Posts Tagged ‘Christian growth’

 

psalm119_105

I want to let you know that I’ve started an online Bible study for the ladies who read my blog.  We are studying Philippians and our teacher is Susan Heck.  She is an excellent Bible teacher and counselor, and comes highly recommended.  You will love how she digs deep into the scriptures and brings out so many truths that I would overlook.  I try to post a new lesson every week.  The lessons and discussion area are protected and you will need a password to get into them.  That way we can keep what we say private and just between the members of the group.  If you are interested you can click on the link below to see what it is all about.  Hope to see you there!

Dig Deeper Bible Study

 

 

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Do you know that when we become Christians we are finally complete in Christ?  At least from God’s perspective.

Before we were born-again we were on our own.  The Bible teaches that we were dead in trespasses and sin.  We were in the realm of Satan’s kingdom, and were subject to sin, death and hell.  Isn’t that an awful picture of those who live in the world today without Christ?

So, how are we complete in Christ now?  What does that mean?

Let’s take a look at Colossians 2: 8-15 to find our answer:  These are marvelous scripture verses and loaded.  I can only skim them.

Col 2:8-15 NASB See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

First of all Paul tells us not to let the world take us captive through philosophy or man’s worldly ideas and deception, and not to follow the traditions of men.

(9) For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,

Wow!  In Christ, in His human body dwells all the fullness of Deity!  That is amazing.  He is complete!

(10) and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

If you are a Christian you also have been made complete!  Let’s try to see what that means as we read more of this passage.  Christ is also the head over all rule and authority.  Keep that in mind.

When we were saved we were completely saved:

(11) and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; (12) having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

This is talking about our salvation.  We were made spiritually complete in Christ when we were saved.  When He died on the cross we somehow joined Him.  At the moment we were saved, we were baptized with the Holy Spirit, (not water baptism).  And, we died and were raised up with Christ by God.  God raised Jesus from the dead literally, and He raised us from our spiritual death.

When we were saved we were completely forgiven:

(13) When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, (14) having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

We were spiritually dead because of our sins and the uncircumcision of our flesh.  But God made us alive with Christ.  He forgave us all of our sins, past, present and future.  He nailed them to the cross and canceled out the debt that we owed because of them.  God the great judge declared us to be free from the penalty of sin.

Joh 19:30 NASB Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

When we were saved we were given complete victory:

2Co 5:17 NASB Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

(15) When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

When Jesus died on the cross He also went and disarmed all the rulers and authorities.  He was victorious over them and took them all captive.  That is great news for us because they no longer have any hold on us.

Heb 2:14-15 NASB Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, (15) and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

Being complete in Christ means that we can live in this world without fear.  We are capable of being victorious over sin.  The sting of death has been removed so we don’t have to fear that anymore, and we do not have to worry that we will spend eternity in hell.  Satan has been defeated and he can not claim you as one of his.  I like that!

Eph 3:16 NASB that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,

When we get these things settled in our minds, it is much easier to face life.  Trials and temptations will come our way, but knowing we are complete in Him, gives us the courage to face them head on.  God is always in control and sovereign over what happens to us.  We can trust Him to make our path straight and to take care of us in every situation.  He loves us as a dear Heavenly Father and will take care of his children.

2Pe 1:3-4 NASB seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. (4) For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

Isn’t that an uplifting scripture?  We really don’t have to worry about things.  God has granted us everything we need that pertains to our life and to be a godly individual.  He gives us that through the true knowledge of Him.  As we study the Word we learn how to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to God and He also gives us the power to be successful in doing that. That power is in us because Christ is in us and it is the same power that raised Jesus from the grave.  Now that is power!  We can even escape the corruption that is in the world. I praise God for that. 

I pray we will all try to realize all that we have in our possession when we become Christians, and that we will know in our hearts that we can overcome anything that comes our way.

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Lessons Learned/Practical Application
by Kimberly Northrup-Vaughn

God has accomplished great deliverance in my life. I still have so far to go, but He has delivered me from the pits.  I praise God for what I have been through because it brought me to such desperation that I was willing to seek God with every ounce of my being in order to find my way out.

From my experiences and the WORD OF GOD I believe that we can all be free. By this I do not mean that we will never again struggle with fear or anxiety or panic attacks. However, I believe completely that this means we do not have to live with these things controlling us or being a controlling factor in lives. We don’t have to live with them hanging over our heads. Why am I so confident of this? Because in His Word God makes it clear that He wants to be the only One that has power over us.

“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Luke 16:13)

While this last passage in particular addresses the love of money, the principle remains the same – We can only have one master. If fear and anxiety rule and control us, then are we really allowing God to have control over us?

Jesus also promised that those who gave their lives to Him could have an abundant life.

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10)

In Jesus we are not meant to simply exist and survive, but we are meant to THRIVE – to be truly alive!

With all of that in mind, here are some practical things I have learned, and I believe these things can help you along on your journey too:

1.  If we go to the Word of God and our anxiety only gets worse (as I’ve heard some of you all say, and as I experienced.), this is not from God.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

We have to remember that we have an enemy (Satan) that is looking to discredit the authority or power of God’s Word. He does not want us to be free. So it is only normal that we who are seeking to be free would encounter obstacles of anxiety when we go to God’s Word. After all, if we become free from the power of anxiety in our lives, Satan has a lot to lose and God has a lot of glory to receive.

So don’t let increased feelings of anxiety to stir you away from God’s Word. Instead, let it make you all the more determined – Look into God’s Word until you find peace!

2. The Word of God is SO important to us in our struggles.

“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) “He sent forth His Word and healed them.” (Psalm 107:20) 

No matter the struggle or issue, all the answers and help we need are in there. We can be familiar with all the stories and verses, but we need to always go back with a heart and mind that are willing to learn something new. The Holy Spirit is always ready to bring us to new levels through the Word, even through verses we have heard a million times.

3. We can’t just be encouraged by the Word – we have to apply it. Not just with areas of anxiety, but also with other areas where we are struggling.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22-25)

When we apply the truth, God shows us over time how He is faithful to accomplish His Word. As we take steps of faith in our lives and see that God remains faithful and true, it encourages us to take more steps.

4. We who are in so much bondage to anxiety and fear need to make the Word our lifeline. Carry Scriptures around with you. Make them always in front of you. Tape them on your cabinets and bathroom mirrors, in your car, or wherever else you will see them frequently.

5. Don’t just focus on Scriptures about anxiety and peace. Focus on Scriptures about God’s character. Like Psalm 145:8-9.  We need to let it sink into our hearts and minds how good and loving and powerful our God is!

6. Find ways to get in-person Christian fellowship. Maybe your first step of faith is inviting someone from your church over to your house to visit you, even if that means them coming to your bedroom, if you are stuck in your bedroom. Even if it’s just a pastor. One of the ways that God shows us His love is through His people. When we experience God’s love, that helps to cast out the fear.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” (1 John 4:18)

7. We need the body of Christ. Don’t allow pride to keep you from asking for prayers as much as you need it (not just in this group, but with other Christians you know too). Sometimes we’re tempted to think, “Oh they’re sick of hearing from me – they don’t want to hear this.” But that is from the enemy. The Bible makes it very clear that prayer plays a crucial part in certain trials and spiritual battles.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

8. Be desperate and be honest with God.

 “He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; He will not despise their plea.” (Psalm 102:17) To be destitute is to be needy – We show we have great need of God when we go to Him for more than a quick prayer. These quick prayers make Him out to be more like our wish-granter rather than our soul-fulfiller.

9. Ask God for wisdom – in everything.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

Stop analyzing things and trying to understand things on your own. Our own wisdom hasn’t exactly put us where we want – we might as well give it up and trust God’s wisdom. It is FAR BETTER than our own!

 “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'” (Isaiah 55:8&9)

10. “But when he asks (for wisdom), he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (James 1:6&7) 

Keep on asking God to help your unbelief, as you encounter it. Jesus honored the man that cried out

“‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'” (Mark 9:24)

Be the “persistent widow” (Luke 18:1-8) in asking for the Lord to help your unbelief.

JESUS is the ultimate healer and deliverer. Every single one of us can be FREE, as we allow the blood of Jesus to touch every crevice of who we are!

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Many times in church or when we are listen to Bible teaching we hear words that we don’t really understand. I believe some pastors and teachers simply take it for granted that we all know them.  Sanctification is one of those words.  Do you know what it is?

According to Webster’s Dictionary:

“Sanctification

SANCTIFICA’TION, n. [See Sanctify.]

1. The act of making holy. In an evangelical sense, the act of God’s grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love to God.

God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. 2 Th 2. 1 Pet 1.”

Sanctification is very important for us to understand.  You will see that word, and also sanctify, and sanctified in the Bible and we need to know what they mean so we can understand the scripture.

In my own words:

Sanctification is a process which begins when we get saved. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us right then and sets us apart as something different from what we were.   When we are saved we are actually made a new person by the Holy Spirit.  But, that is not the end of it. All during the time we are alive here on earth we are continually shaped and molded into the image of Christ. This is God’s desire for us. This is a process which continues on until we reach Heaven, and reach perfection.  So, if you are a Christian you are somewhere on the road of sanctification.  You are being sanctified.

Let’s look at some scriptures that show us that:

1Co 6:11 NASB Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Here we see right from the Word of God that we were washed, sanctified, and justified when we were saved. 

2Co 5:17 NASB Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

One of the first things we must get a hold of is the fact that now that we are believers we are actually and truly a new person.  We are not the person we were when we were born.  Then we were dead (spiritually) in trespasses and sin.  We were dead because of Adam and Eve’s sin of disobedience which was passed down to us.  We could not please a holy God. A holy God cannot look upon sin.

I don’t think I realized at first after I was saved that I was actually a new person.  It wasn’t until I read the verse above that it sunk in.  It doesn’t matter what has gone on in your past, what your life was like, you are now a NEW person inside.  Do you get that!  It is so important and wonderful.  You don’t have to live like you did in the past.  You don’t have to continue in the old habits that dragged you down. God in His mercy has given you a second chance. You have been set free! 

Joh 8:36 NASB “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Gal 2:20 NASB “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

You see we died (our old person) when we accepted Christ and were saved.  Then the Holy Spirit came to live inside us.  He gave us a new spirit (new person inside us) so now we have the ability to live as God would want us to.  We could not please God before. We live this new life by faith in Christ.  He loved us enough to take our sin penalty and die for us, therefore, we can love Him as we give our lives to Him.

So, how does this sanctification process work in our everyday lives? 

We must die to our old self.  You may say, I thought you said we died with Christ when we were saved.  That is true our old person did die and we were recreated a new person inside.  But, we still live in this old physical body with it’s desires, and it can and does influence us. 

See what Paul says in, 1Co 15:31 NASB I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

He said he dies daily.  He had to die to his flesh everyday, and so do we.  Otherwise, we will be tempted to follow the desires of the flesh and live in disobedience to God.  When we were saved we were made alive spiritually, but we still do have our same minds and memories.  We still can stray away from pleasing God.  I think you will agree with me on that.  We are far from being perfect.  And where does temptation to sin start?  In our minds.  That is Satan’s playground.

Mat 16:24 NASB Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.

Jesus said to deny self and take up your cross and follow Him.  The cross speaks of death and to deny self is to die to our old selfish desires.  We are naturally self-centered.  We need to take our eyes and mind off from self and get them on things above. 

We are a work in process.  God has given us the Word that tells us how to live a Christian live.  We need to keep in the  Word and obey what it tells us.  When we do, we grow in Christ.  God has told us to renew our minds.  As we do we can resist the devil and he will flee from us.  We do not have to live in sin as a Christian.  Sure there will be a constant battle, but we can overcome by God’s grace and power.

Rom 12:2 NASB And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

As we renew our minds we become transformed, and we know God’s will for us.  We can only renew our minds by our study of the Word of God.  When we read the Bible and obey it, we become transformed.  We change.  Again this is a process.  Look back to the time you were saved and compare yourself to now. Do you see any change for the good?  If so, you are being transformed.  If not, you should revisit whether you are truly saved.

So, we die to ourselves and our selfish desires, we renew our minds and become transformed.

Rom 8:28-29 NASB And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (29) For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

“to become conformed to the image of His Son.”  That’s God’s goal for our lives. 

If you always wanted to know what God’s will is for you, well there it is.  He is now, right now, working in your life to make you more and more like Jesus.  You have a choice.  You can obey God and grow in grace toward that goal, or you can disobey God and live a miserable Christian life, always fighting it, not wanting to die to self.  Yield to God and let Him live His life through you.

Now we are being sanctified as we live the Christian life according to God’s will, and finally we will be totally sanctified when we get to Heaven and see that we are like Christ.  Rom 8:29 “…He would be the firstborn among many breathern;” Just think how wonderful that will be!  All true Christians will be fully sanctified, and we will have the same kind of bodies as He has, we will have the same kind of mind and attitude that He has.  We will be joint heirs in all that He has. Oh, it is more than I can comprehend!  All I can say is “Thank you dear Heavenly Father, that you chose me to be a part of this great eternal adventure!

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1Jn 3:5 NASB  You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.

So many times I’ve thought about how Christ died on the cross to forgive me of my sins.  What a wonderful thought it is to know that the God of all creation would actually forgive ME an unworthy, selfish, rebellious sinner.  It has always boggled my mind that he would do that for me.

But, the above verse tells us He actually not only came to bear our sins on the cross and forgive us of our sins, but to “take away sins.”  Did you get that?  He came to take them away!  That means we don’t have to sin any more!

Wow! What a revelation that was to me!  When we become a Christian we become a new creation in Christ.  Our old self is recreated.  We are brand new.  Yes, we still have our old bodies, but we are new inside, in our spirit.  

Sometimes, I’ve written a long email to someone.  I’ve spent an hour or more and looked up scripture and pasted in several quotes.  Finally, I’m almost finished and I either hit a wrong key, or my computer acts up, and in a blink of an eye that email that I’d spent so much time on completely disappears.  Something has taken it away, and it can never be found or recovered again.  I simply have to start all over again! 

I think when Christ takes away our sins it is something like that.  He actually takes them away never to come back to us.  Those sins are gone!

In the Old Testament there is a good example of the meaning “take away sins.” 

Lev 16:21 LITV  “then Aaron shall lay his two hands on the head of the living goat, and shall confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions, and all their sins, and shall put them on the head of the goat, and shall send it by the hand of a chosen man into the wilderness.”

This sin offering was laid upon the head of the scapegoat.  The goat then was sent away forever with the sins upon him.  Get the picture?  That is what Christ did for us on the cross. He took our sins away forever.

But, you say, “Wait a minute, I still find myself sinning at times.  I thought you said our sins were taken away.”

Those sins were taken away when we became a born-again Christian.  We were sanctified, made righteous and holy in God’s sight.  But, we still have our old flesh that we live in as long as we are in this world, and our righteousness will not be complete until we get to Heaven.  In the meantime, we are striving to become more and more like Christ.  We do not have the disposition to sin anymore.  We really don’t want to sin, but sometimes in a weak moment we do.

Yes, we do fall and sin at times, but it is not our way of life now.  If you are a true Christian you will see that your life has been transformed.  You are not the same person as you were before.  When you do sin, you will feel it in your spirit and not be able to live with it.  You will confess it and repent of it and get right with God.  That is what a true Christian does.

On the other hand if you call yourself a Christian but you still live your life the same way as before you got saved then you need to question if you are truly a Christian.  It is impossible for a true believer to continue to live in sin.  Your conscience won’t let you do that.  You are a NEW creation. 

2Co 5:17 LITV  So that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!

Here again the scripture says, those old things have “passed away.”  They are gone, “taken away,” by Christ. 

The bottom line is this:  Once we are a true Christian we do not have to live in sin anymore!  Isn’t that great?  Sin does not have to control us anymore!  Now, we have a choice.  Before it wasn’t up to us as the devil controlled us, but now, God has given us a choice.  We can choose to reject sin in our lives! 

The way we do this is by living close to God.  We obey the scriptures.  We ask God to allow the Holy Spirit to give us the courage, and strength we need to overcome any sin that keeps us from living the way we should.

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How Faith and Christianity help Depression
by Christine Howell

Depression can be a feeling of hopelessness that ranges from a minor inconvenience in the Christian life to life-threatening. Throughout the ages even mature Christian leaders have lived with and wrestled with the pain of depression.

Jesus is uniquely able to help us with depression. The gift of the in-dwelling Holy Spirit provides strength and healing to a degree not available to those who are not His. Even so, belonging to Jesus’ doesn’t mean we will automatically be free from the clutches of depression, much to the surprise of many who call on His name with the expectation of smooth sailing ahead.

How can faith in Christ help us in overcoming depression? There are several ways.The cause of depression can be due to a sinful lifestyle or other disobedience to the will of God. Jesus has an easy solution to this one. Submit and obey. When we line up with the understood will of God and do what He says, this depression will lift.

When depression is caused by stressful life situations such as marital strife, financial ruin or the loss of a job, Jesus is available. He will help us to understand that the eternal transcends the temporal and that problems, as difficult as they may be, are not a sign that he’s abandoned us. In the midst of severe stress He offers a spiritual peace that is deeper than the peace the “good times” offer.

Some depression results from the lack of accepting the circumstances we find ourselves in. The key to finding help is in developing the willingness to say yes to Him when the time comes for us to share in His sufferings or tolerate life’s unpleasantness.

Another form of depression originates with a physical problem.   Some Christians believe that medical intervention in depression is wrong and that it illustrates a lack of faith or trust that God can and will heal. Other Christians believe that medicine is a gift from the Father and should be enjoyed to the fullest.   If the problem is a physical one which can be diagnosed by testing then medication might very well be the solution.  If you are suffering with depression make sure you go to a physician and have a good physical to rule out any physical cause before you beat yourself up with not having enough faith.

Jesus Christ helps us cope with depression. He is qualified to identify the origin and perfect treatment in every case. Just as Jesus physically healed people in a variety of ways that are uniquely personal and unwaveringly accurate, so He treats depression in His people today.

Christine Howell is a writer who regularly writes about Online Degrees and college related topics for Online College Guru, an online college directory and comparison web site.

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Factors That Contribute to Your Growth as a Christian
By Adrienne Carlson

If you are a Christian, I’m sure you feel blessed to be one. The oneness you enjoy with God is compounded when you grow as a Christian through the years. And the factors that contribute to your growth as a true Christian are:

1.  Faith: To be close to Jesus, you must have absolute faith in his teachings and the way of life that he has advocated through the Bible. You must believe that he is the one and only true God, the one who is responsible for all that we are and all that we are blessed with.

2.  Obedience: Once we accept that Jesus is our Christ and savior, we must obey his word without question. Only then can we prove that we are growing spiritually as Christians. The Bible teaches us certain values, all of which are reinforced when we go to church regularly and listen to the word of God.

3.  Acceptance: Being a true Christian means accepting who we are and all that has been given to us in life. While we can try to do all we can to uplift our status, we grow as Christians when we accept our lot without complaining or blaming other people for our troubles and miseries.

4.  Forgiveness: This is probably one of the hardest acts to perform, but as a Christian who wants to grow, you must be able to forgive even those who have wronged you grievously, because only when you are able to forgive are you able to let go of the past and grow as a Christian. Conduct: The way you behave in your interactions with other people and in various situations defines how you grow as a Christian. A good Christian abides by the values that the Bible has taught us in every little part of their lives.

5.  Evangelism: When you grow as a Christian, you want to spread the word to the whole world. You must teach the word of Christ to people who are not aware of his goodness and mercy. And to do this, you must know how to approach people and talk to them without hurting their sentiments. Evangelism does not imply force; rather, you grow as a Christian when you are able to spread the word of God and tell people of his greatness through your actions.

This guest article was written by Adrienne Carlson, who regularly writes on the topic of online Bible Colleges.    Adrienne welcomes your comments and questions.

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