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Sunday, February 26, 2017 am

SPIRITUAL INDICATORS - Am I Growing Personally?

 Tonight we want to address the need to examine ourselves spiritually to see if we are growing as we ought to.

Let’s begin with a spiritual audit!  When we think of audits, it usually isn’t a pleasant thing. But it is necessary.  That is why companies audit their books regularly – so that they can make whatever corrections are needed and to prove their integrity.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5 we are called upon to examine ourselves.   I am convinced that if we are to grow as we ought to, we must do this regularly.   And we understand this.  We regularly engage in such examinations with our material possessions (we see our accountant or financial advisor to discuss our financial future, we see a mechanic to make sure our car is running properly) and health (we go to our doctor for a physical).   In EACH of these illustrations, if there is a problem, we have gone to an expert and hope the attendant will take measures to correct it. 

But what our spiritual health?  The Bible tells us that our bodies are going to wear out (Eccl. 12:1-8, James 4:14, etc.).  But our souls are going to live on eternally, so it behooves us to take care of our spiritual bodies as well (or better) AND to examine ourselves from time to time. 

This is a process I describe as spiritual indicators.  An indicator is a device or standard that tells you where you are in comparison to where you ought to be (in a car - the speedometer, the fuel gauge, the oil pressure gauge, the temperature gauge, etc.).    A spiritual indicator is a standard (the Bible) that we use to measure where we are as it relates to where we ought to be in God’s eyes.   Consider James 1:22-25.  The “mirror” we are looking into is the word of God – the standard where we should be.   When we look into that mirror, we will see ourselves as we are in relation to that mirror.  These are indicators that can help us determine whether or not we are maturing as we ought to.  As we examine these indicators, are we willing to make the necessary corrections to be where we ought to be?  Tonight, will be the first of 3 lessons in which we will examine our spiritual lives. 

In this lesson, we are going to briefly notice some spiritual indicators we can use to help us examine where we are as individual Christians.  We are going to ask some questions for each of us to consider?  And as we ask these questions, we must be brutally honest with ourselves!  If you want to be right with God, this is NOT the time to make excuses or look for loopholes.  This is a time to examine ourselves and wherever we find flaws, we must seek to make correction.  Again, our eternity is at stake! 

 I.                     What Is My Priority?

a.       A priority is a thing regarded as more important than another, that which is first. 
In a recent lesson, it was explained that there can only be one TRUE priority.  There may be many things of different levels of importance, but that which is your priority is that which is first.  

b.       Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God…”    We frequently quote this verse and others like it, but do we genuinely put it into practice?

c.        Matthew 10:37-38, He who loves father or mother more than me…

d.       Acts 5:29, Peter with the other apostles stood before the council and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

e.       Understanding this, what is your priority?
This is easy for us to say, but do we genuinely put it into practice? 
As I make decisions, do I genuinely consider how it will affect my standing with God?
For what will I willingly sacrifice myself?

When faced with a choice between serving God or something I want to do, what typically wins out?
Am I willing to be counted as part of the chosen remnant rather than conform with the majority?
What if you were the rich, young ruler (Matthew 19), what would you do?
What if you were Peter standing before the council being threatened to quit proclaiming Jesus, what would you say?
What if you were in Joseph’s place before Potiphar’s wife?
As you read scripture, honestly ask yourself, “What if I were like…?”  Apply this to both the good and the bad.  Think of Abraham, Moses, David, Paul, etc. Think of Jesus.

 II.                   How Much Do I Study the Bible?

a.       The Bible is more than another book of philosophy.  It is the word of God!   It is imperative that we treat it as such.  
The Bible is how God communicates with us today.  It is our only hope of knowing what pleases Him.

b.       1 Thessalonians 2:13, they received it as the word of God in truth. 
2 Tim. 3:16-17 tells us that with it we have all that we need.

c.        Matthew 28:19-20 – The “great commission” of Jesus – Go and make disciples – baptizing and teaching them to observe ALL things commanded.  We cannot fulfill this command without Bible study!

d.       2 Timothy 2:15 – be diligent to present yourself approved unto God

e.       1 Peter 3:15 – be ready to give a defense. 

f.         Psalm 1:1-2, blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord…

g.       Do I study the Bible as I ought to?
How much do I know of God’s word?   Do I know more now than when I first obeyed?  Do I know more than last year?  Do I have a plan to learn? 
Am I able to share His word with others? (2 Peter 3:15)
 Am I convicted because I know what God’s word teaches?  (Not because of some other reason – parents, always been here, etc.)

h.       Recall how Hebrews 5:12-14 rebuked them because they had not learned as they ought to. Do I have a good grasp of what is being discussed in Bible classes? 
The way you are growing in the grace and knowledge of God is a spiritual indicator! (2 Peter 1:3)

 III.                 Do I Pray as I Ought To?

a.       Effective communication is a two-way street.   Just as the Bible is how God communicates with us, prayer is the way He has provided for us to communicate with Him. 

b.       It is a privilege that Christians enjoy – 1 John 5:14-15, 1 John 1:9, Hebrews 4:16 – we come boldly before the throne of grace…

c.        Continually the Bible emphasizes our need to pray – Luke 18:5-10 – the parable of the friend at midnight. 
Ephesians 6:18, praying always with all prayer and supplication?
1 Thessalonians 5:17 – pray without ceasing. 

d.       A study of the life of Jesus shows the importance of prayer.  Luke 5:16 – He often withdrew in the wilderness and prayed!  WE find Jesus praying in the morning and at evening.  Because He prayed often, His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray.  He did!  THOUGHT:  If Jesus, the son of God, Immanuel, needed to pray as He did, what does that say about us mere mortals?

e.       How often do I pray? 
Do I begin my day with prayer?  Do I pray at night?  Do I pray before meals?  What about in public (not as a show), but because it is who you are? (like Daniel) What and who do I pray for?
Do I believe God answers prayers? (cf. James 1:5-6, 1 John 5:14-15)
When I am facing problems do I turn to God in prayer?  When facing a serious decision, do I pray?
When all is well, do I turn to God with gratitude? (Ephesians 5:20, 1 Timothy 4:4)

f.         Year ago I learned, “Seven days without prayer makes on weak!”
How important prayer is to you, is very much a spiritual indicator.

 IV.                 Do I control my tongue? 

a.       James 3:1-12 gives us a description of the power of the tongue.  Though it is a small member, it can do great things, for good or harm.   That is why it is important that we learn to control the tongue.
In fact, if you are struggling with self-control issues, a good place to begin conquering your problems is with your conversations.  That is what James said in verse 2, “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.  It is because of this that the tongue is a spiritual indicator.
The Bible has so much say about the tongue both good and bad!   Proverbs 10:19 tells us, “in the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.

b.       We have heard it said, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me.”  While the idea is for us to determine we are not going to let what others say to or about us hurt us, the truth is – words hurt!  Words do great damage!  And in this electronic age, there is hardly anything that we can say that might not be heard by others!

c.        So how well do I manage my tongue? 
Do I find myself speaking before I think?  (James 1:19)   Do I struggle with anger and speak words in anger?  Does my language blaspheme the name of God?  Am I guilty of gossip?    Do I find myself telling filthy jokes?  Am I always truthful when I speak?  What is my demeanor when I speak to or about others?
Do I control my language when using social media?
ON the other hand, do I use my tongue for good?  Do I encourage my brethren and friends?  Do I defend my Lord and My God?  Do I warn those in danger, both physically and spiritually?

Do I THINK before I speak (Is it True, Is it Helpful, Is it Inspiring, Is it Necessary, Is it Kind)?

 V.                   Do I understand repentance?

a.       Repentance is a subject misunderstood by many.  Many see repentance as saying I’m sorry or feeling bad about something you have done wrong. Others see it as changing behavior regardless of motives.  Some see it as confession of sins.  While all these things are involved in true repentance, genuine repentance IS the changing of one’s mind that leads to a change in conduct. 

b.       2 Corinthians 7:9-11 describes true repentance.  It is a realization of doing wrong, resolving to stop doing that and changing the direction of one’s life.  It is from the heart that this happens.  Anything less is not genuine repentance and probably will not last.

c.        Repentance is a subject we need to emphasize greatly.  Far too many fall away shortly after obeying the gospel (cf. Acts 2:38, 3:19), and others due to a failure to genuinely reject the lusts of this world simply do not grow or produce fruit as they ought to. 

d.       Do I understand repentance? 
How well do I deal with sin?  Am I genuinely trying to repent when I do wrong? 
Do I find myself caught up in the same sinful behaviors over and over, even shortly after “repenting”?
As I repent, do I take steps to remove the sinful conduct from my life?

 VI.                 How much do I care about others? 

a.       As you study the life a Christian in your Bible, you will discover that it is NOT just about you.  Yes there is an aspect of the gospel that requires you to focus on what you are doing and not doing (cf. Galatians 6:6) for yourself.  Securing eternal life is something only YOU can do. 
However, the scriptures have so much to say about how we are to react to each other. 
It is reflected in our attitudes as well as our example in every aspect of our life.  We are called upon to serve others (Galatians 5:13).
Phil. 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.   In Matthew 5:44-48 Jesus told us that we are even to love our enemies! 
Some 7 times in the New Testament we are told to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
While we are to be careful in considering what we do and where we go, we cannot live in a commune and fulfill all the passages of scripture that tell us to shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Philippians 2:14-15).  As Jesus said, we are not OF the word, but we are IN the world (cf. John 17:15-17).

b.       So, as our final point, we notice that the way we care about others is also a spiritual indicator. 

Do I genuinely care about my neighbor?  
Am I willing to serve and help them, even to the point of sacrificing – whether it be my money or my time?
When I associate with my friends and loved ones, am I concerned about their spiritual wellbeing? 
What am I doing to be better prepared to share the gospel with them?
Am I being a godly example to those around me? Is the light of Christ and His word shining IN me and FROM me?

c.        The world we are living in desperately needs godly examples.  If we are to turn our society around, it is not going to happen with legislation.  It is going to happen by us letting our lights shine and by seeking to reach others, one neighbor at a time.

 

These are some spiritual indicators with which we can gauge where we are in relation to where we ought to be.  It is imperative that we be brutally honest as we examine ourselves.   If our examination shows a need for change, then we need to repent and get to work changing it.  A doctor can tell you what is wrong and give you the cure, but if you don’t follow his instructions, you are not going to get better.  Through the word of God, the GREAT PHYSICIAN has examined us and tells us what we need to change.  Are we willing to listen to Him and obey Him (Matthew 28:19-20)?  Our eternity depends on it!