Growth Track – Part 1 – The Way to Growth

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2 Corinthians 3:1-18

3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains un-lifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Well today we begin a new journey together in a sermon series that we are calling Growth Track.

And I am really excited about this series because we want to as a church think through Christian growth, what it means to grow in Christ, and very practically how we do this. So if you aren’t a Christian or just exploring what it means to be a Christian, I am really glad you are here. And this is actually a really a great series to be here because we are talking about Life in Christ and what it means to really live out the Christian Life. If you are a Christian, if you are a follower of Jesus, then the Bible says that you are destined by God to be conformed into the image of Christ. And the implication here is that if you aren’t growing, there is a good chance that you aren’t really a believer. When things are alive they grow and they reproduce, that is the definition of life, living things grow, and living things reproduce. So, you who have been made alive in Christ, you who have the incredible hope of glory in God, you are commanded by God to grow and what we want to do with Growth Track is to give you just that, a Track to run on, a simple but clear pathway to follow.

To get us started I invite you to open your Bible’s to 2 Corinthians 3 and we are going to pick up in verse 12. And as you are turning of course this letter is written from Paul to the Corinthians and he is giving them instruction on how to grow, in Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains un-lifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

 

This is the word of the Lord.

Now we can learn a lot from this passage about Christian Growth and today specifically we are going to look at 4 things.

How Christians Don’t Grow

How Christians Do Grow

Why Christians Do Grow

Why Christians Don’t Grow

 

So our first point.

How Christians Don’t Grow.

The reason I begin here is because Christians are very often confused as to what Christian growth really is, and people often confuse Christian growth with Christian performance, or Christian achievement of the law. We all do this; it is our nature to want to perform.

In any every avenue of life it is always our performance that is measured, it is always our performance that is valued. So think about school, what do you do, you take tests, so you can get grades, so your ability to perform can be measured. Can you spell this word? Can you solve this problem? Can you perform? This translates to work.

Can you get this task done in time? Can you sell this product? Can you produce? Can you perform? So in every institution of our lives, in every authority structure those in authority over us, our parents, our teachers, our coaches, and our bosses. They judge us; they evaluate us, based on our performance. Based on our ability to follow the rules, the code, or the law.

But Paul says that our relationship with God is different than all of those other relationships, or the way that we have confidence in God is very different. It isn’t based on performance. We’re still in 2 Corinthians 3, but look with me at verse 4

4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Or you could say, This is the confidence that we have in Christ, 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, So not that our performance was so great. Not that we performed and therefore we are accepted. In a sense Paul is saying, this is different than any other institution, we aren’t sufficient before God by obedience to the law. In every other institution, there is a measure of acceptance that you can find. In school you have to make this grade to pass, you have to sell this much to hit your quota and keep your job. But God is perfect, he is without flaw, and therefore we who are flawed, we who are fallen, have no place before him. And because his standard is so high, because his standard is perfection. The law of God, the code of God, or the measure of acceptance with God, only reminds us that we are sinners, it only reminds us that we have failed. This is really the message of the Old Testament. Here you have a people who have seen the power and provision of God in a very clear and powerful way, and we see them failing over and over again.

So Paul says, with anything coming from us we are not sufficient…

but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The Law of God, performing before God. What I like to call behavior modification will look good to the outside world, but it will kill your soul. The promise of God, the promise of Christ, is that God has made you sufficient through the righteousness of Christ and the Holy Spirit gives you life, to not just behave differently, but to be different.

To not just change how you perform, but to change who you are.

So How Christians Don’t Grow.

Is some sort of behavior modification, altering our behavior to perform better that will only kill you, that will only suck the very life out of your soul? The letter kills, but the Spirit Gives Life. Which brings us to point number 2

How Christians Do Grow.

Christians don’t grow by a better performance of the law; Christians do grow by the power of the Holy Spirit who transforms the life of the believer, leading him or her to all obedience.

So lets go back and look at the text again verse 12

12 Since we have such a hope, This is the hope that we can know God, this is the hope, that God has made us sufficient, not our performance, but God so “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold,”

You ever go to a party and feel out of place? Or feel intimidated? I remember once when I was a senior in High School I was in Auburn and I went to a fraternity party of Phi Gamma Delta, the fraternity I would pledge in college, and I remember being so nervous, and the whole time I was thinking be cool, don’t do anything to get yourself kicked out be cool and maybe these guys will think you are cool. And I remember talking to this girl at the party Nicole Towry and she was a Junior in college and I was just a Senior in High School and I remember thinking this is incredible, I am talking to this grown woman I am just a kid, and I was thinking just be cool, talk about cool stuff. And the whole time I’m thinking to myself, don’t blow your cover, don’t let them know you are just in high school don’t let this girl who is 21 year old that you are only 17. Now within three years I had pledged the fraternity, I had become a brother in the fraternity, and I lived in the house. So then if there was a party it was at my house, and I wasn’t nervous, and I would go up and talk to whatever girl I wanted after all she was a guest in my house, I had a whole new confidence. And in a very real sense, that is exactly the hope that Paul is talking about here. You aren’t just some guest that snuck into the house of God, trying to say look don’t let them know you that you are a sinner, don’t get kicked out of here, keep performing so you can stay in. No in Christ we are a Child of the King, we are the son of the host of the party, our citizenship is in the house, we live in the house, the house is our inheritance.

So since we have such a hope, That God has made us sufficient we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.

So this story comes from Exodus 34, and Moses had been going up to meet with God on Mount Sinai, where God was giving Moses the Law, and because Moses was in the presence of God, because Moses was seeing God, his face was literally shining. His face was glowing, and the people were terrified to come near him, and so he would veil his face, because the people could not handle the glory of God on Moses. It was too much for their sinful hearts to handle.

14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains un-lifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

So what this is saying is this, the only way to experience Christianity is to be a Christian. The experience of reading the Bible for example, is totally different for the believer and the unbeliever. I was talking with someone the other day, I can’t remember who it was, but I have had this same conversation dozens of times, and so just the other day I was talking with this guy who said, “you know before I became a Christian I would try to read the Bible, and it never made sense, and it was always frustrating.” Then he said, “After I became a Christian.” And he was converted very quickly after he was an adult. And so he said, “After I became a Christian, I couldn’t put the Bible down.” See the veil had been removed. And God’s word, though certainly not fully understood began to make sense to him; it began to have power to him. This is not just true of Bible reading. It is true of Christian worship –Or Christian prayer – None of these things really make sense, until the veil is lifted.

But when one turns to the Lord. When one falls into the kind arms of God, the veil is removed, and it is removed. And you begin to see God, and you begin to know God and you begin to be changed by God.

Verse 17 actually describes this so well.

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

You see this is what Christian growth looks like. It looks like Freedom. Real and True Freedom. I want you to feel that. Performance, or behavior modification doesn’t feel like freedom. It feels like bondage, it feels like slavery. Christianity, the promise of Christianity is not slavery, it is not bondage. It is Freedom.

So what is Freedom? Or how do you know when you are free?

And ultimately Freedom is this.

You are free when you do what you want to do, and when you want to do is what you ought to do.

Let me say that again because I don’t want you to miss this whole line of logic.

You are free when you do what you want to do and when what you want to do it what you ought to do.

 You see what most people get wrong when thinking about freedom is that they forget that we live in a universe of order, we live in a universe of laws, we live in a universe of order. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said.

The eternal law of God takes fearful vengeance where it is attacked and distorted. In other words what Bonhoeffer is saying is that throughout the universe there are these laws that exist. The universe is a universe of order, and no matter how much faith you may have and not matter how bad you may want the laws to go away they exist in the universe it is God’s world. And where God’s laws are attacked and distorted they will take fearful vengeance.

So, the easiest example is gravity. I want this ball to float. In fact I am going to wish with all my might that this ball when I drop it, will float. (Drops Ball)

Well you know what I bet I didn’t wish hard enough, lets all wish together that this ball will float. (Drops Ball)

You see I really wanted this ball to float, but when I let this ball go every time it is going to fall to the earth because a law exists in the universe called gravity. And dropping the ball is pretty harmless but if you were to jump off this building, this law would take fearful vengeance on your life.

This is true of physical laws but it is also true of moral laws. When you lie, when you are greedy, when you don’t follow God’s law for sexual ethics. You can desire that they are no consequences for those things all you want but all of those things matter and where God’s law is broken it takes fearful vengeance.But unfortunately for us, those laws don’t take vengeance so quickly. The married man that is flirting with the girl in his office, he may get a way with it for a little while but that the law of God eventually will always take vengeance.The guy or girl that has a secret porn addiction. Again they may get away with this for years. The Law of God, slowly as it may come will take fearful vengeance where it is attacked or distorted.

And our culture hates rules, it hates the constraints of Christianity, the world says, “I want to be free.”But if you are free to go out swinging on your wife, only to have your marriage fall apart, is that really freedom?

If you are free to lie and cheat to get ahead, only to lose all trust and tarnish your good name, and to eventually spend time in prison, was that really freedom?

If you are free to ignore God, only to destroy your soul.

What kind of freedom is that? You see you are only free when you do what you want to do, and when what you want to do is what you ought to do and that is the promise of the Gospel, that is the promise of Christian growth, that is the hope of this series. Its not just that your behavior changes, it is that your desires change, and rather than desiring what is sinful, but trying to still behave in a holy way, God’s desire for you and for me is that we be made new and that we would desire what is holy and Godly, that we would desire those things that please the Lord.

And how does that happen. Here is the key, verse 18

18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

So here is the pathway, when you consider the things of God, when you press into God, and spend time with God, when you behold the Glory of God, there is a transforming power in your life, you are changed.

So what does this mean? How do we behold the glory of God? And how does merely looking at something or considering something at something transform our very beings?

You know there was a time in my life, when I read 2nd Corinthians 3:18 and earnestly asked that question. How does looking at something, or beholding something change you? But that was before I stood at an alter and looked across at a woman dressed in white who would be my wife, who in that moment was so beautiful that whole being was changed from that moment forward. That was before I held my children in my arms at 2:00am feeding them a bottle, and found myself loving that moment because of there was a beauty in them that was breathtaking. The older I get, I don’t know if it is because I am getting older or what, but I am getting better at recognizing beauty, I think it is God removing the veil.

When you see beauty, real beauty, God ordained, God created beauty.

When you behold the glory of God, as it appears in his word, as it his appears in his story, as it appears in relationship, as it appears in mission and a thousand different ways. In every one of those that you experience it changes your soul. So how don’t we grow, the performance of some law. How do we grow, we grow when we begin to gaze upon the beauty of God. Now there is a trick to that. Here it is, and its point three.

Why Do Christians Grow

Christians grow when they are aware enough, and disciplined enough to gaze in at the glory of God.And when you are disciplined, and when you are aware, you will begin to see the glory of God everywhere and you will truly be changed. I want to be mundane here because I want you to see how regular this is.

So Friday at lunch, I had lunch with a friend, and he is a believer and we just talked about the things of God, very simple, lunch with a friend but in that lunch we were disciplined to just encourage one another in the gospel, encourage one another in the faith. And I walked away from that lunch encouraged in my relationship with Christ, excited about the Gospel, just a simple lunch but it was a lunch where me and this guy were intentional to gaze at the glory of God. Saturday morning I woke up, I opened my Bible, I have a Bible reading plan, it isn’t a special reading plan just for pastors and super spiritual people, and every day I try to do it. And don’t tell the Deacons but there are days I miss I don’t have a perfect record since like 1994 of following my reading plan, but I read my little normal reading plan and one of the passages was 2 Samuel 4 where some servants of David killed Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth and David was so upset that they would kill the annointed’s son that he killed them. Very normal Bible story, it wasn’t like John 3:16. I just read that story and it struck me how deeply David respected the anointing of God, and that stirred my soul toward the power of God. Then I had a breakfast after that and I came back home, and my neighbor was in his back yard, nice guy just moved last week, and I don’t know if he is a Christian. I have only had one conversation with him, but I got home from breakfast and I saw him in his back yard and I just went over to say hello to him, and I talked to him for like 1 minute but that conversation reminded me to pray for him and so I spent just a few moments praying for him and his family and his salvation yesterday morning, and just by praying for him it has caused me to have a deeper level of compassion for him and for his family.

So three very mundane examples from my life.

I don’t say any of that to brag; I don’t say any of that to impress you. I say that to say, in my little mundane life, a lunch with a guy, a normal Bible reading plan, and saying hello to my neighbor. In those simple little mundane things God let me see just a little slice of his glory and by the power of the Spirit God stirred me to be a little closer to him.

So how do we grow, it is when we are aware enough, and disciplined enough to gaze in at the glory of God. I want to be aware enough and disciplined enough to gaze in at the glory of God. When I do that, and when you do that, over and over and over again you will be transformed from One Degree of Glory to the Next. Sometimes in that transformation you get a big view of God’s glory, you go to that great worship service, or you go on a mission trip, and you need those things too. You have to be aware enough and disciplined enough to make those things happen too. The key is in the big things and in the little things taking the time and the energy to keep peering in at the glory of God and in so doing being changed.

 I want to spend a little time on the last point then.

So Why Don’t Christians Grow.

What I just said is pretty simple, all Christian growth takes is being aware enough and disciplined enough to peer in at the glory of God, so why isn’t everyone growing, why isn’t everyone becoming like Jesus, why can’t you see marked maturity in your life from last year to this year?

Here it is, it is because people in this room do not have the time or the energy to peer in to the glory of God.

Here is one thing I know about everyone in this room. No one in here is saying, “Man I just have so much time. I don’t know what to do with all of my time, and whatever that pastor tells me to do with my time I am going to do. Oh you want me to read my Bible and pray every day, well why didn’t you say so, I am just sitting around every morning I would love to have something to do” “Oh you want me to go on a mission trip?” “Well why didn’t you say so, I’ve got way too much vacation time, now finally something to do”

No one is saying that.

Here is what I know about everybody in this room, you are busy people. You are really busy people.

Everyone here is saying, I have too much to do; if I make one more commitment it is going to kill me.I wish I could spend more time peering into the glory of God, but look man I just don’t have the time, to be that disciplined.

I want to give you two truths that will be enormously freeing.

1. Everyone gets the same amount of time every day. The guy that is really mature in his faith, and the guy who isn’t mature at all have the same amount of time.

2. Every time you say yes to one thing you say no to something else. Let me say that again because it is so important and so big, every time you say yes to one thing, you say no to something else.

To bring this all home for you and to make this really clear.

For everyone in this room. For everyone in this room. There is something in your life, which you are saying yes to. And because you are saying yes to it, you are saying no to the glory of God.

Let me say that again because I want to be really clear.

For all of us, there is something in your life that you are saying yes to and because you are saying yes to that you are saying no to the glory of God.

Let me show you one more verse and just listen to this verse and then I will explain it.

This is 1 Corinthians 3:9-15

9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

So here is the point of this text. If you are in Christ, you are God’s building, like Ephesians 2:10 – You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works. You are God’s work, you are God’s building. You are all building something for God, you are all called to do good works for God, to bring glory to God with your life.

There is this picture that you are using your life to build a house.

And you are either building that house with wood, hay, and stubble. Or Gold, Silver, and Precious Stones.

Now eventually your house will be tested with fire. Then you will know what really mattered what was really gold and what was just wood.

Maybe I could ask it this way; in 10,000 years what are you saying yes to right now that will still matter then.

Like in 10,000 years will knowing that you checked Instagram every night be more important to you or knowing that you spent a few moments in prayer?

Or in 10,000 years will having watched Good Morning America every day for 5 years be more valuable or knowing that you read your Bible every day for 5 years?

In 10,000 will the trip to the Braves Game and the World of Coke Museum be more valuable, or will the mission trip to engage with the Ethiopians in Clarkston Georgia be more valuable?

And I am legitimately asking.

I really am not trying to make anyone feel guilty right now, but I do want you to think. There is certainly value, in Instagram, and in Television, and in family trips, I enjoy all of those things and think that they have some value. But are they the most important? You see there are a lot of you that are sitting around saying, man I would read my Bible, or I would go on a mission trip, or a I would find an accountability partner, or whatever it is But I just don’t have the time.

And I want to remind you, you have the same amount of time that everyone else has, and every time you say yes to one thing you say no to something else. A lot of us are saying no to God too often.

But the good news is this. The reverse is true, every time you say no to something, you can say yes to something else. In a few moments I want to give you all something, I want to give you piece of wood. It is a little coin, with a question mark on it. And this little coin just very simple represents some piece of wood in your life. And again wood is not necessarily a bad thing, but is it the best thing. And I am not talking about sin, I mean if there is sin in your life keeping you from God well of course, repent, get rid of that and turn to Christ. I am talking about the wood in your life, something that is good, and something that may be useful but it just isn’t best.

This piece of wood represents something in your life that you need to say no to, so that you can say yes to peering into God. Now I don’t know what it is and I am not even going to try and tell you what it is. It could be checking your email when you wake up, it could be Auburn football tickets, it could be a family vacation, it could be a hobby. I have no idea what God is going to tell you. But over the next 22 days I am going to ask you to pray with me about what that is, what is it that you need to say no to so that you can say yes to the Lord.

So for example, if you have struggled for years to have a quiet time, because you don’t have the time, but then you realize, wait a second I do spend at least 10 minutes every night looking at my phone, I need to quit that, I need to turn my phone off, so that I can say yes to the word of God, so I can peer in at the glory of God. Or if you have said, I have never served in the church because I miss every Sunday in the fall for football, this may be the season that you sell the tickets and say, as fun and as wonderful as football is, I think it is more valuable for me to invest into this group of 5th graders.

Now again I don’t know what that is for you, but I am excited about going on this journey with you. I want you to hear me, I am not trying to take anything away from you, I am trying to offer you Gold.

If I held out in front of you five one dollar bills, and five $100 dollar bills and I said, you can only choose three of these, but you can choose whichever three you want. Everyone in here would choose 3 of the $100 dollar bills. It isn’t that the $1 bills are bad, but they aren’t best.

That is what I want the next month to be in your life. I want you to inventory your life and say, you know am I choosing wood when I could be having gold. Because the statement is true, you only have so much time and energy and every time you say yes to one thing you say no to something else.

And so just as we close the Ushers are going to bring forward a wooden coin, and I want you to hold on to this. And I don’t want you to lose it, in fact we are all going to do something with this on May 18th so you have to bring it back don’t lose it. But let this little coin prompt you to pray this.

I am going to be praying with you.

Father, what do you want me to say no to? What does this wood represent in my life? What is it in my life that may be a good thing but it isn’t the best thing that I really need to say no to it.

And Father, what do you want me to say yes to? What is the area in my life that you want me to grow in, so that I can see more of you and be conformed into the Image of Christ.

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