Grow: Disciplines needed for healthy spiritual growth (Week 3)

Disciplines Needed for Healthy Spiritual Growth

Psalm 1

Good morning…

Who likes eating?

You can all tell I like eating. I like being fed a good meal.

 

Today I want to talk to you about the discipline of feeding & how incredibly important that is for our growth.

 

It may make you hungry… but I’m going to need you to focus & I promise to get you out of here no later than 12:30.

 

You may not have known that eating is a spiritual discipline but if you want to grow closer to Jesus… in every season of life… you can’t get there without being fed.

 

We’re going to look at Psalm 1 today & learn what we can about this discipline that is needed for healthy spiritual growth.

When you’ve found your place in Psalm chapter 1, please stand out of reverence for God’s word.

 

Psalm chapter 1

 

I’d like to read this Psalm again, this time in the NLT

 

Psalm 1 (NLT)

 

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. They will be condemned at the time of judgment. Sinners will have no place among the godly. For the Lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

 

This is one of my favorite psalms & one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible.

 

In this Psalm we get a great lesson on the spiritual discipline of being fed.

 

We get a great picture of how we can Grow Closer to Jesus in every season of life.

 

We get two images of two different types of people in Psalm 1.

 

The first picture is of a healthy, growing believer.

The second picture is of someone who is not a healthy, growing believer.

 

Both of these pictures in the Psalm teach us an important lesson, to be a healthy, growing believer you need to be fed, you need to be nourished by God.

 

As physical beings we need physical food, physical nourishment to grow, stay healthy, stay alive.

 

But we’re more than physical beings, we are spiritual beings too & we can’t just be fed physically, we need spiritual nourishment.

 

The scriptures call our relationship with Jesus a walk or a journey, if you don’t get refueled it’s extremely difficult to make the journey.

 

Verse 1 begins a contrast between the first person & the second.

 

Psalm 1:1-2 (CSB)

1 How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.

 

What we can see from the contrast of these two verses is that both types of people are getting fed.

Everyone is getting fed with something…

The question is… are you getting fed with something that is good for you, that will help you grow?

 

The person who is NOT a healthy believer is being fed with wicked advice, sinful words & mocking directed at God.

 

Garbage in garbage out.

 

We’re supposed to grow closer to God in every season of life, not farther away.

If we’re fed with garbage like this, we won’t grow closer to Christ, we won’t be nourished for our journey with Him.

 

Instead we’ll be like the wicked person.
We get more information on them in verses four through six of Psalm 1.

 

Psalm 1:4-6 (CSB)

The wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

 

If you’re not getting fed with the good stuff from God, it leads to a ruined life.

 

That is why we’re warned in

 

Colossians 2:8 (CSB)

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Christ.

 

What are you getting fed with?…

The first person isn’t like the wicked person though, he’s a healthy believer.

 

The psalmist says the healthy believer is like a healthy tree planted by a flowing stream or river.

 

Psalm 1:3 (CSB)

He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

 

The picture of a flourishing tree was a common symbol of a healthy believer.

It pops up in other places of scripture in

 

Jeremiah 17:8 (CSB)

He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit.

 

It’s also in

 

Psalm 92:12-14 (CSB)

12 The righteous thrive like a palm tree and grow like a cedar tree in Lebanon. 13 Planted in the house of the Lord, they thrive in the courts of our God. 14 They will still bear fruit in old age, healthy and green,

 

It’s interesting in these two verses that both mention growing fruit in old age or never stopping fruit production.

 

That is the goal to never stop growing, never stop bearing fruit for Jesus.

So this is what we are supposed to be like as believers, like a flourishing tree.

How do we get like that?

 

The success of the thriving trees in these passages is all dependent on how close the tree is to it’s source of nourishment

 

If you look at verses 2 & 3, Psalm 1 tells us how we can be like this tree,

 

  1. We have to be planted by flowing streams/delight in God’s word & meditate on it often
  2. Then we’ll never wither
  3. Then we’ll produce fruit

 

First, we have to be planted by flowing streams. This means we need to be planted in Christ so that we can be fed, nourished by spiritual food that only God can give.
 
There is an issue here though.  You may be hearing this sermon this morning & your problem is not that you’re not getting fed by God but that you aren’t planted in Him yet.

 

Colossians 2:6-7 (CSB)
So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.
 
If you’re not planted, rooted in Christ, you can’t get fed. Get saved first, planted in Christ so you can grow closer to Him.   Once we’re in Christ we can be fed & are able to grow & thrive in Him.
 
Now we get to the fun part, how do we get fed by God?   How are we nourished spiritually so we can live the Christian life? So we can grow closer to Jesus & produce fruit in every season of life?
 
The answer is, we need nourishment from the word of God. If you didn’t see this coming, get your eyes checked…  
 
Psalm 1:2 (CSB)
Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.
 
A better translation here would probably be, “his delight is in the Lord’s law,” & the Hebrew word for law or instruction used in this verse is Torah.
 
Why is this important?   It’s important because at the time that this Psalm was written & sung in worship, what they had as God’s word would have been the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Pentateuch or the Torah; this included Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy.
 
At that time they would have been fed by the Torah, would meditate on the Torah.   Hebrews scholar, , says this of Psalm 1:2, “The individuals who pattern their lives after Torah will be blessed.”
 
Now because the first five books of the law were all they had at the time, it doesn’t mean those first five books are all we can be fed by.   As God’s word grew, the term Torah also grew & is used as a blanket term for all the word of God.   “The word law (torah) is an elastic term… It can refer to an individual law, the laws of the Sinai, the Pentateuch, the Hebrew Bible or spiritual instruction.
 
Here it means all of God’s word, not just the Pentateuch.” – – Michael Rydelnik & Michael Vanlaningham (Moody Bible Commentary, pg. 759)
 
So today we can apply this to us, so we don’t just delight in the first five books but the whole & complete word of God we have, the Old & New Testaments.   So being fed by God’s word is a discipline we need for spiritual growth.
 

Kinds of Spiritual Food

 
From my study I have found that there seem to be four types of Spiritual food found in the scriptures, four different types of nourishment that we all need at different times & stages of our walk with Christ.
 
The first is milk:
 
1 Peter 2:2-3 (CSB)
Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
 
 
When you have a baby, you don’t start off giving them solid food. They don’t have teeth to chew it & their digestive system isn’t ready to process it.   They have to start with milk & get used to that before they can progress to meat.   It’s the same with new believers. They need nourishment from the word, a lot but we shouldn’t expect them to digest the Bible on the level of a mature believer.
 
 
There are certain books, passages & doctrines that a new born believer is just not ready for.   Another thing to consider is that babies need to eat more often than maturing people & this is true with discipleship as well.   New believers should be feeding yourself God’s word, in little bits often throughout the day.   Something else we need to consider when it comes to milk…
 
 
 
 
This is perfectly acceptable, healthy, natural & normal.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This… is NOT.
 
This is a very real problem, there are believers who are not newborns, not babies, that should be eating meat, maybe even feeding others meat, but they’re still going after the milk.   Don’t get mad at me for saying it.   This is not a new problem either…
 
 
 
 
Hebrews 5:12-13 (CSB)
12 Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food. 13 Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant.
 
 
That’s like an adult man hanging out in the kiddie end of the pool with water wings & a floatie.   We laugh but, this is real, there are Christians like this.   Why would you want to go back to formula when you could be having something good & tasty?   I’m hear to tell you, I’ve smelled Kevin Michael’s formula, it smells disgusting.   Anyone else smell the baby formula before you give it to your child? Disgusting! Can I get an amen?   I’d have to be pretty darn starving to even consider drinking that nonsense.   Kevin M loves it, he can’t get enough of it, it fills his tummy & that’s good he’s a baby.   He doesn’t know how good food can taste yet, but the milk is getting him ready.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This is Kevin M a few nights ago.
 
Scriptural milk should get us excited, hungry for solid Bible food.   Some Christians in the early church & some today need to increase their feeding so they can move on from milk to solids.   Are you a Christian like this?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The second type of food the Bible is, is bread:
 
Matthew 4:4 (CSB)
He answered, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
 
God’s word is equated to our “daily bread” that keeps us alive & kicking.
 
Jesus is actually quoting the Old Testament here when said that, Deuteronomy 8:3 (CSB) He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then he gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  
 
 
Bread is your middle ground, its solid but not too hard to chew on or digest.   It’ll sustain you & keep you alive, keep you going, just like the scriptures will sustain you & keep you alive to walk with Jesus.
 
 
 

The third is meat:

Hebrews 5:14 (CSB)

14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.   The meat of scripture is something you have to work towards, something to progress to.   Not all Christians in their current stage of maturity can handle the meat of the word, just like babies.   The meat of the word requires someone who can chew on it, with the ability to digest it.
 
For example, I never recommend the books of Ezekiel, Hebrews or Revelation to new believers.   For someone who is a new believer, I always recommend the Gospel of Mark, easy to understand, fast paced, Jesus focused, it’s a good place to start.   Not being ready for spiritual meat is nothing to be ashamed of or grumpy about, we all start there & then grow.
 
 
 

The fourth type of food is honey:

Psalm 19:9-10 (NLT)

Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. 10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.

Psalm 119:102-103 (CSB)
102 I have not turned from your judgments, for you yourself have instructed me. 103 How sweet your word is to my taste—sweeter than honey in my mouth.
 
This is one that I feel isn’t taught enough in the church.   Honey was a sweet treat, dessert, a delight, one of the sweetest things they could get in ancient Israel.   You may not like honey & that’s okay, what it really symbolizes here is something sweet, dessert.   So picture your favorite dessert; candy, cakes, crème Brule or ice-cream.   We eat these things not so much for nourishment but because they’re sweet, they delight & comfort us.   This is what God’s word is. It is a sweet treat, it’s comfort food.   How we can pass over passages that talk about how much God loves us & the amazing lengths Jesus went to, to rescue us & not enjoy the sweetness?   Some of you might be thinking, “Can you give us an example?”  
 
John 3:16 (CSB)
16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
 
God gave up, sacrificed His Son, for us. For you. That is sweet!

 

Romans 6:23 (CSB)
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
Eternal life with God is a free gift, we can’t earn it & don’t have to try, He’ll just give it to us!   That is SWEET! It can be your delight if you let it.
 

The Bible is comfort food:

 
Hebrews 13:5-6 (CSB)
5 Be satisfied with what you have, for he himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you. Therefore, we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
 
Comfort food
Isaiah 41:10-13 (CSB)
10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand. 11 Be sure that all who are enraged against you will be ashamed and disgraced; those who contend with you will become as nothing and will perish. 12 You will look for those who contend with you, but you will not find them. Those who war against you will become absolutely nothing. 13 For I am the Lord your God, who holds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.    
 
Comfort food
Lamentations 3:20-23 (CSB)
20 I continually remember them and have become depressed. 21 Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! 24 I say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him.”
 
Comfort food… accept God’s comfort food… His dessert is actually really good for you. & it lasts, it’s forever.   I am so thankful for the people God put in my life, who when I was hurting or struggling, fed me the sweet comfort food of God’s word.   There are days where I don’t read my Bible & then the next time I do, I’m like why did I allow myself to miss Bible time, this is so good!
 
Is the Bible sweet to you?   If the answer is no, ask yourself why not?   Have you really given the scriptures a chance? Do you have a wonky perspective, maybe you see this as a dusty old rule book trying to kill your fun? It’s not. It’s dessert that wants to make you healthy.   So the Bible is milk, bread, meat & dessert, all meant to nourish & enrich our lives.
 
So a logical question becomes, if we need to be fed spiritually, how often should we partake of God’s word?   Some people think once or twice a month is enough… Some people think once or twice a week is enough… Some people think once a day is enough… What do our verses say?
 
Psalm 1:2 (CSB)
Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.
 
 
 
 
So the Bible seems to say each day & throughout the day.   For those who are only fed when they come to church, that is like only eating food when you have a family meal on the weekend.   Family Meals at Sammy’s.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Would your smart phone or tablet do all the things you need it to, if you only charged it for an hour or two a week?
 
How many of you could happily go through your week doing all the things you want to & all the things required of you, eating one or maybe two meals in a week?
 
Do you think the same when you don’t eat? Do you feel the same when you don’t eat?
 
 
 
Kevin Michael Hangry
 
Do you have the same energy when you don’t eat?  
Some of the things that will happen to you if you go without eating for three days:
  1. You’ll be ravenous then not so much
  2. Your breath may smell

Research has shown that breath acetone is reliable indication that you have gone into fat burning mode. You release ketone bodies through your breath—and the smell is often unpleasant” 1

  1. You’ll lose weight
  2. Your body starts running on emergency power

“Researchers at Yale found that “During times of starvation, the body preserves two organs and then shrinks the rest,” 2   It runs on emergency power.

 
 
You might be in this room, running the Christian life on emergency power, that’s not something you’ll be able to do forever.
 
If we can’t live, grow, work & play without physical food, why do we think we can live without spiritual food.   This is a huge problem in the American Church. We are overfed here & malnourished spiritually.
 
If we are trees, many of us have planted ourselves far away from the flowing waters.
 
The Christian life is a journey, a walk, a race but many of us are trying to make this journey without the fuel to do it.  Church, Sunday School, Wednesday Night services, Bible studies, these things aren’t bad, these are family “meals” & you should go to these things, every chance you get, God wants you there.   The problem is they’re not enough, you need to be feeding yourself the word each day.   We need to reach out with our roots toward the flowing stream of God’s word.
 
So come to Sunday service, Sunday School, Wednesday night, a small group Bible study, but crack open the Bible on your own each day.
 
This is Grumpy cat, R.I.P.   You might be wondering why I put this picture up here. Some people say there is a shocking resemblance between me & grumpy cat. R.I.P.   I don’t see it.   I can get grumpy though, I have my moments. No need for an amen there.
 
 
 
Every once in a while, Bree will come up to me and say,
“Have you done a quiet time yet?” & I’ll say no, why?
 
She’ll say, “I can tell. You should do a quiet time, you’re much better when you’ve spent some time with Jesus.”   Now no joke, Bree, does this happen?
 
If I’m honest it happens more than I like to admit. A while back after she said that to me it made me think of something…
 
It’s better if I show you a clip to explain.    [PLAY SNICKERS SUPER BOWL AD]
 
Amen?   It’s funny, we all laugh but isn’t this the truth?   You’re not you when you’re hungry spiritually, but there is an easy fix. HOLD UP BIBLE   You’re not you when you’re hungry. Read some Bible. Scripture satisfies.   Only when we are fed well by God’s word will we grow, thrive & produce fruit.
 
Psalm 1:3 (CSB)
He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.   The fruit that is mentioned her is described in detail in Galatians, it’s the fruit of the Spirit.  
 

Galatians 5:22-23 (CSB)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.
 
A lot of Christians act like they have to work to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit.   But really all you have to do is spend time with God, being fed by His word & you will grow, God will produce fruit in you.  
 
John 15:4-5 (CSB)
Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.
 
If you don’t spend time with God, bearing fruit is impossible & growing closer to Christ in any season won’t happen.   We need to be in the Bible daily, taught the scriptures weekly & filling up our minds with the word, then we will be like the tree in Psalm 1.
 
Growing, producing fruit & thriving.   Psalm 1 gave us an example of two types of people.   A thriving tree that has been well fed by God.   & dust that gets swept away.
 
Which one are you?
 
Please join me in prayer.
 
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Love: It’s who I AM (Week 4)

The Modeling Love of Christ

1 John 4:19

We all need models of Christ’s love around us so we see demonstrations of how we are to love others.  As we learn to love like Christ did, we become models to others in our network of friends and family.  They in turn become models of Christ’s love to others.  Let’s look at examples of this process from God’s Word and then talk about Why, To Whom and How to model Christ’s love…

Ephesians 5:12, 1 Timothy 4:12, 1 Timothy 5:1-2

We see this process in the lives of Paul and Timothy.

Timothy saw this model in his grandmother and mother. (2 Timothy 1:5)

1 Corinthians 1:11, 1 Corinthians 4:16-17

We need to be this kind of interconnected group:

  • Fellow believers Modeling His love to us
  • We go out and are sharing this love with others

This leads us to ask three questions:

  1. Why do we model Christ’s love?
  2. To whom should we model Christ’s love?
  3. How do we model Christ’s love?

 

Question 1:  Why do we model Christ’s love?

 

1 John 4:19          He first loved us!

 

Switchfoot sings, “we become what we believe in” in the song Who We Are and in The World You Want:

 

You start to look like what you believe…
What you say is your religion
How you say it’s your religion
Who you love is your religion
How you love is your religion
All your science, your religion
All your hatred, your religion
All your wars are your religion
Every breath is your religion…

 

We are the “diorama” of Christ to this community…

 

Question 2:  To whom should we model Christ’s love?

 
Our brothers and sisters in Christ  (John 13:34)

Our neighbor – that is everyone else who is not a believer.  (Matthew 22:37-40)

Our enemies!  The unworthy…  Even those who have deeply hurt us.  (Matthew 5:43-48)

An act of love changes us.  And God can use it to change them, too.

 

Romans 5:6-8    He died for us while we were yet sinners.

 

Example:  Mike dressed in black and had a blue mohawk haircut.  He went from judged and rejected to youth pastor because someone modeled Christ’s love to him.
 
Question 3:  How do we model Christ’s love?
 

We love others by our actions.  (1 John 3:18)

We love others by serving them.  (John 13:12-17)
Jesus, the creator, washed filth from his disciples’ feet.
Jesus got dirty as he served others in this broken world.    We will get dirty as we serve others!
 

Example:  Kevin’s story about falling into a mucky pond and the love his grandfather showed to help Kevin get cleaned up.

“Loving others is a dirty job, but someone has to do it.”
We are called to lay down our lives for others that God cares about.   (John 15:12-13)
We lose so they can win… we are to die to ourselves so that others can live!
Jesus died for us.  (1 John 3:16, Mark 8:34-35)
 
We die to our desires so we can love others.  So others can experience God’s love.  (Philippians 2:3-5)
 
Do you have a reputation for loving others, for putting them first?

 

“Love one another as I have loved you.”   (John 15:12-13)
There is no greater love than to lay down your life for another.
 
 
Love Week 4:  Listen to it here.
 
 

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