New Life
3/31/2011 | Author: RCW
I hope you are enjoying the recent series of posts regarding reading and learning as a part of healthy growth in the Christian faith.  If you are, I hate to break it to you, but this entry is only minimally related to that topic.

My wife is about 2 weeks from her due date.  We are welcoming our first child into this world in just a handful of days.  It's truly a wonderful, scary, and exciting time.  And although I did read a great book in the early months that helped me tremendously to process the reality that I was going to be a dad, my emotions (as well as my wife's) have been all over the place.
 
But aside from my wife and I's own prayerful anxiety about bringing a daughter into this world, the real story is --- well, our daughter.  In less than a couple of weeks, a new life will emerge from our lives.  She will be --- all at once --- her mother and me.  This new bundle of joy is going to be welcomed into our family and is going to experience real life!  What a miracle!

But here is what I have been thinking of today... What if my daughter never grew?  What if we fed her and loved her and did everything we could to help her develop as she ought, and she simply wouldn't grow?  God forbid it, but would that not be awful?  It would be an unbelievable abnormality that would very likely put her life itself in serious jeopardy.

But the gripping fact is that Christians do the same thing all the time.  And frequently, churches don't do much to help.  A person might make a decision, walk an aisle, check a box, or pray a prayer...in some way he or she accepts Jesus Christ and enters into new life in Christ.  Hooray!  We have a new creation!  A spiritual infant has been "born again" into God's family!  (Is this not the very Biblical metaphor that Jesus used?)  What an amazing miracle!  And yet, most will stagnate.  Most will not grow.  Most will remain spiritual babes.  Most will seldom nourish themselves with the scriptures, pray, or serve God with any consistency.  Worse still, a few weeks, months, or years may pass so that being still infants in Christ, they begin to wonder why their life isn't all that much different.  They may even seriously question their original decision or feel duped by those that offered them this "new life" in Christ.  It happens ALL.....THE.......TIME. 

I personally work for a church.  If I were to summarize my role there, I'd say my job is to help Christian adults grow and develop in their faith.  Would it surprise you if I told you that I tend to desire the spiritual growth of those adults far more than they desire it?  (This is not a slam to the church I work at...it is simply a statement of the actuality that faces most congregations in the U.S.).  
 
So how can you start growing? Here's a great starting point:

  1. Get a good Bible.  Read it regularly, take notes, write down what you learn and what questions you have, even underline and memorize the verses that strike you as worth memorizing.
  2. Ask God to help you grow, believe that He'll bring it about, and desire it more than anything else.
  3. Plug into an authentic Biblical community that strives to help you spiritually develop.  Get to know a few committed Christians within that community that you can tell are serious about their relationship with God and live it out in all they do.
  4. Begin to use and even leverage your natural abilities, skills, gifts, possessions, time, finances, and your whole self to be a part of spreading the good news about Christ and living out your faith with everything God gives you.  In short, serve God and be a steward of what He's given you so that you might bring Him glory. 
If you already feel like you've done the above, check yourself.  Ask yourself these tough questions and answer honestly:
  1. When was the last time I spent time reading my Bible?  Am I faithfully involved in personal Bible study and time alone with God?  Have I read any spiritually nourishing material lately?
  2. How much time do I spend in prayer?  Do I talk to God about everything?  Do I talk to God throughout the day?  Or do I simply reserve prayer for before meals, at church, before bed, etc.?  When I do pray, do I just ask him for stuff I want, or do I actually have a real relationship with Him that goes beyond that type of interaction?
  3. Is my church committed to seeing me grow spiritually?  Do they care as much about turning me into a faithful and authentic follower of Christ as they do about seeing new people pray the same prayer I did to receive Christ?  Have I sought and found Biblical community within my local church?  Have I involved myself with other believers and developed strong relationships there or have I been passive and retreated from being known by others?  Is the Biblical community I am involved with at church really serious about growing or are we just a social group that seems stuck and apathetic?
  4. Finally, how am I serving and being a steward?  Am I giving faithfully of my time, talents, money, and energy to see God's rule and reign in the hearts and lives of others?  Or am I holding back and sitting on the sidelines?  What more could I be doing to further God's work in my church, in my community, and in my world?
  5. If people followed me around all day every day for a month, would my life clearly tell them that I am a follower of Christ who reflects who He is?

-RCW
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1 comments:

On May 3, 2011 at 3:28 AM , brandon kyle said...

Very accessible and practical thoughts, Cole. Love it. You're not reinventing the wheel, but rather laying out in simple language the basics for spiritual growth. I know that's obvious, but I rarely see a well-rounded summary of what spiritual growth looks like. It's typically just "read your Bible and pray," as if the Church, our time, our finances, our inclination to forgive, our self-sacrifice, etc. are trivialities reserved for those who don't have anything better to do with their time.

I wonder if I could make a request. I'd love to hear your thoughts about deepening one's prayer life. Right now, to continue your analogy, I feel like my diet is carrots and chicken nuggets -- not baby food, but not steak either. I pray each day, but often times distractedly, and sometimes half-heartedly, and rarely with a structure to speak of. I pray throughout the day too, like Nehemiah before he goes in to see the king, but I'm talking about a concerted time of prayer where we shut the door and give ourselves over to the task. If you think it might be appropriate for this space, I'd love to hear some practical suggestions you might have.