The Path of Discipleship – Growing in Christ

http://www.petesandersonblog.com/?p=217

The milestones of the first years of life come fast and furious.  One day you are holding a fragile infant who can do almost nothing for himself, not even hold up his own head.  Before you know it, he is smiling and then holding a rattle and then sitting up and then eating solid food and then crawling and then walking.  All in the span of a year, this almost lifeless infant is now brimming over with life-fullness and energy.

In the same way, are the early days of new life in Christ, filled with life and growth.  It seems that many of the most radical decisions of the Christian life are made in these first days of faith – major life changing decisions, radical changes in lifestyle and behavior and new relationships formed.

In some ways, it seems that this growth comes automatically.  Children sit up and then suddenly crawl.  New believers profess faith in Christ and then suddenly they are leaving behind a former lifestyle plagued by sin.  And yet, if you look more closely, there is an element of hard work at play.  I remember watching my boys grunt as they tried to flip themselves over for the first time.  Or the way that they would fall and get up, fall and get up, fall and get up as they learned to stand and walk.  This hard work builds muscle that strengthens the body to crawl and walk and run in the short-term and to work and play sports over the course of life.

And so, too, in the spiritual life, don’t ever imply to a new believer that it was “easy” to leave aspects of their former way of life, it took effort and pain-staking decisions.  These decisions build spiritual muscles that will lead to further growth as life goes on. Part of forming the new life in Christ is the hard work of developing new life disciplines that will further the growth process both immediately and in years to come.

If the goal of the “Know Christ” stage of discipleship was to express faith, then II Peter 1:5-8 summarizes the goal of the “Growing in Christ” stage of discipleship, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The goal of this stage of discipleship is to develop godly character, which includes the facets above – goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, affection and love – among others that will come through the more you read and study the Bible.

If the Bible command us to “add to your faith…”, how does one go about the process of adding character to faith?  What are the steps?  What are the hallmarks of growth?

The first step, which aligns with coming to faith in Christ, is to repent and alter your life

In order to actually alter your life, you need to know what it is that Jesus wants for your life and his teachings are found in the Bible.  This means you need to read and study the Bible, to learn what Jesus wants for your life.  But “growing in Christ” is not just about reading the Bible, it is also about putting what you learn in the Bible into practice in your life.  As Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

While you ought to put effort into being who Jesus wants you to be, the power to change does not reside in you.  The power to change comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.  Therefore, prayer also needs to become a new part of your life.  You are now in a relationship with God, therefore you need to communicate with him.  It is also in prayer that you declare your complete dependence on God to change you into the person he wants you to be.

Finally, you need to be involved in a local church.  The Bible says that having expressed faith in Jesus Christ, you are now part of his body.  The local church is an outward expression of Jesus’ body and so you need to have relationship with other people who are in the church.  These relationships are valuable in and of themselves, they are what God has called you into, relationship with him and his people.  But these relationships also have a very practical purpose, through them you will learn more about how to follow Jesus as you see faith lived out in the lives of other believers.

How can Glory Chapel help you along this journey?

  1. We are that local expression of Jesus’ body, in any way that you attend Glory Chapel (worship services, fun events, teaching nights, dinner with a new friend from Glory Chapel), you are connecting with other believers and embracing this new community that God has made you a part of.
  2. Glory Chapel has affinity groups to help you connect to others in a closer way. There is the Eagles ministry for singles and single parents, as well as Married Couples for those who are married.
  3. Glory Chapel offers classes at the Corinthian School of Urban Ministry. There are specific courses designed to help you at this stage of your journey, they include:
    1. A “How to Grow” class, that will lay out in more detail the contents of this post about how to grow
    2. A Bible overview class that will get you started with reading and studying the Bible, by giving you the cliff notes version of the Bible.
    3. A “Spiritual Disciplines” course which will teach you things like prayer, meditation, fasting and other disciplines that will help you to grow.
    4. A “How to Study the Bible” course that will help you dig deeper into the Bible.
    5. A series of other Bible courses that will focus on specific sections of the Bible, so you can learn more about how to live a godly life.

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