Devoted to Growth

Examining And Understanding The Keys To Spiritual Growth.

George Wright
Jul 26, 2020    41m
Have you ever wondered how to grow spiritually? Do you recognize how critical spiritual growth is in your walk with Christ? In message, taught out of the Book of Acts chapter 2, we see the keys to spiritual growth outlined in a way that makes them easy to understand and follow. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 01:19 We are better together. Let me encourage you now, if you would, to grab your Bible. We're going to jump right in to the word of God, as we step into what we've been walking through in the last few weeks if you've been with us. But if you're new to Shandon, we have been in the Book of Acts, the very beginning of the Book of Acts, which shows us the beginning of the church. And we have seen the word of God revealed to us, the power of God on display, in the explosion of the church onto the scene, right after Jesus goes to the cross and is then resurrected from the grave. The Book of Acts starts with his Ascension into heaven, and then we see the way the church responds to the calling of God, and the empowerment of God to live out this calling.

George Wright: 02:07 And what we're going to step into today in Acts chapter 2, at the end of Acts 2, really shows us what we could call, is a spiritual growth 101 kind of track. This is the very foundation for spiritual growth in the life of a follower of Jesus, in the community, and the context of the church. And so I realize you may have been the church for a long time. Maybe you're just getting back engaged with church after some time away. I know we're walking through this crazy strange season and you may be wrestling with some questions in your faith, trying to understand what you believe. You may be brand new to church altogether, joining online, and just checking this out for the first time, trying to figure out where you stand as it relates to a relationship with God.

George Wright: 03:01 And the great thing about what we see in Acts chapter 2, regardless of where you are in your journey of faith, there is something that we all need to hear, especially as it relates to a desire to grow spiritually. And so we're stepping into this foundational conversation around spiritual growth, and what it means to grow in our faith. As we look at the response of early followers of Jesus, and the calling of God upon their life to live out this mission.

George Wright: 03:37 So let's look at Acts chapter 2 beginning in verse 42. And I'd like to ask you, and invite you, if you're willing and able to stand with me. And the reason we do this here in the room, if you want to stand those joining online, we'd love for you to do so. I know that may feel strange, we'd love for you to stand with us so that we all can be reminded that the word of God is our foundation. It is what we are built upon as the people of God, it is our authority, and it is what God reveals to us is right and good and true. We need to hear what the Lord says, so we look to the word of God to see what God has to say to us. Acts 2 verse 42 and following says this, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awed came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common." The beginning of the church, and this calling to live out the mission and grow in their faith, as they follow after Jesus.

George Wright: 05:03 Let's ask God to speak into our lives as we turn our attention to him right now, pray with me, if you will. Father God, as we stand before you now at the reading of your word, and as we now devote this time to you, that you have set apart for us. We pray, Lord God, that you would open our eyes to see what we need to see, that you would open our ears to hear what we need to hear. Lord, use this time for your glory in our lives, use this time for us to see with greater clarity, that the gift that you have laid before us in the beautiful, good news of the gospel. There are many joining in today who desire to grow spiritually, I pray, that you would give us a greater understanding of what that really means. So use this time as we look to you. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen. You may be seated. Thank you for standing

George Wright: 06:12 Well, as we talk about spiritual growth, and our spiritual journey, our spiritual life. I just want to start with a very simple question, but it's a question that you may have to think about for a moment, if you're really honest. And the question is this, are you devoted to spiritual growth? Is this a desire of your life, to grow spiritually? Because people have a lot of different desires as it relates to growth, I want to grow my financial portfolio, I want to grow my leadership opportunity, I want to grow my impact on others, I want to grow relationally, I want to grow in my health, these are all desires people have. But do you have the desire to grow spiritually?

George Wright: 07:09 Well, none of us know what tomorrow may bring, but in spite of what tomorrow may bring, I think we all could conclude right here, seven months into 2020, that 2020 is probably one of the strangest years that we have ever lived through. And if you think back to the beginning of this year, there was actually a conversation that was happening among many people, as it relates to spiritual growth. Many people in the church were having this conversation at the end of 2019, and the beginning of 2020, because 2020 is a term that is used oftentimes as it relates to vision. And so the conversation that many were having, I had this conversation with many, this was a prayer that that many in the church were praying. Lord, would you give us greater clarity? Would you give us a new vision of what you want us to see? Would you show us with greater clarity what we need to see? Many people were praying that, as it relates to their spiritual life, at the beginning of this year. And it was such a catchy little prayer, you know, we just want to see clearly, we want to see with greater clarity. And then 2020 became the most confusing, crazy situation, that many of us have ever experienced. Especially as it relates to collectively all together, walking through these times that are so strange and so unusual, and really that put us in a situation where we know what to do, and we're not sure how to respond. And we all have ideas, and we all have opinions, and there's all kinds of experts telling us all different things. And we're trying to navigate our way in so much uncertainty, but could it be, that in all of the uncertainty, God is actually answering our prayers? Could it be in the midst of all of this uncertainty, God is showing exactly what we desperately need to see? Could it be that God is giving us an opportunity to renew our focus on what matters most?

George Wright: 09:41 I know by now, you're probably sick and tired of the term, new normal. You're probably sick and tired of the phrase, unprecedented. But maybe just maybe God is stripping away so many things in our life that had become normal, that should not have been normal. And maybe God is bringing us to a place where we can see a new normal, that's actually a better normal as it relates to our relationship with him. Perhaps this year is an incredible gift of God's grace, giving us the chance to reset, and to refocus, and to reconsider what is most important, especially as it relates to spiritual growth. For God is giving us an unprecedented opportunity to pursue spiritual growth, unlike we have in recent memory. And so the question is, will we receive this as a gift and an opportunity? Will our faith grow?

George Wright: 11:01 Because one thing is explicitly clear in the Book of Acts, when the church explodes onto the scene, specifically in Acts 1 and 2, there is a new normal for the people of God. And when the church begins to grow like crazy, in this unprecedented display of the power of God at work among these early followers of Jesus, it is disruptive, but it is disruptive in the best kind of way. And in the midst of it all, in this new normal, and these unprecedented days for the early followers of Jesus, we see there is a commitment and a devotion to pursuing spiritual growth. So these verses give us a great opportunity to learn, how can we be devoted to spiritual growth? How can we pursue spiritual growth as it relates to our relationship with the Lord individually, and our relationship to the Lord corporately, as the church.

George Wright: 12:15 So let's look back at how it happened. How did the early church pursue spiritual growth? Acts chapter 2 verse 42 makes it very, very clear. Again, this is spiritual growth, 101, 101 at the beginning of the church. They devoted themselves to what? They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. For spiritual growth to be our reality, there must be a devotion to the word of God. And I cannot emphasize this strongly enough, the life of a follower of Jesus will not grow spiritually apart from the word of God, you will not grow spiritually without the word of God. The scripture shows us this, the word of God speaks about itself. There's a very famous verse in the Book of Hebrews chapter 4, we'll look at this right now. Hebrews chapter 4 verse 12, where the word speaks about the word, what does it say? "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Now, what is this scripture saying? The scripture is saying the word of God cuts to the heart of the matter. The word of God speaks to real life issues that we face every single day. The word of God deals with what's really going on underneath the surface, underneath the layers in our life. It pierces through what we want to hear, and reveals to us what we need to hear. Think about how powerful these words are, discerning our thoughts, and discerning the intentions of the heart. That's an amazing statement to consider, for the scripture is saying God's word speaks to what we fake about, and God's word speaks to what we think, we think about it. That's pretty amazing. It goes all the way down below the surface and gets to the heart of our motivation. It gets to the heart of what we say matters most. It gets to the heart of our thoughts. It deals with our intentions and our actions. The word of God cuts deeply into what matters most in our life.

George Wright: 15:02 And can I just say, if you're not cut by the word of God from time to time, it's probably because you're not spending much time in the word of God. Because the word of God cuts deeply into what matters most, it challenges the way we think, it challenges our intentions, it challenges our heart ,and it reveals what we need to see and what we need to hear.` Are you intentionally diving in to the word of God? And can I just say, this is hard for a preacher to admit, to dive into the word of God is more than simply listening to a sermon. And I'm glad you're here and I'm glad you're listening, we need biblical preaching. We need to learn from good teaching, but there's no substitute for daily time with the Lord in his word, daily time in the word of God is what we need to grow spiritually. And can we just be honest, we have greater access to the word of God than any other people in the history of the church. We have more resources at our fingertips to assist us in studying God's word than any other people in the history of Christendom. We have the opportunity to dive into the word of God, are we taking that opportunity seriously? Are we receiving it as a gift? For the word of God lays before us what we need to see and what we need to hear.

George Wright: 16:54 Don't tell me you don't have time. You watch Netflix, right? You watch the news. You pay attention to social media. We have the time, we're just choosing to spend it on other things. Make the intentional decision to dive into the word of God daily. I'm a firm believer that every follower of Christ should be tracking with some kind of Bible reading plan, and there are thousands of them out there. Maybe the thought of reading through the Bible in a year is overwhelming for you, and that's not the plan that you need to start with. So grab one that walks you through the word of God over a week, and then, then move to the next one that takes you through the word of God over a month, or go through a book of the Bible or, or study something that will keep you engaged in the word of God. And if it's hard for you to read, you know, they have the Bible on audio now you, can listen to it, listen to in your car, listen to it while you work out. There are all kinds of Bible reading plans, dive into the word of God. Make an intentional decision to spend time in the word of God daily, and you will see spiritual growth happening in your life.

George Wright: 18:20 The early church disciples devoted themselves to the teaching of God's word, but we also see in Acts 2:42, they devoted themselves to the fellowship and to the breaking of bread. In the early church, there is a devotion to fellowship, a devotion to the people of God. And I can honestly say, as I've been thinking about my own spiritual growth journey of faith, as I was preparing for this message, I was just trying to take stock. What were the times in my life, looking back, where I've grown the most? What have been the times in my life that I can see spiritual growth was happening in me? I can honestly say, I have no idea where I would be without the fellowship of the body of Christ, because that's where the greatest spiritual growth has happened in my life. The fellowship of the body of Christ, where the word of God is the foundation, is the greatest opportunity for us to grow in our faith as followers of Jesus Christ. That's why we're saying, we're better together. Even in different times, even in strange times, even in restrictive times, we are better together, we need the body of Christ.

George Wright: 19:44 I was thinking about my story of my spiritual journey, and I made a decision to follow Christ in elementary school. And yes, I'm a preacher's kid and I grew up in the church, but my decision to follow Christ in elementary school happened in a week long family camp. When I was around other followers of Jesus, when I was around friends that were encouraging me in my faith, when I had spiritual mentors speaking into my life, that's when I made the decision to follow Christ, in the Christian fellowship. And then my faith continued to grow in middle school and high school, and I can primarily point to why that happened. I was committed and involved in a small group in our student ministry of the church that I grew up in. And a man in the church, Jeff Williams, who was a deacon, a great man of God, a Christian businessman at my home church, he led our small group from sixth grade through graduation in 12th grade. And he spoke into my life, the truth of God's word, over and over again in those transformative years. And I was surrounded by a group of bros, a group of buddies, that were seeking to grow in our faith throughout middle school and high school, such an incredible gift. And then as a college student, and as Megan and I were falling in love here at the University of South Carolina, we were involved in FCA, and Young Life at Shandon College right here at Shandon. And we had people speaking into our lives, and discipling us, and pointing us to the challenge of the word of God, and the encouragement of the word of God, and praying for us in that small group environment. It was such a gift to have the fellowship of the body of Christ, as we were establishing our relationship with one another. And then as young church planters, we began to host a small group in our house, and we met every single week with that small group. And we prayed for one another, and the members of that small group challenged us and spurred us on in spiritual growth in those early days of ministry. We look back on that with such fondness, seeing God at work, drawing us together through the fellowship of the body of Christ. And now to this day, we're blessed to have a small group of couples that prays for us here at Shandon, and challenges us, and seeks to encourage us, and spur us on, and stir one another up to love and good deeds as we seek to grow in our faith and follow after Christ. Over the past year, I've had a small group of men that I've met with on almost a weekly basis, where we've walked through scripture together, and we've sought to memorize scripture together, and pray for one another, and challenge each other in our faith. I cannot emphasize strongly enough from my own personal experience, walking in step with the word of God, how important fellowship is in the body of Christ, if we are going to grow spiritually in our faith.

George Wright: 23:06 And again, this is hard for a preacher to admit, but when I look back at the greatest times of spiritual growth in my life, I know I was growing because of some good sermons that I was listening to and some good church services that I was attending, but I don't remember what those sermons said. What I remember is what we talked about in those small group environments, and those who challenged me, and encouraged me, and prayed for me. That's what I remember, the greatest growth in my faith as a follower of Jesus Christ has come in the small group setting, where discipleship flourishes, where there's the opportunity to engage in Christian fellowship, rooted and grounded on the word of God.

George Wright: 24:03 And in this season that we find ourselves in, I know our fellowship looks dramatically different, and I know that we have grieved that our fellowship looks dramatically different. Our large environments have been so disrupted, but I would propose that God has given his church an incredible opportunity, in these unprecedented times, to join together with others in small groups in even more intentional ways than ever before. To pursue spiritual growth with another, in that small fellowship environment, where we can challenge one another, and pray for one another, and spur one another on.

George Wright: 24:49 Proverbs chapter 27 verse 17, is a verse that I absolutely love, as it speaks to this fellowship of the body of Christ. It says, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." Can you imagine if everybody in our church, everybody who calls Shandon home, where to invite three or four people to join them in a small group Bible study for the next month or two. Just imagine the impact that that would make, imagine the spiritual growth that would take place over the next couple of months in the context of our local church if everybody said, okay, I'm just going to grab three or four people. This is not huge, this is not some massive thing, I'm just going to grab three or four people and I'm going to say, hey, would you just meet with me once a week? Let's read the Bible, let's talk about what we read, let's talk about what God's revealing, and let's pray for one another, and let's just see what God might do. You can do that, every single one of us can do that. Start with the Book of Philippians or the Book of Colossians, they both have four chapters. Alright? Take one chapter a week, and just say to the three or four people that are gathering with you, hey, let's just read Philippians 1 this week, every day, read every day, one chapter. And we're going to get together, we're going to talk about it, we're going to talk about what God is showing us, and we're going to pray for one another. Next week, we'll read Philippians 2 all week, just one chapter for the whole week, and we'll talk about what God is showing us and we'll pray together. What would that do to your spiritual growth? What would that do to the spiritual growth of our church, walking through the word of God, intentionally in the fellowship of the body of Christ?

George Wright: 26:53 That's what the early church did, they devoted themselves to the teaching of the word of God, they devoted themselves to the fellowship and the breaking of bread. Thirdly, we see Acts 2:42, they devoted themselves to the prayers. There is a devotion to prayer that is essential for spiritual growth to be our reality. And here's the challenging thing about a sermon on prayer, prayer is quite possibly, you could argue, the easiest of all the spiritual disciplines to do. And the reason I would say it's the easiest, is because you can pray anytime, anywhere about anything, and God will listen to you. That's an incredible gift. But at the same time as it possibly being the easiest thing to do, it's might be the most intimidating thing to do for many people who are in the church. Why is it so intimidating? Please don't miss this, I believe one of the primary reasons that prayer is so intimidating for so many people, they say, I don't know how to pray, or I don't know what to pray, is because prayer engages us in a spiritual battle. And the enemy of God knows that if he can remove us from the spiritual battle altogether, by discouraging us from praying, or distracting us from praying, or keeping us so busy that we don't pray, or keeping us in a place where we just feel so inadequate that we don't pray, then we will not engage in the spiritual battle. Because when we pray, we invoke the Holy Spirit. And when we pray, we are talking to the living God, the sovereign reigning overall, and God does something when we pray, and the enemy of God knows that. He doesn't want you to pray, doesn't want me to pray. He wants us to feel totally unworthy, totally unqualified, he wants us to feel totally intimidated or afraid saying, I don't know what to pray. I can't pray a spiritual enough prayer. I don't know the right terms to use.

George Wright: 29:07 Do you know what it takes to establish a healthy prayer life? I want to hopefully put this on the bottom shelf to the best of my ability, to establish a healthy prayer life I would say takes three things, honesty, intentionality, and repetition. If you want a healthy, growing, vibrant prayer life, you need honesty, intentionality and repetition. Why do I say that? Well, think about how any relationship grows. If a relationship is going to grow, it's going to grow because there is honest, open communication, there is honest conversation. Prayer is our conversation with God, and God desires that we are honest with him. If you don't know what to pray, tell him. If you don't know how to pray, tell him. If you're afraid of prayer, tell him. Be honest with God, he can handle it. He knows your heart, he knows what you're wrestling with, he knows what you're struggling with, be honest with God. Prayer is an invitation to be honest with God, and be intentional, set aside a time, set aside specific times, or a specific place, where you get alone with God to pray. Perhaps you set a timer on your phone or your smartwatch, perhaps you put a reminder on your calendar, and you stop and you pray. And then you need repetition, our prayer life is like a muscle, work it out, it grows stronger. Be honest, be intentional, be repetitive, and watch what the Lord does as you pray.

George Wright: 31:05 And if you still feel intimidated, or overwhelmed, or unworthy, or unqualified to pray, if you don't know what to pray, take heart at what the word of God says about prayer in Romans chapter 8. I'm so thankful for these verses, they are so liberating and freeing as it relates to our fear of prayer. Romans 8:26 and 27 says this, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." What a gift. The word of God is saying, when you pray, the spirit of God joins you in that prayer, and intercedes for you to the Father. The Spirit of God is active and at work in your life as you pray, and God meets you, knowing your heart, knowing what you need, knowing all the intricate details of who you are and what you're walking through, and he joins you that you might see him at work in your life through prayer. So pray, be honest, pray, seek the Lord in prayer, and see what God will do.

George Wright: 32:46 Finally, we come to Acts 2:43 and 44, where we wrap it up today. It says this, "And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles, and all who believe were together and had all things in common." As we see what God is doing in the early church, we see there is a devotion to the word of God. There is a devotion to the fellowship of the body of Christ. There is a devotion to prayer. And then we see there is a devotion to the mission that God has called his people to be about. And isn't it beautiful to see what God does when the people of God are devoted to the word of God, devoted to one another in fellowship, and devoted to prayer. The church is filled with a sense of awe and wonder, as the mission of God is being fulfilled right in front of their eyes, as they see the power of God at work through them in ways that they never thought possible, as they see God doing things in them that they never thought could happen. Isn't it beautiful as the church is filled with awe and wonder? How did it happen? It happened because the church was devoted to spiritual growth, with the word of God as their foundation, with the fellowship of God's people held in high regard, with prayer as the power source that fuels the mission and all that is being done. And the byproduct, the beautiful byproduct, as the mission is lived out, is unity in the body of Christ, as God shows his greatness through the people of God joining together, that others might see, and hear, and believe, the good news of what Christ has done.

George Wright: 34:58 Acts chapter 2 is spiritual growth 101, it does not get any more basic than this, this is the foundation of spiritual growth. And I realize you may be joining us today, going, well, that's, that's great, but I want more than just the 101 class, I want something way deeper. I want to go even further than all this. Well, maybe you just need to be reminded today of what God says is most important, and maybe there needs to be a renewed commitment to the word of God in your life, and a renewed commitment to fellowship with one another in the body of Christ, for the sake of growing in your faith. Maybe there needs to be a renewed commitment to prayer, and maybe we need to trust the same God who does a tremendous work at the beginning of the church, is at work in us today to do an incredible work in the church. For when they were devoted to the word of God, to one another in fellowship, to prayer, to the mission, when they were unified together for the sake of the mission advancing through them, do you know what Acts 2:46 says, "The Lord added to their number daily, those who were being saved." God continued to show his power as the people of God were devoted to spiritual growth, and held the word of God, the fellowship of the saints, the prayer to God, and the mission of God in high regard in all that they did. They had all things in common, their differences were put to the side, their preferences were laid down. They said, we're going to focus on what God says matters most, and we're going to trust that God is at work to do even greater things than we could imagine or think of. Could that be said of us? Could that be said of Shandon Baptist Church, that we are so devoted to the word of God, so devoted to fellowship in the body of Christ, so devoted to prayer, and so devoted to the mission, that God is doing more through us than we could ever imagine? A sense of awe and wonder, that only comes through the power of God, being displayed through the people of God, pursuing God, and following him in faith. Will it be said of you and me?

George Wright: 37:44 Let me pray for us as we close our time here this morning. Father, I am so grateful for your word, so grateful for this beautiful privilege that you have given us to turn back to the early days of the church, and to see what you were doing in your body, in your bride, in your family. And Lord, as we see this spiritual growth 101 track laid out in the early days of the church, we recognize that this is an invitation you've given to us. That through the word of God, through the fellowship of the body of Christ, through the prayer of your people, through a devotion to the mission, we can see you at work doing things in our midst that are far more than we could ask, imagine or think. And Lord, that's what we want to be a part of in these uncertain times, in these unprecedented days, in this strange season that we find ourselves in. Lord, we want to see you at work, doing what only you can do. You've got our attention, you've laid before us this beautiful opportunity to be the church. Lord, use us for your glory, this is our prayer. I pray, Lord God, it would be said of us, what was written of the early church. They were devoting themselves to the word, devoting themselves to the fellowship of the body, devoting themselves to prayer, devoting themselves to the mission, and there was a sense of awe and wonder as they joined together for the sake of what you say matters most. Lord, fix our eyes on what you say matters most.

George Wright: 39:42 And Father, as we close this prayer, we lift up our friends, our neighbors, our family, those who perhaps even are joining us today for this service, who have never experienced the gift of a relationship with Jesus Christ in a personal way. And they're hearing about this spiritual growth idea, and yet, if they're honest, they're still wrestling with whether or not they can truly be loved by you, whether or not they can truly have a relationship with you. I pray Lord God, that you would meet them in the power of your spirit right now, and give them the eyes to see what Jesus Christ has done for them personally. His death on the cross for their sin, his resurrection from the grave to conquer sin and death, and to invite them into new life, to invite them to be a part of your family, your body, the church, through the gift of salvation. And we pray that there'll be some today in faith, that would say, Jesus, I need you, I'm ready to follow you, I'm ready to turn from the way I've been living and turn to Jesus. I trust my life to Jesus as my savior and my Lord, Oh, Father, we praise you for the gift of salvation. We praise you for what you are doing even in these challenging days. And we pray, we pray that you would give us eyes to see the opportunity in front of us to be the church. We lift all this up to you. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206