The Essentials: Introduction

Christian growth is increased similarity to Jesus Christ.

Col. 2:6-7…1 Cor. 3:1-3….2 Cor. 3:18…Heb. 5:11-14….Eph. 4:11-16

The Christian life is a changing life.  We are constantly changing to be more and more like the One who never changes.  That, in a nutshell, is what Christian growth is. Our new sermon series examines seven essentials that are present in the life of every growing Christian:  Conversion, Fellowship, Bible, Prayer, Giving, Serving, and Obedience.

What is Christian growth, exactly?  It goes by different phrases or terms such as “maturing”, “sanctification”, “Developing”, going from “infancy to adulthood”, going from “milk to meat”.  But a simple way to define it is this: Christian growth is increased similarity to Jesus Christ. Decreasing differences between us and Him. Ongoing change in me that makes me resemble Jesus more.  We are becoming less and less what we used to be and more and more of what God intends. A greater and greater difference between us and the world around us.

 

What is not Christian growth?  Christian growth is not being able to win the Bible trivia contest.  Christian growth is not being more active in relieving social problems.  Christian growth is not getting more and more involved in activities that facilitate Christian growth.  

 

Why is Christian Growth important?  It is the expectation of God.  It indicates spiritual health. It results in rewards when we stand before Jesus.  It gives us credibility with the world (Illustration of John Gierach getting boots repaired).

 

What will be seen when there is Christian growth.  Fruitfulness, usefulness, discernment, knowledge, wisdom, God-like love…

 

Expectations of Christian growth?  There are three expectations.

 

First, God’s expectations of us.  Stagnancy is not God’s will.  Brought into this new life in Christ we are to go forward and growth.

 

Secondly, our expectations of our own growth.  We must expect ourselves to grow.  We must expect something from ourselves in order to grow.  We must expect it only happens intentionally and sacrificially.  We must expect it to happen slowly, incrementally, gradually. Quote from Green Letters “Time” chapter.  Expect we will grow if we are committed and intentional in our walk.

 

Third, others’ expectations of our growth.  This means that other people expect Christians to act like Christians.  By your love they will know you are my disciples.Believe it or not, other people expect us Christians to act like Christians.  If you want the respect of the world then make sure your actions line up with your beliefs as a Christian. It’s admirable to watch someone conduct themselves in a way that upholds their beliefs.  On the other hand, we balk when someone’s words and actions don’t line up. Most despicable of all though is a Christian whose mouth speaks of Christ but who’s life says something else.

 

Difficulties that come with Christian growth.  Growth in the Christian life is a frontal assault on your sinful nature.  It is taking the sword and cutting down the dragon of sinful desires that lives inside of you.  It will demand humility and consistently acknowledging Jesus has full rights to your life. It is self-denial:  that rigorous skill of refusing to give yourself what you want in a particular moment. Montaigne said, “Virtue shuns ease as a companion..It demands a rough and thorny path.”  How much more does Christian virtue then shun ease? Theodore Roosevelt said, “I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but, the doctrine of the strenuous life.” The Christian life, lived right before God, will despise ignoble slothfulness, and have its fill of strain as godly virtues are being formed in it.  

 

Difficulties that come when there is no growth.  

  • Discipline from God (Heb. 12:4-7)
  • consequences of foolish, sinful and/or worldly choices (David and Bathsheba)
  • Ruptured relationships over immature and stupid reasons (1 Cor. 3:1-3)
  • loss of reward (1 Cor. 3:14; 2 John 8)
  • turning others off to Christ.
  • leading other Christians into sin – other Christians who know you are following your example.  Yes, they are.
  • Emptiness.  There is no emptiness like the backslidden Christian’s emptiness from walking apart from the Lord.  You’ve tasted it.
  • guilty conscience.  
  • shame and embarrassment  

 

So we will explore 7 essentials of Christian growth:  Conversion, Fellowship, Bible, Prayer, Giving, Serving and Obedience.

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