Spiritual strength pg 96-97 (Thrasher ) – “ It is the Holy Spirit who does the strengthening of our spirit or inner man. We see that His strengthening results in Christ’s dwelling in our hearts “
We were created to become like Jesus Christ, so let’s use him as a model for growth. The Bible tells us that Jesus grew in four ways: “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52 NIV).
If you want to be like Jesus, then you have to grow intellectually, physically, relationally, and spiritually. As you read through these points, be thinking of one goal you can set for yourself in each of these four areas.
The Bible says in 2 Peter 3:18, “Grow in spiritual strength and become better acquainted with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (TLB). I’ve found in my life that the smallest goal I set in this area reaps the most incredible benefits. As you think through this one, ask, “What can I do that will make the biggest difference?” Even a small thing can make a huge difference. Or what have you been putting off when it comes to spiritual growth? Do that one first when it comes to this goal.
God is a giving God. Because of that, he pulls from the unsearchable, limitless resources of his glory to give us strength or power in our inner being through the Holy Spirit.
First, notice that the location where God works is in our “inner being” or our souls. God is not concerned about our physique or attractiveness. As he told the prophet, Samuel, “the LORD sees not as man sees… the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Our identity is on the inside. That is why God focuses on our souls, and that is where he brings change and strengthens us.
Secondly, notice that God strengthens our souls with the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit? We could spend so much time here but let me give a few basics.
The Holy Spirit:
- is God, the third part of the Trinity; is a person (not an “it” or a “thing”)
- is often misunderstood and even forgotten; lives within believers as the personal presence and power of God
- is our soul’s “pneuma” (Greek for “force”); our “fresh air;” the “wind in our sails”
- raised Jesus from the dead; gifts us to serve each other and reach others with the gospel
- convicts us of sin in our lives; confirms God’s Word as truth when we read it; is our best friend, comforter, uplifter, and helper
Thirdly, notice how Paul is explaining that instead of the Holy Spirit making the Christian life better, he makes the Christian life possible. Without the Spirit, we cannot even come close to living the life that God has called us to.
That is what Paul wrote at the beginning of verse 17 that the Holy Spirit strengthens our inner beings: “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” (Ephesians 3:17).
Lastly, notice that God’s goal for the Holy Spirit in our lives is not just maintenance, but abundance. Paul wrote in verse 19: “[so] that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).
To be filled with the fullness of God is about allowing God to settle in, make himself at home, fully influence, overwhelm, and govern our lives. It is what is meant Paul meant in Romans 10:9 by confession Jesus as “Lord” of our lives.
- The Spirit strengthens, encourages, and helps the believer. Jesus introduces the Spirit here using the Greek word paracletos. This is a difficult word to translate into English. Literally, it means “one who is called alongside.” In the ancient world, a paraclete would have come to someone’s help in the way a defense attorney advocated for a defendant. Yet the word isn’t limited to court. The idea extends to someone who gives aid or who strengthens and encourages.
- The Spirit stays with the believer forever. When Jesus introduces the Spirit as “another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:15), he’s speaking to disciples who are confused and anxious about his departure. What are they going to do without him? Can you imagine having Jesus as a friend and teacher and leader, and then having him disappear forever? Yet Jesus promises that the Spirit will be to them what he has been to them, and the Spirit will never leave.
- The Spirit keeps pointing us to Jesus. The Spirit is not only another Helper, like Jesus, he’s also a witness who keeps pointing us to Jesus. “He will bear witness about me,” Jesus promises in John 15:26. He will remind us of how Christ has removed our guilt so we have access to God’s throne of grace. He will remind us of all that the Bible teaches us. He will stir our hearts to love Christ and desire to honor him. He will help us keep our eyes fixed on Christ so we can run our race well, fight the good fight, and finish the race with faith.
The Spirit is the key to Jesus’ disciples – both the ones he spoke to face-to-face and those today – being able to keep Jesus’ commandments. We can’t do it without him! He strengthens us, is always with us, and helps us keep our eyes on Christ. Honoring and remembering and depending upon the Holy Spirit is a crucial part of discipleship. One way I’ve found helpful to stir up faith for the Spirit’s ministry is to pray for it
Increase in Wisdom pg 98 ( Thrasher ) ” Seeing life from God’s point of view….the ability to select the best goals for one’s life and the best means to achieve them…….the skill of living life before God .”
When we look to our Savior’s example of how we should love, we see that “Jesus increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52). A proverb that is a constant challenge to me reflects the importance of such growth stating, “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness” (Proverbs 15:14). Put another way, an intelligent person purposefully seeks knowledge, but fools nibble randomly, vacantly chewing on words and ideas that have no value, no flavor, and no nutrition.
What are you and I feeding our minds? Are we heeding this biblical warning about the danger of “garbage in, garbage out?” May we purposefully seek knowledge and guard against spending precious time on things that have no value. I know that I have wished and prayer for God’s knowledge and change in an area of my life only to realize two or three years have passed without my actively taking His advice and seeking it.
Now finally I want to mention five biblical instructions for how to get this wisdom. First, desire wisdom with all your might. Proverbs 4:8 says, “Prize her highly and she will exalt you; she will honor you for your embrace.” These are not cheap words. To prize something and to embrace someone are signs of intense desire and love. Wisdom must be valuable for us. We must be willing to sell all in order to buy it: “Seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasure” (Proverbs 2:4). Blessed is the graduate who walks through the commencement line more hungry for wisdom than when he entered school, for he shall be satisfied.
Second, since wisdom is found in the Word of God, we must apply ourselves in study and meditation to know the Word and do it. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7). Therefore, we must devote ourselves to know and understand the testimonies of the Lord. And here I commend not only faithful Bible study, but also regular reading of great books on theology and biblical interpretation, books that distill the wisdom of the greatest students of the word over the past 1900 years.
The third thing we should do to get wisdom is pray. Solomon was not born a wise man. He prayed for wisdom and God said, “Because you have asked this and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold now I do according to your word” (1 Kings 3:11). And Daniel admitted that in himself he had no wisdom (Daniel 2:30), but he said, “To thee, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for thou hast given me wisdom and strength, and hast made known to me what we asked of thee” (Daniel 2:23). And we have seen how Paul prayed that the churches might be given “spiritual wisdom” (Col 1:9) and that they might have “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of God” (Ephesians 1:17). And finally, James puts it as clearly as we could wish: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God” (James 1:5). The wisdom that leads to true and lasting happiness is not natural or inborn. It is supernatural. It is a gift of God. Therefore, if we would “get wisdom,” we must pray.
The fourth biblical instruction for how to get wisdom is to think frequently of your death. Or to put it another way, think of the shortness of this life and the infinite length of the next. Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
Finally, there is one last, absolutely essential thing to do if you would “get wisdom”: you must come to Jesus. Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24, 1 Cor 1:30). Others had spoken truth; he is the truth. Others had pointed the way to life; he is the way and the life (John 14:6). Others had given promises, but “all the promises of God find their yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Others had offered God’s forgiveness; Jesus bought it by his death. Therefore, in him are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3).
God’s Grace pg 99 ( Thrasher ) “ Paul said that grace was the secret to His labor. It refers to the gracious work of the Spirit who provides the motivation and enablement we need to do God’s will“
Gracious, the Hebrew word channun, in its verb form, means to be considerate, to show favor. That God is gracious would mean that he is favorably inclined toward us. That he wants to show favor to us. To do what is best for us.
God is gracious. Graciousness is not something that he puts on and takes off depending on the situation. He is always gracious. He does not decide to show us grace. Rather it is just who he is. Because he is gracious he demonstrates grace in everything he does.
Because of his love, God, who is rich in mercy, saved us by his grace. Where does love end and mercy start? Or mercy end and grace begin? I don’t believe you can really draw a line between them. They are not really three different attributes. All three are simply different ways that we as humans see God.
While God’s grace is about much more than our salvation, it is perhaps the most visible manifestation of his grace. As Paul says in Eph 2:5 and Eph 2:8, it is by grace that we are saved.
Our salvation is not because of anything we have done, or are even capable of doing. It is solely a matter of God’s grace. He offered his salvation to us simply as an act of his grace.
Salvation is by grace. But God’s grace does not end there. Believers are impacted by God’s grace in these three ways.
Justified to Stand in Grace. In Romans 5:1-2 Paul tells us that we are justified through faith. And by that same faith, we have gained access into the “grace in which we now stand.” Our position before God is a matter of his grace.
Equipped with Spiritual Giftedness. In 1 Peter 4:10, we find Peter telling his readers to be faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms, using our gifts to serve one another. God’s grace is reflected in our lives through his equipping of believers to serve within the body of Christ; our spiritual gifts.
Growing Strong in the Grace of God. In 2 Timothy 2:1, Paul instructs Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” This reminds me somewhat of Star Wars where some are “strong in the force.” But grace is really unlike the force of Star Wars, which is a pervading universal power. In contrast, grace, for the believer, is in Christ.
Grace does not come just to a lucky few. But is available to all who are in Christ. When I am in Christ, God’s grace surrounds me. But just because it surrounds me does not mean that I either experience or enjoy it as much as I should.
There is no aspect of God’s dealing with his creation that does not involve his grace. A gracious God cannot fail to demonstrate grace in all he does.
That I exist is through his grace. That the sun shines and the rain falls is due to his grace. My salvation, my standing with God, and my eternal future with him. It is all because of His grace.
Even God’s justice and the eternal punishment of unbelievers reflect his grace. God gives every opportunity for repentance. But, in his grace, he does not force himself on anyone.
God shows both mercy and grace, but they are not the same. Mercy withholds a punishment we deserve; grace gives a blessing we don’t deserve. In mercy, God chose to cancel our sin debt by sacrificing His perfect Son in our place (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But He goes even further than mercy and extends grace to His enemies (Romans 5:10). He offers us forgiveness (Hebrews 8:12; Ephesians 1:7), reconciliation (Colossians 1:19-20), abundant life (John 10:10), eternal treasure (Luke 12:33), His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), and a place in heaven with Him some day (John 3:16-18) when we accept His offer and place our faith in His sacrifice.
God is totally committed to our growth and molding into Christ-likeness, but we have to remember that we have a part to play, and thus must be careful to avoid certain attitudes that will hinder or impede our growth in Christ.
Arrogance/Pride Pride or arrogance is a growth-killer. It stifles the growth of any Christian, period. The Bible expressly declares that God is against the proud, and that pride will always result to a problem in the Christian’s life.
Unforgiveness Being unforgiving and bitter also causes one’s growth to be hindered big-time. I cannot emphasize this enough: God requires that we be forgiving, or else He won’t forgive us ourselves. If we are not forgiven of our sins, then how can we be cleansed and sanctified?
Stubbornness Another attitude that’s sure to stifle the growth of any Christian is being stubborn. Being stubborn causes one to be unteachable, hard/impossible to correct/mold, and thus unprofitable in their faith. Consider the Israelites who died in the wilderness despite being led out of Egypt by Moses. Their stubborn minds refused to obey God. In their rebelliousness continually did what was displeasing to Him. In the end, they were refused entry to the Promised Land.
Chapter 13 Questions
- Pg 100: “Let your inadequacy draw you to God in prayer, and believe Him for these three prayer requests for your life and for the lives of those you love “. As Christians , what hinders us from having Christ like growth ? We all have areas that we struggle with. Share as able.
- Read and discuss verses on wisdom:
- James 3:17 Prov 19:8
- Prov. 2:6 Ephesians 5:15-16
- Prov. 11:2 Col. 4:5-6
- Prov. 3:7 Prov. 4:6-7
- Spiritual strength comes from the Holy Spirit. Share a time when you needed help and the Holy Spirit “ came alongside “.
- Pg 99: Share a time ( other than your salvation) that you looked to God for His grace…..”His provision for motivation and enablement to do what he called you to do “. Every believer is in need of the grace of God for daily living so we should all be able to share !!
- Share thoughts / insights from the book or notes.