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Spiritual Growth - How to achieve it!
September 2015 - Part

Philippians 3:8-17

The Apostle Paul after many years of following after Christ, when nearing the end of his life wrote the words we read in Philippians 3:8-17“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; (10) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, (11) if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (12) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. (13) Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, (14) I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (15) Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. (16) Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. (17) Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”  

Paul knew that no matter how he felt about the depth of his relationship with Christ there was so much more.  He called this deeper relationship the “excellency of the knowledge of Christ.”  He then commanded us to be followers together with him in obtaining that prize.  This attitude of Paul and his desire to obtain it along with his desire for us to seek after it, forces us to consider how to achieve it.  So we ask the question, “How do we achieve spiritual growth?”  In this months teaching we will continue to point out and explain some more methods and suggestions that we can put into practice that will help us to achieve spiritual Growth.

An often overlooked and rarely considered way of growing spiritually is “Tithing.”  Tithing is the giving of one tenth (tithe means one tenth) of your income to God. This is God’s pro­gram to keep propagating the Gospel.  Everything you possess comes from the hand of God.  Do not be selfish with what God has given you.  You want to honor God with your substance, but you have not even begun to give until you have paid your tithe. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings! Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:8, 10).         

If you are not a systematic tither, you may be robbing God and as a result robbing yourself of many blessings. You cannot out-give God!  He has promised to supply all your needs. Pay your tithe and try giving offerings after it and see how God will open the windows of heaven for you.

The church is your storehouse of spiritual food, blessing and service, so this is the proper place to give your tithe. The gathered funds carry on the work of Cod at home and on the mission field.  In a family relationship, a husband and wife who do not share alike in their financial possessions, can never really be unselfish in their love for each other or anything else for that matter.  How can your relationship and love for God be at complete oneness if you hold back of the material possessions that God has given to you in the first place? “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom” (Luke 6:38).

Giving of one’s self is another way of increase your Spiritual growth.  Consecration is the giving of one’s self without any reservation. Have you ever visited a friend who has moved into a new home?  Were you ever shown all the rooms of the house, or was one or two of the rooms locked hidden from you?  How did that feel? Left out? Questioning? Sure!  And wondered why! Can you invite Jesus into your heart and not allow Him to see all your heart, all of your life and everything and everybody that is dear to you? ALL this should be given into Christ’s care, holding back nothing.

When you give all into His care and keeping, then He becomes your Lord and Master as well as your Savior. ‘What shall I give Thee, Master? Thou that didst die for me, shall I give less of what I possess or shall I give all to Thee? Jesus my Lord and Savior, thou hast given all for me, I will give all to thee.’

You are not your own, you are bought with a price – the precious blood of Jesus.  ”For as much as you know that ye are not redeemed with corrupti­ble things, as silver and gold . . . But with the pre­cious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1st Peter 1:18,19). Christ gave himself for you, now you must willingly give yourself back to Him, you are a ‘love slave’ ready to do His will and be at His command. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). Are you willing to give yourself for the spreading of this glorious Gospel of Christ which is the only answer to the needs of the world?  Have a dedicated purpose to tell others of what God can do for them, if they will put their trust in Him. God is no respecter of persons, “And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of Cod’s sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting” (Luke 18:29, 30).

Consecration however; means death; death to the “Old Man” your old nature.  In the Bible our unregenerate nature is referred to as the ‘old man’ or carnal na­ture. You are now a new creature with a new nature in Christ “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2nd Corinthians 5:17).  You see things differently, your thought patterns are changed and you act with consideration toward others not just yourself and your own needs.  Love becomes primary especially toward strangers and forgiveness becomes surprisingly your mind set toward those who offend you.

However, there is a problem that arises as a result of this new nature.  You now have the two natures warring against each other. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. (19) For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:18-19).  How do you overcome these natural desires, ambitions, inclinations that are contrary to God’s way?  You want to be free from them, so what you have to do is to line yourself up with what the Spirit of God tells you because he is your guide. “Howbeit when he, the spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). He will fight this old nature, or old man, who is so bent on sinning. “Know­ing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that hence­forth we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6). “That ye put off concerning the former conduct the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Ephesians 4:22)).

In times when it seems so easy to just give in to these natural tendencies, that is when you call on the Spirit of God and let Him fight those sinful tendencies for you. “There hath no temptation taken you hut such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to he tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to hear it” (1st Corinthians 10:13)).

At this point the Scriptures you have memorized are to be used to fight your battle against all evil tendencies. The quoting of God’s Word will bring you victory and comfort. The Holy Spirit will bring to your remembrance the Scriptures you will need to resist the tempter.  Remember, Jesus used the Scripture when He was tempted of the devil, saying “It is written.”  We are to take the helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Read also Ephesians 6:13, 16.. If each time you are tempted to sin and overcome them by His Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit, you will soon subdue the old nature, and you will be able to walk in the Spirit.

You must force the ‘old man’ to die com­pletely.  A dead man has no desires or ambitions; you alone can either starve him until he dies or you can feed him keeping him alive.  By yielding to the desires of the old nature (the old man) you are feeding him; by denying him and overcoming temp­tation by the Spirit of God, you will starve him to death. It is not sin to be tempted, but it is sin to yield to the temptation. You cannot keep the flies from flying around, but you can keep them from sitting on your pudding.  Should you fail, do not let Satan, whose favorite tool is discouragement, tell you ‘It’s no use now; you have failed once thus you are going to fail every time.’ Satan is a liar and the father of lies, so go to God’s Word and ask forgiveness according to 1st John 1:9 for that is your victory over it, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confess to God right away, He has promised to forgive, then be ready and on the alert for the next temptation. Get more acquainted with your weapons. “Put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:11, 12). Learn to obey the voice of the Holy Spirit. Remember victory over the world, the flesh and the devil is yours because Christ bought it for you at Calvary. Victory is included with the gift of Salvation; it is up to you to accept it as a finished work. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36)).

This freedom if not understood can lead to many questionable actions, some of which are sinful and can lead us astray so; how do you know the things which a child of God should or should not do?  A good test is asking your­-self this question, ‘Is my action ques­tionable?’ If so, put the mat­ter under observation, that is, look at it through God’s point of view. Imagine for a mo­ment a beggar who has been befriended by a prince of royal blood and been offered a share in the royal family. Can you be­lieve that the beggar would be unwilling to part with his old dirty garments in exchange for clean royal robes? Hardly! You have been given the robe of righteousness, the garment of Salvation; you are now a child of the King. Jesus who is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, has loved you even while you were yet a sinner. “But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  Do you not want to learn His ways and walk the paths that are becoming to a child of the King?  “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. (10) With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!”  (Psalm 119:9). So look at this questionable habit or practice, does it become the child of God? Will you glorify your heavenly Father by continuing to ‘wear’ these beg­gar’s rags?  There is cleansing for you! “Now ye are clean through the word which 1 have spoken unto you” (John 15: 3). A Christian can do anything he wants to, but his ‘want to’ is changed.  He no longer has to seek a little so-called pleasures in the things that the world has to offer, he now finds real joy in the things of God.  A joy that the world cannot give. Why then be content to eat out of a garbage pail when you can sit and feast at the Father’s table?  Weigh it out for yourself, there is nothing that the world has to offer that can even compared to what God has to offer. Why should you be bound by any habit or petty sin, when you have access to all the power of God whose desire is to set you free? “ . . . Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1)).

If you are bound by habits, it is because you are still wearing your beggar’s rags rather than the robe of righteousness. If you, with a sincere heart and determination, wish to be rid of your sinful habits, then confess them as sin to your heavenly Father and He will cleanse you and set you free. “If we con­fess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1st John 1:9). There is nothing too hard for God! “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14: 14)). He wants all His children to he free from any habit, power or allurement of Satan.

A true Christian living in the world is like a ship sailing on the ocean. It is not the ship being in the water that will sink it, but the ocean getting into the ship!  So in like manner, a Christian is not ruined by living in the world; but by the world living in him. The world seeping into ones heart has ruined millions of immortal souls.

How careful is the mariner to guard against leaks? For fear that the water entering into the vessel should, by subtle and small degrees, cause the vessel to sink; ought not the Christian, do the same lest Satan and the world find some unguarded inlet to his heart?

With this in mind ask yourself “What should my goal be?  Should I aim for perfection?” Brethren, aim to continually grow spiritually.  Paul tells us to run the race in order to win the prize. To lay aside everything that hinders us in this spiritual race. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.  Looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith . . .” (Hebrews12:1, 2). You are being watched by your friends, family and your acquaintances. Others will pattern their lives and conduct by your example. Will your life and in­fluence help others to follow Christ? Are you in this spiritual race to win?  Are you putting your whole­hearted effort in this race?  You are told to be a good soldier of the cross and not to be entangled in the affairs of this life. “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2nd Timothy 2:4). In other words, our first interest is for heavenly gain and than give only the minimum attention to the affairs of this life. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart he also” (Luke 12:34). You are a stranger and a pilgrim here, your citizenship is in heaven. You are only passing through this life preparing for your life in heaven. Let nothing detour you. You have a goal to reach and by the grace of God you will reach your goal, then you can say with the Apostle Paul “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2nd Timothy 4:7, 8)).

God’s love, strength and peace are yours, just follow Him and you will find that He gets sweeter as the years go by.  “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6).

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