Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

Principles of Christian Growth

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” Acts 2:42

Introduction

A farmer needs to plow, cultivate, and pull out weeds in his field to get the crops to grow. Likewise, Christians need to undertake certain activities to grow into spiritual maturity. In this lesson I will summarize six key steps for your continued Christian growth. They are Bible study, prayer, fellowship, outreach, worship and lordship.

I. PERSONAL BIBLE STUDY

In the last lesson you learned several principles to use In Bible study. Based on that important foundation, I show you one special kind of Bible study called the inductive method. There are three steps to follow: observation, interpretation, and application. 

1. The first step is observation. Determine what the passage actually says. Read the section over a few times to get the overview, and then dig out the details: facts, people, figures, writer, readers, grammar, culture, history, and geography. Determine the context. Find the purpose of the writer. What is the thought progression? Use all the principles you learned in lesson ten.

2. The second step is interpretation. Find out what the passage actually means. Discover the major theme. Locate the spiritual truth the writer is communicating to the readers. Separate out what aspects relate only to that time and culture. Determine what the passage teaches us about God and how He relates to us. What doctrines are taught? How is the theme developed? What are the spiritual truths taught? What is the main lesson? 

The key thing is to discover the eternal, abiding principles that remain the same in all cultures and times of history.

3. The third step is application. This requires prayer to have God show you the true needs in your life. Conduct an honest appraisal of your live. Don’t sink into morbid introspection, but conduct a fair examination of what areas need change (1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5). 

Then ask yourself, what does the result of the above steps mean to me personally? How do those eternal principles apply to me today? Do I have attitudes that need changing? Sins to confess and put away? Behavior to avoid or copy? Examples to follow? Promises to believe? Commands to obey? Prayers to pray? What dimensions of my life can be improved: my quality of life? Relationships to others? Personal character? Activities and priorities? Spiritual life? Look for the “main morsel,” or that truth which personally stands out to you and seems to impress your heart in a real, fresh, and special way.

Remember that the goal of all this study is that we might become conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Not only is Christ God, but He is a person who desires our close fellowship (1 John 1:1-7). To strengthen, develop and fully experience that special relationship we must learn about Christ - and the only source of knowledge is the Bible.



II. PERSONAL PRAYER LIFE

Prayer is simply reverent, sincere conversation with God in an attitude of humility and faith. The Bible commands us to pray and leaves us with over 350 examples of how to pray. Prayer is inspiring, empowering and plain hard work. It is both public and private. 

Prayer solves problems and changes people. It is universally recognized. Prayer is crucial to spiritual growth. Great revivals have started because of prolonged prayer by God’s people.

The purpose of prayer is threefold.

1. First, we pray for personal devotion, worship, and communion with God (Luke 18:1). If every Christian would pray one hour daily dramatic change would occur in our lives, families, churches, countries. This type of prayer renews, strengthens, and brings hope, and humility. 

2. Prayer is for growth in Christian virtues (Matthew 26:41). Prayerlessness leads to sin, spiritual weakness and our character crumbles.

3. We pray to receive God’s benefits (Matthew 7:7).

God helps us in prayer. He has given us the Holy Spirit who teaches us how to pray in God’s will relative to various situations (Romans 8:26). One of the most staggering things about prayer is that God has given us personal access to Himself, and desires us to approach Him (John 14:6; 16:23, 24; Hebrews 4:16). 

When we pray in Jesus’ name we acknowledge our submission to God and admit that our only means of access is through Christ. God has also given us many promises in the Bible to instruct and give hope and assurance (1 John 5:14, 15). He has instructed on how to pray. 

For example, the model prayer given by Jesus to the disciples tells us to adore and praise God, acknowledge our subjection to Him, confess our sins, protect us from temptation, sin, and Satan, and ask for our needs to be met (Matthew 6:9-13; see also 1 Chronicles 29:10-19; Psalm 32:2-5; 1 John 1:9; Proverbs 28:13; Philippians 1:3-5; Colossians 1:3). We are told to pray with persistence and faith (Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 18:1-8; Matthew 21:21, 22). We are to address God the Father in our prayers. 

One way to remember a sequence of prayer is the acronym ACTS. A=adoration. C=confession. T=thanksgiving. S=supplication, or requests. Another pattern is to memorize the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), and then pray through the prayer, but make it personal to you. For example, rather than saying, “Our Father,” say, “My Father”. Another way to learn how to pray is to go through the Psalms, and pray them back to God – only make them personal to you and your situation. The Psalms are David’s prayers.

The physical position of prayer does not matter. You can kneel, stand, be on your face, raise your hands, pray in your car, in bed – it does not matter. Pray as often as you can. Some people pray and have devotions early in the morning, and some pray at noon, and some at night. Some pray all three times. The amount of time does not matter. However, the more you pray, the closer your fellowship with God. 

Remember, it is a personal relationship between you and God. The more you have fellowship, the deeper and more meaningful the relationship. You might want to start with 15 minutes, and then increase the time gradually. Don’t mechanically recite prayers, or just say some words over and over by repetition. You are talking to another person, God, so talk in your own respectful words just like you would to another person. You can pray written prayers, but make sure you know what you are saying, and genuinely mean them from your heart.

You can pray whatever comes to your mind, or be more systematic and make a prayer list. It is a good practice to keep a list, and then go back periodically to see how many prayers God has answered. 

From prayer being vital to Christian growth, I now turn to fellowship. 

III. PERSONAL FELLOWSHIP FOR GROWTH

1. Christian fellowship is mandatory for Christian growth. People are social beings, created in the image of God and designed to require the friendship, cooperation, support and community of others. Fellowship is woven into the fabric of human existence. People are bound together by an awareness of mutual belonging, shared interests, social and economic interdependence. 

Christians have a unique fellowship: both with the living God of the universe and His children - our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we stop our fellowship from either of these, our spiritual lives will wither (cf. Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:24, 25).

2. Acts 2:41, 42 gives a good picture of fellowship. Verse 42 says, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” The word “fellowship” means community, association, sharing, friendship - that bond which binds Christians to each other and Christ. It means continuing commitment to one another, a regular ongoing relationship. Fellowship is having common interests, activities, feelings, comradeship - spending time and doing things with others who love Christ. The glue that holds us together is Jesus Christ and His interests.

3. One dimension of fellowship is with God. We Christians have a privilege not given to anyone else on earth: fellowship with God (1 John 1:3, 6). This is an unbelievable honor and even a duty. Our fellowship with the Father is based on our relationship with Him, our obedience and its experience is joy and happiness. Our fellowship with Christ is in sharing His sufferings, joys and His inheritance (1 Corinthians 1:9; Philippians 3:10; Romans 8:17, 18). 

Our fellowship with the Holy Spirit is living in His presence, companionship, drawing on His help, guidance and empowerment. We have the unparalleled, truly amazing and humbling experience of being the temple and dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; 3:16; 6:19). This experience is shared both by the lowest of commoners and the highest of nobility and royalty.

4. Our fellowship is also with other Christians. It is characterized by common friendship experienced in Christian service, church, small groups, meals, recreation, and Bible studies. It is based on a common Christian knowledge (1 John 1:3). Only true friends of Jesus can be true Christian friends. Our Christian fellowship is a practical, genuine, commitment, and sharing with one another (Acts 2:42; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:13; Philippians 1:5). It is a relationship of helping, encouraging, reclaiming backsliders, and being team members in the grand cause of Jesus Christ: getting out the gospel to the ends of the world. 

From fellowship as a key to Christian growth, I move us next to examine the experience of worship.

IV. PERSONAL WORSHIP TO THE LIVING GOD OF THE UNIVERSE

1. The Bible teaches that there is just one God and ruler over the entire universe. He is to be revered, loved, praised, obeyed, called upon, trusted in, called upon for mercy, and served with all our being (Luke 10:27). We are to worship only the God of the Bible - no others. To worship is to esteem, honor, serve, bow before, and hold in awe. It is the humble occupation of the soul with God. Humanity is made to worship God (Psalm 42:1, 2). God is to be worshipped in the manner He designed and on His terms - not ours. While it is true He is our father, friend and helper - He is also God. 

2. The Bible says that true worshipers, “worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (John 4:23). This means worship is an inward experience not an outward ritual or ceremony. True worship is from genuine faith and a sincere heart as opposed to the false and hypocritical. It produces praise, prayer, purity, and obedience. Worship is genuine, plain, and simple. 

Worship is also only through Christ (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; Ephesians 2:18). Many religions in the world claim to worship God, but they do not worship the true God, because there is only one way of access to God: through Jesus Christ. Some say that all religions lead to God. That is wrong, according to Jesus who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:7).

Worship can be private, family or public (Matthew 6:6; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20; Jeremiah 10:25; 1 Peter 3:7; Acts 10:2; Hebrews 10:26).

3. There are several expressions of worship. Participating in the ordinances (or Sacraments) is worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; Matthew 28:19). Worship includes the preaching, teaching, and reading of Scripture (Acts 11:26; 15:21, 35; 20:7; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2). Prayer with thanksgiving, singing with praise and adoration with enjoyment are worship (Acts 2:42; Revelation 5:8, 9, 14; Colossians 13: 16). Christian service and financial giving are acts of worship (Revelation 5:9; 7:15; Psalm 96:8; Hebrews 13:15, 16; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; Philippians 4:18). 

These acts must spring from a heart that genuinely worships in spirit and truth. Man made ceremony, pomp, protocol, and rituals with holy garments, instruments, altars and such do not impress God. The Bible says, “for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). God looks at the motivation, intent, love, and submission of our heart. 

I do not mean that we cannot have elaborate ceremonies and vestures in worship, but those things are worthless if they do not come as a genuine expression of adoration, submission, and faith from the heart. Some things can be used as teaching instruments and symbols of our faith. For example, we can use a cross as a reminder and expression of our faith. 

The fifth part of our personal Christian growth that I explain is evangelism, to which I now turn.

V. EVANGELISM TO THE UNSAVED

1. The central task of the church is world evangelism. In His Great Commission Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15; see also Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 14:23; 19:10; 24:45-48; John 4:34, 35; 15:16; 20:21; Acts 1:8; 10:42, 43; Romans 10:13-15; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20). 

The direct command from Christ instruct a fivefold process: 1. get the gospel to every person now living; 2. lead people to salvation; 3. get converts baptized and into a local church; 4. teach converts all that Jesus commanded (the discipleship process); 5. keep the cycle of evangelism in progress until Christ returns. Our authority to evangelize is from Christ himself, along with the power to do so. 

2. Our power for evangelism is from the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). The methods of evangelism vary. They include mass evangelism crusades, radio, TV, literature, small Bible studies, medical and educational works, church planting, internet, street preaching, missionary work, youth work, Sunday school, preaching - and many other methods. The entire church, using the abilities God has given us, work together as a team to evangelize. The goal always remains the same, but methods must change to fit the particular situation. Sometimes, evangelism must go underground.

3. Of most importance, however, is the personal soul-winning of individuals. Every individual is called to be a witness for Christ. We witness both by our steady Christian lives, and telling others how to be saved. We prayerfully witness with tact and gentleness, yet with faithful perseverance. We love people, build friendship bridges and explain the gospel to them when they permit. Most people will not accept Christ as Savior, but many will. Do not become discouraged. Evangelism is simply a conversation between people with the Christian explaining the gospel message and trusting God to bring results. Again, soul-winning must be mixed with caution in many parts of the world.

4. The content of the gospel message is four-fold: 1. mankind has sinned against God; 2. there is a severe penalty for sin - eternity in hell; 3. Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross, was buried and rose from the dead to pay sin’s penalty and grant eternal life; 4. to receive this as individuals we must personally receive Christ as Savior. This means we believe the gospel in our heart and by a sincere prayer of faith ask Christ to forgive our sins and to be our Savior (1 John 5:11-13; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-13; John 1:12; 3:16; Revelation 3:20). We now turn to the final phase of Christian growth, the lordship of Christ over our lives 

VI. THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST

1. Christ is not only our Savior, but also our Lord and Master. Paul said, “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:5) - clear, strong language! From this verse and others it is clear that we are not our own to do as we please, but we belong as servants to Christ. Our full submission, obedience, and loyalty is to one master: Jesus Christ and His interests.

2. The Bible describes two groups of Christians in the world: carnal and spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3). Carnal, or fleshly, Christians are saved but act like unsaved people. Their lives, attitudes, priorities and activities are in friendship with the world, flesh and Satan. They are not filled with the Holy Spirit. 

They may obey Christ in certain things, but reserve other areas of their life to live as they please. They may be faithful in church attendance and giving, yet commit adultery, lie, reject the Bible, steal, curse, hold grudges – and the list goes on (Galatians 19-21). They may even live respectable lives, yet in their hearts they hold Christ at a distance. In their hearts they are indifferent to Christ. Christ is not the Lord of every area of their life. Someone said, “Christ is either Lord of all, or not Lord at all”. 

The remedy for this condition is to confess and put away our sins, surrender our total life to Christ, and by faith walk In the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:9; Galatians 5:16-26). Let me encourage you to surrender you lives fully to the lordship of Christ and be a spiritually mature Christian – fully surrendered to the lordship of Christ. 

With this I finish this special series of eleven lessons on Christian Foundations. I pray that you will continue to study and faithfully live out these precious truths as you go on and grow in the grace and knowledge of our great Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Specifically, you and I have covered major doctrines of the Bible, God, Christ, mankind, the Holy Spirit, the church, future things, salvation, angels, Bible study, and Christian growth. All the best to you in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

THE WAY TO SALVATION

To the reader: if you have come to the end of this little book, and realize you have never personally received Jesus Christ as your Savior, then I invite you to do so now. Remember the four steps:

1. Agree in your heart with God that you are a sinner in need of His salvation (Romans 3:23). 

2. Know in your heart that there is a penalty to your sin that you cannot pay (Romans 6:23). 

3. Believe in your heart that Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead to fully pay the penalty for your sins, and to give you the free gift of eternal life (Romans 5:8; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8, 9).

4. By faith pray to God: tell Him you believe the above in your heart and ask Him to save you through Jesus Christ (John 1:12, 13; Revelation 3:20: Romans 10:9-13).

Remember that God is more concerned with the attitude of your heart rather than your exact words. The following is a suggested prayer: 

“Heavenly Father, I admit to you that I am a sinner in need of your salvation. I believe that Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay for my sins and to give me eternal life. I believe that only through Christ can I be saved. I ask for and accept your free gift of salvation. Please come into my heart and be my Savior and Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 

Signed: ________________  Date: __________

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