Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Growing As A Christian

My topic today is about Christian growth…..and remembering who you are….So I wanted to introduce you to the word growth with a little demonstration I adapted from a late night info-mercial I watched several years ago. Imagine that you have three plants in front of you right now. Come on...close your eyes....and try to visualize my plants. These plants each represent the types of Christians we are.
The first plant is an artificial one. Those are the ones I succeed best with. No matter how I try I can't kill them But, this plant represents the Christian that looks good on the outside….but on the inside is plastic. They go through the motions of being a Christian….but there is no growth….there is no life. This Christian is healthy looking….but when there is a crisis in their lives… they find they cannot handle the load….because they don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to call on God….they have no prayer life…..and even though they have heard hundreds of sermons, gone to church every time the doors were open, taught bible studies….and Sunday schools….there is no root. There is nothing….But unlike this plant that can never be brought to life…we can move from this artificial Christian stage….to a productive Christian stage.
If you could use one phrase to describe the Christian life…what would it be? Some of you would probably suggest…”eternal life”, others of you….would say….”salvation”….some of you would say “new life”…..and all of these answers would be right….and good…..but….I want us to scratch beneath the surface and see that Christianity is about a new relationship. The central purpose of the cross of Christ is to restore the relationship that was broken between God and us. That relationship was broken by sin. God who is holy cannot be where sin is… order for Him to be with us sin must be forgiven….wiped clean….and try as we may we cannot do this on our own. So, God did it for us by coming to earth in the person of Jesus Christ and dying for us. Now through faith in Christ we are forgiven and that relationship is restored.
I remember Grover on Sesame Street teaching my children about near and far. He begins close to the television screen and says, “now I am near.” Then he turns and runs away, stops, turns and says, “now I am far.” That is: he is distant, and removed. This is a prime example of an artificial one…
Scripture teaches about near and far also. Far meaning distant from God – and near being close to God in relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit writes in Ephesians 2:13, “but now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
It’s all about relationship. The great news of the gospel is that we now have a relationship with God – that which is broken is now made whole – through the forgiveness of sins. And we will be able to live with Him now and forever. Christianity is all about a new relationship with God through Christ.
Plant number two represents a Christian who is suffering from a forgotten or ignored relationship with God. Nothing goes in…nothing comes out….there is little or no growth. The plant is dying or dead and the relationship with God that it represents is too.
This Christian has quit coming to church….someone hurt their feelings. They don’t get a phone call from the church anymore…or a card saying….Wish You Were Here. They justify their absence by saying they watch Hour of Power on TV….or they watch Fraziers service and prayer? What is that about? I asked God once to save my pet and he didn’t….so he is not there…and he does not listen. So why bother?
Christianity is all about relationship. Nothing matters more than your relationship with Jesus Christ, not the latest moral issue, as important as it may be, not doctrinal purity, as crucial as it is, not some ministry that God is calling you to….as good as it may be.
Kathy Mattea sings a song that fits the lesson well….and how many times can we say this is true in our own lives? How many times have we let our relationships wither?
Friends I could count on….I could count on one hand

With a left over finger or two.

I took them for granted, let them all slip away….

Now where they are I wish I knew.

They rolled by….just like water….

And I guess we never learn

Go through life….parched and empty

Standing knee deep in a river…..and dyin’ of thirst.

The foundational, all important, matter is my/your relationship with Jesus Christ. And as we hear God’s word I pray that you will be thinking about the state of your relationship. You need to be asking yourself, “is my faith based on a deep and living relationship with Jesus Christ or has my faith drifted – to focus on some issue, ministry, or some other relationship….say with work, family, or pleasure?” All of those are good things….but the foundations of them all must be a living, daily relationship with Jesus Christ.
That leads me to plant number 3. This plant represents the relationship that has been carefully nurtured. Much effort has gone into this plant. It has been clipped, watered, fed, encouraged, and the result is successful growth.
Remember who you are….You are a child of Christ.
In the movie….The Lion King….Rafiki goes to Simba and Simba has a vision of his Father….the message Simba’s father gives him is….Remember who you are. Simba was born the king of the animals….but he was living life as a bug eater….singing Hakuna Matata – which means….no worries. Was that what he was born for? No, but he had forgotten who he was…just like we as Christians sometimes forget ….what we were born for. Satan likes this…he does not want us to remember who we are.
Galatians 4:4-7 tells us…”But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his son into our hearts, the spirit who calls out, “Abba Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son: and since you are a son, God has made you an heir.
So next time you are down….remember who you are…..
1. You are a son or daughter of God – not slaves…not bug-eaters. Sons and Daughters!
1 John 3:1 tells us…”How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!

2. We are not just children….we are heirs!
Romans 8:17 – “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.

Remember who you are….you are heirs of God! And as heirs… there are certain things that we do just because we are members of a family. We live our lives led by the Spirit. Prayer-filled lives. Lives that seek God’s will. We seek Him through His word and through prayer. We look to do what He wants…not what we desire. That is who we are.

1 Peter 1:13 – 17 says….”Therefore, prepare your minds for action: be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work inpartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.

WE ARE TO BE HOLY……set apart….pure….We are different. We recognize those who dare to be different. Not those that conform. Famous athletes, famous singers, etc….aren’t famous for being just like everybody else!

WE ARE TO LIVE OUR LIVES AS STRANGERS IN THIS WORLD…..We are not bug-eaters singing “Hakuna Matata.” We aren’t actually from here. When I first moved to Alabama, almost every day someone would ask me where I was from. Why? Because I had a different accent than they did. We need to live our lives as Christians in such a way that people hear our “accent.”

WE ARE TO LIVE OUR LIVES IN THE FEAR OF GOD…fear can be healthy. I fear electricity. I do not stick my wet finger in a light socket. I know what will happen. I have that same respect for God.

Remember who you are….Some of you are going through this life singing “Hakuna Matata” and eating bugs. It’s time to claim your place as a child of the King.

I want to leave you with a final thought….from John 15:1-17

1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.
Jesus is the vine; we are the branches. Apart from Him we can do nothing. Being a Christian is all about our relationship with Christ. How is your relationship today? Now the question I pose to you as I close…

Are you an Artificial Christian? Are you a stunted or dead?….or are you achieving all you can….as an heir to the throne? Hakuna Matata is not my mantra and I hate bugs. I want to be a princess....royalty. I want to wear a blingy crown. Don't you?

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