Poking Out Your “I’s”

There is an important step in spiritual growth after the babyhood stage of Christianity. Growth means more than the acquisition of “knowledge” as Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 8:1

“Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies (makes us grow up)”

In other words, if our goal is just to “know all we can” about the Bible, we will lean towards pride, being puffed up, and this is what generally happens to people who just “stay home and study” but never learn the importance and value of community among believers in Christ.

Maturity in the life of a Christian is evidenced by “love of the brethren” as Apostle John stated in 1 John 4:11.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”

This kind of love develops through relationships otherwise it is loving in word only and not in deed.

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” 1 John 3:11

 A huge acceleration will take place in a person’s spiritual growth in Christ when they make a commitment to live in community with other believers. I’m not suggesting that we all sell our homes and go in for communal living as that is not what Scripture teaches. But the Bible does teach that we are to “share life” with other believers, it is the Greek word “koinonia” meaning “partnership, communion, and fellowship.” 

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John1:7

God has made provision for our fellowship by instituting the Local Church as the place where believers have “partnership, communion and fellowship” in order to grow strong in the Lord and be effective witnesses in our world.

Again, growing spiritually means more than getting Bible knowledge, which we can all do by watching tv and reading books. But we cannot “grow in love for one another” with out “relationship” with “one another.” Real growth takes place after relationships are formed where we actually have to deal with each others strengths and weaknesses, develop the Fruit of the Spirit, and learn to work together on God’s projects for our City, State and Nation.

The big hindrances to growing out of babyhood stages include the following “I’s”.

IGNORANCE –  Many believers are not involved in the life of the Local Church due to ignorance, they just haven’t discovered what God said about it in His Word. A study of all the “one another’s” in the New Testament will provide the revelation.

ISOLATION – Other believers know they should be engaged in the life of a Local Church, but they remain isolated for a variety of reasons. Someone has “hurt their feelings” and they have forsaken the community through offense. Or, some have been abused by authority figures in life and are living in fear of abuse from others. On and on we could go with the reasons for isolation, but the result is the same, they will remain “baby Christians.”

INDEPENDENCE – This is by far one of the main reasons why many Christians stay aloof from the community of saints, pride. Pride is earmarked by the independent spirit that says, “I don’t need the Church; I have Holy Spirit and He will teach me.” There is often an unwillingness to work with others unless “I can be in charge.” Pride looks down on others as not being worthy of “my company” because I am “so spiritual.”

I’m sure you have met people with one or all of these issues that keep them in “babyhood Christianity.” It is time for believers to make spiritual maturity a priority in their lives and become the people God can use to bring transformation to our world. We must obey the Word of God that teaches to “live in Community” with the saints and learn to “love one another.” One of the greatest enemies to our testimony as Christians is the lack of involvement in the Local Church. Without commitment, there can be no conviction to our testimony. See you at worship service!

Dr. John

God’s Plan For Sundays

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 2.57.40 PMA national outreach program called “I Love Sunday’s” was just concluded with over 30,000 churches participating, including Faith Church International in Fairmont, WV where I am Senior Pastor. The messages were very helpful in refocusing our priorities and the use of Sunday as a day God intended for physical rest and spiritual refreshing. Another aim of this series was to give people who attend church regularly an opportunity to invite those who don’t. The efforts were successful at our campus with many new guests in our Sunday services. Our prayer now is that all the folks will get in the habit of using Sunday as God intended, and continuing to invite others as a matter of course.

While reading Acts 20 recently, I noticed a passage that shows how Christians in New Testament times met on the first day of the week (Sunday) to do at least three things that we should also practice today.

“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them; ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” Acts 20:7

  1. The disciples came together. Scripture exhorts us to “assemble together” regularly to provoke one another to love and good works. Hebrews 10:23-25
  2. The disciples broke bread. This can be a reference to eating together, and/or taking the Lord’s Supper.
  3. The disciples heard Paul preach the word. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God under the anointed ministry of the local church eldership who are five fold gifted ministers.

This was the practice of the first Christians, and one reason the early church was so effective in turning the world upside down. We could summarize these three points by saying that an effective Church/Christian will understand the need and importance of a “corporate unity” (coming together for a common purpose), “to establish close relationships with other believers” (breaking bread) and to “grow in faith” (hearing the Word of God).

EFFORTLESS PRODUCTIVITY

14594305_sJesus told the Parable of the Vine and Branches (John 15:1-6) to show us how to become productive people in regard to spiritual fruit.  From this parable we learn that our lives can become increasingly productive as we bear “fruit”, “more fruit” and “much fruit.”  Moving from one stage of productivity to another corresponds to our maturity as we grow from “babyhood” to “childhood” and finally to “adulthood” in the Christian Life.

FRUIT THAT GETS BETTER

As with any fruit tree that produces fruit, is pruned and continues to produce, its fruit gets continually more delicious and rich.  As Christians who are also growing spiritually, our “fruit” of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) will also get more rich as time goes by.  So what is the key to this abundant fruit in our lives?  It is the “sap” that flows from the Vine to the branches.

FROM FUNCTION TO FLOW

The branches have only one function, and that is to “receive” the Sap that flows from the Vine continually.  We must learn that the branches can do nothing without the Sap, the Holy Spirit that is given to us, from the Vine, which is Jesus Christ.  If there is little flow of Holy Spirit into our lives, there will be little fruit produced, and if there is a great flow of Holy Spirit there will much fruit.  The key is to learn what Jesus meant when He said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).  We are not to struggle to produce fruit from our own flesh, or self-effort.  No, we are to continually receive the flow of God’s Divine Life into our spirits by spending time in communion with Him daily, resting in His Presence and waiting for the Sap to flow from the Vine.

ACTIVE REST

Coming to the place of rest in Him is to realize that we are in absolute dependence on Him for Life.  When we know we are totally dependent, we wait without anxiety, knowing He will give us what we need.  If we are to speak to someone about Christ, we are assured that His Life in us will flow from us to the person we seek to reach with the gospel.  If we need longsuffering to deal with a difficult person in our lives, we need not struggle, but to look to Him for the Sap to flow and bring forth the beautiful fruit of Christ-likeness in us.  If we are challenged with a problem that needs to be solved, we rest in the assurance that Wisdom will flow into our “branch” and bring the solution.  In our own “selves” we can do nothing, but through Christ we can do all things necessary (Philippians 4:13), because we have learned to depend on Him and allow His Life to flow into us as the Sap flows from the Vine to the branch.