Sermon Transcript — June 25, 2005 Five Areas of Spiritual Growth by Mr. Ken Pulliam A man who was an expert in time management was speaking to a group of college students and to drive home a point, he used an illustration that his students would never forget. He stood before the group of students and said, "OK, Students. It's time for a quiz." He then set a gallon jar, a wide mouth Mason jar, on a table. He produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and he put them carefully in the jar, one at a time until the jar was full. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit into the jar, he asked the students, "Is the jar full?" "Yes," they said. He said, "Really?" So he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He then dumped the gravel into the jar, shook the jar a little bit so the gravel would fill the spaces between the big rocks. He then asked the same question of the group. He asked, "Is the jar full?" This time they responded, "Probably not." He said, "Good." Once again he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand into the jar until all the spaces between the rocks and the gravel were filled. Once again he asked the question, "Is the jar full?" "No," the class shouted! "Well, good," he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a pitcher of water and began pouring the water into the jar until it was filled to the brim. And he said, "What is the purpose of this illustration? What's this exercise all about?" And one eager beaver raised his hand; "The point is no matter how full your schedule is, if you really try hard, you can always fit some more things into your schedule." The professor said, "No, that's not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is if you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all." So we need to ask ourselves this question, "What are some of the big rocks in your spiritual life?" Then you want to put those in your jar first. Satan has a tool in his arsenal of weapons that he's been making good use of here in America and the tool is the spirit of apathy. Apathy is indifference, lack of concern, lack of interest, and lethargy. Apathy is insidious and destructive and it causes depression, stifles our creativity, stunts our spiritual growth, and it can completely immobilize us. Apathy can affect us all, no matter what age we are. In his keynote address to the conference of elders, Mr. Kilough said that we need to instill zeal and urgency into the church to stimulate personal growth. And he said when our ways please God, great things will happen in the church and the work of God. So today, we will look at five spiritual areas that need our attention; five spiritual rocks that we must put into the jar first; five areas that need stirring up for greater personal spiritual growth in our lives. If you need a title, just call it "Five Vital Areas of Spiritual Growth." What quality in our character is very pleasing to God the Father and Jesus Christ, something that we express, something that we demonstrate daily by our actions and our deeds, something that is a part of our character? On the other hand, if we don't have this quality in our lives and we do not show it by our deeds and our actions, then it's very displeasing to God the Father and Jesus Christ. Open your Bibles to Hebrews 11. Heb. 11:6 – But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. So if we lack faith, it is impossible to please God, the Bible tells us. So the first vital area of spiritual growth is faith. Since we are in Hebrews 11, let's look at the first verse. That is the definition of faith. Heb. 11:1 – Now faith is the substance (or the assurance) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. The Phillips translation has that a little different. It says, Vs. 1 – Now faith means putting our whole confidence in things we hope for. It means being certain of things we cannot see. Faith is trust in a person, thing, doctrine, or statement. Christ rebuked the disciples many times for lack of faith and he encouraged them to grow in faith. Christ is concerned about faith. He said once, "When the son of man cometh, will he find faith on the earth?" The Bible says, "Faith is counted for righteousness. The just live by faith. We are sanctified by faith." Let's turn to Mark 6. Mk. 6:1-3 – And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him. And when the Sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue; and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? (Where'd he get these things?) and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter . . . They kind of said this in disdain and contempt. Vs. 3 – Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?" And they were offended at him. As a side point, this shows that Christ had four brothers and at least two sisters. Mary had a big family. Vs. 4 – But Jesus said unto them, "A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." So he's saying you get respect everywhere, you are in honor everywhere but in your own country and your own house and with your own relatives. Vs. 5-6 – And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching. So what they were saying, "Isn't this Mary and Joe's boy? Well, he's just one of the local carpenters. In fact, he built our house." It wasn't an atmosphere of faith in which to perform any miracles. And in verse 5 we read that the lack of faith prevented Christ from doing mighty works. And our lack of faith can also prevent Christ from doing a mighty work in the church and a mighty work in our lives today. Mark 6:45 follows the miracle earlier in chapter 6 of the five loaves and two fishes which fed the multitude. Mk. 6:45 – And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people. So he constrained them; he commanded them; he told them to get into the boat. He knew what was going to take place. He was going to teach them a lesson here and show them something. Vs. 46-48 – And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them; . . . They were rowing against the wind, not making any headway. Vs. 48 - . . .and about the fourth watch of the night (about three o'clock in the morning or after) he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. What's that mean? Was he just going to walk by on the water and wave at them and say, "Hi, Fellas. It looks like you're having a hard time rowing the boat. I hope you make it."? Was it a race? Was it to see who could get to the shore first? It said he was going to pass by them. Well, the Greek verb, parerchomia, to pass by, is a technical term to refer to a theophany. A theophany is when God makes a striking and temporary appearance to select individuals or groups for the purpose of communicating a message. So there's a purpose in all this. Remember when God put Moses in the cleft in a rock so Moses could see while his glory passes by? The Lord passed by before him and he held his hands so he could see his hind parts. God told Elijah to stand on the mountain for the Lord was about to pass by. So, you see, there's a pattern to these stories. God had to get people's attention through a burning bush, wind, fire, or walking on the water. Jesus wasn't doing a neat, magical trick; he was revealing his divine presence and God was visiting them in water-walking flesh. Let's look at Matthew's account of this. Mt. 14:22. Some of this is redundant. He told them to get in the ship. So there's a purpose in all this. Mt. 14:25-31 – And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a spirit;" and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid." And Peter answered him and said, "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water." And he said, "Come." And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, "Lord, save me." And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, . . . Peter didn't grab him; Christ grabbed Peter. Vs. 31 - . . .and he caught him and said unto him, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" So we see there were twelve disciples in the boat. And before Peter got out of the boat, he said, "If it's you, command me to come to you on the water." This is a story about faith, but it's also a story about obedience. Because he said, "If it's you, command me." Peter wanted to make sure it was a pretty good idea before he got out of the boat in the first place. Peter had been criticized for many years for his lack of faith, but to his credit, Peter was the only one who got out of the boat! Have you ever looked at it that way? The other eleven disciples were in the boat with him. They didn't even test the water temperature; they didn't even put their big toes in the water. Did Peter fail? Well, in a way he did, but there were eleven bigger failures sitting in the boat. Peter knew the glory of walking on the water. He was the only man who ever walked on the water. I don't know how many steps he took, but he walked on the water. He felt elated; he had confidence. He felt that surge of enthusiasm. He was the only one who walked on the water when Christ rescued him. It doesn't say whether Christ carried him back to the boat or he walked to the boat. Perhaps, he walked back to the boat. But Peter experienced that. He stepped out on faith. He was obedient. Peter learned a lesson: whether he sank or walked on the water depended on where his focus was. Was his focus on Christ or was his focus on the water? Faith can never be called true faith unless it's accompanied by action, by obedience. "Faith without works is dead," the Bible tells us. The end result is in Matthew Mt. 14:32-33 – And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, "Of a truth thou art the Son of God." So it was a theophany. Christ made his appearance to them as the Son of God and they had recognized him. That would never have happened unless Peter had stepped out of the boat. He had to take the first step of obedience. There is another miracle associated with that. Let's look at the companion story in John 6:21,. something that we don't think about a lot of time either. Jn. 6:21 – Then they willingly received him into the ship; and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went. Immediately. Here they were out in the middle of the lake, in the middle of the water. They were rowing and couldn't get to shore. Jesus calls Peter out of the ship and then they get him back in the boat. And immediately, they were at shore. That was a miracle in itself. Now all of this took place and it never would have happened if Peter had stayed in the boat. He had to take the first steps in faith and obedience. And it's a lesson for all of us to learn. How do we grow in faith? Romans 10:17. Rom. 10:17 – So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Where do we hear the word of God? Well, we hear it here at Sabbath services. We hear the word of God in our minds when we read and study our Bibles. We see others in the Bible who had the faith and they were delivered from all kinds of situations. So we read and we believe. That's how we build our faith; we see it and we believe. We need to tell of things when God has intervened in our lives and we see God's hands in situations and how he worked them out. It builds our faith and as we talk about them to others, it builds faith in them. They hear. They know that one of their peers, one of the members in the church, has had an experience. They've prayed about it. They were anointed or whatever and they were healed. So faith comes by hearing, hearing the word of God. So we need to be talking about these things. If you were anointed and God intervened for you, people were praying for you, maybe about some job situation or some trial or test you were going through, and God delivered you from that, you need to talk about that. And by recounting these events to others, it strengthens your faith by the telling because it recalls to your mind what happened, but it also develops faith in others who hear the stories. Now, we've recently heard of the healing of prostate cancer of Earl Williams, an elder in the north. John McClain had ear trouble and that growth was in his ear and was going to be absorbed into his body. He can hear now and he was just up here and he looks fine to me. It's a miracle. But we need to be thinking about these things. I'd like to tell you about something personal to me. Some of you know that my son, Steve, was in an automobile wreck and he broke his neck and he punctured his lung. We were called to the hospital and advised after they took x-rays and CAT scans. They said if the break had been just a fraction of an inch farther, his spinal cord would have been severed and he would have been crippled for the rest of his life. They said they'd have to operate on him the next morning. They had him strapped on some kind of a plastic board kind of a thing where he couldn't move his head. They had to operate the next morning to realign the vertebrae in his neck and they'd have to wire it so it wouldn't move. Before we went home, I anointed Steve and asked for God's intervention and we went home. The next morning we came back early so we'd be there before the operation began. They said they'd taken another series of x-rays that morning and a CAT scan and they said they didn't have to operate at all. The bones were in perfect alignment and the punctured lung looked like it was going to heal on its own without any medical assistance. They put a metal halo, a neck brace, around him and put two set screws there in the front and two in the back and tightened those up. And he had to wear that for three months. Now he was completely healed and shows no after-effects from the accident. Now, I could cite other examples in our lives and other peoples' lives since we've been in the church, about 40 years or so. Another way we grow in faith is by obeying God's word. You know, God's always called people to do something they couldn't comprehend. If you can comprehend it and understand it, it is not faith. God will ask you to do something you cannot understand and it takes faith. If you can see it, it doesn't require faith. God is very pleased when we have faith. Then you couple faith with obedience and you've got something then. We need the faith to believe and then we demonstrate that faith by works of obedience. We have the faith and then we obey what God tells us to do. Then we receive the promises. Faith coupled with obedience brings us to promises. Faith without works is dead. We need works of obedience and this demonstrates our faith. The second area of spiritual growth is obedience. If you take a concordance and look up "obey," "obeyeth," or "obeyed, " or "obey not" or "hearken." (That's another verb that's used for obedience.) So you look those up. There are a lot of scriptures with "obedience." So God is very big on faith and obedience. Turn to Joshua 6 and we'll begin in verse 1. Jos. 6:1-3 – Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in. And the LORD said unto Joshua, "See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days." So you go around the city once a day for six days. Vs. 4-5 – "And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns; and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him." So God told Joshua what to do and Joshua told the people. Joshua got them all together and in essence he said, "Fellas, come on around; huddle up. Here's the game plan. Here's what we're going to do. We're going to split up the army in two ranks; we'll put part of it in the first rank. Then we'll have seven priests blowing trumpets. Following them would be the ark of the covenant, followed by the rest of the army. Now here's what we're going to do. We'll march around Jericho once a day for six days. No sound. The only sound we'll have is the sound of the priests blowing the trumpets. No talking. No noise. All walk; no talk. Got the game plan, Fellas?" "Now, on the seventh day, it's going to be a little bit different. We'll do the same thing, only this time we'll go around the city seven times and the priests will give a long blast on the trumpets and we all shout at the same time. And the walls will fall down and we'll go in and we'll destroy everyone. How's that plan sound, Fellas? Do you think it will work?" Well, it took a lot of faith to believe the game plan. But we know the end result: the walls fell and they took the city. Faith coupled with obedience gave them the victory. Faith with works of obedience gave them the victory just as God had promised, but they had to take the first step, the step of obedience. In fact, they took quite a few steps. They went around the city thirteen times. Let's look at another account that will bear this out. 2 Kings 5:1. 2 Kgs. 5:1-2 – Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife. So they had a little prisoner of war, a little Israelite maid, and she became the handmaiden of Naaman's wife. Vs. 3 – And she said unto her mistress, "Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy." So she was saying that if her husband were with the prophets up in Samaria, he'd be healed of his leprosy. Vs. 4-7 – And Naaman went in the told his master, saying, "Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel." So the king of Syria said, "Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel." So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of clothing. Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, "Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy. And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, "Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me." He thought it was a plan to start a war. Vs. 8 – And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, "Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel." So Naaman was the host, the captain of the king of Syria. He was a great man, but he had leprosy. The king sent a letter to have him healed and he thought it was a plot. He thought that he couldn't heal him so it would be a plot to start a war. So, he ripped his clothes and Elisha heard about it and said, "Send him up to me and we'll show him there's a prophet in Israel." We'll pick up the story in verse 9. Vs. 9 – So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, . . . He brought the army with him; he's going to make a big show of it. Vs. 9 – . . .and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. Notice, Elisha didn't even go outside. Vs. 10-11 – And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, "Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean." But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, "Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper." He thought there should be a lot of pomp and ceremony with it – a big show. So he's still talking negatively. Vs. 12-13 – "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near (a cooler head prevailed), and spake unto him, and said, "My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, 'Wash, and be clean?'" See, God's way is simple. He just told him to do this, be obedient. Vs. 14-15 – Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, . . . So, he did it the right way; he was repenting. He brought the whole army since he made a big show the first time. Vs. 15 - . . .came, and stood before him: and he said, "Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant." So, he didn't take anything; he wanted to give him something. So Naaman was humble and was obedient and Elisha instructed him in what to do; seven times, not once, but seven times. And the end result glorified God. Naaman was kind of like Frank Sinatra – he wanted to do it his way! God's way is simple. He says, "Go do this and you'll be healed." And that's what happened. Let's look at Exodus 4:1. This was when God was telling Moses to lead them out of captivity. And Moses is speaking to God, speaking with God. Ex. 4:1-4 – And Moses answered and said, "But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice; for they will say, 'The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.'" And the LORD said unto him, "What is that in thine hand?" And he said, "A rod." And he said, "Cast it on the ground." And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the LORD said unto Moses, "Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail." And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: So when God commanded Moses to confront Pharoah, he told him to throw down his staff and it would become a serpent, a poisonous snake. And God told Moses to pick it up by the tail and that leaves a lot of room for the snake to maneuver. You want to get it by the head, if you're going to pick up a snake, which I don't recommend. But if he picks it up by the tail, it has a lot of room to maneuver. So God wanted Moses to learn the "first step principle." He took the first step and he discovered God was faithful. Jesus told Peter to come and get out of the boat. God told Joshua to march around Jericho. Elisha told Naaman to go dip in the Jordan seven times. God told Moses to pick up the snake by the tail. You know, if you're going to pick up one, you want to get it by the head; the tail won't bother him much. So God helps peoples' faith to grow by asking them to take the first step, an act of obedience. Mr. Herbert Armstrong never knew the meaning of God's Holy Days. He read in the Bible that we were supposed to keep them. The Bible told him the days to keep, when and how to keep the days, but he didn't know the meaning of the Holy Days. He didn't know the meaning, but he was obedient. He didn't understand it, but he took that first step in faith. Mr. Armstrong and his wife kept the Holy Days for years by themselves before the knowledge came that the Holy Days reveal the plan of salvation. They just act out God's plan of salvation for mankind. Mr. Arm-strong demonstrated his faith by taking the first step of obedience. Faith coupled with obedience gives you the promises. There's a third vital area of spiritual growth – love. 1 John 4:8 – He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. God is love. That's the third vital area of spiritual growth. God is love; that's his personality, his character. It's the way he thinks and acts. God is the embodiment of love and God does everything through love. Mt. 22:35-40 – Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord by God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." So God is love; that's his personality and his character. God, who does everything through love, is the embodiment of love. God is the perfect example of love. He does everything out of love. He says on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. The first four show us how to love God and the last six tell us how to love man. Law and prophets is the summation of the Old Testament. The whole law is summed up in one word. God is love. His law is love. It was given in love. And love is fulfilling the law. If we love God, we demonstrate that love by keeping his commandments. John 15:12. We read this at the Passover. Jn. 15:12-17 – This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforeth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another. So we are commanded to love one another. You know what I Corinthians 1:26 says. You don't have to turn there. 1 Cor. 1:26 – For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called: So, brethren, we were all, in effect, "nobodies" when God called us and he's going to make us all into "somebodies." We were just people in the world. God looked down in his mercy and selected us and we're going to be sons and daughters and reign with Christ for eternity. We are a work in progress right now, a work that will be completed at the first resurrection. There are no rich and famous people among us. We don't have any Bill Gates among us, do we, of Microsoft fame? No Sam Waltons of Wal-Mart. We don't have any famous scientists like Jonas Salk. No Steven Spielbergs. No Nobel Prize winners. None who holds any world's records. Whoa! Wait a minute! Let me rethink it – that phrase. There was an event in my life, if it had been properly reported in the Guiness Book of Records, I would have had my name in a world's record. And you ask, "Well, what might this record be?" That's a good question. Let me explain. When I was a teenager, I turned over my 1933 Chevrolet twice in one day. And you say, "Well, someone else probably did the same thing." Yes, that's right. It could have been possible. But you see, the second time I turned it over, a wrecker was towing it. That requires a little explanation. We lived in Melbourne at the time and floodwater (It was a river town.) comes across before you get to Silver Grove and cut off down that way. The cutoff is above Melbourne so you become an island. It's really not an island, more like a peninsula because there's one way you can get out of town and that's up through San Anns Convent. Did anyone see The Rainman? There's quite a few. Well, the hospital where Dustin Hoffman was quartered was San Anns Convent. It was in Melbourne, Kentucky. You see, the tree line goes up to the top. They dug a lake up there where there was no lake. There was this one scene where you could sit out on the park bench and feed the pigeons. And that was at San Anns Convent. So that's the only way you could get out of town. You go up through the Convent and down the other side. There was a rocky, windy road. So I was coming down the other side in my '33 Chev, and maybe driving a little too reckless. I don't know (chuckle). Anyway, I ended up on the side of the road. I went around a bend and hit this gravel and I just slid down over the hill. The caretaker heard the commotion. I was down in the creek bed. The creek bed was dry and I was getting out of the '33 Chev. It was like getting out of a submarine – the conning tower pushing me. He came down and said, "Anybody hurt?" "No, I'm fine." "OK. I'll call a wrecker." So he called the wrecker and the floodwaters were up. The people in Melbourne had nothing better to do so a lot of them went over to the local watering hole at Pete's Place, the local bar. So they called the wrecker and the owner was over there at the bar. The word came out and they had nothing better to do so all his buddies jumped in the wrecker. There were three of them inside the wrecker. It had running boards and there were three on each running board. I was there waiting for the wrecker. I could hear them coming up the hill. They were singing and whooping and hollering and having a good time. So they got out and they surveyed the situation and saw the car down over the hill. One guy took the cable down and hitched it to the car and he dragged it up on the side. He tried to get it up. He dragged my '33 Chev, my pride and joy, up on the side. They couldn't maneuver because the road was narrow so he went down and he tied it off on a tree stump. The tree stump was preventing the car from getting up the hill. So they rolled the windows down and put the rope through the inside and tied it to the tree stump. He maneuvered around and put the cable down again and got another drag at it and he dragged it up the hill. So all nine of them got out and they just, Whoop, 1, 2, 3, and they threw it up on the four wheels. So they said, "You get in and steer." I didn't know any better. I was going to steer like you back out of a driveway. So here they jacked it up. They had the back end of the car up in the air and the front end was down. I was in there, shifted into low gear. He was in second and ready to go for high. I'm looking out and turning the wheel going this way and turning it that way and I turned it too sharp and it went up over the bank and flipped the car over on the side. And here I was, dragging along. It had dislodged me from the driver's side; I was over on the passenger side. The window was down from tying the rope through it and I was dragging along with my posterior in the gravel. And a shout went up from the people on the wrecker. "Hold it! Hold it! He's upside down again!" which wasn't true. If you're upside down, you're on the roof. So I was only half upside down, just on one side. So they got out and 1, 2, 3, he puts it back on the wheels again. I told one of the fellows in the wrecker, "You get out and steer it. I'm going to ride up here." So they took it on up to the garage and the next day I went up to get it. All they had to do was kind of pound out the fenders. There's a lot of good metal in those '33 Chevies!. Just pound out the fender and pull it out; put five quarts of oil in it; and I was ready to roll again. Every time I'd see that garage owner, he'd call me "Upside Down Pulliam." That was the only near world record I ever had. Like I said, God calls not the rich and famous of the world; he calls us from all walks of life. This is the opportunity to be in his kingdom, to be in the first resurrection. And he does this out of love. God is love and he wants us to show love for one another. Jn. 13:34-35 – A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. So that's how the world notices the affinity we have among ourselves. We have that love and concern for one another. Chapter 13 of Corinthians shows us how love is manifested in our lives. The fourth area of spiritual growth is Bible study. 2 Timothy 3:16. These are all familiar scriptures. 2 Tim. 3:16-17 – 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 perfect (complete), thoroughly furnished unto all good works. So it tells us that all scripture is for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness and rebuke – admonition, reprimand. God's word corrects us and keeps us on a proper course to our destination. The easy way to be corrected is to read it and do it, be a doer of the word. This is how God perfects us. You know, many let down in their Bible studying and they were swayed by false doctrine creeping in the church. Then some went back to Sunday keeping and throwing out the Sabbath day, the Holy Days, believing in the trinity, accepting the world's pagan holidays. They totally cast away God's truths, the truths that had brought them into the church in the first place. So, brethren, we never want to dismiss the importance of personal Bible study. We want to know God's will. We only have Bible study in the church once a month and it only lasts 45 minutes. But do you ever notice what happens? About half the congregation goes home or goes someplace. You might have some excuse You have to ask yourself, is my love waxing cold? It takes personal Bible study to know the will of God so we can fulfill that will. So error crept into the church and if people had been studying their Bibles and checking up like the Bereans did to see if things were so, we wouldn't have lost a lot of people. The fifth area of spiritual growth is prayer. Daniel gave us the example of praying three times a day. Jesus gave us the model prayer outline – how and what to pray about – the so-called Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6 among other places. The apostle, James, tells us that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Pray with fervency. God hears and answers that kind of prayer. Let's look at Matthew 7:12. We'll look at this in a little different way than we normally do. It's the so-called "Golden Rule." The world gave the name for it. Mt. 7:12 – Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. So whatever you want people to do to you, treat them the same way. It's the "Golden Rule." Christ summed up the Old Testament in this one verse. If someone has cancer, we pray for them as if we were praying for ourselves, as if we had cancer, and our prayers will be more fervent and more effective if we put ourselves in their shoes, put ourselves in their places, and pray accordingly. We're all selfish in that way; we want the best for ourselves, but we want the best for the other person, too. So, if we're praying with that fervency that we would have if we had cancer and wanted to be healed, pray the same way for the other person. And we need to pray every day. If a day gets by, we cannot make it up. Mr. Armstrong used to say that the Church of God moves forward on its knees and this is true and we need to be praying for the work on a daily basis. So, let's review the five areas of spiritual growth. Number one is to grow in faith. We cannot please God without faith. To walk on the water, we have to get out of the boat. We grow in obedience. We need to obey God to receive the promises. We grow in love. Christ said that we'd know his disciples by the love that they had for one another. The fourth thing is to grow in Bible study. We read the Bible for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness. We need to be like the Bereans who searched the word every day with all readiness of mind to see if those things were so. They checked up on it. We wouldn't have lost a lot of people before if they had been reading a little closer. They were swayed by false doctrine. They let down and we no longer have them with us. So Bible study is very important. And we need to grow in prayer. We need daily contact with God. We need to be growing in these five areas and developing godly character. Character is the only thing that will stand – the only thing that will endure. Character is the only thing we can take forward in a spirit life. Your home, your car, your bank account, and all your worldly possessions are left behind, but your character will endure for all eternity. If we are growing and making progress in these five vital areas, we are developing godly character and God is well pleased. One day at the first resurrection, you will hear, "Well done, Faithful Son. Well done, Faithful Daughter. Come. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." And let's all pray, "God speed that day!"
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