The NEXT STEP 2 Peter 1:3-11

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Even over many years that dreaded question sticks in our memories from childhood, and still makes us cringe. Asked by some elderly relative, we would give some polite answer about engine drivers or air hostesses, while inside we were fuming because we knew we already were grown up!
There is this myth that there is a time in life which all youngsters long for, at which children turn overnight into “grown-ups” and thereafter are treated by everybody else as adults. In fact, the whole idea of being “grown up” is really rather misleading and suspect. It carries the dangerous implication that there could come a time in our experience when we stop growing, when we don’t need to grow any more because we’ve “arrived” already and we can’t grow any further. Even when we stop growing taller in our late teens many of us continue growing around the waistline, whether we like it or not! But hopefully we all keep growing as people too, maturing in our understanding and our personalities as long as we live.
They say you’re never too old to learn. Schools today talk about “the continuing learning journey” and “lifelong learning.” The success of the Open University and the popularity of Evening Classes and University of the Third Age show that many people want and are able to keep on learning throughout their lives. Many take up new hobbies and develop new skills later in life. My dad first started playing golf when he retired, and kept playing for 25 years!

At a dinner party one day a young graduate asked her white haired neighbour what his job was. “I devote myself to the study of physics.” “You mean you are still a student at your age?” she said scornfully. “I finished my degree a year ago!” She was very embarrassed when she discovered that her neighbour’s name was Albert Einstein.

Surely we will want to keep on growing and developing as people throughout our lives. It was Cardinal Newman who said “Growth is the only evidence of life”. This is true in our Christian life too. We can sometimes be content to stand still in our faith. We can sometimes become too comfortable, and feel that we have already arrived where God wants us to be. But surely there is always more about God to discover, more riches in the Bible to explore, more depths in prayer to enjoy. Maturity of Christian character does not develop overnight either. Our minds can keep on developing, and so too can our characters. Patience, endurance, thankfulness and cheerfulness are just a few of the qualities in which we can keep on growing, and most of us need to. None of us ever achieve the perfection Christ sets us as an example, in love and humility and obedience. We will never “arrive”! There are so many ways in which we all need to keep on growing.
When Pablo Casals reached 95, a young reported asked him: “Mr. Casals, you are 95 and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?” And Mr. Casals answered, “Because I think I’m making progress.” Our aim as Christians should be to keep on making progress every day of our lives.
This morning I want to introduce you to a new idea for to help us grow as Christians, which I want to call “THE NEXT STEP”.

Let me say at the start that THE NEXT STEP is not about what you can do for God, but what God will do for you. This is not about extra responsibilities to burden you – but extra opportunities for God to bless you! THE NEXT STEP is not meant to be a challenge. It is an invitation!

We are all different. We have different gifts, different needs. We are all at different stages in the Christian life. So how do you want to grow in your Christian life in the days ahead? What is the right next step for you? The right next step will be different for each one of us. I can think of at least SEVEN areas, any one of which might be the area where you might be wanting to grow as a Christian.

1 GROWING IN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

? Do you want to know God better?
? Do you wish your prayer and worship could be more real?

God certainly wants us to get to know Him better and better and love him more and more.
2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Eph 1: 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Knowing God better!
Knowing more of the hope to which He has called us
Knowing and experiencing more of the riches of his glorious inheritance
Knowing and experiencing more of his incomparably great power for us who believe!

THE NEXT STEP is designed to help you know God better

2 GROWING IN OUR KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING

? Do you want to understand the Bible better?
? Are you searching for answers to deep questions?

In his lifetime Jesus was a Rabbi, a teacher. His followers were called disciples, which means learners. Disciples are learners. This is why the first Christians devoted themselves to learning from the apostles as they taught about Jesus. Growth is an essential part of life as individual Christians and as a Church. To grow in our faith we all need to keep on learning.
The Early Church devoted itself to the Apostles’ teaching and that comes to us in the words of the New Testament. So as Christians more than anything else we need to learn from Scripture. We need to learn about God and His love for us and his grace towards us. We need to learn from Jesus the Son of God as He revealed God to us by His words and His actions. We need to learn about the Holy Spirit of God, the Helper, God living inside us.
Then the Bible also reveals to us the things that are pleasing to God and the things that make God angry. So we need to learn how to serve God and become more like Him in love and Holiness. So much to learn about creation and the fall, about God’s plan of salvation, about heaven and hell and the return of Christ. A lifetime of learning !!!

The NEXT STEP is designed to help you grow in your understanding

3 GROWING IN OUR WITNESS AND SERVICE

? Are you looking for a new way to serve God in the church or in the community?
? Do you long to share your faith more effectively with others?

The more mature we are in our faith, the more useful we can be in serving God and the more our Christian witness should have an impact on the lives of people around us.

THE NEXT STEP is designed to help you witness and serve God more effectively

4 GROWING IN THE IMAGE OF CHRIST

? Are there aspects of Christian character you wish you could grow in?

Colossians 1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might

2 Peter 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

There is a question which Africa Inland Mission ask folk who are applying to work with them as missionaries. “Over the last year, in what ways have you become more like Christ? More holy? More loving?” A challenging question!

THE NEXT STEP is designed to help you become more like Christ

5 GROWING BY DEEPER FELLOWSHIP

? Do you wish you had closer Christian friendships?

Growing close to God implies growing closer to each other.
“We must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:15-16)

This isn’t about more meetings! It’s about deeper friendships!! We need those friendships at a human level – for our social and emotional wellbeing. And we need those friendships to help us grow as Christians!

There are so many things which we need to learn as Christians but where being taught is only the beginning. Like prayer for instance. Or witnessing. Or holy living. Or trusting God. Or loving each other. Or leading worship or preaching or teaching in Family Church. The first disciples learned these kinds of things from Jesus. But they didnt just learn them from Jesus’s public sermons, or even from their private countless discussions. A Rabbi’s disciples learned by being with their Teacher, by watching the example of his life as much as by listening to his words. So according to Mark 3:14 the apostles were 12 men chosen by Jesus first and foremost “to be with him”, “to be with him” and learn from his example. We need more of that kind of discipleship in church life. Learning from older and more mature Christians, our elders in the faith, learning the things that are “better caught than taught”. We need to be discipled! We need Christian friends to not only to support us and encourage us but also to teach us and to inspire us by their example.

THE NEXT STEP is designed to help us become better friends!

6 GROWING IN VICTORY

? Do you just wish you had more strength to live your day to day life?
? Do you long for more joy, peace or victory in your Christian life?

2 Thess 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

THE NEXT STEP is designed to help us experience greater victory in our Christian lives!

Growing in PASSION

There is a difference between being a believer and being an enthusiast!

We need PASSION! What kinds of things are YOU passionate about? At times I’ve been passionate about playing sport. I’ve been passionate about science. I’ve been passionate about playing music. I’ve been passionate about computers. I still am passionate about my wife and my family. But what can we do to make sure that above all these important and precious and worthwhile things and people, God is our greatest passion?

I quoted this thought to you last week. “If one-tenth of what you Christians believe is true, you ought to be ten times as excited as you are.”

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. (Rom 12:11)

Last week I quoted some words of my favourite devotional author AWTozer. “There seems to be a chilling fear of holy enthusiasm among the people of God. We try to tell how happy we are—but we remain so well-controlled that there are very few waves of glory experienced in our midst.”

Tozer’s book THE PURSUIT OF GOD is a powerful antidote if we are lacking spiritual appetite.
“The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.”
“I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. “Do you want to see God’s glory. Do you want to hunger for him again. Pray that God will awaken your hunger for him.”

THE NEXT STEP is designed to help us to become more passionate for God – to make us enthusiasts!

Growing in our relationship with God
Growing in knowledge and understanding
Growing in witness and service
Growing in the image of Christ
Growing by deeper fellowship
Growing in victory
Growing in passion

ANY OF THESE might be an area where you might want to grow in your Christian life!

In an episode of the Peanuts cartoon strip, Snoopy sat droopy-eyed at the entrance of his doghouse. He sighed, “Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. There’s such little hope for advancement.”
In the Christian life there is ALWAYS hope for advancement!

Phil 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, 14 I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

Let me say again – THE NEXT STEP is not about what you can do for God, but what God will do for you. This is not about extra responsibilities to burden you – but extra opportunities for God to bless you! THE NEXT STEP is not meant to be a challenge. It is an invitation!

That next step will be different for each one of us! But WHAT IS THE RIGHT NEXT STEP FOR YOU as a goal to aim at in the weeks and months ahead?

Growing in our relationship with God
Growing in knowledge and understanding
Growing in witness and service
Growing in the image of Christ
Growing by deeper fellowship
Growing in victory
Growing in passion
There is a monument high in the Alps built in honor of a faithful guide who perished while ascending a peak to rescue a stranded tourist. Inscribed on that memorial stone are three words: HE DIED CLIMBING. Right up to the end of life Christians should have the same kind of attitude. We have never arrived. We are still climbing. Are you ready and willing to take THE NEXT STEP God has planned for you?

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