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                           "SPIRITUAL GROWTH"

                      Habits For Spiritual Growth

INTRODUCTION

1. In our previous lesson we talked about goals for spiritual growth...
   a. Behavioral goals - in which we seek to become like Jesus,
      emulating His character
   b. Functional goals - in which we aim to determine and develop our
      abilities and functions in the body of Christ
   c. Congregational goals - in which we unite in our aspirations to
      grow as a congregation as well as individual Christians

2. To meet our goals requires the development of good habits...
   a. Habits are stepping stones which ensure that we eventually meet
      our goals
   b. Habits are things done on a frequent basis (daily, weekly, etc.)
      that slowly produce a certain effect
   -- Unless we establish good habits, bad habits will set in that
      hinder our spiritual growth!

[What are some good habits that will help us meet our spiritual goals?
Let's first consider a few that will help us meet our behavioral goals,
what we might describe as...]

I. BEHAVIORAL HABITS

   A. BIBLE READING...
      1. The Word of God is crucial to growing spiritually - 1Pe 2:2
         a. David described the value of God's Word - Ps 19:7-11
         b. He also illustrated the blessedness and fortitude of one who
            meditated daily on the Word of God - Ps 1:1-3
      2. The Christian who wants to grow spiritually must therefore
         develop the habit of daily Bible reading...
         a. Such as reading through the Bible each year (about 3
            chapters a day)
         b. Or perhaps the New Testament one year, the Old Testament the
            next
      -- By feeding upon God's Word daily, we receive the spiritual
         nourishment necessary to grow; have you developed the habit of
         daily Bible reading?

   B. PRAYING...
      1. The practice of prayer is also required for spiritual growth
         a. Through prayer we find mercy and grace to help - He 4:16
         b. Through prayer we find peace to guard our hearts - Php 4:6-7
      2. The Christian must therefore continue steadfastly in prayer
         - Ro 12:12
         a. Perhaps emulating the example of David - cf. Ps 55:17
         b. And the custom of Daniel, who prayed three times daily - cf.
            Dan 6:10
      -- Just as we must listen to God daily through His Word, so we
         must talk to Him daily if we are to grow;  have you developed
         the habit of praying regularly?

   C. SINGING...
      1. Praising God in song is also conducive to spiritual growth
         a. David, the man after God's own heart, developed the practice
            of praising God daily - cf. Ps 104:33; 119:164
         b. If we teach one another through songs, do we not also teach
            ourselves when we sing? - cf. Col 3:16
      2. The Christian should make singing a habit that is second nature
         to him or her
         a. When happy, we should sing - Jm 5:13
         b. In times of trial, we should sing - cf. Ac 16:25
      -- As we develop the habits of daily Bible reading and prayer, let
         us also develop the habit of singing praises to God daily if
         we seek to grow!

   D. ASSEMBLING...
      1. Assembling together with other Christians is very important
         - He 10:24-25
         a. It is a means of stimulating one another to love and good
            works
         b. We exhort one another in our service to Christ
      2. Therefore Christians should make a strong habit of attending
         church
         a. Attending as often as possible, for worship, Bible study,
            etc.
         b. The more we attend, the stronger the habit becomes; the less
            we attend, the weaker the habit becomes
      -- Christians who make it a habit to skip the assemblies struggle
         in their efforts to grow spiritually; no Christian has become
         stronger by neglecting the assembly!

[The formation and exercise of such behavioral habits builds the
foundation for solid spiritual growth that leads to maturity in Christ.
Bible study, prayer, and singing bring us closer to God which can
transform our character (cf. 2Co 3:18).  Assembling together brings us
closer to one another, and provides the opportunity to develop our
functional goals in the body of Christ.  That leads us to our next
point, in which we consider what I call...]

II. FUNCTIONAL HABITS

   A. ASSEMBLING TOGETHER WITH THE CHURCH...
      1. Yes, we have already mentioned the habit of assembling with
         Christians
         a. But that was in connection with your personal spiritual
            growth
         b. If we are to reach our functional goals, it will be within
            the framework of the local church
      2. Through frequent assembling with the church...
         a. We become familiar with identities and needs of other
            members
         b. We learn what functions are needed in the body of Christ
            - cf. Ro 12:3-8
         c. We are given opportunity to be of service to one another
      -- The habit of going to church is essential if we are going to be
         of much use to the Lord's church; otherwise, we cannot be
         counted on for much service

   B. PARTICIPATION IN THE WORK OF THE CHURCH...
      1. Such as the habit of participating in the assemblies of the
         church...
         a. E.g., teaching classes, preaching, Bible reading, leading
            singing
         b. E.g., ushering, counting attendance, serving the Lord's
            Supper
         c. E.g., a young man desiring to grow might develop the habit
            of participating in the following activities, starting with
            what is easy and progressing to the more difficult:
            1) Serving on the Lord's table
            2) Reading Scripture
            3) Leading the closing prayer
            4) Leading the opening prayer
            5) Serving as usher, welcoming and seating visitors
            6) Presiding at the Lord's table
            7) Making announcements
            8) Extending the invitation
            9) Leading singing
           10) Teaching the adult classes
           11) Preaching sermons
      2. Such as the habit of providing for other services needed in the
         church
         a. E.g., greeting visitors, ministering to the sick,
            encouraging the weak, teaching the gospel to the lost
         b. E.g., cleaning the building, providing maintenance for the
            building and grounds, preparing the Lord's Supper
      -- If we hope to reach our functional goals in which we are useful
         to the Master, then we need to make participation in the work
         of the church a habit!

[Finally, a thought or two about...]

III. CONGREGATIONAL HABITS

   A. DEFINING ROLES THAT ARE AVAILABLE...
      1. Participation in functional roles is more likely when members
         are aware of what needs to be done
      2. A congregation can encourage spiritual growth by clearly
         defining what functional roles are available for service
      -- A congregation needs to be in the habit of letting its members
         know what kind of functional roles are available

   B. PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN AND SERVE...
      1. Opportunities to learn, to serve, and thereby grow need to be
         provided - 2Ti 2:2
         a. E.g., providing training classes to develop various
            abilities
         b. E.g., making sure those trained are making good use of their
            abilities
      2. The habit of developing a duty roster can assist in this
         a. In which people are assigned to serve in various capacities
         b. Making sure that all who wish to serve are given
            opportunities
      -- Each congregation should have some habitual way of training and
         involving its members in the work and worship of the church

   C. ENCOURAGING PARTICIPATION ACTIVITIES OF SERVICE...
      1. A congregation should also be in the habit of encouraging
         spiritual growth
      2. One good habit is to let the inexperienced gain experience; for
         example...
         a. Allowing those who desire to preach the opportunity to do so
         b. Such as providing one night a month for them to preach
         c. Such as encouraging them to fill-in preach for neighboring
            congregations
      -- A congregation should have the habit of encouraging
         participation, even if it means utilizing those who are
         inexperienced, nervous or awkward, even if it means letting
         them to go to serve elsewhere as the need arises

CONCLUSION

1. Remember, goals are obtained whenever good habits are established...
   a. The creation of good habits sets the stage for spiritual growth
   b. As spiritual habits are developed, spiritual growth is incremental
      but steady

2. Wholesome and well-rounded spiritual growth occurs wherever...
   a. An individual develops both behavioral and functional habits that
      will help them along to reaching their behavioral and functional
      goals
   b. A congregation promotes habits that will encourage participation
      in its work, especially in helping Christians develop their
      functional goals in the body of Christ

Are we developing the kind of habits that will help us grow spiritually?
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