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Growth of Life

 

Spiritual Growth

       One night, a mother fixed a special meal for her family: turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, and apple pie for dessert. It was everyone’s favorite meal, especially when it came at a time other than Thanksgiving. The aroma filled the house, and as the children came in from playing they could hardly wait for dinner to begin. The last child appeared only a few minutes before dinner time and sat through the meal without eating, even though he especially loved those foods. Why? Because he had filled up on peanut butter at a friend’s house. In settling for something good, he had lost his appetite for the best.

        The same applies to our spiritual appetites. Some people don’t have much of an appetite for spiritual truth because they have satisfied themselves with lesser things. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Evidence of Spiritual Growth

        We have all been driving down a highway and noticed bright orange signs that state, “BEGIN CONSTRUCTION” and “END CONSTRUCTION”. One thing about these signs is that they tend to remain around long after the construction work is over.

        If one of us were to announce that-for the time being-God’s construction in our lives was going to be halted, would our friends say, “I didn’t know any construction was going on”? ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Source of Spiritual Growth

        Some years ago, a study was done by an agricultural school in Iowa. It reported that production of a hundred bushels of corn from one acre of land required 4,000,000 lbs. of water, 6,800 lbs. of oxygen, 5,200 lbs. of carbon, 160 lbs. of nitrogen, 125 lbs. of potassium, 75 lbs. of yellow sulphur, and other elements too numerous to list. In addition to these ingredients are required rain and sunshine at the right times. Although many hours of the farmer’s labor are also needed, it was estimated that only 5 percent of the produce of a farm can be attributed to the efforts of man.

        So it is in spiritual realms: God causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6~7). ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Source of Spiritual Growth

        When James Garfield, later to become President of the United States, was principal of Hiram College in Ohio, one father asked him if the course of his studies could not be shortened so that his son might be able to complete his studies in less time. “Certainly,” Garfield replied. “But it all depends on what you want to make of your boy. When God wants to make an oak, he takes one hundred years. When he wants to make a squash, he requires only two months.” ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

PROGRESS
(see also GROWTH and MATURITY)

         When Pablo Casals reached 95, a young reported threw him a question: "Mr. Casals, you are 95 and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?" And Mr. Casals answered, "Because I think I'm making progress."

         Your goal is to make progress every day of your life.── Dr. Maxwell Maltz, quoted in Bits & Pieces, June 24, 1993, p. 12.


         On June 4, 1783 at the market square of a French village of Annonay, not far from Paris, a smoky bonfire on a raised platform was fed by wet straw and old wool rages. Tethered above, straining its lines, was a huge taffeta bag 33 feet in diameter. In the presence of "a respectable assembly and a great many other people," and accompanied by great cheering, the balloon was cut from its moorings and set free to rise majestically into the noon sky. Six thousand feet into the air it went -- the first public ascent of a balloon, the first step in the history of human flight. It came to earth several miles away in a field, where it was promptly attacked by pitchfork-waving peasants and torn to pieces as an instrument of evil!── Today in the Word, July 15, 1993.


         n the course of their conversation at a dinner party, Albert Einstein's young neighbor asked the white-haired scientist, "What are you actually by profession?"

"I devote myself to the study of physics," Einstein replied.

         The girl looked at him in astonishment. "You mean to say you study physics at your age?" she exclaimed. "I finished mine a year ago." ── Today in the Word, September 25, 1992.


         The work of Japanese painter Hokusai spanned many years before his death in 1849 at age 89. But toward the end of his life, the artist dismissed as nothing all the work he had done before age 50. It was only after he reached 70 that he felt he was turning out anything worthy of note. On his deathbed Hokusai lamented, "If heaven had granted me five more years, I could have become a real painter." ── Today in the Word, September 16, 1992.


         Over 2,000 years ago a young Greek artist named Timanthes studied under a respected tutor. After several years the teacher's efforts seemed to have paid off when Timanthes painted an exquisite work of art. Unfortunately, he became so enraptured with the painting that he spent days gazing at it. One morning when he arrived to admire his work, he was shocked to find it blotted out with paint. Angry, Timanthes ran to his teacher, who admitted he had destroyed the painting. "I did it for your own good. That painting was retarding your progress. Start again and see if you can do better."

         Timanthes took his teacher's advice and produced Sacrifice of Iphigenia, which is regarded as one of the finest paintings of antiquity. ── Today in the Word, September 2, 1992.

 

SPIRITUAL GROWTH

         In The Last Days Newsletter, Leonard Ravenhill tells about a group of tourists visiting a picturesque village who walked by an old man sitting beside a fence. In a rather patronizing way, one tourist asked, "Were any great men born in this village?" The old man replied, "Nope, only babies." A frothy question brought a profound answer. There are no instant heroes--whether in this world or in the kingdom of God. Growth takes time, and as I Timothy 3:6 and 5:22 point out, even spiritual leadership must be earned.── William C. Shereos.


         One spring our family was driving from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa, Florida. As far as the eye could see, orange trees were loaded with fruit. When we stopped for breakfast, I ordered orange juice with my eggs. "I'm sorry," the waitress said. "I can't bring you orange juice. Our machine is broken." At first I was dumbfounded. We were surrounded by millions of oranges, and I knew they had oranges in the kitchen--orange slices garnished our plates. What was the problem? No juice? Hardly. We were surrounded by thousands of gallons of juice. The problem was they had become dependent on a machine to get it. Christians are sometimes like that. They may be surrounded by Bibles in their homes, but if something should happen to the Sunday morning preaching service, they would have no nourishment for their souls. The problem is not a lack of spiritual food--but that many Christians haven't grown enough to know how to get it for themselves.── Leroy Eims, The Lost Art of Disciple Making.


Commentary and Devotional

         Sometimes when we read the words of those who have been more than conquerors, we feel almost despondent. I feel that I shall never be like that. But they won through step by step by little bits of wills little denials of self little inward victories by faithfulness in very little things. They became what they are. No one sees these little hidden steps. They only see the accomplishment, but even so, those small steps were taken. There is no sudden triumph no spiritual maturity. That is the work of the moment. ── Amy Carmichael quoted in: Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, 1987, Word Books Publisher, p. 130.

 

"GETTING READY TO GROW"
 
INTRODUCTION
 
1. Not all churches are prepared to grow in number and in spirit...
   a. Consider the church at Laodicea - Re 3:15-19
   b. Even if a successful evangelist had come and converted many, how
      many would have remained faithful in a spiritual environment such
      as that?
 
2. For churches to grow, they must look beyond their evangelistic
   efforts...
   a. For the mortality rate of new converts is often high
   b. Unless a congregation is prepared to assimilate and nurture new
      converts, any success in evangelism may be short-lived
 
3. To have real, enduring growth, we must get ready to grow!
   a. Preparing ourselves as a congregation
   b. Preparing ourselves as individuals members of a congregation
 
[What is necessary in "Getting Ready To Grow"?  First, allow me to
suggest...]
 
I. WHAT WE MUST DO AS A CONGREGATION
 
   A. OFFER ASSEMBLIES THAT EDIFY...
      1. The first exposure many have to the gospel is by visiting a
         local congregation
         a. What do they see and hear?  Do they see love? - cf. Jn 13:
            34-35
         b. Does it draw them closer to God? - cf. 1 Co 14:25b
         c. Do our visitors experience courtesy, warmth, and interest
            in spiritual matters?
         -- Not all churches provide the right environment conducive
            for worship and spiritual growth - e.g., 1 Co 11:17; 14:26b
      2. New converts often depend heavily upon the spiritual
         nourishment provided by the assemblies, and rightly so - cf.
         He 10:24-25
         a. Excited by their new-found faith, anxious to grow quickly,
            they attend all the services of the church
         b. What do they find?  Half-hearted services?  Sparsely
            attended by older members?
      3. If we are serious about growing...
         a. Those who lead us in our assemblies will take their tasks
            seriously
            1) Coming prepared to serve their role
            2) Doing so gladly and with enthusiasm
         b. Every member will do what they can to make our assemblies
            edifying to all
            1) Arriving early to welcome and visit with visitors, other
               members
            2) Participating whole-heartedly in the singing, prayers,
               etc.
            3) Staying around and visiting afterward
 
   B. ASSIMILATE AND NURTURE NEW MEMBERS...
      1. As valuable as our assemblies may be, they are not always
         adequate by themselves
         a. New members may remain "on the fringe"
            1) Left out of the "family life" of the congregation
               (activities that members do together)
            2) Remain "on the fringe" for long, and they may begin
               looking elsewhere
         b. Babes in Christ often require special attention and
            nurturing
            1) New converts often bring with them many personal
               problems
            2) They need the concern and care of interested, mature
               Christians - Ro 15:1-3
            3) Otherwise they may soon "wither away"
 
[What does it take for a congregation provide such things?  It begins
with what we are willing to do individually, for a congregation is no
stronger or ready to grow than its members are willing to be.  Let me
therefore suggest...]
 
II. WHAT WE MUST DO AS INDIVIDUALS
 
   A. STRENGTHEN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD...
      1. Why is this so important?
         a. Others must see in us the blessings of walking with God
            - not simply the pride of knowing about the Lord!
         b. We cannot share what we do not have!
      2. No matter how strong our relationship with God, we can always
         improve
         a. Paul recognized this in his own life - Ph 3:12-15
         b. Peter wrote that our spiritual growth must always be
            increasing - 2 Pe 1:5-8
      3. Therefore we must continue to add to our faith virtue, to
         virtue knowledge...
         a. Much of this is accomplished through personal and daily
            devotions - Psa 1:1-3
         b. But personal efforts must be accompanied by frequent
            assembling - He 10:24-25
 
   B. STRENGTHEN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ONE ANOTHER...
      1. Why is this important?
         a. Our love and unity is a powerful witness for Christ - Jn
            13:34-35; 17:20-21
         b. A strong network of Christians is essential to assimilate
            and nurture new Christians
      2. No matter how strong our relationship with one another, we can
         always improve
         a. As Paul exhorted the Thessalonians - 1 Th 4:9-10
         b. As Peter wrote to Christians in general - 1 Pe 1:22
      3. Therefore we must seek out opportunities to strengthen our
         bond in Christ...
         a. Regular attendance is certainly a great help - He 10:24-25
         b. And so is simple hospitality (both offered, and accepted)
            - 1 Pe 4:8-9
 
   C. DEVELOP RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE LOST...
      1. Why is this important?
         a. Light must shine in darkness to be of much value - Mt 5:
            14-16
         b. If people are sick, those with the cure must be willing to
            be among them - cf. Mt 9:10-13
         c. The right example can prepare people to receive the Word
            - cf. 1 Pe 3:1-2
         d. Relationships with the lost can serve as the basis for
            continued relationships with them after they are saved
      2. Developing relationships with the lost is an on-going process
         a. If an effort to share the gospel is not well-received, we
            may need to move on - Mt 7:6
         b. Just as Jesus could not stay in one place, we cannot limit
            our outreach to just a few friends, relatives, and
            neighbors - cf. Lk 4:42-44
      3. Therefore we must always be on the lookout for new
         relationships with the lost...
         a. Simple hospitality will go a long way (both offered and
            accepted) - cf. Mt 9:9-13
            1) Matthew extended hospitality to his friends soon after
               Jesus called him
            2) Jesus accepted the opportunity to eat and be with the
               lost
         b. Inviting the lost to our assemblies can be very profitable
            1) Giving them an opportunity to meet other Christians
            2) With whom they may also develop relationships
 
CONCLUSION
 
1. To be useful to the Master, an individual must prepare himself
   - 2 Ti 2:21-22
 
2. The same is true regarding churches...
   a. A congregation that has prepared itself will be used by the Lord
   b. Just as the Lord was willing to provide an open door for the
      church in Philadelphia - Re 3:8
 
3. As we have seen, we must prepare ourselves both as a congregation,
   and as individuals...
   a. But the onus rests mostly upon us as individuals
   b. For a chain is no stronger than its weakest link
   c. If we as individuals fail to do our part, any effort by the
      congregation as a whole is greatly weakened, if not mortally
      wounded!
 
Do we really want to grow?  As with the physical body, the only
alternative to growth is gradual decay and death.
 
Shall we be like the church at Laodicea, or the church at Philadelphia?
The answer may very well be found on whether we are "Getting Ready To
Grow"!
 
Note:  The main idea and several thoughts from this lesson were taken
from a lesson by Gary Henry.  The URL for his web site containing many
excellent articles and sermon outlines is:  http://www.brasstacks.org

 

--《Executable Outlines

 

 

"SECRETS OF THE ABUNDANT LIFE"
 
INTRODUCTION
 
1. Suppose I could offer you a life that is guaranteed to give you...
   a. A "joy" that is greater than any other
   b. A "blessedness" that is happiness in its fullest measure
   c. An "assurance" of entering the everlasting kingdom of our Lord
   d. A "peace" that surpasses understanding
   -- Would you be interested?
 
2. I cannot, but Jesus does...!
   a. He came to provide the way to an abundant life - Jn 10:10
   b. He shares with us the "secrets" to this life through His teaching
      - Jn 15:11
 
3. Through His teachings, then, we can learn the "Secrets Of The
   Abundant Life"...
   a. Many of which are found in this very chapter (Jn 15)
   b. Where Jesus pictures Himself as the Vine and His disciples as the
      branches - cf. Jn 15:1-5
 
[As branches we are to bear fruit, and this leads us to the first secret
of the abundant life...]
 
I. THE SECRET OF LIVING IS BEARING FRUIT
 
   A. DIFFERENT KINDS OF FRUIT WE CAN BEAR...
      1. Winning souls to Christ and helping them to grow - Ro 1:13
      2. Sharing with those in need - Ro 15:28
      3. Developing a Christ-like character - 2 Pe 1:5-8; Ga 5:22-23
      4. Praising God and giving thanks - He 13:15
      -- These are "fruits" that we can bear as branches of the Vine
 
   B. THE BENEFITS OF BEARING SUCH FRUIT...
      1. Joy for those who win souls - 3 Jn 4; 1 Th 2:19-20
      2. Happiness for those who share with others - Ac 20:35
      3. Assurance for those who develop a Christ-like character - 2 Pe
         1:8-11; Ga 5:23b
      4. Peace for those given to thanksgiving - Ph 4:6-7
      -- Such are the "benefits" of the abundant life Jesus offers
 
[And what is the secret?  Being a branch of the True Vine (Jesus) and
bearing fruit!  But Jesus also shares the secret to bearing fruit...]
 
II. THE SECRET OF BEARING FRUIT IS ABIDING
 
   A. NOTE THE USE OF THE WORD "ABIDE"....
      1. Jesus uses the word "abide" ten times - Jn 15:4-10
      2. We must abide in Him, and He in us, to bear fruit
      3. Without Him, we can do nothing
      -- The secret to bearing fruit is abiding in Christ! - Jn 15:5
 
   B. ABIDING IN CHRIST EMPOWERS THE CHRISTIAN....
      1. Paul wrote what the power in Christ meant in his own life - Ph
         4:13
      2. He wanted others to know of the power available to them - Ep 1:
         18-20; 3:20
      3. He gave examples of how this power could transform people
         - e.g., 1 Co 6:9-11
      -- Abiding in Christ empowers us to bear fruit, and thereby
         experience the abundant life!
 
[But does Jesus also reveal the secret to abiding in Him?  Yes...]
 
III. THE SECRET OF ABIDING IS OBEYING
 
   A. OBEYING THE COMMANDMENTS OF JESUS...
      1. By keeping His commands we abide in His love - Jn 15:10a
      2. By keeping His commands we will be His friends - Jn 15:14
      3. By keeping His commandments we abide in Him - 1 Jn 3:24a
      -- Obedience is the key to abiding in Christ!
 
   B. THE PRINCIPLE OF ABIDING THROUGH OBEYING...
      1. Governed Jesus' relationship with His Father while on earth
         a. He kept His Father's commandments, and so abided in His love
            - Jn 15:10b
         b. Passages which illustrate Jesus' desire to keep His Father's
            Will - Jn 4:34; 5:30; 6:38
      2. And should govern our conduct as Christians as well
         a. We abide in Christ by keeping His commandments - 1 Jn 2:3-6
         b. Otherwise we are liars if we profess to know Him and do not
            keep His word!
      -- One cannot abide in Christ without obeying His commands!
 
[To be successful in obeying His commands requires the right motivation.
From Jesus we learn...]
 
IV. THE SECRET OF OBEYING IS LOVING
 
   A. THREE DIFFERENT REASONS TO OBEY...
      1. We can obey because we have to (the level of fear)
         a. In order to avoid punishment
         b. Like a child who obeys his parents to avoid a spanking
      2. We can obey because we need to (the level of selfishness)
         a. In order to get what we want
         b. Like a teenager who obeys his parents to gain favors
      3. We can obey because we want to (the level of love)
         a. Because we love the person we are obeying
         b. Like mature children who obey their parents out of love
      -- People often obey Jesus they feel like they have to or need to
 
   B. JESUS DESIRES OBEDIENCE OUT OF LOVE...
      1. He appeals to our sense of love - Jn 14:15,23
      2. He knows that without love our obedience will falter - Jn 14:24
      3. The secret to consistent obedience is loving!
         a. Those who obey because they have to or need to will never be
            consistent
         b. Once they meet their feeling of necessity, they cease to be
            obedient
         c. As an example, take the command to assemble - cf. He 10:25
            1) Those who obey only because they feel they have to or
               need to will assemble as little as it takes to salve
               their conscience
            2) Those who obey because they want to, out of love for
               Jesus and their brethren, will assemble at every
               opportunity
      -- Why do we obey Jesus?  Have we matured to obeying Jesus out of
         love?
 
[When true love moves us to obey, we will abide in Jesus and bear fruit
through our union with Him, resulting in the abundant life He offers.
But what is the secret to having a true love for Jesus...?]
 
V. THE SECRET OF LOVING IS KNOWING
 
   A. THIS SHOULD BE SELF-EVIDENT...
      1. Love between husband and wife is based upon knowledge and
         understanding
      2. Strong friendships are also based upon knowing each other well
      3. Brethren who love one another are those who have made the
         effort to know each other
      -- Should we expect it to be any different with Jesus?
 
   B. THE MORE WE KNOW JESUS, THE MORE WE LOVE HIM...
      1. Especially as we grow in understanding His love for us - cf. Jn
         15:13; 1 Jn 3:16
      2. We are more likely to walk in love, if we know His love for us
         - Ep 5:2
      -- Increase our knowledge of Jesus, then, and our love for Jesus
         will increase!
 
[This leads us to the final secret we shall consider in this study...]
 
VI. THE SECRET OF KNOWING IS READING
 
   A. THIS IS ALSO SELF-EVIDENT...
      1. As seen in our humanly relationships
         a. Where there is communication, relationships grow
         b. Where there is none, relationships flounder
      2. Even more so with our relationship with God and Jesus
         a. The more we communicate, the better we know
         b. And how does Jesus communicate with us?  Through His Word!
      -- The only reliable source for Jesus' words is the Bible
 
   B. THE MORE WE READ, THE BETTER WE KNOW JESUS...
      1. As simple as it sounds, Bible reading is the catalyst to the
         abundant life
         a. By reading we come to know
         b. By knowing we come to love
         c. By loving we come to obey
         d. By obeying we come to abide
         e. By abiding we come to bear fruit
         f. By bearing fruit we experience the abundant life
      2. Yet many Christians neglect the Word of God
         a. Even though its value in bearing fruit is seen even in Psa
            1:1-3
         b. How sad when we now have the full revelation of the New
            Testament
      -- Neglecting the Word of God is why many do not experience the
         abundant life!
 
CONCLUSION
 
1. In Jn 15:11, we find Jesus saying...
 
   "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you,
   and that your joy may be full."
 
2. My purpose for sharing these "secrets" has been the same...
   a. Every person ought to be filled with the joy of Christ
   b. Every person ought to experience the abundant life He offers
 
Let the words that Jesus spoke, revealed only in the Word of God, the
Bible, be the catalyst that begins the chain reaction leading one to a
truly abundant life!
 
Note:  The general idea for this lesson was taken from "Five Secrets Of
Living", a small booklet written by Warren W. Wiersbe.  I also have a
five lesson series based on this theme which you can view here.

 

--《Executable Outlines