INTRODUCTION: For months this now older man looked forward to attending his 47th High School reunion. For some time he saved money to take his wife back to the place and the people he'd left four decades before. The closer the time came for the reunion, the more excited he became, thinking of all the wonderful stories he would hear about the changes and the accomplishments these old friends would tell him.
I. MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SPIRITUAL GROWTH.
One night before he left he even pulled out his old yearbooks, read the silly statements and the good wishes for the future that students write to each other. He wondered what ol' Number 86 from his football team had done. He wondered if any others had found Christ as their Savior and were living for the Lord. His life had been so profoundly changed when he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.
He tried to guess what some of his friends would look like, and what kind of jobs and families some of these special friends had. The day came to leave he asked his close friend to drive them to the airport. They so very excited and their friend said, "I'll pick you up on Sunday evening, and you can tell me all about it," I said. "Have a great time."
Sunday evening arrived and their friend went to pick them up. As he watched them get off the plane, he noticed that his friend seemed almost despondent. He almost didn't want to ask, but finally said, "Well, how was the reunion?" "Tim," the man said, "it was one of the saddest experiences of my life." "Good grief," I said, more than a little surprised. "What in the world happened?" "It wasn't what happened but what didn't happen. It has been forty years, forty years -- and they haven't changed. They had simply gained weight, changed clothes, gotten jobs...but they hadn't really changed.
He said, what he experienced was maybe one of the most tragic things he could ever imagine about life. For reasons I can't fully understand, most of them seem as though they choose not to change."
There was a long silence as we walked back to the car. On the drive home, he turned to me and said, "I never, never want that to be said of me. Life is too precious, too sacred, too important. If you ever see me go stagnant like that, I hope you give me a quick, swift kick, for the sake of Jesus Christ. I hope you'll love me enough to challenge me to keep growing."
No truth in the Bible more important than that believers are to mature and grow spiritually. As they do so their lives will be changed. They will begin to live fuller more satisfying lives. God is in the life changing business and so many have come to Christ, yet do not understand this vital part of God's will for our lives.
This morning let's look seriously at this matter of growing in Jesus Christ and of what it means and can mean to each of us.
A. Spiritual growth is automatic.
1. Person is saved by God's mercy when one trusts and receives Christ. It is instantaneous and a sudden occurrence. It happens only once and is unchangeable.
ILLUS: When a baby is born it can not talk, walk, or work. Yet, if it is normal it has everything including a mind and everything necessary to grow into a mature adult. However, it must be taught. It must learn. A group of tourists were visiting a town on a tour and they came across an old man. One of the tourists asked the old man if any great men were born in this small town. "No he replied, Only babies."
2. When you believe you are placed in Christ. You receive all spiritual blessing and all things that pertain to godliness. You are complete in that you are a child of God. You are fully equipped to accomplish all that God has for you in your life.
There no second blessing, such as many teach. There is only one Gospel and it is the full Gospel and there is no other.
It may take time for a person to come to understand the Gospel and accept it, but at the moment it is accepted the fact or position in Christ is established forever.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor. 5:17)
"And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power." (Colossians 2:10)
"According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." (2 Peter 1:3)
3. What this means is you as a believer receives the Spirit of God which will enable you to live a godly live and growth spiritually.
We begin life learning and which means the very essence of life is growing and maturity. The first time a bottle of milk is placed in its mouth it learns that it is good and begins to drink it.
B. That Spiritual growth gauges God's love for us.
1. God's love is not dependent on our spirituality.
C. That Spirit growth is a dependent on long periods of time.
2. He loves us while we were sinners.
3. Yet, to have God's blessings we must be in His will, filled with the Holy Spirit and living obedient lives in God's principles.
4. God's love means that He will always do the best for us and that means He will not bless those who are unfaithful to biblical principles of life.
1. There are many believers who have been saved a long time and yet grow very little.
D. Being Spiritually mature is not a matter of how much one knows.
2. Some are saved only a short time yet grow spiritual very rapidly.
3. Surely if two people are dedicated and faithful equally to the Lord, the one who has been maturing longer will be more spiritual mature.
4. I have seen a person saved and within a year they are able to teaching Sunday School or really effectively use the gift God has given them and have a good understanding of the Bible.
I have seen others who after years do understand very little.
1. What matters is what you do with what you know!
E. Spiritual growth is not a matter of being active in the church. Certainly, spiritually mature believers will be active in their local church and be serving the Lord where ever they are. Yet.....
"Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. (1 Corinthians 8:1)
2. Note: The verse warns that knowledge can puff one up. It is talking about PRIDE.
3. Having a knowledge of the facts of the Bible is important for the believer, but it cannot be equated with spiritual maturity.
4. Spiritual growth is what we do with what we know about the Bible, God's word.
5. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29)
1. One can be very busy doing things in the church and not be growing spiritually.
"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:22-23)"
2. Some think that if I am busy enough then I am spiritual. That is not necessarily true.
Being busy and doing a lot in the church does even qualify one for salvation...let alone spiritual maturity.
F. Spiritual growth has nothing to do with prosperity.
1. Many folks may think that material possessions in an indication of spiritual maturity or special favor with God. That again is not true.
II. WHAT THEN IS SPIRITUAL MATURITY?
2. Don't think that because you are well off or financially secure that this means God approves of how you are living you life and growing spiritually.
3. The other side is true too. Being poor or having very little does not mean God disapproves of your spiritual.
A. If it is not a matter of our position in Christ, or God's love, time, your knowledge of the Bible, how active you are, or how rich or poor you might be....what is it.
III. WHY SHOULD I GROW SPIRITUALLY? WHAT IS SO IMPORTANT ABOUT THAT?
B. It is not some mystical, sentimental, devotional, or psychological thing either.
C. Spiritual growth in simple terms is: "MATCHING MY PRACTICE WITH MY POSITION".
1. If I am saved, and a child of God, then I am complete. I have everything I need to live for the Lord and to live a full satisfy abundant life. I can live a life that will glorify my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Spiritual maturity is NOT being able to put in practice principal of God's Word....(you are able!) It is a matter of willing myself to do as God wants.
It is a matter of commitment. It is a matter of dedication. It is a matter of faith! A matter of trusting Almighty God for letting Him direct our lives. It is doing what He says obediently.
A. It is a matter of being in harmony with God's plan and Creation.
1. Folks, God made us and this world! As any builder, he had a purpose for what he built!
B. God Created you to bring glory to God.
2. Suppose I built a Ferrari like I saw on the news the other day that cost over $250,000 dollars?
Suppose I used it to on a farm on dirt road to get around? Crazy right? Suppose I brought a John Deer tractor to take my family to town and used it like the family car? Dumb right?
3. In each case the car or tractor was misused and not used as it was designed be used for. You could take the family to town on a John Deer, but wouldn't it be much better in a automobile that has four doors, AC/Heater, comfortable seats with plenty of room, and a engine and transmission made to do the job?
Would it not be abuse, to take a car designed to race and use it as a farm truck?
1. "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever". Amen. (2 Peter 3:18
C. To bring Glory to God, we must live as God has designed us to live.
2. That's what you were created to do...bring glory to God.
The problem with world and many believers is they do not know what they are and why they were created.
3. The lost world surely doesn't know. It is in rebellion against God. It doesn't bring glory to God. It is ruining itself, abusing itself because it is doing what it was not designed to do.
4. Many believers, also have fallen in the same trap.
They trust Christ, and they live lives that are destructive, un- fulfilling and miserable. Why? They are like a expensive fine tuned race car, running down a dusty, rocky road, bearing heavy loads they were not designed to carry.
D. Unlike a tractor, car or piece of machinery...God has given you a Will.
1. You are not a robot..but made in the image of God Himself having a mind, emotion and a will.
E. Want to do right, then just do it. If you are a child of God you have the ability...that is God's gift when you were saved.
If you have not yet trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior...then why not? What is it that keeps you from believing Him and putting your trust in God who Created you? Don't you think that it time now to begin a new life. A life that God made you to live.
2. The Ferreira used on a farm has no choice, but do operate as it is forces too.
HOWEVER, GOD WILL NOT FORCE YOU TO DO RIGHT! YOU CAN DO WRONG. IT IS UP TO YOU.
1. Believers are complete in Christ and they have all there is needed live as you should...but you must will to do it.
2. Our love for sin is a problem. We have a sinful nature that has a bent to sin and do wrong.
However, that is not an excuse. If I want to avoid sin and doing wrong I can. I can because I have a new nature, the very nature of God, that gives me the power to do right.
You see growing in Christ, and growing spiritually is a matter of exercising one's will....to do as God commands.
SPIRITUAL GROWTH IS A MATTER MATCHING MY PRACTICE WITH MY POSITION.
If I am a child of God I can live a wonderful fulfilling life serving God.
That is I can if I want to. I can if I am committed and simply make the effort to do it.