely the case, then, that as he led people to faith in Jesus he did not proceed to see them baptized in obedience to Jesus. In this way, his teaching was lacking.

When he spoke in Ephesus he was heard by Priscilla and Aquila, a spiritually mature couple who loved Jesus and together proved to be a great help to Paul during his time in Corinth. When they discovered this deficiency in Apollos’ teaching, they took him aside (that is privately) and explained to him the bigger gospel story. And what was the result? Apollos continued on to the next town with the blessing of the church and “was a great help to those who by grace had believed” (18:27).

For us, we find here a lesson in correction. Christians who are more spiritually mature are humble. They can reflect back on their lives and they realize the growth they have experienced along the way. They understand they have had times where they had to learn the “more accurate” way. As they learned about Jesus through Scripture, some of their beliefs changed and sharpened with time.

What, then, is their response when they hear a younger Christian saying or doing things that might not be quite right? They seek to correct and offer guidance in love, just like Priscilla and Aquila.

This involved four things: First, they were willing to listen. They waited until Apollos had finished. They listened to everything that he had to say. Second, they were willing to engage. They didn’t say, “Oh, that doesn’t sound right” and then ignored it. They wanted to help this young man grow and mature. So, they went to him and engaged with him. Third, they corrected him in private. We don’t know exactly what this couple said to Apollos, but likely they opened scripture and shared things they had learned from Paul and others. In doing so, they didn’t make a scene. They didn’t browbeat the young man or try to show themselves superior. They didn’t want to embarrass him. They simply took him aside and spoke with him in private. Fourth, they encouraged him in his gifts. When everything was said and done, Priscilla and Aquila would have been among those in 18:27 who wrote to the disciples in Achaia to welcome Apollos. Though they had to correct him, they supported his continued efforts to share.

These same four things should be true for us. When we face a situation where we need to correct someone else, we should be willing to listen to them and observe what is happening, be willing to engage with them, be seeking ways to speak to them in private, and then be encouraging of them. This is a better path, or a more accurate way, than the harsh criticism that we see so much today in the world.

Sunday 10.01.17 (the journey of spiritual growth)

This Sunday we’ll finish our Spiritual Growth series by looking at Hebrews 12:1-2 and the journey of spiritual growth. Then on Sunday night, we’ll consider how God is truth in our attributes of God study. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Attributes of God Study in the church library
@7pm Business Meeting

Sermon Notes
Spiritual Growth: The Journey ~ Hebrews 12:1-2

The Journey: A follower of Jesus is committed to a life-long process of spiritual growth.

  • Our Journey: We run the race, seeking to faithfully finish, following hard after Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2)
    • We find encouragement on our journey as…
    • We hear the cheers of others (12:1)
    • We throw off the sins that hinder us (12:1)
    • We keep focused on Jesus (12:2)
  • Four main steps to take as you grow on your journey
    • Step 1: Follow Jesus
      • This is our foundational step of faith, turning to Jesus from our life of sin
    • Step 2: Live Truth
      • This concerns our love for God: We spend time in God’s word and in prayer, shaping our character to be more like Jesus
    • Step 3: Build Community
      • This concerns our love for other followers of Jesus: We are devoted as a family to each other’s good through fellowship, we keep each other on the godly path through accountability, and we worship God together by gathering to praise him
    • Step 4: Pursue Missions
      • This concerns our love for those who do not follow Jesus: we give of our time and resources to see the gospel spread, we serve to meet the needs of others and show the love of Jesus, and we share the gospel

Sunday 09.24.17 (our focus for spiritual growth)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at 2 Corinthians 3:18, as well as Psalm 19, and see “our focus for spiritual growth” in part 3 of this 4 part series. Then on Sunday night, we’ll look at God’s faithfulness in our Attributes of God study. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Attributes of God study in church library

Sermon Notes
Spiritual Growth: The Focus ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18

The Focus: A follower of Jesus grows spiritually as he/she sets his/her heart and mind on the greatness of the Lord as revealed in Scripture.

  • Beholding the glory of the Lord through the Gospel transforms us so we are more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18)
    • We see with “unveiled faces,” meaning the spiritual clarity we gain in Christ
    • We “behold the glory of the Lord,” meaning that we dwell upon God’s goodness and greatness
    • We are “being transformed,” meaning we become more like God’s goodness with eternal greatness
  • We behold God’s glory through God’s self-revelation (Psalm 19)
    • Be in awe of God through his creation (19:1-6)
    • Be in awe of God through his Word (19:7-11)
      • Time in God’s Word, especially reading with reflection, is the #1 catalyst for spiritual growth (Move by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson)
      • We see more of God’s glory in Scripture as we:
      • Spend time in it personally (Psalm 1)
      • Spend time in it with a small group of fellow Christians (Acts 2:42-47)
      • Spend time in it with the corporate worship gathering of our church (Hebrews 10:24-25, 1 Timothy 4:13)
      • Spend time sharing it with others through missions/evangelism (Romans 10:17)

Our Songs for Worship
In the Garden
Glorious is Thy Name
More About Jesus
This is My Father’s World
I Will Glory in My Redeemer

Sunday 09.17.17 (the stages of spiritual growth)

This Sunday, we’ll be in part 2 of our Spiritual Growth series and we’ll consider the different stages of our growth. Just like we’re born into the world as an infant and then mature into adulthood, so spiritually in Christ we are reborn as infants and are to grow to be mature spiritual adults. Then in lieu of our Sunday Evening study, we’re encouraging everyone to go to Kamp Keirsey for the annual Osage River Baptist Association picnic, starting at 5pm. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@5pm ORBA Picnic at Kamp Keirsey

Sermon Notes
Spiritual Growth: The Stages ~ 1 John 2:12-14

The Stages: A follower of Jesus begins as a spiritual child but should press on and mature into spiritual adulthood, becoming more like Jesus in character and desire.

  • žSpiritual Childhood: A basic understanding of faith (2:12-13)
    • Your main task as a spiritual child: Abide in Christ (2:28)
  • žYoung Spiritual Adulthood: A growing faith and greater victory over sin (2:13-14)
    • Your main task as a young spiritual adult: Serve others well and share the gospel with passion (2 Tim 2:1-7)
  • žMature Spiritual Adulthood: A deep faith that they reproduce in others (2:13-14)
    • Your main task as a mature spiritual adult: Help others know Jesus well and mature in their faith (Titus 2:1-8)

Worship Songs
Wonderful Grace of Jesus
Stand Up, Stand Up Jesus
My Faith Has Found a Resting Place
Be Strong in the Lord
Let It Be Said of Us

Sunday 09.10.17 (the goal of spiritual growth)

This Sunday we’ll begin our day with a doughnuts and coffee fellowship in the gym to kick off our new Sunday School year. Then in worship, we’ll start a 4-week series on spiritual growth by looking at the goal of our growth from Matthew 22:34-40. And on Sunday night we’ll consider the patience of God in our attributes of God study. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@930 Sunday School Kickoff in gym
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Attributes of God study

Sermon Notes
Spiritual Growth: The Goal ~ Matthew 22:34-40

  • The Goal: A follower of Jesus aims to love God supremely and love others deeply
  • Love God supremely (22:34-38)
    • To love God supremely means that no aspect of our lives is to exist outside of God’s commands and desires
    • We love him with our heart (emotions and desires); soul (life, especially spiritual life), and mind (thoughts and words, which lead to actions)
  • Love others deeply (22:39-40)
    • To love others is to have a joyful commitment toward them for their good–meeting needs and pointing them to Jesus
    • We are to love other Christians, love those who are not followers of Jesus, and love those who act as enemies toward us