Over the last several posts, I’ve been walking through four steps of spiritual growth or discipleship. The four steps are one way of viewing the disciple-making process.
Assuming that Christians easily stall out in step two, as I’ve observed, they never quite make it into the third step where their focus substantially shifts to investing themselves in others. They remain, then, in a step focused intentionally on helping them take care of themselves spiritually. Spiritual progress benefits everyone until a person stalls out, as if his or her current spiritual state is the destination.
The Bible instructs saints to love one another, among the list of individuals who should be targets of their love. The list ranges from enemies to a person’s spouse. But, focus on love for “one another,” for other saints. Love inherently demands a focus on another person. If saints stall out in step two, focused intentionally and intently on their own well-being, where is the mental focus and energy for loving others? How does one care for others, when their whole spiritual realm focuses them on themselves?
Stalled out spiritual growth is one reason people don’t perceive the love that Christian’s claim to extend. While well-meaning Christians claim to love everyone, some of them are so focused on themselves that they don’t do the things that actually demonstrate love. Love requires doing. Here’s what I mean. The biblical “agape” love described in the Bible is utterly selfless. It consists of five powerful components - I’ve mentioned them before. To love, one must have a genuine desire to be with the other person, a real affection for the other person, unshakable loyalty to the other person, a rousing concern for the other person’s needs and burdens, and a lavish generosity to the other person. Love means giving, sacrificing, and inconveniencing one’s self for another person with no expectation of return. It’s exhausting. It’s demanding. It’s costly And, it’s utterly selfless.
As long as we’re still working on our own spiritual walk, we’re too inwardly focused to focus on others. At some time, every Christian must come to a point where they realize salvation is more than being saved from the wrath of sin. It also means helping others make progress along the journey. If a disciple is a person who trusts Jesus, lives with God, build’s saints and expands God’s kingdom, then every Christian needs to plunge into the last two steps: building saints and expanding God’s kingdom.
Moving on to step three matters. Much of Christian ministry depends on step three and four spirituality. Maturity demands that we keep on growing. If you don’t know what steps come next, grab your pastor or enlist a spiritual mentor. But, don’t settle for stalling out. I’ve not conquered steps three and four, but I’m enjoying seeing how my growth in both of them affects others. Remember, whether we grow or stall out, we’re having an impact. Each saint needs to ask himself or herself if his or her impact is the impact God intends.
Crossing the Lines
The ideas behind this blog emerged from my study and preaching of a message I titled "A Single Step." It was an unexpected message out of Philippians 2:12-18. I'm the one who was surprised. I had a whole different idea of where the sermon would go. Then, I got into the text and followed it. That led, eventually, to the response by individuals after the message. God worked in me and in our congregation. He's still at work.
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