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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Tony Evans » Tony Evans - Growth For Your Journey

Tony Evans - Growth For Your Journey

Tony Evans - Growth For Your Journey
Tony Evans - Growth For Your Journey
TOPICS: Spiritual Growth

McDonald's offers to supersize it, Sonic offers to Sonic-size it, Whataburger offers to whata-size it, and Wendy's offers to bigga-size it. In other words, what they say is "We can give you so much more". They offer to supply you with much more than your original request or expectation. In our study of 2 Peter chapter 1, verses 1 through 11, God wants to supersize your experience with him and of him. He wants to give you and me, us, a greater experience of his life. The Bible calls it eternal life, not merely everlasting life but eternal life, that is, the experience of the life of God in time as we make our trip to eternity. He wants to bigga-size his reality in you and in me and collectively in us. 2 Peter chapter 1, verse 8, "For if these qualities", the seven qualities found in verses 5 and 6 and 7, "if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ". "If these qualities," he says, "are yours and are", here it is, "increasing".

The word means to grow or expand. He's talking about your spiritual growth and your spiritual development. To experience more of God, you must expand your capacity to receive it. You must expand your ability to take it in. You must, he uses the word, increase the expansion of your faith through the qualities that he has listed. He wants to make sure that we are growing. Spiritual growth is more of Christ expressing himself through less of me. It is Christ feeling free to expand who he is inside of our soul. Let's review. When a person accepts Jesus Christ, they receive the seed of the divine nature. God himself moves into your soul. Your soul is your real self life. He moves in like somebody moving into a house. He moves in, but he moves in in seed form. That seed must develop in order for the full life that has been placed inside the soul to manifest its fullest expression.

A growth process must occur. Every believer in Jesus Christ has had the seed placed in the soul, but it must expand. It is in the expansion of the seed in the soul that Jesus Christ and the life of God becomes manifested as these supplements to faith begin to grow. Now, he makes it clear that these must increase. It must expand. It can't lay dormant. Your salvation was totally of God. He saved you by no works of your own. But your development includes you. There must be dependence on God while there is simultaneously the responsibility of man. You must utilize the divine resources but not ignore diligence in the human process. He is concerned that believers who possess the seed don't just let the seed sit there without developing, growing, expanding, or increasing. More of God through less of you.

Now, that's the goal: increase, growth. The great tragedy today is that you can be in church forever and not grow. You can be in church forever and God not have meaningfully expressed himself in you, to you, and through you. We call it stunted growth. Look at 1 Peter chapter 2. Turn back a few pages. Look at this. He says, "Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the Word so that by it, you may grow in respect to your salvation". So he takes something all of us can identify with, all of us can relate to, he takes the physical to teach the spiritual, which the Bible regularly does. He says, "If you wanna grow, let's just get this by looking at a newborn baby. Like a newborn baby craves to grow and feeds to meet the craving, believers are to crave to grow in relationship to their salvation and not be satisfied until it happens, 'cause that's the nature of a newborn baby".

So why are not more of us growing rightly? 'Cause we ain't hungry. "Like a newborn baby," he says, "I want you to crave the sincere, or the pure, milk of the Word". Now, spiritual development, like human development, does not occur in a moment. It occurs progressively over the consistent use of time. He says to desire like a newborn baby the pure milk of the Word. When a baby drinks its mother's milk, it does not need external add-ons. God has so miraculously put the woman's body together that he's built into the milk all the necessary ingredients for the baby to grow once it takes it in. What does he mean "to desire the pure milk of the Word"? Don't add human additives to it. Don't add human opinion to divine revelation when it's not the same or it's inconsistent with it. In other words, you don't need to go outside of God to get God to grow you in God. Don't put additives that are not consistent.

One of the reasons why we're not growing, even though we may be listening to sermons and reading the Bible, is we're adding man-made thoughts, thinking, approaches, to it, thus contaminating it so that it's not free to do its work, because God has built into the milk of the mother everything the baby needs. He's built into his instruction for your spiritual growth everything you needs. And he doesn't want man-made additives, because it makes the milk impure. Here's what you have to understand: The seed in your soul, the divine nature in your soul, is hungry. See, it's hungry because it's a seed, so it needs to eat. And so it's waiting for food so that it can expand in your soul. The food has to be consistent with what the seed can digest. And the divine nature can only receive divine truth. As the divine nature gets in divine truth, even truth you don't understand yet or cannot articulate yet, but because the divine nature knows it's true, it's gonna eat it. And when the divine nature eats divine truth, the divine nature expands in the soul.

So the question is, is it being fed? How much is it being fed? He says, "Like a newborn baby". Now, in order for you to be like a newborn baby, you must have spiritual discontent with your current status. The reason why you can't shut a hungry baby up is because it's discontent, going to be discontent, until it's fed. What you and I must understand that what's happening in our souls, that's providing spiritual misery, is a discontent for lack of feeding, that the soul is discontented. It's hungry and you're giving it a choir song. It's hungry and you've just given it a sermon. It's hungry. It's hungry. And the new nature is saying, "Come on now, come on now. I need to eat more than once a week".

Like a newborn baby, there must be discontent. But wait a minute, wait a minute. We just introduced a problem. Why is there discontent? Why am I not hungry? Why can I go days and weeks without interfacing with God in a meaningful way? What's wrong with me? 'Cause wait a minute, if a newborn baby is not regularly crying, something is wrong, something is wrong. Look at what he says in 1 Peter, verse 1, before he gets to verse 2. He says, "Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes". Preceding the "like newborn babes," what is he saying? Sin will kill all spiritual appetite. Let me say it again. Sin will kill spiritual appetite. If you want the appetite of a baby, you cannot be sitting, unconfessed, unrepentant sin, because, like eating a lot of donuts, it may taste sweet, but it'll kill desire for something nutritional.

So he says in verse 1, "Deal with the sin, and I'll give you back the appetite. When I give you back the appetite because you dealt with the sin, then I'll feed the new nature. When I feed the new nature, now you will grow". So the motivation for dealing with sin is not simply that it's wrong, but in addition to that, because it kills the newborn desire, and when it kills the newborn desire, you will not eat the right food, spiritually, and when you don't eat the right food spiritually, you will not grow. Like a newborn babe, desire the sincere milk of the Word that you might grow. And so the issue is, do you really want to grow? Do I really want to grow? Let me put it, growth, another way. Do I really want to experience more of God in time and not just have to wait till I meet him in eternity? Because the whole purpose of growth is the greater experience of the divine nature that's expanding in your soul.

So you must deal with the things that are quenching the appetite because when you stop feeding on the Word, you stop growing. God says there's a lot more to your salvation than what you got on the day you were born again. But unless you know what the book says, unless you're feeding it, it will not be your experience in the new nature. Your experience of God to a greater degree, you will not grow. You can be in church for a lifetime and not grow because you're not feeding. Why does God want us to grow? He says in the second part of verse 8 of 2 Peter 1. He says, "When you are growing", that is, increasing, he says, "you will be rendered neither useless nor unfruitful".

All right, let's go to that one. If God can get you to expand and become useful, James chapter 2, verses 14 to 26, you don't have to turn there, but he talks about having a useful faith rather than a useless faith, that your faith is only useful when activated. Faith to get saved is what God does. But faith for God to expand in you takes also what you do. You must act by faith, operate by faith. And so he says that will make your life useful and fruitful. Let me put it the other way: If you are not growing, you become useless and fruitless. If you don't grow, there will be nothing produced out of your life that has eternal value attached to it. You might be successful in the marketplace, successful with degrees on the wall, but when it comes to living life and experiencing me in life, you will be useless and fruitless if there is no increase in the new nature inside you.

Look at John chapter 15. Turn with me there. This is the quintessential passage on fruitful and useful. In verse 2 of John 15, "Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away. Every branch in me that bears fruit, he prunes it so that it may bear more fruit". Verse 5, "I am the vine. You are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit". Verse 16, "You did not choose me, but I chose you, appointed you, that you would go and bear fruit and that your fruit would remain".

See, fruit, it's fruit all through there. He goes from no fruit to fruit to more fruit to much fruit to remaining fruit in those 16 verses. It's all about being a fruity Christian. So let me give you the three characteristics of fruit. Number one, fruit always bears the character of the tree of which it is a part. If it's an apple tree, you're gonna get apples. If it's an orange tree, you're gonna get oranges. If it's a pear tree, you're gonna get pears. You're not gonna get pears on an apple tree, because the nature of the tree is not designed to produce that fruit. So the fruit will always reflect the character of which you are a part. If you are increasing in your spiritual development, you are going to become more Christlike in your attitudes and actions, character and conduct. You're going to act and react more like he would act or react if he was in the same situation you are in.

Christlike character gives you the ability to forgive things in your own human nature you wouldn't forgive to enable you to do things in your own human ability you were not able to do. You are able to respond as he would because you're plugged into that tree. Secondly, fruit not only bears the character of which it is a part, but fruit is always visible. You've never seen invisible fruit. You can always see fruit. You can always say, "That's an apple, that's an orange, that's a pear," 'cause it's visible. So if you're a secret agent Christian, you're not fruity.

See, a fruit Christian is visible. In fact, the more fruity it is, the bigger it gets and the more visible it becomes. It should be obvious that you are a follower of Christ if you're growing. If you were accused of being a Christian, there ought to be enough evidence to convict you. You shouldn't be found innocent of all charges, 'cause it is obvious. It's appropriate, but it's obvious 'cause it's just fruit, fruit you can see. Thirdly, fruit bears the character of the tree it's a part. Fruit is always visible. Watch this: Fruit always exists for the benefit of another. Fruit is grown so somebody else can eat it. Any fruit eating itself is rotten. So one of the reasons why we got so many rotten Christians is that their whole Christian life is only about them. When fruit is on a tree, the design of the fruit is for somebody else to pick it and bite in it.

So the question of being a fruitful Christian is, is there anybody else trying to take a bite out of your life? Are you having an impact on the lives of others? That's the problem with this "bless me" thing going around today. "Bless me. Bless me. I want my blessing. I want my blessing". Nothing wrong with wanting your blessing as long as you attach it to being a blessing too, not just being blessed but being a blessing. That's why he wants you connected to the family of God. He wants you connected to the family of God to give you practice in bearing a fruit that somebody else can take a bite out of. He says, "I want you to bear fruit". How do you become a fruity Christian? I'm talking about juicy. I'm talking about juicy.

You know, I'm not a rotten Christian eating itself, but a fruity Christian bearing the character of Christ being visibly displayed, and with other folks saying, "How can I become like you"? Notice what he says, verse 4 of John 15 still, "Abide in me". Second half of verse 4, "It abides in the vine". Verse 6, "If anyone does not abide in me". Verse 7, "If you abide in me and my Word abide in you". It means what you're hanging out with. Guess what Jesus said? "If you wanna be useful and fruitful, you gotta hang out with me. You gotta hang out with me". See, hang out. "Abide" means to hang out with, to stay, to saturate yourself in the environment of something. God, or the Lord Jesus Christ, wants to be your bestie. That's why he calls those who are abiding in him his friends, folk he hangs out with.

That's why Paul can say, "Pray without ceasing". He's not talking about getting on your knees for 24 hours a day. He was saying, "Stay hanging out with your bestie". Oh and oh, by the way, let me tell you what happens when y'all start hanging out together. Verse 7, "If you abide in me and my Word abide in you, ask what you wish, and my Father will do it for you". "Because we've been hanging out together, my Father gonna pay particular attention to your request 'cause you're hanging out with his favorite Son, his only begotten Son". You know what folk are hanging out with now? Social media. They hanging out in technology, and it has absorbed their world. But that technology can't answer no prayers. Jesus said, "You better hang out with me. Better hang out with me. Let's be besties. You abide in me, and my Word abide in you". It's a two thing: It's the Word, and then it's the person.

The Bible was never just to be a book. Jesus told the disciples on the Emmaus road, he said, "When you read the Old Testament, Moses and the prophets, they're really talking about me. Even though my name is not in the Old Testament directly, every page of the Old Testament is anticipating Jesus Christ". So he told them, "Even when you're reading Moses and Joshua and Amos and Obadiah, I want you thinking about me. The Old Testament was predictive of me. The New Testament is the revelation in history of me. The Epistles are teaching from me. All of this thing is about me. So when you read the book and think about me, I'm gonna show up through the book. So view it as a letter to you rather than simply information about me. The true knowledge means the experiential knowledge, not just informational knowledge, not just quoting verses, but you will experience eternal life, my life operating in you".

So look at this final verse, the last verse of 2 Peter chapter 3, "But grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen". Notice our word "grow" again. Same as "increase". Spiritual growth flows from God's inexhaustible supply of grace. 1 Peter 5:10 says, "God is the God of all grace". Grace is the goodness of God dispensed to you. There is enough for everybody. God does not run out of grace. In fact, Ephesians 2 says, "God's grace will be manifested throughout the ages to come". So in order to use up all of God's grace, it'll take you forever, ages to come. God's grace is his indispensable supply of goodness for his divine purposes and for our development, but it must be accessed, and the more the new nature expands in you, the more it can be accessed. What God says, "I want you to access, grow in grabbing what God is supplying, through the expansion of your faith and the knowledge of Jesus Christ," the knowledge of a person. When you go to a restaurant, you don't just want a menu that you can read. You want a meal you can taste.

If you only read the menu and leave, you're still hungry. The idea is to read it 'cause then you know what's in it, but then it's to taste and see that the Lord is good. God wants you to taste him, but you do not taste him simply by reading. You taste him by knowing and pursuing a personal, intimate, bestie relationship with the one you're reading about. And when that becomes the goal, "I'm gonna read my Bible, but I'm gonna look for the Lord, and me and the Lord will hang out all day long, and some days I'll have a formal reading time, someday I'm gonna put a verse in here, and I'm gonna put a verse in there, and I'm gonna put a verse in there. Sometime I'm gonna quote a little something, and, Jesus, you and I are gonna talk about some stuff," softly and secretly, the nutrients of God's grace will begin to flow in the divine nature, expanding in the soul. And folks are gonna say, "You're changing. What's happening"? And the fruit will begin to grow. There's enough for you.
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