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 Chapter 1: Spiritual Growth Isn't Easy

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Molly
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PostSubject: Chapter 1: Spiritual Growth Isn't Easy   Mon May 19, 2008 4:39 pm

Chapter 1: Spiritual Growth Isn't Easy

[Keep in mind that I am summarizing each chapter and adding thoughts of my own.]


Do you want to grow in Christ but you don't feel like making the effort to do so? Has your faith become complacent and cold? Have you become too comfortable in your faith? The book compares spiritual growth to bodybuilding. Some of you guys might want big muscles, but you don't want to take the time or energy to make the effort to work out. Bodybuilding and spiritual growth have some principles in common. Bodybuilding takes physical effort - and lots of it if you want to achieve. Spiritual growth also takes effort - and lots of it if you want to achieve.

We're used to fast food, just-add-water recipes, and ads that claim instant success. And in our fast-paced society where everything comes to us when we need it, we tend to forget and overlook the fact that spiritual growth takes effort.

Some of us would like to have a “fast-food faith”, meaning we get a "quick diet of Jesus" and that's it. But there’s no such thing as “a quick diet of Jesus”. We need to go deeper - "fast-food faith" doesn't last OR make a difference for Christ. Spiritual growth requires time and discipline. It requires something of you.

So how do we go about this spiritual growth? Well, it begins with Jesus. He is the central focus of a maturing faith. When we find that our faith has become dry, usually we've taken our focus off of Jesus. We cannot have a maturing faith in Jesus if our focus is off of Him.

In Hebrews 11, there's a list of men and women who were rewarded and commended for their faith in Jesus. How awesome would it be to live such a life of faith that you were listed among the faithful in the Bible who lived their lives focused on Christ? In order to focus on G
od and have that kind of faith, you first need to get rid of anything in your heart and life that will slow you down. That is key in your relationship with God. Some of you said in your answers to the intro questions that you feel farthest from God when you find that you're replacing God with other things. Your heart was cluttered.

When you get rid of the clutter in your heart and you put your focus back on Christ, you need to keep it there. Don't give up when life gets tough.


"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
-Hebrews 12:1-3

Everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles - We rationalize and compromise so much. We quickly run away from things that we consider to be huge sins, but then we compromise and commit "small" sins. The book gives these examples: Someone may choose to not drink alcohol but has no problem with talking badly about an acquaintance. Someone else won't ditch class, but cheats "just a little" on an exam after a busy evening at church and inadequate study. The truth is, sin is sin. No matter how small it may seem, Jesus makes it clear that there is no such thing as a "little" sin or a "huge" sin. We need to stop rationalizing and compromising and just get rid of every sin that entangles our hearts and hinders our growth in Christ.

Perseverance - We need to have endurance. So often when our faith gets hard, we want to run away. Sometimes it seems so much easier to just run away when we face any kind of hardship in our faith than to endure. James 1:3 says that endurance produces character. We need to respond to those difficulties with faith instead of running away from them.

Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith - The book puts it well, so I'm going to quote from the book.


"This phrase is easily misunderstood. Hebrews 11:39-40 provides us with the context we need: 'These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.'

The men and women listed in Chapter 11 were faithful, but they never got to see the whole picture. They understood God's love, trusted in Him, and lived in obedience. They received God's blessings, but they never experienced that which had been promised - Jesus, the Savior of the world. Peter explains that, even though the prophets of the Old Testament talked about Jesus, they never had full understanding about God's ultimate promise (1 Peter 1:10-12).

The life and teachings of Jesus provide everything we need to have the kind of faith that God desires. Jesus perfected our faith, meaning He completed it. We know that the law can never save us (Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:16; Hebrews 9:17; Romans 10:4). Instead we are saved by faith through the death and resurrection of Jesus."

The joy set before Him - Jesus looked forward to returning to the Father and seeing us freed from the slavery of sin and death. He endured His persecution and death because He was looking forward to the joy of seeing us being restored to the Father. We need to endure the race because of the joy that is set before us: the joy of the Father's embrace.

Now it's your turn. It's time to get rid of "the sin that so easily entangles" us. I challenge you to think about and respond with your answers to these questions:

-What currently hinders or entangles your spiritual life?
-What do YOU need to get rid of in your life in order to be free to "run the race"?

-On a practical level, what does it mean for YOU to fix your eyes on Jesus?

MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Think about Hebrews 12:1: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." We have such an impact on those around us.


-So, how does your spiritual growth relate to your ability to make an impact in the lives of the unbelievers you know?

------------

"Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

-Hebrews 12:3
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swimming_upstream

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PostSubject: Re: Chapter 1: Spiritual Growth Isn't Easy   Sat May 24, 2008 9:35 pm

-What currently hinders or entangles your spiritual life?
For me, lack of commitment. I've gotten rid of the bad things, but I need to replace them with good things. I need to spend lots of time in prayer. I need to wake up early and spend time with Him each morning. Sometimes it's too easy to go back to sleep and skip devotions in the morning. I need to devote an hour each morning to spending time with my Savior.

-What do YOU need to get rid of in your life in order to be free to "run the race"?
My selfishness, I need to go to bed sooner so I can walk up refreshed.

-On a practical level, what does it mean for YOU to fix your eyes on Jesus?
To not be conformed to the world. To study his word every day and think about spiritual things throughout the day.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter 1: Spiritual Growth Isn't Easy   Wed May 28, 2008 6:04 pm

What currently hinders or entangles your spiritual life? Question One of the things that hinders or entangles my relationship with Christ is busyness. I get wrapped up in sooo many things sooo quickly that I forget about reading my Bible or praying. I've found that when I start neglecting my Bible-reading and prayer, I begin to lose my passion for God and slowly stray into sin. It isn't until I do something drastic (usually) that I see how far I've fallen and how much I need to read God's Word (my 'milk') and continually talk with Jesus in prayer. I have seen this pattern repeat itself over and over again over the past few years. But it is sooo awesome and amazing that Jesus will always forgive me when I repent, and welcomes me back in His loving embrace!

-What do YOU need to get rid of in your life in order to be free to "run the race"? Question I struggle with holding onto what I want and want to do. Even though many times I want to do good things, my motive for doing them is usually pride and self-glory. "I want to do this so that people will think that I'm a good, smart, christian guy". Most of the time my motive is so hidden in my being that I have to think deeply to find it. But then I have a hard time giving it up (along with my motive) because of my innate desire for pleasure..."feeling good". I need to get rid of things that take away from my walk with Jesus and distract me from building my relationship with Christ. I need to get rid of any attempt to give glory or honor to ME, and make every attempt to give God all the glory and honor He DESERVES! But it's such a hard thing to do because my flesh is weak and wants to 'feel good'; and wants others to think well of me. But we are called to give God glory, and thankfully the Holy Spirit helps us do just that! I am amazed at what Christ has done in my life, how He has changed me from what I was several years ago! I am eternally grateful for His saving Grace!

-On a practical level, what does it mean for YOU to fix your eyes on Jesus? Question It means that I'd be willing to give up everything and do anything for Christ's sake. When I am fixated on Jesus, then I will be able to resist the temptations the devil puts in my path and will be able to withstand the pressures of the world to conform and 'be who I want and do what I want'.
Fixing my eyes on Jesus means (to me) to desire the things of God so much, that I'd be willing to not have anything in this world (ipod, car, money, tv, comfort, etc.) because Jesus satisfies me and promises me eternal life and pleasures forevermore in Heaven!!! *Very long sentence! my apologies!*
Reading my Bible and memorizing helps me to keep my eyes fixed on God sooo much! Praying, being in continual communion with God, helps a whole lot as well! My problem is that I have hard time remembering to memorize scripture. I'm really lazy in that aspect. But God is helping me...slooowwwly... lol!
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter 1: Spiritual Growth Isn't Easy   Wed May 28, 2008 6:58 pm

Oh wow. You are so right, Timmy. That's great that God is helping you. =) Something that hinders my spiritual life... Probably caring what other people think. For a while, the idea of letting go and falling on my knees worshipping in youth group shocked me. Like, why would I do that?! People would see me and laugh! lol. but then God is slowly helping me to let go of it. I have realized that no matter how foolish I look in front of other people, whether I crack when I sing, or anything of the sort, it's beautiful to God. I mean, how could my crappy singing and foolishness be beautiful to GOD? I mean, wouldn't His standards be a little higher? No. That's something that truly amazes me. Haha, sorry for how long this is, for me just to get across such a small point, but I elaborated, ROFL.xD =)
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter 1: Spiritual Growth Isn't Easy   Fri Jun 06, 2008 12:55 pm

-What currently hinders or entangles your spiritual life? I think what hinders my spiritual life is time. I get caught up in too many other things, even spiritual things, and I make up excuses to not read my devotions or read my Bible or even pray. I also think that pride gets in the way - especially in my friendships. When there's something between me and a friend, I get prideful and so often I see the wrong that they did. I realize that I need to humble myself and go before God and let Him search my heart. I need to let Him show me the wrong that I did, and then I need to humble myself and take the steps to obey God.
-What do YOU need to get rid of in your life in order to be free to "run the race"? The walls that I've put up around my heart. I have a problem with letting people in, with letting people get to know me... and then so often I get down and wonder why almost no one really, truly knows me. I've realized - by humbly and honestly going before God - that this is my fault, because I'm not letting anyone get to know me. I need to, with God's help, tear down these walls around my heart.
-On a practical level, what does it mean for YOU to fix your eyes on Jesus? For me, this means letting go of everyone and everything that hinders my spiritual life so that I can run wholeheartedly this race that Jesus has set out before me. I need to let go of myself so that me and Jesus can run hand-in-hand without me getting in the way of my own spiritual growth and journey.

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"Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm."
-Proverbs 4:25-26
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter 1: Spiritual Growth Isn't Easy   Fri Jun 06, 2008 2:41 pm

What currently hinders or entagles your spiritual life? My not caring attitude. And also my lack of commitment. I read the Bible and do devotions for a couple days and I feel really good about myself. I feel that I have a real relationship with God. Then I fall out of it. And I feel like I just lost the whole relationship that I had built with God. And I think it can sometimes make me depressed. And I go through this cycle a lot. Its also that im selfish. Because I know that I should get up early and spend time with God in quiet. But I don't want to get up. I want to stay sleeping and thats selfish of me.

What do YOU need to get rid of in your life in order to be free to "run the race"? I need to get rid of some things that I do. And spend more time with God. So, I can have a meaningful relationship with God. Sometimes when I'm about to go to sleep I realize that I didn't even talk to God that day or read His Word. And I feel guilty. I need to focus on God way more than I do now. I need to stop being selfish and only thinking of myself and what I want to do and not spend anytime with the Lord.

On a practical level, what does it mean for YOU to fix your eyes on Jesus? To not care what people think. To do things that God wants me to do. And step out of my comfort zone for him. To have Jesus talk to me just like I talk to my friends. To have a relationship with Him that changes me. And people see that Gods light is shining through me, and for them to see the changes in me that God made.
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PostSubject: Re: Chapter 1: Spiritual Growth Isn't Easy   Tue Jul 01, 2008 9:47 pm

-What currently hinders or entangles your spiritual life? Lots of things hinder my spiritual life. A lot of it is the world. When I get involved with things of the world and I fall from the Lord. Also, when I care what other people think about me, I often tend to shy away from the Lord because of what other people will say.

-What do YOU need to get rid of in your life in order to be free to "run the race"? I need to get rid of or not be so close, with some of my worldly/unchristian friends. I need to rechange my habits in my speech and thoughts.

-On a practical level, what does it mean for YOU to fix your eyes on Jesus? For me to fix my eyes on Jesus, it means joy and happiness. In order to do this I need to not care how others think of me. Because in the end, it's not going to matter what they thought. What matters is how I glorify God.
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