On Spiritual Growth – Thoughts for 2011, Part 2 of 2

Resolutions? Or should we just do the right thing? Certainly Christians should strive to make markers in their lives where they choose to stop a habit which is harmful, or perhaps begin one that is beneficial. However many resolutions John Edwards made, I’ve never been one for them. Why not just say you are going to do something, and do it. This does not have to mean you will be perfect in your weight loss, running distance, and your reduced intake of chips and queso but it is something you are striving to do which is right. Do the right thing. Choose to do something that is great and begin doing what you need to in order to achieve that great thing.

A reading from God’s word, in the Gospel According to Matthew:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7–11 ESV)

After exposing our sinful hearts and our need to actively seek God in verses 1-5, Christ goes on to show us how much God desires to give us great things. He asks a rhetorical question, yet we should consider the spiritual implications here.  Parents, you likely gave your child a gift for Christmas this year that they really wanted. A gift that they just had to have, or at least something that you just wanted to give to them. This came out of love, no doubt, but alas the gift is temporary. Parents, I know you desire to give your children good things and even many of the desires of their heart, but are you giving the best of what they need spiritually? We don’t desire to give our children stones to eat, but often we settle for spiritual stones over true bread. What have you given to your child that might be a stone rather than bread? Has a temporal activity replaced an eternal one? Maybe you’re not addressing spiritual questions, and rather just letting them “figure it out on their own.” What about the things you allow into your home through entertainment and other media? Stones do not nourish, they may be useful for a single purpose, but they can not satisfy our true need. In our pragmatic society, we settle for activities which will accomplish some good yet do not fully satisfy our true need. Jesus’s statement should cause us to question whether or not we are giving our children, and to each other, that which we truly need.

Sadly, we do not trust that the great spiritual things of the faith will satisfy and nourish our souls. Instead of a fish, which is something that is good for health and nourishment, we often give each other snakes which are harmful and potentially fatal. Because the effects of spiritual practice are not readily noticed, we often forsake them for something that can only satisfy in the short-term. Though we understand what is good to give to our children physically, we often choose to do otherwise spiritually. Jesus’s point here is that we know what we should give each other, but, our Father who is great has that which is ultimately best and will not give us that which is harmful. James 1.17 says,  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Because we are sinful and can do nothing apart from him, we must seek after the great things of God. Prayer is our channel of expressing lament, joy, grief, desire and adoration. This is one way we can seek after God. He will either answer our prayers, change our desires, or answer in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine. This was the message of the Hines’ testimony during Advent: God provided in ways that they couldn’t foresee. Fasting will allow us to consider that which is eternally satisfying and forsake that which will satisfy for only a moment. Are we so prideful to think that we would not gain a greater depth of spiritual discernment from simple fasting and prayer? Ask the Lord to aid you in your struggle with sinful habits, fasting will help. Christ has given us holiness and new life, are we to waste it on things that are unclean? This is his message to us this morning. To what things are you throwing your pearls? Or what affections are you exchanging for the most holy of affections? Knock on the door of God’s word. Maybe you want to stop giving out spiritual stones, but don’t know where to start. Take advantage of resources that will aid in your spiritual growth. Bible reading plans, catchecism study guides and accountability groups are just a few places to start.

We are also called to serve each other and those outside the church.Peter says in his first epistle, chapter four, verse eight, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Make the church of Christ and her work in the world your priority. Christian, you are a spiritual person, not in the shallow worldly sense, rather you are truly spiritual because of God’s Holy Spirit indwelling you for the purpose of showing forth Christ and making you holy unto his service. This is Paul’s message in Ephesians 2:8-10; we are saved to be set apart for his work.

Because of Christ, we now have access to the Father and been adopted into his family; being freed from the bondage of sin. We must now seek the greater things of the Lord through prayer, fasting and abiding in the body of Christ and trust that the pursuit of these things are greater and will increase the abundance of life that Christ promised. This is the message of Christ today for us: our spiritual growth is an active process. Will you seek the greater things of God in 2011, or continue to feed upon the unsatisfying spread of stones and snakes? Trust that the pursuit of the greater things of God will increase the abundance of life that Christ promised. Christ came to give us life and life to the full; may we seek after the life which he has made possible.

Peace in Him,

Coleman

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