April 4 “Sent!”

Sent!

Many people amble through life with little sense of purpose. Others are sent into the world with a job to do.
Jesus selected twelve men to do His work. Sometimes they are called disciples and sometimes apostles. The difference between the two is significant.

  • A disciple is one who shares the discipline of the leader, as in the field of study.
  • An apostle is a disciple who has been sent by the leader to do a certain thing in his name.

The Twelve
They were both disciples and apostles.

  • They were called to Him, not to a cause or a movement, but to the Man, Christ Jesus.
  • He gave them spiritual authority over sickness and unclean spirits.
  • He gave them instructions about who exactly should be the objects of their efforts.
  • They had to depend on the people who received their ministry for support.
  • They must be courteous to everyone but never waste time on people who did not receive them.

Disciples and Apostles Today
Everyone who becomes a Christ-follower today should be a disciple of Christ. He is our Teacher and we try to learn His ways and live for Him in ways that reflect His values. He is also our Savior, the one who cast our sins far away. Jesus is also our Champion. He defeated and disarmed our enemies from hell and ordered angels from heaven to guard our footsteps. It is good to be a disciple of Jesus.

Believers Are Apostles, Too
Each disciple of Jesus should respond to Him with specific things that he/she feels called to do for Him. We are all disciples and apostles—we follow Christ and we have work to do in His name. There are really two distinct lists of things we are sent into this world to do:

  1. Things that all disciples should do and
  2. Specific things He has called each of us to do.

The General Will of God.
These are the things that each of us must do:

  • Worship Him in spirit and truth both privately and with the church.
  • Live holy lives shunning sin and doing works of righteousness.
  • Tell His story, including our testimony, to all who will listen. This is done in demonstration as we live according to His teaching and show compassion to others, and in words as we speak to others about what He has done for us.

This call to discipleship is upon every one of us.

The Specific Will of God.
Discovering this is a matter of prayer and consultation with leadership. Here are some time-proven guidelines:

  • God usually calls us to do something we are gifted in and for which we have talent. For instance God calls musical people to music ministry. Our talents need to be developed into skills God can use.
  • God’s power flows in the area of our calling. When we do the things God is calling us to do, the results are obviously blessed by the Holy Spirit.
  • Doing what God is calling us to do brings a sense of joy to our hearts.
  • Godly leaders recognize God’s blessing on our work and affirm His calling.
  • Knowing what God has called you to do sets up a plan of action to prepare for it.
  • Knowing God’s will helps you say no to things others want you to do.

Each of us should live with this sense of having been sent by Jesus into the world, sent in His name and in His power.

Scriptures:
Matthew 10:1-15
And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead,* cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You made me for a purpose. I am not in this world by accident. I know Your calling on my life and I am doing all I can to fulfill it. Help me to never betray that calling with foolish choices and sinful actions. Let the anointing of Your Spirit rest on me each day as I seek to do Your will. Help me to go where You send me and stay where You keep me and be who You called me to be. For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Living for Jesus
Words: Thomas O. Chisholm; Music: C. Harold Lowden

1. Living for Jesus a life that is true,
striving to please him in all that I do,
yielding allegiance glad hearted and free
this is the pathway of blessing for me.

Refrain:
O Jesus, Lord and Savior,
I give myself to you,
for you in your atonement
did give yourself for me.
I own no other master
my heart shall be your throne:
my life I give, henceforth to live,

O Christ, for you alone.
2. Living for Jesus, who died in my place,
bearing on Calvary my sin and disgrace:
such love constrains me to answer his call,
follow his leading, and give him my all.

Refrain

3. Living for Jesus wherever I am,
doing each duty in his holy name,
seeking the lost ones he died to redeem,
bringing the weary to find rest in him.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

March 29 “Obedience”

Obedience

Obedience to the commands of God is a great power, so often overlooked
The scribe who came to Jesus announcing his intention to follow Jesus wherever He might lead was a brave man. Most of this tribe of leaders were violently opposed to Jesus so this man was breaking ranks; that takes courage. Matthew’s designation of “a certain scribe” indicates that he was a leader of some note. What gave him such courage?

  • It could be that he could not deny what his eyes had seen: miracles, signs, wonders.
  • Perhaps the scriptures he had memorized since childhood came alive in his heart when Jesus spoke.
  • He may have been a man of deep prayer, longing for Messiah to come.

We are told only that he came to Jesus as a turning point in his life.

“Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Jesus and the men were about to cross the Sea of Galilee; this conversation halted their preparations to sail. Jesus looked deep into the man’s eyes and into his spirit to see the sincerity behind the courage. This was no time to go easy on a potential follower.

“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

We are not told how the man responded but it is likely that he obeyed the call of Jesus. In a rapid inventory of his life he counted everything as worthless except to follow this healer/teacher.

  • Perhaps later he followed Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem as He strode toward Calvary.
  • It could be that he believe the news that Jesus was alive again and he was among the witnesses of His glory.
  • He may have seen the Lord ascend into heaven leaving a Great Commission and promising to return in the same way.
  • He could have been counted among the 120 on the Day of Pentecost who received fire from heaven and ran into the streets to proclaim the Jesus story.

There is no way to tell but we know that to obey the Lord is a powerful thing indeed.

No Time for Funerals
Another follower of Jesus needed to attend to some family business before He could follow Jesus; a father needed to be buried. We are not told if the man’s father was old and about to die, or in poor health, or had already passed. Jesus’s answer to this objection seems harsh:

“Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Sometimes obeying the Lord demands swift and sacrificial action. All things considered, it is better to follow now regardless of the cost.

The Winds and the Seas
When the voyage across the lake finally began, a violent storm set in, threatening the boat itself. The disciples were distraught while Jesus was asleep. They called to him and He stood up in the boat and rebuked the storm. It was replaced by a great calm. Even the winds and sea obeyed the voice of Jesus.

Obedience to the commands of God is a great power, so often overlooked

Scriptures:
Matthew 8:18-34
And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me see today the power of obedience to Your command. You will command any storms I may face. You will help me sort out my duties each day as I prioritize obedience to Your Word. Lord, I long to follow You wherever You lead, whatever the cost. Help me to trust and obey! Amen and amen.

Song:
Trust and Obey
Words: John H. Sammis; Music: D.B. Towner

1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word,
What a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, he abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Refrain:
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

2. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil he doth richly repay; not a grief or a loss,
Not a frown or a cross, but is blest if we trust and obey.

Refrain

3. But we never can prove the delights of his love
Until all on the altar we lay; for the favor he shows,
For the joy he bestows, are for them who will trust and obey.

Refrain

4. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet,
Or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
What he says we will do, where he sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

January 23 “Denial”

Denial

Just as we are called to confess Christ, we are also called to deny ourselves to follow Him.
The crowds were huge. The miracles were many. His fame had spread beyond Galilee to Jerusalem. Pilgrims seeking God were coming to Galilee rather than traveling to the Temple. When they came to Jesus they saw the power of God at work, undeniable miracles, signs, and wonders. In Jerusalem they saw politics as usual dressed in the finery of hypocrisy. They were tired of mumbling rabbis so they came to Jesus to hear the Word of God proclaimed in power and authority.

A Change of Subject
Jesus knew it was time to take His teaching deeper. Yes, He had come to touch and heal a hurting humanity but He had also come to die a redeeming death. Yes, He was the Word of God made flesh, but He was also the Sin Bearer prophesied by Isaiah. This hard message must be delivered. If not, His death would be seen as tragedy rather than triumph.

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things…

His disciples were not ready for this class. Peter took Jesus aside and tried to get Him back on topic. Jesus’ rebuke was sharp:

“Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Peter’s face burned red and none of the others dared even to look at him for they knew they were just as guilty.

The Things of God
It is not surprising that men would be primarily concerned about “the things of men:” food, clothing, shelter, power, position, wealth, influence. The surprising thing was that their eyes could be elevated to a higher vision, their passions could flow to others and not to self only, and that their minds could conceive of eternal truth, not just matters of the here and now. Yet, this surprising transformation in men was precisely what Jesus had come to bring about. He called all the people nearer, including his embarrassed disciples, and taught them this new and very ancient truth. To follow Him, there would be a heavy cost.

“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

Jesus turned life upside down. Personal success was found in self-denial. To lose one’s life in Jesus was to find it. If someone gained the whole world there would be no profit in it if he lost his own soul in the process.

Crosses
For the first time Jesus spoke of His cross. An implement of death, it provides eternal life for all who believe. He spoke of other crosses, one for each person who would follow Him. Although demanding the denial of self, this cross would be a thing of life—a life’s work we do for Him. If we would follow Him, we must deny ourselves, find our cross—God’s will for us—and do it.

This is the life we were created to live. We dare not bargain it away on “the things of men.”

“…what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Scriptures:
Mark 8:31-38
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank You for taking up Your cross, for denying Your humanity and submitting to the plan of the Father for Your earthly life. It was not plan B. It was so for the beginning, that You would create human life, see it fall into sin, and then enter it through the virgin’s womb, live it to perfection and then die unworthily for those of us so worthy of death. Your cross, an instrument of torture, has become an implement of life. Help me today to be faithful in bearing my cross—Your plan for me—that I might bring someone closer to You. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

Song:
Take Up Thy Cross and Follow Me
Words and Music: Alfred H. Ackley

1. I walked one day along a country road,
And there a stranger journeyed too,
Bent low beneath the burden of His load:
It was a cross, a cross I knew.

Refrain:
“Take up thy cross and follow Me,”
I hear the blessed Savior call;
How can I make a lesser sacrifice,
When Jesus gave His all?

2. I cried, “Lord Jesus,” and He spoke my name;
I saw His hands all bruised and torn;
I stooped to kiss away the marks of shame,
The shame for me that He had borne.

Refrain

3. “Oh, let me bear Thy cross, dear Lord,” I cried,
And, lo, a cross for me appeared,
The one, forgotten, I had cast aside,
The one, so long, that I had feared.

Refrain

4. My cross I’ll carry till the crown appears—
The way I journey soon will end—
Where God Himself shall wipe away all tears,
And friend hold fellowship with friend.
Refrain

<em>Semper Reformanda!</em>
<em>Stephen Phifer</em>
</div>
<em> © 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved</em>

November 6, 2017: “Vow”

Vow

A vow is more than a promise—it is a pledge made that must not be broken.
Sometimes it is called “swearing an oath.” If you take a vow like this in court to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” and then you lie, that is a crime. When we make a vow to God, the human law is not involved so breaking that vow is not a crime; we won’t go to jail. Keeping our vows to God yields great benefits while breaking them makes us vulnerable to the enemies of our souls.

The Psalmist, knowing this, puts our vows to God in perspective:

“I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God…”

While promises are sometimes expressions of our good intentions, a vow is a binding promise. We must be very careful of the vows we make with the Lord. To raise our hand to Him in praise is one thing; to raise our hand making a vow to Him is another altogether.

Covenantal Relationships
The ancient world into which the Bible was spoken was a world built on covenants. They were even sealed in blood, binding the covenantal partners to the agreement. In our modern world, we are more familiar with contracts. When we sign a contract it is binding and can only be broken at great cost and with mutual agreement. God’s promises to us are of two kinds:

  1. Conditional promises that come into effect with our obedience to our part of the agreement. God says, “I will do this, if you will do that.”
  2.  Unconditional promises that do not depend on us. There are some things that God is going to do regardless of what man does. Among these are the Great Outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days and the Second Coming of Christ.

These two types of promises require two different responses from the believer. For the unconditional promises of God, our job is to be ready when God does what He says He is going to do. Most of our lives are spent in the realm of the conditional promises. As we do our best to fulfill our vows, the Lord is faithful to fulfill His promises to us. He proves Himself to be true to His covenantal names:

  • I am the Lord Who Provides—Jehovah Jireh,
  • I am the Lord Who Heals—Jehovah Rapha,
  • I am the Lord Your Righteousness—Jehovah TsidKenu,
  • I am the Lord Who Sanctifies—Jehovah McKeddish,
  • I am the Lord Your Shepherd—Jehovah Roi,
  • I am the Lord Your Peace—Jehovah Shalom,
  • I am the Lord Who Is Present—Jehovah Shammah,
  • I am the Lord Your Banner, Your Victory—Jehovah Nissi, and
  • I am the Lord of Hosts—Jehovah Saboath.

To break a vow we have made to God breaks His heart, but He does not cast us out. He is still the God who forgives. He is the God of the second chance—and the third, and the fourth—His grace is without measure.

As this week begins, remember your vows. God will surely never forget His promises!

Scriptures:
Psalm 56 NKJV
Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? All day they twist my words; All their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather together, They hide, they mark my steps, When they lie in wait for my life. Shall they escape by iniquity? In anger cast down the peoples, O God! You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? When I cry out to You, Then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me. In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God; I will render praises to You, For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, That I may walk before God In the light of the living?
Psalm 50:14-15 NKJV
Offer to God thanksgiving, And pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”
Psalm 61:5-8 NKJV
For You, O God, have heard my vows; You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name. You will prolong the king’s life, His years as many generations. He shall abide before God forever. Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him! So I will sing praise to Your name forever, That I may daily perform my vows.
Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 NKJV
When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed — Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.
2 Corinthians 1:20-22 NKJV
For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
2 Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You have a full record of the vows I have made to You. Bring them to the front of my mind today so that I might attend to them. I have a full accounting of Your promises to me in the Bible. Bring them, also, to the front of my mind today so that I may live by them. The success of this day depends on both Your faithfulness and mine. Keep me true to my I vows so that might walk in Your promised victory today. For Your glory, Lord! Amen.

Song:
Standing on the Promises of God

Words and Music: Russell Kelso Carter

1. Standing on the promises of Christ my king,
through eternal ages let his praises ring;
glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
standing on the promises of God.

Refrain:
Standing, standing,
standing on the promises of God my Savior;
standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

2 Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
by the living Word of God I shall prevail,
standing on the promises of God.

Refrain

3 Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
bound to him eternally by love’s strong cord,
overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
standing on the promises of God.

Refrain

4 Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
resting in my Savior as my all in all,
standing on the promises of God.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

October 27, 2017: “Destiny”

Destiny

“Our Heavenly Father” is not a puppeteer.
We do not dangle from controlling strings attached to His manipulating fingers. The essence of the life we have received from God is choice; we choose our destiny.

This is not to say we control it for any day can bring things

  • which we did not foresee,
  • for which we did not plan and
  • with which we must deal.

Yet with each surprise, we have a choice to do the right thing or to do the wrong thing. That choice is one of destiny. When we choose to live in relationship with Almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ, we walk the path He has chosen for us—our destiny. The Bible calls this, “The Path of Life.”

A Light and a Lamp
For this pathway there is a light illuminating the way ahead. The Word of God is a headlight searching the way before us, revealing hazards, sharp turns, and dangerous ravines on either side of the path. The truth of this path is not a temporary, passing truth; it is a truth that has always been true and a Word that will never cease to be true—the substantial stuff of destiny.

As if this headlight were not enough, we carry a torch, a lamp for each step. We need never to stumble for every footfall is made in the footprints of Jesus, marked by the scars in His feet. He has walked this way before us showing us how to live. The steps we take today may not be the same we took yesterday and tomorrow’s steps may be different yet again. Each step we take in the will of God is a current truth, the application of an eternal Word for the present moment. He is the torch in our hands, the lamp for our feet. He is our choice, our destiny.

Within the Mind of God
We cannot imagine how the mind of God works, independent of time, unlimited by space. He is not playing some cosmic game of chess with each of us the inanimate pieces which only move when he moves us. This game of grace is like a chess game with each piece an independent agent with a mind of its own. We have a choice but He is still the master of the game.

When we choose our destiny—His will for us for life and for each passing moment—He works everything in our lives toward our good. He sets us on a path of blessing, power, and creativity full of good works, choices to make each day that He has laid our for us from eternity past. A puppeteer He is not and puppets we are not. He is master of all time and space and he holds a plan for each of us, a destiny we can choose today.

And so it was in the Garden called Gethsemane.
Jesus chose His destiny, the arrest, the trials, the torture, the cross, the tomb, and finally, the firstborn from among the dead. His chosen destiny opened up a new and living way for each of us, a destiny we can choose every day.

Scripture:
Psalm 16:11
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Psalm 139:1-6; 13-16
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
1 John 1:5-7
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
John 15:16-17 NKJV
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.

Prayer:
Lord, I do not understand everything about my freewill and Your will for me. I know that You have made with a will of my own and You have always had a plan and purpose for my life. I am not a puppet but the greatest life I could ever live is the one I would live in the center of Your will. In a very real sense, we are a team, You and I. I am the junior partner for all the power is Yours. Still You have blessed me with human ability as well as human will and You wish to utilize my humanity to do the work of Your Kingdom. What a joy to find Your will and do it! Amen.

Song:
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
Traditional

1 I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

2 Though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
no turning back, no turning back.

3 My cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
my cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
my cross I’ll carry, till I see Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

4 The world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me;
no turning back, no turning back.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

September 6, “Growth”

Growth

As a child we never had to think about growth.
It just happened as we ate and played and went to school and played and slept only to wake up to do it all again another day.  The only ones who worried about our growth were our moms and dads, and maybe just our moms.  It seemed like we always grew out of our dress shoes on a Sunday morning or we always had to buy new clothes that were too big at the beginning of the school because our mom knew we would grow into them. When the first baby tooth turned loose it scared us until we found out it was a natural part of growth and that new ones—permanent ones!—would replace them.  Some of us still remember the pains in the calves of our legs at night that our moms called “growing pains.”

In a few years growing up stopped and we were as tall as we were ever going to be.  At precisely that moment, whether we knew it or not, the battle to keep from growing out began.  We will fight against that kind of growth the rest of our lives.

From School to Life
Most of our growing up years involved schooling, first in the basics of communication, numbers, and a fundamental sense of who we were as citizens.  After varying numbers of years we were graduated from the school system never to return.

The learning processes, however, did not stop.  We had to learn how to live and how to make a living.  Some of us kept going to schools that specialized in skills, facts, and concepts to help us become productive members of society.  Our mental growth became our responsibility and we either reaped the rewards for growth or we suffered the consequences of the lack of knowledge and skills that locked us into poverty and dependency on others.

Spiritual Growth
Like so many other physical dimensions of life, there is a spiritual parallel to physical and mental growth.

  • The Bible is clear that we should grow up in the knowledge and skills required to be a productive member of the Kingdom of God.
  • Christian maturity doesn’t happen just because time passes.  It is all too common to find believers in Jesus who are advanced in years but still have not grown up in God.

Christian growth is not automatic or accidental—it is intentional.   We need spiritual food and exercise.

  • The Bible says the Word of God is both baby food and adult food—milk and meat.
  • Jesus said believing in Him at the Table of the Lord was like taking bread and wine for the spirit.
  • Jesus said that doing the will of God was “food” that the disciples knew nothing about.
  • Jesus told us the Holy Spirit would be a well of living water flowing inside of us.

If we regularly partake of the spiritual food and drink of unending life the Lord offers, we will grow.  We will mature and no longer be aged children.  To grow strong demands disciplined, consistent exercise.  Spiritual strength is the same; spiritual disciplines are a sure thing—if we do them we will have unlimited spiritual growth.

More than the Passing of Time
It is time to put away any childish notion that the passing time will make us grow in the Lord.  It just isn’t so.  For the disciplined believer who serves the Lord growth does not have to diminish with the passing of time, we can grow spiritually even as the outward person fades.  One day we will draw a final weak breath of earthly atmosphere and the next breath will be laden with the scent of glory and our growth in spirit will continue for all eternity.

Scriptures:
1 Peter 2:1-3
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Ephesians 4:14-16
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
John 4:32-34
But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”  …”My food… is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
John 6:28-29; 32-36
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent…I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
Revelation 2:7
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, help me grow in You today! When this day ends and this allotted sunshine fades, may the evening find me stronger than I am at this moment. May my knowledge of You be deeper and sweeter and may I look back on a day of obedience to Your will. As I rest tonight in the safety of Your grace, may my unconscious mind consolidate the day’s learning into permanent growth. Tomorrow, I will start all over again, but I will be different for today, by Your Spirit, I will have experienced growth! All for You Lord Jesus, all for You! Amen.

Song:
More about Jesus
Words: Eliza E. Hewitt; Music: John R. Sweney

1. More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of his saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.

Refrain:
More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.

2. More about Jesus let me learn,
More of his holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.

3. More about Jesus in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing his voice in ev’ry line,
Making each faithful saying mine.

4. More about Jesus on his throne,
Riches in glory all His own;
More if His kingdom’s sure increase;
More of His coming, Prince of peace.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved