Grow as a Believer

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You were designed to live all of your life in a meaningful, growing relationship with Almighty God. It is a faith journey that begins by recognizing your sin and turning from it, embracing Jesus as your Savior, and inviting Him to take control of your life and teach you a new way to live-God's way. Your journey continues and grows stronger as you face the challenges and victories of life in partnership with Jesus. Prayer, Bible study, church involvement, caring for others are all necessary exercises for you to mature in your faith and enjoy a life that is significant and abundant. Explore the topics in the left hand margin to learn more about how you can enjoy all the good things God has in store for you.

Who I Am “In Christ”
Sharing the Good News
Spiritual Formation Overview
Gospel Presentations
Spiritual Disciplines
Who I Am “In Christ”

Who I Am “In Christ”

Our new identity when we put our faith in Jesus Christ and He puts His Spirit in us.

Based on Neil Anderson’s work in The Bondage Breaker.

In Christ…

I am a saint  Eph.1:1

I am blessed with every spiritual blessing  Eph.1:3

I am holy, blameless and covered with God’s love  Eph. 1:4

I am chosen Eph. 1:4,11

I am God’s child   Eph. 1:5

I am redeemed and forgiven  Eph. 1:7

I am identified by the Holy Spirit in me Eph. 1:13

I am God’s masterpiece Eph. 2:10

I am near to God Eph. 2:13

I can come into God’s presence with freedom and confidence Eph. 3:12

I am a minister Eph. 4:12

I am a member of Christ’s Body-the church Eph. 5:29, 30

I am declared not guilty Romans 3:24

I can no longer be condemned Romans 8:1

I am set free from the law of sin and death Romans 8:2

I am born of God and the evil one can’t touch me   1 John 5:18

I am a new creation   2 Cor. 5:17

I am Christ’s friend   John 15:15

I am complete   Colossians 2:10

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you... the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us, who believe.”  Eph. 2:15-19

Sharing the Good News

Sharing the Good News

Sharing Christ With Those Who Need Him Most

If we want to make an eternal difference in people’s lives we need to be able to put spiritual concepts into everyday language that a non-Christian understands. Paul was adamant about this in Romans 10, where he warns the church that people won’t figure out the Good News on their own. Even if they are closely watching a believer...it won’t be enough. Somebody has to articulate the Gospel to them. Peter says in 1Peter 3:15, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Don’t force it down their throats. There is a lot of confusion and darkness out there about people’s true spiritual condition and their need for a Savior. A lot of people have been blinded to the truth that they need to be rescued...that they are headed for disaster without Jesus. And the Lord has called you and I to be the light shining in the darkness...with our life example but also with our words.

Most non-believers don’t need to be preached at...what they do need is for a credible friend, a person they trust, to sit down with them and say...with gentleness and respect, "This is the difference that Jesus can make in your life and this is why He needs to make a difference.” So how can we do that? Here are three strategies to use.

Make spiritual transitions in your conversations

As you build relationships and listen to your unchurched friends, as the trust and credibility grows, there will be issues that start to come up. Felt needs they are struggling with: Maybe the kids or a new job or a particular fear or a wound from their past. Each of these felt needs provides a great opportunity to make a spiritual transition where you can start to point people to Jesus. For example, talking with people whose marriages are falling apart, you might say, "You know, we have a lot of struggles in our marriage too, and you might think this is silly, but what has really pulled us together is our faith in God and the solid guidance we get from the Bible. Jesus has really helped us and I know He can help you as well...” With just a simple transition sentence you begin the process of leading people to Jesus.

Maybe it’s not felt needs, maybe its current events: Wars, political situations, a recent crime spree, the spiritual overtones of a popular movie or TV show. Maybe it’s a popular song, an unbelievable sunset or the birth of a baby, but each of these life events can become a transition point to open up a faith discussion...if you take advantage of it. When the relationship is built and the time is right, look for spiritual transition points in your conversations.

Tell your faith story

A speaker said, "You know in my early years I was really searching for meaning and happiness in life, I chased after a lot of things. First I tried money, I made a lot of money and I spent a lot of money. But it didn’t fill my emptiness. So I turned to drugs and alcohol, I got high every night. A lot of times I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing. But that kind of life left me empty. So I continued my search by trying to find meaning through sex. I slept around. Threw caution to the wind. But still it wasn’t what I was looking for. But then...when I turned six years old...I became a Christian and my life has never been the same."

Now maybe you don’t have a story like that, we hope you don’t, but if you are a believer you do have a story to tell and your story can be a very personal, powerful way to present Jesus to your friends. Think about how authentic and gripping the Psalms are as David simply describes what God has done in His life. In John chapter 9 Jesus miraculously heals a blind man. When the people ask him if he was healed by God...he said, “All I know is this...I used to be blind but then Jesus entered my life and now I can see. Think what you want but I know he was the son of God.” He told his story and it had a powerful impact on the people around him.

So how can we put an effective faith story together?

What needs to be included, where do we start?  Paul gives us a great model as he shares his testimony with King Agrippa in Acts 26.  You’ll notice that it is relatively short.  Paul sums up his spiritual journey in a 3-4 minute story.  To be effective we don’t need to go on and on and on.  Make your story clear and concise.

Then we see Paul divides his account into three sections. In verses 4-11 he has a BC section where he describes what life was like before Christ.  He was a Pharisee convinced he was supposed to do all that he could to oppose the teaching of Jesus even if it meant putting Christians in prison and condemning them to death.

Paul’s second section in verses 12-18 deals with his conversion.  He tells how as he was on his way to Damascus to tear apart believers.  But on the road Christ appeared to him and appointed him to be a servant and a spokes person for His Kingdom.

The third section is found in verses 19-23.  It’s an AD section...Paul’s life after Christ.  The apostle talks about preaching and teaching and calling people to turn to God.

And then he ends with a concluding question.  In verse 27 he says, “King Agrippa, Do you believe in the prophets, I know you do.”  In other words I know King you believe that the prophets foretold the coming of a Messiah...that Messiah is Jesus.

Spiritual Formation Overview

Spiritual Formation

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
In this passage Paul draws our attention to a critical distinction when it comes to life change...when it comes to spiritual transformation. There is a tremendous difference between trying to do something and training to do something.  Dallas Willard uses this example to explain the difference.  Here’s a paraphrase:

“How many of you could walk into a weight room right now and bench press 350 pounds? Here’s a second question, How many of you could walk out of this room and into a weight room and bench press 350 pounds if you tried really, really hard...for a really, really long time?  Not many.  Why not?   Because when it comes to bench pressing 350 pounds, trying is not going to get it done. You’re going to have to enter into a life of training.  You’re going to have to arrange your life around things that will enable you to do what you can’t do right now.

It’s the same with musicians.  You can sit and try to play a Beethoven piano concerto for years without ever achieving any kind of success...or you can enter into a training program, learning your scales and arpeggios, finding your way around the keyboard and eventually you’d start to really make music.  Trying versus training.  Pastor John Ortberg says, “We have this tremendous tendency to overestimate what we’re able to do simply by trying."  And this is a real basic to understanding how life change comes about.  Because you see it’s not trying harder that leads us to life transformation.

Most significant areas of growth, development and achievement require some kind of ongoing training.  Getting our bodies used to new kinds of patterns and habits. Transformation happens through training not trying.  And to become a disciple of Jesus means that my ultimate goal is to live as Jesus would live if He were in my place. Then what I do as a disciple is to enter into a life of training.  I arrange my life around those experiences and practices and relationships that will enable me to do what I can’t do right now.”

Dallas Willard in his great book on Spiritual Formation called the “The Spirit of the Disciplines” writes, "True transformation is possible if we are willing to rearrange our lives around those activities that Jesus engaged in to remain in continual fellowship with his Father and to receive continual power from his Father.”  Jesus involved himself in certain practices which enabled Him to flourish as the Son of God.  And to become like Him...trying harder just isn’t going to cut it...but entering into a life of spiritual training will. Committing ourselves to the same activities and practices and relationships that Jesus involved Himself in, things like Bible study and prayer and fasting and solitude, activities which helped Jesus stay connected to His Father.

Over the years many of these practices have come to be referred to as spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual disciplines

What is a spiritual discipline? A few years ago Richard Foster wrote a book called “Celebration of Discipline” in which he listed 12 spiritual disciplines.  John Ortberg writes, “I read that book and I can remember thinking...Well I already feel guilty about not reading the Bible and praying enough.  The last thing I need is to have ten more things to feel guilty about not doing.” That kind of thinking is really a misunderstanding of what spiritual disciplines are all about. God loves you just the way you are. He just holds out the offer of a deeper, more abundant spiritual life and says, “If you want it, enter into a life of training.” Do it wisely. Do it in the context of a loving relationship between you and God.”

Definitions (Taken from Ortberg’s, The Life You’ve Always Wanted)

What’s a discipline?

A discipline is any activity that helps me to do by direct effort, what I cannot now do by direct effort

What’s a disciplined person?

A disciplined person is simply someone who can do what needs to done when it needs to be done.  It’s a person who can do the right thing in the right way at the right time for the right reason.  When a wise word needs to be spoken I can speak it. When there needs to be silence I’ll discern that and be silent.

What then is a spiritual discipline? A spiritual discipline is a practice that enables me to receive empowerment from the Holy Spirit to live a Godly, transformed life.

A few things that spiritual disciplines are not

A spiritual discipline is not a barometer of my spirituality.  It’s not stuff that you do to show to God or other people how spiritual you are.  When spiritual disciplines become the foundation for any kind of bragging rights or the way we measure how good we are that can become a very destructive thing.  The only point of practicing spiritual disciplines is to be able to live as Jesus would live if he were in your place.  That’s the measure of a healthy spiritual life.  Do you look more like Jesus today than you did yesterday?

Spiritual disciplines are not about earning merit.  God will not love you any more or less because you can do things or because you don’t do certain things. Spiritual disciplines are not ways to get extra credit with God.

Max Lucado writes, “God loves you just the way you are.  If you think his love for you would be stronger if your faith were, you are wrong.  If you think his love would be deeper if your thoughts were, wrong again.  Don’t confuse God’s love with the love of people.  The love of people often increases with performance and decreases with mistakes. Not so with God’s love. He loves you right where you are.”

Spiritual disciplines are not unrealistic for real people.  They are not reserved for folks in monasteries or for professional pastors or mystical monks. They are just for ordinary followers of Jesus.  The message of the Gospel is that we can change.  We can become like Jesus. That’s God’s normal natural plan for each one of us.  But it’s not going to happen by simply trying harder.  We need to personally choose to enter into a life of training.

Gospel Presentations

Presentations

Several effective presentations have been developed to help people see their need for a Savior. Your personal story is always the most effective but learn a few of these presentations to provide a clear picture of what Christ has done on our behalf.

The Roman Road

Using only three verses from the book of Romans you can show someone how to become a Christian.  You might want to write these verses down in the front of your Bible so you have them handy when you need to use them.  The place to start is to look together at Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  You can explain that all of us have sinned against God.  We’ve broken his laws, taken moral missteps. We’ve lied, lost our temper, cheated someone, been less than honest. Maybe you could say, “I’m willing to admit to some of these...how about you?”

Then turn to the second verse, Romans 6:23 and have them read. "For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Follow it by saying, “According to this verse those little wrong doings we just admitted to have earned us a penalty.  And the penalty is death, that’s the bad news, but look at the second half of the verse. It refers here to a gift of eternal life that God wants to give us.  We can freely receive God’s forgiveness and His pardon from the death penalty we owed.It’s all been taken care of by Jesus’ death on the cross. And like any other gift, we can’t earn it, we don’t need to beg for it, all we need to do is open our hearts and receive it.  To find out how let’s look at one more verse."

And then let the person read Romans 10:13 where it says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Say, "That’s how simple it is.  All we have to do is recognize the fact that we’ve sinned and deserve death, and then humbly call out to God for his forgiveness and the new life he is offering us.  That’s what I did a few years back and that’s what I’d encourage you to do."  That’s the Roman Road.  Romans 3:23, 6:23 and 10:13

Do vs. Done

Say to your friend, “For me religion is spelled "DO" because it’s all about people trying to do things to somehow gain God’s forgiveness and favor.  Jehovah’s witnesses knock on doors.  Some people give money or attend church faithfully.  They do a lot of stuff.  Mohammed Ali signs thousands of autographs because He’s hoping when he gets to Heaven he will have done enough to make God happy so he gets let into Heaven.  But that’s the problem.  With religion you never know when you’ve done enough.  It’s like being a salesperson who knows they have to meet a quota but never being told what that quota is.  You can never be sure that you’ve actually done enough to make it into Heaven."

"Worse yet the Bible tells us in Romans 3:23 that we never can do enough.  We’ll always fall short of God’s perfect standard.  We’ve already sinned and there’s a penalty to pay. Religion never deals with the sin problem.   But thankfully Christianity is spelled differently.  It’s spelled "DONE", which means that what we could never do for ourselves, Jesus has already done for us.  He lived a perfect life and He willingly died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. The great news is, to become a Christian, to be assured of eternity in Heaven we only need to do one thing. We need to humbly accept God’s gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ and commit ourselves to following His leadership.  The instant we make that decision He adopts us into His family and makes us a brand new person. Becoming a Christian isn’t about doing anything to earn our salvation.  It’s about receiving what Jesus has already done for us."

The Bridge

Take a pencil and a napkin or whatever else you can find and start by saying "Bottom line...We matter to God. He made us and He wants to have a relationship with us.”  Write Us and God.  “But there’s a problem.  The Bible says we’ve all rebelled against God.  Actively and passively, we’ve disobeyed Him and our sin has separated us from a perfect and Holy God and broken off the relationship.”  Then draw lines around us and God to signify the chasm between us. “To varying degrees most of us are aware of our distance from God, I know I was, maybe you are too.  And so we start to try and do things to get back to Him...I mean most of us want to end up in heaven...so we try things like living a good life, or being a helpful neighbor, or giving money to charities... whatever. And there’s nothing wrong with all that, but the Bible makes it clear that none of that stuff will ever effectively deal with the sin problem that separates us from God.  There is no way we can be good enough to earn His God’s forgiveness or re-establish our relationship with Him on our own.”  You might want to draw some arrows to picture failed attempts or write Romans 3:23 next to the arrows so they have a Biblical source to back up the point you are making.

“We’ve already sinned and because God is a just God, the sins we’ve committed must be dealt with justly and the penalty we owe is death, which means physical death as well as spiritual separation from God for eternity in a place called Hell.”  Write DEATH at the bottom of the chasm and you may want to write Romans 6:23.  At this point go ahead and admit that the picture looks pretty bleak. It’s important that your friend realize how much trouble we’re all in apart from Christ, but don’t leave them hanging there too long. "The Good News is, as I said in the beginning - we matter to God.  In fact, He loves us so much He did for us what we could never do for ourselves.  God provided the bridge that enables us to be completely forgiven of our sin and restored into a love relationship with Him.  He built it by coming to earth as one of us and dying to pay the death penalty we owed.  Here’s what the bridge looks like...” Then draw a cross that connects us and God.  You might want to write 1 Peter 3:18 there which says, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”  "Jesus is the only way we can take care of our sin and be reunited with our Heavenly Father.  Is there anything keeping you from believing in Jesus and crossing the bridge right?"

Conclude by saying, "That is a picture of the central message of the Bible and that’s what God wants each of us to understand.  He has made a way for us to be reunited with Him. But it’s not enough just to know this...or agree with this.  We’ve got to act on it.  God wants us to move over to the other side." Draw a stick figure on the us side and then an arrow and another stick figure on the God side. "And we do that by humbly admitting to God that we’ve rebelled against Him and need his forgiveness and his leadership. That simple act of trust and obedience results in our sin being forgiven and our debt being paid.  Our relationship with God is firmly established, because at that moment we are immediately adopted into his family as a son or daughter.”

Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual Disciplines

Dallas Willard writes, “True transformation is possible if we are willing to rearrange our lives around those activities that Jesus engaged in to remain in continual fellowship with His Father and to receive continual power from His Father.”  For us to see inside out change take place in our lives we need to commit ourselves to the same kinds of activities and practices and relationships that enabled Jesus to thrive as a child of God.  We need to develop a training program of spiritual disciplines... regular spiritual exercises... to help us successfully live as Jesus would live if He were in our place.  The goal is that when people see us they don’t say, “Wow, they really are a Bible scholar, but wow, that person reminds me of Jesus.” Disciplines are not the goal...they are a means to the goal of becoming like Christ.  Take a look at a few of these disciplines and put a personal training program together.

Solitude

In “Celebration of Discipline” Richard Foster writes, “Don’t you feel a tug, a yearning to sink down into the silence and solitude of God?  Don’t you long for something more?  Doesn’t every breath crave a deeper, fuller exposure to his presence?  It is the discipline of solitude that will open the door.”  To grow more and more into the image of Christ we are going to need to bracket out periods of time, where we disengage from the world and linger alone in the wonderful presence of God. That’s where our souls are nourished, that’s where we can hear our Heavenly Father tell us again that we are His beloved, that He treasures us and rejoices over us like a groom for His bride and it’s in that environment of unconditional love that transformation happens best.

Journaling

A spiritual journal is a written record of our growth and development as a believer.   Some find it very helpful to write out their thoughts and feelings and the ways in which God moves in their lives.

Silence

Dallas Willard writes, "Silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our life.” It’s in silence that we can start to hear the cries of our soul, which can be intimidating, but it’s also in silence that we can best hear the one voice we really need to hear and that is the voice of God.

To enter into the discipline of silence means we set aside some time to close our souls off to sounds. Turn off the ipod, the ipad, smartphone and the TV and just sit quietly in God’s presence.  Don’t say a word.  Just listen and let God speak.  Learn that you don’t need noise to survive.  You don’t need noise to feel O.K. about yourself.  You don’t need noise to numb your pain.  You need Jesus.  And it’s in those quiet moments that you can really connect with Him.

Fasting

Fasting is primarily about abstaining in some significant way from food...although many have found fasting from TV or Facebook or your smartphone to be very beneficial as well.  What fasting illustrates to us is how quickly we become dependent on things for our pleasure and peace of mind.  During a fast we are also reminded of how clever and powerful our body can be in getting its own way against our strongest protests.   Through fasting God can teach us a lot about self-control, moderation, healthy restraint in all areas of our life. But most of all fasting is a way of grabbing hold of the truth that God, not food, is our sustaining force in life.  As Matthew 4:4 says, "we are sustained by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Prayer

Often when we think about prayer we think of compiling lists of wants and needs and presenting them to God and waiting for Him to answer.  Sharing our needs is a part of prayer but it’s more than that.  Sometimes when we think of prayer we think of saying grace before a meal - God is great, God is good let us thank Him for our food - and certainly expressing our gratitude to God is a big part of prayer.  But prayer is more than that.  Prayer is more than a few hurried words after a Bible study.  It’s more than reciting the Lord’s Prayer from memory.  It’s more than a punctuation mark at the end of a church meeting.

The primary purpose of prayer is to draw us into the very heart of God and to help us live there.  It’s about building a richer relationship.  It’s about spending time with someone we love and someone who loves us. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that through the saving work of Jesus Christ we have been given full and free access to the Father. Jesus provides the door to the Father’s heart and prayer is the key which opens that door and draws us in.

Richard Foster describes the opportunity of prayer this way, "For too long we have been in a far country; a country of noise and hurry and crowds, a country of climb and push and shove, a country of frustration and fear and intimidation.

And now God welcomes us home: home to serenity and peace and joy, home to friendship and fellowship and openness, home to intimacy and acceptance and affirmation.  We do not need to be shy.  He invites us into the living room of his heart, where we can put on old slippers and share freely.  He invites us to the kitchen of his friendship, where chatter and batter mix in good fun.  He invites us into the dining room of His strength where we can feast to our heart’s delight.  He invites us into the study of His wisdom, where we can learn and grow and stretch and ask all the questions we want.  He invites us into the workshop of his creativity, where we can be co-laborers with Him, working together to determine the outcome of events. He invites us into the bedroom of his rest, where new peace is found and where we can be naked and vulnerable and free. It is also the place of deepest intimacy where we know and are known to the fullest. The key to this home, this heart of God, is prayer.”

Bible Study

Paul writes in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Lasting life-change happens through the renewing of our minds and there is no better way of renewing our minds than by immersing ourselves in the study of God’s Word.