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Monday, December 5, 2011

Looking forward, Moving forward

This evening we are going to focus on "Looking forward, Moving forward."  As the year comes to an end and this is our last Campus Bible Talk discussion for this year, we will look at the Bible for advice on how to move forward with our lives, how to grown and to mature in our understanding and knowledge of God and to produce good fruits for God in our lives.

The notes of our discussion are below.
 December 5, 2011
Looking forward, Moving forward
Opening question: Think about something you set as a goal to achieve this year and you did achieve it or something that you want to achieve next year?
The end of the year is typically a time when we spent some time to reflect on the year that is ending.  We may look back and the events that have taken place, be glad of our achievements and have regrets of our failures.  This is also a time when we make promises to ourselves, pledges or resolutions about the New Year.
Today, I would like to take some time and look at the Bible and at its teaching about looking forward and moving forward in our lives.  But, first things first: Why is it necessary to move forward?  Why can’t we stay where we are? And if we must move forward, what does that mean?  How do we do that?
1.         The Need to Move Forward
We can see easily with our eyes and our other senses that live things around us develop and change.  We plant a small seed or a small plant in our gardens and within a few weeks we have a large plant, depending on the type, perhaps even taller than us.  We adopt a puppy, who within months grows to a large dog.  We are blessed with a small child, who a month from now perhaps will not fit in his or her own clothes any more.  If things go well, every living thing is destined to live, grow, develop, mature.
The Bible teaches the same principle applies to our own spiritual life.  When we are born again out of the waters of baptism, we begin our Christian life as a new person.  (2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.)  And God expects this new person, this new creature, to develop, to grow and to mature, to move forward and not backwards.
In 1 Peter 2:2, we are told to “crave spiritual milk”.  The verse reads: Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.  Peter compares the Christians to newborn babies, urging them to look for spiritual milk, which if, of course, the word of God. 
However, when we come to Christ, we do not come out of a vacuum.  We come after being raised perhaps in a world of sin or at least a world that doesn’t know God in its true form and doesn’t have the correct relationship with God.  Maybe we were raised in a Christian home, but still we come to God with a burden of sin.  There are many things we need to get rid of our lives, as we grow and mature in our Lord.  This is exactly what Peter is addressing in the preceding verse to the one we just read: Therefore… This ‘therefore’ ties this passage to the previous verses, where Peter has urged the Christians to be holy as God is holy.  Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
So, we can say that this grown process is a two-fold:
A.        We clean up our old selves of everything that is hindering us in our serving God.
In Ephesians 4:28-29, we read: Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.  29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
We can read many things in here, many problems that may plague our lives today.  Identify what those things are and stop doing them.
B.        We grown in our knowledge of God and bear fruit for Him. 
As we learn in Colossians 1:9-10: 9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God
2.         How Do We Move Forward?
Having said that, how do we do this?  How do we move forward?  Here are a few tips:
A.        Be patient with yourself and with others
If you have spent 20, 30, 50 years in darkness, not knowing God and not realizing what is it you need to do to be in the right relationship with you, it is going to take time to make the necessary changes.  As anyone who has done renovations in their homes knows it takes a lot of work and a lot of time and it usually takes some more work and time.  So, do the work, identify what you need to change and improve upon, but realize that it is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  As we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:14: 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
B.        Be there for one another
Change is difficult, especially as we grow old.  New things are confusing, seemingly complicated, even when we want to learn and we want to change.  One of the good things about being a Christian is that you do not have to do this transformation in your own.  You will always have your brothers and sisters and you will always have God on your side.  As we read in Philippians 2:3-4: 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
C.        Grown in the knowledge of God
This is extremely important.  If you do not know that stealing is wrong, you’ll probably keep stealing.  If you do not realize that lying is wrong, you’ll keep lying.  Study the Bible, so that you can find out for yourselves what you need to do to change.  Join in fellowship with other Christians, so that you can see how they act and how they do things, what they do in different situations in their lives, so that you can learn from their best examples and also learn from their mistakes.  And finally, go out and put your knowledge into practice.  It is great to know that you should help someone, but it is much better to help a brother or a sister in need.  It is great to know someone can use a friend to talk to, but it is much better to actually talk to them.  Go out there and move forward and get closer to God as you grown and you mature in Him.
God wants us to grow and mature in our knowledge about Him and to produce good fruits in our lives.  We need to follow God and reach the point where we are living for Him and helping other people also to learn about God.  The more we study the Bible, the more we learn how to do the will of God in our lives, and then we need to go into the world and do the will of our father.