Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Maturity: How to Grow in Christ


 A few weeks ago we had our annual counseling conference at BCC. This year we had a special Youth & Young Adult track titled Pathway to Life. In this track we covered 5 main topics which we are now going over during our during our IMAGE Sunday School class. This week’s topic was “Maturity: How to Grow in Christ” so I wanted to discuss it a bit more for our youth parents and  will do so for each of the coming topics as well.

We each as parents want to see our children growing in the Lord, but how do we help them get there? Here are a few thoughts toward that end…

1. We must recognize that ultimately only God can change their heart, cause them to love Him, and move them toward growth in Himself. As parents we should be the most prayerful of people regularly crying out to the Lord that He might work in the hearts of our children like Job did for his own kids concerned for their well being and stance before the Lord. 

2. We must recognize that God calls us to shepherd our kids and be intentional to encourage and create opportunities for them to grow in Him. One of the mottos we are using in the Youth Ministry for leaders and in my own household is, “God expects faithfulness, not fruitfulness.” It comes from Paul’s statements in 1 Cor 3:6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” If we seek to take over God’s role of bringing about change or fruit in our kid’s lives we (& our kids) will ultimately end up very frustrated. Rather, we are called to create an environment that is conducive to their growth should God choose to work (Eph 6:4). Within Scott’s talk we focused on 3 main areas that help encourage a believer’s growth – Theology, Identity, & Motives. 

·         Theology – This word often has connotations of boredom and academic rigor. However, discussing it as simply a “study of God” seems to bring it back down to our everyday world and life. The main point of this idea was not that we need to know more ABOUT God BUT that we need to KNOW God. We are called & made to deepen our relationship with God. How do we do this? Getting time with Him in His Word & prayer. It’s not rocket science… it’s just hard work. Our discussion focused largely around the idea of meditation where we read God’s Word, think about it, and then talk with the Lord about it in prayer.

·         Identity – Our identity or how we define and think about ourselves greatly affect a number of areas in our life, but especially our relationship with God. If I see myself as an antagonistic sinner loved, saved, & cleansed to be turned into God’s child I can come boldly to God with confidence, not in who I am, but in what He did. My joy, value, & worth come from Him. If, however, my identity is found in other things like the acclaim of peers, stuff I own, accomplishments I’ve done I will not only have a very shaky foundation for life, but will also only not come to God because I value Him and will only feel able to come to Him when life is going my way and I meet the standards I have set.

·         Motives – Ultimately my actions demonstrate my desires. “I do what I do because I want what I want.” The key then is not to be rid of desires, but to instead cultivate good desires. So where do desires come from? I would suggest they come from my thoughts and value judgments. What I spend my time thinking about and pursuing I will grow in a desire for. I believe this is why Paul focuses so much on the believer’s thinking. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col 3:2). The Psalmists state this thought, “I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Ps 16:8) “Incline my heart to Your testimonies And not to dishonest gain. Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me in Your ways” (Ps 119:36-37).

So how do we go about encouraging these things for our kids to create an environment conducive for their spiritual growth? Here a few questions to think through as you process through that for your own family.

·         Growing in relationship with the Lord
o   Does your child see you growing in the Lord? Do they see you pursuing Him as a part of your Christian walk? Does your child see you repenting of sin and asking God’s and his or her forgiveness for areas you have failed in your life and parenting?
o   What sort of times do you have as a family around God’s Word together? What are ways you can make that an even more central part of your home/family life?
o   How might you interact with your child around their own walk with the Lord? Could you take them out to talk and hangout periodically? Could you ask them what God has been teaching them recently going around the table at dinner or breakfast? Could you offer to do a book study with them on a topic of their choosing?

·         Remembering who they are in Christ
o   Are their ways you can demonstrate the gospel to them taking them to the cross when they sin instead of just doling out consequences? Do you take opportunities to let them walk with you through you going to the cross when you’ve sinned?
o   What are some questions you might ask them to see more of their thoughts on their identity? Could you ask something like, “Do you think people are valuable, why or why not?” Do you think some people are more valuable than others?” “What do you think gives a person value?” “How do people demonstrate if they do or don’t value something or someone?”
o   Do you notice how your child responds when they sin toward you and others? Do they belittle it, hide it, glamorize it, etc. or do they bring it out and repent of it?
o   Are there some verses your family could memorize together to remember better what God says about you? 

·         Helping grow their desires for the Lord
o   Do you show a value for accountability and encouragement by getting to church and fellowshipping with other believers as a regular part of your weekly routine? Do you spend time with the Lord showing He is worth it? Could you find creative ways and incentives to encourage them in getting time with the Lord or getting to church?
o   Are there ways you could put the Lord more in front of their eyes as you do things together as a family? Would it be possible to schedule a monthly family event tailored around a specific Scripture to grow their understanding?
o   Are there questions you could be asking to draw them out and ways you could practice listening more to hear what they’re thinking? Might a question like, “what is the most valuable thing you own?” or “if you could only take 3 things on a long trip what would they be?” help give you some insight into their values? Are there ways you could ask them leading questions rather than giving them your thoughts or answers that might drive them to having to think though their questions on their own and dig into the Bible more for themselves?

Processing through this has certainly been good for me in my own life as well as in my thoughts on parenting and shepherding my own family. Hopefully they’ve been a blessing or at least sparked some thoughts for you as well.

Here is a link for the audio of this session with Scott O’Malley: https://www.bethanycommunitychurch.org/resources/docs/2500-pathway_to_maturity_audio.mp3

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Pet 3:18)

 - Phil

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