GROWING AS A CHRISTIAN
I. When God speaks to us He uses simple ideas that we can
understand. He uses familiar events and things to explain the difficult things of God, things that would otherwise be hard to understand. What we see in this physical realm is a reflection, an indicator of things in the spiritual realm. The physical and the spiritual are parallel.
II. John 3:1-15, He by grace opened our understanding, only then did we receive His grace. It was only then that we could repent, that is, turn from, our sins. At that point we were born again! We were born into a new realm, into His Kingdom.
A. Before we were born again we had no real understanding of God's kingdom or God's ways. We were blind. We couldn't see that God is the legitimate ruler of the universe. Just like a baby in the womb has no real understanding of the world outside.
B. Before He opened our eyes, we couldn't see our need for Him; we thought that we were O.K.. Similarly the baby is very content in the womb, but can't stay there or it will die.
C. Then He mercifully opened our eyes and we understood that He is the legitimate ruler of the universe and that we have been disobedient, that we were born in sin. We entered a new realm of understanding as the baby enters the world.
D. He then showed us that through the sacrifice of His own
blood He has made a way for us. This revelation is a sovereign work of God's mercy. The baby sees the world outside for the first time.
E. We then realized that we must repent to come into our proper relationship with Him. Our umbilical cord is cut, our ties to our old world are broken.
F. Before we were born again we had no awareness of the things of God. Now we are open to receiving from God. We were born into His kingdom. The baby now stays in the world and begins to learn of it.
G. We can see how parallel the birth of a baby is to being born into the kingdom of God. A baby born into this world, before birth had no understanding of this world. After being born into this world the baby begins to understand the things of this world.
III. Just like all babies grow into adults, so it ought to be that new born Christians should grow into adult Christians. New born Christians need to grow as Christians.
A. To grow as a Christian we need food. The food for growing Christians is the Word of God. Psalms 34:8 "Taste and see that the Lord is good." John 6:54-56 Eat my flesh and drink my blood. John 1 His flesh is the word.
B. To grow as Christians we must drink of His spirit is prayer and communion with Him. Communion is to remind us that we are to eat His flesh, the word and to drink His blood which is His spirit.
IV. Like the baby growing into an adult, we Christians pass through the same stages.
A. A new born Christian really doesn't understand this new
realm of being.
1) We are focused on our own spiritual needs.
Feed me! Take care of my needs.
Help me. I don't understand.
And our elders do feed us and help us.
2) We have a great gift of pure child like faith
but no wisdom in using it.
We are unable to move in the spirit except
by copying what we see.
And when things don't work as we expect them to
we get frustrated quickly like a child.
3) Our perceptions are still influenced by our as yet un-renewed thought life, often resulting in distorted or totally off-base perceptions.
4) In our ignorance we are fearless, going where we shouldn't and seeing what we ought not.
B. As a toddler, we have greater mobility & knowledge.
1) Because of our increased mobility we get into
things that are dangerous, and
2) We first experience serious correction by
C. As a child we begin to really understand God's reality. But correction and learning become even more frequent.
We also begin to learn who we are in God and to discover
our spiritual gifts.
D. As a Christian teenager many of us go through a stage of rebellion against God's good direction. A little knowledge is dangerous. We are learning who we are in God, our function in the body. And we may not be at peace with who we are in the body.
E. As a spiritual adult, maturity and knowledge of and faith
in the word results in reproduction.
IV. Phil. 2:12 "Work our your own soul's salvation with
fear and trembling" That means:
A. This is not talking of eternal salvation for that is a work of Jesus which is permanent an remains in His hands. This is referring to our daily deliverance from difficulties.
B. The term soul hear is not spirit b ut body. The S.O.S.
was save our souls, so many souls on board.
C. "Work out" means less dependence on our own strength and greater reliance on His grace and confidence in His mercy.
D. With fear and trembling, because we stand in greater and
greater awe of His majesty and power, seeing Him ever more closely and thus more and more aware of His greatness.
E. When we are fully aware of His greatness and caring for us
then we will fully rest in Him and trust in Him as is His desire for us.
V. Lev. 19:23-25, The rule of the harvest.
A. When you take a new job or bring forth a child there is a
time to wait until we gain an increase. Until that time we are putting into it and not receiving.
B. There then comes a time when we only give the fruit to the Lord's work.
GROWING AS A CHRISTIAN II
Jesus is a gentleman who doesn't go where He is uninvited. When we invite Jesus into our lives, we recieve His free gift of salvation and we ask for His forgiveness. He then gives us some basic instructions: to read His word, to pray, etc. Since Jesus only goes where He is invited, for Jesus to more deeply participate in our lives we need to expand our invitation for Him to instruct us in His ways in more and more areas of our lives.
When we are first saved we don't know what we are doing, for then we have very little spiritual understanding.
I've heard persons saved many years tell me that when we recieve salvation we immediately start to think with the mind of Christ. This error comes from a common misapplication of:
I Cor. 2:16 "But we have the mind of Chirst."
The idea that we automatically have the mind of Christ is presumtuous, prideful and very dangerous. When this scripture is read in context it can't be understood that way. Let's see what the context reveals:
I Cor. 2:16 means that the mind of Christ, through His spoken and written word and the ministry of His Holy Spirit, is made available to us to instruct us. This does not mean that we immediately begin to think His Holy thoughts. Exactly the opposite is true. At salvation we are so spiritually blind we can't see our horrible condition, we don't see how totally sinful and prideful we have been.
Even those who have studied the scriptures for years without being guided by the Holy Spirit can be spiritually blind as we learn for the stoy of Nicodemus
(John 3:1-12). The Apostles were similarly blind for the three years they walked with Jesus.
It is spiritual blindness that would decieve us into beliveing that we have suddenly become righteous thinkers. That is exactly the error I fell into when first saved... Others rebuked me when in blindness, ignorance and pride I thought understood the things of God. Since then I have prayed many years to think as He thinks. And after years of praying and listening, reading His word and His training me, I am now just understanding a little.
I Cor. 2:16 is only one example of many scriptures which are often quoted and not understood correctly. This is a danger to those who are not mature in God's ways. It takes years of prayer and study and meditating on God's word to have a true understanding. We are instructed in
Lev. 19:23-25 We must waite to eat of the tree that we plant.
Likewise we must pray and seek His face and meditate on His word before we come to a true understanding. It is utmost presumption to think that we can suddenly become wise. For example, when Paul came to salvation he went into the Arabian desert for three years of intense study
Gal. 1:17-18 "after three years" note the three years as in Leviticus.
Jesus also trianed His disciples for three years!
Don't be in a hurry. It takes time to grow in God.
Getting back to the problem of interpreting scripture:
We are warned that:
II Peter 1:20-21 "no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation..."
Meaning that all scripture is to be understood in the light of other scripture.
We are not to take scripture out of context. It is all to easy to do so and to misunderstand God's will and purposes unless we are truly seeking to be dirested by Him.
The imprtance of seeking thw whole council of God's word is also shown by:
Matt. 4:4 "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth
out of the mouth of God."
Similarly we are advised:
II Tim. 3:16-17 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is
When we first repent and begin to serve Jesus, our motivations, behavior, speech and thoughts are as they were before we knew Jesus. We are still carnal. We may know a little about how Christians should behave, and we may choose to change some of our behavior. But at first we try to do everything in our own strength. Our changes come out of our own will, not at His direction or by His power. Not yet having a true understanding of His word, we have no understanding of proper behavior, how we should speak or how to think as a Christian should! We don't yet know how to walk in His ways, or how to rely on His stregth.
It is His will that we should begin to change:
Rom. 12:2 "Be not confromed to this world , but be ye transfromed by the renewing of your mind..."
The newly saved are rightly greatful to Jesus for His free gift of righteousness, but are also ignorant of His ways. Like infants we try to copy everything we see our elders do, and we put everything in our mouths, that is we, follow after every wind of doctrine, for we have as yet no discernment. If we see healing miracles we boldly think we can do the same, without seeking God's direction. If someone receives a financial miracle we assume that God will automatically do the same for us, not realizing that He has a diffferent plan for each of us. Like infants we are very emotional, very happy if we get what we want, or very negative if we are disapointed.
As new converts we are given the gift of faith regarding salvation, but we don't know what to believe about His power in other areas. If things don't go well we tend to blame God. This is exactly what the Israelites did at the time of the Exodus.
They had just seen many plagues on the Egyptians and miracles in their own deliverance from them, but were not ready to fully believe His power against the Egyptian army. The Israelites did similarly when they began to thirst
The Israelistes as new converts also murmured when they began to be hungry.
And again they became thristy.
And many other times the Israelites behaved like new converts, with little faith.
When, we are new in the Lord, and the inevitable trails and problems arise, often we don't know what to do. We try to find magic formulas, things that will easily remedy our problems. We seek a promise to stand on, assuming that every promise applies to us, no matter what condition we are in. If that doesn't work we may begin to doubt God's word or our walk. Someone then needs to set us straight with wise coucil form God's word, showing us that God's plan is not tricks and magic formulas. God's plan is for us to grow in faith through relying on Him in the midst of adversity. He wants us to
Rom. 8:29 "be conformed to the image of His son, that He might be the first of many bretheren."
So how does He accompish the miracle of turning a practiced master sinner into an aprentice saint.
He begins by dealing with our behavior.