Spiritual growth is a process that leads to spiritual maturity
Well, I hope everyone had a good New Years. How many of you actually stayed up till midnight and watched it? Anybody? So I didn’t. I don’t know why I raised my hand. My routine is to normally take a nap around 10 and then I’ll wake up at 12, and then I’ll watch the ball drop, and then I’ll just go back to sleep. Well, I took my typical nap, but woke up about 1 and I’m thinking, oh, I must have missed it. And then I went back to sleep again. It didn’t really matter.
It was a different kind of New Years this year, right? As the celebration was different. It was all different. But I imagine that we all, or many of us, did the same things we always do. Any New Year’s resolutions? OK, not a lot of hands there, that’s good. That’s good. You’ve realized what I’ve realized. That it doesn’t really matter if we make New Year’s resolutions. We’re not going to keep them. You make one, and by the way, January 1st being on a Friday, you can’t start anything new on a Friday. That’s what I told Jennifer. I said, I know it’s New Years and I’ve made a resolution to eat different and to lose weight. The same resolution I’ve made for last 12 years and as like but you don’t start it on a Friday, you start it on a Monday. Somebody’s gotta amen that. You always start something new on a Monday.
In fact, a favorite line of mine, ’cause Sunday lunch is always really good for us because y mother-in-law cooks and she’s amazing. So the line for the family is the diet starts tomorrow, Monday. So we start new things and as we start a new year we can start new things and the passage this morning is perfect for New Years because it really does deal with making decisions to do new things, or to continue to do new things. And so if you have your Bibles we’ll be in Philippians Chapter One. We’ll be in verses 9 through 11 today. Philippians 1:9-11. Paul is going to basically pray for the church to keep growing up. OK, he wants him to keep growing up in their faith. He said a lot of good things about them, but he wants them to continue to grow up.
Now, I love Paul’s prayer because it starts with thanking God. He’s thanking God for the church and then he transitions in verse 9 to a prayer for the church. A petition for the church. Now the overarching theme of the book is that this church would advance the Gospel together with unity, and that’s our series Advancing the Gospel Together. You would think Paul might pray for this. That he would pray for their numbers to increase, that he would pray for their tithing to increase, because he’s thanking them for the financial support they have given to him as well. But that’s not what he prays for. He prays very specifically for one thing because he knows this one thing will lead to the other things. And so basically if I could sum it up, he says before you grow out you have to grow up. Before you grow out as a church you have to grow up in Christ and so here’s what he prays. And I want us to see that the spiritual growth process will lead us to spiritual maturity and so that if we grow up, we too will be able to grow out.
So here’s what Paul prays in verse 9. “And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.”
And so when you see this, the first part is a petition. Then he kind of talks about why he wants them to pray. But he mentions three things he wants them to grow in love. He wants them to grow in knowledge and he wants them to grow in discernment. He wants them just to continue to grow in their love for each other, and he wants them to love each other like Christ is love the church. But he wants them to love God.
And just tell you this upfront, it’s kind of this circle that goes on. The more we know about God, the more we’re going to love God. The more we love God, the more we’re going to want to know God. And so it’s just this circle. So all three of those things kind of tie together, but the foundation is love. He’s pointing to the love of God that has worked in the Church so that the church will love others and allow God to work through them. The foundation of our Christian faith is love.
John writes this in 1 John 4:16 “And we have come to know and to believe that the love that God has for us. God is love and anyone who remains in love remains in God.” He’ll continue to write it. “We love because He first loved us. If anyone says I love God and hates his brother or sister, he’s a liar.” So the love that we have for each other is because we love God. The love that we have for God comes from God’s love for us. God loved us enough to send his son Jesus to die on a cross for us.
Now, I want you to think about that because we’re messy people. I’m messy. I make bad decisions. God shouldn’t love me. But He does love me. He loves me enough that His Son died on a cross for my sins. And that very truth should just leave me to love God. For that, you know, my kids love me, right? Because I do stuff for them. And I love my kids because they’re my kids. And I want to do stuff for them because they’re are my kids. God loves us because we’re His kids and He sent His Son to die for us. And so when that love builds up inside of us and we’re going to want to know more about what God has done for us. We’re going to want to know more about this God.
And that is where the second part is. He wants us to grow in love. But He wants us to grow in knowledge and discernment. Now this isn’t knowing more stuff. We have access to all the knowledge in the world today. Some of it’s true, some of its false. But we have access to all the knowledge in the whole world today at just the click of a button. That’s not what He wants us to know. He doesn’t want us to really have more knowledge about stuff. He wants us to have a knowledge that comes from a personal relationship with Him. If we love God, we’re going to have a personal relationship with God. And as we learn more about God, that’s going to grow and grow and grow.
Think about it like this. When our kids were born, you’ll love them, right? You just love them because they’re your kids. But the more you get to know them the more you love ’em. Now I know you’re like well, I can’t love my kids any more than I love ’em now. But just think about it. The more you know the more you love. The more you experience life with them, the more you love them. When you start dating somebody you like ’em. Teenagers, you can relate to this. You like them, right? And then you might go. I don’t like him anymore. I like like them. See the process? You know I’ve got to know them a little bit. It’s personal. I’ve experienced some time with them, so I like like them. That’s why I kind of like them. But maybe I love them.
And so the more you experience and the more you grow, the more that you love. The more we know, the more we’ll be able to discern what is right and wrong, right? The more we spend time in the Word of God, the more we spend time with God, loving God and knowing God, the more we’re going to know what the Word of God says and we’re going to be able to discern what is right and what is wrong. What is true and what is false. What is Biblical and what is not Biblical. In the world we live in, being able to know what is Biblical and not Biblical is very important. Very important. There are false teachers everywhere. There are false teachers on TV. There are false teachers on radio and you as an individual and me as an individual, we need to know the Word of God, so we can test what they’re saying based on the Word of God. We need to be able to discern if what they’re saying is in fact Biblical. And so that’s what Paul is praying for.
He says, listen, you’re a good church. They’ve had a good partnership, but you gotta keep growing. You’ve gotta keep loving and keep learning and keep being able to discern. He doesn’t want them to get stagnant. Now it’s easy to get stagnant in our walk with Christ. It’s easy for us to feel like we’ve come to a place where we know it all or we experienced it all. Or we just get complacent. Hhe’s like, oh, you know I was doing really good for a few months, but I’m just going to just take a break and not read my Bible today. We get stagnant.
And you see this all the time. Teenagers go to camp. I was a youth pastor for 12 years. I saw it in and out every year. They go to camp they get on fire for Jesus and they commit, I’m going to read my Bible every day. I’m gonna do this every day. I’m going to remember Scripture every day. I’m going to do these things but camp is camp. It takes maybe a week for many of the teenagers after camp to stop doing those things. They get stagnant, they get back into the real world. They get busy, they allow other things to manage their time and they don’t put a priority on spiritual growth.
I’m sure the Apostle Paul has planted churches and he seen churches stray away from their calling. It’s been 10 years since Paul was in Philippi and he says I’m praying to God that you won’t stop growing. See, there’s little divisions already in the church that he’s going to talk about later, and he’s just right up-front saying don’t let these things stop you from loving each other. Don’t let these little things stop you from growing in your faith. Don’t stop discerning what is Biblical truth and what is not.
And as a church here we have to have that same prayer as we start 2021. Make a commitment to keep growing over and over. Every day wake up, say I’m going to keep growing. I’m going to keep learning because the results of our spiritual growth are maturity, and that’s in verses 10 and 11. The results of our growth is going to be maturity in Christ. As I grow older, or as we grow older, we mature.
Think about a teenager. One of my favorite age groups, as a youth pastor, were six graders. Six graders are so awesome because they are so silly. OK, and it reminds me of me. My parents, if you could talk to them today, would say I’m so glad he grew up. And honestly, when me and my dad get in one of our discussions and I’m pushing his buttons, my mom says, would you just grow up and stop? That’s what my mom says. You know, the parents want their kids to grow up. As a youth pastor, a 6th grader walks in. We want him to grow up pretty quickly. But we love ’em because we get to watch them go from immature 6th grader, through high school through college. Man, it’s so awesome to see them maturing to grow.
And as parents we’re growing them, we’re teaching them how to live life. We’re teaching them the Bible and we’re watching them grow spiritually. As God watches us grow, He gets excited because we mature. He’s like man, when he first became a Christian, he was just ignorance on fire and he didn’t know what he was doing. But over time we grow and mature. There’s really three instances or three insights that Paul gives us about maturity in these verses.
The first one is so that we can approve the things that are superior. Now I was driving to church this morning and Elevation Worship has the song Graves to Gardens. Have you heard that? Man, it’s a good song. And I’m pretty sure this is the song I was listening to. It’s talking about Jesus is everything. Jesus is all that we need to go from bad circumstances to good circumstances. Jesus is superior.
Paul prays for them to grow so that they’re going to know what’s right and wrong, but also so they’re going to be able to determine what is best. What is superior. There’s a lot of good things in life, and this is what Paul is getting at. There’s a lot of good things in life. But God has better things for us. And as we mature, we’re going to be able to determine what those better things are, what those best things are. We’re going to be able to say that the best thing for our life is to follow Jesus. The best thing for our life is to follow the will of God each and every day, because the will of God is superior to anything else.
Now, I know that many of us have experienced good things. Good things are comfortable because we know we can do good things. We know that we have the ability to do good things and we know those things are good. But when God says I want you to figure out what is superior and I want you to do what is superior, that scares me. Does it not scare you? Because if I try to do something better than good, what if I fail? What if it doesn’t work out? But that’s where our reliance upon God comes in. Because if God calls us to it, God’s going to get us through it. Church, as we move forward, we all want to go back to what it used to be. We all want to go back to the way things were, because it was good. But what if God says I’ve got something better? I don’t want you to go back to do everything exactly the same way because I’ve got something better. And if you follow Me and if you follow My will, then you are going to know what is superior, but the only way we can do that is to grow. And so we grow so we can determine what is best in our life. What is superior in our life.
I’ll illustrate it this way. If you’re a basketball coach and you’re picking a team and all the players are trying out. You’ve got a lot of good players. But if you want to win, you’re going to pick the best players. We don’t as a church. We don’t want to be just good. We want to follow God and be the best that we can be. And that’s Paul’s prayer for this church, to be the best. To do the best. To know what is superior and to trust God to do what is superior.
And then he goes on to say so that you will be pure and blameless, pure and blameless. This is talking about two things. Pure is the inner man. This is our inside character. You could say it, so we have pure motives. He wants us to have the right motives. He wants us to be tested by the sun. What he’s picturing here is porcelain. Porcelain was very expensive and very fragile and the porcelain dealers would fire the porcelain to make it hard. But most of the time it would crack. And so what the unfair dealers would do would they would take wax, white wax, and they would put it in the cracks of the porcelain and try to pass it off as pure porcelain. But if you held the porcelain up to the sun, it would be like a dark line and you could see that it was fake.
Paul says I want you to be able to be held up to the truth of God’s Word, shining a light on you and be found pure, honorable, with the right motives. When we do things, we have to have the right motives. When the only motive that really is important to the church is to advance the Gospel, everything that we do in every committee and every Sunday school class, every ministry has to have the foundational goal of how are we going to advance the Gospel by doing it.
So Paul says, I don’t want you to focus on these little things that are dividing you because some of you have poor motives. I want you to have the right motives focusing on the only thing that matters which is advancing the Gospel, and so that’s inside have pure motives on the inside, so that you’ll be blameless on the outside. When we have, when our inner character is good, our outer character is going to be blameless in the sight of God.
Here’s what it looks like. Things that disrupt unity, things that cause us not to be blameless are this. Gossip, and I struggle with gossip. Boy I do. I mean you don’t have to raise your hand; I’ll admit it. ’cause I like to know stuff. I do, but it’s a sin. Complaining. If we don’t get our way. I’m bad about that too. If I wanted a Chick-fil-A and we get Zaxby’s, well, it’s usually if I want Zaxby’s and we go to Chick-fil-A, I didn’t get my way. Anger, hostility, backbiting, those types of outer things lead us to be un-blameless. Paul says you gotta stop that stuff. Make sure the inside is good so the outside is good. Have pure motives so that you’re not causing disruption or disunity in the body of Christ. So he prays to be pure, he prays to be blameless. And if you’re sitting there thinking, I can’t do this, you’re in luck ’cause I can’t either
Look at verse 11 “filled with the fruit of righteousness.” The reason we have the ability to grow. The reason we can be pure and blameless is because we’re filled with the fruit of righteousness. When computers were first coming out, it was kind of input in, input out. You know what you put in what you get out. What you put into your life is going to come out in your life. If you’re putting junk and garbage from the world in your life, that’s what’s going to come out. If you’re watching TV shows that you shouldn’t be watching, that’s what’s going to come out. If you’re reading books, that’s what’s going to come out, listening to music, that’s what’s going to come out. What you put in is what’s going to come out. Paul says you need to be filled with the fruit of righteousness from Jesus. Because if Jesus fills you up, then Jesus will overflow out of you. Did you see that? How this abounding growth is spiritual growth. The more of Jesus you put in, the more the fruits of the Spirit are going to come out of you. You cannot do this without Jesus working in your life.
The old saying goes, we’re not who we used to be, but I’m not who I want to be. Thank God He’s still working on me. Thank God He’s still filling us up. Each and every day with His righteousness, so that through His Spirit, we have the power to do the things that Paul is praying for us to do. And it’s all for the glory of God, is how he ends it. When we unite behind the advancement of the Gospel, when we as a church and as individuals commit to growing in knowledge in love and in discernment and when we begin to be able to determine what is best, it’s going to bring glory to God. And that is the ultimate goal in all we do, is to bring glory and honor to God.
And that should be our goal for 2021, that through our spiritual growth to our spiritual maturity, that everything we do as a church brings glory to the Father. So let me bring it kind of full circle for you. The God loves us, to save us from our sins. Maybe you need to make that decision. Maybe you’ve never decided to follow Jesus and maybe you just need to come to this realization and listen to the Spirit of God working in your heart. That yes, I’m messy. I’m dirty, I’ve messed up. But Jesus will clean me up. God loves you enough to save you from your sin. God loves you enough to save you from Hell and an eternity separated from Him. God loves you that much. For those of us who have experienced that love, we need to love Him enough to commit to growing in our love for Him or love for others are knowledge and our discernment so that we can determine what He wants for us, and so that we will be pure and blameless in all that we do, because it brings glory to God.
Now I’m going to make it really real for you with some application. I’m going to challenge you and I want to say before I get to the challenge you’ll find as you leave on the cart and on the bench. And if you don’t get one just ask me. Read the Bible through in a year. But this is not like any other Bible reading plan that you’ve probably ever done. It’s a 260-day plan that will take you through the foundational scriptures of the whole Bible. You won’t be reading every verse, but you’ll be reading the foundational verses for the next 260 days, five days a week take the weekends to catch up. And so the challenge is for you to try it. I don’t take it step further. Wake up early and do it in the mornings. I don’t know if that really matters, because as long as you’re spending time with God, sometimes that’s what’s important. But I promise you, I challenge you try it for seven days. Set your alarm c lock 15 minutes early, 30 minutes early, 5 minutes early. Start small if you’ve never done it. Start your day in scriptures. I promise you that will affect the rest of your day. That will impact your life from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. Start your day with Jesus. Use the plan. Use another plan. Start your day with Jesus. Seven days. Try it for a week. Prove me wrong. Come back next week and say I tried it for seven days and it was awful. I promise that won’t be your response because I’ve done it.
The second thing is pray. Pray every day and pray continuously. Keep a prayer journal. Write your prayers down. Pray for each other in the church. Pray for your family. Pray that God, pray the same prayer. Say every day. God help me to grow in love, knowledge and discernment. Just try it. I promise it will change your life by spending time in God’s Word for the next year. Just try it.
Let’s pray together. Father, we are so grateful for the message of the Bible. We are grateful that You have called us, that You have sent Your Son to die for us, and that You desire for us to walk in a manner that is worthy of that great calling. And Father, it is our prayer today that we would keep growing in love and knowledge and discernment so that we would be able to determine what is best for our life, so that we would be pure and blameless by being filled with the fruit of righteousness so that we can produce fruit for You all for the praise and glory of God the Father. Give us discipline to spend time with You each day. And we ask this in Jesus Name
Amen & Amen.