How do we develop godly character? How can we achieve peace? We can study the Bible to see how to build our fruits of the Spirit.
I'd like to ask you to turn with me if you would for a beginning scripture to John 15:8 John 15:8Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples.
American King James Version×. In John 15:8 John 15:8Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples.
American King James Version×, I'd like you to focus in on that scripture and take note of something that Jesus is stating, He's giving some very important instruction to the disciples but in verse 8, after He has emphasized the importance of being the vine, the source of real strength in the life of every man and woman who seeks to be a God-fearing individual He says you are the branches, you are the ones that bleed off of this vine and He says, this is important for you to understand. Then He comes to verse 8 and He says:
John 15:8 John 15:8Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples.
American King James Version×– "Herein is My Father...the most high God, the Father of all of us....here is My Father glorified...and then He says...that you must bear much fruit. So shall you be My disciples."
So the emphasis here again is something very important, that something called fruit must be borne in the life of every God-fearing man and woman and we will discuss more in depth what that fruit is and how it applies in just a moment. But He goes on in verse 16 and He emphasizes again this concept when He says:
V. 16 – "You have not chosen Me...and that is certainly true, down through time God has chosen individuals just like He has chosen us in our lifetime in this 21st century that we're now living in, for individuals to serve Him, the living God, as David served in his generation and others have served in past generations as well...so He said...You have not chosen Me but I have chosen you and ordained you that you should go and bring forth...notice again...fruit...some element called fruit and in this particular understanding He says...that your fruit should remain...this is not something that you and I are suppose to cultivate and have for just a short shot at it and then lose it, whatever this fruit is, God says it is something that needs to have an enduring impact on the life of the individual, it says that it should remain....and whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in My name, He shall give it to you."
In other words, do not put handcuffs on God the Father when it comes to seeking the help and the guidance you need because if you come through the name of Jesus Christ to the very Father of all spirits, we are told that the sky is the limit, God is there to come to our aid in a very wonderful way that most people have never even tapped the beginning of understanding.
The keynote that I want to stress today and I've entitled this sermon, to stress the importance of this thing of fruit we're talking about, I've entitled this message, "Spiritual Growth: The Fruit of a Converted Mind." Now this is very important because a converted mind is one that is dedicated to developing Godly character. Developing the virtues of Jesus Christ in his or her life so that that individual can be one of those that Jesus has said He has come that He might bring many sons and daughters unto glory and that is what we are to seek according to Paul in Romans. To seek glory, honor, immortality, eternal life in the kingdom of God.
But that doesn't come just by the natural blow of events; there are certain things that have to be understood, certain things that have to be implemented in the life of a man and a woman in order to make that a living reality and God guides us and helps us to understand that and so turn with me now to Romans 12 and see how the apostle Paul addressed this very matter. Here he stresses the following and he's talking to converted, God-fearing individuals because he calls them "brethren." Brethren is always the term that is used to connote the intimacy of men and women who are in a brotherhood of faith so to speak and a sisterhood of faith, that brings them in a close relationship with God and Jesus Christ and in this case he says:
Romans 12:1 Romans 12:1I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
American King James Version×– I beseech you therefore, brethren...and that's a sense of urgency thrown behind it...that by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice...so we're to live in such a way that our bodies, our temples, this life we have, represents a living sacrifice under a context of being...holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable...or spiritual...service.
This is what God has purposed for us, spiritual service as some of the translations refer to it and then it goes on in verse 2 to show you again why this thing of this fruit, this spiritual fruit that is to be borne, referring to spiritual growth in the life of a God-fearing man and woman...it says:
Verse 2 – Be not conformed to this world...why? Because that brings the opposite effect of what God is wanting in our lives. What does he ask us to do? Paul says, under the inspiration of God's spirit...but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
What we are being told here and the apostle Paul is clearly showing, is that a spiritual transformation is going on in the lives of those men and women who are called of God in their lifetime and really are called to see and understand the plan and purpose of God and this transformation is one that must be ongoing, there must be nothing that grieves or interrupts or disrupts that process, as we're going to see, because it's vital to the success of the man and woman who wants to be a true disciple and follower of Jesus Christ. It says, "Be not conformed to the world, but be transformed in the renewing of the mind." So this whole process of spiritual growth is going to take place in the mind, this is what is important to keep in mind. God is working from the inside out, He's not working from the outside in and this is where all of us struggle and fight on a day-to-day basis because as individuals, do you ever find yourself struggling from time to time, spiritually? We all do, anyone who says they don't, they're not being honest. It's like the scripture says, you say you have not sinned; the truth is not in you because we've all sinned and come short of the glory of God. But we're not striving to practice sin; we're not trying to do those things that are flagrant violations of the law of God or the things of God, that cause Him to be disruptive and upset with His children. It goes on to say clearly here that in this process, something transpired:
V. 2 - ...that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
So it shows that the will of God can be proven and understood. I've given you a message in the past on that very subject knowing that many people today are confused on the will of God, that there's three elements dealing with the overall will of God. The first one being that God's will is sovereign in all things; He's given sovereign rule and guidance over all His creation. Then I emphasized the importance of the scripture, talks about the preferential will of God and how that our human free will cannot overthrow the sovereign will of God but it can go contrary to the preferential will of God. If God says, Don't do this, you say, I don't want to – a human being can do that but it would be to our own hurt to do that. God doesn't want us to do that so He encourages us to, this is the way, walk you in it. Then He even has the element of the permissive will, when people come up with things that might not necessarily be specifically covered in scripture. God is able to see what man does and takes those things and works it out and covers and brings it all under His sovereign will, that's why it says, All things work for good to those that are called according to God's purpose. He can take all of this and bring it back in a miraculous way that you and I would have a hard time even trying to figure it out. But God can do that, that's why He is who He is.
Well the scripture goes on to show that after we embrace baptism and we have been brought to repentance and we come to baptism, then we undergo what the Bible calls a washing or the regeneration, it uses terms that might be a little foreign to us in some sense, but it basically means that you are being renewed through the power of God's holy spirit. Something now has been added to you through the laying on of hands and what transpires is this transformation begins in the minds of men and women now concerning the will of God, the plan of God, the purpose of God and what would God have us do as men and women living life. This is why Paul refers to it in Romans 6:4 Romans 6:4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
American King James Version×, he says that after baptism we rise and we "walk in newness of life." We're walking in a different pattern from the way we used to live and the way we used to walk and this becomes a very important area of our development in spiritual growth.
Now that renewal that we find from the scriptural admonition, to follow the example of Jesus Christ is telling us something, it's telling us that the concept we must understand and embrace is spiritual growth. You know just as a healthy physical life is one of physical growth, spiritually healthy life is a process also of growth. But there are some elements that we need to keep in mind because sadly there are many individuals, well-meaning individuals, people who claim to be Christian but are not growing spiritually and they say so themselves, they know, they're sitting in congregations and they're as empty as a hollow log. They're writing books about things like this and they're saying, "What's missing?" I would submit Matthew 25...is there no oil in the congregation, is there something missing in the life of the individual that they feel empty and hollow inside? Something needs to be done to embrace that and Christians for years have carried on in certain ways of conduct and there's basically been no change in their life, there's been no dynamic change in their life. They just go about doing the standard way of doing things and all too often what they end up doing, they fail to grow, they just become, as we say, stale or stagnant and there's a warning even to the Church of God in the book of Revelation concerning the Sardis Church of God. That one group of individuals say, you have a name, just like people have the name of "Christian" but they're dead, they're not going anywhere because there is no understanding of the dynamism of God's plan and purpose for human life. They don't know why they were born. All the interviews today, people are asking that same question, Why was I born? Why was I put here? Why am I a male? Why am I a female? Why does it have to be this way? Why does it have to be that way? I mean we're "why'd" to death today by questions that people are wondering about and they have a right to know! And God has purposed that the word of God can supply the answers to what they need, but they're not listening.
Spiritual growth, in essence, is a daily choice of the individual. It's a daily choice, it's not something that just happens and that's what's important to understand because it's not like physical life and the growth process or what we call maturation process. A physical human being comes into the world as a little baby. We have some little babies right here and all of a sudden one day those little babies will be young teenagers and suddenly they'll be young adults and then they'll be getting married and going off into their own world of endeavors and dreams. The thing that keeps this whole thing in perspective is the fact that that's just physical growth by default but spiritual growth does not happen by default, it happens by choice. Exercising one's free moral agency to choose to do what the scripture has outlined. So spiritual growth then, like emotional maturity, occurs only when you choose to grow up, when you choose to do it the way it is suppose to be.
Now today we see the Christian community gearing up to prepare for what they call the Lenten services before the Easter holiday period of time and they're really going to sacrifice for God by giving up cigarettes, chocolate, Coca-Cola – I mean those are really important things when you really get down to it and I'm sure God is really moved by stuff like that – I'm speaking, obviously, factiously. But the truth of the matter is, we are being prepared for the Lord's Passover. It's something we should take very seriously and that's why we have given this series of sermons, for the purpose of doing what the scripture says, evaluate ourselves. Not to throw stones at one another, not to throw stones at yourself and that's very important dear brethren, do not beat yourself down when you find you're falling short in some area. That is not Christian. You can look on the news in the evening and you can see people who worship in the Hindu religion for example, and they're sticking long spears through their mouth and out the other end, this is the way they worship their gods? They're running across coals of fire, I'm sure glad God didn't call us to do that! I'm sure glad He gave us a better way and the way that He gave us was the word of God given for guidance and help to provide the wisdom and knowledge and understanding that you and I lack.
So let's take a look at the very first important area here as we examine this subject on Spiritual Growth; the Fruit of a Converted Mind. I want to emphasize that because there are a lot of people today running around claiming to be Christian and they have no more spiritual fruit and growth in their life than the man in the moon and their conduct reveals that, there's well many well people and many of them do in part what the scripture says but there are many things they leave out and that's what we have to make constantly aware in our own personal lives, that we're not leaving things out that God says we should be doing.
So the first thing let's take a look at and remember in Matthew 28, turn if you will to the Great Commission, as it's referred to in Matt. 28 and notice what Jesus stated at that time. Gearing up the disciples now to go out and take one of the greatest responsibilities that had ever been entrusted to individuals and if you will, please take note, their training was basically done through Jesus Christ and then the addition of the holy spirit that came to them on Pentecost as Acts 2 refers to it. But how many organizations today, to take on one of the greatest challenges, how many would take a fisherman, a tax collector...you get the point, you take a wide variety of what people today would say non-descript people and you're using them? God says I love using them! And the reason why is because when you look at it you'll say, who are they? They're nobodies. But God says, Yeah I love to use nobodies, I just do, because then My power is made clear. In their weakness everyone will see I am exalted in this. If I used all you guys and gals who think you're so great and so smart, you'd take all the glory to yourself and the scripture says in the book of Romans, "I will not have any flesh glory before Me." So our calling is one of what? Recognizing who and what we are, not looking above and beyond what we are but glorying in what God says we can become through His miraculous intervention and transformation in our life and this is what is the hope for all human beings of all societies, of all cultures because God is no respecter of persons, He has made us all in His image, all of one blood. And He has purposed something so great and wonderful and so the first thing He does, He tells us in Matthew 28:18 Matthew 28:18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
American King James Version×:
Matthew 28:18-19 Matthew 28:18-19  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
 Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
American King James Version×– Jesus came and spoke unto them saying, "All power...all authority...is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. I want you to go now therefore and teach all nations...you have a responsibility to transmit something to people...I want you to baptize...those who are responding...baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the holy spirit, and...notice...teaching them...it is an instructional period and there is a difference between a believer and a follower of Jesus Christ. A lot of people today claim to believe in Jesus Christ. That's fine and good, but actually you need to bump it up one step further than that. The scripture is actually commanding you to be a disciple – to do what?...teaching them to observe all things what I have commanded you."
So you're making disciples in other words, of all nations and in this process of making disciples of them, what is a disciple? It is one who has learned how he or she must conduct themselves in their personal life and this is what God has outlined here and Jesus is showing that spiritual growth in essence is commanded of the follower of Jesus Christ, not just the believer. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you automatically believe in Him that goes hand in hand. But if you just believe...I hear many today say that they believe in Jesus Christ and Jesus comes right back and says, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord? And you don't do the things I say?" All you have to do is go through the gospel accounts and see a few things that He says and you see immediately what He's talking about.
So again, the great commission shows that we are to be in the process of teaching and preparing individuals in this calling and it was specifically stated by the apostles as they went forth. Let's take a look at II Peter 3:18. If you will note here how the apostle Peter addressed the matter. He said:
II Pet. 3:18 – But grow...so here again, spiritual growth is necessary, he's not just talking about physical growth, remember that's by default, that happens automatically, you just grow up from young up through the years and you advance through the seasons of life, but spiritual growth is quite different and spiritual growth he says is in the context of something...what? Grace. God must administer grace – unmerited pardon to all of us as human beings who want to learn and understand about what? The knowledge of Jesus Christ. We are to grow through the grace that is provided, this kindness that God has given and... in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To know who and what He was and what made Him tick and how He operated in living life because you and I are to be patterned after Him. We're to be stamped with the same character, virtues and behavior patterns as He demonstrated and when God the Father looks at each and everyone of us, He's looking to see, do I see Jesus Christ in these individuals who claim to be Mine, who worship Me in spirit and truth? Remember, I and the Father are one and if you don't receive the Son, you don't have the Father and you receive the Father by receiving the Son and so this becomes a very important aspect of growing in grace and that knowledge. Let's back it up a little bit to II Peter 1:5-8, it lists some of these virtues, the virtues of faith and knowledge and self-control and how we're to be abounding in these things and notice in verse 8:
II Peter 1:8 – Now if these things...that He's already outlined in the prior verses...be in you and abound...notice, if they're abounding that means there's growth pattern here, there's something happening in our lives...if they are abounding, they make you and you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Because that is the whole essence of where our life revolves. I am the door, I am the Vine, I am the One, you all spin off of Me, and this is constantly affirmed by Christ Himself in many of His statements. Now the Christian in the bible is also rebuked sternly if they do not grow. Let's take a look at that in Hebrews 5 if you will. It says:
Hebrews 5:12 Hebrews 5:12For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
American King James Version×– For when for a time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again of the first principles of the oracles of God...the things of God, the words of God that are provided for our learning...and are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat.
God wants our spiritual growth patterns to develop so that we can take on some of the deeper and more powerful elements of God's word that He wants to share with us through Jesus Christ and remember it was Jesus Christ who walked with His disciples after He was resurrected and He asked a few questions and they didn't...well you know, haven't You heard what's been going on? And then it says, "And when He opened their minds to understanding of the scripture, then they understood..." and then boom, He disappeared out of their sight. So that's the keynote, that your mind has to have an opening given to it by God. He's the one who creates the transformation.
All right, lets go on into the second area, the first area we have seen very clearly that spiritual growth, for it to function and be the fruit of a converted mind has to be what? You have to recognize it has been commanded of God and God expects it of us. Otherwise you know people grow up doing things in life, well what is expected of me? God tells us right up front, this is what I expect of you. You saw it in John where He said, My Father is glorified if you bear much fruit but the fruit I want you to bear must not dissipate, it must be with you. I think another area of scripture that clearly defines that type of fruit in another way, I'm not going to turn there for sake of time, but it's in the book of Galatians where it talks about the fruit of the spirit. When God's spirit is working in your life, there are certain benefits of that spirit that are going to be made manifest and if that's what you're asking God to bear in your life, you think He does not have the power to do that? We can't bring it to ourselves, but He can bring it to us and He does have that capacity to work in and through us as we're going to see.
But again, unlike physical growth, physical growth is by default but the reason, and the second important point to keep in mind, not only does God command it, but two, it requires diligent effort. It doesn't require any effort to grow up physically, but to grow up spiritually requires effort, you have to make yourself pray, you have to make yourself study, you have to make yourself go in the direction that God points. Our job in the Millennium, according to the prophecy in Isaiah, it says people will need help. And how will the instructors be? They will come and say, this is the way, walk you in it. They'll point the way, but the people will have to do the walking. It doesn't say I'll walk for you; we all have to make that choice with our free moral agency that we want to walk in the ways of God. So it's important to keep this factor in mind. No effort is required on our part in terms of we mature physically, whether we like it or not, I mean you can't stop yourself from growing unless you did some crazy thing to shorten your life. But if you just kept going through life, you would just go through the normal human patterns of human physical life. But do not think that just because you grow older physically means you're growing older spiritually, it does not mean that. There are many people who have grown older but they're not spiritual, they're still very much babes and have not understood the seriousness of what God is saying.
Because they fail to recognize too that there are many clashes that go on in our lives as men and women with regard to the mind that God is trying to create within us and what is called in the scripture, the carnal mind that we all have and everyone has to fight this mind. That's what Paul was struggling with, he said, when my mind is focused on the ways of God, the law of God, that's where I want to go, but he says, when I don't do that, then I end up going that other way and I find this other law working on me, pulling me in the direction I don't want to go. Now how many of us have experienced that type of thing? We all have, we've all experienced it to one degree in living life, you come in contact with that struggle that the bible addresses. So spiritual growth requires effort, Jesus said so in John 6:27 John 6:27Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give to you: for him has God the Father sealed.
American King James Version×when He said:
John 6:27 John 6:27Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give to you: for him has God the Father sealed.
American King James Version×– "Labor not for the meat that perishes, but labor for the things that are everlasting...the things that He could provide, that He, as the Son of God was ordained by God the Father to bring to the human well-being and family.
Please take a note in Philippians 2:12 Philippians 2:12Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
American King James Version×, what the apostle Paul addressed, this is one of my personal favorite scriptures because it keeps me mindful again of just what is required and whose doing it.
Philippians 2:12 Philippians 2:12Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
American King James Version×– Wherefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence only, but how much more in my absence, work out...notice, you've got to be involved, this takes labor, work...work out your own salvation but do it in the context of fear and trembling. Realizing who you're dealing with here. It goes on to say:
V. 13 – But be encouraged because it is God which works in you both to...notice...will...He strengthens our willpower to do the things He has revealed to us...and to do His good pleasure.
We can't take any credit for it ourselves. When we say, we've done this or we've done that, we'd be very foolish to do that. What we have to do is acknowledge where it comes from, it's God who is doing it in and through us, that's the miraculous transformation taking place and then it says:
V. 14 – Do all things...everything you're involved in...do all things without murmuring and disputing.
And we live in a murmuring and disputing world dear brethren, so we have to be on guard and we have to realize spiritual growth means that we have to concentrate on the things and press on, as Philippians 2:12 Philippians 2:12Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
American King James Version×and 13 clearly show. Peter realized that it would require diligence. Notice again, II Peter 1:5 and when he begins to enlist all these different virtues of Christian character that we have to develop in our life and our personal conduct, he says:
II Pet. 1:5 – Besides this, giving all diligence...notice, don't be haphazard, he says...giving all diligence...
This is something that requires a diligent approach and you'll find in the scriptures and in the proverb where it says "the hand of the diligent shall bear rule" and that's exactly what God is training us to do, to bear rule in the kingdom of God as His sons and daughters and to demonstrate this wonderful way of life that He has opened our eyes to see and understand as forerunners of something that is going to explode into the most wonderful and dazzling dream as we say, like the fairy tales you know, and they lived happily ever after. People do not live happily ever after in this world but we have to look to the world to come as God has outlined through His scriptures – this is where we find it! It is contained in the word of God, how He's going to bring it to pass and if you bump this thing up, verse 4, you'll notice also that he is speaking of something here, that great and precious promises were given to us that by these we might be partakers of the divine nature. A nature is being formed in us, it's a divine nature, we all have human nature, but we weren't born with divine nature, God is creating divine nature in each and every one of us, miraculously to His glory and sometimes it's hard to see.
You look at yourself, you wake up in the morning and you say to yourself, I wonder if I'm even growing because you always see the physical, up front. But what you don't see many times is what God is doing in the invisible realm of your life, the inward man, because He's concentrating on the inward man, He wants us how we think, how we operate mentally because if we have the right focus and if you were the devil, what would you like to do concerning the focus? You would like to break the focus and concentration of the saints of God. Get their minds off on this, get their minds off on that and what do we have today? That's one of the great problems, we've got so many distractions and things that take our mind here there and everywhere and where should our mind be? It should be focused right here on spiritual growth because our mission is to do what? To grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ so that we can have the fruit of a converted mind. Not to just walk around and say, "I'm converted, I'm a Christian." Yeah, a lot of people have said that and they have songs written by that, like Joe South wrote years ago about how they come up to you, "singing glory hallelujah and then they sock it to you in the name of the Lord because it's the games people play."
But God is not playing games, He's called us to salvation and He says, you know where you stand don't you My children? You're all on sinking sand, quicksand, you're going down and without Me, you won't survive. And so God has given us the wonderful understanding that it does take, yes, an awareness that we are commanded to do this, but two, we have a part to play in it, that's where we have to add diligent effort and we don't always do that perfectly, some days are better than others, but God is telling us, look, don't beat yourself down when that happens, you just take one day at a time and make that day the very best you can and when you falter, what does it say in the Proverbs? The righteous man stumbles seven times and gets back up again because you know the way you've got to go again, it's the only way that will bring us what we need and that is salvation, the redemption of our very soul, our very life and only God can do that.
So that brings us to the third thing that we need to understand, but before I get to that third thing, one other scripture, I Timothy 4:7-8. And here we're reminded again of something very important, that in living life we are to do what? We're to:
I Tim. 4:7-8 ...refuse profane and old wives fables and we are to exercise ourselves...means to stir yourself up, exercise...unto godliness. And then he goes on to say...for bodily exercise profits little...or for a little while...but godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is...and notice...that which is to come.
So there is a life after this life and we are told part of our responsibility is make sure we exercise regularly in spiritual matters and if we don't exercise in spiritual matters, there is no spiritual growth, that is what it is telling us. We have to exercise...and then it goes on and talks about all these things, how we are equipped with every good work by following these examples that the scripture gives to us.
But now the third point I want to stress in this message is this: You and I are being reminded that we have access to unlimited and incredible power through the spirit of God and we sometimes forget that. The spirit of God is what is doing the work in and through us, God sends, through the power of His spirit, Jesus Christ's very thoughts, minds, and actions to dwell within us as well as God the Father comes and takes residence in our thinking. We think about our Father in heaven, we pray to Him and we realize He's our Father God. The scripture says, Abba Father, Daddy God, He's our Daddy. It's like we have physical parents, we have a spiritual parent, in this case, our Father in heaven. The church is pictured as Jerusalem above, the mother of us all, there's a place for all of us in the plan and purpose of God if we choose to be there. Now that brings us to the third point is this: God has promised to assist us in this matter, He has bound Himself to assist us in this matter of developing spiritual growth – He's the one who gives us the ability to will and do His good pleasure. Some days carnality gets in the way and we don't do His will and good pleasure all that well and that's when the spirit of God says, it's time to repent, because if you don't repent what are you doing? You're grieving the spirit of God, you grieve the spirit of God when you go out and you frustrate that transformation process that God is working in our lives and that's what He wants us to keep in mind. That we are not alone in our efforts, I've already given you Philippians 2:12-13 Philippians 2:12-13  Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
 For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
American King James Version×. God desires to finish something He is starting in us. Notice Philippians 1:6 Philippians 1:6Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×. Here the apostle Paul is addressing the Philippian church of God and he's telling them:
Philippians 1:6 Philippians 1:6Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×– Being confident of this very thing...he wanted them to have a confident approach and outlook toward this whole matter of their calling and conversion and he says that...He which has begun a good work in you...what is the work? It is the work of transformation of our human carnal way of thinking and doing things and transforming us into spiritual minded sons and daughters of God so that the growth can mature on that spiritual level and notice it says He wants to perform this good work in us...until the day of Christ.
In other words, right up until that time we are told, be confident, this good work has started in us and He will perform it in us right up to that time. It's not going to stop the process. So we are strengthened by these efforts, we are told in Ephesians 6:10-11 Ephesians 6:10-11  Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
American King James Version×that we are to be strong in the might of God and to put on the whole armor of God because we need that to fight what we are up against in the day to day combat against Satan and this world. There is no excuse not to grow is what the scripture is saying. If we are not choosing to grow it's because we are not asking Christ to strengthen us and "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me", according to the apostle Paul.
So we have these wonderful admonitions given to us and we know that many blessings come as a result of that very thing but there are some areas that I would like to focus in on as we draw to conclusion on this message this afternoon. There is a danger zone that we must all guard against, a danger zone, and it's as real in this subject talking about growing as anything else because the Bible addresses it.
This last category tells us in this danger zone that growth of just any sort is not good enough. God is not just interested in growth in certain areas and I'll show you one of the areas He's not interested in. In Matthew 13:15 Matthew 13:15For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
American King James Version×, in that area He says He is not interested in seeing hearts that have grown dull. Hearts that grow dull, because as it says there, something was impacting these people.
Matthew 13:15 Matthew 13:15For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
American King James Version×– For this people's heart has waxed gross and their ears are dull of hearing and their eyes they have closed lest at any time they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and they should be converted.
So in essence, what he is showing, is that here is something that has happened to these people, they have grown into a condition that is hurting them spiritually. Other examples, such as Matthew 24:12 Matthew 24:12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
American King James Version×where it says "iniquity waxes abound" and what happened? It says "the love of many grows cold." You become cold and heartless and indifferent, this is the world we live in.
Then we have dangers of Galatians 6:9 Galatians 6:9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
American King James Version×where it says don't "grow weary of well-doing" because that is what we are all called to do, to do the good works that God has outlined in scripture for us and we are not to get corrupted by the lusts of this world and become caught up in that, growing ourselves into a corrupt form of conduct. There's a lot of compromise and corrupt conduct going on today in this world and we've seen it and it's a very sad thing to have to witness.
Let's take a look very quickly, a very powerful one here in II Tim. 3:13, notice what it says, and it's just informed us that in the last days perilous times would be coming and a lot of problems would exist that are outlined there and in verse 13 it says:
II Tim. 3:13 – But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Now when they wax worse and worse, that means that is the way the trend is, that's the growing trend of the time, waxing worse and so we see that the wrong type of growth can be deadly, God does not want any of this kind of growth in our life, that's why He alerts us to it in the scripture, that's why He tells us very plainly in II Tim. 1, if you'll go there, verse 6-7.
II Tim. 1:6-7 – Wherefore I put you in remembrance...he tells Timothy...that you stir up the gift of God which is in you by the putting on of my hands, for God has not given us the spirit of fear...but notice...but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Because that sound-mindedness is where spiritual growth takes place. When a person is sound-minded, spiritually, they will reflect spiritual growth of a converted mind that will be the fruit of it. A person will not be coming off the wall with radical commentary and so forth that is so contrary to what Christ has advocated for our lifestyle. That's why when somebody says, "No, the Sabbath is done away" – not if you listen to Jesus Christ it's not. He says, "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." And He is the Lord of the Sabbath. Why do we do it? People say you want to worship a day...no, we don't want to worship a day, we worship the God who gave us the day, the Sabbath was made for us, for man, for what purpose? To do what we're doing now – to assemble, to have fellowship in spirit with our God, to love our Father in spirit and truth and our elder brother Jesus Christ and to fellowship with one another. That's part of our command and responsibility.
These other types of growth are like cancerous cells to the Christian life, you don't want it in your life, you don't want to go there. And so, please remember, we've been talking about spiritual growth, the kind that is a growth that reflects the spirit of a converted mind. It's commanded of God, it requires diligent effort as we reevaluate ourselves we have to ask ourselves in these areas, have I really taken note of these things? Have I capitalized on the assistance that God makes available to me or am I just letting things slide, just kind of playing a loose Christianity here? And do I see the wonderful blessing of God in all of this and the danger zones that I need to stay away from? These are important things, we have to ask ourselves how are we doing at this time of the year and then remember that Jesus made it very clear that in Matthew 11:28-30 Matthew 11:28-30  Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
 Take my yoke on you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.
 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
American King James Version×, He made the following statement:
Matthew 11:28 Matthew 11:28Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
American King James Version×– "Come unto Me...that's where you go to find resolution in this matter dealing with sin and especially with regard to spiritual growth, it only comes when we get close to Jesus Christ and it says...all you who labor... you see there is labor involved in living life, but He also said...and are heavy laden...many of you have a lot of problems and difficulties you may be struggling with and He's saying...and I will give you rest."
He has the ability to execute in our life an inner peace that we cannot generate of ourselves. It says I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind stays on Me. Focus that mind, concentrate that mind and God has promised to assist us and to help us and what we will then see as Passover approaches, a renewed resurgence of spiritual growth in all of our lives and this is why Peter said what he did with regard to "Grow in the grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ." May God help us all to really embrace those words with a deeper feeling and understanding and appreciation of all that God is desiring of us. We are going to see a time in the years ahead where spiritual growth is going to determine an awful lot in the lives of men and women in the body of Christ. May God grant that we have the right kind of spiritual growth.