Trinity Assembly of God Midlothian

Made to Grow

I am the Church – Part 6

Growing – February 17, 2019

Today, we come to the next part of the “I am the Church” series. Along with this series, we are reading, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. If you haven’t already done so, you will read much of the material from this message in today’s reading.

          We are convinced that life works best when people live in right relationship with God and with each other. We believe these right relationships are described in the five purposes for both life and the church:

  1. Worshiping
  2. Belonging
  3. Growing
  4. Serving
  5. Sharing

Today, we are talking about the third purpose, growing. Specifically, we are talking about the need to grow in our relationships with God.

From the very beginning, God’s plan has been to make us like Jesus. Paul wrote to the church in Rome that, God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son, (Romans 8:29, The Message).

The Bible says that all people, not just Christians, are made in the image of God. However, that image is incomplete and has been damaged and distorted by sin. So, God sent Jesus to restore the full image that was lost.

We will never be the Creator. God doesn’t want us to become a god; he wants us to become godly. We do that by adopting his values, attitudes, and character.

Paul wrote these words to the Ephesian church: Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy, (Ephesians 4:22–24, NLT).

God’s ultimate goal for our lives is not comfort, but character development. He wants us to grow up spiritually and become like Christ. That doesn’t mean losing our personalities or becoming mindless clones. Being like Christ is about transforming our character, not our personalities.

God wants us to develop the kind of character described…

In the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11)

  • poor in spirit
  • mournful of sinfulness
  • humble
  • hungry & thirsty for righteousness
  • merciful
  • pure in heart
  • being a peacemaker
  • being persecuted for righteousness

the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • faithfulness
  • gentleness
  • self-control

Paul’s description of love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Not envious
  • Not boastful
  • Not proud
  • Not rude
  • Not demanding its own way
  • Not easily angered
  • Not keeping a record of wrongs
  • Not delighting in evil
  • Rejoicing in truth
  • Trusting
  • Hopeful
  • persevering

Peter’s description of an effective and productive life (2 Peter 5-9)

  • Faith
  • Goodness
  • Knowledge
  • Self-control
  • Perseverance
  • Godliness
  • Friendly kindness
  • love

Can anybody say they’ve got all of that down? Can anyone say they are a constant, unwavering, sterling example of all those things? No, they can’t! None of us can! None of us is perfect! That’s why we need to grow in our relationship with God. That’s also why we need to keep growing until the day we pass from this life.

Every time we forget that character is one of God’s purposes for our lives, we will get frustrated by our circumstances. We’ll wonder, “Why is this happening? Why is this such a difficult time?” God is not our servant, and if we fall for the idea that life is supposed to be easy, we will either become disillusioned or we’ll live in denial.

We must remember that life is not about us! We exist for God’s purposes; he doesn’t exist for ours!

The theological term for this process of changing to become more like Jesus is called sanctification.

We cannot reproduce the character of Jesus in our own strength. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to make the changes God wants to make in our lives.

So, how does this happen? Here’s the phrase I want you to remember from this message, change your choices, not your clothes.

Some of you remember that a while ago, I asked a favor of you should we ever run into each other in public. Does anyone remember what I asked you? That’s right, I asked you to introduce me as your friend, not your pastor.

I didn’t do that because I’m ashamed to be a pastor. I did it because it’s unfortunate how the introduction or the conversation seems to go a bit sideways when folks hear the word pastor. Do you know what I mean? They’ll either have some odd connection to a pastor through a second cousin or long-lost friend, or they’ll apologize for something they just said, or they’ll clam up and not say anything at all.

Perhaps some folks believe people should apologize to a pastor for their language. I’m not one of those folks. I am no one’s judge. God is. I’d rather someone simply be who they are. I guarantee to you I’ve heard it before…and probably from sources that would surprise you.

The point is that for us to really grow in our faith, we need to change, and lasting change doesn’t come from changing our clothes; it doesn’t come from acting one way with one group of people and acting another way with another group of people. Lasting change comes from the inside out and it happens in thousands of thousands small ways as we make choices that reflect God’s attitudes, values, and character.

How do we learn to makes those choices? Let me give four things we need to understand about growing to be godly.

#1 – We become godly by putting God’s word into practice.

We learn about God’s attitudes, values, and character as we learn about his word. But it’s not enough just to learn about his word. James wrote, “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear,” (James 1:22, The Message).

To learn to be godly, we need to put God’s word into action, and…

#2 - We become godly by cooperating with the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit releases his power the moment we take a step of faith; the moment we do what God tells us to do.

In this case, God waits for us to act first. We can’t wait to feel powerful or confident. We need to move ahead in our weakness, doing the right thing despite our fears and feelings. This is how we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and it is how our character develops.

When Joshua led God’s people into the Promised Land, they had to cross the Jordan river at flood stage. It wasn’t until the priests carrying the ark of the covenant stepped into the water that in began to recede.

It wasn’t until Peter stepped out of the boat that he found out he could walk on the water. Yes, he began to sink, but he learned a powerful lesson by stepping out of the boat. How many times do you supposed he kicked himself for not taking another step?

Our effort has nothing to do with our salvation, it has a lot to do with our spiritual growth. Many times, in the New Testament we are told to “make every effort” in our growth toward becoming like Jesus. We don’t just sit around and wait for it to happen.

Paul explains in Ephesians 4:22–24 that there are three choices we should make to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.  Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy, (Ephesians 4:22–24, NLT).

  • First, we must choose to let go of old ways of acting.
  • Second, we must change the way we think.
    Romans 12:2 (NLT) – Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
  • Third, develop new, godly habits.

Character is essentially the sum of our habits; it is how we habitually act.

To learn to be godly, we need to put God’s word into action, we need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and…

#3 – We become godly as God uses his word, people, and circumstances to shape us.

 God’s word provides the truth we need to grow, we’ve already covered that.

 God’s people provide the support we need to grow.

In many religions, the people considered to be the most spiritually mature and holy are those who isolate themselves from others so that they are uninfected by contact with other people. But spiritual maturity is not a solitary, individual pursuit!

We cannot grow into godliness in isolation. We must be around other people and interact with them. We need to be a part of a church and a community. Why! Because true spiritual maturity is about learning to love like Jesus, and we can’t practice being like Jesus without being around other people. Do you remember reading that “love cannot be learned in isolation. We have to be around people—irritating, imperfect, frustrating people.”

 Circumstances provide the environment we need to practice Christlikeness. Godliness isn’t practiced in front of a mirror. It’s practiced in the everyday reality of life. Let’s consider Paul’s words about love as an example.

  • Love is patient—we get to practice godly patience when the natural choice would be impatience.
  • Love is kind—we get to practice godly kindness when the natural choice would be rudeness.
  • Love does not envy—we get to practice godly contentedness when the natural choice would be envy.
  • Love does not boast—we get to practice humility when it would be natural to choose boastfulness.
  • Love keeps no record of wrongs—we get to practice godly grace when it would be natural to hold things against someone.

Do you understand what I’m saying?

When we learn the truth of God’s word and put it into practice in such situations as the Holy Spirit helps us remember it, we are practicing godliness. And it’s those kinds of choices, made thousands upon thousands of times, that begin to reshape our character into true godliness. It becomes who we are, not an act we trot out for certain audiences.

To learn to be godly, we need to put God’s word into action, we need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, we need to understand that God uses his word, people and circumstances to shape us, and…

#4 - We become godly over the long haul.

Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth.

Our spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of our lives…and it won’t be a completed project here on earth.

Remember, God is far more interested in building our character than he is an anything else. He is far more interested in what we are than in what we do.

We must make a counter-intuitive decision to focus on becoming more like Jesus. Otherwise, outside forces will try to mold us into their image.

Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: he wants to make us like himself before he takes us to heaven.

For that to happen…

  • We must put God’s word into action.
  • We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit.
  • We must allow God to use his word, people, and circumstances to mold us.
  • We need to commit to the long haul.

          None of those things amount to a hill of beans if we don’t know Christ as savior. Scripture says we are all sick with a disease called sin and the only cure is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He paid sin’s price because we can’t pay it on our own. We must choose to accept the payment he made for us. There’s no haggling over bill.

Read More