Increasing Measure

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My Musings – As we wrap up my musings on discipleship and “Got Spiritual Milk” we might be asking ourselves – what now? Have we arrived at the place where God wants us to be? The answer to these questions is simply in remembering what was learned at the outset: Growth and maturity, are a process that takes place over time. We looked at twelve key “steps” that are essential to following Jesus and realizing our full potential as His disciples.  It is not a magic formula that in twelve “easy” steps will make us a model disciple. For each individual step is a process of its own leading us into a spiritual transformation that is continually evolving.

Justification – Like Paul, we must realize that we have not yet been made perfect. We have been saved. This was a past event, never to be repeated, where once and forever God made it “just as if I’d never sinned.” Justification is a legal term signifying that the all claims of God’s moral laws have been satisfied by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and that those accepting the terms of that sacrifice (believe and receive) are acquitted.

Glorification – Because we have been justified we have a future destination. Someday we will enter God’s presence and we will be made perfect. Glorification, as the term is used in the Bible, refers to the ultimate perfection of the believer.

Sanctification – In the meantime, we need to keep pressing on toward growth and development, adding to our faith in increasing measure. Sanctification is a fancy theological term that means being purified and made holy. It is a continuing process happening now that connects our past justification with our future glorification. It is not a perfect process, because “we have not yet been made perfect.” There will be up and downs. We will encounter speed bumps along our path as Satan tries to sidetrack us along the way. He cannot change the fact that we have been justified. He cannot change our final destination. But he can influence our journey between the two points hoping to make it less victorious that it might otherwise be.

So by now, we should know and understand that discipleship does not refer to a past event or our future destination. It is the journey that we are on here and now. It is not twelve steps and done. It is twelve steps in increasing measure until the journey is done. We do not know when our journey will be over. So we continue in our efforts to add to our original step of faith. We add goodness (role of a servant), knowledge (illuminated by the Word, engaged with the Church), self-control (hold out against sin, Spirit-led lifestyle), perseverance (suffer with Christ, pray on all occasions), Godliness (desire what God desires, learn spiritual wisdom), kindness (is Christ-like in attitude, involved in evangelism) and love (proven by love).

None of these are things that we will achieve perfectly in our lifetimes. But we can possess them in increasing measure.

Increasing means to become progressively greater. The increase can be a gentle slope or a steep grade. It can also be exponential. What it will be, to a large degree, will depend on our efforts. Paul instructed his readers to “make every effort.” Half-hearted efforts will only give us half-hearted results. We do not want half-hearted results. What we want is to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

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My Advice – A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We took that step when we accepted Christ. That decision has already been made. The question before us now is: are we satisfied with remaining an infant or do we want to grow? If we want to grow, the question then becomes: how much effort do we want to put into it? De we want to make every effort? Do we want to grow in increasing measure? Do we want to keep pressing on? So how are you answering these questions?

Are We There Yet?

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My Musings – As a youngster, I remember the long road trips to visit my grandparents.  Without fail, either I or one of my two brothers would eventually ask “how much further?”  This question was usually asked a number of times before we reached our destination.  Five hours is considered a long trip when you are young.  In many respects, our walk with Christ is the same.  As long as “we are here,” means we are not there yet.  Just drifting through life will take us further away, because the “headwinds” of this world keep pushing us away from our “goal.”

For most of my childhood, our trips to my grandparents took us down two-lane roads.  No four-lane interstates went our way.  Road construction meant more than mere delays.  It meant long detours that took us miles out of our way before we could return to the designated route.  Life has its detours as well.  Many (but not all) are of our own making, requiring constant re-routing to return to our original course.

My Advice – To make forward progress we need to press on. We must forget what is behind and press on toward the goal to win the prize (reach our destination). If we are not looking forward (keeping our eyes on the prize), we are more likely than not to drift off course.  We must keep in mind that no matter how long, winding or hard the journey is, the destination (prize) that God has for us will be worth it.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on November 10, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

Adding To Your Faith

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My Musings – Yesterday’s musings, referencing the Apostle Paul, stood for the doctrine that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  Any effort (on our part) to add to this would be futile.  In today’s text, the Apostle Peter is saying that we should make every effort (work) to add to our faith the listed qualities.  That these efforts (on our part) would be effective and productive.

Surely this is a huge contradiction between these two giants of Christianity?  Not at all.  Paul was speaking about what results in salvation (grace).  Peter was speaking about what results from salvation (good works/qualities).  Grace is the cause of salvation, good works/qualities are the effect of salvation.  Salvation is an event, developing these qualities is a process (in increasing measure).  One can have good works/qualities without being saved, but no one can be saved without developing good works/qualities.  There is no effort of our own that can gain us salvation.  But once we have gained it, we should make every effort to add to it. And yet, here’s the deal.  Even though you are putting effort into it to grow your faith, it is the work of the Holy Spirit transforming you into Christ-likeness that gives the increase.

My Advice – You cannot grow it, if you don’t got it.  Get it today.  It’s free.  By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Got Spiritual Milk?

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My Musings – Got Milk? This question is asked in what is arguably one of the most memorable advertising campaigns in history. While most consumers readily recognize the health benefits of drinking milk, it usually is not their beverage of choice. Instead they prefer soft drinks, bottled water, coffee, sports drinks or something else reputed to have a bit more “gusto.” That is, of course, unless it is combined with cookies, cake, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or the morning bowl of cereal. It’s at times such as these that people realize that

the time that they crave milk the most is when they don’t have any.

You know what I’m talking about. That sinking feeling as you pour your cereal into the bowl, slice the banana, and discover that the carton in the fridge is nearly empty (who would do that anyway?). It is something that we likely all identify with, which is what made the “Got Milk?” campaign so memorable. Remember? That peanut butter stuck to the roof of the mouth and no milk to wash it down with.

Peter, a disciple of Christ’s, recognized this same thing in his own disciples when he wrote “like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (2 Peter 2:2, NIV 1984). After Pentecost, many had put their faith in Christ (had been “born again’) but were not growing in their walk with Christ. Perhaps, like the milk drinkers above, they recognized the spiritual benefits of growing in their relationship with Christ, but for whatever reason they were not craving it.

You see, being “born again” is an event that happens at a point of time. Spiritual growth and maturity, on the other hand, is a process that takes place over time. Like any newborn, the process starts with the “milk” that will nourish and nurture us. We need this as a sure foundation before we can move on to solid food and develop into faithful disciples that consistently walk in His steps.

The word “growing,” is what is known as a present perfect progressive tense verb. It indicates an action that began in the past (accepting Christ), continues in the present (our everyday walk with Christ) and will continue in the future (in increasing measure). Our walk with Christ begins with uncertain and tentative baby steps on a smooth and level surface. As our walk progresses, we can take bigger and bigger steps as we begin to navigate steeper and rougher terrain with increased confidence and assurance. As we mature and move on to “solid food,” our craving for pure spiritual milk increases. “Anyone who lives [solely] on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves.” (Hebrews 5:13-14, NIV 1984).

So, what are some of these “teachings about righteousness,” the “solid foods” that train and mature us? Here are just a few:

D – Desiring what God desires.
I – Is Christ-like in attitude.
S – Spirit-led lifestyle.
C – Choosing the role of a servant.
I – Illuminated by the Word.
P – Praying on all occasions.
L – Learning spiritual wisdom.
E – Engaged with the bride (the Church).
S – Suffering with Christ.
H – Holding out against sin.
I – Involvement in evangelism.
P – Proven by love.

In future blogs, we will take a brief look at each one of these.

My Advice – In the meantime, have you “tasted that the Lord is good?” Have you been “born” into God’s family by accepting Christ as your personal Savior? If not, read my blogs under “The Born Again Experience” that can show you how. Maybe you are “born again” but are still on a milk only diet? Maybe you are ready to move on to more solid food? Check out my blogs under “Got Spiritual Milk?” to help you grow and mature in your Christian faith. “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive.” (2 Peter 1:8, NIV 1984).

Spiritual Investments

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My Musings – Such is Paul’s description of two of his disciples. People he had invested his life in.  In his early ministry, Barnabas had risked his reputation and took this former persecutor of the Church under his wing and ministered with him.  Paul, in turn, invested in the lives of others.  When He could not go, he sent these two.  They had been mentored, now it was their turn to “pay it forward.”  And it’s been going on just like this for nearly 2,000 years.

In the above passage, Paul described the product of discipleship (genuine, proven, service, fellowship, commitment).  In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul described the process of discipleship.  “You then, [Timothy] my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  (2 Timothy 2:2, NIV 1984).

But we should never think that it is only a one-way street.  Near the end of his ministry Paul summoned another of his disciples.  One who stumbled early on and for a time was cast away by Paul.  “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11, NIV 1984). One who Paul once considered not helpful at all was now considered helpful.  Once considered a bad investment, now an investment paying dividends.  Investing in others and letting others invest in us.  Iron sharpening iron.

My Advice – Grow in Christ by letting others help you and helping others do the same.  It’s proven pattern.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Nate Miller’s sermon on October 13, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you too.

This Little Light Of Mine

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My Musings – Today’s musing is inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s September 29, 2019 sermon.

As You Have Always Obeyed Me – “not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence.”  Obedience, when you are being watched, can be nothing more than compliance.  Obedience, when you think no one is watching, is called character.  Especially when it is “much more.”  Obedience, when you are being watched, demonstrates the ability to act.  Obedience, when you think no one is looking, demonstrates the will to act.

Continue To Work Out Your Salvation – “with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  At first glance a peculiar phrase, when you consider that salvation is by grace, through faith, not by works.  But that is with respect to the initial aspect of salvation – justification (born into righteous).  But just like in our physical life we work out to condition and build up our bodies, so in our spiritual  life we “work out” to condition and build up our faith.  This is the ongoing aspect of salvation – sanctification (growing in righteousness).  We are able to work out because God is working within, transforming us into the image of His Son.

Do Everything Without Complaining or Arguing – “so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation.”  Complaining and arguing are characteristics of a crooked and depraved generation.  Blameless, pure and without fault (by the grace of God) are characteristics of the children of God, as they work out their salvation.

Shine Like Stars – “in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”  Just like stars stand out in the vast darkness of space, we are to stand out in the vast darkness of a crooked and depraved world.  Noticeable different by our character, conduct and contrast.  A prefiguration of that final stage of salvation – glorification (revealing the glory of God in our eternal state).

My Advice – These are all aspects of the higher passion we should have to the higher purpose we have been given.  Do not “run or labor for nothing.”  Run with a passion.  Labor for the purpose.  “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

You can check out Pastor Kevin’s fullsermon at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you too.

Who Wants To Be A Millennium Heir?

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My Musings – Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?  It was a crazy popular game show for awhile.  There were levels (questions to answer) you had to work (win) your way up, in order to win the million.  Each level more difficult than the one before.  If you got stumped, you had ” lifelines” you could use for help.  But use them wisely, because you want to save all you can for the more difficult questions.  Answer incorrectly, and you could lose some of what you had already won.  Remember?

Just for the fun of it once, I came up with a version of the game called “Who Want’s To Be A Millennium Heir?” that I used for a “final exam” in my adult Sunday School class.  It went like this.

MILLENNIUM “HEIR MILE” REWARDS

7  MILLENNIUM HEIR
6  GOLD
5  SILVER
4  COSTLY STONES
3  WOOD
2  HAY
1  STRAW
0  FOUNDATION

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, NIV 1978)

MILLENNIUM HEIR RULES

1. You must build upon the foundation – Jesus Christ.

2. If you don’t build upon this foundation, it won’t matter how many “heir miles” your works might otherwise earn you. You can never earn your way to becoming a millennium heir.

3. Each time you answer correctly, your “good works” will advance you to the next “heir mile” reward.

4. If you answer incorrectly the quality of all “heir miles” earned will be tested by fire. For some you may suffer loss. Some may survive and you will receive those rewards.

5. However, even if you suffer the loss of all of your “heir miles” you are still a millennium heir if you built on the foundation Jesus Christ.

MILLENNIUM HEIR LIFELINES

Fellowship – With this lifeline you may poll the “audience,” (the Sunday School class) for their input.

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews10:25, NIV 1978).

Prayer – With this lifeline you can phone “home” for guidance. In answer to your “prayer”, you gain discernment (as moderator I took away two wrong answers).

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7, NIV 1984).

The Word – With this lifeline you can look up your answer in the Scriptures (better bring your Bible to class).

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV 1978).

Accountability – With this lifeline you may ask a fellow-believer (select a class member) for their help.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV 1984).

We had fun with it (well, at least I did).  Here is a sample of one “game” of Millennium Heir we played.

Foundation Question

According to Ephesians 2:8&9, salvation is obtained by what?

A. Good Works.
B. Grace.
C. Wealth.
D. Accident.

Straw Question

The tenth commandment, found in Exodus 20:17 is?

A. Thou shalt not talk out loud in a convent.
B. Thou shalt not convict without two or three witnesses.
C. Thou shalt not covet.
D. Irrelevant.

Hay Question

According to 1 Timothy 6:10, what is the root of all evil?

A. Gingivitis.
B. Money.
C. The ACLU.
D. The love of money.

Wood Question

A fundamental point about wealth in the parable of the rich fool is?

A. It should be hoarded, because we never know when we’ll need it.
B. It should be wasted, there is more where that came from, God has deep pockets.
C. It should be spent on pleasure and comfort. Eat, drink and be merry.
D. Material possessions cannot provide real or lasting security.

Costly Stones Question

In the parable of the sower, found in Matthew 13, greed is represented by which seed?

A. Seed sown along the path.
B. Seed sown in rocky places.
C. Seed sown amongst thorns.
D. Seed sown on good soil.

Silver Question

The parable of the rich fool teaches?

A. Nothing, it’s just for entertainment.
B. We must be careful about our attitudes concerning God’s blessings.
C. All rich people are evil.
D. Remodeling old barns is hazardous to your health.

Gold Question

The proper response to material blessings is?

A. I want more.
B. Be thankful and be a good steward.
C. I’ll keep them all to myself.
D. Now I have all that I need to be happy.

Millennium Heir Question

In the parable the rich fool’s responses to material blessings was?

A. Right on target.
B. The real problem.
C. A symptom of an underlying problem.
D. His final answer.

My Advice – Okay, so the game is a bit corny.  But it makes several key points.  The “game” we are playing in this life is really “The Game of Life.”  What happens in this life determines whether we become a millennium heir.  We must accept Christ as Savior.  That’s foundational.  If we don’t get that right, we will go directly to hell, we will not pass the pearly gates, we will not collect eternal life.  There is no get out of hell free card.  Christ it the only way, meaning He has the “Monopoly.”  Take the chance, you won’t be “Sorry.”