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.
Humbled For Service
By Matt Hennecke
The Word of God is an amazing, life-changing tool. Consider, for a moment, the apostle Paul. When we are first introduced to him, he is described as “young” (Acts 7:58). His youth may have contributed to what seems to be a certain cockiness. He seems to have been a self-assured young man who seemingly “knew it all.” It is not unusual for young men (and women, too, I guess) to see everything as black and white, right and wrong. Paul (or Saul as he was then called) was certain that Christianity—like Christ—had to be eliminated. Acts 9:1-2 reveals Saul was obsessed with threats and murder: Self-assured. Cocky. A know-it-all. And flat out wrong.
As he journeyed to Damascus, he had his first dose of humility. A light and a voice cast doubt where before there had been none. For three days he ate and drank nothing. His journey of humility had begun. He was baptized into the very Body which he had sought to destroy. Talk about eating crow. Imagine the shame and the dawning realization of just how wrong he had been.
But Paul’s journey of humility had only begun. His own writings reveal the transformative power of the Word. The Word is amazing, for it first convicts us and then lifts us. Paul’s transformation—indeed, his journey of humility—is seen in his writings. Note the progression:
• In 1 Corinthians 15:9, written about 56 AD, he calls himself the “least of the apostles.” This was still an elite group of men. The least of twelve is still pretty good company. It would almost be like saying, I’m the least of the Super Bowl champion team.”
• Then note what he writes five years later in Ephesians 3:8. He says he is “the very least of all saints.” The circle of comparison has gotten larger—much larger—but is still comprised of a minority.
• Then two years later he writes, “Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:15). In his own words, we learn Paul has been completely humbled. By the time he wrote 1 Timothy he says is was the foremost of ALL sinners.
How did this journey of humility come to be? By constant contact with the inspired Word and by contemplation of the gold standard Himself – Jesus Christ. Paul was changed. If we will let it, such is the transforming power of the Word in us. Paul was transformed by the Word and the Word will transform us so we will have our high self-opinion replaced with total gratitude for Jesus Christ; and thus humbled we will become, as Paul did, vessels of service to our Lord.
Be Like Christ
By Randy Case, Jr.
The life of Christ is almost incomprehensible to the mere human. Leaving Heaven, a place where we strive to go, Jesus came to earth to fulfill God's plan. He took the form of a servant and fully obeyed the Father, humbly being put to death (Philippians 2:3-8).
We must follow Christ, imitating God and walking in love (Ephesians 5:1-2). We should WANT to fully comply with this command, after all it was Christ who 'gave Himself for us' (Ephesians 5:1). He willingly endured the pain of the cross for us to be reconciled to God upon our obedience to His plan.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and in doing so became the greatest servant...to God and to others. This was exemplified during His life even with the words He spoke while on the cross. A servant's mentality is one of seeking out the needs of others and doing what he can do to meet those needs.
Scripture records seven statements of Jesus on the cross. Looking at the order of these, we gain further insight about His character. The first statement is in Luke 23:34, where Jesus asks God to forgive those who persecuted Him. As He hung on the cross, Jesus was focused on others, showing a love and concern for them. The second statement is in Luke 23:43, where Jesus told the thief that he would be with Him in paradise that very day. Again, a love and concern for this person. The third statement is in John 19:26-27, where Jesus addresses His mother. He made provisions for her to be taken care of by John. Jesus wasn't so preoccupied with His own suffering and death that He neglected the needs of His mother. In the fifth statement, Jesus said 'I am thirsty' (John 19:28). The humanity of Jesus is evident here and throughout the New Testament, having traits that we have (hunger, fatigue, sorrow, etc). Now, He makes a personal request.
In looking at these words, we gain insight into Jesus' priorities. Serving God and being fully obedient to His word took precedence in His life. God must be our main priority (Matthew 6:33), not family, friends or the world. Second, He was concerned with others. Even in the face of death and horrific pain, He expressed a concern for others. We should be concerned about our brethren, the sick, the shut in and those who are struggling spiritually and do what we can to help.
Being a servant is a great honor. It involves humility, obedience, joy and loyalty. In a me-first society, we should learn that we come last. Matthew 20:16 tells us that the first will be last and the last will be first. It's not all about us. A man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain him honor (Proverbs 29:23).
Self is the root of many problems. Selflessness is a characteristic that Christians must develop and maintain if we are to be pleasing to God. Jesus was the greatest example of a servant, lowly and humble, giving to others all that He could.
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.
Keeping Up Appearances
By Christy Ganchero
A few months ago, I made a big mistake in my grooming routine – I over-plucked my eyebrows. I am sure most of you didn’t notice (my husband didn’t!), but to me it was devastating. In a frenzy, I bought a bunch of eyebrow makeup and started applying home hair-growing remedies to my brows. For the first few weeks, I was paranoid that everyone would notice my flaw. I spent more and more time watching YouTube tutorials and applying makeup, to the point that I started arriving late to work. I didn’t realize how important my physical appearance was to me until I felt that I’d lost it.
Around week three of my eyebrow drama, I reread this passage:
“I desire then that in every place the men should pray… likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works” (1 Timothy 2:8-9).
I’ve read this passage countless times in my life, but I never felt convicted about Paul’s admonition to women until the eyebrow incident. You see, I had been taught that as long as you did enough “good works,” then you are allowed to braid your hair, wear gold, and buy costly attire. The physical manifestation did not matter as long as one’s heart was in the right place. However, the more I read this passage, the more I realize that the outer adornment of the physical body and our good works are inversely correlated. Meaning, the more that we focus on what we look like on the outside, the less we are able to adorn ourselves with good works.
Thinking about my situation, I could tell that my obsession with my appearance was affecting my priorities. I was arriving later to work, I was spending more money on makeup, and I was focusing my thoughts on my looks throughout the day. Do you know what suffered? My morning study time, which was cut short because I prolonged my makeup routine. My relationship with my coworkers, who had to pick up my slack at work. My focus during services, because I was thinking about others’ perceptions of me. All of these good works suffered because I was thinking about my appearance.
Am I suggesting that we should throw away our gold jewelry and makeup? Not necessarily, although it would be a small sacrifice for gaining Christ (Phil 3:7-8). Rather, we should actively look for ways that we can put aside physical adornments for spiritual ones. How long do you take to get ready in the morning? Consider ditching a morning habit so that you can pray more. Do you purchase makeup, accessories, or clothing that is unnecessary or costly? Maybe donate the money instead, or give your unneeded items to help those in need. Instead of devoting our time and resources to how others will see us, let us focus on how we see others and their needs, which will lead us to grow in good works. May God help you and me to become godly, humble women as we seek His kingdom.