New Hope Notes
Promotes Spiritual Self-Feeding
The Irresistible Church
Pastor Elwin Ahu
Isn’t life going by too fast, and it goes faster as we get older? Sometimes it seems like that there is no time to do everything including just hearing God’s words. Today, we are continuing on to the next trait of being an irresistible church. This trait is about promoting spiritual self-feeding. As a reminder, we are doing this series because we want to grow into a church that is irresistible to Heaven instead of humans, so that God cannot resist pouring out His blessings upon us. So why is it important to keep ourselves having the desire to self-feed our spirits? Let’s think about our normal daily dining experience. When you smell something good, you would want to taste it. Once you have tasted it, you would want to have more and sometimes even crave for it. We all have a craving for our favorite food, especially when we have tasted the great flavor of it and we would never get tired of it. And it is this craving desire that motivates you to feed yourself instead of waiting around for someone else to spoon-feed you. This mentality actually applies to our spiritual feeding as well! If you have tasted the goodness of the word of God, you would want more and crave for it from time to time, and this craving will definitely motivate yourself to feed your spirit through daily devotion. However, our daily eating style also reflects how we have been feeding our spirit, too. An average American eats out four times a week and eats mostly fast food or junk food because of a busy schedule. And he develops a craving for junk food and we keep feeding ourselves with junk without appropriate nutrients. Though we would still be having a full stomach, we aren’t getting the necessary nutrients to keep healthy and grow. And I think a lot of us are doing the same for our spirits in the same fashion. We have been feeding our spirits with junk food instead of the word of God, and the spirit will not be healthy and certainly cannot grow. Therefore, we should develop a craving for God’s words instead of the junk food.
There was a survey done and found that the number of church attendants dropped over the past 20 years. Out of those who are still going to church, only 40% read the Bible, 15% would attend Sunday school. There were 24% considered as “unchurched” and now this population has increased to 50%. It is because people are not craving for the word of God. As it was written, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Pet. 2:1-3 NIV) That means we need to get rid of the stuff that is not of God. We have been filled with success, fitness, fortune, fame, etc. These things are all about our desires that do not benefit any on the spiritual growth. It is like a competition. The competition that is happening within us between the junk and the nourishment of our soul is the same as the competition that is happening in the Kingdom of God. When our soul is nourished, we are being built up and growing; as a result, the Kingdom of God is also being built up and growing. On the other hand, if we don’t build ourselves up with the word of God, we are not building up for the Kingdom of God. So we have to develop the craving of the spiritual milk, which is the word of God in the Bible, so that we may grow into the person that God wants us to be. We cannot stay stagnant in the spiritual growth; otherwise, we will not be influencing the world but will be influenced by the world. Therefore, it is a decisive action for us to take. We need to take action and be eager to desire for the word of God. Once we make this decision, we need to stay determined and press on. After this decision is made, then you may ask how we can develop the craving for the word of God. In order to develop such craving, we need to first understand that:
1. Spiritual growth is a PROCESS.
There might be times that you don’t feel you are growing forward. You might not see any change yet even after you have been doing your daily devotion and have tried everything the Lord instructed. If you ever feel that way, don’t be discouraged and don’t give up. You just need to understand that changes do not happen over night. It takes time for us to grow and it’s a long process. It is the same way as how our physical body grows. My son wanted to gain weight and be a big guy and so kept weighing himself every day. However, there didn’t seem to be any change. It’s because it takes time to grow from a kid size into an adult size. My son also keeps looking for hair on his chest and his toes because he wants to become a man soon. But I told him that it doesn’t happen that way. We cannot grow into an adult just over night! We have to go through years before we reach adulthood. So, it is the same for our spiritual growth. We cannot grow fast no matter how badly we want to because it takes time, too. The scripture says, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Eph. 4:14-15 NIV) So you just need to be patient and give it time to grow, but continue to take the initiative to self-feed with the craving of the spiritual milk. Although it takes time to grow, we need to remember that it is your own responsibility to put ourselves into this growing process and develop the craving for the word of God. So each of us has to tell ourselves that …
· It’s MY responsibility.
We cannot blame others if we are being stagnant and not growing forward spiritually because no one else can put us into this growing process. You are the only one who can put yourself into the growing process through self-feeding. Other people cannot prepare or grow you up into the person God wants you to be. It’s yourself who needs to make an intentional effort to feed on God’s words. The scripture says, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18) This tells us that it’s our responsibility to look into the mirror and examine ourselves, to see if we are growing into the image of God. If we are not, we have to do something about it so we can grow forward into His image for His glory.
There was a study done by a church called Willow Creek at Chicago, Illinois. They interviewed a lot of people from different churches and found that there are basically four phases in our spiritual growth. They are summarized as:
· EC -> GC -> CL -> CC.
EC is the phase of “Exploring God”. This is the phase when you are in the church but not very sure about what Jesus Christ has done and do not understand what a personal relationship with Jesus means, so it’s a phase to just explore. GC is the phase of “Growing in Christ”. This is the time after you have made your commitment with Jesus by accepting Him and getting baptized, and began to learn more and understand the personal relationship you have with Him. CL is the phase of “Close to Christ”. This is the phase when you are close to Jesus, and you would spend time praying and seeking God for help every day; and you would spend time reading the Bible for God’s words. CC is the phase of “Christ Centered”. This is the phase you will risk everything for Jesus, and believe in Him no matter how uncertain or unfavorable your life is at the moment.
These four phases are actually a growing continuum in life. People will enter a church and start with the phase of EC. After they have accepted Christ, they begin to grow into GC and grow forward as a continuum. And this continuum will take you to the last phase of CC as you continue to move forward. If you do not move forward at any point in this continuum, you will actually end up dropping out and give up Christianity because you feel that there is nothing happening. Even when there are a lot of programs and activities going on at a church to help people to grow, if you don’t take the responsibility to feed yourself and grow forward, you won’t be able to complete this growing continuum. In other words, you will not be able to reach what God wants you to be if you don’t take the responsibility to feed yourself. If you feel that you are stagnant and are not moving forward, it’s because of you not taking the intentional responsibility to feed yourself. Then you will have to get out of it soon and start to self-feed. If we have thousands of people in the phase of CL now, that’s great. But if we have only hundreds of people in the phase of CC now, it’s even better because these would be enough to change the world. We need more people who are Christ centered nowadays to change this world.
While we are in this growing continuum, we will go through different challenges to get from the phase of EC to the phase of CC. However, the study showed that there is a big chasm between the phase of “Close to Christ” (CL) and “Christ Centered” (CC). The study showed that people were able to grow from EC to GC, and then into CL; but a lot of them stumbled between the phase of CL and CC and not being able to move forward to CC because there are a lot to give up before you grow into CC. If you are in the phase of CL and are comfortable at this phase, you would still be able to trust God, pray, and read His words, but you will be struggling in taking a big leap to risk it all and give up everything for Jesus. However, this big leap is very crucial for you to become what God wants you to be so that He can use you to change the world. Increasing attendance at church or involvement with church activities does not guarantee the spiritual growth. We do encourage each of you to get involved in ministry to serve and be in a small group, but don’t be mistaken that these would guarantee your spiritual growth. It’s each individual’s responsibility and a determined intention to grow forward to guarantee the spiritual growth. The study also found that 80% of church attendants claimed that they love God, but one third of them do not serve, while 50% of them don’t help the needy. 60% of those people are afraid of having spiritual conversations with non-believers, and 80% of them have fear of inviting non-believers to church. Lastly, only 40% will tithe. These statistics indicated that we are all stagnating somewhere along this continuum. And the last conclusion from the study is that, nothing can have more impact on a person’s spiritual growth than reflecting on a scripture. So if we as a church can only afford to do one thing to help each of us to grow forward, that one thing would be to inspire and equip people to read the Bible! We can scrap everything else and just teach you to read the Bible so that you will grow into the phase of “Christ Centered”! But again, it’s your responsibility to get yourself into the Bible and that is why daily devotion is so important and we will not cease to tell you to do your daily devotion. While taking the initiative to feed yourself, there is another responsibility you need to take so that you can grow into the phase of “Christ Centered”. This is:
2) Remove GROWTH STOPPERS.
You need to rid yourself of whatever is competing with the growth of your spirit in the Lord. As the scripture said, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Gal. 5:16-17) Our spirits are saved after we accepted Christ, but our flesh still exists and it continues to battle with our spirits and to impede our spiritual growth. There are three common growth stoppers. The first is unresolved sins. If we don’t resolve the sins we have, we cannot move forward, because sins keep us away from God’s words. So you need to search your heart and find out what is not yet resolved. The second growth stopper is relational issues. If you have any unresolved relationship issues with anyone, you need to resolve it as soon as possible. The third one is pessimistic attitude. It’s the kind of attitude that you are being skeptical, complaining and doubting everything God teaches you. And how do we get rid of all these growth stoppers? The Bible said, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” (Jas. 1:21) It is very clear that only the word of God can scrub away the growth stoppers and any other junk inside us. So we have to use the SOAP of God to clean us inside out! So …
3) Use SOAP daily.
This is what it means …
As we use toothpaste, cleansing soap, and all those kind of cleansing agents to clean our bodies every day, we need to do the same with our spirits. We need to clean our spirits with God’s SOAP. As it was written, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2) With this SOAP, you first need to read the scripture (“S”) you have for the day. After reading it, you need to observe (“O”) what the situation is in the scripture you read, and then find out what it means to you and learn to apply (“A”) it in your life. Then you will pray (“P”) and ask God to keep you growing with the lessons you received from the scripture. As you use this SOAP daily, you will begin to understand God’s will for you and be transformed by His words. Jesus has already made a commitment to be with you and He is there with you whenever you draw close to Him. All you need to do is to show up every morning and spend time with Him with SOAP. There is no excuse of being busy and tired because it’s your responsibility to self-feed and learn in this continuum. You need to show up every morning to let Jesus wash you from inside out. The excuse of having no time is another growth stopper and you need to remove it. You can’t afford not to do devotion with Jesus. And we also need to write down and journal what we learn every day, because what you learn today is not only applicable for today, but also applicable for tomorrow and any time in your future. You would be able to look back and remind yourself what you’ve learned so you won’t lose your lessons. You don’t have to buy fancy expensive journal books. You only need any kind of paper that you can afford and start journaling. And I learned that if I do my devotion first thing in the morning, I get to accomplish even more for the rest of the day as Jesus has set my day in the right order. However, when I missed my devotion for one morning, that day ended up disorganized and I lost sight of my Godly and proper priorities. In other words, you don’t have time not to do daily devotions! If you have another growth stopper of “having a hard time to read”, you can remove this one again easily because there are audio Bibles now, so you can listen to it instead of reading it. You can even choose to read a pictorial Bible just to get you started on self-feeding. There are a lot of different versions of the Bible for different age groups, too. You must be able to find one that fits your appetite.
Let’s not stay at where you are at today. You need to move forward in this growing process and develop the craving of God’s words. Remember that it is your responsibility to feed yourself so you can grow. May we all continue to grow into the phase of “Christ Centered” and be irresistible to Heaven. Amen.
1. What do we feed our spirit with?
2. What do we need to understand before we see any change in our growth?
3. What are the two responsibilities we need to take in our spiritual growth and feeding?
4. What are the 4 phases in our spiritual growing continuum?
5. How do we remove growth stoppers?