God Gives the Growth

God gives Growth

There are some passages of Scripture the LORD ‘bothers’ you with and just won’t let up. For me, that passage has been our VBS theme. Ever since studying it and preaching it, He keeps bringing it to my mind. In particular, the second half of the passage (vv. 5-8).

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5–8 ESV)

Two of those phrases in particular have stood out: (1) For this very reason, make every effort and (2) For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful. Based on the fact that God has provided everything I need for godly living (vv. 3-4), I am to meet His provision with my cooperation - adding all diligence to increase these virtues in my life (vv. 5-7). The result is that I will be effective & productive in my spiritual walk (v. 8). Paul states it similarly in Philippians 2:12-13 - that we are to “work out” our salvation “for it is God who works in [us].”

Spiritual growth, therefore, is to be intentional. Without effort, discipline, diligence, and intentionally applying & doing what God has told you to do, it won’t happen. Like physical exercise, your spiritual muscles won’t grow stronger unless you “work out.”

At the same time, spiritual growth is mysterious. You can’t track your results like physical exercise. Physically your body changes the more you work out: weight loss, increased strength, longer stamina, faster recovery time, etc. You can track each milestone you hit, or threshhold you break, with a physical workout.

But spiritual growth is different. There is no formula. You cannot input ‘x’ calories, burn ‘y’ calories, and see a guaranteed difference in a matter of weeks. The growth happens over time & through different seasons. Sometimes growth seems easy and obvious. Other times, during a dry spell, it’s not as evident. Then when the season changes, you realize the drought strengthened your roots, and you grew even when your soul felt dormant. Perhaps this is why Jesus used agricultural metaphors to communicate spiritual truths. For example:

“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” (Mark 4:26–28 ESV)

Just like a farmer, we put in “every effort” to grow. We scatter the seed of the Word in our lives through Bible reading, through prayer, through corporate worship, through biblical community. We build in normal routines, putting in every effort to do so. Then growth happens and we “know not how.” That’s because behind our “every effort” it is really “only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6–7).

Are you putting in “every effort?” Do you have regular routines & disciplines in which growth can occur? God has already given you all you need for life & godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Therefore, do your part & watch for growth.

- Pastor Jonathan

Make Disciples

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“Our convention could be twice as large as it is today if we would have simply engaged the people we just baptized.” - Robby Gallaty[1]

Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Tennessee, and president of our denomination’s Disciple Making Task Force, said the above quote at our annual convention in June.

The Task Force reviewed annual church profiles for the last 20 years. Those revealed an astounding number of baptisms - 7.1 million nationwide over two decades! However, as a whole, the total number in church attendance nationwide has declined by 20,000. That means the 7.1 million baptized were not integrated into the life of the church. Or to put it quite simply - they were never discipled. Gallaty posed some questions worth considering:

“Could it be that we have considered baptism to be the finish line and not the starting line?”

“Could it be that we have spent a lot of our time teaching people what they’re saved from, and we haven’t spent time teaching people what they’re saved for?”

In the Fall of 2016 I preached four sermons in a series called “What We Believe.” Those are now four beliefs I ask every new member of our church to affirm. One affirmation is “I have been biblically baptized,” meaning baptism after repentance & belief.

When I teach this to new members, I make this final point: Baptism is followed by discipleship. In Acts 2, the 3,000 new believers are the ones who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). They met in groups with other believers to learn the Word, read the Word, and pray the Word. That was the norm, perhaps because the earliest disciples took Jesus’ final words seriously.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19–20 ESV)

Robby Gallaty puts it this way: “Jesus’ final words need to be our first work.”

Let this be an encouragement and a challenge for us church. We don’t have astronomical numbers of baptisms with nothing to show for it. But we could definitely work to improve our efforts to make & mature disciples of Jesus. In the Fall I will preach and teach more about what that will look like at FBC Willow Park. Until that time, join me in praying for God to stir in our hearts a desire to grow as disciples, make disciples, and make disciple-makers.

“grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)

- Pastor Jonathan

 [1] All quotes can be found at https://replicate.org/2018/06/21/baptism-must-lead-to-discipleship/ and the linked Baptist Press article..

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