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Keys to Spiritual Growth
Acts 8:26-40
Jim Davis

Tim Hansel related a story about a close friend who was asked back to his forty-year high school reunion. For months he saved to take his wife back to the place and the people he’d left four decades before. The closer the time came for the reunion, the more excited he became, thinking of all the wonderful stories he would hear about the changes and the accomplishments these old friends would tell him. One night before he left he even pulled out his old yearbooks, read the silly statements and the good wishes for the future that students write to each other. He wondered what ol’ Number 86 from his football team had done. He wondered if any others had encountered this Christ who had changed him so profoundly. He even tried to guess what some of his friends would look like, and what kind of jobs and families some of these special friends had.

The day came to leave and I drove them to the airport. Their energy was almost contagious. "I’ll pick you up on Sunday evening, and you can tell me all about it," I said. "Have a great time."

Sunday evening arrived. As I watched them get off the plane, my friend seemed almost despondent. I almost didn’t want to ask, but finally I said, "Well, how was the reunion?"

"Tim," the man said, "it was one of the saddest experiences of my life."

"Good grief," I said, more than a little surprised. "What happened?" "It wasn’t what happened but what didn’t happen. It has been forty years, forty years—and they haven’t changed. They had simply gained weight, changed clothes, gotten jobs...but they hadn’t really changed. And what I experienced was maybe one of the most tragic things I could ever imagine about life. For reasons I can’t fully understand, it seems as though some people choose not to change."

There was a long silence as we walked back to the car. On the drive home, he turned to me and said, "I never, never want that to be said of me, Tim. Life is too precious, too sacred, and too important. If you ever see me go stagnant like that, I hope you give me a quick, swift kick where I need it -- for Christ’s sake. I hope you’ll love me enough to challenge me to keep growing." (Holy Sweat, Tim Hansel, 1987, Word Books Publisher, Page 54-55)

The progress of the church is directly related to our personal growth. Growth has to do with having an interest in new ideas, discoveries and opportunities. Growth has to do with moving forward or onward: Advancing. Growth requires giving up whatever you may be at any given moment, in order to become all God is calling you to be.

Hebrews 6:1-2
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (NIV)

The Christian’s greatest work is to receive God. God is infinite, man’s mind is finite and a Christian must be willing to progress in thought in order to receive the things God has to say.

The difficulty of learning is unlearning. Education merely awakens man to how great his ignorance is.

Christian growth requires allot of knocking and seeking.

Matthew 7:7-8
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (NIV)

There is a great pursuit to seek our own selfish ways. A person in search of a personal faith in Jesus Christ will have to be willing to seek to better understand God. It does not matter how great one’s present knowledge of God is.

Numbers 15:39-41
You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.'" NIV

Deuteronomy 4:29
But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. (NIV)

1 Chronicles 16:11
Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. NIV

2 Chronicles 31:20-21
This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. In everything that he undertook in the service of God's temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered. NIV

Growth may cause one to give-up the things once considered sacred.

Pablo Casals was a great cellist. When Pablo Casals reached 95, a young reporter threw him a question: "Mr. Casals, you are 95 and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?" And Mr. Casals answered, "Because I think I’m making progress." Your goal is to make progress every day of your life. (Dr. Maxwell Maltz, quoted in Bits & Pieces, June 24, 1993, Page 12)

In our text concerning the Eunuch we see the qualities essential for the Christian’s growth.

I. Submissiveness of Eunuch.

Submissions to God’s will is a process so painful that Paul describes it as crucifixion, but the extent to which self-controls a person’s life is the limit of his spiritual growth.

Galatians 2:20-21
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV)

 
A. Note his teachableness.

Eunuch’s need for guidance

"How can I except someone guide me?" How can I unless someone explains?

Philip began at the same scripture and preached Christ.

B. Discerning Spirit.

Hebrews 5:14
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. NIV

Proverbs 18:15
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out. NIV

Matthew 13:16-17
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. NIV

It was the Eunuch’s discerning spirit that made it possible for Philip to begin at the same scripture to teach him about Christ.

Isaiah 50:6
I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. NIV

Matthew 27:28-31
They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. NIV

Luke 22:37
It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." (NIV)

Isaiah 53:9
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (NIV)

I’m sure that the Eunuch had heard much of the uproar while worshipping in Jerusalem.

Discerning spirit caused him to give up his ignorance about the Messiah so that he might receive the truth about Christ.

C. Growth requires a submissive spirit.

Jewish Synagogue.

Matthew 18:2-4
He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. NIV

Apostles—Teach us to pray
Blind man "Tell me so that I can believe in him." (John 9:36)
Philippian Jailer—"What must I do to be saved?"

In the course of their conversation at a dinner party, Albert Einstein’s young neighbor asked the white-haired scientist, "What are you actually by profession?"

"I devote myself to the study of physics," Einstein replied. The girl looked at him in astonishment. "You mean to say you study physics at your age?" she exclaimed. "I finished mine a year ago." (Today in the Word, September 25, 1992)

D. Personal active faith in Christ requires a willingness to be taught.

Too many are satisfied with knowing too little. We reach a plateau and we like to reflect on what we know but it is what we do not yet understand that increases our faith.

A young man who dives for exotic fish for said one of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. He explained that if you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium. Sharks can be six inches long yet fully matured. But if you turn them loose in the ocean, they grow to their normal length of eight feet. That also happens to some Christians. I’ve seen some of the cutest little six-inch Christians who swim around in a little puddle. But if you put them into a larger arena—into the whole creation—only then can they become great. (Charles Simpson)

Growth requires letting go of what we know. Baby turning loses of a table to take his first step.

2 Corinthians 5:7
(For we walk by faith, not by sight:) (KJV)

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (KJV)

E. Individuals in first century who became Christians were willing to probe the unknown.

How can I except some one teach me?

Acts 17:11
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (KJV)

Developing a personal faith today requires the same.


II. Surrendered Heart.

A. Progression of the first century church.

Acts 1:7-8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." NIV

Jerusalem, Samaritans, Gentiles. It was actually a slower progression than we might think.

Required searching, learning and surrender. As their knowledge grew they surrendered and followed. Each step eventually made it possible to take another and each step led them a little further.

Some years ago an anonymous author contributed this item to an almanac: "In farming, it has been found that digging out the rocks which frequently encumber the fields does not always increase the crop. In many soils they are an advantage, attracting moisture and radiating heat. You will find that the largest berries grow around these stones. In an experiment made in England, the results of removing them were so unfavorable to the crop that they were brought back and spread over the ground." Often we cry to God for the removal of some obstacles we feel hinder our service and fruitfulness, only to find later that actually they were advantageous to us and promoted our spiritual growth.

The first century barriers to proclaiming the gospel across diverse cultural groups became the means of growth. They faced the obstacles with the principles of Christ and overcame the barriers that would have been detrimental to the growth of the church.

B. The Eunuch surrendered his misunderstanding for understanding.

He had studied the scriptures heard them preached in the synagogue—but didn’t have a complete grasp.

Many Christians have allowed their knowledge of the truth to outdistance their practice. A story in "Glad Tidings" by James Kallam illustrates this point. He tells of a young book salesman who was assigned to a rural area. Seeing a farmer seated in a rocking chair on his front porch, the young man approached him with all the zeal of a newly trained salesman. "Sir," he said, "I have here a book that will tell you how to farm 10 times better than you are doing now." The farmer continued to rock. After a few seconds he stopped, looked at the young fellow and said, "Son, I don’t need your book. I already know how to farm 10 times better than I’m doing it now."

The synagogue where he worshipped in Ethiopia would never be the same.

C. He not only surrendered his misunderstanding He surrendered himself.

Baptism

Galatians 2:20-21
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV)

Conclusion:

"Growing old is marvelous so long as you are still growing." (Vincent Price at age 70)
Growth is a journey not a destination.
Growth is not automatic.
Growth removes us from the familiar.
Growth is costly. Think about what the exploration of America, the West cost.

Remaining stagnant is also costly.

Pumpkin in a bucket. Go into a pumpkin patch and place a pumpkin in a bucket and it will take the shape of that bucket as it grows.

 

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