Well, this morning we're thinking of the third of our three themes that we have for this year. We began with reaching out.
Last week we thought of welcoming in, and today it is growing deep. And I've got three main Scriptures to read. The first is found in Colossians chapter 1, and I ask you to turn there.
Colossians chapter 1. I would say, I don't know if you would agree with this, that the evangelical church today, generally speaking, is not characterized by spiritual depth, but rather by a shallowness, by a false hype and superficiality. But as we're going to find as we read the Word of God, that God wants spiritual depth. He wants us to have spiritual roots. He wants us to be growing, as Peter would say, in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Colossians 1 verses 3 through 14, as we read it, you can see the theme of growth, of increasing in our knowledge of God, and so on. Colossians 1 then, verse 3, Paul writes, we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all of the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before, in the Word of truth, the gospel.
Notice that. The gospel is the Word of truth, which has come to you as indeed in the whole world. It is bearing fruit and increasing. There's growth, as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth. Just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant, he's a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard, we've not ceased to pray for you. Here's Paul's prayer.
We can pray this for ourselves, we pray this for one another. Asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing, notice this, increasing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Wonderful, wonderful passage. Notice Paul is making it very clear that the foundation of our faith is not our feelings, not our opinions, but rather knowledge. He refers, verse 5, to the word of truth. Verse 6, to the grace of God in truth. And he's praying that the Colossians, verse 10, may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him. Wouldn't that be wonderful, though, that our lives, your life and mine, was fully pleasing to God?
He said, well, how is that going to happen? What would spiritual growth, what would doing God's will look like? Well, Paul tells us. He uses four present tense particiables to describe how we are to live in a way to please the Lord. Here are the four specifics of verse 10 and 11. Verse 10, bearing fruit in every good word.
God wants you to be a fruitful Christian. Number two, also verse 10, increasing in the knowledge of God, that we know God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and we are to increase in our knowledge of God. Third, verse 11, being strengthened with all power. God wants us to be strong spiritually, strong in His grace. Fourth, verse 12, giving thanks to the Father. Here are four characteristics of spiritual depth. Fruitfulness, knowledge of God, strength, power, and thankfulness.
How about it? Are you a fruitful believer? Are you growing in your knowledge of God? Are you experiencing the power and the strength of God in life? Are you thankful or are you a complainer, a critic? So we come today to this third theme, growing deep.
That's a great prayer, isn't it? That Calvary Church, that we would have spiritual depth. Now, we are growing, Lord willing, in expanding our physical premises, but that's not the focus.
Yes, we are intending to expand at the front of the church, as you'll hear during the congregational meeting, to accommodate more class for Calvary Christian Academy, to have more classrooms for life groups and Bible studies, equipping people. All of this is done in part that we would be spiritually deep, that we would be Christians with spiritual roots. Now, let's think a little deeper of the subject in growing deep. Turn to 1 Peter, I said there were three passages, we've looked at one. Here's the second, 1 Peter. I encourage you to come with your Bibles, 1 Peter chapter 1, and we're going to learn first of all that growing deep requires the Word of God. You will not be a Christian with spiritual depth apart from the Word of God. 1 Peter 1, we looked at this in the first Sunday of the year as we thought of the power of the Word of God.
If you weren't there on January 1, let me encourage you to go online and listen to that important message on the importance of Scripture. Here is the context, 1 Peter 1 verse 22, Peter writes, having purified your souls by your obedience, notice it, to the truth, for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you've been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God. For all flesh is like grass and all is glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever. And this word is the good news that was preached to you. So, chapter 2 verse 1, so put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn infants long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up, notice this, grow up into salvation if indeed you've tasted that the Lord is good. Growing deep requires the living Word of God. God's Word is living and abiding, Peter is reminding us. We are saved through the miracle of the new birth, which comes to us through the living and abiding Word of God. The salvation is outside of us, outside of us, we don't save ourselves, we don't look deep for the answer, we look to Christ, and Christ alone, and all of Scripture points to our wonderful Savior.
I trust you understand that all of other life withers and dies. Your achievements, things you had, your possessions, they will all come to an end, but the Word of the Lord remains forever. So, here's the point that Peter drives very strongly in these opening verses of chapter 2. If it is true that God's Word is living and abiding, we, as the followers of Jesus Christ, are to long for what he calls, verse 2, pure spiritual milk. How are you to grow? You are to grow with this desire for pure spiritual milk.
Negatively, you'll never grow without the Word of God. And Peter uses a picture that we understand of a newborn baby longing for milk. The strong desire of a baby is not a cute outfit, is not a fancy nursery, is not a toy, but milk. You don't give a newborn baby a hot dog, or a doughnut, or grits.
I mean, I don't think you should give anyone grits. But what does a baby who's healthy, what does she long for? Her mother's milk. In fact, the baby's desire for milk demonstrates that the baby is healthy. Give the baby milk, clean up the consequences of giving it milk, and you've got a contented baby.
That's it. We are being born again into God's family. We begin as spiritual babies.
We are to long for, we are to desire, says Peter, the pure spiritual milk. God's Word is pure. It is wholesome. It's not watered down. It has no additives.
It is 100% safe. Therefore, long for the Word of God. That's one of the characteristics of an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. In John chapter 10, the great passage of the Good Shepherd, remember Jesus said, "'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.'"
You love someone, you listen to them. Here's the Good Shepherd, His sheep, His followers, they hear His voice. That is, here in the sense of listening to and obeying. And the wonder, the supernatural Word of God is such that the more we read it, the more we want to. And you will never grow deep without reading and obeying the Word of God. On January 1, I challenged all of you to spend at least 15 minutes a day in the Word of God. Some of you have not followed through.
I'm looking for some guilty faces, but some of you can really look at me and look just like an angel. But God knows your heart. But I've been very encouraged because a number of you have said, we've never done this before, John, and now we started reading the Word of God.
Some of our children, some of our students, some adults. And you may have been following Jesus Christ for many, many years, but you have neglected daily in the Word. I emphasize this. Brothers and sisters, you will never be deep. You will never be ready for God to use unless you're in the Word of God. Remember Psalm 1, the psalmist says, this is the man that God blesses, his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. What is this man like? He's like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither in all that he does, he prospers. Here is a man, we would say, who is grounded. He knows his identity. He knows why he's on earth. He's blessed by God.
God's hand is on him. No, he delights in the Word of God, and he has deep roots, and therefore his life is fruitful and blesses others. Growing deep, first of all, requires the Word of God. Secondly, growing deep requires putting away destructive attitudes and actions. Here's the negative. 1 Peter 2, verse 1.
It's interesting that Peter says this, isn't it? Put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Certain sinful acts and attitudes are going to hinder my spiritual growth.
If you're going to be physically healthy, stop your intake of the junk food. There are people who have physical eating disorders. There are Christians who have spiritual eating disorders. If you're to grow spiritually, if you're going to have spiritual depth, there are certain things that you have to put away, certain attitudes and actions which have no part in your life. Peter says, malice and all deceit. I think you're writing to Christians.
Why would you choose that, Peter? Malice? It wasn't malicious. He's told us in verse 22 of chapter 1, to have a sincere brotherly love.
Love one another earnestly from a pure heart. But among Christians, we can have grudges. We can act maliciously. We can even act deceitfully, with lying and all kinds of negative attitudes.
You outgrudge against some brother or sister or someone, someone you've never forgiven. This malice is a deliberate deceptiveness. Liberate deceptiveness. You know, how can you seek to please God? How can you be growing in the Lord if this is your act or attitude? He also mentions hypocrisy. One of the common sins of the religious person. Hypocrisy. Pretending to be more spiritual than you are. Envy.
We thought of that in the seven deadly sins. Envy. Looking at what someone else has or is with envy, you envy their home, their car, their boyfriend, their girlfriend, their spouse, their spiritual gifts. And that envy often leads to slander, Peter says. Hypocrisy and envy and all slander. What's slander? Untruthful, critical speaking. Is that part of your life?
You're envious. There's a hypocrisy as you come to Calvary Church. You give the impression in that Bible study, in that life group, that you're up here and the rest of us are down there.
In fact, you've got a very critical attitude, a very judgmental attitude. Do you know, brother or sister, that is hindering your spiritual growth? These sins, and we all know about them, which one of us can say that this is no part of our lives, these sins prevent us from growing deep and loving the Word of God. Remember the Psalmist says, Psalm 119 verse 11, your word, I have treasured in my heart that I might not sin against you. Sin prevents you from receiving and obeying the Word of God. Here is how the Apostle James puts it in James 1. He says, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted Word which is able to save your souls.
Any filthiness in your life, any wickedness, any nasty stuff in your life, it's secret, of course. We don't know about it, but God does. And now you come to the Word of God. You say, I'm not getting much out of this. You try to pray, but it seems as if nothing's happening.
As if nothing's happening. You know what the problem is? These sins are distorting your understanding of Scripture. It was the old adage that this book keeps us from sin, and sin keeps us from this book. You find the Bible boring? You know what the problem is? Not with the Bible.
It endures. It's God's Word. Problem isn't the Bible.
Problem is yours. Maybe some sinful attitude, some sin which needs to be repented of. So first, I need the Word of God. Secondly, the negative, I'm to put away destructive attitudes and actions.
Is the Holy Spirit bringing something to your mind? Don't ignore that. Deal with it.
Repent of it. Put it away, Peter is saying. Number three, growing deep requires progressing, to say the obvious, beyond the basics of the Christian faith. So if you're at 1 Peter, turn back a few pages to Hebrews, Hebrews chapter 5. Here's our third passage this morning. You say, John, you're all over the place today.
Not really. There is some logical coherence. It may not be obvious, but there is. Hebrews chapter 5, verse 11.
You want to grow deep? Well, we've got to master the basics, but progress beyond the basics of the Christian faith. Hebrews 5, verse 11. He's been talking about the priestly order of Melchizedek. He says in verse 11 about this, with much to say, and it's hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
The word is lazy, sluggish. There's a wax buildup in your ears. You teachers, you know you're talking to students, and you know by looking at them, they're not getting it. It's not necessarily because you're a bad teacher.
No, the problem is with the listener. Sometimes we are dull, we are lazy, sluggish in our hearing. Verse 12, for though by this time you ought to be teachers, you should have mastered the basics, Hebrew Christians, and be able to communicate them to others, but you can't do this. You need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness since he's a child.
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. It's a wonderful passage as we want to keep growing in the Lord. These first century Christians, the writer is saying, you should be in a position to explain the Christian faith to others, but you're unable to do that. Verse 12, by this time you ought to be teachers. You see, time by itself is not sufficient. You say, well, I've been coming to Calvary Church for 20 years. That's not the question.
Has there been an application of the truth? Rather than these Christians being able to teach others, the writer is saying, you need to return to kindergarten and learn the spiritual alphabet. You need to learn your ABCs again.
You need to learn the elementary principles. You should have made progress by this time. What about you? Are you still at the foundational level now if you're a new Christian? That's where you are. That's where all of us are. We begin there.
At the men's breakfast, I talked about the basics. It is essential that we understand the basics, that we understand the gospel of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. But the writer is wanting them to progress. There's no spiritual depth. They become dull in their hearing.
Lazy. See, growing deep requires a diet of solid food. He says to them in verse 12, rather than having solid food, you're still in milk. In fact, you can only handle milk. You are, verse 13, unskilled in the word of righteousness. Spiritually speaking, he's saying, you're stuck at the baby stage.
Milk is food processed by another. And some of us, sadly, still have to be spoon fed. Spiritually speaking, we're still on the spiritual bottle. We're unable to understand, digest, and apply the Word of God by ourselves. We're still, spiritually speaking, at the baby stage.
Oh, we may have been saved for many, many years, but that's where we are. And the writer is saying, listen, I'm difficultly explaining these truths to you because you're dull of hearing, and you're still at the milk stage rather than solid food. We've all seen the little boy at the dinner table who didn't want to eat nutritious food. And some parents go through all kinds of ridiculous steps, don't they, to get little Johnny to open his mouth and to consume a Brussels sprout, which incidentally is one of my favorite vegetables. But they'll say, well, here's a little train coming.
Open up your mouth like a tunnel, and they'll do all kinds of things to get little Johnny to eat certain foods. You know, I think sometimes that's how some churches are. People have to be entertained.
They have to be kept in a childish nursery situation because the audience are not able to handle the solid food of the Word of God. So after church, you go to a restaurant, and as you go in, you see a number of people who have been at Calvary Church. The restaurant has a wonderful menu, many items on it, but there they are. There's ten of them. They're all at the table, and they're all drinking milk from bottles. You see them? There they are. That's all they want.
There's a wonderful menu. No, I don't like this. I can't eat that.
Oh, no. And they're still drinking milk. Sadly, they don't understand how mature they are. There's nothing wrong with babies drinking milk. Babies should drink milk. Peter has told us that at the baby stage, we are to drink milk. But what is appropriate for a baby is very inappropriate for an older child or adult.
Now notice verse 14. It gives an important description of spiritual maturity. The ability to discern good from evil. Solid food is for the mature. That's what we want.
That's our goal, isn't it? For those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Spiritual growth, spiritual maturity are the result of the continued personal application of the Word of God to our lives, resulting in wise decisions being made. Growing deep results in wise decision making. Every day we make decisions.
Most of them are fairly trivial. What am I going to eat? What am I going to put on? But life is full of decisions, and some of them are very, very important and really set the course for the rest of our lives. The one who is spiritually mature is able to make wise decisions. Now, growing deep requires practice and training.
I want you to get this. Growing deep requires practice and training. How would you describe your fitness?
I mean physical fitness. You feel you're physically fit, you work out, you're pretty good. I went to the doctor, he gives you an assessment.
I've got my doctor's appointment sometime next month. They do tests. He gives me the verdict how I'm doing, checks me out.
We understand that, don't we? But really, there's no such test spiritually. I can't come with a spiritual stethoscope on you and then say at the end of the day, in terms of where you are spiritually, 1 out of 100, you're at 5 or you're at 95.
It's not that easy, is it? But what I'm saying to you, when the Word of God is saying to you, our goal is spiritual fitness. I want to be physically fit. You want to be physically fit.
This is even more important. I want to be fit spiritually. Now, spiritual growth, like our physical growth, takes time. The truths that we learn, verse 14, have to be practiced over and over and over again.
In verse 14, the writer is using an athletic imagery. He uses, he says, did you notice, a constant practice. That's a skill acquired through practice.
Some things in life are very easy. Other things take time, take discipline, take practice. Spiritual fitness is like that.
It takes time. He also uses the word trained. Have their powers of discernment trained. It's a Greek word, gomnazo, from which we get our word gymnasium. What does an athlete do? He spends a lot of time practicing. She wants to keep fit, and she works out in the gym, practicing over and over and over and over again.
Spiritual fitness requires the same. In thousands of homes in Charlotte, there are exercise machines. Some of you have them.
Many of them, I would think probably the majority of them, are never regularly used. We have good intentions. We buy this machine. We've listened to the ad on TV. We've been kind of sucked into it.
The thing is delivered. We get very excited, and after a while, the truth being known, it's never used or used very occasionally. We had one in our last home. It was up in the family room, and we, as good as I talked, we said, you know, we never use this thing.
What's it doing there? I like to think I'm just naturally physically athletic, but I'm not sure. Your exercise machine is of absolutely no use unless you use it. You say it's pretty boring to do it.
It is. You do the same thing over and over and over again. But I wonder if your Bible is like a neglected exercise machine.
You get out of practice. Once you're in the Word, once you really enjoyed hearing the Word of God, you enjoy the Bible study. If you're a parent, it was a great delight of you to teach your children, but somehow or other, you've got spiritually lazy. Oh, I've known men who know the Bible. They love Bible studies. They can't get enough Bible studies, but their problem is the knowledge has never been applied to their life. You may go to the best Bible study.
You may hear biblical preaching, but unless you personally, individually apply the truth, you will still remain a spiritual baby. You may have a lot of head knowledge. You say, well, I enjoy getting together with men.
Yes, some men get together to talk about the playoffs. You get together to talk about the Bible. But it's just intellectual. You've got a lot of information, but you never really serve. I've said before, perhaps you're going to too many Bible studies and not serving enough. And we ask for people to volunteer now, but you're trying off to yet another Bible study. But the truth is only in your mind.
You're developing a big head, as it were, but the rest of your body is flabby, is not used. And if the truth be told, you're still a spiritual baby. This passage in Hebrews chapter 5, I commend to you for your study. What is the path to spiritual growth and maturity? Here it is in Hebrews 5 verses 11 through 14.
Here it is. I think we've got it on the screen. Knowing God's Word. You've got to have knowledge. Knowing God's Word plus time. This takes time. Plus, and this is the point that this is the stage that's often neglected, application of biblical truth equals growth and spiritual maturity.
You are to know the Word of God. You are to grow in your knowledge of God. That takes time. You don't go from spiritual infancy and to spiritual maturity overnight because you have an emotional experience. No, this takes time.
It takes practice. And in particular, what is often neglected, I fear brothers and sisters, is that we're not applying biblical truth. You spend time in the Word of God. Months go past, and now you apply the Word of God. You heard the Word of God today, to put away the sins. What does the wise person do? You think, you know, I've been a bit unforgiving of that person. I've been a bit malicious towards them, that person that wronged me.
And you're convicted, and you repent of that. That's growth. That is the application of spiritual truth to your situation. Practice is essential for maturity, constant practice. If you're going to be spiritually mature, you've got to spend time in God's gym.
Are you? Otherwise, you're going to be spiritually flabby. You're going to be easily winded, spiritually speaking, easily discouraged, and unable to make wise decisions.
You become dull of hearing. You know, in sports, football, soccer, and I'm sure with other sports as well, we hear of the athlete sometimes not being match-ready, not being game-ready. I heard on the news that the German soccer league has not yet started.
It's going to be started. They had a break because of the World Cup, and while some of the other leagues have started, such as the British leagues, the German league hasn't. And the commentator was saying, an ex-footballer, he said, there's going to be a problem for some of them to discern if they are game-ready. During that break, have they kept themselves fit? Have they been at some of the junk food? Or have they been in the gym? Have they been running?
Have they been practicing over and over and over again so when the game comes and the coach says, you're on, Monroe. This is your position. I'm ready.
I'm equipped. Why? Because of constant practice. You understand that in athletics, don't you? Some of you have played and you thought you were good. You had a certain ability, but you got lazy with the practice. That's why coaches on the top level, if they think the player has not been practicing, doesn't come to the training, they bench them.
Maybe a wonderful athlete, tremendous ability, but is not quite match-ready. And in the instant reflex of the game, the individual is a little slow, not quite sure what to do, and so loses the game. Remember when we talked about the Word of God in January 1, I read from 2 Timothy 3, 16 and 17, where Paul talks about the Word of God. It's profitable for all of these things. And then Paul says it makes us equipped for every good work. Do you realize, my dear brother, that God has something for you to do?
You're a father. God wants you to model Christ to your children. He wants you to love your wife as Christ loved the church. You're a student at university. God has purposes for you. He wants you to be a good student. He wants you to keep away from all of the junk of the modern university with all of the temptations. He wants you to shine for Christ.
He may want you to speak to a friend, to someone else in class about Christ. For all of us, God has saved us, and He has works for us to do. Not in order to be saved, we're saved by grace alone through faith alone and Christ alone, but He has a purpose for our life. I find that wonderful. I find it very humbling that God not only saved me, He has purposes for you, and you have a purpose in life. But are you going to be ready for that?
Are you going to be game ready? What happens? We become dull of hearing. We become spiritually lazy. We've neglected time in the Word. We've neglected our time on our knees, and we say, well, I don't have time. Please don't say you don't have time to read the Word of God.
People stop coming to church. They say, well, I don't have time. Life is too busy, you know, and Molly is visiting, or I've got to take little Johnny to play baseball, and we have all of these excuses. We can't really even take time on one day a week, the Lord's Day, to worship God. We don't have time.
Don't say that. You have all the time you need to do God's will. I have all the time I need to do God's will. The question is, am I doing God's will? How am I using my time? The athlete spends time training, constant practice.
So during the game, when the decision has to be made, the athlete is ready. And when God in His grace taps you on the shoulder and says, I want you to do this. I want you to speak to that person about Jesus Christ. I want you to serve in children's ministry.
I want you to be a true to be a true leader in your marriage. The individual who spent time in the Word has had constant practice is then ready. Tomorrow you may face the fiercest temptation of your life. Tomorrow you may have to make a decision which could set the future path of your life. Tomorrow you may have to make a very, very important choice. Tomorrow you could face a tremendous crisis.
They come to us all, sometimes unexpectedly, and when they come, we want to be ready, don't we? We want to make wise decisions. Spiritually immature people make decisions based on their feelings, based on their self-interest, based on the pervading culture around us. A mature Christian makes decisions based in accordance with the Word and will of God.
Make wise decisions. Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, so almost instinctively in life. When the crisis comes, when the difficult decision comes, when we're not sure what to do, we have this solid anchor in this book. It is the living and abiding Word of God. John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace, writes this. He says, remember, the growth of a believer is not like a mushroom, but like an oak, which increases slowly indeed, but surely.
Many suns, showers, and frosts pass upon it before it comes to perfection, and in winter when it seems to be dead is gathering strength at the root. He says to us, be humble, watchful, and diligent in the means, and endeavor to look through all, and fix your eyes upon Jesus, and all shall be well. I commend you to the care of the Good Shepherd. It's not wonderful to know that we have a loving Heavenly Father who made us, who loves us, and we have a wonderful Good Shepherd who is watching over us. Psalm 23 says, He leads us in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Our mission at Calvary is not just to reach people, we want to reach people, but it is to be and make authentic followers of Jesus Christ. Not just to get people to come on this campus, we want them to come, but we want them to know Christ, and we want to disciple them, and we want to have children in our school, in the development center, in our children's ministry, and youth ministries who understand Scripture, and day by day, week by week, like that oak tree, are becoming stronger and stronger.
So what am I saying to you? Keep reading, keep meditating, keep meditating, and keep applying the Word of God to your personal life. And in God's grace, you will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Help us, Father, to do that. We do pray. None of us want to be superficial.
We all want to be growing. Some have been following Christ for many years, others just for a day or two, some have not even started. And for all of us, Father, we need Your Word. We need Your Spirit. Convict us, encourage us, challenge us. We do pray as we keep looking to Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith. In His name we pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-23 12:17:07 / 2023-01-23 12:31:08 / 14