Thursday, February 02, 2017

Don’t Grow Stale


Some things go stale or go bad over time. Untreated wood can weather and decay. Clothing wears out. Food goes bad. Even Twinkies, the stuff of urban legend for their seemingly endless shelf life, officially expire after 45 days!

And it isn’t just tangible things that grow stale. It’s now the beginning of February. So let me ask you… how are those New Year's resolutions going? Are you still on that diet (did you ever really start it)? What about your exercise plans? If you’re still going strong, you have my utmost respect and congratulations! But if you’re like most of us, you’ve probably slipped a little bit over the last 31 days. The excitement and novelty of doing something “new” wears off and our attentions are drawn away to other things. It’s human nature.

The key to spiritual maturity is to grow up in Christ, but not grow stale. Problem is, the longer we follow Christ, the easier it is to let our relationship with him grow to simply be a routine or ritual.

What qualities on this list are marks of a true, mature believer?
  • Avoid Evil
  • Memorize scripture
  • Read the Bible daily
  • Be faithful to your husband/wife
  • Tithe
  • Believe every word of Bible is true
  • Attend church regularly
  • Do good deeds.

All of these things could describe a good Christian. But they could also describe a good Pharisee, someone only interested in the outward behavior.

THE DANGER OF KNOWLEDGE

Head knowledge about God is a dangerous thing. It can lead us into a false sense of security and keep us from experiencing intimacy with Him. It also leads us to hurting others, as was happening in the Corinthian church.

“While knowledge may make us feel important, it is love that really builds the church.”
(I Corinthians 8:1 NLT)

Knowledge is not valuable until it is transformed into action.

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
(James 1:22 NASB)

“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
(James 1:22 NIV)

Those who are “merely hearers” are deceived because they think just knowing something is enough. But it’s NOT! If you are a follower of Christ and you are in church to merely learn more, you are missing the point! If you believe church exists to simply satisfy your needs, then you need to investigate your heart. Church is a place where you get to DO what you’ve learned. It should be a place where you are encouraged to act out and practice the gifts God has put in you - even (and ESPECIALLY) when you are NOT in the church building!

In my Facebook Bible Reading group, we’ve been reading a plan called Lessons From The East. The author wrote this in the devotion for Day 5:

"When we release people to dream, pray, and serve, it’s no longer the job of our church staff and board to come up with all the ideas for ministries. Our people are engaged in their domains, and they’re creative enough to come up with plenty of ideas. Our job is to be traffic cops to direct people to the best paths to use their passions, talents, and expertise. We don’t want to control all the traffic. We just want to limit the number of wrecks."

I love the idea of people serving in their passion, coming up with fresh ideas and being empowered to innovate and serve with heart. At Christian Challenge, that’s why we teach that each member can (and should) hear the voice of the Shepherd for themselves! Ministry is not the exclusive domain of the professional clergy. No matter how you make a living, ministry is your real job! The church shouldn’t just be a place where you come to receive ministry. It should be a place where you become equipped to minister to others!

The Dead Sea is dead because the water that flows into it doesn’t go anywhere else. It just stays there and stagnates. In a similar way, our spiritual lives can become stale and dead if we focus only on what we can get and not what we can give to others.

THE ACTION OF CONVICTION

One sign of a thriving life is motion. Have you ever noticed that a person who is moving is never mistaken for being dead? God calls us to live a life of motion or action, not to earn His love but to reflect His love.
           
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
(John 14:15 NASB)

“The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”
(I John 2:6 NASB)  

“Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.”
(I John 2:6 The Message)

Our love and commitment to Christ is demonstrated in the actions of our lives.  

“Dear friends, do you think you will get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?”
(James 2:14 The Message)

The issue is that knowledge doesn’t DO anything. It just knows. That’s why we need to move beyond mere knowledge to conviction! Howard Hendricks said, “A belief is something you will argue about. A conviction is something you will die for!” Conviction initiates action. It causes us to reach out to act on what we know. Knowledge puffs up, conviction acts out.

Is your walk with God a knowledgeable preference or an unchanging conviction? God has called us to live mature lives of convictions so it is demonstrated in the action of our lives. And here is the greatest conviction of all – LOVE! God so loved the world. So we too must love the world and each other.

THE POWER OF LOVE

Paul said that while knowledge puffs up, love edifies. The word “edifies” means to build, to construct. Love has the power to build up the lives of others, to construct a framework of understanding God by demonstrating His characteristics. In 1 Corinthians 8, we see that people were using their knowledge in a way that was destructive, not constructive. Their knowledge was not tempered with love. As a result, new believers or weaker believers were being shipwrecked in their faith. Had these “knowledgeable ones” acted in love, the church might not have had as many problems as they did.


“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”
(1 Cor 13:1-3 NLT)

When people come to the knowledge of Jesus, they are often so enraptured by His love for them that everything is fresh and new. Then as they grow in knowledge they sometimes begin to grow stale. They find themselves just going through the motions. What do we need? We need to return to our First Love. Everything we do needs to be grounded in a living, growing, loving relationship with God.

This is what is going to keep you from growing stale. Love will motivate you to act. Love will keep your eyes open to God’s hand. Love will tenderize your heart to respond to the things that break God’s heart. Only love will keep you from growing stale!
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