God longs for us to GROW in GRACE and KNOWLEDGE of Jesus Christ. This week we’ll explore “GROW.” Next week, we’ll consider “GRACE” and “KNOWLEDGE.”
I’m not into growing plants, but I enjoy the benefit of living with someone who is. It’s great to watch the plants under the watchful eye and attentive care of a “gardener” naturally progress through the stages of growth.
I find it interesting that in the “sprouting” stage seeds have all the nutrients they need to germinate and begin growing. When a seed becomes a “seedling” it spreads its root system to quickly absorb nutrients in order to grow into its “vegetative” stage where it produces stalks and foliage. Once the plant starts “budding” it begins its reproductive cycle resulting in “flowering” and “fruiting.”
Plants — quite naturally — given the right conditions and the right care will grow through all the stages of growth. The same is true for us as disciples following Jesus. We, too, will grow naturally and progress through all the stages of growth given the right conditions and care.
The Bible is clear that we begin our life of following Jesus as spiritual babies — “infants” — when we are “born again.” With the “pure milk of the Word” infants become “children” who learn to feed themselves (i.e. read the Bible), talk (i.e. pray), and walk (i.e. obey in love). Eventually, the process of growth leads the disciple to become an “adult” who assumes responsibility not only for themselves but also for others. Finally, as God guides and provides adults become “parents” who reproduce infants and mentor children.
Here’s the point: growth is a natural by-product of God’s activity in the life of a disciple. There’s progress, movement, and development that is aided by the watchful attention of a disciple-maker.
- At what stage are you in the process of disciple growth?
- Are you stuck in a stage or are you moving towards maturity?
- Have you seen “new births” as a result of you sharing your faith?
- With whom are you spending time to mentor them in their disciple life?
Pray that God will give you the grace and knowledge that you need to grow as a disciple and disciple-maker.
Check out these stages, by looking through Sunday’s slides. Be sure to check in next week to see the means by which God grows us.
Prayer is a mystery. Simple enough so that children can pray; so complex that it takes a lifetime to explore. What is clear is that prayer begins and ends with God. God invites us to pray; in response, we turn to God in prayer. As we pray, we get to know God for who he is, and God accomplishes his purposes through our prayers.
Elijah’s prayer in 1 Kings 18:36-37 is a wonderful example of a Bible prayer that acknowledges God and accomplishes God’s purpose:
“Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Note how Elijah takes into account who God is — “LORD” … “God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel” … “God in Israel.” When a person recognizes God for who he is, shows reverence for God, demonstrates a concern for God’s reputation, he or she is acknowledging God. This means the pray-er will not God’s honor, glory, character, and sovereignty. Look through Elijah’s prayer and identify each of these factors in his prayer. They’re there!
- Honor — good name; reputation
- Glory — outshining/demonstration of God’s attributes
- Character — qualities; traits; essential nature
- Sovereignty — supreme excellence, power, and rule
Note how Elijah’s prayer is directed towards accomplishing God’s purpose … “these people will know that you, Lord, are God.” Prayer serves God’s purposes before it serves ours. When a person prays “Your Kingdom come, your will be done,” he or she is praying that God’s purpose is accomplished. Look through Elijah’s prayer and identify the purposes of God he prayed. I count five!
What happened when Elijah prayed? God answered his prayer in a way that glorified God and accomplished God’s purpose. If you want to experience answered prayer, give God a good reason to answer. Start with acknowledging God, and be sure to pray that God’s will is accomplished. Those are the kinds of prayers God can answer!
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Since Satan (believed to be a fallen archangel) and his demons (fallen “ordinary” angels) are at work to thwart God’s purpose in the believer and in the world, it makes sense that the basic role of God’s angels is the opposite – to further God’s purpose in the believer and in the world.
The word “angels” literally means “messenger.” So, it’s no surprise that’s the role we see most prominently in the Bible. We see numerous occasions were angels are God’s special messenger including Gabriel (God’s special messenger) delivering his message to Mary and an unnamed angel directing Philipp to speak to the Ethiopian eunuch.
However, the Bible also presents two other important roles for the angels:
• Worshipping and Praising God – One of the main responsibilities of the angels is to worship and praise God just like the rest of creation (see Psalm 148). In fact, two of the four types of angels mentioned in the Bible (namely, Archangel, Seraphim, Cherubim, and “Ordinary”), Seraphim and Cherubim have the primary responsibility of worshipping and praising God around God’s throne (see Isaiah 6:1f; Ezekiel 1:1f; Revelation 4:6f). We get a glimpse of what is going on in the angelic realm all the time when the angels appear at the birth of Jesus praising and glorifying God (see Luke 2:8f) and when John sees a vision of heaven with 100 million angels around the throne praising God (see Revelation 5:11).
• Fighting Satan and his Demons – Another responsibility of the angels is to oppose Satan and his demons as a means of subjecting them to the sovereignty of God and limiting their influence in support of God’s people who mount their own resistance to the devil. The Bible gives limited insight into this realm, but is clear about three things:
o The angels are God’s mighty warriors who are engaged in a spiritual battle. For example in Daniel’s vision, an angel and Michael (the only Archangel named in the Bible) are said to be battling against the prince and King of Persia on Daniel’s behalf in response to his prayers (see Daniel 10:4f). Again we see a heavenly perspective of the angelic spiritual battle depicted in Revelation 12:7f where Michael appears again leading God’s angels against Satan and his demons.
o The angels – like Satan and his demons – are well organized and assigned specific responsibilities. As we’ve already seen, spiritual beings have different rank, roles, and responsibilities (e.g. Archangels, Seraphim, et al). Apparently, spiritual beings – angels and demons alike – are assigned geographic regions in which to carry out their assigned responsibilities (see passages mentioned above).
o Though the angels are engaged in spiritual warfare, the Bible makes it clear that God’s people are personally responsible to engage in spiritual warfare by constantly submitting to God and resisting the devil (see James 4:7-8). God’s people are to “stand firm” and “put on the armor of God” (see Ephesians 6:10-f) as they actively engage in battle against temptation, opposition, and oppression. While God’s angels support God’s people in the battle and the victory has already been won through Jesus Christ, God’s people must appropriate Jesus’ authority and experience the victory through their partnership with God and participation in the struggle.