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Sunday, December 4, 2016 am                                                  What It Means to Be a Christian Index

 

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN (4)
Growing as a Christian

 This week we are examining what it means to be a Christian.  Our goal in this study is to understand some of our responsibilities as Christians so that we will be pleasing to God.  Thus far we have examined What a Christian is – one who has obeyed the gospel and is striving to live as a true follower of Jesus. We have also addressed becoming a Christian noting not only how one obeys the gospel, but also the cost of being a Christian.  In our last lesson we addressed hindrances to obeying the gospel noting there are those who don’t believe, faulty thinking (I’m good enough, I’m not good enough, I have plenty of time, I’m already saved, etc.), not wanting to give up sin, not wanting to deal with the consequences, professed hypocrisy, ignorance and summarized it by noting “that one thing you lack.” 

Assuming one decides to become a Christian, one must realize that this is just the beginning.  As a Christian you are expected to grow! In this lesson we want to talk about growing as a Christian. 

 I.                     We are expected to Grow

a.       1 Peter 2:1-2 – as newborn babes we are to desire the sincere milk of the word that we may grow thereby.

b.       Hebrews 5:12-6:1, issues a rebuke because they had not matured as they ought to. 
By this time you ought to be teachers, but you’re not.  In instead you are acting like spiritual babes and in need of being grounded again in the first principles. 
Your senses exercised to discern both good and evil – this is the clear product of growth as a Christian.
In Hebrews 6:1 we because of this, “let us go on to perfection” a word meaning maturity or completeness. 

c.        2 Peter 3:18 – he will conclude his 2nd letter by noting we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

d.       Acts 2:42 notes that on the day of Pentecost when 3000 souls obeyed the gospel we then read, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine…”  Notice that immediately after obeying the gospel they began to grow!  Becoming a Christian was NOT the end!

 

  II.                   Reverence toward God –

a.       Reverence means to render proper respect to something or to someone to whom it is due. 
When we speak of reverence we are speaking of a proper or deep respect toward God.   This is with the realization of who He is – our Creator. He created this universe and all that is in it.  He gives us life and an eternal spirit.  He created this world and knows is best for it.  He commands and deserves our highest respect.  He deserves to be held in awe – Psalm 111:9, “Holy and awesome is His name.” (Holy and reverend – KJV).   When we reverence God we will approach Him with that AWESOME respect and with fear.   Hebrews 12:28-29 – we need to serve Him with reverence and goldy fear.  He is a consuming fire.

b.       IF we are to grow as we ought as Christians, it will begin with seeking to understand who God is and a desire to give him that place of honor and respect He deserves in our lives.   
IF we have this attitude it will impact every aspect of our lives – our worship, our daily living – what we do, where we go, what we say, who we associate with, etc., and it will affect how we approach His word! 

c.        2 Peter 1:7 as a Christian is growing, he will increase in godliness.  The term used there is εὐσέβεια, (eusebeia) a word that means to show piety and reverence.  In times past I have defined this word as godly conduct, and it is – BUT a deeper understanding reveals the reverence that produces that godly conduct. 

d.       Think briefly of these passages:

1. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 – exercise yourself toward godliness   The word exercise in the Greek is a word from which we get our English word gymnasium.  What do we do in the gym?  We exercise.  We WORK ourselves toward godliness!

2. 1 Timothy 6:11, he was told to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love patience and gentleness.

3. 2 Peter 3:11, realizing this world is going to be dissolved, “what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…?”

e.       The more I study about reverence, the more I am convinced it is FUNDAMENTAL to our faith AND growth as Christians. 

 III.                  Make up your mind

a.       What is your mindset?  Mindset – “an attitude, disposition or mood. 2. An intention or inclination” (www.dictionary.com).  The mindset of a person is his overall disposition that will govern how he conducts himself, the direction he will go.  It is not just some superficial thought, but deep seated conviction.  It is an indicator of who you really are.  

b.       Consider the mindset of a Christian – he makes up his mind that he is going to follow Christ.  That mindset affects how we approach our study of scripture, how we process instructions, how well we do what we do, how we deal with one another as brethren and how we deal with those who are not believers (just to name a few). 

c.        Philippians 2:5, “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…”

d.       Colossians 3:1-2, we seek those things that are above and then we set our mind on them – we are going to achieve them.

e.       If you want to grow as a Christian you are going to have to DECIDE that you are going to grow!  Unless you do this, all else will be superficial.  1 Peter 1:13,  Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

 IV.                 Develop self-control and discipline

a.       Self-control describes one who is master over his emotions and conduct.  He rules them rather than letting them rule him.  It consists of restraining ourselves from doing what we should not do (self-control) and doing what we need to do, even when difficult or unpleasant (self-discipline). 

b.       It is a fruit (or product) of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).   It is also described in 2 Peter 1:6 as we strive to reach perfection.

c.        In my studies, I am convinced that EVERY sin we commit has to do with our self-control or lack thereof.  If we are to mature, we have to bring everything into subjection to Him – 1 Cor. 9:27 – Paul disciplined his body and brought it into subjection; 2 Corinthians 10:5 speaks of using our weapons to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.   That is self-control.

d.       As we learn the truth, we must put it into practice.  That requires self-control!  As we mature, we seek to master this quality.

e.       Self-control is going to keep you from doing something that you will regret.  I will keep you sinning with your tongue.  It will keep your emotions in check.  It keeps you from developing or engaging in bad habits.
Self-discipline causes you to get up and get to services ON TIME.  It is what provokes you to pray as often as you do and to study God’s word.  It is what provokes you to choose to serve God rather than engaging in some worldly conduct. 

f.         If you want to grow as a Christian, you must develop this quality!

  

 V.                   Examination -

a.       2 Corinthians 13:5 – examine yourself as to whether you are in the faith.    This is something we need to do from time to time.  Think of it as a spiritual audit.  We may not like the word audit, but if we genuinely want to improve and be right, it is a good thing.    

b.       We need to look at what I call “Spiritual indicators.” – An indicator is a device that shows you where you are.  Typically, it has some sort of scale so that you can compare that to what is considered normal or right. 
A spiritual indicator is an indicator that helps me see where I am as a Christian right now.    We need to occasionally step back and take a spiritual inventory. Of where we are in relation to where we ought to be.  

1. What is my priority?

2. How often do I study the Bible?

3. Do I pray as I ought to?

4. How important is it to me that I worship properly – both true to God’s word AND with a proper attitude?

5. Am I in control of my words?

6. How important is the church and my brethren to me? (We will address this in 2 weeks)

7. Do I understand repentance

8. How much do I care about others? (We will review this in 3 weeks)

c.        Friends, if you want to grow as a Christian, these things are imperative in your life.  The life of a Christian is NOT just lip service or a one-time irrevocable act (i.e. becoming a Christian). 
Therefore, we need the occasional examination.

 VI.                 With Diligence –

a.       It has been said that anything worth doing, is worth doing right.  Typically, that means that anything worth doing takes diligent effort to accomplish it.   Diligence means to put forth earnest and fervent effort.

b.       As you read your Bible, it doesn’t take long to learn that Christians are expected to do their best and to be growing.  We’re not trying to barely get by, but rather to excel.  That is emphasized with many words and passages.  Diligence conveys this idea.

c.        2 Timothy 2:15 -  be diligent to present yourself approved unto God.  You have to work at it!  There are no short cuts to genuine growth. 

d.       Ephesians 4:3, in seeking unity tells us to be “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the body of peace.”    True unity takes work.

e.       2 Peter 1:5-10, a must passage to consider when we talk about growing as a Christian. 
Peter lists a number of qualities we are to develop within our faith.  This is not a task to be taken lightly.    With diligence, we add to our faith. 
The qualities mentioned are worthy of their own study which time will not permit.  But we are called upon to add to our faith – virtue (moral excellence, integrity) , knowledge (understanding of what we have learned), self-control (see above), patience (endurance), godliness (see above), brotherly kindness and love (agape).
Note the result of developing these things –

1. You will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In other words, you will be productive and producing fruit (which is the goal of maturity).
This includes your understanding of His word.   The word of God is remarkable in that the more we learn and apply His word, the greater our understanding of it becomes!

2. If you do these things, you will never stumble.   The KJV says you will never fall.  The actual word means to misstep and thus trip up.  And the idea is to make a mistake.  I am convinced that IF we perfect each of these qualities, we can reach a point where we will not sin at all.  But one might say, we all do continue to sin.  And that is TRUE!  But why?  Because we have NOT perfected each of these qualities.  There is always more work to do and thus we continue to struggle.  BUT, we must STRIVE for this perfection in our lives!

3. For so an entrance will be supplied into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – the ultimate reward of our faithfulness is our home in heaven.  And is than not what it is all about?  Romans 2:7 speaks of the eternal life that awaits those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor and immortality.  

 

And thus we can see some qualities that will help us grow as a Christian.  May we have the necessary perspective to notice those areas that are lacking and the desire to fully realize them in our lives.  And in those matters that we are strong, let us seek to maintain them and even refine them as necessary.   Don’t let your failure to grow as a Christian keep you from your eternal reward in heaven. 

So how are you growing as a Christian?