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Doug Batchelor - The Keys to Christian Growth - Part 2


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    Doug Batchelor - The Keys to Christian Growth - Part 2
TOPICS: Spiritual Growth

I'd like to begin by just sharing a little amazing fact. You know, we like amazing facts here. The bristlecone pine that you find in the White Mountains of California, is the longest living tree in the world. And dendrochronologists have done a couple of core samples and they found one that they believe was over 5,000 years old. Now, they can't always tell exactly because the lines in the tree might sometimes be caused by several changes in one season, but generally they represent a year. And they have some of these trees they think that date back about 5,000 years. The interesting thing is, as old as these trees are, they don't get very tall, they grow very slowly. A 20 year-old ponderosa pine is taller than a 2,000 year old bristlecone pine.

Now, how are you growing as a Christian? Are you a ponderosa or bristlecone? The Lord wants us to grow and He wants us to bear fruit. And Bible tells us in 2 Peter chapter 3, verse 18, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever." I want to make it clear, you can be a Christian in one day, you can be a Christian in 10 minutes, you can be justified very quickly by accepting Jesus and understanding that commitment. But growth is something that is going to take time, it's something that happens in a process the Lord has naturally built into our lives, we call it the process of sanctification. But some people except Christ and then they don't do the growing part. A.W. Tozer said, "Some people find themselves in religious ruts, they find they're getting older but they're not getting holier. Time is their enemy, not their friend." And so just because you've been a Christian a long time does not mean you're growing in Christ, it's so crucial.

Now, let me quickly review the first three keys that we talked about that are important for a baby to grow. First of all, we grow by eating good food. What is the food? It's Word of God. "Man doesn't live by bread alone, but by every Word." Do you feast on the Word? Jesus said, "Give us this day our daily bread." Do you, on a regular basis, read His Word? "As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby." That can't be misunderstood. If you want to grow you need to be feeding on the Word of God; not only is it called milk, the Word of God is called meat, it's called honey. The law of the Lord is like the honey and the honeycomb. So are you reading the Bible, do you have regular devotions?

Another way a baby grows is by breathing. What does the breathing represent? Prayer, prayer is the breath of the soul.

Three, we grow by exercise. A baby, if they're just handcuffed in a crib, they're not going to grow, they wiggle and they scoot and they move, and we're so excited when they finally roll over, and they get into the combat crawl and start doing that lunge forward. Finally, they get up on all four and we're just praising them, we're so excited, and when they can take a few steps on two feet. Through all that exercise and activity it helps them grow, and part of the wiggling and the squirming is part of the growing process. Don't be afraid if sometimes the growing is slow, but be afraid of standing still. Have you ever seen kids, it's like they don't grow. I know Daniel, he was so short until he, you know, got to be like 13, and then he just shot up and now he's about six feet. And so some times the growth happens in spurts. Have you seen that?

And do you know something else about growing? You ever have growing pains? I remember one of our kids just aching and knees were hurting, and my grandmother told me an old wives' tale that if you tie a sock around the ankle it helps, and it seemed to work. I don't know if it was a placebo effect but we did it anyway. But growing pains, but to grow you need to exercise.

Now, we're taking up where we left off last week and I've just got four more here. In order to grow we need to be connected with a family. God designed that babies are not born out in the woods like mushrooms, they are born into families, where they have a mother and a father and they get the nurture, and we need the social relationship. Acts chapter 2:42, "They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, breaking bread, and in prayers." They were together in fellowship. If you want to grow you cannot be a maverick Christian, just out there on your own.

Now, there are some people, because of the geography and the culture there in, that Christianity's not allowed, and God will sustain them but it is so much better when you can fellowship with other believers. It helps you prevent becoming an eccentric, and take it from someone who lived in a cave. They used to have these ascetics and they thought, "In order to be holy, you must be isolated from all people." And like Simeon Stylite, he lived up on a pillar by himself because he was trying to stay away from the people so he wouldn't be contaminated or something, or be holier, could think more about God without distractions. There are days that sounds appealing, doesn't it?

I'd like to, like David said, if I could just make wings like a bird and fly away, be by myself, and I could be close to God and none of the temptations, not none but none of the typical temptations that come from being in the world. But Jesus didn't call us to be isolated, it says He wants us to be together. Hebrews 10, verse 24, "And let us consider one another," notice that phrase, "In order to stir up love and good works." How do we do that? By being together, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is."

It was a problem even back in Paul's day, where people were neglecting to assemble together, and what's the most important time in the week to assemble together? Sabbath Day. It's okay to get together in small groups, we should be doing it through the week, but the Sabbath is called a holy convocation. That word there, Leviticus 23, means a convening, an assembly, a coming together. And you know, it happens slowly, people, they miss one weekend, say, "I was really tired so I slept this one in, you know, God knows I needed rest." And then you find out they make it two or three weeks and then they miss two weeks. Then they'll make it for two weeks, then they miss three weeks. It doesn't happen quickly but they start missing and then, you know, then you're really at risk if we don't have that time together.

I think over 140 times in the Bible, New and Old Testament, you'll find the phrase, "One another." I did just a clinical computer search on it and it was about 146 times, "One another, one another, one another." In the New Testament it says, "Love one another," "Serve one another," "Comfort one another." It's really hard for you to be doing all that by yourself. Isn't that right? So we need to be spending time together. You know why? To grow, and also for your own safety. You know, when the devil gets the sheep, like a wolf, is when they're on the fringes of the flock and he can pick them off. There was a curse pronounced by Moses on Amalek. You know why? Because Amalek, when the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea and they came out, and they were young and they were old and they were weak and they were strong, and the Amalekites attacked. Let me read it to you, Deuteronomy 25:18, Amalek, "Attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear," the weak ones on the fringes.

If you want to be safe, you want to be off there in the middle. I'm fascinated with the way that these Emperor Penguins survive in Antarctica, it is the most blistering cold. That's an oxymoron, isn't it? The weather is just brutal, 60 below zero, and all of those, the male penguins are pretty dedicated, you know? The female lays an egg, plops it on his feet, and then all the males, they put the egg under their belly fat and they keep it warm, up to 100 degrees. They keep the egg 100 degrees even though it's 60 below zero. The way they do that is they keep it off the ice on their feet, they cover it with themselves and they huddle together, and they all rotate in the middle, they're all fighting to get in the middle of the huddle because then you're protected from the elements.

Fish, why do they swim in a school? Because they're weak by themselves but when they're in a school they can dazzle and daze their predator enemies and they don't know which one to focus on. And if I was a fish, if I was a sardine, have you ever thought about this? If I was a sardine, I'd be looking for the middle of the school, wouldn't you? And if you want to be safe from the devil, get in the middle of the church, get involved, get right out in the middle of it, get elbow deep in the dishes or whatever you gotta do, potluck, but get in the middle and we need one another. If you want to grow as a baby, stay in a family.

Key number five, rest. Now, some people think, "How do you grow by resting?" That's a fact, you need rest to grow. Dr. Cara Natterson, pediatrician, graduated Johns Hopkins and Harvard, said, "For children, sleep is critical as an ingredient to good growth." A lot of the growing, your body is not stagnant when you're sleeping, it's actually very active, lot of processes going on. There's repairing that's going on, there's cell multiplication that's going on, you're growing. And they've actually shown that growth can be stunted by a lack of rest, healing can be hampered by a lack of rest. So to grow we need rest. Psalm 37:7, "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him." Every Sabbath Day, I hope we do some growing spiritually and I hope we do some resting and I hope we're growing while we're resting.

It's not just talking about sleep, Jesus wants us to rest in faith. Matthew 6:27, "Which of you by worrying can add a cubit to his stature?" Can you worry yourself taller? So one of the things to do to grow as a Christian is trust the Lord that you will grow. You know, you get what you believe. The Bible says, "Be it unto you according to your faith." So after I did the first message on growth, some of you probably came away feeling guilty because you haven't grown more.

Trust that, if you do the things that you're saying, you're going to grow; babies don't worry about growing but they do receive the things that we're talking about. Mark 11, verse 22, "Jesus answered and said, 'Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, "Be removed and cast into the sea," and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask for when you pray, believe that you receive them,'" trust God, rest in His promises, and He said, "You will have them."

If you're worried about not growing ask God to move that mountain and help you start growing, and believe that He will. Faith will lead to answered prayer and answered prayer will lead to greater faith, that's the way it works. If your faith is small, you say, "Oh Lord, I've just got a little faith." There's a man that came to Jesus one day and said, "Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief." And Jesus could answer that prayer, He healed his son.

Key number six, I came up with seven keys here to growing as a Christian, is you need regular cleansing. A baby, as cute as they are, do need an occasional cleansing. Amen? They don't worry about it, they trust that their parents are going to help them with that. Sometimes they worry if it doesn't happen quick enough, and you'll hear about it, some don't care so much. 1 John 1:8, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we've not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us." So as soon as we recognize that we've fallen, confess it quickly.

Someone said you, "Keep short accounts with the Lord," don't let your guilt and shame pile up. As soon as you recognize that you've slipped or fallen, bring it to the Lord, ask Him to heal, to forgive, to cleanse, and His promise is He will. Amen? "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another." You know, this is, again, part of that church family, is that they're strength and intercession with each other for that cleansing.

And then point number seven is you grow in love. You know children actually grow better in a loving environment, and we grow in the love of God. I remember reading about this great Greek hero of the Olympics, his name was Milo of Croton and they said he was the strongest man who had ever lived. And he could put a pomegranate in his hand, is one of the many legends, and any other man could try to take the pomegranate out of his hand and they couldn't even damage the pomegranate because his hand was so strong.

They said that he was so strong that he could put a metal band on his head, he'd tightened his muscles, he could pop it off his head with just the veins. I said it was a legend. Supposedly, you know how he got so strong? When he was a teenager, he was given a calf, and he loved the calf and he picked the calf up and he put it on his shoulders everyday and carried it around, and he did that for 4 years, every day he'd hoist the calf. He was growing as a teenager and the calf was growing, and pretty soon he was known as the boy who could pick up a bull and carry it around. And he entered the Olympics and he won for nine years as the best wrestler, least that's the story. So, love, practicing, exercising love makes you grow to be more like Christ.

Now, how many of you want more love? Do you develop more love by living on an island by yourself? No, love must be shared to be experienced. That's one reason that, in order for God to have been eternal God, God needed to be the three persons. Because how could God be love and have no one to love? But if God is the only one that is eternal, in order for Him to be eternal God there must be more than one person or you can't express your love. Did you get that? That make sense? But the Father, Son and Spirit are eternal. In order for us to love, it must be expressed.

In the last days, one of the problems is that people's love is not growing. Notice Matthew 24:12, "Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow," the wrong way, grows cold. So love can grow, it can grow warm and it can grow cold. 2 Thessalonians 1:3, "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you abounds towards each other." There's a beautiful example, and I can repeat again, Ephesians 4:15, "But, speaking the truth in love, that we may grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ." "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child;" 1 Corinthians 13, "But when I became a man." How'd you go from child to man? You grew, and you grow in your love. And he says, "Now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but," what's the greatest? "Greatest of these is love." God is love, and most beautiful thing of Christ we can imitate is His love.

So, in conclusion, I want to ask, how do you know if you're growing? I mean, does God give us a Bible metric? He says, "Examine yourselves if you're in the faith." Well, do you know by the fruits? Jesus said, "You'll know them by their fruits," and you'll have the fruits of the Spirit. I've got seven questions you can ask.

For one thing, Jesus came to save you from your sin. Does sin in your life have dominion over you? Are you addicted to anything other than Jesus? You can't be a healthy Christian, plain and simple. I don't mean the occasional moral failure, the Bible says, "For there is none that does not sin." What we're talking about is where Paul says, "Sin shall not have dominion over you." Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore... since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us." How do we do this? We run the race by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Pray that God will give you victory.

Second point, have you forgiven others? Are you growing? Have you forgiven others that hurt you? Are you easily offended? Do you nurse a grudge? Do you stay bitter? Do you think about vengeance? You're growing as a Christian when you can quickly slough off offenses. Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." How does He want us to forgive? As Jesus forgave us. Growth means we're growing to be like Christ.

Point three, are you sharing your faith? Part of growth means to share it. Jesus said, "If anyone ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him," "But if you confess Me, I will confess you." That's a sign of growth.

Are you bearing the fruits of the Spirit? Are you new creatures? Galatians 5:22 has some of the best definition, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace." Do you have these in your life? "Longsuffering," that's patience, "kindness." Are you kind? "Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." Peter puts it this way, 2 Peter 1, verse 5, "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue," notice there's an addition happening here, "To virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control," this is a progression, as you get the knowledge and then you gain self-control, "to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and they abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful." You want to be fruitful? Then ask by God's grace and through his Spirit to add the Christian virtues that you can imitate Jesus.

Test number five, do you have regular time with God in prayer and the study of His Word? Good time with God is not found, it's made, you got to choose to make it. You're not just, if you're waiting for it to happen on its own, it doesn't work that way, set aside time with God. 1 Timothy 4:13, "Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine." 1 Thessalonians, as I read before, "Pray without ceasing." Daniel, three times a day, as his custom was, he knelt and he prayed and he studied God's Word.

Six, are you generous towards God and man? This is a test, you can sometimes tell if a person is growing by their faith and their generosity. Proverbs 3, verse 9, "Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all of your increase." Are we faithful in tithes and offerings? Do you care about others in need? Proverbs 28:27, "He who gives to the poor will not lack, But he who hides his eyes will have many curses." So we want to be growing in our generosity and trusting God. Are we cheerful givers?

Number seven, are you experiencing spiritual growth? Looking back over the past, can you identify progress? Do you see where you were tested, and by God's grace you were winning? Now, you know, sometimes in the Christian life you almost feel like you take two steps forward and then you take a step back, but then you take two steps forward and you see you're making progress. And so, do you see that you're growing? things where you used to fall or you were easily perturbed, are you becoming more patient? Are you becoming more loving? Are you becoming more kind, more generous? 1 John 1:7, "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."

You know, Jesus doesn't want us to forget the blood, He wants us to remember what His sacrifice cost, what our sins cost Him. If you've been taking sin too lightly, remember what it costs, it costs the blood of God's Son, and this is an opportunity to show our appreciation for that sacrifice by accepting it, asking Him to cleanse us, give us a new beginning. If we have ought against any brother or sister, then put those things away, be reconciled, and then it makes a way for the moving of the Spirit in your life, in our church, and we will see Christian growth. Amen?
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