Gold Digging in the Mines of the Bible, Pt. 8
Study Guide August 30, 2015
Did you hear the news reports this week on the finding of gold off the coast of Florida? The gold was from a ship that was on it’s way to present the gold to King Philip of Spain 300 years ago, but it wrecked and sank just off the coast of Florida. A salvage company discovered 350 Spanish gold coins just 16 feet off shore. The find is estimated at four and a half million dollars.
As God’s people, we have something far better than even 350 gold coins because we get to dig up hundreds of gold truths out of the Word of God. And this gold is far more valuable than all the gold in this world. These are eternal truths that we get to have and to know and to enjoy both now and throughout eternity. So let’s examine another one today as we continue digging for gold in the Bible.
One of the odd traits about us all is that we tend to make the Christian life harder than God intended it to be. For an example: in 2 Peter 3:18 the Apostle instructs us: “…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” NASU So the Apostle gives us the clear command to ‘grow’…to grow in both the grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And so we, as conscientious Christians, set out on this quest of spiritual growth. We take charge of this need to grow. And we naturally think that in order for this spiritual growth to happen we will need to do this and to read that and to attend such and such and to avoid these other things…and then we think, “By doing all of these I will grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.” In other words, in learning this command to grow our focus naturally turns toward working on growing, and so we then get on with this work of growing, as Peter commanded us to do. It’s a noble intention, but is that what Peter meant?
But could it be that when Peter commanded us to ‘grow’ that he intended for us to know that this process of spiritual growing is directly connected to the process of spiritual filling which then leads to the process of spiritual flowing which is what would actually then cause our spiritual growing? The answer to that question is: ‘Yes’. So now lets explore the answer.
It’s important to realize that what Peter was instructing us about in his command about ‘growing’ is related to what Paul instructed us about in his command about ‘filling’. And what Paul instructed us about in his command about filling is related to what Jesus informed us about in His revelation about ‘flowing’. Do you remember in a previous study we spoke about Jesus’ great invitation of receiving Him as Messiah, as Savior, and then do you remember what He said would happen in and through us? He said when a person did receive Him then this would happen: John 7:37-39- “On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” He said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were going to receive…” Holman Bible
Think about what Jesus said here: ‘…streams of living water flowing from deep within him.’
And so another question: Could it be that growing in the Spirit of Christ in us is related to this flowing of the Spirit of Christ through us? Or how about this? Could it be that this growing in the Spirit of Christ in us is related to this flowing of the Spirit of Christ through us which is dependent upon this filling of the Spirit of Christ in us? Absolutely!
Part of the point we are making here is that one of the reasons we tend to make the Christian life harder than God intended it to be is that when it comes to this concept of spiritual growth, we tend to set off on the ‘growing’ instead of first focusing on the ‘filling’ and then acting on the ‘flowing’. In other words, it is when we focus first on spiritual filling that we can then act on spiritually flowing, and as we do we can then experience spiritual growing. However, mark it down; you cannot experience spiritual growing without spiritual filling and spiritual flowing. Why?
Let’s ask another question in order to answer that question. Let’s personify a ‘branch’ for a moment. What is the primary focus of a branch, on the fruit that its bearing or the vine to which it is connected? Well sure, a branch delights in its fruit, but its foremost focus is on abiding in the vine, because if there is any weakening of this interaction between the branch and the vine the fruit will fail as well. You know where we are going with this, don’t you? John 15:4-6- “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” NASU
One of the major problems with most Christians is an identity problem. Their true identity is a ‘Branch’, but they tend to default to a ‘Vine’ identity. But regardless of how much a branch tries to usurp the identity and activity of the vine, it can’t. And thus, when is does, inner and outer conflict is inevitable. Remember, our union with Christ is the key to our salvation, but our communion with Christ is the key to our sanctification, or our spiritual growth as Christians. Apart from this communion, this fellowship, this abiding in Christ; what did Jesus say? “…for apart from Me you can do (what?) nothing!”
That’s rather stark, isn’t it? ‘Nothing?’ What is ‘nothing’? Remember also our study on the ‘Ecclesiates experiment’? The Ecclesiastes experiment showed that all the gain in the world of power or pride or possessions for purposes of self gain and self glory was vanity…emptiness…wasted days…or essentially, ‘nothing’. As Paul spoke to the Corinthians about the wise use of their talents and time and treasures he used the words ‘loss’ and ‘gain’. This ‘loss’ of the usefulness and this ‘loss’ in our fruitfulness is what Jesus was warning us about in leaving Him out of our focus and attention and communion and abiding and fellowship. For if we did, the result of our efforts would be loss, vanity, wasted days…or as He put it: “nothing”. Contrary to the popular idea that life is short so live for today…no, life is eternal so live today with eternity in sight. Live today in a way that what you do today will last, not just for today, but for every day; for all eternity. Live today in communion with, in fellowship with, and in dependence upon Christ, abiding in Him so that He can then bear His fruit through you.
Another way to break this down is to realize that essentially, every person has a blackboard of their life. And at the end of each day on that blackboard is written either ‘loss’ or ‘gain’. And no, we’re not talking about our body weight here. That’s a different blackboard. No, this blackboard is more like that of the Ecclesiastes wording, as in: ‘Another day wasted’ or ‘Another day of bearing fruit.’ For most people in the world at the end of each day is that message: ‘Another day wasted.’ Unfortunately, for some Christians, because they are not abiding in Christ, nor fellowshipping with Christ, nor communing with Christ; they too, have written on their blackboard; ‘Another day wasted.’ Remember what Jesus said? ‘Apart from Me you can do ‘nothing‘…meaning, nothing of lasting value; nothing of eternal gain; nothing of eternal reward; nothing God was trying to accomplish in and through your life; essentially, ‘wasted.’ However, for communing Christians, for abiding Christians, for those Christians who are seeking to be filled with the Spirit so that they can flow with the Spirit and thus grow in the Spirit, at the end of the day the message on their blackboard is: ‘Another day of bearing fruit; a fruitful day.’
Stop asking if your day was successful; Start asking if your day was fruitful? Contrary to our culture’s thinking, life is not measured by ‘success’; life is measured by ‘fruitfulness’. Now, if by success you mean fruit, then fine, but you see what we mean?
On our trip to Virginia there were two places that we saw signs that said, ‘Not I, but Christ.’ One was in the sanctuary of Thomas Road Baptist church. That was great, and we would expect to see a sign like that there. But the other was on a giant sign above a road side business near Danville, Virginia. And that was more like a surprise, but what at great statement to the world of where the focus of these believer’s lives were; their goal was to honor Christ in every area of their life, whether worshipping in a church or working by the highways of life: ‘Not I, but Christ’. That’s John 15 thinking; that’s branch thinking; that’s being filled with the Spirit in order to flow with the Spirit by which you then grow in the Spirit. Again, it’s about focus.
We often hear Heb 12:1 quoted: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” NASU What a great picture of the Christian life! And so we set off on this great race, running the race that is set before us. The problem is that as we’re running the race we are looking around at others who are running, and we’re comparing our run with their run, and we feel good about our running or bad about our running based upon how others are running, not realizing we have just run into a trap. It’s the trap of comparing ourselves by ourselves, which Paul reminds us that they who do that have just acquired another title… “Fool”. To compare your spiritual growth to others spiritual growth is foolish…we’ve been fooled into thinking foolishly. And then another trap we fall into is that we set off running, but instead of looking up we’re looking down, down at ourselves, and as such we then fall into either self pride or self pity, but either way, we’re fooled again. What we’ve forgotten is that to ‘run with endurance the race that is set before us’ is only part of the instructions. The main part of the instruction is what comes next: Heb 12:2- “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” NASU You see, If you are running the Christian life without your eyes fixed on Jesus you are either going to run off the road or get run-down.
So often we have our eyes fixed on others or on ourselves, but not on Christ. Warren Wiersbe often says, “If you look to others you’ll be distracted; if you look to yourselves you’ll be discouraged, but if you look to Christ you’ll be delighted.” You see, not even this call to spiritual growth is to be about us setting off to do whatever it takes to grow stronger and smarter or spiritually rougher and tougher. Yes, spiritual growth should include gaining strength and wisdom and perseverance and toughness and so on. But we have to get our focus right or everything else will go wrong. And the focus is not, “I and Christ’ , but “Not I, but Christ.” It’s what Paul said was his goal: Phil 3:10- “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” NASU Paul’s goal was not to experience more of his own life, but to experience more of the life of Christ in him. It was to lose self and gain something better; gain the power of the resurrected Christ; gain the fellowship of suffering for the sake of Christ, and of even being conformed to His death, if that’s what ‘Not I, but Christ’ resulted in. So be it; for it was all better than anything that Paul could ever be or do on his own. When Paul thought of growing in the Spirit, he first thought of being filled with the Spirit so that he could then have the working of the Spirit flowing through him.
And that’s the kind of growing that the Apostle Peter was also talking about. For it was Peter that said, “Set Christ apart as Lord in your heart.” (1 Pet. 3:15) This is the same as the “fix your eyes on Jesus” in Heb.12. And this is the same as “For it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life that I live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave His life for me” of Gal.2:20.
So now what happens if when you read this command to ‘Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’ that you think of it in terms of ‘Flow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’? How does this affect your focus? Right, it turns the focus onto letting Christ, letting the Spirit of Christ, flow through your life and move through your life and have more of your life, thus growing His work and influence in and through your life.
And do you also see how it affects how you see and think of yourself? You no longer see yourself as the source. You no longer think of yourself as the vine. You see yourself and you think of yourself as a beloved branch on the Vine of Christ. And you think of your main duty as not being the production of fruit, but of abiding in the Vine, who then produces His fruit and grows His fruit through you, the branch. It is a major shift in your focus from ‘the strain of trying to grow’ to ‘the release of letting yourself flow’. Your focus is not as much on the growing as it is on the flowing, the flowing of these spiritual waters of life that God has poured into you. Your focus now is not so much on how can you spiritually grow in obedience to this command to grow, but on how you can yield more of your life to the filling of God’s Spirit so that the Spirit of Christ can flow through your life as His branch, and thus bearing the fruit that He is trying to grow in and through your life. And as Christ, the Vine, works His works and grows His fruit through you and me, His branches, we find that not only are His spiritual waters now flowing more and more through us, but that we are also experiencing more and more spiritual growth in us.
‘Fix your eyes on Jesus’…’Be filled with the Spirit’…’You are the Branches’… To obey God’s command to grow we have to get our eyes off of ourselves and onto Christ. To obey God’s command to grow we have to seek to be filled with God’s Spirit and not stay full of ourselves. To obey God’s command to grow we have to think and act like a Branch and not the Vine. And when we do, we finally learn what Jesus meant when He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30 NASU
Here is a suggested motto for your thinking: ‘Through me, not from me.’ ‘Through me, not from me.’ In order to grow spiritually you must flow spiritually. And in order to flow spiritually you must be filled with the Spirit. And it all starts and ends with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and perfecter of our faith.
(‘To grow’ speaks to your intention. ‘To fill’ speaks to your yielding to the source of your growth; God’s Spirit. And ‘To flow’ speaks to the process of letting God’s Spirit work through you, which results in ‘spiritual growth’.)