The Believers Walk

 

A man bought a new hunting dog. Eager to see how he would perform, he took his out to track a bear. No sooner had they gotten into the woods than the dog picked up the trail. Suddenly he stopped, sniffed the ground, and headed in a new direction. He had caught the scent of a deer that had crossed the bear’s path. A few moments later he halted again, this time smelling a rabbit that had crossed the path of the deer. And so, on and on it went until finally the breathless hunter caught up with his dog, only to find him barking triumphantly down the hole of a field mouse. Sometimes we as Christians are like that. We start out with high resolve, keeping Christ in our lives. But soon our attention is diverted to things of lesser importance. One pursuit leads to another until we’ve striven far from our original purpose.

According to the Old Testament, the Jewish nation was to be God’s holy people, indeed they were. They were to be set apart from the other lands that surrounded them. The words of Isaiah 2:3 says: “Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”

When we first come to Christ, we change a lot of what we did in our past life. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) We are going to be considering the Book of Malachi in our discussion.

Admonition for The Priests

Malachi 2:1-9

“And now this admonition is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me. “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction–because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

Think of what would have happened if God said “If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me.” (Malachi 2:2) If we were to turn our hearts from God, things that we want to go right don’t. “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” (Psalms 14:1) We have to face the consequences of the commandments of God’s laws or decrees. God’s people should preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction. We should “Do your [our] best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“And now this admonition is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me. “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction–because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

Think of what would have happened if God said “If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me.” (Malachi 2:2) If we were to turn our hearts from God, things that we want to go right don’t. “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” (Psalms 14:1) We have to face the consequences of the commandments of God’s laws or decrees. God’s people should preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction. We should “Do your [our] best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Judah Unfaithful

Malachi 2:10-17

“Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another? Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob –even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty. Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith. You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?” Looking at the Israelites, Judah had become unfaithful. They were questioning God. And also in verse 11, Malachi writes that they were marrying the daughters of a foreign god. As we look and see the sin of Israel, how many times do we as Christians swerve away from God’s original plan of salvation for our life? We get involved with other things like, school activities, our work, and dating, clubbing, Promiscuity and sexual activity outside of a committed relationship. As we see in the next section, how we continue in to spiritual growth.

“Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another? Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob –even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty. Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith. You have wearied the LORD with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask. By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?” Looking at the Israelites, Judah had become unfaithful. They were questioning God. And also in verse 11, Malachi writes that they were marrying the daughters of a foreign god. As we look and see the sin of Israel, how many times do we as Christians swerve away from God’s original plan of salvation for our life? We get involved with other things like, school activities, our work, and dating, clubbing, Promiscuity and sexual activity outside of a committed relationship. As we see in the next section, how we continue in to spiritual growth.

Continuing to Grow in Christ

Growth is necessary in ALL areas of our life. This is true in business, science, industry, or whatever our goals are in life in our Christian walk

But this is especially true in our lives as Christians. Paul writes “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Eph. 4:14-15) Once we are mature in Christ, “we will no longer be infants.” Instead, we will ‘speak the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head.’ (1 Peter 2:2) We are to “grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) (Compare with 1 Th 1:3)

Christians must grow in knowledge, in zeal, in faith, in developing Christ-like character, and in good works. A Christian should not be simply full of knowledge, while their disposition remains not Christ like.

Hindrances to Growth

Lack of effort is oftentimes a reason for not growing. Growing in Christ is not automatic. One may still be a “babe” after many years. Paul wrote in Hebrews 5:13, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.” Once we come to a basic view of scripture and doctrine, then there is time to continue in Christ’s growth and to get out of the elementary things. Paul states a similar situation in the Corinth Congregation at 1 Corinthians 3:1-2, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.”

Growth requires effort, but those who are spiritually lazy will simply follow the course of least resistance, such will forever remain “babes,” it they do not fall away altogether.

Some people make a good effort in the beginning, but then get discouraged and quit living their faith altogether, or simply get burnt out. Reasons vary: church trouble, personal problems, lack of encouragement from others, and the list can go on and on. Consider this example from the apostle Paul: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” Few of us ever have, or will ever have the problems Paul had. Paul did not “lose heart” (become discouraged). We read in 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9: ” We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Paul kept pressing on, and in so doing, he encourages us also to not grow weary in doing good, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

A knife stays shiny when used, but when unused, it becomes rusty. So it is also with Christians. We lose what knowledge, ability, and opportunity we have when we do not use them. “We must pay more careful attention,” says Hebrews 2:1. “So we do not drift away.”

Crops, trees, and flowers do not grow well when crowded. Our spiritual growth will also be hindered if we allow others to crowd our spiritual life. Businessmen may become too busy in tending to their work to attend to God’s business. A homemaker may get so occupied with child rearing and housekeeping that she does not have enough time left for God. As young people, we may become so busy with taking care of things like school activities, dating, clubbing and other activities that prayer, worship, good works and Bible study are crowded out. Preachers and ministers might get so tied down with meetings, administrative duties, sermon preparations, and the like that they do not have enough time set aside to spend time alone with God.

Personally, I know that in the past few months, I have also not spent enough time alone with God. I seemed to have put American Online, dating and any other things that are ungodly first. Jesus warned about the danger of interference. “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Mark 4:18-19) We need to stay awake and remain aware. We will now be looking at suggestions for continuing in our spiritual growth.

Continuing Spiritual Growth

As a Christian, it is important to take time for prayer, studying your Bible, and witnessing to others. (See “Christian Witnessing”, by Steve Payne). Begin immediately! It is important not to delay. Remember the “hindrances” we touched on earlier. There is work for everyone, and it is best to start with something that you can handle. The most humble service can be a huge source of joy for those who are doing it to please God. (Psalms 84:10).

Look for opportunities where work needs to be done, and then, DO IT! – Without being asked to. If you see something wrong in a particular situation, take the opportunity to show (not tell) how it should be done. If someone fails is our opportunity to be of service and help him or her. “Don’t criticize, energize.” Encourage them!

Here are a few things that will help us in our growth in Christ:

START A PROGRAM OF REGULAR PRIVATE DEVOTIONS

Spend time each day alone with God, engaged in prayer, Bible study, singing praises, such time consistently spent will supply the spiritual nourishment necessary for spiritual growth. Many Christians do not grow because they try to exist on a “spiritual starvation diet”!

PARTICIPATE IN AN INFORMAL BIBLE STUDY GROUP

Meet weekly with other Christians in an informal setting to study the Bible together. This provides opportunity for mutual sharing and encouragement, which in turn leads to much more knowledge and spiritual growth.

BECOME INVOLVED IN LEADING PEOPLE TO CHRIST

Begin is implementing the suggestions in the lesson on increasing opportunities to share the gospel. Even if you don’t do the actual teaching, you can do what Andrew and Philip did: lead a friend to Christ! – John 1:40-46 3. Those involved in leading others to Christ rarely ever stop growing in Christ themselves!

PRACTICE CONSTANT SELF-EXAMINATION

The Scriptures call us to examine ourselves in our relation to Christ. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Here are some questions we should often ask ourselves: a) Do I have a better Bible knowledge than one year ago? b) Am I as interested in Jesus Christ today as when I was baptized? c) Have I helped someone else to become a Christian? d) Am I enjoying life as a child of God? e.) Am I improving my life, my disposition, and becoming more like Christ? f) Do I set a good example for other Christians? g) Am I growing in such activities as Bible study, prayer, and worship? Self-examination is not an easy process, but true spiritual growth is impossible without it!

 Conclusion

Though we have come to an end in this study, if we implement the suggestions in this lesson, we will successfully embark on a spiritual journey with Christ that will last through eternity!

It is sad, but true, that many Christians are often just religious enough to be miserable. Or they accept Jesus in their life because they see their friends do it so they feel compelled to do the same. But the life of the Christian is intended to be filled “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Sometimes we as Christians are like that. We start out with high resolve, keeping Christ in our lives. But soon our attention is diverted to things of lesser importance. One pursuit leads to another until we’ve strode far from our original purpose.

It is my prayer that this lesson and others that the Lord puts on my heart may be useful in helping you to truly experience the ABUNDANT LIFE that Jesus provides. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

(1 Th 5:22-23)

Study course taken from The “Executable Outlines” Series, Copyright © 1997 Mark A. Copeland.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, and 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All Rights reserved.

Unpublished Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999

All Rights Reserved

Edited By Mike Arbuckle