|LESSON 12||*June 16- 22|
|Growing Through the Word|
Read for This Week's Study:
|Matt 22:37, 38; Gal. 2:20; 5:14; Eph.4:14, 15; Heb. 4:2; 5:12-14.|
|"We will no longer be infants. . . . We will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ" (Ephesians 4:14, NIV).|
|The Bible plays a pivotal role in our spiritual growth.
The Bible makes it clear that our walk with Christ doesn't end on the day of conversion. On the contrary, when people give themselves totally to Christ, they begin a whole new life, a whole new existence (Rom. 6:4). It's not that a new Christian has to work to reach salvation, as in other faiths; instead, because he or she already has salvation, already stands perfect and accepted in God, the Christian begins to live a life that reveals and reflects that salvation. Sure, we are saved by faith, but what kind of faith? A faith that is expressed in a life that reveals a commitment to Jesus Christ.
Central to our new life in Christ is spiritual growth. As Christians, we can't remain static: We are always in the process of change as we should better reflect the image of Jesus Christ. And crucial to the whole growth process is the Word of God, which shows us how and why we must "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18, NIV).
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 23.
The Need for Growth
When Nicodemus went to see Jesus by night and asked Him how to have eternal life, Jesus immediately answered by saying that we need to be born again (John 3:3, 5). This condition indicates that a Christian life begins as a baby. When the beginning of Christian life is portrayed as a new birth, and the new believer is considered a babe in Christ, it's important for every Christian to be nurtured and have opportunity to grow into spiritual maturity.
Peter appealed to the believers to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18, NIV). Earlier, after using a new-birth illustration (1 Pet. 1:23), Peter urged those to whom he was writing to desire the "milk of the word" by which they would grow (1 Pet. 2:1-3).
Read Hebrews 5:12-14. What point is Paul making here about spiritual growth? How does he define spiritual immaturity, and how does he contrast it to spiritual maturity?
In 2 Corinthians 7:1, Paul shows that accepting Jesus isn't the end of our spiritual walk but the beginning. There is a need for growth. "Perfecting holiness" means to bring it to completion. He also in Ephesians admonished followers of Christ to lead a life worthy of their calling (Eph. 4:1).
It's clear from the word that though we are saved by faith, though our acceptance with God is based on the righteousness of Jesus credited to us by grace through faith alone, the Christian life is one of spiritual and moral progress. We are to change, and for the better; we are to reflect more and more the character of God (see 1 Pet. 1:14-16).
|Look over your life as a Christian, regardless of how long you have been one. What areas have you seen much spiritual growth and maturity? What are the weaker areas? Why, as you seek to advance in the Christian life, must your hope of salvation rest not on yourself but only on Jesus and the merits of His righteousness?|
Growing in Faith
In Hebrews 3 and 4 Paul talked about the children of Israel, who, after escaping from Egypt, had wandered in the desert for 40 years. What's most fascinating, however, is what Paul said about them in Hebrews 4:2.
Read Hebrews 4:2. What was the problem with the children of Israel? What crucial element was lacking?
What makes the answer so troubling is the fact that this generation had so much evidence of God's leading. Go back over the story of the Exodus and of what happened to them in the desert. God performed miracle after miracle, everything from the parting of the Red Sea to the daily provision of the manna. And yet, they still lacked faith!
What lessons about faith, about what it means to have faith, can we draw from this account? See Heb. 3:12.
So often people think that if only they had more signs, more evidence, their faith in God would grow. But it doesn't work that way. Faith, or the lack thereof, isn't an intellectual matter, or even a matter of signs and wonders. It's a matter of the heart. We can grow in faith only to the degree that we surrender our hearts and souls to the Lord; we can grow in faith only through exercising our faith; we can grow in faith only to the degree that we study God's Word with a heart open to learn from Him.
God is the Source of faith, but we must put our trust in Him. Faith grows through study of the Word (Rom. 10:17), but we must take the time and put forth the effort for that study. The more we study, with a heart and mind surrendered to the Lord, the more we know about our loving God. And the more we know Him, the more we love and trust Him. The more we can trust Him, the more we do whatever He wants us to do. Study of the Word of God is absolutely essential if we want our faith to grow.
|A number of years ago a scholar left Christianity. He told someone later, "Had I kept up reading my Bible, studying it, and applying it to my life, I probably wouldn't have lost my faith." How precious is your faith to you? You can know the answer by this simple question: How carefully do you guard and nurture that faith?|
Growing in Love
The Scriptures say that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves. We are to love our enemies and our fellow believers. These are God's commands, and they aren't always easy to follow, because we are by nature selfish sinners who love self above and beyond everything else. If you love someone, usually it is someone who loves you back. But Scriptures say that's not enough (Matt. 5:44). It really takes growing in the Lord to be able to love, not only those who don't love you but those who are your enemies.
Read 1 Corinthians 13:8. What point is Paul making? Why is that point so important? What does that point tell us about the importance and power of love? See also Matt. 22:37, 38; Gal. 5:14; 1 John 3:14; 4:7, 8, 16.
The word love is used so often that it is easy to lose sight of what it actually means. Biblical examples show that love is something we do rather than simply an emotion. Scripture speaks about love as attitude and actions (1 Corinthians 13). We know that love will motivate us to action. The Bible clearly gives an example of what true love really is: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us" (1 John 3:16). To love at this level, we need to get beyond our own rights, our own interests, and our own hurts; and we can do this only through the power of God, only as we grow in Him and His grace.
How often have you ever been wrong, wrong about theology, wrong about doctrine, wrong about the motives of other people? And yet, love never fails; that is, whatever errors and mistakes we make, we can never go wrong when we love others. We might make a million mistakes, but love can never be one, not when we are commanded to love even our enemies. It's hard to imagine what our witness would be like if all who professed the name of Christ loved the way Christ loved.
|Look at your recent actions toward the people you frequently come in contact with. What do your actions say about how well you love these people, if at all? What do these actions say to you about your own need to learn more about how to love as God would have us love?|
Growing in Christ
Read Ephesians 4:14, 15. How does Paul here describe growth in Christ?
Considering that the Bible is our final authority on all doctrine, how crucial then that studying the Word is for us to grow in Christ. Only through knowing the Word and what it teaches can we be protected from the "sleight of men."
Yet, it's not enough just to read the Bible. It needs to be obeyed. We need to follow what it says; otherwise, it will effect no change in us. By obeying, by seeking to be like Christ in our words, in acts, and even in our minds, we will grow in Him.
Paul wrote to the Romans that we are called to be like Christ (Rom. 8:28, 29), and that should be in every way possible, especially in our thoughts (2 Cor. 10:5), because if our thoughts are right, our words and actions and attitudes will be too. By keeping our hearts pure, our words and actions will be, as well.
Read Galatians 2:20. What crucial element about how we can grow in the Lord is revealed here?
We can never grow in Christ, into Christian maturity, without a surrender of self. Paul talked about his being crucified so that Jesus could live in him instead. We are no longer to follow the whims and the passions of the flesh but rather the commands of God. Our decisions are no longer based only on just what we think; rather, Christ is now Lord of our lives, and our actions should reveal His Lordship in us. This surrender is a day-by-day process, something that must be part of our walk with Christ. The moment we start letting self rule, sin lies at the door, and sin leads to death.
|What are some of your own experiences with surrendering to Christ? What happens? How do you feel? What are the results? What have you learned that you could share with others who are seeking the same experience? Share your answers with your class on Sabbath.|
Growing in the Spirit
Jesus told Nicodemus that " 'no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit' " (John 3:5, NIV). Born of water means baptism, and born of the Spirit is conversion, which means that the Holy Spirit comes within us at the moment of spiritual birth. As a baby needs to grow, the newly baptized member needs to grow in the Spirit. " 'When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth' " (John 16:13, NIV). This means that the Spirit has a very important role to guide every Christian into all truth by reminding us of the things that the Bible says, because the truth is the Word of God (John 17:17). The Spirit also has the role of convicting us about our own spiritual condition (see John 16:8).
As we grow in Christian living, we need to grow in the Spirit. Growing in the Spirit means that we are more and more sensitive to His leading; we know that He is talking to us because we know the Word of God, and the Spirit will guide us to the Word.
How can we grow in the Spirit? Read the texts listed below. What principles needed for spiritual growth are found there?
Jesus in Luke 11:13 makes it clear how readily available the Holy Spirit is for those who want Him. Yet, God never forces Himself upon us. He has shown us who He is and what He has done for us. We, ourselves, in our hearts, have to make the daily choiceschoices of faith, obedience, surrender, confessionthat will enable us to grow in grace and in the Spirit or that will lead us toward eternal ruin.
Is there anything in your life, such as what you read or watch or do, that could be desensitizing you to the influence of the Holy Spirit? What might those things be? Why not let the Holy Spirit, right now, convict you about what you need to do regarding these things? After all, the longer you wait, the harder it will become even to heed His voice.
|Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ,
"Growing Up Into
Christ," pp. 67-75.
"The Author of this spiritual life is unseen, and the exact method by which that life is imparted and sustained, it is beyond the power of human philosophy to explain. Yet the operations of the Spirit are always in harmony with the written word. As in the natural, so in the spiritual world. The natural life is preserved moment by moment by divine power; yet it is not sustained by a direct miracle, but through the use of blessings placed within our reach. So the spiritual life is sustained by the use of those means that Providence has supplied. If the follower of Christ would grow up 'unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ' (Ephesians 4:13), he must eat of the bread of life and drink of the water of salvation. He must watch and pray and work, in all things giving heed to the instructions of God in His word."Ellen G. White, The Acts of Apostle, pp. 284, 285.
"The work of educating the mind and manners may be carried forward to perfection. If those who profess the truth do not now improve their privileges and opportunities to grow up to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus, they will be no honor to the cause of truth, no honor to Christ."Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, pp. 358, 359.
|What practical steps can you take to help other church members who are seeking to grow in the Lord and yet feel frustrated at what they deem is a lack of progress? What hope and advice can you offer them?|
|I N S I D E Story|
|Joining the Opposition
Moshe lives in an isolated village in eastern India. One day Sattepondu, a Bible worker, and a pastor arrived in Moshe's village. The men visited homes, introducing themselves and offering to teach the people about Jesus. Some villagers objected to having Christians in their village. They threw stones at the men and tried to chase them out of the village. But the men did not leave.
Sattepondu began studying with those who wanted to know about Christ, and soon 25 villagers came to his little study group.
But Moshe and most of the other villagers wanted nothing to do with Christians. Moshe threw stones at Sattepondu and told the district police that Christians were disturbing his village. The police took Sattepondu to the station for questioning. Angry villagers filed complaints. "If these people don't want you in their village, why do you stay and force your religion on them?" the officer asked.
Sattepondu answered, "I am not forcing religion on these people. I simply teach those who want to learn."
Meanwhile, when the new believers learned of Sattepondu's arrest, they marched to the police station to demand his release. After eight hours of questioning, Sattepondu was released.
More villagers joined the Bible study group. When Sattepondu announced evangelistic meetings, Moshe and his friends did not object. In fact, Moshe attended the meetings to see what these Christians taught. He saw the positive changes these Christians were making in the village, and he listened to the sermons. At the end of the meetings some seventy people were baptized, but Moshe was not among them.
While the new believers started building a small church, Sattepondu visited those who had attended the meetings and invited them to come to Christ. Finally Moshe stopped fighting and accepted Jesus as his Lord.
Other villagers opposed the new church and again asked the police to stop the building. But this time Moshe stood with the Christians. He pleaded with officials on behalf of the church and the believers in his village. Some noticed that Moshe had switched sides and asked him why. Moshe answered, "I have met Jesus. I know this God is the true God."
Moshe's village now has a small church, and the villagers once more live in peace. Moshe once opposed Christians, but now he leads them as the local elder of his church. Most of his family have become Christians. Today in Moshe's village, one out of five people is a Seventh-day Adventist. Your mission offerings help fund evangelism in more than two hundred countries around the world.
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