5 Essentials for Christian Growth

Have you ever seen a W.W.J.D. bracelet?  If you’re wondering, it stands for ‘what would Jesus do?’  When I was growing up my friends and I all wore them.  We had them in all different colors.  We wore them inside out and upside down.  We were all about our W.W.J.D. bracelets.  

I always thought W.W.J.D.  was a great reminder to do the right thing.  Growing up there are so many choices that we are faced with.  Finding the right answer was not always easy but this bracelet seemed to at least start us looking in the right direction.

As a Christian grows up they hope to mature in Christ.  They hope to have the right answers and make the right choices more than they did when they were young.  This is what happens when a Christian matures.  Scripture is clear that Christ followers will grow (2Peter 3:18, 1Peter 2:2, 1Timothy 4:15, Ephesians 4:15, 1Corinthians 13:11, Colossians 2:6-7, 2Corinthians 3:18) From our reading today, Philippians 1:9-11 reveals to us the 5 essentials for Christian growth. That is, the 5 ways the Spirit works in us as we follow Christ.

  1. Love

We love because He first loved us. (1John 4:19)  It is no surprise that the first essential to Christian growth is love.  After all, love is the greatest attribute of a follower of Christ. (John 13:35)  In a world that tosses around this word seeking to destroy its meaning, it is always a good idea to return to the truth to test our definition of this defining characteristic of our faith in Jesus.

Agape is the word here translated as love. It is a self-sacrificing love.  Later in Philippians 2:1-8, Paul gives one of the fullest descriptions of agape love in the Bible. One statement from this scripture stood out to me, “…but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  What would our lives look like if everyone’s interest were always placed above our own?

Love is not blind.  Quite the opposite love is very perceptive, very discerning.  True love produces obedience that requires knowledge of the truth.  (John 14:15, John 14:21, John 14:23, John 15:10, 1John 3:24)  Here is a list of 1236 commands from the New Testament.

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
Philippians 1:9

  1. Excellence

Verse 10a begins, ‘that ye’ or ‘so that’ in the ESV, indicating that the first point is foundational to the second.  The word here ‘approve’ is ‘dokimazo’, meaning to allow, examine, prove, and discern.  The love of God, with its foundation in the Word (commands), not only helps us discern right from wrong but helps us discern what is best from what is only good.  God’s will is not good, it is perfect. (Romans 12:2)  Love and the Word help us find what is excellent.

When John Wesley went away to Oxford his mother wrote the following in a letter to him: “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the delight for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin.”

That ye may approve things that are excellent;
Philippians 1:10a

  1. Integrity

Verse 10b also begins with ‘that ye’ or ‘in order to be’ in the ESV, again making clear the continued progression of the text.  The word ‘sincere’ is ‘eilikrines’ and carries with it ideas of cohesiveness, oneness and unity.  What would our lives look like if everything touched everything else and ‘gelled’ as it were with no offences?  Does Christ touch every part of your life?  Is there any part of your life that you are keeping for you?  

that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.
Philippians 1:10b

  1. Good works

Verse 11a begins with ‘being’ or ‘having been filled’ in the ESV, a perfect passive participle in the Greek indicating something that happened in the past and is continuing here and now.  It is essential that we understand the progression of this Scripture.  The fruit’s appeal is instant gratification but trying to skip ahead or jump right to the fruit is a lie.  The fruit itself is not something to strive for in a direct sense.  The fruit is the byproduct of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)  Forced fruit without the leaven of love is legalism.  

Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ
Philippians 1:11a

  1. Glory of God

Verse 11b begins with ‘unto’ or ‘to’ in the ESV, this is the purpose clause, it answers the question ‘why?’.  The most important essential is the glory of God.  Indeed it is the reason for the others.  

For a time I thought of reversing this list so that it would begin with God’s glory and end with love.  Though I decided against it, the reason was that it all actually starts here, with the end in mind.  

Our heart attitude is what sets all growth in motion, through the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit.  Glory to God.  Glory to God is on the believer’s heart.  If God’s glory is our focus the Spirit will be at work in us, helping love abound in us, producing in us spiritual excellence, personal integrity, and genuine good works all to God’s glory.

As I made my way through this study I realised that there was one simple answer to that question ‘What would Jesus do?’ Jesus brings glory to the Father.

unto the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:11b

God, may our eyes be single for You. Amen.

 

Study sources:

3 Stages of Christian Growth (and how to avoid them)

Quenching and grieving the Spirit is the topic today, but first a little context on the role of the Spirit in our growth as followers of Christ.

We learned from Philippians 1:9-11 that there are 5 essentials in Christian growth.  We also learned that what sets this growth in motion is the Christian’s focus on God’s glory.  Lastly, we learned that what aids this growth is the Spirit.  If God’s glory is our focus, the Spirit will be at work in us – helping love abound in us, producing spiritual excellence in us, establishing personal integrity in us, and empowering genuine good works in us – all to God’s glory.

Simply put the Spirit’s work in us is to move us along a path to holiness.  Holiness means separate.  His work is to separate us further and further from sin, from temptation, from a preoccupation with the things of the world and thus closer to God.  This is the sanctifying work of the Spirit.

Today’s reading issues a warning not to retard the work of the Spirit.  (1Thessalonians 5:19)  Today we will cover three things with a quick summary of each: 1.) the three stages of Christian growth, 2.) quenching the Spirit and 3.) stoking the Spirit.

The 3 Stages of Christian Growth:

  1. Babes. Babes in Christ know the name of Jesus.
  2. Young Men. Young men in Christ are strong. They know the Word and use the Word (the truth) to overcome the deceiver.
  3. Fathers. Fathers in Christ know God.

12 I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.  13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.  I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.  14 I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father.  I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.  I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.  15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. – 1John 2:12-16

Quenching the Spirit:

1Thessalonians 5:1-11 and 1Thessalonians 5:6-22 give us instruction on Christian living.  In this instruction, there is a warning not to quench the Spirit.  Throughout Scripture, the Spirit is revealed to us as fire.  When a believer quenches the Spirit, the Spirit is grieved. (Isaiah 63:10, Ephesians 4:30)  When the Spirit is grieved it slows the Christian’s growth.  It is as if the Christian says “I’ve got this” to the Spirit by ignoring it and tosses a bucket of water on the fire.

Stoking the Spirit:

Stoking the Spirit is a term to illustrate the opposite of quenching the Spirit.  Here are three simple steps to stoke the Spirit.  The three steps for the recovering Christian:

  1. Read the Bible. (reading the Bible feeds the Spirit.)
  2. Listen to the Spirit. (quiet your life to be able to hear the still small voice and test what you hear against the Word.)
  3. Obey. (Luke 11:28, James 1:25, if there were a fourth step it would be: rinse, repeat.)

Stoking the Spirit is valuing the Spirit.  It is recognizing the Spirit as the source that empowers us to glorify God.  The Christian’s heart seeks God’s Glory, the Spirit sees it through. 

God, we need You.  Fill us with Your Spirit LORD.  May You reign in our hearts and may our eyes be Yours and Yours alone.  Amen.

Apostasy

Today’s reading Hebrews 5 and Psalm 13

The theme of spiritual growth has been a focus in In the last three readings I’ve been assigned.  Today is number four.

  1. Three posts ago was, The 5 Essentials for Christian Growth from Philippians 1:9-11;
  2. the next post was, The 3 Stages of Christian Growth (and how to avoid them) from 1 Thessalonians 5; where the topic was grieving the Spirit.
  3. the last post was, Be Strong from 2Timothy 2:2-6, wherein Paul gave us four relatable examples of what we should grow into, the teacher, the soldier, the athlete and the farmer.

Hebrews 5 closes with a warning against apostasy. Having heard enough to be teachers of Christ, there were those in this congregation that were turning back to Judaism. (Hebrews 5:12)  The Jews identified with being teachers, leaders of the blind, but here the writer rebukes them, essentially saying, you need to go back to the essentials.  You need to start again at the beginning with the basic things.

We know from 1John 2:12-16 the three stages of Christian growth:

  1. Babes. Babes in Christ know the name of Jesus.
  2. Young Men. Young men in Christ are strong. They know the Word and use the Word (the truth) to overcome the deceiver.
  3. Fathers. Fathers in Christ know God.

In my estimation, the writer was essentially saying, you think you are on stage three but you are obviously failing stage two (you are deceived).

This statement is made to the whole congregation as a preface to what the writer is going to share. In paraphrasing, he is saying, ‘I’m getting ready to go deep here.  Get ready, and know that some of you aren’t going to get it because you’re self-deceived.’  The beginning of chapter 6 then wraps up the warning to those that have heard the truth and been led astray down paths of false doctrine.  It is horrifying.  

 

God, may we all grow in You and You alone.  May we grow in Your Word and be strong, able to discern the truth and overcome the deceiver.  God would you give each of us all a thirst for your Your Word?  We need You LORD.  Amen.