Teaching Extra 08 - See how they grow (2)
Growing spiritual roots
An opening reading: Ephesians 4:17- 5:2
A. A new way of life
1. Becoming a Christian involves starting afresh. It is as though, when we are born again, we become new people: 'If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!' (2 Corinthians 5:17). Of course, we actually remain the people we have always been, but now we are living for God rather than for ourselves, and this makes all the difference.
2. Old attitudes and actions will be challenged, and we will become aware of the need to adopt new ways of believing, thinking and behaving. These are sometimes described in the Bible as 'good works'. Our good works cannot bring us to God (only Christ can do that), but once we have come to God, our lives should show the difference. The apostle Paul explains how this can take place: 'God is able to make all grace abound [be richly available] to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work' (2 Corinthians 9:8).
3. There are also new resources that help us live for God. In the last session we noticed some of them, such as prayer and Bible study, worship and fellowship within the community of the church. As well as being good in themselves, these are meant to help us change our lifestyle so that it becomes pleasing to God.
B. Lifestyle issues
When we become Christians, it changes what we believe and therefore how we behave. Some things that used to be very important to us become less so; some things we used to do we now believe are wrong and we cease to do them. Other things we would never have thought of doing we now want to do. Christians are not afraid to be out of step with majority opinion or behaviour, as long as this means being in step with Christ. Here are some ways in which a Christian lifestyle might be different (although many who are not Christians would of course agree that these things are good):
Honesty Christians believe that we should not lie, steal or defraud others, including governments or institutions
Sexual integrity Christians believe that sexual activity should always be rooted in love and respect for other people, and that promiscuity and unfaithfulness are wrong
Commitment Christians believe in the commitment of marriage as a lifelong and faithful partnership between a man and a woman
Respect Christians believe that all people are worthy of respect and honour irrespective of race, creed, gender and social origins
Peace Christians believe that they should live at peace with all people, so far as it depends upon them
Forgiveness Christians believe they have been forgiven and so they should forgive others. Lack of forgiveness is like a poison that destroys people, communities and nations.
C. God's power is given to us
1. Good living for Christians is far more than learning to live 'by the rules'. It is about being like Christ. Christ is the model for loving the Lord our God completely, and our neighbours as ourselves. This can only happen as Christ lives in us by the Holy Spirit. Christ lives out his life through us. We have already touched on this in Session 6, 'Third person'. We need to add here the fact that the Spirit gives 'spiritual gifts' to all Christians: 'Now to each one the manifestation of [way of demonstrating] the Spirit is given for the common good' (1 Corinthians 12:7).
2. Paul lists some of these gifts as wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. What each of these is would be worth discussing in detail at some time. However, the most important things to notice right now are:
When God's Spirit fills our lives, we are able to go beyond that of which we are naturally capable. The Spirit, as it were, carries us along and enables to 'manifest the Spirit', that is, to show God's power, in surprising and exciting ways.
When this happens, the Spirit gives different gifts to different people. We should not expect therefore all to be the same but rather to complement each other in the community of God's people.
The Spirit does not force us to do strange and bizarre things. We have to make ourselves available to the Spirit so that he can empower us for good living and for acts of service to others.
Sometimes gifts of the Spirit can be striking and dramatic. At other times they are practical and ordinary. Whatever they may be, they are all valuable and useful in God's service and should be used for 'the common good'.
It is right to desire spiritual gifts in order that we can be useful to God and each other.
For further investigation: 1 Corinthians 12 helps us to 'get a feel' for spiritual gifts.