Going On To Maturity
INTRODUCTION: This is an important study, because diligent application of it will lead to a victorious, fruitful Christian life, where there will be much growth. The Christian who does not grow is a Christian whose salvation is in jeopardy; not because of the part God plays in salvation, but because God has called us to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling." Although salvation is by grace, there are definite principles we must set in motion in our life. This study will set forth these principles. If the principles are not followed, we can expect that unconquered "giants" will remain in our life that will eventually overcome us.
The key to a healthy heart.
A. God has set high standards for us.
Read Hebrews 12:14; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:7: What kind of life does God expect us to live?
Read Galatians 5:22: What are the fruits of the Spirit that God wants in our lives?
Read John 14:15: We are to keep God's
Read 2 Corinthians 3:18: We are to be changed into the of God.
Read 2 Peter 3:14; Philippians 1:10: We are to be found without and .
Read Ephesians 5:26,27; 4:22; 1 Peter 1:16; and 1 John 2:6: We are not to have or ; we should be and without .
Read Revelation 21:2: God is preparing us to be the of Christ.
B. In order to become Christ-like we must have it in our hearts to do so.
Read Proverbs 23:7: As a man thinketh in his , so is he.
Read Ephesians 6:6: We are to be as slaves, doing the will of God from our .
Read Luke 8:15: The one with the good and honest heart bears much .
Read Luke 8:17; Proverbs 4:23: What is in a man's heart will be .
Read Luke 6:45: A good heart brings forth , and an evil heart brings forth .
A man that which is in his heart.
List some examples and discuss them.
C. Developing a heart for God.
Read Jeremiah 24:7: Ask God to give you a heart to do His will. If He promises to give the children of Judah a "heart" for Him, He will do it for you too.
Read Matthew 6:19-21: We should be laying up in heaven.
D. Guarding our hearts.
Read Proverbs 4:23: We are to or our hearts with all diligence.
Read Philippians 4:4-8; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23,24; Romans 8:5-8; James 1:14,15: What we allow to remain in our will get down into our hearts.
Read Philippians 3:19: The end of those who set their minds on earthly things is .
Read Philippians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 10:5: We guard our hearts by guarding what is consuming our time and our thoughts.
List some things that are healthy for our hearts, some things that are neutral, and some that will give us "heart trouble."
Healthy Heart Neutral Heart Trouble
E. Flesh man and spirit man.
In Romans 7:14-25, Paul talks about a struggle that goes on in our lives. This battle wages between the "flesh" and the "spirit." You no doubt have already been in this battle, not knowing exactly what was going on. There is a spiritual part of us that wants to serve God, and there is also a part of us that Paul refers to as our "flesh" that only is interested in our own selfish desires. This "flesh man" is continually trying to drag down our "spirit man."
1. Read Galatians 5:17: If we continue to feed upon the unhealthy food listed above, that which gives us "heart trouble," the flesh man will become as strong as a heavy weight champion. But the spirit man will starve to death.
2. Read Galatians 6:8: But, the more we feed upon healthy food, that which causes us to have a healthy heart, the stronger and healthier our spirit man will be; our flesh man will become puny and sick.
Which one do you want to be?
Living the resurrected life.
A. How not to overcome the problems in our lives that are robbing us of the resurrected life.
1. The legalistic approach: This Christian attempts to overcome these problems in his own strength. He tries to "get hold" of himself, and get problems taken care of.
a. This approach leads to self-righteousness, because anything that might be accomplished is done by self, not by God.
b. This approach leads to bondage, oppression, and a defeated Christians life because he is continually failing at everything he tries to do. Soon after he decides to tackle a particular problem he finds that he is yielding to the problem more than ever. Read Romans 7:14-25. He finds it difficult to go to God for forgiveness of these failures because he feels that it is his responsibility to perfect himself. Thus, he ends up in bondage instead of being free before God.
2. The "it doesn't matter" approach: This Christian does not really care about changing. He feels that if God wants anything different in his life He will somehow automatically change him.
a. This person never does change much. He ends up being a sloppy Christian and is often a poor testimony. He has a very good chance of completely backsliding and being completely separated from God.
Note: Both of these approaches are a deep ditch on either side of the road. We want to be careful to stay in the middle of the road--God's way.
B. God's way for us to conquer problems and be changed from glory to glory into the image of God, so we can live the resurrected life.
1. The most important thing we will ever have to learn in this matter is that we must be to change. We will never change anything in our life unless we are first to change. You could not have been saved unless you were to surrender your life to God.
2. We may know that something is very wrong or bad for us, and yet we will not stop doing it unless we become willing to stop.
a. For example, the person who smokes knows that he has a much greater chance of getting cancer than the non-smoker. Also smoking causes problems in his circulatory system, thus he is more apt to have a heart attack. He knows that it makes himself, his car, his clothes, and his home smell bad. He is aware of how much money it is costing him. But, if he is not to stop, he never will. His judgment tells him it would be better to stop, but if he is not he will never make the change.
b. List some other examples and discuss or think about them.
3. We can know that something would be very good for us, yet if we are not we will not start doing it.
a. For example, a Christian can know all the reasons why he should spend time in prayer. He knows that he will feel the presence of God more readily, that he will be a more effective witness, and that he will have more of the joy of the Lord in his life. He knows that he will have more of God's power, that he will be more sensitive to God's leading, and that he will be more effective in his ministry. But, if he is not he will not do it.
b. List other examples and discuss or think about them.
A person's judgment tells him that it would be the right thing to do, but if he is not he will never do it. Read Leviticus 26. Notice how God says, "if you will" and "if you will not." We can see that cursings or blessings are dependent upon our wills. This was recorded as a lesson to us. We can enjoy God's blessings, the resurrected life, "if" we are !
If the area in your life you are now dealing with is a sin, such as hate, jealousy, bitterness, criticalness, strife, or some external type of sin, you need to . You need to name that thing for what it is; . Do not make excuses for what you have done; God will not forgive excuses, but He will forgive confessed sin (1 John 1:9). You must have the channel between you and God completely open and clear. This is done by repenting--confessing sin and letting God scrub you clean.
If you have been the victim of someone else's wrongdoing, you need to forgive them. Ask God to forgive you for holding something against them. Repent of it. Then begin to pray for that person. Ask God to put a love in your heart for him or her. Start thanking Him for the love He is putting in your heart for this individual. Continue to do this until such love is a reality (Matthew 6:14,15).
This act of repentance will free your spirit and remove oppression. Now you are ready for the next step to the resurrection life.
D. Now that I am willing.......
At this point, a step of action is necessary. Without this step, nothing will happen. You must now make a definite , so the change in your life can actually begin. For example, if you are aware of something in your life that is not pleasing to God and you and, therefore, want to get rid of it, nothing will happen until a firm decision has been made. The more firm this decision is and the more total the commitment, the easier it will be for you. Remember, we said earlier that this must be from the heart in order to be a lasting decision. We can ask God to put our decision down deep in our heart. We must also realize it is God who is going to do that changing, but it is necessary for us to be willing, to make a heart decision, and then to guard our heart.
For example, let's say that you have a tendency to suffer from self pity. Through a sermon, God speaks to your heart about this and you realize it is a thing of the flesh and it is robbing you from living a joyful, resurrected life. You now have a problem.
All the facts run through your mind and are submitted to your judgment. Your judgment says, "Quickly, give up the self pity; it is making you miserable." Logically, this is what we would do, but our flesh wants to fight that decision. It wants to reserve the right to feel sorry for itself.
Remember the struggle between the flesh man and the spirit man? Now you are in the middle of it. If the flesh wins, you will continue to be miserable; if the spirit man wins, you will move on from glory to glory and enjoy the wonderful blessings of God--the resurrection life.
You finally decide to be willing to give this problem over to God's cleansing, delivering power. Then you confess it as a sin and receive God's forgiveness. Make a decision to do it at that very moment. Ask God to plant your decision deep in your heart. It is vitally important that you realize that the battle is now God's. You have turned this whole area over to Him for His cleansing and deliverance. (Remember what happens to the legalist!)
If we have given a problem to God, we must then trust that He in fact is delivering us from the problem. But how do we do this? How did you trust Him for your salvation? You did it by believing His Word (1 John 1:9) and confessing your salvation (Romans 10:9). You trust for deliverance from self pity in the same way (John 8:36). "Lord, You have set me free from this self pity; and I thank You and praise You for it. I thank You, Lord, that my self pity was nailed to the cross (Romans 6:6)." The more you confess this, the stronger you will be and the deeper it will go down into your heart.
Reckon or consider it done.
Realize that when Christ died on the cross your old sinful flesh man died with Him; you buried your flesh when you went down in the waters of baptism (that is if you've been water baptized). It is not something that we accomplish; it is something that Christ accomplished for us. All we need to do is realize it, accept it, and act upon it as described above. We walk the new resurrection life by believing. Walking by faith is God's way; it is what makes Him happy. He wants us to know that it is all in Him (John 15:5) and by ourselves we can do nothing. We only need to accept and act upon the grace of God. When we do, it delights God's heart, and we are set free.
Read Romans 6:2 and Colossians 3:3:
We dead to sin.
Read Romans 6:4,5:
We buried with Him, that we should walk in of life. This is the resurrected life we have been talking about.
Read Romans 6:6:
It says: " this, that our old man [was, in Greek] crucified with him....." God wants us to know that the work has already been done.
Romans 6:6 also says: ".... henceforth we should not serve sin." Christ's dying on the cross has liberated us from the bondage of sin.
Read Romans 6:7:
It says that we are from sin.
Note: It says "are," not "shall be." The work has already been done on the cross.
Read Romans 6:11 and Colossians 3:5:
It says to (consider) it done.
Read Romans 6:13:
It says that we yield unto God by dealing with each area of our life that needs changing, according to the way this study tells us to.
Read the entire chapter of Romans 6.
Read Romans 8:2:
We are already from the law of sin and death.
Read Romans 8:3:
Christ has already your sin.
Read Romans 8:13:
It is by that we mortify the deeds of the body.
What about when the test comes, when old thoughts of self pity hit me? Then you must do what Jesus did. Read Matthew 4:4,7,10. Immediately say (out loud, if possible), "I have given this problem completely over to God and, by the work done on the cross (Romans 6:6), God has completely set me free from it" (John 8:36). Then, begin to praise God for the wonderful work He has done in this area of your life.
If you do it this way, you will experience wonderful deliverance from God, enjoy His blessings, and live the resurrected life.
List some other possible problem areas and discuss or think about them.
It is important for you to realize that "giving it a try" will never work. A try is not a firm decision or total commitment, and God will never back you up in it. That type of attempt does not last.
How do I avoid falling into temptation?
A. By making decisions ahead of time. The moment you are confronted with a temptation is not the time to decide what you are going to do with it. At this point, the flesh may be weak. Sooner or later you will yield to the temptation.
For example, knowing that God said we should not do this or that, you need to fortify yourself ahead of time. This is done by settling the matter in the heart--making a decision. If you don't make the decision ahead of time, you will have to decide each time the temptation comes; you will most likely yield to the temptation in a weak moment. Indecision also brings confusion and frustration. A firm decision brings freedom and peace in the heart.
List some possible temptations you can make decisions on now.
B. What if I fall?
If it happens that in a moment of weakness you fall into any sin, whether it is in an area in which you have made a decision or not, confess it to God right away. You do not have to live with guilt or condemnation for even five minutes. As soon as you realize that you have sinned, repent of it and accept God's forgiveness. Then go your way in the joy of the Lord. Fortify yourself against doing that sin again, and walk with God.
Read 1 John 1:9; 2:1.
How do I know what to deal with in my life?
A. Problems you are aware of.
If you are aware of a problem in your life, the best time to deal with it is now. Why settle for less when you can live the resurrected life? You know how to deal with your problems, so go right ahead and do so.
B. What about problem areas I am not aware of?
If you begin looking within yourself--searching, digging, scrutinizing, analyzing, and hunting--you will focus on yourself; this will bring you into bondage and condemnation. Introspection is certainly not God's way. He wants you to look to Jesus and be free. Read John 10:10; 8:36.
You should ask God to search your heart, trust Him that He will do it, rest in Him, and walk on free in the Lord. Read Psalm 139:1,23,24.
Read Philippians 1:6 and 1 Peter 5:10:
We see in these scriptures that God is doing a good work within us.
Read Philippians 2:13:
God is working in you both to and to of His good pleasure.
Read Philippians 3:13,14:
We are to about our past life and yesterday's mistakes and keep our eyes and heart on what lies ahead.
Read Philippians 3:15:
Here we find that God to reveal these things to us.
Read the entire chapter of Philippians 3.
Note how Paul is saying that we should not have any confidence in our own flesh; we should trust totally in God.
Read Philippians 1:11:
The fruit of righteousness comes .
Read Philippians 4:13:
We can do all things .
Note: When God does put His spot-light on an area He wants you to deal with, it is best that you do it immediately. Let's deal with these things as they come along and live in the victory--the resurrection life.
Read Romans 8:31-39.
In all things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him. Amen!