“To neglect your church, your prayer, your Bible study, your devotions, is to tell God that you have no desire to grow, to become more and more His child, that you are satisfied with being a weak and shaky Christian, and that you have had as much as you want from Him. How perilously such a person is slipping away from God. Everything that is not in accord with God's will is given over to death and the power of darkness. But, my friends, if we cling to Christ and His Word, growing daily in the will of God, striving to bring our lives into harmony with that will, what strength is ours, what then can harm us? When we are given over to the will of God, nothing can destroy, no more than God and His will can be destroyed. The unshakeable strength of the will of God is in us, though the world turn upside down.” (Dr. Norman Nagel,Selected Sermons, p. 245.)
Plain and simple, Christians grow.
So, are you growing? Or are you, as Pr. Nagel warns against, neglecting your church-going, your prayer life, your Bible study, your devotions?
How do Christians grow? Jesus describes it: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-6).
If a branch grows, it’s not because the branch is particularly healthy but because the whole plant is healthy. Jesus is the vine. Every branch grafted into Him, every branch that remains in Him, grow and bears fruit.
We grow by abiding in Jesus and in His Word.
So I want to challenge you to set a goal for growing in Jesus, for growing as His disciple. The only way you will grow is with more Jesus, with more of His Word. The end result of the goal is not more of you, but more of Jesus.
Here are some sample goals. Pick or modify one or more to suit you and help you grow in Jesus.
• I currently attend church less frequently than I should. My goal is to attend every Sunday that I’m healthy.
• I do not currently attend Bible class (or Sunday school). My goal is to grow in the Word by studying it at Bible class.
• I do not currently have family devotions every day. My goal is to begin using the Congregation at Prayer to have family prayer and devotions every day.
• I currently do not attend the catechetical Service of Prayer and Preaching on Wednesdays. My goal is to make this a regular part of my weekly hearing and studying the Word of God.
• I currently do not begin and end each day with prayer. My goal is to use Luther’s orders of morning and evening prayer as a basis for beginning and ending each day.
You will have the opportunity to make one of these or a similar discipleship growth goal during the month of September. Every Christian grows. We grow by being in Jesus and in His Word. “If we cling to Christ and His Word, growing daily in the will of God, striving to bring our lives into harmony with that will, what strength is ours, what then can harm us? When we are given over to the will of God, nothing can destroy, no more than God and His will can be destroyed.”