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Sunday, December 11, 2016 am                                                        ChristianIndex

 

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN (5)
Hindrances to Growing and Staying Faithful as a Christian

 

In our last lesson, we addressed some things to encourage us to grow as Christians.  We began by noting that it is imperative.  We also noted Hebrews 5:12-6:1 where the writer expressed concerns because they were NOT growing as they ought to.  Because of this, they were in danger of drifting, and possibly even apostasy (that is one of the reasons the letter was written).  

Friends, in many ways times have changed, but the dangers of drifting have always been there.  IF we are to grow as Christians, we need to recognize these dangers that can hinder us from growing as we ought to.  In this lesson we want to notice a few of these hindrances.

 I.         Hindrances are a real danger

a.       In another letter, where Paul is expressing concerns with brethren headed into apostasy he writes, “You ran well.  Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7)

b.       Luke 8:7, 14 – the parable of the sower – the thorny ground describes the heart that receives the seed and begins growing, but because of cares, riches and pleasures of life, it brings no fruit to maturity.

c.        Hebrews 2:1 – give more earnest heed lest we drift away.

 

 II.       Hindrances to Our Spiritual Growth

a.       God is not my priority!  

                                                   i.      If you intend to grow as a Christian, it is going to require that you make Him first in your life.  While it is true that as Christians we have tasks of living to accomplish, and maybe even some extra time to do some of the things we want to, one thing we MUST realize that God comes first and has an influence on everything we do.  Because of that, we are going to consider Him in EVERY decision we make. 

                                                 ii.      Sadly, many have divided loyalties.  They want to compartmentalize God.  They will give Him X number of hours in a given timeframe (maybe a week), but the rest of the time is theirs to do with as they wish. 

                                                iii.      Am I convicted?  Matthew 6:24 Jesus said we cannot serve 2 masters.
Matthew 6:33, seek FIRST the kingdom of God…
Luke 12:16-21 records the parable of the rich fool. God said to him, “Fool.  This night your soul will be required of you…” In his life, he failed to consider God and was called into account. 
Joshua 24:15-19, we’re familiar with vs 15 as Joshua challenges the people saying, “Choose for yourself this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”  The people said they would serve God, but notice vs. 19, “”

                                                iv.      As a Christian what kind of changes have you made in your life?  Are there sins you don’t want to give up?  Do you just want to barely get to heaven? (BTW, if we get there it will be “barely” – 1 Peter 4:8).  Do you regularly let worldly pleasures keep you from choosing God?

                                                  v.      As long as God is not first in your life, you will not grow as a Christian the way you should.   Don’t forget who owns the fence.    

b.       Materialism

                                                   i.      It is no secret that we are living in very materialistic times.  We live in a country with great prosperity.  And while that prosperity is not necessarily wrong, our nation seems to be no different than much of history.  With prosperity often comes arrogance, greed, self-reliance and lack of contentment.  And with this materialism comes a rejection of God. 
As previously noted, men who love darkness hate the light (cf. John 3:18-20) and will do anything they can to remove God from their midst.  They do this through education, entertainment, legislation and even the judicial system.  Friend, the real issue behind so many of our social problems is a lack of accountability to a source greater than ourselves. 

                                                 ii.      The Bible warns us against materialism in many ways

1.       James 4:4, 1 John 2:15-16  - loving the world and its things.  NOTE: Materialism is a form of worldliness.

2.       Matthew 6:24 – you cannot serve God and mammon. 

3.       Colossians 3:5 – covetousness, which is idolatry.  Notice 1 Cor. 5:11 – when was the last time you heard of someone withdrawn from because of covetousness?

4.       James 4:13-17 – your life is a vapor that appears for a little while then vanishes away. Notice vs. 17 in context, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

                                                iii.      Proverbs 30:8-9, Solomon wrote, “Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches— Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, “Who is the LORD?” Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.

                                                iv.       As Christians, we are living in this materialistic society and we are not immune from this mindset. The truth is, many Christians are not growing as they ought to because they care too much about this world and the things therein.  They have established a certain lifestyle that they worked for and maybe even sacrificed – and maintaining that level of comfort, and even luxury is their goal.  And when they are faced with the choice of serving God or this lifestyle, often God suffers.  Sometimes they don’t realize it.  Because they have compartmentalized God, they think they are fine.  But are they?

1.       Does our materialism keep us from giving as we ought to?

2.       Have we allowed our lust for things to drive us into debt so that we are limited as to what we can do Him and His cause?  Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender.  Are we slaves to our debtors (cf. Romans 13:8)

3.       Does our materialistic attitude cause us to look down upon or feel uncomfortable around others who are not like us? (Better notice James 2:2-4)

4.       Does it cause us to hesitate before giving something up in order to do more for the Lord and His church?  Does our personal debt limit what the church here can do?

5.       Which do you trust in more – God or your things?  Be honest!

6.       Would we honestly give up what we possess to keep following Him?  Think of that rich, young ruler in Matthew 19:21-22.  If being a Christian were outlawed and came with the cost of losing our possessions, would be still publicly stand up for Jesus?

                                                  v.      Notice again Luke 8:14 where Jesus directly states that – the cares, riches and pleasures of life choke out the word, and therefore bring no fruit to maturity.

                                                vi.      To overcome materialism, we need to:

1.       Learn contentment - 1 Timothy 6:9-10, 17 – we must learn to be content!

2.       Simplify our lives – get rid of the clutter! This includes physical, material clutter! Stuff will get in your way if you are not careful. 

                                              vii.      Truly, a materialistic attitude can hinder our growth as Christians?

c.        Distractions

                                                   i.      Another hindrance to growth, perhaps even more than materialism is time management.

                                                 ii.      We are living in such busy times. There is so much to do and so many choices.  In addition to work (which for some consumes their lives), there is exercise, recreational activities & hobbies, children’s activities, school, shopping, time searching the internet for whatever interests you, maintaining our homes and our lives, etc.   Sometimes we are so busy we have to micromanage our time on our smartphones and all sorts of calendars.   And, of course, we must sleep some time. 
Today, time is a more valuable commodity than money (i.e. Do you hire someone to mow the lawn for you?) 
Also notice how we are living in times where we so many “time-saving” devices, but even these seem to contribute to our busyness as we quickly find a replacement for the time we supposedly saved.

                                                iii.      The Bible warns us to use our time wisely

1.       Ephesians 5:15-16 – walk circumspectly, redeeming the time

2.       Luke 10:40-42 – Martha was distracted with much serving, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things…

3.       1 Corinthians 7:35, “…and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.”  It is in a context where Paul is addressing the married and unmarried.  There are some distractions we need to deal with in life, but sometimes we create far too many.

                                                iv.      As Christians, if we are not careful our lives will become so full that we don’t have time to do anything for God.    This can hinder our growth in many ways:

1.         It can affect my knowledge of God’s word because I don’t have time to study

2.       It can affect my closeness to God because I don’t have time to pray – “Seven days without prayer makes one weak”

3.       It can affect my relationship with my brethren as I am too busy to be with them.

4.       It can affect my ability to teach others – including my family, if I’m not careful!

5.       For some, it affects their working with the church- some fail to attend properly, others fail to participate – i.e. help with teaching classes, work days, involved in special efforts (such as Gospel meetings), etc.

6.       It can cause you to not examine yourself as you ought to – because of business, you don’t have time to stop ask if you are growing as you should.

7.       It can cause me to give God leftovers, instead of my best. 

                                                  v.      Dealing with distractions –

1.       Simplify your life – 1 Thess. 4:11 – lead a quiet life.

2.       Make time for God!  This NOT an option!  What is the FIRST commandment? Love God – Matthew 22:37! Don’t neglect “the weightier matters of the law” (Matthew 23:23)

3.       Learn how to balance your time so that what you do is for good.  

4.       Realize you can’t do everything, even if it is a good work. Learn to say “no”.

                                                vi.      Friends, am I too busy to grow as a Christian? 

d.       An improper mindset

                                                   i.      In our last lesson, we addressed the importance of a proper mindset.  There are many whose thinking is clouded so that it keeps them from growing.

                                                 ii.      Thinking I’m invincible – that I can’t fall – see 1 Corinthians 10:12, to him who thinks he stands, take heed…

                                                iii.      Cheap grace – grace is such an important topic for us to understand.  IF it were not for the grace of God we would be without hope (cf. Ephesians 2:4-10).  Grace is the prime factor in our salvation! We ought to thank God often for His grace. 
However, there are some who are using the grace of God to excuse sinful behavior.  I describe this as cheap grace.  Actually, it is not a new term.   It is attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a denominational theologian (much of whose writings I would disagree with), who in 1937 wrote a book called, “The Cost of Discipleship”.  In describing cheap grace he said, “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”[1]
Romans 6:1-2 – we CANNOT continue in sin and be pleasing to God. 
1 John 1:7, we must be walking in the light as He is in the light.
This can hinder one’s growth as he fails to see his need to change.

                                                iv.      Fellowshipping error – we have to stand for the truth – Jude 3 calls for us to contend for the faith; 1 Corinthians 16:13 calls for us to “stand fast in the faith” (NKJV) 2 Thess. 2:15 says, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. 
Along with this we are called upon to withstand error – Ephesians 5:11, 2 John 9-11, etc.
When we THINK it is ok to be in fellowship with those in error, this can hinder growth as:

1.       It affects your standing with God. 

2.       It can lead you to soften your stand for truth, or maybe your willingness to investigate the truth.

3.       This can even lead you, and perhaps others into error. 
In Revelation 2:14-15 – the church at Pergamos had those teaching and holding to error in their midst.
In Revelation 2:20 – the church at Thyatira was rebuked because they tolerated immorality in their midst. 
BOTH were told to repent (2:16, 2:22) or face dire consequences.

4.       Notice 2 Peter 3:17 - You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;

                                                  v.      Dealing with improper mindsets

1.       Change your way of thinking – FOCUS!  Colossians 3:2!

2.       Be humble!  Romans 11:20, “Do not be haughty, but fear” – spoken of Gentiles being grafted in. 

3.       You HAVE TO spend time studying God’s word!

4.       Bring every thought into captivity -

e.       There are many other hindrances we could address:  We lose heart, Indifference, being complacent, weak churches - the church is the pillar and ground of truth.  Can that be said of this church? (More on this next week); Forgetfulness, neglect, the stumbling blocks of others.  There are many things to be aware of.

 So how do we overcome these hindrances?  In addition to the observations in this lesson, refer to our previous lesson!  While there are specific details, if we implement the principles we discussed it will help us deal with whatever is hindering us – 1) Give God first place, including a reverent attitude toward Him; 2) Set your mind on things above; 3) Learn self-control and discipline, 4) With diligence work at overcoming whatever is hindering you.  5) Take it one day at a time!

We have seen some things that can hinder our growth.  Let us resolve that we are not going to let that happen.  We need to be the “good ground” – but to do that we need to get rid of these “weeds” and “rocks”! Hebrews 2:1-3 – How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation.  How about you?  Are you growing as you ought to?  Think about it!