These are the notes from our 4/10/2011 church meeting. My understanding of some of these passages has changed.
Leader: Philip Weatherford
Our study will focus on "As a member of God's kingdom, why will I never be more than a work in progress?"
When the believer submits to GOD's plan for salvation this results in their death.
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
(Rom. 6:1-3 NKJV)
20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
(Gal. 2:20 NKJV)
Though the old man dies in the watery grave of baptism, we continue to live in the flesh which is weak and sin-prone. Therefore GOD sanctifies us to make us clean and holy (Eph. 5:26; 1 Thess. 4:2-4, 5:22-24; 1 Cor. 6:11; Heb. 2:11). Each day we live and walk with Him, He is in the process of conforming us to the image of His son (Rom. 8:29). This is an ongoing process, however, because, in this life we will never "arrive"—meaning that we get everything right, or are perfect. Yet GOD will complete the work on that final day when Jesus returns:
...being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
This process of conforming ourselves into Jesus' image is often painful, cutting away those things which don't belong in the mold of Christ. This is known as discipline. GOD disciplines us as sons (Heb. 12:3-11; Rev. 3:19). We are instructed to endure, and not despise, this discipline of GOD since it brings about the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Lest we ever think too highly of ourselves for having received this promise of perfection/completeness from GOD, let us recall the words of Jesus:
9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on... (Phil. 3:12)
Read from Diligently Seeking God, February 27.
In the ongoing renovations of my character, what must I recognize in my life?
- Because of the damage sin has done to this world, our hearts will never find what they truly need here. As much as we need to face this world's brokenness, we must learn to see God's mercy as our salvation, His promise as our joy. As we fix our hope on His perfection, we must not forget the imperfection of the world. Jesus died to redeem us from the sin that is in our hearts and to give us eternal life. God doesn't plan to fix this world, but to fix us, and then to bring us to where He lives!
- The tempter seeks to destroy us by deceiving us and drawing our will away from God (Gen. 4:7). And to the extent that we allow our hearts to be turned against God, we allow evil to gain another victory. Our hearts are under attack on all fronts. There is not a single dimension of our thinking where we are not challenged by evil and confronted with crucial choices. In our intellect, the choice is between truth and deception. In our affections, we must decide between love and hatred. In our will, the alternatives are obedience to God and disobedience. Unless we determine not to let it happen, wrongheadedness—and even wrongheartedness—will overthrow us in each of these realms, and wipe out every good thing we were created to enjoy.
We have an obvious need for humility and vigilance in everything that pertains to our spiritual welfare.
- We must try to grow spiritually as well as physically. Significant growth requires the exertion of effort. It's inconsistent to say that we want to grow but do nothing about it. Being passive breeds weakness and leads to stagnation.
God has made no promises of mercy to the slothful and negligent. His mercy is only offered to our frail and imperfect—but best—endeavors, to practice all manner of righteousness. A life that grows toward God is an active enterprise, not merely a passive status to be enjoyed. To be a Christian, I must "walk in Him" (Col. 2:6).
- Unconditional surrender—to seek God sincerely is to give ourselves to Him completely. The good things that come from life in God come to those who yield themselves to Him entirely. If we hold back parts of our hearts or our lives from His benevolence, we will miss the unique blessings that flow from commitment. If we sow sparingly we will not reap bountifully (2 Cor. 9:6).
- The riches of God's majesty are evident by every work of His creation. There is nothing about the natural environment God has designed to surround and support us that does not show His greatness—if we have eyes to see and hearts to understand. The less daily contact we have with what God has created, the more difficult it is to think of God as we should. Or maybe the powerful statements evident in God's creations have become commonplace to us, and we just quit paying attention to them. The vast, eternal sweep of God's wisdom, love, and power remains, waiting for us to open our eyes wide with wonder, and in all things recognize the glory of the Maker (Psalm 19:1)!
- James 3:2—Sometimes in our pride we conceal the heartache of deep needs that God allows, for the time being and for our ultimate good, to remain unfulfilled. And in our pride we also cover up the reality of our continuing struggle with sin. If we think that we can obtain complete relief and total joy right now, we are missing the very thing that can draw us toward a richer taste of God: a deeply felt, realistic acceptance of the imperfections that remains within us.
- Being "in Christ" in this life does not mean total freedom from setbacks and sorrows. To be in Christ is to groan. It is to live out the days of our pilgrimage in hope. If we are among His faithful people, Christ will one day clothe us in perfect glory. Our rags will be turned to riches. Until then, we need to be honest with ourselves about our raggedness (1 John 1:8; 2 Cor. 5:2-4).
- Rom. 12:3—As we acknowledge the seriousness of our failures and the depth of our sorrows, self-righteousness can creep into our thinking. We may come to look upon those whose lives appear more trouble-free as being somehow less spiritually-mature than we are. We start to view suffering as being competitive in nature, we engage in "Can you top this?"
"Woe is me." is not always the humble statement it appears to be. Whatever we suffer is only "such as is common to man" (1 Cor. 10:13). The truly "poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3) keep their focus on God's fullness, not their own emptiness.
Additional Passages to Consider
- Heb. 5:7-10 – "He learned obedience from the things He suffered..."
- Luke 8:11-15 – "The seed is the word..."
- Matt. 15:18-20 – "But the things that proceed out of the mouth..."
- Rom. 14:17-19 – "For the kingdom of God is not..."
- Eph. 4:26-27 – "Be angry...do not sin...do not give the devil..."
- Eph. 4:29, 31-32 – "Let no unwholesome...let all bitterness..."