Monday, June 30, 2008

A Good Environment

The Environment for Growth: Part 1

We recognize that one way an athlete gets better is through practice. In team games such as football and basketball one of the ways players get better is by attending team practices. Not only do they build a bond with their teammates through practicing together, but they are taught by coaches. The head coach and the assistant coaches help the team to come together and to learn the things they need to learn in order to be successful.

Following Jesus isn’t an individual sport. Following Jesus is a team activity. We are in this together. That means we are responsible, in a small measure, to the spiritual growth of each other. God has given us the Church to help us grow. Here is the question I want you to consider: How has the church helped you grow?

When the early church went from 120 members to over 3,000 on the day of Pentecost the apostles didn’t simply turn these new converts out into the world with their blessing. Acts 2:42 tells us:
They (the new Christians) continually devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to times of prayer. (ISV)

From this verse we notice that the apostles brought the new followers of Jesus into community. This community was devoted to things like studying the Bible, being together, remembering Jesus through Holy Communion, and prayer. The early church really fostered a since of togetherness and unity, because that is how they believed men and women were prepared to live as followers of Jesus in the world.

Simply acknowledging that Jesus is Lord and Savior is not enough to get us through life as Christians. There are so many things in the world that clamoring for out attention. Jesus told a parable that dealt with this very subject.
4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 8:4-8, ESV)

Later on Jesus’ disciples came to Him and asked for the meaning of the parable. This is what Jesus told them.
10... “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard. Then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:10b-15, ESV).

Jesus said that sometimes the gospel will be preached to people and they will receive it with joy, but because they don’t have to proper grounding, a strong root system, they will wither and die under the extreme and dry conditions of life. Other’s will receive the gospel and will allow the worries, cares, and passions of the world to overtake them and choke out the truth about Jesus. Instead of living a life for Jesus they live a life to please themselves.

What this parable tells us is that it is very important for us to have the proper foundation for life and faith, for without it we will fail. We as individuals have a responsibility to prioritize Jesus and our relationship with Him as top priority in our lives. The Church has a responsibility to provide new believers the resources, leadership, and encouragement they need to continue a life of faith through the storms and the deserts of life. One of the purposes of the Church is to help people along in their journey of faith. The Church helps us put down roots of faith that will sustain us in the difficult times.

  • Point to Ponder: God has given us the Church to help us grow.
  • Passage to Remember: Luke 8:4-15
  • Question to Consider: How has the Church helped you grow?

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