Pursuing God in the Company of Friends

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    HOW YOU GO DEEP INTO MATURITY:

    The Biblical Way of Transformation

    Pastor Brian Rice

    This is a short (and practical) reflection on the nature of Christian growth. Christian growth means you go deep with God. You go deep into the heart of God. You go deep into an encounter with God and you go deep into a response. If you understand these following biblical ways of going deep, and put them into practice, you will move into a fuller experience of God.

    1. HAVE A GROWTH MINDSET.

    All change, growth, development, and going deep is only possible because of empowering grace and the work of the Holy Spirit inside you.

    All change, growth, development, and going deep involves relationship. It is not simply a matter of ideas and principles. It is a matter of transforming friendship with the living God who desires the complete renewal and reformation of your life (2 Corinthians 5:17). It also includes the closest of connection with Jesus Christ (John 15:1-11).

    All change, growth, development, and going deep is your faithful partnership with God and the ways God has established for your transformation (Philippians 2:12-13).

    BEST PRACTICE: Have a growth mindset. God wants you to grow. He will do all that is needed to help you grow. You can grow. You will grow. It will be exciting to see who you become as you grow.

    2. BE MOTIVATED.

    You must want to go deep. You must desire transformation (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:22-24). We learn to desire God, simply for himself (Psalm 73:25-26). There is eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Deep calls to deep (Psalm 42:7-8). The deep needs and longing in you call out to be satisfied in God’s love.

    However, many times, it is only when we are in times of great difficulty and distress that our desire for God is intensified and our pursuit of God is launched. This is also the experience of the Psalmist who had firsthand experience of external problems and internal discouragement and depression (Psalm 42:3-6).

    Most of the change we experience (and most of the deep encounter with God) is because of particular areas of life that are not working well, where we struggle, where we fail, and where we experience hurt. Self-awareness about your particular, personal need is often the starting point for going deeper with God.

    BEST PRACTICE: Pray that God would strengthen your longing for him. Worship music is very helpful to create longing and desire for God. When you are in a time of difficulty, don’t turn away, but allow that time to push you toward God.

    3. READ THE WORDS OF GOD.

    Transformation always involves the truth of God shaping our hearts and minds. This is one of the most prevalent themes in the Bible. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). We will know the truth and that knowing will set us free (John 8:31-32). The word of God is powerful and active and works deep within us (Hebrews 4:12-13).

    James 1:21 says it is the word implanted that can save us. Jesus tells us that we are to hear and practice his words (Matthew 7:24-25).

    Whenever you listen to a sermon, do a Bible study, or hear a teaching in a small group, you should see that as an experience of God sowing seeds of truth into your awareness. You are having an encounter with the truth of God that can transform you.

    You want to have (1) enough information, ideas, insights (but not too much), (2) inspiration about those ideas (they are energizing you), and (3) direction (some sense of where this truth will take you. It is not simply a matter of filling your head with many ideas. Too many ideas can actually be confusing. Find the very few most important ones, be profoundly inspired by their beauty and power, and then imagine where these ideas can lead you.

    BEST PRACTICE: Be sure to have regular and frequent times reading the Bible. Whenever you read, pay attention to what is stirring inside you. Always look to make a personal connection with the truth. What difference does that truth make for you? How is God leading you to respond to that truth?

    4. CULTIVATE A HUMBLE HEART.

    Whenever we encounter the Word of God we need to have a humble, open, teachable heart. We always see ourselves as beginners, as those in need, as those who are fully dependent on God and his Word. Humility is one of the greatest virtues in Scripture. James says, “humbly receive, accept, welcome” the word of God (James 1:21). God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5).

    BEST PRACTICE: Every single day, live with humility and receptivity to what God wants to say and do in your life. Every single day, live with the knowledge that you are finite, foolish, and fallen. That is, you are very limited; you don’t even know what you don’t know. Remember that sin is a reality in your life. That knowledge will create humility that receives grace and truth from God.

    5. REALIZE THAT IT IS A JOURNEY.

    I love the language of journey and process. Everything meaningful in life is such. Friendship, marriage, parenting, education, competency in skills and work, AND the Christian life itself—it is a journey and process. You are always on the move.

    How do you do a journey of 1,000 miles? By taking the first step. How do you continue on a journey of 1,000 miles? By taking the next step, and then the next step, and then…

    How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you satisfy your hunger and thirst for God? One bite at a time, one sip at a time. Daily steps matter in going deep.

    Day after day makes all the difference in going deep.

    We prefer microwaving: fast, quick, easy, cheap, and all in a formula. God is into marinating and slow cooking to make your life full of spiritual flavor. He adds the seasoning of love, grace, holiness, goodness, kindness, courage, joy, and so much more as you are in the pressure cooker and crockpot of life itself.

    God knows life with himself is through a process that is long, slow, deep, difficult, and always personalized (customized) for you. The process counts. The follow-up is where you experience depth and transformation. You want to have daily engagements with the truth that has been seeded into your life. Most times we simply want to rush on to get more information, never realizing that we haven’t done anything with the information we have already received. To go deep means you sit, day after day, with a few key words of God.

    BEST PRACTICE: Because daily steps matter most, be sure to have lots of them every day and many times during the day. Start the day with a devotional reflection and return to it throughout the day. LWCC will be providing resources (as often as we can) to go along with sermons, so you can take more daily steps to go deeper into the message.

    6. ENGAGE BY REFLECTION. MAKE IT YOURS.

    In 2 Timothy 2:7, the Apostle Paul tells Timothy to reflect on the things Paul has said. It will be in the follow through reflection where true insight emerges. Remember, the initial hearing (in a sermon or small group) or reading of the Bible (or a good devotional resource) is only the beginning. It is the opening of a door. Now, the follow through is when you dive into those words.

    We read that Mary had treasured and pondered in her heart all the experiences of the birth of her son Jesus (Luke 2:19, 51). She had the experience, she heard the words, and then she engaged with them through reflection and meditation.

    The Bible often uses the word meditate to describe a highly personal way of wrestling with God’s words (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3; Psalm 48:9-10; Psalm 77:3-12; and many places throughout Psalm 119).

    Meditation is how you find the relevance of these words and their impact for you personally. This is how you discover the ways they can change your life. This is when God’s words begin to speak deeply to the issues of your life, including your messiness, brokenness, pain, and sin. The Word of God addresses your heart. “Deep calls to deep.”

    BEST PRACTICE: Ask yourself the good and hard questions. Jesus raises questions for you to consider. These questions are usually not theoretical ones. They are intensely practical and personal, getting right to the heart issues (Proverbs 4:23). Keep asking questions that help you follow through with more openness and which lead to more steps. In the resources LWCC will provide, we will always include great questions to ask.

    7. PUT IT INTO PRACTICE.

    James 1:22 says, Be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Read the next few verses in James 1 and you will see that those who only hear and do not do, deceive themselves. It is the one who hears and does who is blessed.

    Jesus says the same thing in Matthew 7:24-27. Here he uses the language of wisdom and foolishness. You are wise when you hear the words of Christ and put them into practice. You are foolish if you only hear but do not obey his words.

    Use it or lose it. That is the old saying, and it is so true. Walk the talk. The way to depth is to learn a little and use it a lot. Most of the time we get it backward. We want to learn a lot but use it little. No wonder we don’t change. Change, experience, and going deep happens one day at a time, as we live into the truth we have received. As you put the truth of God into practice, you slowly form habits of the heart. The inward renewal of your heart makes possible new habits of life. These habits of life are also the way the heart is daily renewed.

    BEST PRACTICE: If you haven’t found something you can apply, you are not finished. Go back to the great truth and press on with this question: What difference does it make for me? How can I put it into practice today?

    8. PURSUE LIFE TOGETHER WITH OTHERS.

    Everything said above can be practiced by you as an individual, and you should do this in order to go deep with God.

    Christianity is the pursuit of God in the company of friends. We do life together with like-minded and great-hearted friends. Small groups are where we gather together around the great themes and things that are most important and have passionate conversations about these things.

    Everything said above can be practiced together with others, and you should be in a small community of friends who pursue God together, who go deep with God together, who study the Scripture together, and who pray and worship together. You reflect together, you encourage one another, you listen to one another, you offer help and counsel to one another, and you provide support and accountability for one another.

    Studies show that “religious” people are some of the happiest people in the United States, but there were a few qualifications to that statement. If your religious/spiritual belief is (1) comprehensive and wide (in other words, you know a lot about your faith), and if it is (2) integrated into your life (that is, you practice and live out what you believe), and (3) it is shared with others who are important to you (family and friends), then you are positioned to experience great happiness. All three are needed.

    This is one more reason why being together with a community of friends (small groups, mid-size communities, the worship experience on Sunday) are so vital for going deep and finding joy and contentment as you journey together.

    BEST PRACTICE: If you are not in a small group, contact Ned Keene and find out how to get in a group: nkeene@lwccyork.com or 717.755.0089 x 106.

    ONE MORE BEST PRACTICE: We always need more small group leaders who believe in these processes and want to help others go deeper. Let Ned Keene know if you are interested in learning how to lead a small group.

    9. REPEAT.

    Do it again. Do it tomorrow and the day after that. Do it next week. Do it all month long.

    It is the long obedience in the same direction. It is following Jesus for the duration of life.

    There is always more DEEP. There is always more change. There is always more Love of God to be experienced. He will bring to completion the good work he has started, but it will be throughout the length of life (Philippians 1:6).

    BEST PRACTICE: Repeat… and repeat… and repeat…


    There is certainly more to Going Deep Into Maturity then what I have provided here, but this is the essential biblical way of encountering God and the transformation of friendship with Father, Son, and Spirit.

    There are no quick fixes. There is rarely the once and for all done experience that changes everything. That is not the way of God. Long, slow, deep, difficult, and personal is the way of God. It is a good way.

    Remember, the entire staff of Living Word Community Church are here to help you flourish. We are here to help you go deep and to go deep with others. We are here to help your entire family go deeper into life with Jesus.

    As we go deep, we are filled with all the resources needed so we can go wide into the world and be God’s missional friends who make a difference. We are equipped to do all the work of ministry and service that are essential for any church to be fruitful.

    Grace, peace, joy, and love to every one of you.

    Yours in Christ,
    Pastor Brian

  • Daily Devotional

    Pursuing God in the Company of Friends

    GOING DEEP IN MATURITY TOGETHER WITH OTHERS

    When your Christian faith is consistent and comprehensive, when it is integrated into your life, and when it is held in common with family and friends, you will experience great happiness, joy, and satisfaction. Use these daily devotional thoughts to help you build a faith that is consistent, integrated, and shared with others.

     

    Monday: Going Deeper

    READ

    Read Psalm 42:1-8 twice.

    What themes or phrases get your attention? What is God saying to you through those words?

    Desire is the beginning of deep. When you desire God, you will pursue God. When you are downcast (discouraged, depressed) and dealing with difficult times, that is when you NEED to long for God. God will hear, answer, and draw near to you. You will seek and you will find!

     

    REFLECT

    • What do you most desire right now in your season of life?
    • How is God calling to your heart (deep calls to deep)?
    • How is God directing his love toward you?

     

    PRAY

    Pray about the things you have considered.

     

    Tuesday: Going Deeper

    READ

    Read James 1:21-25 twice.

     

    REFLECT

    You have probably heard many things from God in recent weeks. You have most likely heard and read different parts of the Bible. What are the most significant words of the Lord you have recently heard?

    What did you do in response? How did you put those words into practice?  Remember, this is where transformation takes place, when you put into practice the words of God. If you don’t put into practice what God is speaking, you will deceive yourself about your own maturity and growth.

    How humble are you when you listen, read, hear, and receive God’s words? I know, it is hard to think about humility and pride and be honest with ourselves about our struggles in this. But James makes the point that humility is crucial for growing.

     

    PRAY

    Pray for the grace of humility, an open heart, and the willingness to put into practice what you are hearing from God.

     

    Wednesday: Going Deeper

    READ

    Read Proverbs 4:23 three or four times. Try to memorize this verse.

     

    REFLECT

    What are one or two areas where you most need to change? To ask it another way: What is ONE area of life that Jesus says, “It is time to go to work on that area of your life?”

    The world is full of distractions, temptations, struggles, and detours. We must carefully guard our heart so we may focus on the presence, the work, and the word of God. What steps can you take to guard your heart and keep your focus on Jesus?

     

    PRAY

    Pray for God to show you his ways, to reveal his presence, and to show you his glory (see Exodus 33:12-23 for this prayer of Moses).

     

    Thursday: Going Deeper

    READ

    Read Hebrews 10:19-25 twice.

    What are the “best practices” described in Hebrews 10:19-25, you can do to improve how you connect to and relate with others in your small group?

     

    REFLECT

    There were two ideas shared in the message that describe what a small group of friends do.

    1. The pursuit of God in the company of friends.
    2. Gathering together around the great things that matter most, in a passionate and disciplined conversation.

    Who are the closest friends, that together, you are pursuing hard after God with? What are some things that you do for each other so that you grow deeper together?  What is something new you could begin doing to help you grow deeper together?  (If you are not in a growth group, learn more about groups at LWCCyork.com/growthgroups or call Ned Keene at 755-0089 x 106 to find out how you can join a Living Word growth group.)

    PRAY

    Pray for each friend and that God would help them grow deeper in maturity. Also pray that you would have wisdom and love to help your friends grow deeper together.

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