Robert Jeffress - Growing Up By Growing Strong - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The Bible tells us that if we're genuine followers of Christ, we should be growing more and more like Jesus with every passing day. So can you honestly say that you're more spiritually mature than you were two, six or even 12 months ago? Today, we're going to address both the symptoms and the cure for spiritual immaturity. My message is titled "Growing Up By Growing Strong" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Well, pastor, when you talk about being a slave to the old nature, when you talk about being self-centered, when you talk about focusing in on people and not God, you're describing me. I'll admit I'm a carnal Christian, I haven't grown. But so what, nobody's perfect. I know I'm going to heaven one day. Why should I be concerned about being a carnal Christian? Let me share with you the three consequences in scripture of remaining as a carnal Christian. Turn over to Hebrews chapter six, Hebrews chapter six. The discussion actually begins in chapter five, verse 12, where the writer of Hebrews says, "By this time you ought to be teachers, but you have need of somebody to teach you the elementary things. You cannot handle meat. You are only fit for the milk of the word".
And so he gives this rousing challenge in verses two and three of chapter six. He says, "congregation, let's move on toward maturity, and this we will do if God permits". Well, what happens if we don't take that challenge and move to maturity? He discusses beginning in verse four the consequences of remaining as a fleshly Christian. Look at it beginning in verse four. "For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit and have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put him to open shame".
The first danger of a carnal Christian is the carnal Christian is in danger of being led astray. He is in danger of falling away. Now, whenever you read the book of Hebrews, you have to understand the term "Falling away" is always used to refer to those believers, not who lose their salvation, but lose the benefits of their salvation. Back in chapter three of Hebrews, he likens them to the children of Israel who because of unbelief did not enter the Promised Land. Did they lose their salvation? No, but they died in the wilderness without ever experiencing the rest of God. And he says be careful that you too don't make the same mistake and fall away from the living God.
A carnal Christian who doesn't grow, who remains stunted in his spiritual growth, will be led astray and will fall away from the faith. Specifically, he's in danger of, number one, falling into false doctrine. If you don't grow into your faith, you are going to fall at some point for false doctrine. Why is it that the number one source of converts for Mormonism, the number one source is southern Baptist? Did you know that? Why is it? Because so many southern Baptists never grow in their faith. They hear the message about how to be saved, but they stop there, they're stunted in their spiritual growth. They never go on to the deeper things of the word.
Secondly, a carnal Christian is in danger of falling into sin. They never grow, and then what happens? There's some disruption in their life, some crisis, or some disruption in the church they're attending. They become disillusioned, disenchanted, quit reading their Bible, quit attending church, and then they fall into sin.
The first consequence of being a carnal Christian is the danger of being led astray, either by false doctrine or by sin. Secondly, the carnal Christian is in danger of losing his rewards in heaven. Look at verses seven and eight of Hebrews six. "For a ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled receives a blessing from God. But if the land yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed and it ends up being burned". Land is supposed to produce vegetation. Christians are supposed to produce fruit. What happens to land that doesn't produce vegetation? It gets close to being cursed. What happens to a Christian who fails to produce fruit in his life? He is close to being cursed. He doesn't bring forth fruit and therefore he misses the rewards that God has planned for him in heaven. Anybody who tells you that heaven is going to be the same for every Christian doesn't know what he's talking about. There are going to be degrees of heaven. The eternal experience will not be the same for every Christian.
Now, I know what some of you're thinking. You're thinking, "If I can just make it there, that will be fine. As long as I'm in heaven, forget those rewards. I'll have a great time here on earth and then I'll get to enjoy heaven. I'll have the best of both worlds. I really don't care about eternal rewards. They don't mean that much". You better think again. Next week, we're going to look at Paul's discussion of rewards in heaven. But in 3:15 of first Corinthians, he talks about the Judgment Seat of Christ. And he says if any Christians works are determined to be fruitless, worthless, he will suffer loss. If you forfeit rewards in heaven, you will experience real, measurable loss that will produce grief in your spirit as you see what could have been yours had you only been more faithful to Christ. The believing Christian who remains fleshly, carnal is in danger of losing his spiritual eternal rewards. Not only that, thirdly, the carnal Christian is in danger of facing the discipline of God.
Look at this in verse eight of Hebrews chapter six. "He is close to being cursed and ends up being burned". That word burned doesn't refer to eternal damnation. It refers to the discipline of God. Stay with me on this. If a farmer had a piece of land that had been overcome with thorns and thistles, he didn't sell the land, necessarily. He didn't curse it. Instead, he set it on fire. And the reason he set the land on fire was to burn away the thorns and thistles and prepare it for future fruitfulness and cultivation. There are some of you here tonight, some of you listening to this message who are living apart from God. You know there are things in your life that are displeasing to your Heavenly Father. You are close to being cursed and you're going to end up being burned.
That is, you are going to face the severe discipline of God in your life. Not because God hates you, but because he loves you, he will not allow you to remain in that carnal state without serious intervention in your life. Listen to the words of Hebrews 10:26 and 27 and verse 31. "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment, for it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God". The writer's not talking to non-Christians, he's talking about Christians who go on sinning after knowing the truth. There's nothing left for them but the judgment of God. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
I want to tell you as a pastor, I've seen what God does with disobedient Christians. I've seen disobedient, carnal Christians go through bankruptcy, illness. I've seen them experience the loss of a loved one. I've seen all of those things happen to carnal Christians. Not because God hates them, but because he loves them and he does not want to see them live in disobedience. Remember the words of Hebrews 12:6 to seven, "For those whom the Lord loves, he disciplines and he scourges every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you endure. God deals with you as sons, for what son is there whom his father does not discipline"?
Maybe you would say tonight, "Pastor, I don't want to remain a carnal Christian. I don't want to fall away from God into sin, into false doctrine. I don't want to lose my eternal rewards. I don't want the pain of going through God's severe discipline. What can I do to change my spiritual status? What can I do to grow instead of remaining a baby Christian"? Interestingly, when you look at the cause of being a carnal Christian, you also find the cure for being a carnal Christian. What were the causes of carnality? A wrong diet and a lack of exercise. Don't be surprised that herein you find the cure for carnality as well. If you want to no longer remain a carnal Christian, first of all, it means a change of your spiritual diet. Specifically, that means a commitment to spiritual food so that you can grow, a commitment to spiritual food.
Now, at the risk of telling you even more about my digestive system, any of you that have been around me much at all these last three years know that any time I'm served a meal here at the church, they always bring me a big plate of broccoli. Dr. Criswell got milk with ice in it, I get a plate of broccoli. And I eat it just about every meal. Not because I like it. Some people think, "Oh, you just really must like broccoli". I can't stand it, I hate it. I hate every bite of it, but I do it not because I like it, I do it for my health. And it's the same way with our spiritual health. We need, if we're going to grow up in Christ, to change our spiritual diet. We need to go from milk to the meat of God's word. But here's the difference between God's word and broccoli. I've never developed a taste for broccoli in 20 years, but God's word, if you've been off of it for a while, may at first tend to taste like broccoli to you, but very quickly the taste will change.
Remember what the Psalmist said in Psalm 119:103 to 105? "How sweet are your words to my taste. Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth. From your precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path". I promise you this, if you'll start reading God's word again on a regular basis, soon that taste will develop for God's word and you'll want more and more and more of it. If you're really serious about growing up in Christ, it means starting a change in your spiritual diet to say I don't care whether I feel like it or I don't feel like it, I'm going to make God's word a regular part of my life. But it's not enough to stop with your diet.
Secondly, there has to be a commitment to spiritual exercise. Remember, the natural pull of life pulls us toward carnality. If we do nothing, we will be pulled toward carnality. And that means we have to exert effort if we're going to grow up in Christ. We said that we have to exercise ourselves spiritually by service. That's one way we participate in spiritual exercise. We get involved in a ministry someplace. You know, exercise requires effort. It requires us to strain a little bit, doesn't it? It's the same way with getting involved in a place of service. The Bible says we need to exercise that spiritual gift that God's given us. We need to be teaching Sunday school or working as a department director or singing in the choir or serving in any variety of capacities here.
Some of you might say, "Well, I'd like to do that, but I just can't do that. I'm out out of town too much". Well, you know what, you're telling the truth. If you can't serve in the church because you're out of town too much, you're out of town too much. Change your schedule. There's nothing that says you have to be gone every weekend or every other weekend. Make God's house and service to him a priority. But stay with me here. We exercise ourselves spiritually not only by service, but also by obedience. Remember the problem with the Hebrews? They had not trained themselves to practice good versus evil. The way we train ourselves spiritually is to obey what we know to be true, even if it causes us pain.
There are some of you right now, it's no mystery to you what God wants you to do, but you don't want to do it because it would hurt too much to obey God in this area of your life. Maybe God has told you about a relationship that needs to be changed or abandoned. You don't want to do it because how hard that would be. Maybe there's an addiction that has enslaved you but you don't want to give it up because it's providing some fulfillment right now. It would be too painful to let go of that addiction. Maybe there's a command that God is speaking to you about that you know you need to start obeying. Maybe it's a command like tithing to the Lord's work, but you don't want to do it, it would be too costly, too painful to do that. Remember the saying, no pain, no gain. The way we're going to grow in the Christian life is by exerting ourselves, doing those things that are painful, not the easy things. I promise, this is our last scripture.
Turn over to first Timothy 4:7 to eight. I memorized this passage a long time ago. I encourage you to do this as well. Paul said, "But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of Godliness. For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but Godliness is profitable for all things since it holds the promise both for the present life and also for the life to come". Underline that word discipline in your Bible. You know what the Greek word is? It's the word we get gymnasium from. Literally, Paul says gymnasize yourself for the purpose of Godliness. You can just smell the sweat all over this verse. You know what a gymnasium is, it's the place you go and you work out, you exert effort.
And what Paul is saying is there's nothing wrong with physical discipline. That's good to discipline your body. But if you will spend the same amount of time and exert the same amount of effort disciplining your spirit for Godliness as you do your body, you'll have an even greater payoff, you know why? You can eat the right things all you want to, you can exercise all you want to, it doesn't matter in the end, because in the end, your body is going to deteriorate and die and become worm food, did you know that? There's nothing you're going to do to stop that process. But when you take that same time and effort and discipline your spirit, guess what? Your spirit you're going to carry with you through all eternity. And that's why Paul says discipline yourself for the purpose of Godliness.
In his book, "Odyssey," John Sculley, the one-time CEO of apple computers, tells about his life at Pepsi Cola before he went to apple. And he tells specifically about the discipline, the drive of some of those executives at Pepsi Cola for excellence. That desire to succeed in their work even extended to their physical exercise. He writes, "The culture demanded that each of us be in top condition, physically fit as well as mentally alert. At lunchtime, the glass walled corporate fitness center was packed with the rising stars of the corporation. Like me, there were all kind of people who would rather be in the marines than in the army. Even our exercise regimens became a part of the competition. Placards on bulletin boards charted each executive's progress against his colleagues".
These men were willing to pay whatever price necessary to succeed about their jobs. What about you? Are you willing to pay whatever price necessary to succeed in your relationship with God? Are you willing to say, "Pastor, I'm willing to spend whatever time necessary, I'm willing to exert whatever effort necessary, I am willing to endure whatever pain necessary to grow in my relationship with Christ"? The cost of success and spiritual growth is great. The cost of failure is even greater.