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Connect | GROW | Serve

So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV)

One we have connected to Christ by faith and received both forgiveness of our sin and a new standing with God, being declared righteous in the righteousness of Jesus, we begin a life-long process of growth in our faith with this simple goal: to "...become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

Something amazing happens when we put faith in Jesus and give our lives to Him. He takes up residence in our lives. His life lives in us. He lives in us. And that changes everything. Because Jesus Christ lives in us, all His goodness and grace and love and power reside in us. We are not only forgiven for sin, we are set free from its vice grip on our hearts and our will. And that means transformation is possible in His strength. We can grow and we can change to become more and more like Jesus.

God has given us practices that produce the fruit of growth and transformation in our lives. John Wesley called these practices the "ordinances of God." The early Methodists had three rules for giving evidence of the desire for salvation and perfection in love (sanctification): 1. Do no harm. 2. Do good. 3. Attend to the ordinances of God. What are these God-ordained spiritual practices?

The public worship of God.

Family and Private prayer.

The ministry of the Word, either read or expounded.

The Supper of the Lord.

Searching the Scriptures.

Fasting or abstinence.

Worship. Prayer. Reading and hearing the Word of God. The Lord's Supper (Holy Communion). Fasting. These spiritual practices enhance the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and His ministry to grow in us both the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) and the Mind of Christ. The more we draw near to Jesus in these practices the better we know Him. And the better we know Him the more we become like Him.

Truth is: living things grow and produce fruit. Puppies grow into dogs. Saplings grow into trees. Babies grow into adults. My waistline grows if I just smell pizza. Living Christians grow in faith. We do not stagnate. We do not regress. It is not enough to get just enough of Jesus to know our sins are forgiven and then live our lives as if we have reached the final goal of a Christian life. Making Jesus our Savior is only the starting point of a Godly life. The finish line is Christlikeness. And the race in between is a life of growing in Christ.

By the way, the other two General Rules of the Methodist Societies matter to our spiritual growth, as well. Doing no harm and doing good takes our spiritual growth out of the arena of our inner, private life and applies faith to the way we interact with others. Personal holiness is accompanied by social holiness when it is healthy and whole. There are some lessons we can only learn in serving others. Overcoming the selfishness of our sin nature requires loving others out of our love for God.

Our Wesleyan understanding of inward and outward holiness is revolutionary in this sense: It shifts the focus of life from our striving to be good people, mustering up the will to to be holy and trying harder and harder to be like Jesus, to the work of the Holy Spirit within us. We don't make ourselves holy in heart and life. The Holy Spirit makes us holy by the holy love of Jesus working in us to love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.

Actually, it even goes beyond that. The Holy Spirit makes us holy by bringing us to the point that we are so surrendered to God that the holy love of Jesus lives in us and expresses itself through our surrendered lives. We do not strive to have people see us acting like Jesus. We strive to have people see Jesus living in us and loving through us.

And when we live in Jesus and love with Jesus' love and people see Jesus in us, then we become His witnesses in the world. But serving as His witnesses is for next week's message and blog.

Grace Church is a caring community where people can CONNECT with Christ and others, GROW deep in faith, and SERVE as bold witnesses in the world.

This is our vision. This is the essence of who we are and what we hope to become. And we believe this is transformational. To live out this vision, we must be people of God's Word and people of prayer who grow to be more and more like Jesus. All our dreams and desires become saturated with living for Him. And the result is a changed life that serves as a witness to Jesus' presence and love and power to transform.

So how is the growing going in my life and in yours? That is the question, isn't it? Don't be discouraged. Keep on growing. Follow Jesus passionately. Do no harm. Do good. Attend to the ordinances of God. He will give the growth and make us more and more like Jesus!


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