Posted by: lepages | January 22, 2012

Healthy Living – a growing heart – helping every member grow

At the end of this preach I offered to pray for folk. Ended up having more folk pray for me than the other way around! What a blessing for me! Thanks you Lord!

Healthy Living – a growing heart
– helping every member grow

Video Clip:- Time lapse of Hosta Plant growing

So, are you growing?
(Not just physically…. and if your physical growth is growing broader rather than taller… do something about it…. growing broader will not help you develop a growing or healthy heart!)
Are you growing as a human being?
In your personality? In your character? In who you are?
Are you growing spiritually?

Growth is at the heart of the Christian faith.
God wants you to grow.
He put all these seeds in your life for you to grow to be the beautiful person created in his image that he made you to be.
Those seeds and that image get distorted by sin which damages and restricts healthy growth, but in Jesus, through his sacrifice on the cross, as we put our faith and trust in him and his sacrifice on our behalf, the power of that sin is broken, and we can be restored to be what was originally intended.

2 Corinthians 5:17
‘If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’

We are transformed from the caterpillar to the butterfly.
But they have to grow and develop – and so do we as Christians.

When we give our lives to Jesus and receive and acknowledge him as our Lord and Saviour, we haven’t arrived, we’ve just begun our journey – a journey of being changed, of growing to be more like him, because that’s what the word ‘Christian’ means – ‘Christ like one’.

So today, we come to the fourth in our series on Healthy living – a growing heart
and we’re thinking about our fourth value – helping every member grow

(and can I just say – if you’re not yet a member of the church, you’re included! We want you to grow too – and we’d love to see you coming to the new life which Jesus offers, if you haven’t yet received it – and we’d love to see you if you have received that new life, as part of your growth coming to a place where you can say ‘this is the community I belong in, and so I want to be a member of it’)

Turn with me if you would to Ephesians 4:7,8,11-16

If sporting themes are reasonably common illustrations in scripture, then themes relating to the natural world are even more common.

Back on our church day away in September we thought about being ‘Grounded and rooted’ – not ‘grounded’ as in, ‘not allowed to go out’, but grounded as in when you plant a plant and you press the soil in around it to hold it firm and secure, and rooted, with the roots of our lives going down into God and his love.

Once a plant is grounded and rooted and ‘established’ as NIV puts it in Ephesians 3:17, it can begin to grow.

Our reading today lays the foundations for how that growth comes into being….
READ Ephesians 4:7,8,11-16

There’s a huge amount of stuff packed into these few short verses, and we’re not going to be able to unpack it all today. But there are themes which follow on from our teaching last week – gifts which God gives to his church to enable us to serve one another and his purposes.

And these gifts then lay the foundation for our growth.

So Paul writes about the gifts that God gives to build his people up, to equip them for service and he then goes on to explain how as a result of their operation, it leads to our growth in God.

I want to show you another video clip in a moment. First though, the previous clip I showed… any ideas how long that growth took??

12 days

The one I’m about to show is spanned out over a slightly longer period of time – growth takes place at different rates for each one of us – and yes, we can have sudden growth spurts spiritually, just as we can physically – on the upcoming clip, you’ll see the time schedule showing in one corner – and something else showing in the other – note what happens at those times in the growth of the plants.

Video clip:- Time lapse of tomato plants growing

What helped those tomato plants to grow?

Water

My father was a tomato grower when I grew up. I grew up with greenhouses behind our house with tomato plants growing in them for most of the year, with flowers some times as well at other times.

My Dad had a word which he used to describe the plants when they needed water – they were ‘flagging’ – perhaps in the video clip you saw the plants ‘flagging’… and then perking up again after they were watered… enabling them to continue growing?

I think maybe for us as human beings, sometimes we ‘flag’ – we get tired, drained, lose our enthusiasm – and growth isn’t on our agenda…. just ‘being’ is about as much as we can cope with.

But…… if you let a plant just ‘be’….. what happens to it?
My wife will tell you that we’re very good at letting plants just ‘be’ in our household… the result is that there aren’t really any plants in our household because they die if they are just left to ‘be’!
Deliver a plant to the Le Page household and you effectively pronounce its death sentence!

If growth isn’t on our agenda as a church, and personally as individuals, if we’re content to just ‘be’, then we set ourselves up to die – churches across our nation have died because they have been content with just ‘being’, rather than seeking to grow. There may be people you know whose spiritual life and spark you have seen die as they have become content to just be and survive – you may, like myself, be able to look to times in your own life when you know that you have flagged, you have lost your spiritual enthusiasm, you have felt drained, tired, not bothered… what’s the point anyway??

What changed the tomato plants when they were flagging? Water
Water is sometimes used as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit in the Bible.

In John 7 Jesus said:-
‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. John 7:37-39

Last week in our leading we sung a song with the repeated line ‘Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain on me’. I thought at the time… should have explained that, some of us may well have been thinking ‘why would I want it to rain on me??!!’

It’s talking of the rain of God’s Spirit, a metaphor for God’s coming and filling us with his Spirit.
Like those tomato plants which were refreshed and lifted from their flagging state as they were watered and enabled to continue growing, so we, as we are filled with the Holy Spirit are lifted from our flagging states and enable to continue to grow up into God.

I want to give opportunity for those of us who feel in need of a fresh watering to be filled again with the Spirit before the end of our service.

But, there’s much more to growth than being filled with the Spirit.

I want to suggest that there are 3 key things which are essential if we are to grow in God, and grow to our full potential as human beings:-

Spirit
Word
Body

In late October this year I have the privilege of leading a seminar at the second Living the Passion conference. It’s a conference put together by all the major agencies that work with, alongside and support our group of churches – Partnership, Counties, Church Planting Initiative, GLO, Church Growth Trust. I’d encourage as many as possible to come along – the last one was excellent!

I have been asked to lead a seminar on ‘being Word and Spirit people’.

I believe with all my heart that if we are to grow to be the people that God wants us to be, that he created us to be, then we need to be Word and Spirit people. We need to be people who grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God. That’s why God gives to his church apostles and teachers – apostles to lay strong foundations in the life of the church and God’s people, teachers to equip and enable God’s people with understanding and wisdom. That’s why he has given us his written Word. That’s why central to our cell group meetings is our Word time, when we help one another as Body to build each other up, to help one another grow.

Spirit, Word and Body belong together.
The Holy Spirit makes the Word live – he takes it and applies it to our hearts and lives.
He comes and he refreshes, renews, restores us, waters us so that we are able to feed on the Word.

Jesus when he was tempted by the devil to make stones into bread, after fasting for 40 days said, ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
Matthew 4:4

We need to be watered by the Spirit, so we do not flag, and to lift us up when we do, but we need to feed too on the Word of God.

God gives gifts to his church to help us grow – the ministry gifts mentioned in our passage today – I’ve referred to apostles and teachers and how they ground us firmly in God’s Word, establish us so that we can grow strong and firm with good spiritual foundations – but he also gives to his church prophets who are able to speak God’s heart to his church by his Spirit – evangelists who have a special gifting for sharing the gospel and equipping others to do so – pastors who are gifted to lead and shepherd God’s flock – but all these ministries are not there just to serve God’s people, they’re there to equip God’s people to prepare them for service.

If we are to grow, we need to be watered by the Spirit, we need to feed on the Word of God and we need to work it out in the Body.

A plant doesn’t grow by just sitting there. It’s roots have to go down deep and absorb the water and nutrients that will feed it, water it and enable it to grow. As it does that, those nutrients then work through the body of the plant leading to growth.

For us to grow, personally and corporately, the nutrients we receive from the Spirit and from the Word have to work through the body – and the body is not just us personally, but us together – we are the Body of Christ and it’s him we grow up into as our head – the whole body is held together by every supporting ligament – that’s what you and I are – we’re all part of the body – knitted together to help one another grow up into Christ, to help us grow to be all we can be in Christ.

Changing metaphors slightly though – for muscles to grow and develop they need exercise.
Muscles will waste away if they’re not used. We will flag and waste away if we are not active – active muscles are able to grow and develop. Inactive ones don’t. In the same way, if we are active in living out our faith in Christ we will grow up further in him, if we are inactive our spiritual life is likely to waste away. It’s the same with the gifts God gives to us to use to seek to build one another up. If we use them they’re likely to grow and develop, if we don’t use them, they’re liable to fade away and fall out of use.

If God has given you a gift, you need to use it in humble dependence on his Holy Spirit and in obedience to his Word.
Why?
So that the whole body is built up and grows.

Paul prays in Ephesians 3:19 for the Ephesian Christians ‘to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’

I don’t know about you, but I don’t reckon I’ve got there yet.

In the coming weeks, months, years even, we’re going to look at how we can continue to help one another grow in every aspect of our Christian life – that means providing opportunities for that infilling of the Holy Spirit, providing opportunities for earthing us in God’s Word, encouraging us all into active service in the Body, because it is as we act in service, as we use our gifts that we grow in them and we become a blessing to others.

Our cell groups are a key vehicle for this – they are not the only way in which we can grow and serve, but they are a key way. If you’re not part of a group, join one. If times are not possible then talk with me and we can look at seeing new groups formed. In our groups we have opportunity to root ourselves in God’s Word, we have opportunity to pray for one another to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we have opportunity to use our gifts and see our spiritual muscles grow.
We need to receive equipping and training from those who are gifts to the church as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. We need to make use of the resources which they provide.

We need to be a body that supports one another at every stage of our spiritual growth, and personal discipleship, one person helping another person grow in Christ, is key to this.
If you want to grow in your faith and you’ve never had someone work alongside you personally to disciple you and help you grow in your walk with God, then please speak with me and we can look at possibilities.

Key to helping one another grow is being grounded and rooted in the Word of God, working out our gifts and abilities in serving others, and being filled with the Spirit, that we might be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

If you know that you are ‘flagging’ a bit at present and recognise that you’re in need of a fresh watering then I’d love to lay hands on you and pray for the Holy Spirit to come and fill you afresh, to help you grow. If you’re feeling ‘okay’ but just want more of the fullness of God, I’d love to pray for you as well.

I’m going to invite Julie to come and lead us on in our worship and I’ll come down to the front here. As we worship, if you feel you want to receive prayer come up to the front as we sing and I’ll gladly pray for you.

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