The church is currently in the season of Lent – that time of the year when Christians go around asking each other, “What did you give up?" But rather than a time to give something up, Lent is the period of time between Ash Wednesday and Easter where the followers of Christ seek to be closer to Him. That doesn't happen by just giving something up. Rather, we practice replacing something natural with something spiritual. We replace a natural practice that brings its own reward with a spiritual discipline that brings the blessing of deeper intimacy with God.
Jesus did this. He replaced daily bread with the bread of heaven, God's word (see Matthew 4:4). He replaced lunchtime with the food of doing God's will (see John 4:34). We need to practice Lent like Jesus. Are you giving up lunch? Then replace your lunchtime with time in God's word, in prayer or serving others. Are you giving up chocolate? Replace that sweetness with the sweet presence of Jesus in worship, memorizing scripture, etc. The question we should be asking for Lent is, "What are you replacing in order to practice growing closer to your Lord?"
This year our church (San Dimas Wesleyan) is practicing Lent by replacing our time with God time:
It's not too late for you to start practicing Lent.
What's your answer to the Lenten Question: What are you replacing in order to practice growing closer to your Lord?
Before you continue reading quickly write the words, "my part" on a sticky note or small piece of paper and leave it within reach.
Consider this question: Who is responsible for a Christ-Follower's spiritual growth. When Jesus called you to Himself, when you put your trust in Him and became a Christian, you began as an infant. Our heavenly Father's expectation and desire is that you would grow up and become more like His Son. So again, who is responsible to make this happen? Who is responsible for Christian discipleship? The answer is threefold: God, the church and you.
Now I want you to pick up the piece of paper. The responsibility to obey Jesus, to grow spiritually and become more like Him is in your hands. You have the power to decide whether you will remain a spiritual infant or submit to your Father's will and grow up.
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. - 1 Peter 2:2 (NIV)
Community Bible Experience groups....never too late....
What Are You Doing to Grow Spiritually?
You have probably heard this definition of adulthood: An adult is someone who has stopped growing vertically and started growing horizontally. Those of us who have reached the age of "physical maturity" may have a hard time remembering the days when we dreamed of getting older, when we longed to grow up. The Christ follower needs to recall that longing and apply it to being a disciple of Jesus.
When Jesus' invited us to follow Him, he never said or implied it was a short journey that would reach a destination where we could stop the pursuit. The opposite is true. The invitation to follow Jesus is an invitation to a life of seeking, striving after, and growing up to become like Him.
Each follower of Jesus, you and me, have a personal responsibility when it comes to our spiritual growth. In other words, it's on us to take action in order to grow spiritually. There are actually three entities responsible for the believer's spiritual growth:
What are you doing to grow spiritually? Are you striving to hear, understand and live out what your Lord is saying? Have you joined a Community Bible Experience Group to read through the New Testament? If not, how come? What is the reason for your resistance? (Here's a challenge - speak that reason out loud to God and listen in your heart to His reply).
Then Jesus called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said:“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and FOLLOW ME. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. - Mark 8:34-35 (NIV)
It's not to late to join one of our groups this week:
· Sundays 9am in the Sanctuary
· Sundays 9am in Fellowship Hall
· Sundays 9am in the Barn (middle & high school)
· Sundays 6:00pm in Fellowship Hall
· Tuesdays 11am at the Parsonage
· Wednesdays 9am in the Fellowship Hall
Growth of any kind is impossible without devotion to the means of growth. Growth results when we are disciplined to practice the means that make us grow. Here are some examples:
You get the point. On Sunday, Dr. Don Shoff challenged us to commit to some vital Christian Practices in 2014. These are also known as "Christian Disciplines" "Spiritual Disciplines" and "Means of Grace.” Reading God’s word and praying daily, sharing our faith, generous giving, fellowship and worship are the main means to Christian maturity. You can listen to the sermon online at sermon.net/sdwchurch.
Growth will not and cannot happen without devotion to the means of growth. We cannot become more like Christ, we cannot grow in our obedience to God's word, we will not be transformed, we will be weak in our individual faith and we will be ineffective in our mission unless we are devoted to the means God gave us to grow.
This is how the church of Jesus Christ has always grown. When God sent the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, the Apostle Peter preached a sermon and 3000 people believed and became baby Christians. By Acts 11, even after great persecution, we find these Christians sending missionaries, teaching others, seeing needs, organizing into action and enjoying true fellowship among people who did not normally associate. How did they do it?
The answer is found in Acts 2:42-47. They devoted themselves to the Word of God, they devoted themselves to fellowship, they devoted themselves to worship (communion), they devoted themselves to prayer and they gave and shared generously. Through these means of growth, God formed them into His children and into the church He called and created them to be in Christ.
Let’s go and do the same.
[Uncle John is a 90 year old man in our church who loves Jesus, is full of infectious joy and has Alzheimer's. Although he doesn't remember me from week to week, he recognizes me as the minister and has a word of encouragement to give me when I greet him after the service. What he says, I always need to hear. I've taken to writing it down so I'm encouraged throughout the week. I share it with you here]...
Sunday, March 24. "Keep on, keep on, keep on. Keep on ministering the word. God is with you always, he will never leave you, he will never forsake you." - Uncle John
One of the saddest events in Jesus’ life happened when He went to visit His childhood home. He had returned to Nazareth to teach and minister and received a hostile welcome. The story is told in Mark 6:1-6. Some who showed up to hear Jesus teach in the synagogue were amazed, but the majority was offended. Their scoffing, chiding and insulting can be boiled down to one phrase: “He’s nothing special.” To them Jesus was an ordinary guy people should not be making an extraordinary fuss over.
“A prophet is not honored in his hometown.” This was Jesus’ reply to the scoffers and it gets to the heart of the situation. Prophets deliver God’s word, they relay God’s message to human beings. The majority of Nazarenes didn’t want to hear God’s will; they didn’t want God to interfere with their lives. Their justification for not listening: “Jesus appears to be an ordinary guy.” They missed the opportunity to hear God speak through His Son.
2000 years later we who call ourselves followers of Christ know who He is. But do we act differently? We say Jesus is extraordinary, but do we treat Him as ordinary? Do we take the opportunity to gather with Him every week (Jesus is present, Matthew 18:20) or miss it because we think, “It happens every week, I’ll go some other time, it is ordinary.”
When we hear or read the Bible and God is speaking to us do we pay attention or miss the opportunity because we think, “I’ve heard that before, it doesn’t apply to me, it is ordinary.”
When we pray do we pray earnestly and sincerely, believing the God of the universe is listening or do we think about our grocery lists, who’s playing or how much longer will this prayer go on?
When we treat lightly the real, extraordinary presence of Christ in the gathered community, when we treat as ordinary the sacred word and corporate prayer, we have missed that opportunity to be with and be transformed by our Lord.
I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.
- William Carey
My name is Tim Kirkes. I am honored to be the a child of my heavenly Father, the husband of Lisa, the father of two boys and the pastor of San Dimas Wesleyan church.