ABC of Christian Growth
Understanding the fundamentals of Christianity can help you grow as a Christian. This article explores the eight fundamentals of how to grow your Christian faith.
Fundamental One - Assurance of Salvation
If you open the door of your life to Jesus (Revelation 3:20), He promises to come into your life. He doesn’t say He might, or He’ll think about it. He says He will. You can trust His promise because He is the truth (John 14:6), and the truth comes through Him (John 1:17).
If Jesus is in your life, you have eternal life (1 John 5:11-12) right now (John 5:24). Eternal life is more than living forever. It’s Jesus’ life transplanted into you, a different kind of life altogether.
When Jesus loves, He’s just Himself. His life in you gives you the ability to be like Him.
Put your trust in the facts (God’s character and promises), not whether you feel Christ is in your life. Imagine that your car’s engine represents the facts, the gasoline is your faith, and the trunk your feelings.
Putting faith in your emotions is like putting gasoline in the trunk. It won’t take you anywhere. Your feelings change, but God’s character and promises don’t. Faith believes in God’s promises and acts on them.
Faith is how you know that Jesus is living within you. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Your faith is in God’s character and promises and not in the faith itself.
God’s dependability in fulfilling His promises makes all the difference. Great faith that river skim ice will hold your weight doesn’t prevent you from breaking through it. God’s promises are like thirty-inch-thick ice that supports even those with weak faith who are bold enough to step out on it.
God wants you to know you have eternal life (1 John 5:13). That knowing begins by simply taking God at His word. With time you’ll increasingly detect in yourself these vital signs of spiritual life from God:
1) The Holy Spirit’s presence (1 John 4:13).
2) Unwavering belief that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 5:1) evidenced by trusting His death, burial, and resurrection instead of your goodness to make you 100% acceptable to God.
3) Obedience to God’s commands (1 John 2:3).
4) Love for other believers (1 John 3:14).
5) Doing what’s right (1 John 3:10).
As you grow spiritually, expect to see “fingerprints” of God’s nature in your life. You’ll be more interested in the Bible, forgive others easier, pray more, be unburdened from the weight of guilt, enjoy being with other believers, have a greater desire to help others, want others to know Jesus too, love others more, talk “cleaner,” and have a new ability to resist sin.
If you aren’t sure that Jesus is in your life but would like to be, you must repent (Be willing to turn from self-centered living to God) and believe that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died on Calvary’s cross in your place, was buried, and rose again the third day.
Believing in Jesus means receiving or accepting Him. Ask Him to forgive your sins and come into your life to be your Savior and Lord. The following is a prayer you could use:
Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross in my place and taking my sin, death, and judgment upon Yourself.
I open the door of my life to You, and I want You to come and take control. Thank You for forgiving my sins and making me a child of God. Make me like You. Amen.
Fundamental Two - Daily Time with God
David prayed every morning (Psalm 5:3) and sought God’s face (Psalm 27:8). What does it mean to seek God’s face? Psalm 27:9 describes its opposite as hiding your face or turning away in anger from, rejecting, or forsaking God. Seek God as earnestly as you would cold water in the 115-degree desert heat (Psalm 63:1).
Seek Him with all your heart and soul; you’ll find him (Deuteronomy 4:29), and He’ll bless you (Psalm 119:2).
Daily time with God prepares you to bear spiritual fruit. To bear fruit, a grape branch must remain attached to the vine. To be spiritually fruitful, you must maintain vital contact with Jesus (John 15:5).
Set aside time daily for prayer and Bible reading when you are most alert. Meet with Him in a quiet place where you won't be interrupted (Mark 1:35).
What to Do
1. Read your daily Scripture portion starting with the New Testament. A study Bible such as the Life Application Study Bible will help you understand the passage's background, meaning, and application.
2. Write the date, what Scripture you read, and a one or two-sentence personal application.
3. Pray about all that concerns you (Philippians 4:6-7).
Fundamental Three - Be the Church
David rejoiced that he could go to the Lord’s house (Psalm 122:1). Not everyone does. Many excuse their absence from church because of all the hypocrites there.
Hypocrites are people who pretend they’re following God. Jesus attended synagogue regularly despite the hypocrites there (Matthew 23:2-3, 13; Luke 4:16).
One of the purposes of church attendance is fellowship. You share Jesus' life with other believers. The first 3,000 Christians baptized into the church dedicated themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread (the Lord’s Supper), and prayer (Acts 2:42). Now that you’re a believer, you share life and ministry with believers, the Father, and the Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).
The church is a living organism created by God—the body of which Christ is the head. You need other church members, and they need you (1 Corinthians 12:17-21).
Having a ministry in the church isn’t optional. An index finger can’t function properly apart from its place in the hand, and the hand can’t work correctly without the index finger. The church is your home where you can use your spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-5) to serve others (John 13:14-16).
God’s will is for you to assemble regularly with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). When you remove a log from the fire, its flame quickly goes out. The same thing happens to you if you isolate yourself from other believers. You meet with other believers to spur one another toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
The world will know you are Jesus’ disciple by the love you show His other followers (John 13:34-35). You can’t love other believers if you isolate yourself from them.
Attending church is one way to show your allegiance to Jesus to others who don’t believe in Him (Matthew 10:32). When a deaf man was asked why he attended church, he said, “I want people to know whose side I’m on!”
In worship, Sunday school, and small groups, church leaders explain and apply God’s Word to your life. That builds your spiritual muscles (1 Peter 2:2). It prepares you to serve God (Ephesians 4:12).
Worshipping Jesus will bring you joy. In God’s presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). You will encounter Jesus’ remarkable presence when you worship with other believers (Matthew 18:20).
Football is a team sport. It takes many players working together for the team to be successful. Obedient Christians are contributing church members!
Christianity is a team faith!
Fundamental Four - Jesus Is Your New Leader
At His birth, Jesus is described as Savior, Christ, and Lord (Luke 2:11). He is the Word, and the Word is God (John 1:1). The Word became flesh (John 1:14). Since Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh, He is both God and man.
When Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, saw the crucifixion wounds, he called Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
Let’s consider the qualities that Jesus shares with God. He claimed He could forgive sins, which no one but God can do (Mark 2:7-11).
In Psalm 23:1, the Lord is the shepherd, and in John 10:11, Jesus is the shepherd. The clear conclusion is that Jesus is the Lord. The Jews understood that Jesus made Himself equal to God and tried to kill Him for it (John 5:18). Likewise, at another time, they wanted to stone Him to death because they understood that He claimed to be God (John 10:30, 33).
Do you know anyone who never did anything wrong? We all stumble in many ways. Contrary to our experience, John and Peter followed Jesus for three years, yet couldn’t point out a single moral failure or sin in His life (1 John 3:5, 1 Peter 2:22).
Jesus came to show us God the Father. He’s God’s “Show and Tell.” Knowing Him means knowing the Father (John 8:19).
Believing in Him means believing in the Father (John 12:44). Honoring Him means honoring the Father (John 5:23).
Hating Him means hating the Father (John 15:23). Seeing Him means seeing the Father (John 14:9). Welcoming Him means welcoming the Father (Mark 9:37).
Colossians 1:15-18 describes Jesus as the image of God. He’s God’s reflection in the mirror of humanity. He perfectly reveals what God is like. He is the firstborn (first in rank) over all creation because He made it to do His will and give Him glory.
He is the head of the church (the collection of all believers past, present, and future). He is its Leader and the source of its life. He has first place in everything (Colossians 1:18).
Someday, every knee will bow before Jesus in worship and confess that He is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). Calling Jesus Lord implies you will do what He says (Luke 6:46).
Jesus Christ is more than a great teacher--He’s entirely God and fully man. You owe Him complete obedience. He is your ultimate boss, with authority over every area of your life.
Fundamental Five - Obedience
God made salmon to swim freely in sparkling rivers and vast oceans. However, they're helpless in the mouth of a grizzly bear. You’re like a salmon, God’s kingdom is like water, and sin is like a bear. God designed you for the sea of His kingdom, not the jaws of evil.
The choice is yours. Without obedience, life has no joy, freedom, or peace! God has chosen you for obedience to Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2).
The righteous are described as obedient children (1 Peter 1:14). That means you can’t live however you want. You serve either sin or obedience (Romans 6:16).
Keep It Simple
A relationship with God isn’t complicated. You don't have to dig a hole 1000 feet deep with a teaspoon or climb a ladder 49 miles into the sky to stay on His good side. You need to know what He has said, believe it, and do it. Don’t bother exploring other options.
God Takes Priority
Rule 1 is that God’s will takes priority over your own and everyone else’s. Don’t rationalize or make excuses. Your situation isn’t unique. When tempted to make excuses, refer back to rule 1!
Obedience to God
Obedience to God is more important than any other claim on your life. An older woman attends Penn State’s football game with Michigan. Every seat in Beaver Stadium is filled except the one beside her. Someone asks her whose seat it is.
She says she and her late husband have been season ticket holders for 35 years, and the seat belonged to him. She is asked why she didn’t ask a friend or relative to accompany her. She says, “Are you kidding! They’re all at the funeral.”
You need that kind of commitment to God. The result of such obedience is eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9).
Obedience Demonstrates Faith
Obeying Jesus’ commands demonstrates that you love Him (John 14:21, 15:14) and know Him (1 John 2:3).
Obedience Pays Dividends
When you do what Jesus commands, you remain in His love and experience His joy (John 15:10- 11). God rewards your obedience by giving you what you ask for (1 John 3:22). Prolonging your life and making you prosperous (Proverbs 3:1-2). Granting peace and righteousness (Isaiah 48:18).
Blessing you (Luke 11:28). Giving His love and presence (John 14:23). Eternal life (1 John 2:17).
A spiritual crop (Luke 8:15). Stability and safety (Matthew 7:24-27).
Put Your Heart into It
Outward conformity to God’s commands isn’t enough (Matthew 22:37). The obedience that makes God smile is wholehearted (Ephesians 6:7) and motivated by love for and gratitude to Him (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Fundamental Six - Reading the Bible
Ignorance Isn't Bliss
Knowing the truth sets you free (John 8:32). Sin is a prison cell, and you’re a slave to the things that control you. Many think God’s ways are too restricting and prefer their “freedom.” They aren’t willing to exchange their cigarettes, alcohol, sexually immoral lifestyles, etc., for God’s ways.
Studying and applying the Bible to your life removes the restraining bars of sin. Jesus came that you might fully experience life (John 10:10).
Read or Bleed
If you ignore God’s Word, you’re a possum in Satan’s headlights. Bump-bump. Road-kill, for sure! He wants you to be the most ineffective Christian imaginable.
He’s like a roaring lion (mighty) on the one hand (1 Peter 5:8) and an angel of light (subtle) on the other (2 Corinthians 11:14).
To defeat him, you must spend time reading, studying, and applying God’s Word. Begin with at least ten minutes each day and gradually increase.
Set a goal of reading through the New Testament within the next twelve months. Then spend the following 24 months completing the Old Testament. Aim to read a chapter each day.
A Guide Dog for the Blind
A blind man trusts his guide dog’s eyes and judgment. Living the Christian life is similar. You must learn to see life through God’s eyes and trust His judgment.
Don't depend on your understanding. In all your ways to acknowledge God. He will then direct you (Proverbs 3:5).
Consistently reading and applying God’s Word trains you to see life from His point of view. Lies are the devil’s weapons of mass destruction. He lies and is the father of lies (John 8:44).
He camouflages untruths as half-truths and even 90% truths to inject more poison than a pure lie could. Daily you unknowingly swallow them like pills ground up and mixed with applesauce. Few of them are apparent. Understanding and acting on God’s Word frustrates Satan’s destructive plans.
Truth used to correspond to reality, and now we’re told it’s relative. Supposedly, it no longer applies to everyone at all times and places. Like milk, it takes the shape of its container. Some think everyone’s truth is as unique as their fingerprints.
The God Standard
Abe Lincoln once asked someone how many legs a dog has if one calls its tail a leg. After the man answered incorrectly, Abe told him it had four legs. He said, “Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.” Many have departed from the absolute standard, but God hasn’t, and He’s the Judge!
People can play word games and twist “truth” into whatever convenient shape. They can ignore or redefine reality as they like, but they can’t escape it or the consequences of their actions. Calling black, white, and wrong right doesn’t make it so.
On Judgment Day, all will have to explain every careless word (Matthew 12:36). Everything hidden will be uncovered before God’s eyes to Whom all must give account (Hebrews 4:13). No one will tell Him that truth is relative.
Your brain is like a computer with defective software. No one naturally imitates Jesus very well. His life alone was unaffected by the “sin bug” (1 Peter 2:22).
When you repented and received Jesus into your life, God inserted a spiritual drive into your “computer.” That’s the new birth.
Your spiritual reboot enables you to “read” God’s truth. Your mind requires renewal to see the world as God does (Romans 12:2). How does that happen?
According to 1 Peter 2:2, you must crave pure spiritual milk (God’s Word). Let a hunger for God’s word be your defining passion.
Renewing your mind isn’t automatic or easy. It takes time and effort to think, feel, and act more like Jesus. A lot of both! God enables you to will and perform what He wants (Philippians 2:13).
Your part is to program your mind with and act upon one God-truth after another. Jesus said that those who practice His teachings prove they’re His disciples (John 8:31). It’s a life-long journey.
Some translations of the Bible are easier to understand than others. The New International Version is written at about grade levels 7-8, and the New Living Translation is at grade 6. Simpler is better. The Bible isn’t magical; reading daily chapters won’t keep the devil away! Only the Scripture you understand and apply will make you more like Jesus.
A study Bible will help you digest a lot more soul food. The Life Application Study Bible, for example, explains and applies the Bible to your life.
A Bible dictionary and concordance deepen your study. You can purchase them in a Christian bookstore.
If you have a computer, you can access many resources online. This will help you to search more quickly and effectively. Go to Biblegateway.com to do word searches.
A Bible dictionary explains Bible's people, places, things, books, and customs. A concordance lists essential words found in the Bible. For example, a complete concordance lists all 250 places the term “peace” occurs (book, chapter, and verse). Your concordance should correspond to your version of the Bible.
Nine Principles to Interpret Scripture
1. Let the Bible explain itself. Matthew 7:7-8 doesn’t guarantee to get everything you ask from God. Other passages, such as James 4:3, describe conditions for answered prayer.
2. Consider literary forms. Jesus is the door (John 10:9), but don’t expect a knob and hinges.
3. Look for only one meaning (the author's original intention) but many applications.
4. Understanding grammar and historical background are two keys to accurate interpretation.
5. Interpret unclear passages in the light of clear ones. Ephesians 2:8-10 describe how good deeds relate to salvation better than James 2:24 does.
6. Research what words meant to the biblical authors. Two resources to help: Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament by Merrill F. Unger and Williams White, Jr. and An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W. E. Vine.
7. Proverbs express general principles, not moral absolutes. Proverbs 3:16 promises long life to the wise, but some wise people die young.
8. Parables teach one central point. Luke 15: 3-7 teaches that God cares about lost people.
9. Pray for the Holy Spirit to teach you.
Fundamental Seven - Prayer
You're in the Army Now
It was called Operation Desert Storm. Special Operations Forces excelled. They moved deep behind Iraqi lines.
They provided bombing coordinates with hand-held lasers. They pointed them at targets that missiles then homed in on and destroyed. You can direct God’s missiles against the enemy through folded-hand, laser prayers. But first, you have to know the enemy.
Your struggle is against the forces of Satan (Ephesians 6:12), your sinful nature (Galatians 5:17), and the world (1 John 5:4). Your sinful nature loves to have its way in everything. The world system is organized against and hostile to God’s values.
Satan laughs when you trust in your resources instead of God's to fight against him. Apart from a trusting connection with Jesus Christ, you can do nothing (John 15:5), but through it, you can do everything He asks you to do (Philippians 4:13). You win spiritual battles through prayer.
Two Way Communication
Prayer is talking with God about everything. He’s your best friend. Give him a chance to speak. Many days He’ll let the Bible do all His talking.
Sometimes, though, He talks directly. Often this takes the form of a persistent impression.
Hearing God’s voice shouldn’t seem unusual to you. You follow Jesus because you know His voice (John 10:4). Allow quiet moments during prayer for God to speak to you in a still, small voice.
Vending Machine in the Sky
Many people think prayer is asking God for things. Period. You put your money into the prayer machine (time spent praying), push the button (make your request) and get what you want (kerplunk!).
That kind of one-dimensional prayer life doesn’t develop your relationship with God! The ingredients of a growing, healthy relationship with another person are found in a growing relationship with God.
Prayer’s primary motivation is to become more like Jesus. The acrostic PRAYER will help you develop a balanced prayer life. PRAYER represents Praise, Rely, Admit, Yield, Express thanks, and Request.
Praise is words or deeds that honor and exalt God for who He is and what He’s done. Knowledge of both comes from the Bible.
You can exalt God for His glorious grace (Ephesians 1:6). Jesus is God’s all-sufficient sacrifice for sin. Praise is a fitting sacrifice. After all, He rescued us (Hebrews 13:15).
God’s servants in heaven shout “Hallelujah” (Revelation 19:6) to praise Him (This word means “Praise ye Jehovah” or “Praise the Lord”).
An example of a Praise Prayer
Father, I praise You for Your glorious grace that rescued a sinner like me. I deserve hell, but You gave me heaven. Without grace, I wouldn’t know or serve You.
I couldn’t do Your will with the right attitude for even one minute. You enabled me to know You even when I didn’t care at all about You. I praise You for Your grace.
I praise You for Your love for me; that’s new every day, and I can always depend on it. I love You only because You first loved me; your love isn't selfish. Lord, I praise You for your love.
The Greek word translated as “faith” means trust or reliance, and it includes dependence upon Jesus, His teachings, and His finished work on the cross. It describes a commitment to believe in God no matter what.
Prayer without faith doesn’t please God (Hebrews 11:6). In Matthew 8:13, Jesus told a centurion that it would be done to him as he believed it would. "You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” (Matthew 21:22 NLT).
This verse isn’t a blank check to use prayer to get things that aren’t good for you, and other verses on prayer qualify it.
Example of a Rely Prayer
Father, I need a job and trust You to supply it. You have promised that the things I need will be provided if I seek You first. You know how my faith wavers. I’ve been unemployed for two months and filled out 23 job applications.
I still haven’t heard any encouraging news. Lord, I believe You’ll provide a position where you want me to serve. Please help me persevere despite the heckling unbelief that tells me I’m a fool to rely on you.
You must acknowledge the sins of which you’re guilty.
When you offend God, you must confess it (Leviticus 5:5). Wronging another person requires admitting the sin and making up for it (Numbers 5:6-7, Luke 19:8). When you confess your sins, God will forgive them and purify you from unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Example of an Admit Prayer
Dear Lord, I’m sorry I watched that television show last night. It didn’t help me become more like you. It appealed to my lust and filled my mind with pictures I couldn’t erase.
I watched the show even though I knew better. Please forgive me. Help me to develop a plan to keep this kind of thing from happening again.
Prayer demonstrates your dependence on God. He’s God, and you aren’t. You surrender to Him and His purposes for your life.
Effective prayer requires surrendering to God your will (Matthew 26:39), mind (Colossians 3:2), kingdom (Matthew 6:33), body (Romans 12:1), understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6), ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9), and the control of your life (Ephesians 5:18).
Example of a Yield Prayer
Our Father in heaven, I want to present all of myself to You this morning. There are parts of my life that I want to reserve for myself alone. Please help me to hold these with an open hand.
I ask you to think with my mind, speak with my mouth, love with my heart, walk with my feet, and bless others with my hands today. I give you the control center of my life. Thank you for controlling me with Your Holy Spirit.
Thanksgiving means expressing gratitude to God for what He has done.
Enter God’s presence with thanksgiving (Psalms 100:4). Give thanks to the Lord for His goodness (Psalms 106:1). Always thank God the Father for everything (Ephesians 5:20). Give thanks whether circumstances are favorable or not (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Example of an Express Thanks Prayer
Dear Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross in my place. Thank you for giving me this healthy body. Thank you for my house, a warm and dry refuge, as the snow is piling up outside.
Thank you for the food You have provided for my family and me. Thanks for Bill, who has taught me much about You since I met him. Thanks for Pastor Paul, who led me to faith in You. Thanks that You will give me everything I need to serve You today.
Ask God to supply what you need (petition) and what others need (intercession).
In Romans 1:10, Paul asked that the way would be open for him to visit the Christians in Rome. He asked three times for a thorn in his flesh to be removed (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). In 1 Timothy 2:1, he urged Timothy that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone. Christians are to keep on praying for other believers (Ephesians 6:18).
Example of a Request Prayer
Dear Father, give me wisdom as I shop for cars today to pick one that will provide the best value. Give me safety on the highway as I travel to and from the car dealership in Harrisburg.
Lord, I pray you would encourage Pastor Paul, protect him from Satan’s fiery darts, and fill him with wisdom and knowledge as he prepares his sermon this week. I pray for Betty. Please help her to adjust quickly to her new job, and may her Christian light shine brightly there.
Along with your other concerns, please pray regularly for the following:
1. The salvation of at least three acquaintances who don’t know Jesus personally.
2. The purity, protection, and effectiveness of your pastor and the spiritual leaders of your church.
Fundamental Eight - Forgiveness
Forgiveness means God lets go of hard feelings and any attempt to get even with you, even though you’ve offended Him. How can a holy God who hates sin justly forgive you?
The law of Moses required the shedding of blood for forgiveness. An animal died as a substitute (Hebrews 9:22). Blood from these animal substitutes can’t permanently solve your sin problem (Hebrews 10:4).
Jesus’ mission was to save you from your sins (Matthew 1:21). His death on the cross is the basis of your forgiveness and eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:11-12, Ephesians 1:7).
He took your place and paid the death penalty that your sins deserved (Romans 6:23). Redemption means God has repurchased you and made you His own. Jesus died in your place to set you apart for God’s purposes (Hebrews 10:10).
Your forgiveness depends on God’s undeserved favor received by faith (Ephesians 2:8). This forgiveness is conditional on repentance (Luke 3:3), belief (Acts 13:38-39), and confession (1 John 1:9).
Confession means calling your behavior what God does (sin) and changing it. Being a believer in Jesus doesn’t mean you won’t sin anymore. You will. Your sin doesn’t cause you to lose your relationship with God, but it does break your fellowship with him until you confess and forsake it.
Because God has forgiven you, you must forgive others (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13). God won’t forgive you if you don’t pass His forgiveness to others (Matthew 6:14-15). Since you want God to forgive you as often as you sin, you must forgive others as often as they sin against you (Matthew 18:21-22).
Joseph’s words in Genesis 50:20 and God’s promise in Romans 8:28 demonstrate that God uses even offenses against you to work for your good.
The parable in Matthew 18:23-35 concerns forgiveness. The man who owed the king 10,000 talents (30 million days’ pay) represents your sins. The man who owed 100 days’ pay to a fellow servant represents the sins of those who offended you, and they are nothing compared to your sins against God.
When God forgave you, He made you spiritually alive with Christ (Colossians 2:13). The forgiven person is blessed (Psalm 32:1-2) and “fully satisfied.” When Jesus has forgiven you much, your natural response is to love Him much (Luke 7:47).
The Russian monk Rasputin lived immorally because he thought the more he sinned, the more forgiveness he’d experience. That’s stinking thinking! Jesus died for you that you might live a new life for Him and no longer be under sin’s control (Romans 6:1-4)
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