Randall Caselman

Bella Vista Church of Christ

06/18/2017 P.M.

 

Evaluating Our Spiritual Progress

Hebrews 5.12-6.1 &  1 Timothy 4.15-16

 

This morning... We stood on Holy Ground.

We traveled with Moses to the Western Slope of Mount Sinai... There we heard God call our name... In fact... He called it twice.

God called us... to higher ground.... To a better way to live.

Tonight...The question is... How are we doing?...

Tonight…We evaluate our spiritual Progress.

 

Read with me what the Hebrews’ Writer says... By this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.

 

First Timothy 4.15 & 16 has Paul saying... Be diligent in these matters... Give yourself wholly to them... WHY???...So that everyone may see your progress…

 

Watchyour life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them… Because if you do… Youwill save both yourself and your hearers.


It’s difficult to recognize and measure spiritual progress over a week’s time or maybe even a month’s time.

 

Trying to determine the progress of a soul is like looking at the growth of an oak. We can’t actually see it growing at the moment... But we can compare it to where it was some time ago and see that there has indeed been any growth.

 

How can we know that we are more like Jesus than we were a year ago at this same time? How do we know that we are making real progress and not merely deceiving ourselves with useless activity?

 

Tonight… We have ten questions to help us

evaluate our Spiritual progress...

 

First... Are we more thirsty for God?

Psalm 42.1 has David saying... As the deer pants for streams of water... So my soul pants for you... O God.

 

Have we been thirsting for God like this?... Is He our passion?

Do we yearn to know Jesus Christ more and more intimately?

Our soul-thirst is a sure sign of our soul-growth.

 

You see... In spite of all of his maturity in Christ... In spite of all he had seen and experienced... The Apostle Paul declared late in his spiritual walk... I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.... I want to share in His suffering... I want to become more like Him.

 

What’s he talking about?  Didn’t he already know Jesus better than most of us ever will?  Of course he did.  But the more he knew Jesus... The more he wanted to know Him. The more Paul progressed spiritually...The more thirsty for God he became.

 

Question...

Are we thirsty for the Lord... Like a deer thirsting for water?

Are we thirsting to be filled and saturated with God?

Good!!... That’s a sign of Spiritual Progression.

 

Are we more loving?

The mark of a Christian is an unconditional love for others...

Listen to these scriptures...

• As I have loved you... You should love one another.

• If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels...But have not love... I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge... And if I have a faith that can move mountains... But have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames... But have not love, I gain nothing.

Let us love one another... For love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God.

• The world will know you are my disciple... When you love the brethren.

 

Question!...Are we growing in our love for others?

Can we recall recent instances of Christ-like love in our lives?

Have there been recent occasions when we’ve sacrificed our own...

• Interests...

• Preferences...

• Plans...

• Or rights...

For the... Interests...Preferences... Plans... And rights... of others?

You see… These are mileposts on the journey to maturity.

 

Show me someone who is always complaining about others... That has no interest in others… And I’ll show you an individual who is stalled in selfishness and is stuck spiritually.

 

Are we more sensitive to and aware of God than ever before?

In Romans 6.11... Paul writes... Count yourselves dead to sin... But alive to God in Christ Jesus

 

Perhaps there was a time in our lives when we were not even aware of God... Much less sensitive to His will.

• But now...But now… We have been born again of water and the Spirit.

We have crucified the old man of sin in the act of New Testament baptism.

We have been raised to walk in a newness of life.

Now we are aware of God in every arena of life.

We understand that it is in Him that we live, move and have our being.

We understand that He lives in us by the Spirit He gave us.

We understand that He is the one who has set the limits of our existence,

We understand that He empowers us to accomplish the task assigned us.

• We understand He will not allow us to be tempted and tried beyond what we are able to withstand... But will with every temptation provide a way of escape.

We understand He will not forsake us or leave us to be alone.

We understand He will work all things out to our benefit.

 

Indeed…Mature Christians find spiritual peace and pleasure in these promises…. Mature Children of God can lean back and rest in these promises… Amen?

 

When we are alive to God... We are sensitive to Him... We see Him everywhere in all things.

In nature’s sweet song...

• In the church...

• In our family...

• We’ll see Him providentially in our trials and struggles…


Perhaps the Poet said it best…

 

Have you ever stood at the ocean with the white foam at your feet;

Felt the endless thundering motion,

Then I say you’ve seen Jesus my Lord.

 

Have you ever stood at the sunset with the sky mellowing red;

Seen the clouds suspended like feathers,

Then I say you’ve seen Jesus my Lord.

 

Have you ever stood at the cross with the man hanging in pain;

Seen the look of love in His eyes,

Then I say you’ve seen Jesus my Lord.

 

Have you ever stood in the family with the Lord there in your midst;

Seen the face of Christ on your brother,

Then I say you’ve seen Jesus my Lord.

 

Genuine Spiritual Progress is seeing God and His Son in all that’s about us… in all that’s about us!

 

Are we more willingly governed BY God’s Word?

Before we were made alive to God... We were controlled mostly by what we wanted... By our own fleshly desires... Our flesh nature set our priorities.

 

But after we become alive to Him... We have a new desire... A desire to be governed by His will.

We have a built-in compulsion to do what God wants us to do.

 

And we can know what God wants us to do from studying Scripture.

A classic text on the sufficiency of Scripture for the Christian is Second Timothy 3.16 & 17… All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

As we progress spiritually... We’re able to point to...

• How the Word of God has been teaching us...

• How it has rebuked and reproved us...

• How it has shown us the way to correct our mistakes...

• How Scripture has been training us to live in new ways that God says are right.  

• How it has prompted us to good works.

 

Are we more concerned with the needs ofothers?

In Luke. 9.11... Jesus encounters a crowd of people... And we’re told... He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God... And healed those who needed healing.

• Jesus was concerned primarily with their spiritual needs.

• But He also cared deeply about their physical needs.

The more we become like Jesus the more concerned we will be about the needs of others.

 

Have you noticed the trend?... Have you noticed that the longer a person is a Christian... The less evangelistic we become?

 

Obviously this is a mark of regression.... Or at least a mark of stagnation.

 

Church...

We must always fight what I call evangelistic erosion.

We must always be ready to give an answer for the faith we espouse.

We must always be ready to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered.

• We must always exemplify Jesus... Being ready to share Him verbally.

 

Here it is... Sometimes evangelism is best accomplished through a benevolent heart... A genuine concern for the physical needs of others.

 

Are we concerned about the Church?

Husbands...Love your wives... Just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

 

Yes... Husbands are to love their wives... But this verse also teaches us that we are to love the church.

 

Folk...The more we become like Jesus... The more we will love His church… And the more concern we’ll have for His people.

 

You see... When we separate ourselves from participating in the... Body life... And body work... of the church...Our spiritual progress slowsCan I say that again?... When we separate ourselves from… The Body Life… And Body WorkOf the church… Our spiritual progress slows.

We need a Close Fellowship with one another!!

We need to be doing our Kingdom Work together.

Those who choose just to come occupy a pew... Once... Twice... Three... Times a week without any genuine Christian fellowship or ministry will eventually become spiritually anemic.

 

God created us for relationships... Fellowship... togetherness... One-anotherness… The church is... a family... A COMMUNITY!

 

Are we more aware and concerned with our sins?

I think it interesting that... Late in his life... When he was about as mature as a Christian gets... The Apostle Paul described himself as the worst sinner in the world... The chief of sinners.

 

How could he say that?... Since he was probably more like Jesus than anyone we’ve ever met? Because... You see... The closer we get to Jesus... The more aware we become of our sins and how unlike Him we really are.

 

The more we grow as a Christian... The less we sin... But it often seems as though we sin more... because our sensitivity to and our concern for sin is so much more intense.

 

Are we more willing to forgive others?

Ephesians 4.32 exhorts us to... Forgive each other just as, in Christ, God forgave you.

Indeed... Forgiveness is one of the hardest and most unnatural things we could be asked to do. 

 

Forgiveness is a work... A discipline.... But the more we become like Jesus... The more we will be willing to forgive ANYONE OF ANYTHING. 

 

Questions...

• Are we still bitter toward someone we were bitter toward six months ago?

If so... Then regardless of all the Christian activities we may be involved in... We have deceived ourselves about having made any real spiritual progress during that time.

 

• Have we forgiven any longtime hurts during the past few months?  If so... Then we have made a measurable advance in spiritual maturity.

 

Are we thinking more about heaven? 

Paul wrote to the Philippian church saying... I am torn between two options...

• I desire to depart and be with Christ... Which is better by far...

• Or I could remain here in body and serve the church.

The more Paul became like Christ... The more he wanted to depart and be with Christ.

Do we have a similar passion?

 

One more... Do we really want to grow spiritually?... Should we want to grow?… What is the result of Spiritual Growth?

 

Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Question… Are we sure of our salvation?... If not, Think about itPerhaps it’s because we have not progressed to the point that we can be sure.

 

The Apostle John wrote to New Testament Christians saying… I write these things that you may know that you have eternal life… We can know!

 

Three things in closing about speed and direction...

 

First... Spiritual growth occurs intentionally... Not accidently.

We don’t just drift closer to Jesus...

In fact drifting implies moving away from maturity.

We must make a determinate choice to grow spiritually.

 

Secondly... activity alone does not determine growth.

Sometimes...Despite our activity... Our busyness... We can be moving away from Jesus. Direction is more important than activity... There’s a difference between church work...  And the work of the church.

 

Thirdly... Regardless of the measure of our maturity... What is past is past.

We not only can start fresh… Today...Tonight... Right now!... We must not try to rest on past accomplishments!!

 

Spiritual Progression... Christian Maturity... Is an ongoing work of adding and abounding in the Christian Graces... That make us like Jesus.

 

Church…Know this… We cannot retire or resign from conforming to the image of Jesus.

 

What would God have you and your speaker do?

 

• Perhaps we have some who need to become a child of God tonight by… Faith… Repentance and New Testament Baptism.

 

• Most of us need to start fresh right now... Step up to a Higher Ground… Holy Becoming more and more and more of what God calls us be.

 

Jesus awaits as we stand and sing.