Scripture References: Acts 2:42-47
Greetings to you Christlike Ministries NWA Family. I am terribly sorry that it has taken so long to get back into this series, but since my last message my family and I have moved, I managed to cook my laptop, and we were without internet service for a while. So, life on life’s terms tends to happen some times, and that’s why it’s taken so long for me to get back into this series, and I am terribly sorry. We only got through two messages before life happened and I wound up not really being able to sit down and write a message. Please forgive me, and I hope that you’ll join me as we complete this series, and see what God will have in store for us in the future.
So, let’s do a little bit of a review since it’s been so long since we talked. In the first message of this series we talked about “Scripture Engagement”. We talked about how our relationship with the Word of God is of vital importance to us as believers, and how it’s vital that we know it, read it, meditate upon it, study it, and really truly have a relationship with the Bible unlike any other book we read…because it’s not just like any other book, is it? We talked in message number two about “Abiding in Him”, and how abiding in Christ and reading the Bible really go hand in hand. In fact, we even said that when we hold the Bible in our hands…we’re actually holding Jesus in book form, aren’t we!?!
So, today we’re going to talk about signs of spiritual growth. Don’t you know that we cannot have spiritual growth apart from continual study of the Word of God, and we certainly cannot grow if we’re not abiding in Christ…can we!?!
Well, I believe that this is the right day and time to get back into this series, and therefore without any further delay let’s get into today’s message, and see what the Lord would have to say to us today.
Today’s Message: “Seven Vital Signs of Spiritual Growth”
On of the things that drives me crazy when I read my Twitter timeline is reading about all these people who are striving and working and doing everything they can possibly do in their own strength to be holier, and to become better Christians. However, the real truth, friends, is that there’s nothing in our own abilities that we can do to become anything greater. We will never be more holy than we were the day we became whosoever’s that called upon the name of the Lord for salvation. I want you to listen to me very carefully here because what I’m about to say is 100% truth:
Everything that we get or become in the Christian life is received by grace thru faith.
There is absolutely positively nothing…not one thing that we can earn from God apart from this principle found in Ephesians 2:8-10. We cannot be saved apart from grace through faith. We cannot mature and grow as Christians apart from grace through faith. Yes, we can certainly study the Bible, and we can always learn to incorporate what we read into our lives and walk with God…but the facts are…everything we are, do and become in the Christian walk comes by grace through faith…and an even deeper truth is that the work we do on ourselves (or think we can do on ourselves) is nothing compared to the work God does in us because we are HIS workmanship…and therefore there honestly isn’t anything we can do to improve our lives in our own strength. Remember that Jesus said “apart from Me you can do nothing”? Yet so many of us, myself included, try to work and strive and earn what we can never accomplish with our own abilities…everything we become is a result of the workmanship of the Master Craftsman in our lives…God does it…we just have to learn to receive it, believe it, and walk out the work that He’s done in, with, and thru our lives. Amen!?!
So, with all that said, let’s get into what we’re going to be talking about today.
One of the greatest challenges of church leadership and pastoring is measuring spiritual growth and vitality in our own lives and in the lives of those we seek to disciple and equip. How do we know we are growing spiritually? How do we know we are helping others to grow? What are the signs of spiritual growth?
I’ve come to learn that the greatest measure of spiritual growth comes from both personal and public time in the Word of God. In other words, even though I have my own ministry and calling I still have to have a healthy relationship with the Word of God, and I also have to maintain regular church attendance. I can’t feed anyone if I myself am not feeding upon and being taught the Word of God. I know that most of the pastor’s that I learn from also have people that they learn from. In other words, no matter who we are or where we are in the Christian walk…we never know enough, we never know it all, and there’s always more wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and revelation to be had.
The Bible talks about us growing from glory to glory and faith to faith. That means that we’re going to have to mature. That means that we’re going to have more revealed to us, deeper understanding to get, and that only comes by continually feeding upon the Word of God, abiding in Christ, and being humble enough to recognize that we haven’t arrived at some plateau…but that we’re always going to be in a place where we have to learn.
Doing this online ministry I find is both exciting and difficult at the same time. It’s exciting because I can read the stats as to how many people and places my messages are reaching. I can see the number of people who visit my site, who follow me via various social networks, and all of that is truly very exciting. However, there isn’t a lot of instant or even eventual gratification that comes from doing this, and that’s because these messages seem to vary in their response. I may write one message that barely gets any response, but when I look at the stats it’s one of the most popular messages I’ve ever written. I can also write messages that get a lot of likes…which gets back to being exciting, but still it’s hard to really know who I’m reaching. Not everyone who reads my messages likes them or responds to them, and that can be discouraging at times…but the fact is this is what God’s called me to do…and whether one person or one hundred people are reached or if I am the only one who gets anything out of the messages I write…I’m being obedient to the call of God upon my life…and that’s what’s important to me.
Would I like it if more people responded or liked what I write? Of course I would. Would I like to have hundreds of followers on every site I’m on? Of course I would. Would I like to hear from more of you as to whether these messages help you, encourage you, or help you in your relationship with God? Of course, the answer to that question, again is yes.
I’ve heard often that being a pastor is really a thankless job because people will let you know when you’re wrong, but are fairly silent when you preach or write something good. I mean, I attend church, and I know there’s times when my pastor will say something like “that’s good preaching pastor” when he gets little to no response on something he just said. I’ve kind of done the same thing with these messages. Often times, I will find myself saying something like “that’s some really good stuff I just wrote”. So, I find some times that we have to be like David and encourage ourselves when it seems like no one is willing to encourage us.
In order to grow spiritually as leaders and as followers of Christ, we need an effective context for growth, namely, authentic community. Among the key elements of the early Church in Acts 2 is a sense of strong relationship, fellowship and authentic community. Acts 2:42-47 is a model of a healthy and authentic faith community, a context in which people of faith not only grow, but grow together. Vitality oozes from Acts 2. Consider the verbs in this section: “learning” …“broke bread … together”…“prayed together”…“met together”…“shared everything they had”…“give … to whoever needed it”…“shared their food”…“praising God”…“being saved.”
One of the things that I really appreciate about my church New Life Christian Center is that they’re very progressive as far as making sure that we as a church body fellowship together, and not just on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights for service. They have a Men’s Fellowship that regularly meets once a month. They have a Women’s Fellowship also. They have Family Night Services where they will serve some kind of meal, and then have a worship service afterwards. They do things in the community, and encourage the members to get involved and serve with them. In a few weeks, they’re going to have a baby shower for my wife and I. New Life Christian Center is just as serious about teaching as they are with fellowshipping together as a body of believers…and that’s because it’s biblical that we do that.
Look here at these verses here in Acts 2. This is what the early church did. They not only learned together, but they fellowship with one another. So often, in today’s churches, we come in to service, chat for a bit, sing a couple of songs, have a quick sermon, pray, and then we’re off to our lives again.
Again, using New Life Christian Center as the example, we haven’t done that at all. We don’t do “church as usual”. We even have a moment that is part of the service we’re we are encouraged to get out of our seats and greet people. Before and after service there’s also time to fellowship. The pastors all make sure to greet and shake hands and hug people before they leave. Can I tell you that all of that helps me as a Christian and as a pastor to grow? I mean part of ministry…most of ministry…is loving on people. Ministry isn’t about preaching great sermons, beating our chests because of how many Bible verse we can quote, and about how many members we have to our church or social network sites…it’s about the same thing that God is about…PEOPLE.
Listen, when God called me to ministry one of the things He said to me is that ministry is about people. He also said to me that quality sheep are just as important as quantity. He also told me (to make sure I stayed humble) that the people He led to my ministry weren’t my people…they are His…but He has led them to me because He has entrusted me to impart things to those He has led to my ministry that only I can impart to them.
Friends, there is a reason that the Bible talks about not forsaking the gathering together of the brethren. It’s because while we should always be studying the Bible, praying, and worshipping God in our own private time…in our prayer closets. We should also be doing those things with a corporate body of believers, and that’s why church attendance is so important. The other thing is that where two or more are gathered together…the presence of God is there. I don’t know about anyone else, but one of the main reasons I attend church isn’t to catch up with the Johnson’s it’s because I want to encounter God and experience His presence. Experiencing His presence in a corporate setting has helped me to know what His presences feels like in my private settings…and that too promotes spiritual growth.
Do you know what that sounds like? Life, real life together. It was a vitalized community of people full of God’s grace, Spirit and good works. But these all depict the gifts, graces and practices that poured FROM this vital congregation of Christ-followers. What was it that was first poured into them that helped to foster this strong community of faith? Here it is: “They spent their time learning from the apostles …” (v. 42). The first characteristic Luke (the writer of Acts) cites is this: The primary practice of this vital Church in Acts 2 was spending time in and around the Word of God. Their practice was engaging God’s Word, and the result was a sense of authentic community and connection. The people’s devotion to learning from the apostles drew them together in powerful and authentic unity and community.
People talk about wanting to have an “Acts 2 Church”, but a lot of it really is talk. If you want to have the kind of impact upon the world that the original Acts 2 Church had…you have to do the kinds of things that the original Acts 2 Church DID. Listen, if I want to have the kind of relationship with God that my pastor has…I have to be willing to DO what my pastor has done to have that kind of relationship with God. If I want to be able to quote scripture like my pastor can…I have to spend the amount of time reading, listening, and studying scripture that he spends. If I want to be Christlike then I have to learn what Jesus did…and strive to DO those things.
One thing I know for sure is that nothing in the Christian life comes by osmosis. Nothing in the Christian life is handed down from one person to the next. I cannot become a Christian because my parents are or aren’t Christians. I have to decide for myself that I am going to be a whosoever that calls upon the Lord to be saved. I cannot pray like a powerful prayer warrior unless I pray myself, and allow the Holy Ghost to teach me how to pray. I couldn’t be a good writer without first starting to write…and allowing God to help me to develop into the writer that I’ve become. I don’t become a pastor just because someone in my family was a pastor…I have to receive that call from God and obey it just like they did. Furthermore, just because someone in my family was a pastor that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to be one either…God may have a different job or assignment for me.
Friend, the work that we have to do as far as Christianity goes has nothing to do with our position in Christ or what we receive from Him. Everything we need has already been provided for us by God thru the Cross. The work that we do is the studying, the praying, the worshipping, the fellowshipping, and obeying whatever it is that God’s called us to do. That’s one of the things that I’ve truly come to understand is that the work most Christians are doing is trying to obtain everything the God has already said we can have…if we believe we have them. We work for salvation, but we cannot earn it apart from the Cross. We work for sanctification, but we cannot earn it…the Holy Ghost does that on the inside of us. We work for healing, but that’s already been provided for us through the Cross. We work for holiness, but we will never be more holy…the only reason we become holy is because of Jesus’ holiness.
The body of Christ is trying to work for things that we already have been given by grace through faith, and the only way to access those things is by studying the Word, by abiding in Christ, and regularly attending church…but not just any church…a Bible believing, Bible preaching, Bible founded church that is endeavoring to do what the Acts 2 Church did.
There are at least Seven Vital Signs of Spiritual Growth in Acts 2:
• Vital Teaching (v. 42)
• Vital Prayer (v. 42)
• Vital Grace (God’s answers to prayer, v. 43)
• Vital Giving (Stewardship, vv. 44-45)
• Vital Community (v. 46)
• Vital Worship (v. 47a)
• Vital Witness (v. 47b)
These are the characteristics of a vitalized Church, or a church that is alive!
These are the characteristics of an Acts 2 Church. This is what they did, and if we want to have Acts 2 churches…these are the things we must do in order to have one. I can’t say it any clearer then what I just did, and if you’re not in a church like this…then you need to get out of the church you’re in and find one that has these characteristics…because this is the only kind of church that you’re going to experience spiritual growth in. If you’re happy with dead religion and a church full of traditions and that has no relationship with God or the Holy Ghost…don’t blame God for the fact that you’re still a baby Christian.
Community is the context of the Church. Christians and church leaders need to read and engage their Bibles personally, but we also need to do it together with our faith community. In fact, an honest and reflective reading of the Bible will remind us repeatedly that the biblical call is one to authentic community. We need God. We need the Bible. And we need each other.
I believe I am going to close this message right here, and allow what’s written here to be the final thing said in this message. We need God. We need the Bible. We need each other. There really isn’t anything else I can say that puts it any better than this.
Well, it’s great to be able to get back to writing like this, and what a message to get back at it with. I hope that we will all take this message to heart, and that the Lord will help us learn how to walk out what was written in it…Amen!?!
Thank you so much to all of you who are part of the Christlike Ministries NWA Family. I am truly sorry that it’s been so long in between postings. It’s not going to be as long of a wait for the next message in this series…I promise.
Blessings and Grace to you.
Pastor Bryan Kizer
Christlike Ministries NWA
“My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor. 16:24)