3 Stages of Christian Growth (and how to avoid them)

Quenching and grieving the Spirit is the topic today, but first a little context on the role of the Spirit in our growth as followers of Christ.

We learned from Philippians 1:9-11 that there are 5 essentials in Christian growth.  We also learned that what sets this growth in motion is the Christian’s focus on God’s glory.  Lastly, we learned that what aids this growth is the Spirit.  If God’s glory is our focus, the Spirit will be at work in us – helping love abound in us, producing spiritual excellence in us, establishing personal integrity in us, and empowering genuine good works in us – all to God’s glory.

Simply put the Spirit’s work in us is to move us along a path to holiness.  Holiness means separate.  His work is to separate us further and further from sin, from temptation, from a preoccupation with the things of the world and thus closer to God.  This is the sanctifying work of the Spirit.

Today’s reading issues a warning not to retard the work of the Spirit.  (1Thessalonians 5:19)  Today we will cover three things with a quick summary of each: 1.) the three stages of Christian growth, 2.) quenching the Spirit and 3.) stoking the Spirit.

The 3 Stages of Christian Growth:

  1. Babes. Babes in Christ know the name of Jesus.
  2. Young Men. Young men in Christ are strong. They know the Word and use the Word (the truth) to overcome the deceiver.
  3. Fathers. Fathers in Christ know God.

12 I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.  13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.  I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.  14 I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father.  I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.  I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.  15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. – 1John 2:12-16

Quenching the Spirit:

1Thessalonians 5:1-11 and 1Thessalonians 5:6-22 give us instruction on Christian living.  In this instruction, there is a warning not to quench the Spirit.  Throughout Scripture, the Spirit is revealed to us as fire.  When a believer quenches the Spirit, the Spirit is grieved. (Isaiah 63:10, Ephesians 4:30)  When the Spirit is grieved it slows the Christian’s growth.  It is as if the Christian says “I’ve got this” to the Spirit by ignoring it and tosses a bucket of water on the fire.

Stoking the Spirit:

Stoking the Spirit is a term to illustrate the opposite of quenching the Spirit.  Here are three simple steps to stoke the Spirit.  The three steps for the recovering Christian:

  1. Read the Bible. (reading the Bible feeds the Spirit.)
  2. Listen to the Spirit. (quiet your life to be able to hear the still small voice and test what you hear against the Word.)
  3. Obey. (Luke 11:28, James 1:25, if there were a fourth step it would be: rinse, repeat.)

Stoking the Spirit is valuing the Spirit.  It is recognizing the Spirit as the source that empowers us to glorify God.  The Christian’s heart seeks God’s Glory, the Spirit sees it through. 

God, we need You.  Fill us with Your Spirit LORD.  May You reign in our hearts and may our eyes be Yours and Yours alone.  Amen.

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

Today’s picture is from a lesson to the Unit 5 Innovative Entrepreneur class. It was drawn to deconstruct a chapter on the leadership from Chief Hanna’s book Mastering Self: to Lead Self and Others.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 4, Paul helps us understand the responsibility and power of leadership.  As I read through today’s chapter, Chief Hanna’s principles on the power of leadership continued to surface in Paul’s life.  

Challenge: See if you can draw any similarities from Paul’s account and the image above as you read through the chapter.  If you find any that you’d like to share, or any other scripture that comes to mind, put them in the comments.  

I’ve included some takeaways from the reading below along with some other scripture that came to mind when reading it.

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.- 1Corinthians 4:1-2

A follower of Christ is a steward of the truth.  The mysteries of God have been revealed plainly to us in the New Testament. (John 14:26)  The steward’s job is to protect the truth from perversion and proclaim it unfettered. (2Timothy 1:14, Romans 1:16)  The Word of God saves souls so I can see why it is important to steward it well, (James 1:21) but what does it mean to be a faithful steward?

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. – 1 Corinthians 4:3-5

Perhaps the first step in being faithful is to recognize who we are to be faithful to. We are not men pleasers but God pleasers. (Ephesians 6:6-8)  We are slaves of God and we seek our Master’s glory.  We trust his Word and are not ashamed of it.  God is the only one fit to judge.  Comparison is empty if left to us.  Only One can compare rightly.  The Sprit compares us to God’s word.  This is a personal gift to help us each individually.  In the same way, we should not try to unwrap a friend’s birthday gift, we should not attempt to unwrap the Spirit’s gift of comparing others to the Word.  We only need protect the Word and proclaim it. 

And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you. – 1 Corinthians 4:6-8

Perhaps the second step in being faithful is to admit our position.  We own nothing but that which God has given us.  God has given us everything to steward for His glory.  

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. 1Corinthians 9-13

Paul’s proper view of himself places him at the bottom which gives him the personal power to minister, save souls, and bring glory to God.

I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? – 1 Corinthians 4:14-21

Paul’s example is faithfulness.  Words would not do, therefore Paul sent Timothy as a reminder of the power of a life.  Wisdom is not knowing things.  Wisdom is shown in a life lived well. (James 3:13)  Paul warns that he will inspect lives and discern the presence or absence of the power of God.

Worship in Spirit and Truth

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24

Whenever I come past these verses they grab me. The idea that God is seeking such people leaves me wanting to be found. Also the clear list of ingredients necessary for true worship that God desires; God is a spirit, therefore, these people He is seeking to worship Him must do so in spirit and truth. Not one or the other. Both are required.

In preparing for this post I sought teaching on “in spirit and truth.” Here are some notes from a sermon series on ‘true worship‘. 

Elements to worship in spirit:

  1. Spiritually alive: having received the Spirit and not grieved nor quenched Him through ignoring Him for nor drowning Him out with self.  
  2. Thoughts focused on God.
  3. The Word of God present as the source of discovery and truth in our lives.
  4. An undivided heart for God; A single eye for God.

Elements to worship in truth:

Worshiping in truth is all about worshiping what is true. God is truth. (John 14:6) Put another way, true worship is in an understanding of the truth. Put another way still, worshiping in truth requires understanding the truth.

Worship in truth admits the truth about everything. Including us, Him and how we relate; the past, the future, His promises. Everything as revealed in scripture. When I read Psalm 47:7 it seemed to ‘click’ for me.

For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm! (ESV)

The translation in the King James Version helped me connect to the meaning of worshiping in truth a bit easier.  

For God is the King of all the earth:
sing ye praises with understanding. (KJV)

Worship is a response to truth. Worship is a response to truth in that very same truth. Without the truth there is no true worship. False worship seems to have its formation in the imaginations of our mind and rationalizations of our heart. All of which point to a false and perverted view of God and His creation.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1:24-25

 

I hope these notes where helpful to you in our quest to worship in spirit and truth. Have an awesome day.  May God reveal the truth to you and may you draw neigh to Him and He to you.

Today’s reading: 2 Chronicles 16; Revelation 5; Zechariah 1; John 4

Suggestions for prayer: Admit your sinful heart to God. Like David did, confess that you are not be able to search out all of the sin in your heart. Ask God to find it and deal with it. Commit yourself to Him, trust in Him. (Psalm 139:23-24, Psalm 51:10)

Challenge: Consider getting to service early to spend time in prayer confessing your sins, humbling yourself and preparing your heart to worship in Spirit. Also consider allowing for time to reflect on the truth of who God is and who we are in relation to Him in order to enter into God’s presence to worship Him in truth.

For further study: Consider selecting a sermon from the series on ‘true worship and listening in for a while on your drive to work.

Deliver Him to Satan?

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 24; 1 Corinthians 5; Ezekiel 3; Psalm 39

August 31st, 2016

When first read, 1Corinthians 5:5 can have a puzzling effect on the reader. At least it did for me. Still when I read this and other similar instructions it causes me to slow down and think deeper on what I’m reading. A command to hand someone inside the church over to Satan, to abandon them, seems like it could be at odds with love which never fails (1Corinthians 13:8). It gives a feeling that we are being told to give up on a person. A closer look shows that is not the case at all.

  1. Abandoning the person to their owns ways will give them the best chance at learning the right way (1Corinthians 5:5). Perhaps condoning sin may have the opposite effect. God’s law is everywhere, convicting iniquity and reinforcing truth. It is there to help us understand that we are sinners in need of saving (Romans 7:7).
  2. The more I study this I have come to believe it is a matter of humility. The prideful lie is that this person’s salvation rests on our shoulders. That God is relying on us and us alone. That we must save them. More, that if we were to somehow offend them, that we would be responsible for their lack of salvation. That removing them from the congregation would somehow be our choosing to condemn him. If this were to be believed think of the consequences. How the sinful behavior could corrupt the whole (1Corinthians 5:6-7). Instead I think the truth is to love them in peace and entrust them to God, exercising the perfect balance between love and justice. The scripture tells us to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). The conclusion here I believe is that Paul was not giving up on this person but rather that he was committing them to God’s sovereignty and trusting in God’s plan for showing people their need for Him.

God thank You for Your justice that makes everything right: Selah. Thank You for Your love, perfect with no conditions. Thank You for Your Grace and Your mercy LORD and for coming to save us. May we love others with the love of Christ that You have given us. May we be fishers of men. Amen.  

 

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Recycling ideas and environmental garbage management solutions and creative ways to reuse waste as old paper glass metal and plastic bottles shaped as a human head as a symbol for reusable thinking and conservation advice.

1 Samuel 10; Romans 8; Jeremiah 47; Psalms 23–24

I want to piggy back on Mike Somer’s post, Deadly Thoughts, from yesterday. Mike helps us to discover that the objects of our desire are often of a worldly nature. Today, I want to talk about another component to our wanting which is why we want the things we want. Seriously, when was the last time you stopped to consider why you want a new, car, camera, phone, or a sweater? The answer is found in a simple test of our focus.

Think back to yesterday. Starting from the time that you woke up, to the time that you went to bed, make a list of all the things that you did. In order to maximize the results, be detailed about it. For example, if you watched TV in the morning, what show did you watch? If you surfed the NET, what websites did you visit, if you read a book, what book did you read? The point is to understand  the kinds and quality of information that we are putting into our minds. As a participant in this exercise, I viewed my web browser’s history. It reveals that I visited my email and business sites the most and often interrupted them with Pinterest, facebook, HOUZZ, Amazon, Pantagraph and Atlas Obscura. I want to give you a golden opportunity to do the judging for me. Do you think these moments in my day qualify as Godly, or worldly? Wait, before you answer that, let’s get a true test from the Apostle Paul. He says, “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). Now what do you think? The answer I came up with stings a bit.

The part of the test that stings is that it reveals my focus.  I spend much of my time filling my mind with worldly things.  To be fair, some of this is important.  It helps me run my business and communicate with people.  I will not, however, allow those things to become an excuse.  I must consider the alternative use of my time.  What if, instead of retreating to Facebook and Amazon, I reflected instead on God’s word?   How would it change my attitude?  Would it change the things that I want?  According to Paul, the answer is yes.  He equates living according to the Spirit with setting our minds on the Spirit.  The end result of this thinking is Life and Peace.  Galatians 5:22 expands that list to include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

To be sure, this BibleJournal project is a good start for setting our minds on the Spirit.  I don’t know about you, but I can feel the Holy Spirit nudging me, ever so kindly, gently and lovingly to allow him into my mind more often.  I intend to do just that.  Will you?

If you would like to learn more about how we can allow God into our minds, I recommend reading A Mind For God, by James Emery White.  In it, he discusses the consequences of Christianity’s passive role in learning and building strong, Godly minds.  He explains his “mission to prepare [his] mind to not simply understand the ideas of the world but to engage the ideas of the world.”  The simple truth is that until we engage His word in more intellectual ways, we will never be able to fulfill His great calling on our lives.

 

How is your walk with the LORD?

Today’s reading: Judges 10–11:11; Acts 14; Jeremiah 23; Mark 9

July 27th, 2016

I hear people asking each other, “How is your walk with the LORD?” I love when this is how we inquire of each other’s well being! Our pastor Mike Baker at Eastview likens our journey to a marathon as does another Pastor you probably know (1Corinthians 9:24). The key thing here in my estimation is the ‘with’ part. We do not try walk and run to win on our own. As we go we have a Companion, a Comforter, a Helper, who strengthens us (Ephesians 3:16). Today’s reading in Mark 9 had me thinking a lot about walking with Christ.In yesterday’s reading Mr. LaFrance asked several great questions. One that stood out to me, “Do I act in a way that I would in the presence of the Lord?” This led me to think on several other questions. What would walking with the LORD be like? How would I respond (Mark 9:5)? Would I know what to do (Mark 9:6)?  Would I walk with the LORD or would do my own thing and turn away? God says he is with us (John 14:16, John 14:26) so this is all still relevant today, but what does this all mean to me today? Immediately I began to recall several things.  

Grieving the Spirit. I once heard of a phrase called “grieving the Spirit.” Basically, my understanding is that it is when our thoughts, words and deeds choose and amplify self, we can push the Helper away and we enter into a state of helplessness.

The Fruit of the Spirit. We had a guest preacher at Eastview who helped me understand the proper response to the realization that I had grieved the Spirit. When I had realized that my thoughts, word or deeds had not been in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, or temperance, what should I do? I took away a powerful truth from his sermon, I AM the Vine:

“It is the fruit of the Spirit, It is not the fruit of anything you.”

The idea here is simple. If you realize that your thoughts were not longsuffering it is not a matter of getting better at longsuffering. “Mike you need to get better and be more longsuffering” is not the proper response. Instead, in truth, it is a matter of abiding in Christ. Getting closer to Him. He produces the longsuffering. It is the fruit of the Spirit, not of me. Praise God for helping us with this burden (Matthew 11:30)! I can not imagine if it were up to me to get better at all these things.

Running to the cross. I once heard a sermon about what the deceiver wants when we realize our sin. The preacher said the deceiver wants us to feel shame that keeps us separate from God. Like in the garden of Eden he wants us to hide and distance ourselves from God. Actually, the answer and the truth is the opposite. Run to the cross! Run to God! Do everything and anything to get closer to God! Praise God that He bore our iniquities (Isaiah 53:4-5)! Praise God that He invites us to Him. Praise God that He loves us even though we are sinners (Romans 5:8)! Praise God His love is unconditional!

Abiding in Christ. I was in a small group setting once where a friend had a whiteboard and in the middle he wrote the word “God” and drew a circle around it. Then he started asking the group “How can we get closer to God?” The group responded one after another as we started to brainstorm. One person replied, “Reading the Bible.” “Good!” he replied and wrote down, ‘Reading the Bible’ circled it and drew a line to God. Another, responded “Listening to Christian radio”, another “Praying”, each time he wrote down the response circled them and drew a line to God. One after another the group responded and eventually there was a web of thoughts, words, and deeds that helped us abide in Christ:

  • Reading the Bible
  • Listening to Christian radio
  • Listening to the Bible
  • Listening to a sermon
  • Praying with others
  • Praying for others
  • Thinking positive thoughts
  • Encouraging people
  • Being thankful
  • Going last
  • Loving people

Extra Credit

  1. Bring a blank piece of paper to the dinner table and write out God in the middle and circle it.
  2. Ask your family, “How can we get closer to God?” If it helps ask specific questions like “What can we (think/say/do) to get closer to God?” 
  3. Write down everyone’s responses, circling them and drawing a line back to God.
  4. Put it on your fridge.

Extra, Extra Credit

  1. Snap a picture of the drawing, post it on facebook and tag BibleJournal
  2. Consider also the principle of replacement. What are daily habits we have that we can replace to get closer to God? i.e. replacing watching TV with reading the Bible or replacing talk radio with listening to a sermon, etc. Pull it off the fridge and consider this with your family. Check in a few weeks back and ask each other how it is going.