Elevate 28 - A 28 Day Challenge to Intentionally Engage with God's Word
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
"Don't Stop Growing"
By James MacDonald, Our Journey
"If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation; old things are passing away;
all things are becoming new."
2 Corinthians 5:17
How does a person grow up spiritually? How do you become a mature follower of Christ? Think about how your spiritual life began. You came to the cross by faith and embraced Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and was transformed eternally into this thing called “new life in Christ.” Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation; old things are passing away; all things are becoming new.”
And you changed. “Old things are passing away:” the way you used to think and act, the things that used to satisfy you, the things you used to pursue—one by one those things drop off and one by one new things are put in their place. “All things are becoming new.”Now, you think differently, you act differently, you have different priorities, values, interests, and pursuits; that’s the process of your new life in Christ.
If you’ve followed Christ Jesus for very long, you know this process doesn’t happen by being good or by going to church or by working hard for Christ, just as those things didn't save you, either. They are all important parts of discipleship, but I know people that exhaust themselves in good behavior or in good works, and they’re still just as mean or immature as they were before.
What we need is a reality check about how spiritual growth really happens and we’re gonna get it firsthand this week on the broadcast from someone whose life was transformed by the power of Christ. We’re continuing in our series called, “Reality Check” from 1 Peter.
The apostle Peter is a poster boy for radical life change. Remember when you first met him in the gospels? He was outspoken, foolish, and weak in his faith. Later in the book of Acts, old things had passed away and Peter had been transformed into a powerful preacher and leader of the early church. He had changed. His commitment and devotion to Christ had become so strong that he never looked back—even to the point of death.
It’s from Peter’s testimony and instruction that we can learn what is absolutely essential to flourishing in our faith in Christ and being changed by the gospel.
Think about your own story. You began the Christian life with a message about the Cross; it came out of God’s book and into your heart. That’s how it started; and that’s how youkeep it going. First Peter 1:23 says,
“ . . . since you have been born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding Word of God.”
The Word of God is a living message. You know how I know that? Hebrews 4:12 describes it:
“The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Has this ever been your experience? As you hear God’s Word being taught, you’re likeHow does he know that about my life? Listen, that’s not the preacher, that’s the Word of God. It’s living! It can make such an impact in your life. The Word of God is the tool of your transformation.
I want to encourage all of you who are partnering with Walk in the Word that together we are getting the Word out and God uses it to transform lives.
Recently a man wrote to us saying,
"I am a patrol deputy and listen to Walk in the Word at 2:00 a.m. Last night I got a call in the middle of the program and I didn’t want to miss the rest of it but I had to. The last thing I heard Pastor James saying was, ‘Choose to sin, choose to suffer.’ Well, it was a domestic dispute I was answering, and I had to detain the husband; he was battering his wife. I felt like the Lord was telling me to share the words that I had heard, and the man’s abusive speech abated as I gently shared God’s Word and the consequences for sin, hopefully to give him some hope that God changes people. By the time we got to the station he was quiet. I think he was taking it all in. And then he closes with this, The Word of God is definitely a sharp sword that challenges all of life."
Is the Word of God challenging you? Maybe you’re in a bit of a spiritual desert right now. Are you wondering why the things of God that used to be so dear to you have become a little cold or dry? You used to be like a waterfall, with trees and flowers growing around, and now in that place there are just a lot of dry tumbleweeds blowing. Have you ever wondered, What has happened to my heart?
I’ve been to that place a few times in my life, and as hard as it was for me to admit it, I went there by choice. I have never in my life picked up the Word of God, with the phone unplugged and the door shut, and given it my focus and my faith in a diligent way when it hasn’t fed me and grown in me a new vitality for God. So if you’re a little dry spiritually, I know what’s going on. You need to get back into the Bible. The most vibrant Christians I know are people who are often, regularly, diligently feeding themselves on God’s book.
So, back to our original question, How does a person grow up in Christ? Answer: By getting back to where you started from—allowing God’s Word to change you. I guarantee you that the life of Christ will be formed in you as you feed faithfully on the living, active Word of God.
James MacDonald is a Canadian-born evangelical Christian pastor, Bible teacher, and author. He was the co-founder and senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and was the Bible teacher for the former broadcast ministry, Walk in the Word.
REFLECT & RESPOND: Children's Edition
Beaded Butterflies representing "New Life in Christ"
A guided craft activity for children.
Older children or adults can guide the making of the butterflies.
1. Read the devotional above by James MacDonald entitled: “God is For Us”.
2. The craft holds a heart with scripture that states, "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away; Behold the new has come." II Corinthians 5:17
3.Make many of these to hand out to those struggling with a challenge or going through a difficult time.
This activity was provided by the Teacher Love Project - a Why Not Charleston community education initiative. The Teacher Love Project aims to provide love and encouragement to teachers that will elevate their wellness and care and therefore, enhance student achievement. We must care for those who care for our children - we must love each other because God loved us first.
"We love because he first loved us."
1 John 4:19
by Taraea L Griffith
Father your word says if your people who are called by your name, will humble themselves, and pray seeking your face, and turn from their wicked ways, then you will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.
I come asking you Lord to forgive and heal my sins as I come forward seeking above all else your face and humility of heart.
I forsake my ways and turn my thoughts from evil. Have mercy on me God and heal me from my sin.
I repent for all my sin, that I may live observing your holiness, teach me the right way to live. Save me and help me with your right hand for your love delivers me.
I am grateful that by your stripes I am healed. Even though you see my ways you hear me, you guide me, and restore and comfort me to creating praise on my lips and peace in my mind.
Thank you for your health and healing so that I can enjoy an abundance of peace and security in You.
sources: 2 Chronicles 7:14, Isaiah 55:7, Ezekiel 18:32, 2 Chronicles 6:27, Psalms 60:5, Isaiah 53:5, Isaiah 57:18, 19, Jeremiah 33:6
Taraea L. Griffith lives in Charleston with her husband, children, and grandchildren. She is a poet and writer, and making an offering of her special gifts and talents as a Why Not Charleston 2020 contributor.
THRU THE LENS - FINDING YOURSELF IN GOD'S WORD
A blog by regular men and women about finding themselves in God's world
" Wings to Fly"
By Melanie Jager
Often when we are going through a difficult time or struggle – we want to get through it as fast a possible. It is hard enough when we must endure challenges – it is especially hard to watch your child go through difficulties. As parents, we try to avoid this at all cost.
When my children were small I could get them through challenges quickly – save them from challenges – even avoid challenges for them. I could pick them up when they fell, scoop them up safely before they rolled off the couch, hold their hands in the parking lot as we walked, pick healthy snacks and only put those in front of them to eat – I had control over most situations when my children were very young.
Then they grew up a little – and I would try to teach them how to make good decisions for themselves and why to make good decisions for themselves. I taught them the importance of working hard in school, how to study for a test, how to make a science fair project. I taught them to be kind to everyone, to not talk back, and respect authority no matter what. I hoped the lessons I taught would mold their character and become part of their inner voice.
My oldest son is a bright and promising young man - about to graduate from high school. He's thriving and excited about finishing this phase of his life as strong as possible - filled with hope and wonder about the future.
He wasn't always in such a happy and stable place. Just a couple of years ago, when he was 15 years old – things looked pretty different. He struggled - a lot. He overestimated himself at almost every turn which caused him to make mistakes. This was a painful and challenging phase of his life to watch as his mother. That is mostly what his father and I did in those days– watched and waited – to see when we needed to act on his behalf. He is always been very determined to handle his life on his own – and didn't share a whole lot with us back then. He thought he knew best – but you can’t know what you don’t know – right?!? That’s 15 for you.
On the weekends he’d be out – doing his thing – and doing it mostly without us. I'd pray that he would hear my voice in his head that would guide his decision making. It was unexpectedly challenging to become a mother to a teenage son. Nothing like I expected it to be.
My son was fumbling through life – struggling – confused – and angry – and blamed us for most things. His eyes were opening to the world and it was disappointing him – and rightly so, to some degree. He hadn't learned to see what is right about the world – to see good in things – people – opportunities.
His struggle was only going to end by his stuggle. Like a struggling moth in a chrysalis – he was temporarily barely able to see – mostly blind – feeling confined – struggling to break free and fly. I wished I could help him – make it easier. But I knew God had my son – that He had a plan for him – and this struggle was part of that plan.
I read a story once that Anne Graham Lotz wrote about in her book, The Magnificent Obsession. She wrote about a farmer who came across a chrysalis in his garden – and the farmer realized it was the chrysalis of an Emperor Moth. The farmer had read about the Emperor Moth and remembered that it was a very beautiful insect with large colorful wings. He watched the chrysalis – and it began to twitch. The moth was getting ready to emerge! He thought – this is going to be a great sight to see!
This was going to be a long event, so he gentle broke the branch off the bush that the chrysalis was attached to and brought into his kitchen. He watched for minutes and then a couple of hours had passed. The moth continued to move around – and finally started to break through the chrysalis.
It had made just a small hole at that point. The farmer thought, if it took the insect that long to make just a tiny hole – it would take hours more for it to come all the way out. He watched on for longer and then, suddenly, he was overcome by the fearful thought that because he’d brought the branch with the crystals into his kitchen - the climate controlled environment of the house may be harmful to the chrysalis – making it too stiff or cool for the moth to break free naturally.
The thought that he may have compromised the moth by bringing it inside – made him panic. So, he went to get a small pair of scissors and he began to gently cut the hole to make it bigger. He thought this would help the moth. He thought the moth needed help.
The moth fell out of the chrysalis onto the table – it was alive – but it didn’t look like the Emperor Moths he’d seen in the books with the large beautiful wings. This moth was wet and swollen and wrinkled and its wings were small. It moved about on the table – but it didn’t fly.
What the farmer didn’t know was that the Emperor Moth is made to struggle for hours and hours and hours – getting out of its chrysalis. This physical struggle for hours and hours – causes fluids in the body of the insect to flow into the wings making them large and strong. Then the moth emerges in its new form ready to fly.
Though the farmer was well intended and only wanted to help the moth through its struggle – he actually took away the struggle which was needed to become all that God designed it to be.
In this life we must struggle – falter – fail – and battle through life sometimes. Though it is so hard – we should believe it is a blessing - because at those times of struggle, God will not leave us but rather build us up and create a new and stronger spirit within us - giving us wings to fly!
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Melanie Jager lives in Charleston, SC with her husband, Sean. The couple have two teenaged sons, Michael and Gabriel. Melanie has been a career educator for nearly 25 years. She has also worked on numerous community development projects since 2010 - from education to business to non-profit. She has served as a project/concept developer and systems implementer for Why Not Charleston since 2015 and currently oversees and manages operations for the organization. Melanie enjoys blogging about her family life and the Gospel-Rich experience that she and Sean are seeking to create in their home for themselves and their boys.