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This Christian Journey:

 

New Christian Study

By Walter D. Huyck Jr., D.Min.

www.thischristianjourney.com

 

Week Three

Spiritual Growth Essentials

 

Before You Begin This Study

         Pray for God to bless your study time and fellowship today.
 

         Quote the memory verse to your study partner.
 

         Talk about the Devotions, Spiritual Insights, and Prayers you read this last week and what you gleaned from these devotions.
 

         Discuss any question that you might have as a result of your daily Bible Reading.
 

         Discuss your Sermon Notes.

This Weeks Memory Verse

Psalms 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

A Spiritual Growth Essential  - The Bible

Of all the books that have ever been written the Bible continues to be the all time best seller. Almost every household in America has a Bible in it somewhere. Most homes have more than one copy. Yet, I wonder if it is truly the most read book in America? For in many homes the Bible has found its place of prominence on a book shelf or end table and its binding is seldom broken, for it may not ever be opened or read.

Every born-again Christian needs to understand the importance of the Bible for their Spiritual Growth. Consider the following verse again:

1 Peter 2.2 - As newborn babes, desire the sincere _________ of the word, that ye may __________ thereby:

It is important to note that the Bible is referred to as milk. How important is milk in the first days of a babies life. It is very important. The truth is that a baby deprived of milk is a baby deprived of all of the nutrition that it can accept. A baby cannot be given meat or vegetables because its digestive system would not be able to handle that type of nutrition right away. It must receive milk or the baby will starve and die.

The same is true for every Christian. The Bible is the foundation for every form of spiritual growth, without it there can be no sustaining growth at all. The Bible is the starting point and cannot be replaced by any substitute. Yet, it is the Bible that many Christians seem to have the most trouble applying themselves to. The truth is that it is not easy to sit down and spend time reading the Bible everyday, but we must.

Reading Bible PhotoThis is where commitment comes in. If we will commit ourselves to read at least one chapter of the Bible a day, then it will soon become a habit or discipline. I have found that it is easiest to set aside a certain time each day and to commit myself to that time no matter where I am. The early morning works best for me. I simply get up a few minutes earlier than I normally would, and spend that time in the Bible. As a matter of fact, I made a commitment to read through the Bible every year, and since I have been a Christian I have kept my commitment each year, with the exception of one.

Some of you may be thinking that to read through the Bible one time in your lifetime will probably be enough. I have found that every year there have been fresh and new insights that have nurtured my spiritual growth and helped me to be a better servant for my Savior. The Bible is truly a living book and it continues to provide nourishing growth for as long as we apply ourselves to its pages. You will never outgrow your need for its influence in your life.

Do you recognize your need for the nourishment that can only be found in the Bible? _______________

Write a brief personal commitment to spend time in God's word every day.

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A Spiritual Growth Essential  - Prayer

Mention the word prayer and instantly ones mind thinks of some lofty language that only the pious and well-trained can hope to speak. Actually, the word prayer or to pray in the Bible simply means to communicate with or talk to. There is no mystical language that can make one acceptable to God. One just simply has to talk to God as one of his children, and He will hear.

Prayer is another essential element in Christian growth. The Bible says:

Luke 11.9 - And I say unto you, _____________, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

This is pretty simple. You had to speak to God and ask Him to save you in order to receive the New-Birth. Likewise, after your adoption into God's family you must continue to ask God for the various helps and aids you desire. "Ask, and it shall be given . . ." So, just what are we supposed to ask for?

Philippians 4.6-7 Be careful for ____________; but in _________________ by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the _______________ of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

There is nothing that is beyond our God's ability or resources and there is nothing that is below His willingness to transcend. God says to "be careful for nothing," but ask. Whatever it may be, God is just waiting for your personal call. And trust me there is nothing that will take God by surprise, He already knows the circumstances and the answer surrounding your prayer.

Now, some would ask, "If God already knows my need, has the resources, and is willing to help, then why do I even have to ask?"

As a parent I have the tendency to watch over and help my children. One day, when one of my children was very young, he decided to start a major construction project with a small pile of scrape wood. He worked to set the blocks of wood up, find a nail, grab a hammer, and went to work trying to drive that nail through the wood. He smacked that nail time and time again, but he was just to small to drive the nail through the wood. After watching him struggle to get the nail started I went over with my hammer in hand to give the nail a good smack.  I knew that if I got the nail started he could drive it through the board. When I got close enough for him to realize what I was going to do he shouted, "Nooooo!!" and covered up the board with his body.  You see he wanted to do it by himself.

My son did not have the skill or strength to do what needed to be done.  He also missunderstood what I was trying to do when I came to help him.  This is how we often respond to our Heavenly-Father.

The truth is God will not force himself upon us. If we want to do things for ourselves, then God will sit back and allow us as much time as we want. While He already knows the answer to every puzzle in life, and has the ability to overcome every obstacle, He will not interfere until He is asked.

Now some of you are thinking, "Ok, I can accept that, but what about that time I did ask and it seemed like God never answered?" The truth is that God, just like many parents, will decide at times that it is better for us to work through a problem for ourselves, than to just solve it for us. Remember that we're talking about spiritual growth here. If our Heavenly-Father just solves every problem for us, and never allows us to face the challenge for ourselves, then we would never grow.

While I cannot say that every trial or tribulation is an object lesson. The Bible assures us that God is our Heavenly-Father and will treat us like His children. He wants us to mature and whatever the case He will teach each individual in keeping with His divine love and will. Never the less, we should be a praying people.

We need to learn to pray and ask our Heavenly-Father for His help and direction in our daily lives.  We need to be a praying people.

What have you failed to talk to God about, won't you pray about it right now.

What can other Christians help you pray about this week?

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A Spiritual Growth Essential  - Meditation.

Mention meditation to a Christian and many will instantly think of a pagan sitting on the floor with his legs crossed humming to himself. As we consider meditation, I am not talking about some ritualistic practice whereby one tries to find inner peace or tries to conjure up some deeper feeling or being. Christian meditation is meant to counter the tendency for Christians to spend a few moments reading the Bible, a few moments in prayer, and then off they go into the business of the day without allowing the Spirit of God to permeate their being.

Consider what King David wrote:

Psalm 19.14 - Let the words of my mouth, and the ___________________ of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

In the Hebrew text the word meditation is the word higgayown (Hb) meaning meditation, resounding music, musing. Many mature Christians would refer to this as their quite time. For me this is a few moments that I set aside after I have read my daily Scriptures and prayed, where I just quietly allow God to deal with my mind and heart.

I believe that if one were to ask an experienced, mature Christian to describe their daily devotional time that almost all would include some time in the Bible and some time in prayer. However, it is my heartfelt conviction that many Christians stop there and don't truly allow God to speak to their hearts. Yet if we diligently consider the lives of those who have truly been used of God we will almost always see a time of quiet meditation added to their daily discipline. Why?

While we may talk to God through our prayers, and be guided in life through God's Word, it is the Holy Spirit of God that will bring life and light from the Word and our prayers in a very personal way. Remember that the Holy Spirit was given to "teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, . . ." (John 14.26). We are also told that the "deep things" of God are only revealed to us by His Spirit (1 Cor 2.10). Therefore, I suggest to you that it is important for you to give the Holy Spirit time to move in and through your life.

So how does this meditation thing actually work. It's quite simple. Start by allowing a few minutes after you have prayed and read the Bible to allow God to lead your heart; ten minutes will be a good starting point. Just sit back and relax, and think for a few moments about the passage you have just read from the Bible. Then quietly say to your Heavenly Father, "Lord, I want you to personalize your message for me today, whether it is from the passage I just read, or concerns something else that is important for me to consider. What do you want me to know?" Then wait upon God's answer.

My experience has been that sometimes God will provide some deeper truth about the devotional passage that I had not considered before. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit will guide my mind to another passage of scripture that I will look up and read.  Often these passages will have an important impact on the upcoming day. There have been times where no passage seems to come to mind, and no deeper meaning in a devotional is found, but where God has just given me a more intimate sense of His presence. Then there have been those moments where the Holy Spirit has grabbed me and shook me awake to the fact that my heart had started to wander.

I think the most important aspect of meditation is that an individual allow God to have His way, and to reveal Himself personally. In this sense one must be open to increasing or decreasing this mediation time in respect to the action of the Holy Spirit within them.

Take a few moments right now and allow God to teach you something about meditation.

What are your thoughts about meditation.

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A Spiritual Growth Essential  - Scripture Memorization

Another very important aspect of spiritual maturity is that of the human heart. Now, I'm not talking about that muscle that is pumping your blood throughout your body. Instead, I want you to focus on the center of who you are. We often refer to this as our heart.

The psalmist wrote,

Thy word have I ____________ in mine heart, that I _____________ not sin against thee (Ps 119.11).

Simply speaking, this tells me that if God's Word permeates my mind, then I will be well equipped against sin. It does not mean that I won't ever sin, but I will be better prepared when the temptation to sin knocks at the door to my life if God's Word is already there.

In the Old Testament God commanded the Israelites to hang His commandments on the doorposts of their houses (Deut 6.9). In so doing they would be reminded of His commandments every time they left or returned home. Also, any stranger that might visit them would instantly know whom they yielded themselves to. Likewise, we need to spiritually hang God's Word on the door posts of our hearts so that we will constantly be reminded about God's life giving direction.

I always like to visit a committed Christian's home. Sometimes, they will have something hanging on their door that witnesses to who they are in their hearts. Often, when I step inside there will be Christian pictures, and even verses hanging on the walls in frames. These visible reminders help strengthen them in times of trial and temptation. That's what we do when we memorize Scripture, we hang God's Word in the living room of our hearts.

Many Christians never bother to memorize Scripture. I suppose they feel that they can always refer to their Bibles when they need to. Don't under estimate your adversary. Satan and his cohorts know when you're the weakest, and when your defenses are down. They also know just how to stir things up so that even if the Bible were near by you would be less likely to reach for it.

Consider what Jesus did when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matt 4.1-11). The adversary came and struck Him right where He was the weakest. But Jesus was ready. He didn't reach for a Bible or scroll. Instead, the Word of God just simply flowed from His heart to come to His defense. After the first battle there was another blistering attack, which was followed by yet another jab by the wicked one, but Jesus was well prepared. There is nothing like a well prepared defense when one is in the heat of battle, and friends, don't be mistaken, this is a battle for your spiritual well being.

Now, it's not so much that you just memorize Scripture. You must carefully select the Scriptures that you will hang in the living room of your heart. For most of us, it would be virtually impossible to memorize the whole Bible. After all only so many verses will fit on that spiritual wall, right! So, we must carefully select the verses that we will memorize. Here are some simple questions that will help you to prepare yourself for the coming attack:

1. What are my spiritual weaknesses?

2. How do I expect to be tempted in the near future?

3. What verses will help me to stand up against these temptations?

Some of you may be thinking, "I would love to memorize Scripture, but I just can't seem to remember the verses I try to memorize." Well, The truth is, it's not easy. Satan, the flesh, and the world will all try to keep you from preparing yourself

for spiritual success. You must know that it takes a lot of resolve and focus to memorize God's Word. Therefore, I suggest that you take the Scripture you have selected and write it on the back of a business card. Then stick it in your pocket or purse. Throughout your day take time to just simply repeat the verse time after time. If need be, look at the card to remind yourself about the verse. Eventually, you will be able to commit the verse to memory.

Once you have memorized the verses you need in coming days you will be ready for the temptation when it comes. However, don't just stop there, you must continually commit other verses to memory. For our adversary will keep up his attacks. Therefore, be sure you are preparing yourself for the battle.

What are some of your spiritual weaknesses?

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What verses of Scripture would help you with your weaknesses?

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Your assignment for the next week:

1.        Read your Bible everyday.  Continue to read where you left off last week.  Read at least one chapter a day, everyday.  Read with purpose, not speed. Note any questions for discussion next week.

2.        Read the Daily Devotion in the devotion guide that accompanies this study.  Now you will need to write your Spiritual Insights, and Prayer as you did last week.  This week there is the addition of an application box.  Here you will need to write an application that expresses what you will do as a result of the Spiritual Insight and Prayer you have just written.  An application will usually start with “I will . . .”

3.        Attend Church Sunday and take Sermon Notes in your Spiritual Journal.  Try to hear and record the preachers major points and thoughts and record what meaning the sermon may have had for you personally. 

4.        Memorize the Memory Verse - Psalm 119.11 and be prepared to quote it to your Study partner next week.

 

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