Friday, 30 September 2011

Keys to Moving Forward in your Faith

Progress in the Christian life is not a given. The Bible frequently uses the term "walking with God," which suggests that we should be moving forward in our faith and growing closer to God with every step, but for some that walk can meander off in another direction or even seem to grind to a complete halt. The problem for us is that God keeps on moving and therefore our standing still can leave us feeling like we're going backwards.
I have been pondering over this in recent weeks after meeting a man who had started his Christian life dynamically over twenty years ago, but now had settled into, what I can only describe as,  a cerebral and almost lifeless religious routine. So what can we do to keep our Christian life fresh exciting and joyful?

1. Stay Thankful

Colossians 2:6-7
New International Version (NIV)

 6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

I love spending time with brand new Christians. All they really know is that their sins are forgiven, they are right with God and they are going to heaven. They are excited and full of thanks to God, because everything is fresh and they know what they have been saved from. They live close to the Father and really enjoy this wonderful new relationship. Unfortunately that early joy and zeal often comes to an end as they become "mature in their faith." But maturity shouldn't mean we lose our joy and thankfulness, for as we come to know God better and have a fuller revelation our joy and gratitude should increase. So Paul's instruction to us is don't lose our gratitude and keep on thanking God for all he has done for us. The Bible tells us that we can limit God's power in our lives by forgetting his goodness and becoming ungrateful (Psalms 78:40-42), so let us learn the lesson and keep on thanking Him.

2. Don't Get Religious

Galatians 3:1-6
New International Version (NIV)
 1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

The wonderful thing about our salvation is that it is a free gift that we receive by faith. It is completely the grace (unmerited favour) of God and nothing to do with our effort. We could do nothing about our own sin, and that was the reason we needed a Saviour. Religious people try to gain favour with God by their adherence to practices and customs that have no place in the life of the New Testament believer. Paul berated the Galatian Christians for being duped into trying to combine faith in Jesus with adherence to Jewish rituals and customs that were never meant for them.

I don't know why we do it, but there seems to be something religious in mankind that tries to tie faith into formula and ritual. All they achieve is either a smug self satisfaction as to how good we are, or a deep condemnation because we can't seem to get it right. If you really understand grace, then you will obey God out of love and gratitude rather than out of fear of the consequences of not following the rules. Don't get all religious about your Christian life and you will be able move forward in joy and peace.

3. Get a Grip of Yourself

1 Corinthians 9:25
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.

Christians should develop good habits and a godly lifestyle if they want to run the race well that God has for them. Prayer, worship and Bible reading will do you good, and it is important to set time aside for these Godly activities in the same way that we would set time aside for physical exercise if we want to extend the life of our natural bodies. "Well doesn't that just contradict your previous point?" I hear you cry. "Isn't that just religious?" It can be if you are doing it with the motive of trying to score points with God, but if you are doing it because you want to stay spiritually fit and well fed then it is right and proper for us. The other important aspect of this self disciple is that we need to be careful of what we intake through our eyes and ears every day. A diet of TV soaps, gossip and negative unbelief is to the spiritual life what a diet of junk food is to the body. So get into some good habits and you will soon see the benefits.

4. Don't Give up Doing Good

Galatians 6:9
New International Version (NIV)
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

One of the hardest things to take as a Christian is when we are unappreciated and our motives are called into question when we are only trying to bless people. You give and no one thanks you. You sow financially and your harvest seems to be taking an inordinately long time in showing up. It's in these times that we often feel like giving up and no longer trying, but the word of God makes this will reap if you don't give up.

We have the nature of God inside us and therefore it is only natural for us to be just like our heavenly Father and be givers in our time, our love and our finance. Don't let a seeming delay in answered prayer or other peoples ingratitude or indifference stop you from doing the right thing all the time. 

I hope these words help you to keep going for it.

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