Growth

1 Corinthians 3:1
“I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.

Paul mentions four types of people in the opening verses of this chapter. He refers to mere men (some versions read natural man), babes in Christ, carnal men, and finally spiritual men. These terms represent a natural development in the spiritual life of an individual. Natural man refers to a person before they place their faith in Christ. The natural man is living, breathing, walking, talking, perhaps even loving, giving, sharing and caring, but the natural man is separated from God, and living in sin. It is when the natural man hears the message of the cross, recognizes his need for a savior, and places his faith in Christ, that his sin is forgiven and he is born again into the family of God. At that point, he becomes a babe in Christ. Like all babies, the new Christian must be cared for. He needs constant companionship, encouragement, example, and a diet of the simple teachings of the Word of God.

Hebrews 6 gives a list of the foundational truths every young Christian must understand: “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, the doctrine of baptisms, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

When the young Christian ingests a healthy diet of the Word of God, he will begin to grow. Thoughts, words, and actions change, and many of the practices from the old life, are replaced with practices that are pleasing to God. Soon, the young believer is growing in Christ, and impacting others for the kingdom of God. They are no longer controlled by emotions, or by the influences of the world around them, but are now controlled by the Spirit of God. They begin to live a life that sets an example on earth, and stores up treasures in heaven. Paul refers to that individual as spiritual. Sadly however, this is not the route for every Christian. Some, after placing faith in Christ for salvation, never seem to grow out of infancy. Even years after coming to Christ, they are still struggling with the same doubts, fears and sins. Their Christian life is more like a swinging pendulum, than a walk with God. They “feel” close to Him at moments, and far away other times, they let the influences of the world influence them, and are constantly falling into sin. Sometimes, because of the guilt of constant failure, they seclude themselves from other Christians, and may even accuse the church of wrong doing. It is not uncommon to hear them use phrases like, “Christians are judgmental” to help justify the sins they have not outgrown.

Paul minces no words, he refers to that person as carnal, a word meaning worldly. While it is expected, and even cute, to see a baby act like a baby, it is sad to see someone still acting childish as a an adult. Now would be a good time to evaluate your walk with God. Are you growing? If you have been a Christian for only weeks, you should be seeking to surround yourself with godly influences and get to know the Word of God. If you have been a Christian for many years, you should see a dramatic and constant change in your life, because of the daily investment of the Word of God. The Christian life is a life of growth; like a tree, we only stop growing when we are dead.

Pastor Jim

 

One Mind 

Romans 15:5-6
“Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

imageThis chapter contains many prayers of which this is the first. Paul is praying that the church might be like-minded, or rather, have one mind. As we look at the church today we see it is anything but one-minded. Worship styles vary from rock bands to congregational hymns; some churches meet in traditional buildings, while others meet in schools, parks or store fronts. Doctrinally, some churches are Calvinistic, Arminian, or somewhere in between. We have pre-, post- and mid-tribulation teachings, and there are even different views on how to perform a baptism.

Individual Christians, within the same church, also have a wide variety of opinions. From week to week, one thinks the worship or sermon was excellent, while another complains about the length, delivery or content. Who is right? If Paul is exhorting us to have the same mind, which mind should we have? I suggest to you, Paul is not instructing every Christian to have my mind or yours, but to have the mind of Christ. Writing to the Philippian church Paul said,

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, . . .” Philippians 2:5

The mind we must develop is the mind that was in Christ; a mind-set that sought above all else, to be pleasing to the Father. “For even Christ did not please Himself…” (Romans 15:3). Practically, this was worked out as He lived for the things that please God, and exalted others above Himself. As we follow the life of Christ, we read of the needs of others being placed above His own. We know of times where He was hungry and tired, but that never stopped Him from investing in the lives of those around Him. The sick, weak, hurting, and unloved, all found a place of honor when they came into contact with Christ.

When I filter my thinking toward God and others, with the way Christ lived, I will find I am developing His mind. It is seen in laying aside the sinful things in life, placing the needs of others above my own, and seeking to please God above all else. Notice this is a commission given to every believer. It is not for a select few. Every Christian must live life by thinking of God and others, the way Christ did.

Pastor Jim

 

No Man Is An Island 

Romans 14:7
“For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.”

A Christian by the name of John Donne (1572-1631), is credited for the saying, “No man is an island.” He wrote it in a devotional message speaking of how our lives effect one another. Paul is writing about the same idea, because we are part of the body of Christ, our lives effect one another. The decision I make to follow the Lord will have an impact upon those around me, and their decision will impact me. In more recent times, a song was written with the chorus, “I don’t need anyone, I am really having fun being all alone, I am an island.” The song was a parody, where the artist was addressing the modern idea that our lives are our own, and our sins do not effect anyone else. Paul goes on to write,

Romans 14:8 “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

What a beautiful concept and wise way to live. When we come to the realization our lives do not really belong to us, but have been purchased by the Lord, we are free to live for His glory. There is no greater freedom in life than to live for the purpose for which we were designed. Instead of thinking of freedom as the ability to do whatever we want, we should realize, true freedom is found in living for Christ and others.

Pastor Jim

 

It’s All Good

Romans 8:28-29
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

The bible is filled with great and precious promises. Of these, the one recorded here may be the pinnacle. For the past two thousand years countless saints, facing a vast array of difficulties, have clung to this promise and found God to be ever faithful to His word. The promise itself is both simple and all encompassing. We are told, God is able to create good out of all things that life throws at us.

I don’t think it is difficult to understand what Paul meant by the word ‘all’. The English word means, “every member or part of, and the whole number or sum of.” The Greek word “Pas” speaks individually of each and every part of a whole, and collectively, it refers to the sum of all the parts that make a whole. Essentially, Paul is saying that every situation in life, no matter how random, unforeseen, difficult, painful or repeated, is like a tool in the hand of God that will be used to produce good in our lives.

Perhaps the most important word in this promise is the word good. If Paul is suggesting everything we face will ultimately be worked out for good, it is essential that we have a proper understanding of his terms. The word good is defined in the next verse where Paul writes, we are being conformed into the image of Christ. Every thing we face in this life is designed to bring us to Christ, and make us more like Him. My busy schedule, broken leg, fender bender, marriage, difficult boss, or trouble with the kids, are all tools that the Spirit of God will use to conform me into the image of Jesus. He will often do this by exposing things in me that need to be changed, then He will begin the process of removing them. The key is that we learn, in every situation, to cling to Christ as He performs a new work in us.

If you are struggling to see the good in what you are currently facing, remember that the good will come out as you cling to Christ, and allow Him to conform you to His image.

Pastor Jim

 

Homemade Religion 

Judges 17:5
“The man Micah had a shrine, and made an ephod and household idols; and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.”

The story of Micah is all too familiar. In a time when the Word of God was being neglected, Micah created his own “homemade religion.” He used terminology familiar to true religion, he had a priest and an ephod. However, his god, his worship, and his lifestyle, was really nothing more than a product of his own imagination. As time went on, his religion became even more organized. He established a priesthood consisting first of his own son, then of a wayward Levite, who pretended to be an expert on the things of God. Only in vocabulary, did this religion bear any similarity to a real relationship with the true and living God.

Sadly, though the Word of God is more accessible today than at any other time in history, we still find people creating their own god, and their own way of worship. It is common for these “homemade religions” to use terminology found in the pages of Scripture. They all include a god, some form of prayer and worship, and usually, a procedure to deal with misdeeds. The problem is, like Micah’s religion, they are nothing more than the product of someone’s imagination. While it is honorable to have a boat, a bookshelf, or even a home, that is the work of your own hands, it is not wise to build your own god.

The Bible declares, Jesus is the Faithful Witness. Everything we can know, and need to know, about God, is found in Christ. If you want to observe what God is like, and how to know Him, read the pages of the Bible. The best place to start is in the Gospel of John, where you will meet Jesus face to face.

Pastor Jim