Sermon: Stages of Christian growth:
Click to listen to this sermon online (15 minutes duration)
First preached at Aguaviva Christian Fellowship, Albox on 31 October 2004
This week I believe the Lord wants me to talk about our stages of Christian growth. When we look at things in the spiritual world we often think of things in the natural world as an example or a parallel. Jesus spoke in parables which were all about the natural or physical things, but each one of which had a spiritual meaning.
We all began our lives in our mother’s bodies. Mother’s egg was fertilised and the process of a new life began. We all stayed on average about 9 months in the womb before birth pains started and we were delivered into the outside world, taking our first breath, and soon after our first food, milk. It is an exciting time isn’t it?
We could not stay that way. It would be unnatural. Impossible. We are born to grow up. We learn to talk, to walk, to interact with our family. We learn to use a knife and fork. We step out from home, go to school – learning all about different aspects of life. Then we leave school and start work, we find a man or woman to marry, and leave our parents to continue this cycle.
It is natural to want to grow up. When we are young we clamour for our next birthday, not just for presents, but because each year we are allowed more freedom to do what we want. We may want to be 18 so we can vote. Or we may want to be 16 so we can legally smoke. Or perhaps we want to see a 13 certificate film but we are only 12 years old.
So, what of our spiritual lives:
Today I want to talk about 3 terms which are often used rather glibly, sometimes without proper understanding of their correct meaning. After today I hope you will have a good idea of what is meant, and which stage of your spiritual growth you have reached. We all want to grow up in the spiritual, as we do in the natural, so that we gain gifts and fruits of the spirit and also maturity in our faith and walk with Jesus.
These three terms are:
- Born Again
- Baptised in the Holy Spirit
Let us first deal with the term “Saved”.
This is the point in our lives when we become assured (or sure) of our salvation. We need to be sure of what scripture says about this.
Mark 16 v 16 Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved”.
But what is belief?
John 3 v 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We have to believe that Jesus was God’s son and that He died in our place for our wrong doing or sin.
What about repentance?
Luke 13 v 5 “Unless you repent you too will all perish”. This is a dire warning that our souls are in grave danger if we do not repent. Repent means to turn back, away from all that is wrong in our lives, and to turn TO God and FOLLOW Jesus.
So are we assured of salvation if we repent and believe?
Well if assured means 100% then the answer has to be no, as we are still missing the seal of God. *
This seal of God on our lives comes through the act of water Baptism. Because of Mark 16 v 16 to be 100% bible sure of our salvation we need to repent, believe and be baptised.
When we talk about water baptism, we mean believer’s baptism, that is a voluntary act by a believer who wants to follow Christ’s teaching and example by being baptised. I can see no scriptural grounds for believing that infant baptism has any bearing on our salvation. I am aware of Acts 16 vv 33-34 about the jailer and his family being baptised, but it is pure assumption that any of these were very young children.
Let us now look at “Born again”
John 3 vv 3 – 9
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
4″How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
7 You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.’
8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Why do people say “He or she is a born again Christian”. The term born again seems to have got mixed up in people’s minds with charismatic and/or spirit filled. Born again means that you have started a fresh life with Jesus, you have given up the old life and started to follow Jesus. The key point about all of this is that the person’s life has been truly changed by the Power of God.
2 Timothy 3 vv 1 – 5 says that because of Godlessness in the last days there will be many people who appear to be Godly, but who at the same time will deny the power of God. For these people are not born again because they deny the power of God in their lives to change them. They are the religious people who follow a tradition or a set of rules but do not have a personal knowledge or relationship with Jesus Christ.
If being a Christian does not make a difference to our lives 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, then we cannot claim to be born again.
Finally – Baptised in the spirit
Acts 2 vv 1 – 21 tell what happened when God sent the Holy Spirit which Jesus had promised on the day of Pentecost, this was a spontaneous happening. It is an event in our lives which is memorable.
Acts 8 vv 14-17 gives teaching about baptism in the Holy Spirit.
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.
15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus.
17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
This group of people had accepted Christ, they were believers but had not been baptised in the Spirit. Some Christians go years and years without being baptised in the spirit, whereas others are baptised in the spirit at the same time as they come to the Lord. Baptism in the spirit is an overwhelming flooding of our spirits with God’s Holy Spirit. It may be accompanied by the believer speaking in tongues. It is sometimes accompanied by overwhelming emotion, such as tears, sometimes laughter, and always peace and joy. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is something to be welcomed by all believers, because our heavenly father will only give us good things. If we ask to receive the Holy Spirit, that is what He will give us. One man actually had the cheek to offer the apostles money to get the Holy Spirit.
So where are we in our spiritual lives?
Individually ask yourselves now:
Am I truly assured of my salvation?
If I should die today am I sure I will go to be with the Lord, have I truly repented my sin and turned my back on the bad old life, do I believe but want to go further with the seal of God through water baptism?
Am I born again?
Is God really making a difference in my everyday life? Has God changed my life?
Or am I at the stage where I am sure of my salvation, have been baptised, but want to receive the blessings of baptism in the spirit?
If you want to be sure of your salvation and be baptised I urge you to speak about it to your trusted church leader/pastor. There are few more joyful events than a baptism. If you want prayer to receive the Holy Spirit then you have nothing to fear, we will pray with you and just believe and receive what God has for you.
Heavenly Father, we come to you together but also as individuals. We acknowledge that we are nothing without you. We acknowledge that we are all sinners. We fail before you and each other and we are sorry. We thank you for Jesus’ act of dying in our place for our sins so that we may live for ever. Lord, we are all different and we know in our own hearts exactly where we are with you. We want to grow with you Lord. We want to go deeper with you Lord. We want to take the next step of faith and Love you more. We ask you to take away any fear that we have, take away any unbelief in our hearts. Father we want our lives changed, we want to take the next step up the ladder. Father we rely on you alone for our feeding, our growth and our development. We need your Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort us. Father show us where we are spiritually and give us a hunger for your word, and an obedient heart. We surrender to you in Jesus name. We want to walk with you for all the days of our lives. Father help us in this, in Jesus name.