Growing In Godliness Blog
Journeying With Jesus
By Matt Hennecke
Have you ever noticed the number of journeys spoken of in Scripture? We have Abraham’s journey from Ur to Haran to Canaan and on to Egypt and back. We have the exodus story as Israel journeyed from Egypt to the promised land. We have the many evangelistic journeys of Paul. In fact, the more I think about it the more I see the entire Bible as a travelogue – a book of journeys. In some cases, the journeys are physical as people travel, sometimes as captives – as when God’s people went into Assyrian and Babylonian captivity – but, perhaps in more cases, they are journeys of discovery as people learn about their sinful selves and a loving God seeking their redemption. It’s not surprising, then, that God’s people are often referred to as wayfarers, weary travelers, or pilgrims inroute to a heavenly City.
Amidst all of the stories of journeys described in the Bible, there is one that surpasses them all. It is the longest, the most arduous, and difficult journey ever undertaken. It is a journey without maps or mileage that lasted for 33 years. Of what journey do I speak? It is Jesus’ journey of humility from heaven to earth and back again. It is a journey that reveals his heart of humility. The story of his journey is told in Philippians 2:3-11. There Paul writes. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped….” Then Paul tells us the stages of Jesus’s journey of humility when he says Jesus 1) emptied himself, 2) took the form of a servant, 3) humbled himself, and 4) then died on a cross.
Has there ever been a longer more challenging journey? Jesus was (and is) God, but he travelled to earth and went from the very highest place to a tomb. Thankfully his journey wasn’t over, for then “God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Here's the thing. The journey Jesus took is similar to the journey faithful Christians should be taking. We are to empty ourselves, become servants, be humble, and die to sin so we might be servants of God and exalted by Him. How’s your journey going? When the path ahead seems unclear, be sure to consult the road-map frequently (your Bible) and always consider the Pathfinder (Jesus) who showed us how to find our way Home.
Why the Prophets are Crucial Reading for Christians
By Brock Henry
If we are to be like Jesus, we must know the prophets like Jesus.
Based on the number of prophets Jesus quoted and the number of times He quoted them, it seems safe to assume that Jesus spent significant time studying the prophets. Contrary to our shying away from them, Jesus apparently immersed Himself in the prophets.
Why are these ancient texts so crucial, though? Why should we (and why did Jesus) spend so much time in them?
The overarching answer lies in the text of Ephesians 2:19-20: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone…”
If Christ is the cornerstone of the building of which we are living stones (1 Peter 2:5), then the apostles and the prophets are the foundation on which the building is grounded. The prophets undergird the very structure in which Christ is the defining feature.
Therefore, the prophets are not incidental to who we are as Christians; they are foundational.
Consider, though, two additional reasons for us to dive deep into the messages of the prophets: First, they teach us about God, the Creator. Second, they teach us about ourselves as created beings.
Here are three crucial lessons the prophets teach us about God:
God is faithful. We will wander away from God, but He will never wander away from us. “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
God is patient and long-suffering. In large part, God repeated the same messages over and over to His people, because He wanted to give them time to repent and to come home. “Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them” (Jeremiah 7:25). God has demonstrated a willingness to endure significant rejection and great personal agony in order to give people continued opportunity to come home.
God is willing and able to punish obstinate sinners. God is merciful, yes, but He is also just. And a just God punishes those who willfully refuse to obey. “For I solemnly warned your fathers...yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked, each one, in the stubbornness of his evil heart; therefore I brought on them all the words of this covenant…” (Jeremiah 11:7-8). If we are punished by God, we will deserve it, and it will be in spite of the fact that He provide us with ample opportunity to repent.
Second, here are three crucial lessons the prophets teach us about ourselves:
We want to go our own way even when it’s not in our best interest. “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way...” (Isaiah 53:6). And as we know from the Proverbs, our own way can lead us straight to disaster: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
We are not sufficiently wise to direct our own steps. No matter how much we think we know and understand, we do not have sufficient perspective to appropriately choose a path for ourselves. “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Insisting that we have sufficient wisdom to direct our own steps is equivalent to a blind man insisting he has sufficient sight to drive a car.
Our thoughts and ways are infinitely lower than God’s. Because of our insolent pride, our egos may be as high as the heavens, but our abilities are not. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
To recap, the prophets are crucial to us as twenty-first century Christians for at least three reasons:
They are foundational to our Christianity.
They teach us about the Creator.
They teach us about ourselves as created beings.
But, let’s finish where we started...with Jesus (and us).
If we are to be like Jesus, we must know the prophets like Jesus. He knew the prophets, because He studied the prophets, and He studied the prophets, because they were important.
In the end, though, Jesus studied the prophets not simply because they were important, but because they were central to His very mission: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17)
If that is the case, we must study the prophets then, because Jesus is central to our mission.
Of Rudders and Bits James 3:3-5
There is a battle we all fight every day: conquering our tongues. James 3:8 But no human being can tame the tongue. Our tongues are powerful. A Google search revealed 19 pages of scriptures that refer to the tongue and its power for good or destructiveness !!!! “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21) Proverbs 12:18 “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts…” James chapter three details the power of the tongue for good and bad. James 3:9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”
The Battles We Fight
1.We make assumptions sometimes and tell them to others. In Acts 21:37-41 we read that Paul was the subject of a widely communicate false assumption that could have cost him his life.
2.The Lying Tongue Acts 5:3 Proverbs 6:16-19
3.The Boasting Tongue Luke 18:9-14
4.The Gossiping Tongue Proverbs 20:19
5.The Critical Tongue Ephesians 4:29
6.The Double Tongue James 3:9
7.The Hateful Tongue Ephesians 4:31-32
8.The Retribution Tongue 1 Peter 3:9
9. The Explosive Tongue James 3:8
10.The Correcting Tongue Ephesians 4:29 Matthew 18:15-17
The Right Uses of the Tongue
There are many ways to constructively use our tongues:
1. To praise God (take time to read through Psalms 148, 149 and 150!)
2.To pray to God 1 Peter 5:7
3.To sing to the Lord (Read Psalm 96).
4.To encourage and help others (So many good ways to do this!)
5.Also consider these scriptures: Mark 9:50 Romans 12:10 Galatians 6:2 Ephesians 4:32 Colossians 3:16 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Hebrews 3:13 Hebrews 10:24 James 5 :16
Spiritual SWOT Analysis
By Mike Cox
Companies sometimes utilize a tool called SWOT analysis to assist in determining a strategy or to gain a better idea of the condition and/or the potential condition of the company. This tool can also be used to assist us in determining our spiritual condition. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
For our purposes we will evaluate our strengths from a spiritual standpoint. Have we grown spiritually year to year? What helped us to grow? How is our prayer life? Has that progressed, regressed, or maintained? How active are we in the work of the Lord? Whether it be in an assembly, taking care of the church building, taking advantage of the opportunities that may come our way to talk to someone about things pertaining to God. We can pose the same questions in relation to the weaknesses portion of the SWOT analysis. What are we doing to promote the cause of Christ? Can we do more, do we want/seek to do more?
What about our opportunities? What opportunities do we have to grow spiritually? We can think about what additional duties we might participate in. Are there opportunities to spend time encouraging others, primarily from a spiritual standpoint? (Galatians 6:2, Philippians 1:3-8) What about additional studies? Are there any opportunities to serve as a co-teacher or substitute?
What threats to our spirituality are there? Could it be our lack of growth? (Mark 4:19,20) Could it be the friends or other influences that surround us? Do we believe in the word of God and the promise of Heaven that awaits us if we are obedient? What level of desire to serve God do we have?
Sometimes analyzing where we stand and putting it in writing can help us visualize the condition of our spirituality. It can also help to us create a plan that will help us to grow. The planning can be easy, but the execution is often times difficult. Just as not every plan or strategy will work for every business or company, the same applies to each individual Christian. Our plans have to be such that it is fitting for us and one that we can achieve. Therefore, we must look at what we can do; we all may not be able to do the same things (Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:12). We also will have different weaknesses. In either case, we need to prepare ourselves to grow and to protect us from the snares of the devil. We can do this by putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) and evaluating the condition of the armor on a regular basis. If there is a crack in our armor (spiritual weakness) we need to fix that crack. Performing a SWOT analysis of our spirituality is one way that we can identify what we are doing a good job in and what we can improve on.
Add To Your Faith
By Randy Case, Jr.
Growth is a requirement for all Christians if they desire to be pleasing to God. The Hebrew writer rebuked the brethren for not growing as they should. The writer states that they ought to have been teachers, but they still needed the milk of the word and were unable to handle solid food (Hebrews 5:12-13). They failed to apply themselves to spiritual matters. Therefore, they were still in need of teaching and were unable to teach others.
Many individuals put on Christ in baptism, but they do not grow as the Scriptures command. God demands Christians to develop certain characteristics. The book of 2 Peter was written to encourage Christians to continue to grow spiritually. Peter tells us that we must add certain things to our faith (2 Peter 1:5). Faith, the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), is the foundation. Peter gives us seven qualities that are extremely important in 2 Peter 1:5-7. As children of God we must possess virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love. Virtue is defined as moral excellence. Knowledge is spiritual discernment or understanding what is morally right or wrong. Self-control indicates discipline. Steadfastness refers to patience and the ability to maintain self-control. Godliness is characterized by a God-like attitude, doing what pleases Him. Brotherly kindness denotes a fondness and caring for individuals. And love seeks the best for the object of our affections. Peter states that these characteristics must be found in us and they must increase (v. 8). If these abound, then we will not be ineffective or idle as Christians.
In Galatians 5, Paul gives us a list similar to Peter’s. Paul describes the “Fruit of the Spirit” as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Love is the foundational element upon which everything else stands. It is an “agape” love, which is the highest form of love. The joy that we are to have is not based on outward circumstances. A Christian’s joy comes from knowing that they have the hope of heaven as promised by the Creator, despite their situation. We must have a peace with God, with ourselves and with others. This peace is a tranquility of mind that no one outside of Christ should have. Patience indicates being long tempered. We must seek to be kind to all, willing to help those in need, especially Christians. Goodness refers to moral excellence that does not tolerate error. Christians have a standard to live by and that is found in Scripture. Faithfulness is a characteristic that simply carries the idea of being loyal. Our loyalty and allegiance must be to God in EVERY circumstance that we encounter. Gentleness or meekness is strength under control. And self-control requires us to restrain, or keep, ourselves from giving in to Satan’s temptations.
Baptism is an important part in obtaining salvation. But, it is only the beginning. If we fail to develop the characteristics that Paul and Peter talk about, we become near-sighted, forgetting that we have been cleansed from our former sins (1 Peter 1:9). We should never be satisfied with our present growth. Let us always add to our faith!