Tag Archives: growth

Two odd but important Christian phrases about becoming spiritually mature

27 Jun

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

If you’ve ever watched a newborn nursing or drinking from a bottle, it is wild how hungry they can be.  As they grow a few months, and they start to be a bit more aware, they can get very excited when you start talking about their bottle.  They shake, they wave their arms, and sometimes start crying because it is taking you soooo long to get the bottle ready.  Then when you hand them the bottle,they slam it into their mouths, gulping furiously, and their crying stops in an instant!  I remember watching our kids do that, and thinking they are craving that milk.

Christians, that’s how we should be.

Yesterday we looked at how Peter, in 1st Peter 2:1-3 says that there are five church family killers we should get rid of.  But Peter doesn’t stop there.  Peter doesn’t just want the people to stop things.  He also wants them to start things.  Remove the poor behaviors, for sure, but then add what?

He says in verse 2, “like newborns, you should crave pure spiritual milk.”  Again he mentions the concept of new birth!  Since the beginning of his letter, this is now the third time Peter has brought up the idea that Christians are reborn.  When you are reborn in Christ, you gain citizenship in a new country, and you become part of a new family of love.  Now Peter says we should be like newborn babies who crave milk. But he calls it “pure spiritual milk.”

Odd Phrase #1: Do you crave pure spiritual milk?

That’s a weird question, isn’t it?  “Do you crave pure spiritual milk?”  I don’t think I ever in my life asked that question before.  What is pure spiritual milk?

It’s pure. That means it is not infected, it is not diluted.  It is not half and half.  It’s not skim.  It’s not pasteurized. It is pure, like raw milk straight from a cow.

Also that pure spiritual milk has a purpose. Peter says in verse 2 that the purpose of this milk is that, “by it you may grow up in your salvation.”

This pure spiritual milk is stuff that helps you grow.  But not physical growth.  It is spiritual milk and it helps you grow spiritually, in your salvation, Peter says.

Odd Phrase #2: Grow up in your salvation

“Grow up in your salvation” is one of those Bible-sounding phrases that I could skip by really quickly assuming that you know what that means.  It is a very Christian kind of thing to say.  We Christians talk about salvation as if it is normal and everyone knows about it.  But do they?

“Grow up in your salvation.”  Look at that phrase.  Who talks like that?  You won’t hear that phrase anywhere in our culture.

You will hear “Grow up.” If a person is acting immature, we say, “Grow up!”  Why? They are not acting their age.

Or we use “grow up” from the perspective of a child who is dreaming about what they want to do when they grow up.   Usually it is about the career they want to have.  We often ask children, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Of course there are some adults who are also wondering what they want to be when they grow up.  Usually that is because they aren’t sure they have found that thing, that meaning, that fulfillment, in their career.

We know the term “grow up.”  It refers to a change that needs to take place.  A development in our lives.  It is a development toward maturity, right?  Growing up means that we are putting aside immaturity, kind of like Paul saying “Get rid of” the family killers in your life, and we are moving toward maturity.

Craving and taking in pure spiritual milk so that we can grow up in our salvation is just like that.

Our salvation is a way that Peter is describing our relationship with Jesus.  By his life, death and resurrection, Jesus made it possible for us to be saved from the penalty of sin.  When we trust in and obey him, as Peter said in verses 1:21-25, we are saved, we are reborn as citizens of a new spiritual country, the Kingdom of Jesus, and thus we are reborn as new babies into a new spiritual family, the church.

That’s what happens when we trust and obey; we are saved, we are reborn. Thus the image of new babies is perfect for the Christians that Peter is writing to.  They need to see themselves new babies in a new family.  Thus they should want to grow up and mature.

The implications are clear.  Christians are not to stay in the infant stage.  Christians should grow up.   Growing up as followers of Jesus requires that we take in a form of nourishment called pure spiritual milk.  Just as a baby derives nutrients and calories from milk, and that causes the baby to grow, so Christians must take in pure spiritual milk, and the spiritual energy it brings will cause them to grow and mature as followers of Christ.

Also, Peter is saying this pure spiritual milk is not option.  He says we should crave it.  We need to want it.  That means we need to have humble teachable hearts to see those areas of our lives that are immature, where we need growth.  Then we can seek pure spiritual milk to help us in those areas.

Finally, Peter answers where this spiritual sustenance comes from.

In verse 3 he is saying, “Christians, you have tasted that the Lord is good.  You know that he is the real deal.  He is the truth, and because you have tasted the goodness of the Lord, that means that the pure spiritual milk is from the Lord.”

Only the Lord can satisfy the longing of your life.  In other words, if you want to grow up in your relationship from the Lord, you need sustenance that only comes from him.  That’s what pure spiritual milk is.  Pure spiritual milk is spiritual sustenance, spiritual calories that are only available from God.  If you want to grow up in your salvation, if you want to become more mature in your practice of discipleship to Jesus, drink more spiritual milk.

Check back in tomorrow as we’ll give practical suggestions about how to get this pure spiritual milk and take it in to our lives on a regular basis.

How the scariest Bible story helped us create our Faith Church Growth Process

22 May

Image result for scary bibleWhat do you think is the scariest, most haunting passage in the Bible?  Maybe something about demons or hell or something?  Could be.

For me it is Matthew 7:13-29, and especially verses 21-23 where Jesus says this:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

For me as a pastor, it haunts me.  Why?  Because there are people that assumed, and even were convinced, that they were in good standing with Jesus, that they were going to enter heaven.  But they are dead wrong.  He says to them, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.”

You know why that haunts me?  Those people were convinced they were good to go.  They were sure they were doing what Jesus wanted them to do.  They presented their evidence to Jesus.  In their minds, they were guaranteed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

But they were totally wrong.  Jesus says “Nope, all that stuff you think is important is not important.”  Jesus says, “Many will say to me on that day.”  We’re not talking about a small group.  We’re talking about “many.”  This relates to the previous part of the passage, verses 13-14 where Jesus says a large group of people are headed the wrong way.  Instead a small group finds the road that leads to life.

See how that could be freaky? This large group of people who are headed the wrong way are deceiving themselves by their evidence. Their so convinced the have the golden ticket to heaven, the people try to reply to Jesus that they should be allowed into heaven.  They even have evidence: “prophesying in his name, driving out demons in his name, and performing miracles.”  It seems convincing.  I can hardly imagine anyone, except a true disciple, doing these things.  In fact, I would say all those pieces of evidence seem to demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through those people.

But there is a problem.  What do you notice about their evidence?  It’s all outward.  We look at them and on the outside they seem to be true followers.  But Jesus’ shocking response shows us that they are not.

Jesus’ response is what led to creating our new church logo. Take a look at the logo:

Each part of the logo symbolizes something.

There are four green squares, each representing a major focus of our church: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, and Outreach.  The third box from the left is a darker green, indicating it is a special focus. We call the line down the middle the Matthew 7 line.  Finally, the cut-out in the middle two boxes draws an imaginary horizontal line across the middle vertical line, thus giving us the image of the cross.

Every part of the logo tells a story, and it is all based in Jesus’ shocking response to the people in Matthew 7:23.

We call this story our Growth Process, and that is why the squares are colored green, symbolizing growth.  But it is not about growing the church numerically.  That might happen, of course, but our Growth is about how we grow as disciples of Jesus and how we reach out so that more people can become disciples of Jesus.

At the end of our recent teaching series through 1st Timothy we looked at a couple of statements Paul made about eternal life, what he called “the life that is truly life.”  Paul tells Timothy to take hold of eternal life now.  Eternal life is not just something that happens after we die.  It is that for sure.  But it is also now.  Followers of Jesus take hold of the life that is truly life.  That true life, or that eternal life now, is the life that Jesus said those people in Matthew 7 did not have.  Those people in Matthew 7 looked good on the outside doing their religious duties, but they were missing something inside. They had not taken hold of the life that is truly life, they were not living eternal life now.

Our Growth Process story explains how to take hold of eternal life now.  We don’t want anyone in our church family to stand before God one day and hear him say “Away from, I never knew you.”  Instead we want everyone to have a growing relationship with Jesus.

Let’s take a look at the first square, then.  This square represents Worship.  It is first because most people start their connection with our church family by attending Sunday morning worship services.  Not everyone starts there, and of course they don’t have to start there, but most do.

Considering what it means to be a true follower of Jesus, can we say that a person is a true follower of Jesus if attending worship services is pretty much the sum total of their expression of faith?

No.  Very much like the people in Matthew 7:21-23, they might look worshipful on the outside, but Jesus calls his followers to so much more.

So we ask everyone to evaluate themselves.  Are you in that first square?  Are you primarily just a Sunday morning Christian?  If so, that is a wonderful start, and because we do not want you to hear Jesus say “Away from me, I never knew you” we encourage you to add Fellowship to your worship.

I use the word “add” very purposefully.  When you move from square to square in the Growth Process, you are not leaving the previous square behind.  You are adding something.  That is key.

So if you have determined that you are primarily in the Worship square, we encourage you to add the Fellowship square.  Adding fellowship means going deeper, building relationships.  It might be joining one of our Sunday School classes.  It might be joining a small group.  It might be serving on a serve team.  It might be inviting people over for dinner, hanging out, etc.  It is anything that helps you build deep relationships with and care for others in the church family.

Again I ask you to evaluate yourself.  Would you say that your expression of faith in Jesus is in the Worship box, or maybe you have added Fellowship to Worship?

You know what though?  Attending worship services is important, and adding deep fellowship relationships to that is even better, but I’m convinced a person can do those things, and maybe even do them a lot, but still have primarily an outward appearance of faith.  That kind of person can still hear Jesus say “Away from me, I never knew you.”

That’s why the next part of our Growth Process story is the most important.  Crossing the Matthew 7 line.  We don’t want anyone to hear Jesus “Away from me, I never knew you.”  Instead we want everyone to experience his eternal life now, to hear him say “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into your rest.”  But how does that happen?

Jesus himself told us.  To cross over that Matthew 7 line, we need to learn to do what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21: those who enter the Kingdom of Heaven are the ones who do the will of his father in heaven.  What is the will of the father in Heaven?  Jesus would go on to tell his disciples precisely what he meant in Matthew 16:24, when he said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.”  That kind of full life commitment to Jesus means a person has had a deep inner change.  There are no hidden secrets, nothing held back.

He goes on in Matthew 16 to say “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”  We need to add discipleship to worship and fellowship.  The Discipleship box is a darker green color because it is the most important one.  Jesus later said to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 that he gave them a mission, a mission of making disciples all over the whole world, teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded.  That is what God desires for us: deep inward change, to be his disciples, giving our lives completely to him, and seeking to help others become Jesus’ disciples as well.

Now for the scary, but all-important question. Those people back in Matthew 7:21-23 assumed that they had crossed the Matthew 7 line, they assumed that they were true disciples, and they were wrong!  Those people looked at their outward expression of faith and assumed that was what God wanted. They were wrong. Is it possible that any of us might be wrong?

We would do well to assume that it is at least possible.  Therefore we have to talk about this.  Our Leadership Team cares so much about each and every person in our church family.  We don’t want anyone to assume that they are disciples of Jesus, only to be shocked one day to hear Jesus say, “Away from me, I never knew you.”  We leaders of the church would have utterly failed you if that happens.  That’s why we are placing so much weight on this discipleship square.  But there is one more square after that.

When a disciple of Jesus adds fellowship to worship, then crosses the Matthew 7 line, adding discipleship to worship and fellowship, something very obvious will happen. Go back to Matthew 7 and see verse 15.  That’s where Jesus talked about false prophets, comparing them to trees.  A bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Only good trees can bear good fruit.  By your fruit you will know who is good or bad.  By your fruit you will know who has crossed over the Matthew 7 line into true discipleship.  True disciples will bear fruit.  Not raspberries or strawberries like in my garden, but the fruit of more people becoming disciples of Jesus.  That is why our logo has the final square.  A disciple is a worshipper, a fellowshipper, and finally a disciple reaches out.  It will be obvious.  Disciples make disciples.

And that is the story of our Growth Process.

That is the process that Jesus taught.  And that is the process that we want to see each and every one of you go through.

So how goes it with your soul?  Or, using the language of the Growth Process, what squares have you added to your life?  Have you crossed over the Matthew 7 line?  Are you a worshipper, a fellowshipper, a disciple, and reaching out?

How goes it with your soul? Our Leadership Team had a wonderful retreat last weekend, and we talked a lot about this Growth Process.  We feel the weight of leadership, and we feel convicted that our God-given role is to care for the spiritual growth of our entire church family.  To do that we are going to regularly start asking each of our church family a version of the question “How goes it with your soul?” because we care so much about everyone.  We don’t want anyone to hear Jesus say, “Away from me.”

So what will the Leadership Team do?  Each of them will be responsible to check in with people in the congregation.  They can not and will not try to force anything on anyone.

You could say in response that you don’t want to be involved in this.  We will honor that. But we encourage you to give yourself to this kind of important accountability.  I know “accountability” can sound like a scary word.  Maybe it sounds harsh.  I guarantee you that our leaders are not interested in being harsh or forcing anything on anyone. There was a unanimous agreement among our leaders that they simply want to care for each of you.

Also let me clarify something specific.  The leader is not there to be your mentor.  That kind of discipling/mentor relationship might happen between a leader and a person in the congregation, but that is not the purpose of the Growth Process.  Instead, the purpose is to have the leadership team intentionally supporting and encouraging people to be moving along the growth process.  If you agree together that you need a discipleship mentor, more than likely the Leadership Team member will direct you to another person in the congregation who can be that mentor for you, who can encourage your spiritual growth,

How many of you would want to be encouraged like that?

So we want everyone in our church family to begin a self-evaluation.  Where are you on the Growth Process?  Are you in the worship block?  Have you added the fellowship block?  Be very honest as you evaluate yourself.

Do that eval so that when the Leadership team contacts you, you’ll be ready to discuss this further.  Your self-eval will facilitate the conversation.  Remember that this will be confidential.

When you are in conversation with the Leadership Team, you may say to them that you want to move forward in the Growth Process, but you don’t know how to add the next block?  You might not know how to move from Worship to Fellowship.  You might not know how to cross the Matthew 7 line.  And that is where our Leadership Teams and Serve Teams are working hard to give you resources to help you.  For example, when you are conversing with the Leadership Team member, you might say that you are not sure you have crossed over into the Discipleship square, but you want to.  You want to be a true follower of Jesus.  That Leadership team member will be able to give you practical suggestions for next steps to take.  It might be getting you teamed up with a discipleship mentor.

We encourage you to take time to evaluate yourself, to take this Growth Process story in prayer to the Lord.  Ask him to give you wisdom and clarity about where you are on the process. Ask him to give you wisdom about how to move forward, growing as a disciple of Jesus.

If you have any questions, please contact anyone on the Leadership Team.