“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” –John 12:24
O the joy I get when I walk into church on Sunday mornings and Thursday nights! The joy I get when I look around and see awesome men and women of God pursuing Jesus with every fiber of their being—that, my friend, is something to praise God for. I marvel at where God has me and where He has brought me from. I thank Him for putting me right where He needs me to be—a place where I can grow. A place where I can be nourished and nurtured and shaped into who God has called me to be.
Can I tell you a secret? We despise change. It hurts and it forces us to go beyond our comfort zone. We don’t want to go through the wilderness for God to expose our true selves and those inner most secrets! You know, those hidden sins we don’t want anyone to uncover! We don’t want to be stripped! We don’t want to release! We would prefer to stay within the comfort of our chains, so we hold tightly to them instead of letting go and growing in the Spirit. But God desires for us to live out our full potential. In order to do that, we have to pursue Him wholeheartedly, and be obedient every step of the way. We may have to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Instead, some become content in their sinful state and they later become complacent and never reach the destination that God planned for them! I heard someone say that there is so much potential in the grave! This means that many people die without even using the gifts and talents that were given to them by God, which means they never lived out their maximum potential.
Some time ago, not long after I became a member at the church I currently serve at, I remember hearing the Spirit of God say, “You’ve been planted where you can grow.” I remember the feeling that I felt after hearing those heart-warming words. Not only did they bring forth comfort, but also assurance that I was where I needed to be. Tears started falling because I knew those words to be true on so many levels! From the day I stepped foot in that church, I knew I belonged there! I could sense that was the place God wanted me. Seeing so many young men and women of God was so rare. That was encouragement in itself. Not only that, what God has called me to do corresponds, in part, with the vision of the church. It’s amazing how God does things. Even when we don’t know which way to go or when we find ourselves in the wrong places, if we have an earnest desire to be in His will, He will reveal it to us. He will lead us directly to where we need to be.
Before joining this ministry, I wasn’t where God needed me to be, physically and spiritually. Even though none of us will “arrive” spiritually until Jesus’ return, I knew that there were several things preventing my growth in the Spirit. I was carrying so much baggage and sin added to the load. But God led me to a church that teaches the unadulterated Word of God. There is no sugar coating. Just pure truth! And I am so thankful for that because without it, it’s no telling where I’d be or what predicament I’d be in! God’s promise in Psalm 32:8 became evident in my life: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”
Why is it that some despise change? Did you know that in order for seeds to grow, they first have to die? With that question in mind, how many people do you know are willing to die to self in order for God to do a work in them so that they can grow? Let me redirect the question! Are you willing to die to self in order to grow? I had an “aha” moment after reading the following passage from another article and it helped me tie all loose ends with what God had given me to share in this article!
“Can you dig up the plant, and find its seed down at the bottom, with plantybits growing from its insides? No! It has essentially died to itself! It ceases to be a seed in order that the plant would live, it can no longer find its identity in that of its old self, a seed. And in this way, it has died, it has ceased to exist as its original self. It’s become something far different, and lives a new kind of life. From the “potential” of life that is contained within the seed comes a new life, capable of producing fruit. Where a seed cannot produce fruit, its plant form can. It can’t do this on its own, though, it needs to be planted, nurtured, and nourished. Some seeds, though, do not ‘die to themselves.’ Perhaps they are rotten, or are lacking some necessary element, be that internal or external (such as fertilizer, soil, or sunlight), or they just don’t take a proper hold in the ground. These seeds do not grow into anything other than themselves, and they are eventually forgotten, lost in the dirt, or thrown into a fire to be burned.” (Two Minute Theology, “On the Death of a Seed” by Alex, Dec. 3, 2013)
Isn’t that interesting? Some main points I got from that passage are:
- We have to die to self so that we can grow! “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).
- We can no longer find our identity in our old self! “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
- We cease to exist as our original self after dying! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- We can do nothing on our own, that includes bearing fruit! We have to be planted, nurtured, and nourished. 1“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you may bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:1-2, 4-6, 8).
That’s why it is so important to make sure we are planted in the right place so that we can be encouraged and strengthened to die daily, so that we will be of use by God to fulfill the calling of the Great Commission. As believers in Christ we are called to use our gifts and talents so that we can share Christ with the world. My story is that, before God led me to the current ministry that I serve at, I was a complete mess. I joined a ministry and I do not remember a sermon on sin. Many of the sermons were on obtaining blessings and God’s amazing grace. I later received the revelation that God doesn’t bless mess. I was going to church every Sunday, paying my tithes and offering but my life wasn’t one of true devotion to God. I thought that as long as I gave and served, God would bless me. Yes! There are people out there who think like that! That’s what the leader basically taught us. But after visiting the current ministry that I’m under, I remember leaving service several times convicted out of this world. God’s Word would pierce my heart and cut me deep. It became a challenge for me. But that’s what we need in the body of Christ. We need to be challenged, or pruned as Jesus uses as an analogy in John 15. If not challenged, some would prefer to stay in sin. So staying in sin is sometimes what they choose. But God is calling us to live holy and righteous lives. He wants to strip us of those things that hinder our growth. We have to let go of who we were, the things that keep us divided, and we have to chase after God with our whole heart.
Scripture tells us “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (Second Corinthians 5:17). 16 “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts or wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-17, 19-21, 24-25).
Practical Steps to Help You Grow
- Find you a bible-based church, one that teaches the unadulterated Word of God! It is in these types of environments that one is encouraged to grow! “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
- Study the Word of God for yourself! You will need to spend time in the Word outside of the times you attend church. Having knowledge of the Word helps you to apply it! It reveals what’s required of you and how you are to live. “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
- Be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer! Apply what you learn so that you won’t dishonor God with disobedience. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
- Pray often! We are instructed to pray without ceasing! That helps us cultivate a relationship with God and it also helps to prevent wrong decisions. It becomes an open invitation to invite God into our activity! “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17); “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).
- Examine yourself! What are you noticing about yourself? What needs to be addressed and changed? “Seach me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
- Declare the Word of God over your life! Remind yourself of who God says you are and what you can do! Use what’s available to you!
You are a new creation! God has given you the power to overcome sin! Freedom, healing, and deliverance is your portion! God loves you beyond what your mind can comprehend. He has an expected end for your life but you have to SUBMIT to His will and that requires dying to the flesh as often as need be! You have to die to the flesh in order to grow in the Spirit! God desires to take you higher in the Spirit and He wants to take you from faith to faith, glory to glory! But you have to be willing to crucify flesh! In addition to that, make sure you are planted in a place where you can grow, where you can be stretched, encouraged, and nourished. You don’t want to be in a place that always teaches of God’s grace! You need to be in a place where there’s a balance and where you receive the understanding that you were created to worship and live for God. You need to be in a place that teaches that sin has consequences and that sin separates us from God. God created us to be in relationship with Him. He created us to live out His will for our lives. We are nothing in and of ourselves. We need Him but we have to be willing to lose our life in order to save it. Trust me, you want to be found faithful at Jesus’ return. You want to have yourself ready, having done all that was required of you. You want to hear “well done, thou good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21).