Today we're going to look at faith and spiritual growth. We’re going to use the New Testament book of Colossians as a way to get a handle on the dynamics of faith which works in real life—in the trenches, as it were.
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-10).
Faith in the trenches means Knowing God and Bearing Fruit.
I'd like to get a bit more specific about what spiritual growth is all about. Let me introduce this by telling you a story that Jesus told in Matthew 13...
A farmer goes out to sow seed (because that’s what farmer’s do). Some falls along the path (where birds eat it up), some fall on rocky soil and it springs up quickly but because its roots were shallow, when the sun came up it withered. Other seed fell among thorns and grew up but then were choked out by the thorns. Still others fell on good soil and produced a crop…30, 60, and 100 times what was sown.
Later on, Jesus interpreted the meaning of the parable. Someone who hears and never let’s the message even penetrate their heart is the seed on the path. Some hear it and initially receive it, but because they are not grounded, persecution or trouble immediately causes them to fall away. The one who hears the message but has totally different priorities and values gets choked out right away. Still others hear it, receive it, and put it into practice.
Jesus is telling us that the key to faith and spiritual growth is the condition of the soil. The soil represents the human heart. Some hear about God and never let it even penetrate their heart (they are like the seed on the pathway). Others hear and their hearts initially are enthused, but they then let trouble and stress snuff out their hoped for new life (seed on rocky soil). Still others are able to hear it, but their priorities simply don’t line up so they go another direction (thorns choking it out). Finally, real spiritual growth happens when people hear and receive God’s truth. What’s the key truth here?
Spiritual growth happens in receptive hearts.
If you’re looking for a spiritual harvest in your life, you’ve got to have an open heart that is prepared for God’s truth to take hold. Are you ready to receive? Let’s learn from a great source on spiritual growth.
The Truth About Spiritual Growth
“I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love” (Colossians 1:1-2a).
1. Spiritual Growth happens in community
Paul was writing to people were living out their relationship with God in uncertain times. He wanted them to be encouraged in heart. That is so much of our desire for you here today. We unashamedly try to make church exciting and uplifting. We want you to leave here with your eyes fixed on God, your head committed to the truth of God’s Word, and your heart encouraged by His presence and by His people.
But it’s not just about getting together with a bunch of folks; there is another component...
2. Lasting Truth is only found in Christ
“So that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments” (Colossians 1:2b-4).
The truth of Christ is meant to secure us in our spiritual lives and to protect us. Truth is, spiritual life has always been turbulent. Yes, it is true that we have all kinds of spiritual deceptive teachings and lifestyles today. But, there have always been counterfeit spiritual pathways that promise peace and deliver destruction. So, how do you grow up with spiritual health? Here are several specific steps to leading a growing, fruit-filled spiritual life
3. Jesus Christ changes our Spiritual Standing
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ" (Colossians 1:9-11).
Now friends, this is some deep water; but what you’ll learn from this is worth the extra effort. So hang in there while I walk us through it. The Bible teaches that before we are in relationship with Christ, that we are sinful and separated from God. There is no way, on the basis of our good works or good life, that we can ever be pleasing to God. In fact, in one place the Bible says that our righteousness is “as filthy rags”. Compared to God’s Holiness, we have nothing to offer. What we deserve is to be forever separated from God and to pay the penalty for our sins forever. That is our spiritual standing.
Here is what God did to make spiritual life possible. He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to give His life on the cross so that our penalty could be paid and we could be free from the death sentence that was upon us. Jesus Christ is fully God, come in the flesh, and He has the power to forgive our sins and free us.
Now, all of us have a choice. When we come to God and receive His free gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ, something amazing takes place. Not only are our sins forgiven, but our spiritual standing is changed forever! A heart operation takes place; the Bible compares it to circumcision of the flesh(graphic, but a true picture of the pain of cutting away our old natures). This time it is not about our fleshly bodies, it is about our spiritual standing!
In Christ, we now have the fullness of Christ. We don’t stand before God as sinners. If you have received Christ as your Savior, you now stand before God as a “redeemed one." Your life, which was once sold into the pit of slavery has been redeemed. You’ve been made to stand before God as a righteous person. Does that mean you no longer sin? Obviously not! But what it does mean is that you are not an outsider brought before the king to be punished and then banished. No!, You are now His child who needs discipline and restoration to health in the family of faith. That makes all the difference in the world as to how you actually live out your spiritual life.
So, how do you live out spiritual growth and faith?