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The Four Spiritual Disciplines of Christian Growth

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 TEXT:  John 15:1-5

TOPIC:  The Four Spiritual Disciplines of Christian Growth

Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point,

April 30, 2006

          Today’s sermon asks a simple question.  Are you a growing Christian? 

          Are you?  If I offered you a measuring device designed to measure spiritual growth in a believer’s life, what would you find?  Today we have all kinds of fancy gadgets that can measure just about anything.  For instance, we can measure our height, our weight, including the amount of body fat we have verses the amount of muscle.  We can measure our cholesterol level, our blood pressure, our sugar level and so many of things.  We can diagnose everything about us physically, but today I want to give you a tool that can help you measure how well you’re doing spiritually.  In fact, I want to give you four spiritual tools, called disciplines that can help you measure how you’re doing spiritually.

          Open your Bibles this morning to John’s Gospel chapter number 15.  I’m going to read the first eight verses of this wonderful, transforming chapter of God’s holy word.

(Read John 15:1-5)

          Our Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples that the key to spiritual growth  is…(now get this)…abiding in Him.  He said in verse 5, six words that can change the way you live your Christian life.  “Without me you can do nothing.” 

          Until you come to terms with the reality of your need to abide daily with Christ you will always be a yo-yo Christian, up and down, up and down.  Up one minute, down the next, on fire for God one day and a burned out the next. 

          I believe that many Christians today can be found living in two extremes:  on the one hand there are those Christians who are what I call, “Active but empty” and secondly, there are Christian church members today who are  “Apathetic and empty.”  That’s right, I believe Christians who are in an all out sprint can be just as empty in their lives as Christians who are watching from the sidelines.

          You see we have lost our focus for what it takes to be a growing believer.  We are engaged in activity or passivity, when what God really wants for us is abiding.

          Abiding in Christ means to remain in, to stay in, or even to continue in, a constant, continuing, committed, consecrated, called-out relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord!

          So what are the tools or spiritual disciplines we need to measure our Christian growth?  First,

1.     THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE OF ABIDING IN THE WORD, John 15:7

 

Exp.  Look at John 15:7.  Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,”  stop reading right there!  Jesus is telling us if we want to be a growing believer, a disciple, we must abide in His word.

In John 8:31-32 The Bible tells us, Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, [then] are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (KJV)

          The way to have Christ living in us is to have His word in us.  The word is food to us.  Matthew 4:4, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (KJV) Romans 10:17 So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

          We receive the word many ways:

1.     Listening to the Word of God taught or preached

2.     Reading the Word of God

3.     Studying the Word of God

4.     Memorizing the Word of God

5.     Meditating on the Word of God

6.     Applying the Word of God to our lives.

Now notice that I have done something on the slides to help you understand and remember these four spiritual disciplines necessary to grow as a believer.  I have presented the first discipline in the lower vertical portion of the cross. 

This indicates just how we are to abide in Christ, by abiding in His word here on earth.  His word in us enables us to live for Christ effectively.  Psalm 119:11 says, Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You! (NKJV)

          How are you doing?  Do you love God’s word?  Do you read it?  Do you study it?  Memorize it?  Do you live it?  Do you obey God’s word?  Abiding in the word of God means we live the word as much as we read the word.

          God’s word has the power to transform your life!  Its teachings will radically change your thinking, and thus your lifestyle. 

2.  THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE OF PRAYING IN THE FAITH, John 15:7 

 

7“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

 

          Another important discipline necessary for Christian growth is “praying in faith.”  Look again at verse 7 and this time let’s read the whole verse.  A growing Christian should have or should be developing and maintaining a lifestyle of prayer.

          How do we pray?  Matthew 6:5-6 When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I assure you, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you. (New Living Translation) 

1.     Jesus assumes that as His children we will pray.  “when you pray”

2.     Pray to God the Father, not to be heard of men, v. 5b

3.     Have a private place of prayer, “prayer closet”

4.     Be consistent

5.     Keep a prayer journal.

6.     Follow a pattern of prayer, i.e.,

                   ADORATION

                   CONFESSION

                   THANKSGIVING

                   SUPPLICATION

          Notice the upper vertical portion of the cross points upward to heaven or God and indicates the basic way we communicate with God, through prayer and faith.

3.  THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE OF FELLOWSHIPPING WITH BELIEVERS,

“Fellowshipping” refers to that special relationship we share with all other believers.  All true Christians have a fellowship, a true partnership, with other believers.  Our mutual faith in Christ builds a bond of communion and commitment with one another.  We need one another.  We are a family.

          Abiding in Christ means we will seek to live in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (KJV)

          God has provided a home for His children; it’s called the church.  The church is the place where relationships are nurtured, where love is expressed, compassion shared, encouragement given and acceptance offered.  It is the beginning point of all ministry.  It is the body of Christ here on earth, a living, growing body.  If you are to abide in Christ,

you must abide in His church.  You will never find a well-balanced Christian who is not involved in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ somewhere.

          Notice that the word “Fellowship” is written in the right side of the horizontal portion of the cross.  The horizontal part of the cross represents the important relationship we Christians are to have with others.  Just as the vertical part of the cross points to our relationship with God, so the horizontal part of the cross indicates the importance of our relationship with others if we are to be growing disciples.

          Not only are we to have a relationship with other believers through the church, called fellowship, but we are also to have a relationship with unbelievers in this world, and that’s called witnessing.

4.      THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE OF WITNESSING TO THE WORLD, John 15:8

8“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

 

          Look at John 15:8.  Jesus said that the way to show that we are his disciples is to bear much fruit.  Witnessing is the natural outgrowth of the abiding, or growing Christian live.  If we are living in His word, praying in faith, and fellowshipping with believers, it will be natural and normal to share with others what Christ is doing in our lives.  In fact, you won’t be able to help but share or witness to those around you.

          Bearing fruit is more than witnessing but it always involves witnessing.  Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.”  Matthew 4:19.  Jesus also said, “You shall be my witnesses.”  (Acts 1:8)

          Are you a witness for Christ?

          Notice once again that the first two spiritual disciplines deal with our relationship to God.  That relationship is represented by a vertical relationship.  When we hear the word, God speaks to us.  When we pray, we speak to God.

          The last two spiritual disciplines deal with our relationship to fellow man.  This is a horizontal relationship between a believer, the church and the world.  When we faithfully attend church we fellowship with other believers.  When we are faithful to share Christ with the lost then we are witnessing to the world.

          If you truly desire to develop a close, growing relationship with Christ, then learn and put into practice the spiritual disciplines of:

1.     Living in the word – Bible Study

2.     Praying in faith – Prayer

3.     Fellowshipping with Believers – faithful, consistent, regular attendance in God’s church

4.     Witnessing to the World – sharing your faith with others 

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