Practicing Growing Up
Practicing Growing Up
To know God, that pursuit, results in your growing deeper, your relationship with God becoming more intimate. As we grow deep, we will be confronted with numerous opportunities to grow up in our faith, putting what we have come to believe into action which will produce much fruit (Mark 4:20). Today we are going to consider 4 practices that we must put into place in order to grow up in our faith, which in turn will deepen your relationship with God.
Each practice has been previously explored in the series Growing Up that you will find on www.hbcc.life. If you want a more in depth consideration of one of the practices our website is the place to go.
The writer of the book of Hebrews, some think it was the Apostle Paul, addresses the need for believers to move beyond the fundamental teachings of the gospel and press on to maturity.
Hebrews 6:1-3 (NIV)
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.
The fundamentals of the faith, are of course, vitally important. There can be no growing up in the faith if there is no faith, to begin with. Faith in the gospel means you have come to a place in your spiritual journey where you have acknowledged that you are a sinner (Romans 6:23), believed that Jesus forgives you of your sin (1 John 2:2), committed yourself to be Jesus disciple (Luke 9:23) and asked God to accept your faith (Romans 10:13). That’s the general pattern of becoming a Christian, a believer in the Gospel, the details of your experience will most like vary but this is the general theme of events in your life.
When God accepts your faith, Jesus death on the cross makes it possible for you to be forgiven of your sins. Sin is serious stuff, it results in spiritual death, the symbol of spiritual death is physical death, but because of Jesus atonement, death no longer has the final say. Your relationship with God is reconciled and if you are in Christ and Christ is in you, you are in the Father the author of life, and even though you die, yet shall you live (John 11:25). This is what God does for you, He declares you to be righteous at the moment you reach out to Him with sincere faith (Romans 5:1). He’s been reaching out to you for a long time. If you took time to go to our website, www.hbcc.life, an under the “Articles” tab, checked out the Normative Christian Experience Map 2 article, you were exposed to the idea that once you are born again, you have a Child-like faith.
Now a Child-like faith is fine. There are glorious and wonderful things to experience with a Child-like faith. It’s the time we start to practice the 7 habits of a disciple. But as in biological development if a person stays child-like something is wrong. We naturally expect that a person will grow up. The same expectation exists in the spiritual life. If you do not grow up you still need the elementary teaching of the faith.
Hebrews 5:11-14 (NIV)
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In 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! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Growing up is building upon the foundational truths of scripture, the milk, and move on to solid food, a diet that trains you to figure out what is good and what is evil for you in this new life that is yours in Christ.
Growing up involves thinking and doing things differently (1 Corinthians 13:11). As a child, I knew others would take care of me, clothe me, feed me, protect me. As I grew I learned that I was to become the responsible party for taking care of myself. We are going to look at just four things we must do to acquaint ourselves with righteousness, or simply how to live as a disciple of Jesus. We are going to talk about what to practice when suffering, what to practice to defeat spiritual enemies, what to practice to make room to grow, and finally, what to practice when you have no idea what in the world is happening.
Practice 1 Dealing with Suffering.
Jesus revealed to us the suffering was a natural part of living in a broken creation.
John 16:33 (NIV)
In this world, you will have trouble.
Health, wealth, prosperity, happiness, rose garden is not guaranteed to a Christian. Bad things happen to good people, to God’s saintliest of saints. Life is not how it was created to be (Romans 22-23). Sin corrupts, evil and injustice abound. Jesus suffered.
Hebrews 5:7-8 (NIV)
During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.
We naturally want to avoid suffering. Jesus didn’t want to suffer (Matthew 26:39). Yet suffering taught Jesus something important. Suffering convinced Jesus that he was truly “all in” with God. It’s a lesson in growing up (James 1:2-4).
When things suddenly turn bad, when you are devastated, depressed, in despair; when your prayers don’t get the speedy answer you hoped when what you so desperately wanted, needed, has passed its expiration date. When the cup doesn’t pass from you—the experience asks questions: Do you still love God? Do you still believe God is for you and not against you? Will you continue to obey when you don’t get what you want?
To mature in the faith, you keep on keeping on, even in the face of adversity. That’s practicing fidelity.
Romans 8:35 & Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Growing up means your love for God is not based on the blessings you hope for, it's based on what God has already done for you. He has made you spiritually alive, He has made you His child, He has shown you the way to life eternal.
In the face of suffering, we are to practice fidelity, no turning back.
Practice 2 is defeating spiritual enemies.
Ephesians 6:12 & 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…”
You might think this is superstitious mumbo jumbo. But there are three enemies that will steal your joy, beat you up, and spit you out if you let them.
Enemy number 1 comes in the form of physical pleasure. “If it feels good, do it.” Not the best advice because there are a lot of things that feel good that also come with payment due. Just, for example, that first hit of meth, cocaine or heroin feels good, yet it’s a slippery slope that crashes into anything but good
Enemy number 2 is hidden in the temptation is to have whatever your eyes see. What that temptation involves is seeing it coupled with the desire to possess it. I see it, I want it. I see it, I’ve got to have it, I need to possess it. It’s a need to acquire, the old word for this is covetousness.
Enemy number 3 is identifying oneself to one’s accomplishments. There is a desire to acquire so that others will see how good I am. It’s like that 3-year-old’s drawing that is presented with the exclamation: “Look at what I did!” It’s a request for recognition and approval. We can get caught up with the value system of our culture and base our recognition and approval on it instead of God.
Wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important will destroy spiritual growth (1 John 2:16). To defeat these enemies you must recognize them and then simply not indulge them. You must starve them out of your life, the Holy Spirit empowers you to do so. So ask for guidance as you ask yourself three questions. For enemy number 1: Is this physical pleasure righteous? For enemy number 2: Do I really need this? For enemy number 3: Whose approval am I trying to win?
In the face of these 3 enemies, you are to starve them out of your life.
Practice number 3 is making room to grow.
James 1:21 (MSG)
In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.
If you have done any gardening you know the term root-bound. Rootbound means there’s no more room in the pot to grow. The plant suffers and eventually dies.
We can fill out lives with lots of good things, so much so we are constantly busy and basically become root-bound. All our activities schedule us to get up early, stay up late and hardly take a breath in between (Psalm 127:2). Of course, there is also wasted time, time spent doing things that are not important, these time wasters are necessarily wrong they just won’t make a difference in anyone’s life by doing them (Isaiah 55:2).
To step forward you need to leave the place you’ve been standing (Genesis 12:1). You have to break the pot of your legitimate pleasures which allows you to grow in new ways (John 15:2). To grow up in your faith you must leave the good activities behind to attain the better (Philippians 3:12-14). Complacency will kill you spiritually (Deuteronomy 8:14, Hebrews 6:12)
This is not a one and done activity. To practice making room requires the Holy Spirit’s guidance. So simply ask the Holy Spirit to show you what good thing needs to go so that there is room in your life for the better thing (James 1:5, Galatians 5:25).
Practice 4 is trusting in God
Proverbs 3:5-7 (MSG)
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track. Don't assume that you know it all.
Trusting God is having the firm conviction that God is for you, God loves you, and God will see you through (Joshua 1:9). Trust makes it possible for you to do the things God has said to do, to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you, to show you the way you should go (Proverbs 28:26).
Trust is built, built one step at a time, one challenge at a time. What you must do is ask God for his direction, his provision, his protection and go with the impression you receive, take that impression and share your thoughts with a spiritual friend, then decide what to do and simply ask God to direct your steps. He will. As you see the outcome of being led, your ability to trust increases. You grow in knowing in whom you have believed (2 Timothy 1:12).
If you want to grow up in your faith practice the following
Fidelity when things are not going well.
Starve out the lust for sensuality, the coveting of the eyes and the pride of life.
Make room to grow by allowing God to prune out the good to allow the better
Trusting God to guide and provide.
Add these to your daily practice of the 7 habits of a disciple and you will grow up in your faith.